The Dayton Kitchen

Eating well. So get ready and get butter.

Just say NO! to boiled beets August 8, 2008

Filed under: in the kitchen,scoring good food — pameladayton @ 6:36 pm

Really, people. Think outside the pot of boiling water for your veggies, especially this time of year when it’s super easy to get veggies fresh from the ground.

Two years ago, we joined Porter Farms CSA. (Not sure about CSA? Read this.) I am not a fussy eater. There are three things I can’t stomach (olives of any color, brussel sprouts, eggs), but beyond that I am game to try new foods. But there were some vegetables the Porters provided that I was not so sure I was going to like. Beets were one. I had only ever eaten blechy, rubbery, boiled beets, and had formed quite the negative opinion.

But one day, when I had my wits about me as was getting dinner ready early, I had a bright idea. I was wrapping my potatoes in foil to bake them, and thought to myself, Self, potatoes grow in the ground. Beets grow in the ground. I bet I could bake the beets in foil just like to potatoes.

I am not going to claim that this roasted/baked/ovened beets idea came exclusively from me. But I will claim this: It is highly likely that you will never eat another boiled beet again. And, it is equally likely that you will fall completely in love with the sweet, sweet taste and lovely texture that is a roasted beet.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub your beets.  Trim off any bits of stalk.  Wrap in aluminum foil
  3. Place foil-wrapped beets on a cookie sheet that has raised sides.  Sometimes the beets release lots of juice.
  4. Bake for at least an hour, more than 1 1/2 hours is too much.
  5. Cut ends off beets, slip skins when cool enough to handle.
  6. Slice beets, and enjoy.  You could butter and salt and pepper them, but you sure don’t need to.

deceptively delicious = deceptively void June 2, 2008

Filed under: commentary — pameladayton @ 10:03 am

Check out this brilliant article from Slate.  Author Mimi Sheraton discusses the many flaws of schlepping pureed vegetables into the food.  It’s brilliant, I tell you.


don’t rue the rhubarb June 1, 2008

Filed under: baking,in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 9:29 pm
Tags: , ,

The birds are singing at 4:08 a.m.  The sun is rising 10 minutes later.  The trees have leafed out completely, except for the Godforsaken black walnut tree in the back corner of our yard.  The garden is half planted, and my onions and potatoes are some seriously happy fellas.  For now.  I have to stay far away from the onion bed because I am really tempted to pull up an onion or two to see what the bulbs are looking like these days.

And it is the season of rhubarb.  There is a little roadside stand between my town and the ‘city’ to the north of us, and every spring I hold my breath as I drive by in anticipation of the day the rhubarb is for sale.  And when it is, I go there every day, and buy whatever of the stuff the nice man has to offer.  I am such a serious rhubarb purchaser that I make sure I have plenty of ones and fives in my pocket, to be ready for any amount that is in the basket.  That man makes a killing off of me and the other Daytons.  He even watches for my car so that he knows when to go pick more.  That is what he told me.

We like rhubarb three ways:  Rhubarb Crisp, Rhubarb Pie, and Rhubarb Sauce.  We do not like rhubarb raw.  Please do not wonder why and then go try some raw rhubarb.  Your taste buds will not forgive you for YEARS!  I only know one fella who ate raw rhubarb and lived to tell about it.  It’s just gross, and unsanitary, and it makes my tongue hurt to think about it, so please restrain yourself.

Here’s the rhubarb crisp I make:

Mix together:

  • 2 pounds of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup-1 cup sugar (we like it tart, but adjust according to your tastes)

Put in an 8×8 or 9×9 (that’s inches) pan.

In a separate bowl, combine the following ingredients and mix together with your fingers, two knives or a pastry blender:

  • 2 cups regular rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3-4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (you could use shortening, but I will never understand that choice)

Sprinkle crumb mixture over the top of the fruit mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until bubbly.  Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or a tall glass of milk.



200 pounds of asparagus, or why it’s smart to know your farmer

I regularly purchase vegetables from a local farmer.  Well, to clarify, I try to buy all of my veggies locally, but there is one farmer in particular who I shop with in addition to my CSA.  I ran into him unexpectedly at the East Aurora Farmers’ Market last week, and was disappointed that I had already purchased asparagus from another vendor.  We got to talking, first about the seedlings he is offering this spring, and then about his gorgeous asparagus.

I asked him how he recommends preserving asparagus, and I loved his answer:

  1. Wash the asparagus.
  2. Quick-freeze the asparagus.

Can it be any easier, people?  I think not.  He said that if you blanch the asparagus, it ends up being mushy and not at all like the vegetable that is in season now.  Because his method is so stinking easy, I asked if he had a certain amount I could purchase for a better price than if I were buying one pound at a time.  He said that he’d knock some off the price if I got 25 pounds, and even more if I got 50 pounds.  Well, I know that 50 pounds is a bit much for us.  That would be about one meal with asparagus every week for the next year.  We are growing enough other veggies that we would end up wasting something, and that’s not cool with me.

So I put out the call to a few people I thought might be interested in a great deal on asparagus.  Because really, who doesn’t like the stuff?  It’s amazing.

Two hundred pounds.  Fifteen families want 200 pounds of asparagus.  That figure translates into a lot of stinky pee happy tummies.

And the price:  $1.75 a pound.  The cheapest asparagus, shipped in from who-knows-where is around $4 when it’s on sale.  Less than two bucks a pound from a farmer I’ve met, and whose farm I’ve visited many times; a local, family-operated business where the CEO will stop what he is doing to talk with me about how he cultivates my food.

Go to your local farmers’ markets.  Get to know the people who grow the food you eat.  Ask about buying in bulk.  And save money while eating the glorious food that is in season.


i am a slacker today May 8, 2008

Filed under: in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 10:00 pm

We had leftovers again.  And by we, I mean the Mister and I had leftovers.  I made something really special for the short people, in honour of O’s pal who spent the day with us.  Pally’s mom had quite the day today, a very intense funeral this morning, and then was setting up for a rummage sale to benefit the youth mission trip at our church.  Pally was here to give her mama a break, as if that was possible today.  One thing about Pally:  she eats fruit, jelly sandwiches, salami, bologna, and spaghetti and meatballs.  Throughout the course of the day, the children ate very nearly every last bit of fruit in the house, and I was not about to introduce the idea of jelly sandwiches to my children, and I have no cold cuts (almost typed cold butts, there.  That would have been funny.).

I give you Pally’s Spaghetti.

In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil.  When it’s good and rolling, dump in some spaghetti.  NOT WHOLE GRAIN SPAGHETTI, FOOL, JUST PLAIN, OLD, REGULAR SPAGHETTI.  And no shapes.  Just the kind in the straight lines.  Don’t go and get all crazy on me now. 

Cook boring spaghetti for 8-10 minutes, or until it’s as mushy as you like it.  Drain spaghetti, but don’t rinse it.  Dump it in a big bowl.

Open a jar of plain, old, boring sauce, and pour it over the spaghetti.  Combine spaghetti and sauce with tongs, or however you like to do it, but keep it simple.

Slap some of that yummy stuff on the plate of a four year old and you will be a hero.  And hold the sprinkle cheese, for crying out loud.

P.S.  You can find the outrageously good dinner eaten by The Mister and me at The Pioneer Woman Cooks.


Bread. (I) Bread. (love) Bread. April 29, 2008

Filed under: baking — pameladayton @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I have tried and tried at different points in my life to make bread.  And in the spirit of being bitterly honest, it was awful.  Every.  Last.  Dry.  Bit.  Horrible, I tell you! 

But I have been reading more and more about food additives, preservatives, and colors, and those things, my dearies, are worse than my bread.  And the ingredient I am currently hating the most: corn syrup.  I also am not a fan of partially hydrogenated ANYTHING! but I have been working to eliminate the corn syrup-filled ingredients from our diet. Please note:  We eat marshmallows.  We lo-uh-uh-uh-ove marshmallows.   And there is just no way we will be removing s’mores from our diet, corn syrup or not.  And people, I have read the labels.  Every last one at the tiny grocery store in town, and many labels in the bigger town (they do call it a city) to the north of us, and I have found one bread that does not have corn syrup.  ONE!  It was a Pepperidge Farms whole grain bread, and a few of the breads in that line also had no corn syrup. 

So in the spirit of winning The Battle of the Corn Syrup, I ventured into making bread for the Dayton Five.  I experimented with the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking book, which yielded some lovely results.  But those recipes didn’t utilize whole-wheat as much as I wanted, and they felt labour-intensive.  So while they were good, that one place did not provide what I was looking for.  Other nutty-whole-grain friends of ours have been making bread for years, so I called for their recipe. 

And that was the answer to the deep and penetrating question of bread. 

The best thing about this recipe is that it is flexible.  Add oats, don’t add oats.  All white flour, all wheat flour, a comibination…whatever you want will work.  Half a cup of sweetener, a whole cup, it’s all good.   Butter, olive oil, vegetable oil…what you have in your kitchen will be just fine.

That said, I use rolled oats.  Actually, I use a seven-grain rolled mix that provides a wonderful nutty flavour.  And I am moving toward using 80% whole wheat (the kind I purchase is Prarie Gold, it’s ground to a consistency similar to white flour, much softer than other whole wheats I’ve tried)/20% white flour.  For sweetener, I use a half cup of raw sugar, and I use olive oil.  The eggs are optional, and I always use them.  Not sure why, exactly, but I do.  And finally, I use instant yeast that I purchase from my Bulk Food Store.  It costs $2.99 for a pound.  That is an amazing deal.  The packets cost about a dollar, if I am remembering correctly, and who wants to spend an extra dollar per batch of bread?  Not me.  So look for instant yeast in big packages. 

And the most important thing: USE A SIFTER!!!!  Why? Because in a 1 cup measuring, umm, cup, you can get nearly two cups worth of sifted flour.  Flour is one of those things you measure by weight, not volume, and it’s not meant to be packed like brown sugar.  So go buy a sifter and thank me later.

what you use:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (or not)
  • 6-7 cups warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1 cup wheat bran (or not)
  • 7-9 cups flour
  • 1/2 – 1 cup butter or oil
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 6-8 cups flour

what you do:

  1. In an ENORMOUS bowl, combine oats, sweetener, and bran with 6 cups warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Or until you remember that you had started to make bread a while ago.  (If the latter is the case, stick your finger in the mixture.  If it’s mostly warm, you should be good to go.  If it’s room temperature, boil 2 cups of water and add it to the mixture.  Stir well and proceed.)
  2. Add yeast, and 7-9 cups of flour.  At this stage, it should be really easy to stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Let sit for at least an hour.  This is the sponge stage of the bread.  It’s where the yeast makes out with the sweetener and the natural sugars in the wheat.  It gets all bubbly and full of itself, like a couple of naughty teens.
  4. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients.  This is where I abandon the use of a utensil to mix the bread.  Because, really, I come with two handy (har, har) ones on the end of my arms, and they work way better.  And, hey, less dishes.
  5. Knead the bread.  I have such an enormous bowl that I just knead right in the bowl.  (Yes, also I don’t like to clean my counters, it’s just way easier this way.  Purist I am not.)   Knead until the bread is elastic and springy, and you are tired of kneading.  About 10 minutes.  Or so.  Don’t be a wimp.  You might need to add flour if things are getting sticky.  Sticky = bad in breadland.
  6. Put the bread back into your enormous bowl.  Cover it, if you like.  Or don’t.  This bread is not a fussy guy.  Let it sit for about an hour.  It will grow to twice its original size.  Like seamonkeys.  But better.  Much, much better.
  7. Punch the dough.  This is not so much about thrashing your bread as it is about letting some of the fermenting gasses out.  If you are a lover and not a fighter, you could gently poke the air out of your bread.  Do what you need to do, but get the air out of the bread.
  8. Let it sit for about an hour.  Yes, again.  Patience, people.  Use this quality time to oil you bread pans.  Gently oil.  Bread does not need to bathe in oil as it is baking.  That is called fried dough, and you find it at carnivals and amusement parks.
  9. Cut the dough into three equally-sized blobs.  Flatten each blob, one at a time, into a square that is slightly longer than your bread pan by slightly longer than your bread pan.  Roll up the dough, nice and tight.  Fold the ends down toward the seam (that is where you ran out of dough to roll up), and place the loaf in the pan.  Gently apply a little oil to the top of your loaves.  That makes it purty.
  10. Let the loaves sit for about half an hour.  This is a good time to not forget you are making bread.  Otherwise, your bread will rise too darn much and then it will be a disaster.  And I can’t help you with that.  Sorry.  Turn your oven to 350 degrees.  Or 375.  Whichever.
  11. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, and 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  To find out if it’s done, tap or knock on the top of the loaf.  If it sounds hollow, it is done.  If it sounds full, it is not.
  12. Turn out of pans onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely before cutting, or you will have a serious mess to clean up.  That is, unless you plan to eat the entire loaf at once.  Then go ahead and dig in.

There are a lot of steps involved in this recipe, but I think that the hands-on time is 30 minutes or less.  There’s just a lot of waiting time, which could be used to drink coffee, read, or paint your toenails.  I mostly do laundry when I’m baking bread.  Actually, I just mostly do laundry, bread or not.

Bread is not scary.  Try it.  Just remember to use a sifter.


rice April 28, 2008

Filed under: in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 1:13 pm

I am putting not much effort into this post, because Alanna at A Veggie Venture and the folks at Cook’s have already done a bang-up job. 

We are Carb People.  And in an effort to eat better, we switched to brown rice.  I don’t have a lot (read: any) patience for watching water boil, and stirring, and stuff, so after burning rice to a very unnatural and crisp and stinky state, I discovered this recipe, and I lovelovelove it.  And so will you.

Try this:  instead of rice, or in addition to rice, use a variety of other whole grains like barley, wild rice, millet, or wheat kernels.  The result is a wonderfully flavorful dish with a nice conglomeration of texture.

Try this, part 2:  I don’t bring the water to boiling before adding it to the rice.  And the rice has been received with cheers of joy from the kiddos, so I happily leave that step out.

Try this, part fin:  Bouillon.  Cubes.  Or the other kind, whatever that is.  It’s more flavorful than salt, and it keeps the Mister and the kiddos from getting out the salt shaker.  I am not so much in favor of the salt shaker, but that is another subject for another day.  The end.