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I Was Afraid To Make Bread

DSC03555This post is about homemade bread. Not because I am so thrifty and DIY. In fact, it’s the opposite. Making things from scratch kind of scared me. “I can’t do that!” or “It takes too long!” or “That’s only for the pros!” But when I made soup stock or bread for the first time I thought, “Wow, that was easy. What was the big deal.” I felt like superwoman…it was awesome.

I understand that blogging can give the appearance of being cool and having amazing abilities and talents beyond the average woman. I say that, because I’ve thought that about blogs I love and women I admire. Wow, homemade deodorant? Four kids and homeschooling? Amazing photography AND amazing food?

While I love to cook, to learn, to take my time in the kitchen, I am a novice [I’m also not a photographer but if I’m going to include photos, I try to put some effort into making it pleasing to the eye!]. So this post about homemade bread is more about saying, “You can do it!” and not here’s yet another thing you haven’t tried.

Maybe it’s not bread for you, maybe it’s paying bills or hanging those pictures…sewing that button back or knitting mittens…writing that email or learning to braid your daughter’s hair. Small things that have a huge-heart-swelling effect.

BREAD (makes one medium loaf, I double for a large loaf)

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 cup warm water

3 1/2 flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cornmeal or flour for dusting

FIRST: In a large bowl dissolve water and yeast. Add flour and salt and mix until blended and looks shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 8 -18 hours at room temp. DSC03532SECOND: Scrape from bowl(s) and place on well-floured counter. Fold in half, lightly flour, then fold again. DSC03534THIRD: On a clean towel, lightly sprinkle cornmeal/flour and place dough on the towel. Lightly sprinkle again and place another clean towel on top. Sit for one hour. DSC03544FOURTH: Preheat oven to 475. Place a heavy dutch oven (or oven-safe pot) in for about 15 minutes while preheating. Next, carefully (it’s hot!) line with parchment paper and place the dough in the pot (see picture). Bake for 30 minutes covered, then 20 minutes uncovered. The bread is done when you knock on it with your knuckles and it sounds hollow.DSC03551FIFTH: Slice, butter, and enjoy. Slice and freeze. Or simply admire! DSC03554

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Chia Seed Pudding

DSC02835This receipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis’ most recent cookbook. This cook (and book) has grown on me over time. Because each time I’ve made something of Giada’s, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Her Californian flare has expanded my palate towards the more “yin” of West Coast cooking, and I like it.

Now, chia seeds….I’ll only say this: they are an acquired texture. But I personally really like the poppy, almost gelatin feel of the puffed-up and nutritious little guys. This is the perfect thing to make for an easy snack if I’m stocked with almond milk, chia seeds, and yogurt. DSC02821Chia Seed Pudding (slightly adapted from Giada’s Feel Good Food)

1 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk

1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup chia seeds

strawberries

In a large bowl, whisk the almond milk, yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt together until combined. Then whisk in chia seeds and set aside for 30 minutes. Before refrigerating, pour unto individual sized cups or ramekins. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Add sliced strawberries, a dash of maple syrup, and you have yourself a yummy, all-around-good-for-you breakfast.

 

 

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White Bean Soup

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This soup really blew me away today. For the minimal time and ingredients it has such a hearty, comforting, lodgey taste. It almost feels like I could be looking out on the Sochi slopes, with a mug of soup in hand, bundled in a Russian-knit wool sweater, fleece lined leggings…and, of course, my Costco socks.

WHITE BEAN SOUP (adapted from Bread and Wine)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, diced

1/2 pound carrots, sliced small coin size

1 build fennel, sliced thinly

4 celery, sliced thinly on diagonal

1 sprig of rosemary roughly chopped

3 cans white bean in liquid + 1 can liquid from the white beans

salt and pepper to taste

VINAIGRETTE:

2 teaspoons Dijon

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

In a large pot, soften shallots in olive oil over medium high heat. Add carrots, fennel, and celery. Soften 10-15 minutes.

Add beans in their liquid and the extra bean liquid, rosemary, and salt. Simmer at a gentle boil for 25-35 minutes (depending on your time).

Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the soup for a chunky texture (This really makes it creamy!). Remove from heat and serve with toppings of choice (vinaigrette, parmesan, rosemary, shredded bacon)

For the vinaigrette: whisk the dijon, and a 2:1 ration of oil to vinegar. Mix until creamy and drizzle over soup and stir in to add a rich and rustic taste.

DSC02241DSC02243The most nature light in our apartment comes through the bedroom that faces the West. It’s my favorite time of day in our sub-earth abode. 

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Chicken & White Bean Chili

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This is comfort food with my name written all over it. It’s gluten and dairy free friendly but gives everyone the option to add toppings that suit to taste!

Our family used to frequent a mexican restaurant that was to die for. Without fail I ordered the Pollo Ajillo, chicken with garlic and tomato sauce. And I remember thinking, “We have to figure out how to recreate this at home.” And we never did. The flavor was too unique, to original.

Whenever I go to my sister’s house I usually end up raiding their fridge for something to snack on. And Laura is always gracious to let me be nosey. But really I’m paying her a compliment because be it fresh fish sticks or left over meatballs, Laura has the gourmet touch. That woman could turn rocks into a delicacy. And on one occasion I opened those stainless steal doors. Two hands. Standing dead center for full viewing. Wide open. And there was a near replica of the Pollo Ajillo of my childhood…The fork lifted to my mouth and…

“How did you make this!” I exclaimed.

She then showed me the recipe. Delicious on a winter’s night and even better left over for lunch the next day. Be prepared to be amazed if Mexican suits your fancy, because for how incredibly simple this recipe is, it is mouthwateringly mouthwatering.

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CHICKEN & WHITE BEAN CHILI

3 chicken breasts*

olive oil

salt and peper

2 yellow onions, diced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 teaspoon cumin + 1/2 teaspoon chili powder+ 1/2 teaspoon paprika

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

14 oz. can cannellini beans

Preheat the oven to 425 degress. Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and peper. On a baking sheet with parchment paper, bake  in oven for 25 minutes. Let cool then shred meat with your fingers. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, spices, and a large pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are softened, stirring here and there, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a boil then turn the heat on low, cook for 1/2 hour. Add beans, chicken, and 1/3 cup water and simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with toppings of choice.

*Time Saver: Use cooked rotisserie chicken or chop rather than shred the cooked chicken breasts.

adapted from GP’s It’s All Good

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Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”

DSC01548My parents got me this lovely cookbook for my 24th birthday. Mom had received it as a gift while I was living at home and we all benefited from each d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. and unique recipe.

Plenty’s author, Chef Ottolenghi, writes a masterpiece…as far as I’m concerned. You read the recipes thinking, “Hm. I would have never put those together” or “Plenty? Are you sure? But it’s all vegetables!” But each one is a pleasant surprise from the first bite to the last and it is, indeed, plenty. Most are also easily adapted depending on whats in your pantry (within reason) for either a full meal or as a side to a protein, because we do love us some meat.

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This past week I had a head of savoy cabbage in my fridge that needed to be used. So I adapted the following recipe and with a hearty “Hooray”, my palette (and wallet) rejoiced.

Cabbage, Cranberry, and Dill Salad

Serves 4

1 medium cabbage, chopped

1/2 bunch of dill, roughly chopped

1 cup of dried cranberries (or dried cherries)

grated zest of a half lemon

6 tsp lemon juice

1/4 olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix with hands. Let sit for 10 minutes. Mix again, then adjust salt to taste (Ottonlenghi says you’ll need a fair amount of salt to counteract the lemon, but always taste then adjust).

To serve, lift the salad out of the bowl using your hands, leaving most of the juice behind.

Adapted from Plenty

Ottolenghi has two more recent cookbooks

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I Finally Did It! Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I did it! I made full and fluffy chocolate chip cookies! This is big for me because my history with these cookies is not so good. Think paper thin, stick-to-the-pan butter puddles. Hm. And then two things happened: I followed a different recipe from this cookbook AND I used my mother-in-law’s baking sheets.

These may not look like anything special to you, but to me, it’s close to a work of art! More so… it’s that I conquered.

My sister wrote a little blurb on this cookbook and actually got it for me as a bridal shower guest book. This is the fourth recipe I have made from it among sugar and gingerbread cookies and French onion soup. 4 out of 1,000 recipes. Cool.

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It’s Friday. Enjoy your family and home and tree this weekend. Christmas is almost here!

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A Holiday Menu

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This Saturday we’re having a small gathering with some family and friends. I put together the menu last week and also have the help of family with a few of the dishes (phew, thank you!).

Because this is my “first” hosted holiday dinner party, I wanted to do something less “turkey-like”. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew….so, this is our menu:

APERTIF

Pistachios

Olive Tapenade with Crackers

Crudités with Dill Dip

DINNER

Butternut Squash & Kale Chicken Pot Pie

Plenty’s Sweet Winter Slaw

SK’s Caesar Salad (sans the chicken)

Smashed Potatoes with Sage (a various of this recipe, brought by Mom)

Bread and more bread

DESSERT

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis

Christmas Oranges & Chocolate Chip Cookies

All are very easy recipes. It’s my first go at the cake and pot pie, but both came highly recommended by my sister.

 Happy Friday!!!

photo from Bon Appetit

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