Friday, February 1, 2013

I Can Haz Baking?

... oh yes, I can.

Over the weekend, I was feeling... puny. Weak. All around 'not myself'. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, well, I was wiped.

... and then I felt it.

A hankering for a hunk of challah.

If you haven't had challah (pronounced: HALL-uh) bread before, it is a  loaf of yeast-risen egg bread that is traditionally eaten by Jews on Shabbat, on ceremonial occasions and during festival holidays. Slightly sweeter than other breads, it is also a braided bread... meaning anywhere from 2 - 6 'strands' of dough are braided or twisted together to make this Awesome Loaf of Coolness. Or Hotness, if fresh from the oven.

I decided to make a honey and herb challah loaf, because that just seemed like a great idea, and it was. It really, really was. The soft sweetness of the honey melted through the lemony thyme and fragrant dill, and the little bit of sage I added made the entire kitchen smell like a holiday in the woods.

Braiding the dough was surprisingly easy! The hardest part of the process (aside from using a baby's medical thermometer and praying to the Carb Gods that the water for the yeast wasn't over 110 degrees F because, guess what?!, baby thermometers don't go above a 105) was rolling the three lumps of dough into equal strands. That's it. Then it's just a simple game of pinch/braid/repeat!

This was my first time baking bread on my own. I really enjoyed it!

Here's the recipe I used, with my modifications in italics:  

2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons each fresh thyme, dill and sage, chopped

  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
  2. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Grease two baking trays and place finished braid or round on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What "Spring" tastes like

Oh, I so wish I could take credit for this (insanely simple) dish... and I guess I could, but I don't want to risk the wrath of the Karmic Food Police.


My grandma, Karol, lived in Westport, Washington for about three or four years while I was growing up... something that, even while short in duration, I still look back on as one of the best memories of my childhood. Grandma had a good-sized garden plot in her backyard, somewhere between her barn-turned-house (really!) and the horse ring, that had everything from tomatoes to sugar snap peas and more... but, honestly, my brain kind of stalls out after the sugar snap peas. I remember sitting on the back steps with my sister and processing a giant bucket of the verdant, crisp bites of nature.

... peel, open, skim 'em out.
... peel, open, skim 'em out.

We would usually discard the pods, so I was more than welcome to help myself to what I considered the best part.

Here's a recipe from Simply Recipes that I absolutely recommend that you make. Tonight. Or now.

Seared Sugar Snap Peas Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
Almost all the prep time in this recipe is taking the strings off the sugar peas. Once you have that done, the rest is easy.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 3-4 scallions or green onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste


1 Heat a large sauté pan on high heat for 1 minute. Add the olive oil to the hot pan and heat it until it shimmers, about 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar peas and toss to coat with the oil. Sprinkle salt over them and toss again. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute.
2 Add the green onions and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Toss to combine. Let cook for 1 minute. Toss and cook untouched again, this time leaving everything undisturbed for 2 minutes.
3 Turn off the heat, mix in the lemon zest and mint, then add black pepper and lemon juice to taste. Serve at once.
Yield: Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Joys of Jiffy

Sometimes, you just need carbs.

Oh, I know we may claim to be over the KILLALLTHECARBS fad of the late '90s/early 2000's, but you and I both know that there is still a hefty side of guilt served up with every portion of carb-heavy food we nosh on.

Well, last night I was faced with the Working Mommy's Dilemma. After an eternity in the office, a killer commute home, and two little boys who thought "sleep" was more of a suggestion than a requirement, I found myself head-tilting at the clock on the oven as it blinked "9:27". My stomach growled. Man-Mate's stomach growled.

... and I was out of ideas.

Luckily, I always (and I do, truly, mean always) keep boxes - plural - of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix in my pantry.
Oh, the joy...
Just seeing its cute, Americana packaging made me smile... and made my stomach growl, again, prompting me to hurry it up, already! as into the refrigerator I peered. Below is the resulting recipe - I hope you'll try it the next time you have an exhaustion/carb attack!

Smokey Cheddar & Cracked Pepper Corn Muffins


Two (2) packages of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
Two (2) eggs
2/3 cup  - milk
1/2 TS - liquid smoke
1 1/2 cup - sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Black pepper grinder (no measurement here, do it to taste)
Kosher salt, to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Grease or paper-line a 12-count muffin tin
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the corn muffin mix, eggs, milk, liquid smoke, and 1/2 cup of cheese
  • Stir to combine
    • **Don't over-mix - you don't want glue. Some lumps are okay.
  • Let the dough rest 3 - 4 minutes, then stir one more time
  • Spoon in the dough to about halfway in each muffin cup
  • Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese equally over each portion
  • Grind black pepper over each portion, to taste
    • **I like to, you know, actually taste the black pepper, so I set it to a medium-grind and do about 3-4 turns per portion... probably coming out to 1/4 tsp. 
  • Spoon remaining dough over each portion
  • Sprinkle each with a pinch of kosher salt
  • Bake at 400 F for 15 - 18 minutes, or until golden brown

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mid-Spring Spice-n-Rice

Between the fickle, on-again-off-again Seattle spring weather and a baby who, at 38 weeks, seems disinclined to acquiesce to any requests to leave the womb, I figured it was time for a little spice. Who knows? Maybe it would send some cosmic spark out into the world (and, in turn, my uterus) and start a little warmth.

The menu last night consisted of things that weren't necessarily seasonal - as is still my goal of this here blog-o-food - but, as I was thinking about it, the ingredients weren't entirely anti-seasonal, either. I think it was more of a "staple" dinner; things that we usually have in our pantries and refrigerators anyway, so why not use them up?

Mid-Spring Spice-n-Rice menu
Spicy Citrus Meatballs, Rice, and C&C Honey Cornbread

Spicy Citrus Meatballs
1 family-sized package of frozen meatballs
1 1/2 cup Johnny's Jamaican Me Crazy marinade
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
3 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon sugar

Place frozen meatballs in a 2 - 3 qt, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Add marinade, orange juice, and ketchup and cover for 10 minutes allowing the sauce to come to a boil.
Stir gently, and add brown sugar before turning the heat down to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add cinnamon sugar, stir, and serve

Prepare rice as you typically would. For a family of four adults and one toddler - and planning on leftovers to make rice pudding with the next day - I use at least two cups of rice, four cups of water, and 2 tsp salt. I've found that Jasmine rice is the best all-around rice, but Basmati is also great! Bring the rice and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and let stand for 18 - 22 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve.

C&C Honey Cornbread
1 box Krusteaz Natural Honey Cornbread mix (any honey cornbread mix will work)
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbs fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp salt
1 chipotle bouillon cube (find these in the ethnic food aisle)

Follow the directions on the box for preheating (400 degrees F.) and adding the first four ingredients
Evenly scatter the shredded cheese and stir into the batter before adding pepper and salt
Crush the chipotle bouillon cube in your hand, and mix into the batter
Follow the directions on the box for baking, depending on the pan/muffin tins you decide to use, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.
(I buttered an 8x8 metal pan, which I've dubbed "The Cornbread Pan" since I've only ever used it for such, and baked the mix for 27 minutes.)

Start-to-finish, this dinner took 35 minutes and, even better (!), will provide dessert for tonight in the form of rice pudding. Sometimes, it pays not to plan!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Behind the scenes of Recipe-ville...

In order to give you some insight into who I am, aside from Cooker O' The Food, I decided to fill out one of the numerous personality surveys flitting around Facebook.

Read, enjoy, and prosper!

State your name for the record:
Krystal Ann (Pennington) Bishop... of which "Bishop" is used more than "Krystal", and usually of my own accord. What can I say? I have the hots for my husband, and his last name is cooler than my first name.

Identify your gender:
Mommy. (Which is to say "gender neutral" or, more accurately, "gender non-important".) (Although, given that I am, in fact, a mother... I guess it means that I have girl parts, which would lead me to believe that I am, or was at some time, female.)

Please state your birthdate:
Way Earlier Than Anyone Should Ever Have To Be Awake Unless They Are Bringing Me Coffee A.M. on October 20th, 1983.

Identify your place of birth:
Bethesda, Maryland... along with about 1.3 billion other Navy brats whose maternal units also played "Follow The Soldier".

Where do you live?
I am always fearful of this question; not for the ever-so-complex answer of "just south of Seattle, Washington", but because I can never seem to stop singing Seattle's praises and am, therefor, convinced that the overpopulation of every major and minor suburb of my amazing city is my direct fault.

Hair and eyes:
My current hair color is my favorite yet - a reddish brown (or brownish red?) that I owe entirely to my friend, Lyndsey, for her every-6-weeks battle against the black that it first presented itself. My eyes are kind of slutty, switching colors from blue to gray to hazel, depending on light refraction and blah-blah-blah... but are usually a blue-gray.

What is your preferred OS?
I love me some PCs. Like nerd-father, like nerd-daughter.

Do you use a mouse pad? How about a screen saver?
At work, a mouse pad is a must. Well, I suppose I could toss it... but then what would collect the different sugar flakes from my morning tasties? Nothing, that's what. At home, I use my effectively outdated laptop sans mouse. My screensavers are bubbles, always. 

What is your favorite color?
Blood red is a constant... it's just so damn pretty. Ooh, and that green-blue, hazy color that the water gets right before a storm; I'm fond of that one, too (just, apparently, not enough to actually figure out a name).

What is your favorite hobby?
Until I can find a way to read obsessively and cook new recipes at the same time (without singeing my arm hair again), the two are tied.

What are your favorite TV shows?
Between Jeopardy, Wipe Out, and anything ever seen on The Food Network, I'm fairly set in my ways. Now, if they would just bring back Gilmore Girls...

What is your favorite smell?
Wood fires. Baking bread. Vanilla and salt water, together. My husband when he has been working with metal all day. My son after a bath. Way too many 'dirtied vanilla' scents to list.

What is the best feeling in the world?
A coffee buzz while smelling a new book.

What is the worst feeling in the world?
Holding my son down while the nurse sticks him with a needle, and seeing that look of total betrayal in his tear-filled eyes.

What are your favorite things to do on the weekends?
Read, eat while reading, read about cooking things to eat, cook, snuggle, Seattle (it's a verb now, thanks), and write.

What is one vain thing about yourself of which you are proud?
With the (much needed) help of weight loss surgery in 2006, I've lost over 185 lbs of "oh, that's just not healthy"/"Ick"/"life-stealing fat"... and now I have curves instead of rolls. Okay... there are still some rolls...

What is your ultimate vacation spot?
Disneyland still wins this title for me, as it is the only place I have been to that has allowed me to completely, totally immerse all of my senses in a fantasy world.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
How my son managed to get into that particular sleeping position... and why it took me so long to notice his knee in my right eye.

Do you get motion sickness?
Oddly enough, only during my period. Please don't ever call it "that time of the month", or apply other pithy sayings meant to cover up what is, duh, a medical necessity for the survival of our kind. You may, however, call it "THE CURSE FROM THE BOWELS OF HELL", if you'd like.

Pen or pencil?
Unless I'm doing some mathematical problem (read: a gun is to my head and someone is holding my family hostage), I use a pen. A blue pen, preferably. If I am working on a story, however, I will probably be typing.

How many rings before you answer the phone?
I guess it depends on how much I like my current ringtone. I've been known to let someone call and call... and call... because the song that plays as a result of their need to contact me is just too damn catchy. (Probably not the nicest thing to do, though... sorry.)

What are your favorite foods?
Fresh seafood (especially Dungeness crab, red snapper, mussels, scallops, and Copper River salmon), Thai peanut sauce, fresh baked bread with butter and honey, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, creme brule, nacho cheese sauce (with little-to-no real cheese involved), Doritos, deep-fried Twinkies, gravies, quiche, and coffee. It IS a food.

What is your number one pet peeve?
Any form of a superiority complex.

Do you sleep with stuffed animals?
As my 2 1/2 year old son is currently - and for the foreseeable future-ly - occupying the bed I share with my husband, we have two incarnations of Bobo, the monkey. One has a microchip with our voices saying something sappy, imbedded in his left leg... the other has Velcro on his hands so that he can 'hug' you. Both are Bobo, and both end up under my head as makeshift pillow-adjustments.

If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?
I would be a multi-published author, and co-owner/operator/cook-person of a cafe.

What is on your bedroom walls?
An insanely creepy felt picture covering a gaping hole, and a cork board with outdated pictures of family and friends. Oh, and cat hair, because that stuff gets EVERYWHERE.

What are your favorite movies?
The Princess Bride, Zombieland, Hot Fuzz, episodes 4 - 6 of Star Wars, The Notebook, Fantasia, Cinderella, and anything NOT starring one SpongeBob SquarePants.

What's under your bed?
Small pieces of luggage, a few socks, broken glass from a middle-of-the-night-meatloaf-sandwich-craving-gone-wrong, a Brobee doll, and my husband's wedding suit in a garment bag.

What is your favorite number?

Marvel or DC?
Marvel, hands down... even though my favorite villianess (Poison Ivy) is a DC girl.

What one thing do you wish more people already knew?
How to drive in the rain. It's not as hard as you make it out...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Feelin' Quiche-y

... as if one slice would ever be enough
Sometimes, you just want to drown your sorrows in a plate of food.
When those 'sometimes' roll around, it's best to (1) step back from the ledge, (2) put down the box of Mac & Cheese, and (3) think 'swimsuit season' before giving yourself a mental shake, and heading to your fridge for reinforcements!

Yesterday was one of my 'sometimes', and THANK GOD I have being 31 weeks pregnant to blame it on. Another thing to be thankful for? An abundance of culinary odds-n-ends in my fridge and cabinets! I instantly knew what I wanted to make... and make it I did.

Ladies & Gentlemen... 

Scrappy Sunday Quiche

4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 Tbsp butter, divided
Pinch of salt
5 eggs
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. 2% milk
1 c. mozzarella & provolone cheese blend, shredded
1 1/4 c. medium cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp black pepper
4 tsp salt, divided
1 Tbsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp dill
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small, sweet onion (or 1/2 large) like Walla Walla or Texas Sweet, chopped large (1'' pieces or so)
6 thin asparagus stalks (or 3 large), sliced on the bias
2 Tbsp lemon pepper
1/4 c. Marsala wine
6 oz. ham, chopped into 1'' cubes (or smaller)
3 green onions, chopped
2 frozen pie shells

1. Place unpeeled garlic on a square of aluminum foil, and top with 1 Tbsp of butter, and a pinch of salt. Make into a pouch, and place in the oven on 400 F. while preparing the quiche.
2. Combine eggs, cream, milk, cheeses, black pepper, 2 tsp salt, hot sauce and dill in a large bowl. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then set aside.
3. Heat vegetable oil and remaining butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and add onion. Saute for five minutes before adding the asparagus, lemon pepper, and remaining salt, then saute another three to five minutes until the asparagus starts to soften.
4. Add the Marsala, and turn the heat up to Medium-High to reduce the liquid.
5. Remove the garlic from the oven, and turn the oven down to 350 F. Open the aluminum foil to allow the garlic to cool.
6. Once the liquid has reduced in the pan, divide the onions and asparagus between the two frozen pie shells, being sure to spread the ingredients around evenly.
7. Divide the cubed ham between the two pie shells, reserving ~12 cubes for the topping.
8. Remove the garlic from its skin, and finely chop before adding to each of the pie shells.
9. Divide the egg and cheese mixture between the two pie shells.Top with the reserved cubes of ham and the green onions.
10. Bake in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Krystal's "Screw you, winter!" dinner

The Reason:
Winter has reigned long enough. With spring starting tomorrow (THANKYOUSWEETLORDJESUS), and an abundance of produce from Full Circle Farm at my disposal, what better reason to throw together a new recipe?

The Menu:
Caribbean Tilapia with Carrots and Onions
Parmesan and Sweet Onion Couscous
Winter Must Die punch

The Ingredients and Directions:
Caribbean Tilapia with Carrots and Onions
1/2 cup - apricot & pineapple preserves
1/2 cup - Johnny's "Jamaican Me Sweet Hot & Crazy" marinade (found at Costco)
1 1/2 cup - tropical fruit juice (I used a guava/pineapple/peach/passion fruit/banana blend)
1/2 cup - Yoshiba's Sweet Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup - soy sauce
3 tbsp - agave nectar
4 frozen tilapia loins, thawed (also found at Costco)
4 medium-sized carrots, chopped to 1'' pieces
1/2 of a large, Walla Wall onion, also in 1'' pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 thin slices of lemon
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. To make the marinade, combine first six ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk together.
3. Place tilapia, carrots, onions, and garlic in a large, Ziploc freezer bag, and pour marinade over them.
4. Marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
5. Place tilapia in a 13x9''  baking dish, place one slice of lemon on each, and (using a slotted spoon), place marinated vegetables around the fish.
6. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, return to oven, and bake an additional 10 minutes until fish is flaky.

Parmesan and Sweet Onion Couscous
2 boxes of Parmesan couscous (found at Safeway or other main grocery stores)
2 1/2 cups of broth (I used 2 cups of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of chicken broth)
5 tbsp - butter, divided 2:3 (I used a Red Chile, Shallot and Lime compound butter that I had made)
1/2 of a large Walla Walla onion, diced fine
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp - lemon pepper
2 tbsp - salt
3 tbsp - agave nectar
1. Prepare couscous according to package directions, using stock in place of water, and increasing the butter to 2 tbsp.
2. Saute the remaining ingredients in a medium, non-stick skillet until the onions are translucent.
3. Add the onions and garlic to the couscous, and stir to combine.

Winter Must Die punch
**I only made one glass, but it's amazing... so, multiply the ingredients by however many people you will be serving.**
1/2 of one lemon, plus two slices
4 ice cubes
8 oz - tropical juice blend
8 oz - orange, pineapple, banana juice
1. Place two ice cubes in the bottom of a tall glass, then the two slices of lemon, then the remaining two ice cubes.
2. Squeeze the 1/2 of one lemon into the glass, and add the rind to the glass as well.
3. Add the tropical fruit juice blend.
4. Add the orange/pineapple/banana juice.
5. Stir, add straw, sip, and shake your fist at winter.