Monday Morning Cooking Break

Crunchy croutons toasted in olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

Yogurt, nuts, bread, croutons & chili

Slogging through a snot-machine cold this morning, my son made it clear he was in need of a dad snuggle prescription. So while my wife was getting ready I popped him in a carrier on my back and tended to some kitchen matters.

Make yogurt

In a Dutch oven, gently heat 1/2 gallon of whole milk to 180ºF, then let cool to no warmer than 115ºF. (Temperatures higher than this can kill the beneficial bacteria that turn milk into yogurt. I usually let the milk cool to around 100ºF to be on the safe side. Remember: eat yogurt, it’s alive!).

Once cool, I pour the milk into a 9×9 tall baking dish, cover and set in our food dehydrator for 7 hours at ~115ºF. Soon, thick tasty yogurt!

Toast nuts

A pint each of toasted almonds and toasted walnuts. BTW, the bowl behind the jars contains yellow and blue water beads, which feel like squishy marbles and are the main attraction for a sensory game my son is playing with a friend today. Purdy, no?

We always have jars of toasted almonds and walnuts around for cereals, snacking, salads and such. Our toasting is pretty simple:

Heat toaster oven to 350ºF. Pour nuts on wee tray in a single layer. Toast 10 minutes. Let cool then scoop into jar.

Prep bread dough

This container is about the size of a shoebox, and holds enough dough to bake 4 loaves. See the quinoa grains?

We are devotees of Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day methods, and recently we checked out Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day from the library. After trying out their regular wheat bread, yesterday I whipped up a batch of quinoa bread, which includes about half regular flour and half whole wheat flour, plus a cup of uncooked quinoa. Today’s loaf is rising right now.

Wonder what the quinoa will be like?

Toast croutons

Bread chunks coated in oil and spices, ready for toasting.

Since we bake a fair bit of bread, the occasional stale heel gets reborn as crunchy, savory croutons.

With a trusty serrated bread knife I chop the stale bread into rough cube-like chunks and chuck ’em in a bowl. Then I coat them with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and oregano. Ten minutes in the toaster oven later, and the stale bread is now a tasty, herbed crunch delight that’s ready for soups and salads.

Slow cooker white chili

My bumbling fingers nearly typed “shite” instead of “white” just now, but this savory, easy chili is definitely not shite.

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook has a wonderful white chili recipe that includes green chiles, white beans and chicken. I prepped the beans yesterday, and pulled the ready-to-go crock out of the fridge this morning.

Made a few mods, though. There’s a sauteing step for some of the onion, chile and chicken, but I couldn’t be bothered. Garlic, herbs and all else went straight into the crock, along with 2 cups of water to augment the 6 cups of stock added with the beans. We also had 3 Italian sausages, previously sauteed and left over, so I chopped those into rounds and added them too.

Sleeping toddler, working dad

My son is now passed out on my back, and that’s good. The wee guy defo needed some more R&R to help him fight this cold. And to deal with a left molar that I’m pretty sure is glacially cutting through the gum to join its right-side twin in usable teeth land.

As for me, the oven is heating, dough is rising, yogurt is yogurting, nuts are cooling, croutons are crunchifying and the slow cooker is working its subtle magic. I even did the dishes.

Now to redo my website, tweak a travel fantasy short story and get notes from my Chief Reader on the latest 3 scenes from the novel.

Not a bad start to a Monday, but I’m gonna need more coffee.

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