Oui, Oui, j’aime le pain! Homemade French and 6 grain bread.

I haven’t made homemade bread in years and I really wasn’t sure that I could.  The last time I made bread was when I owned a bread machine about 10 years ago.  I honestly thought that making bread without one would be very difficult.  What I disliked about the bread machine, other than it’s massive size and the amount of counter space it took up, was how the bread was shaped when cooked in the machine.  So, while I was planning a belated birthday dinner for my mother I thought it would be nice to make crustini garlic bread to go along with the spaghetti and meatballs I was making.  I started searching for a recipe for baguettes.   I realized that making these would be pretty difficult as I didn’t have a pan for these long and skinny rolls.  I then saw a recipe for French bread.  I absolutely love crusty French bread and I knew it would make awesome garlic bread.  So, I ventured down the bread making path once again, sans a bread machine.

Making the French bread was so incredibly easy!  Now, I will admit that it was easy because of the dough hook on my stand mixer.  Without that I don’t think it would be very easy.  It can be done though.

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What you will need:

  • Stand mixer
  • Dough hook for stand mixer
  • large cookie sheet

Crusty French Bread (Source: Sugar Cookies to Peterbuilts Blog)

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water, divided
1 T. shortening, melted (or olive oil)
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
4-5 c. all purpose flour
cornmeal
Combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl, stir until yeast is dissolved.
Add sugar, shortening, remaining water and 2 cup of flour.

Mix until blended, using paddle attachment on mixer. Add salt and 2 more cups of flour, mix again until combined. Add remaining flour as needed until a soft dough ball forms.

Remove paddle from mixer, and cover bowl to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Remove dough from bowl onto floured surface and divide into two equal pieces.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each piece into a rectangle and roll from long side into a log.  Tuck ends under and place seam side down on a greased and floured baking sheet  cover loaves with cloth and let rise again, until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2-3 slits in tops of loaves with a sharp knife. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve warm or if using for sandwich bread, allow bread to cool for at least 12 hours and then thinly slice using a good serrated bread knife or electric knife.  That is if you can stand the smell of the fresh bread and not eat it right away.  Freshly baked bread, fresh cut grass in the spring, a baby’s head, my husband’s neck, and oddly enough my grandparent’s basement are my favorite smells.

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After my success with the French bread and the subsequent garlic bread from one of the loaves I wanted to try a sandwich bread.  I came across a recipe for 7 grain bread.  The recipe looked easy enough.  I needed one item that I didn’t have on hand.  I was unsuccessful at finding exactly what I needed.  The recipe is for 7 grain bread which uses 7 grain hot cereal mix.  My store only had a 5 grain hot cereal mix.  I had wheat germ in my pantry so I added that and made it a 6 grain.  I am going to try another store in town and if I can’t find a 7 grain hot cereal there I am almost sure I can find it at Wholefoods.  If not, the 6 grain was good 🙂

Make sure you get raw grain hot cereal, not one with added sugar or spices like cinnamon.  I found this one.

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Ingredients (Source:  Our Best Bites Blog)
1 1/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) seven-grain hot cereal mix ( i used 3 packets from the 5 grain hot cereal I bought)
2 1/2 cups boiling water (
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour (not bread flour)
1 1/2 cups (8 1/4 oz) whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon salt
Optional : 3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (I omitted these)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats

*If you’re using salted butter, just decrease the additional salt by just a bit.

Instructions
Place cereal mix in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour.  Whisk flours together in separate bowl.

Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, butter, and yeast and mix on low speed until combined.  Add flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until cohesive mass starts to form (*note: some at high altitudes have noted they have not needed all of the flour, go by look and feel and stop adding flour if you need to!) 1 1/2-2 minutes; cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes.  Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3-4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2-3 tablespoons additional all-purpose flour and knead until it does.  Don’t add more!) continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes.  Add seeds (if using) and knead for another 15 seconds.  Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, round ball.  Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl; cover tightly with plastic and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 45-60 minutes. ( I covered with a towel)

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.  Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide in half.  Press 1 piece of dough into 9×6 inch rectangle, with short side facing you.  Roll dough toward you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go.  Turn loaf seam side up and pinch it closed.  Repeat with second piece of dough.  Spray loaves lightly with water or vegetable il spray.  Roll each loaf in oats to coat evenly and place seam side down in prepared pans, pressing gently into corners.  Cover loaves loosely with greased plastic (again covered with a towel) and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size 30-40 minutes.  Dough should barely spring back when poked with knuckle.

Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake until loaves register 200 degrees, 35-40 minutes.  Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

Storage: Bread can be wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Wrapped with additional layer of foil, bread can be frozen for up to a month.

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My oats didn’t stay on the top of the bread when I removed the bread from the pans. I used the non-stick cooking spray.  Next time I’ll use a little oil brushed on top.  The bread is soft and I had to try it with a little raspberry jam after slicing it for sandwiches this morning.  Mmmmm…  simple goodness of homemade bread.  Give baking bread a try!

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Mexican Breakfast Pizza

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I’ve been cooking much more than I have been blogging.  Yesterday, I made two 1/2 sheets of meatballs, 2 loaves of French bread, banana poppy seed pecan bread, and dinner.  Dinner was crock pot pork chops, sweet and sour red cabbage, and mashed potatoes.  The pork chops were a Pinterest recipe and they were a hit with my guys.  I loved the sweet and sour red cabbage.  I think my Austrian, Slovakian, German roots make it it almost something my DNA craves.  My boys all love any cabbage.  Well, except for son #4, he pretty much refuses to try anything that isn’t fried or covered in cheese or ranch dressing.

So, this morning I woke up and wanted to cook breakfast but I had no idea what to make.  I first thought about some crescent roll dough I had in the fridge and I was thinking of making easy cinnamon rolls from that but then I thought I was in the mood from something more savory.  So, I went to the kitchen to see what I had in the fridge.  And that’s when I saw the pizza dough behind the crescent rolls.  Hmm… pizza for breakfast?  Then I thought about my husband’s offer to cook breakfast and to make breakfast tacos with chorizo and eggs.  That’s when I got the idea to make a Mexican breakfast pizza.  I didn’t want to use a pizza sauce as in traditional pizza so I thought, Rotel tomatoes!  Then is all came together.

What you will need:

  • Pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
  • Monterrey Jack/Cheddar shredded cheese
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Fresh  chopped Jalapeno (depends on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes (drained)
  • Pre-cooked Chorizo sausage chopped (or ground Chorizo cooked)
  • Chopped cilantro

Sides:

  • Avocado
  • Sour cream (can also mix in chopped cilantro to the sour cream)

Pre-heat oven to 425.  Roll out pizza dough onto floured pizza pan.  Whisk eggs and add in chopped jalapeno (I do not remove the seeds ) and about 1/3 cup Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese.  Scrambled egg mixture and set aside.  Open a can of Rotel tomoatoes, drain and sprinkle about 1/2 of the can on the pizza.  Chop up the pre-cooked chorizo sausage or cook the ground chorizo and drain (if you are using uncooked loose type).  Add Monterrey Jack and Cheddar to the pizza on top of the tomatoes.  Then add the scrambled egg mixture and then sprinkle the chorizo on top of that.  Finally add the chopped cilantro.  I didn’t measure and this can be left off if you don’t like cilantro.  But I think the taste will be different with it left off.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown.  I placed the pizza in the center of the oven and then halfway through the cooking time I moved it to the lowest level in my oven to allow the bottom to crisp up.   Allow pizza to cool for about 5 minutes and then slice to serve.

Serve with slices of avocado and sour cream.

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Spicy Tuna Stuffed Avocado

I had a request for a tuna salad recipe.  Now I will admit that I am a bit of a tuna snob.  I prefer fresh tuna and if I can’t have that I want Albacore white tuna for tuna salad.  All I had in the pantry was chunk light tuna.  So, the mere fact that I even ate this tuna salad is by most definitions, a small miracle.  Or maybe I’m just not the tuna snob I claim to be.  Never the less, this was good but I am sure it would be better with chopped up leftover fresh tuna or Albacore white.

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What you will need:

  • 2 Avocados (Haas are the best)
  • 6.4 oz. packet of tuna
  • 1.5  Tbspn Mayonnaise
  • 1.5  Tbspn Miracle Whip
  • 1/2 tspn Basil Pesto
  • 1 celery stalk finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 large fresh jalapeno finely chopped
  • Fresh Cilantro (chopped – I used about a Tbspn)
  • 1/4 fresh lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix together mayo, miracle whip, pesto, and lime juice in a bowel.  Add in Tuna, celery, onions, cilantro, and jalapeno to the bowel and mix well.  Slice an avocado in half.  Remove pit. ( Hint: An easy way to remove the pit is to use a knife and hit the pit with the knife edge  and the pit most of the time comes right out with the knife.)  Carefully peel the skin from the avocado.  Fill the avocado with the tuna salad, season with salt and pepper and serve.

The buttery(ness) of the avocado and the heat of the jalapeno goes so well together with the tuna.   It would go nicely with crackers, pita, tortilla chips, on a bed of lettuce or alone, like I did.  This serves 2-4.

Note:  I do not remove the jalapeno seeds but if you don’t like much heat then remove the seeds before chopping the jalapeno.  This would also be good with a little hot sauce sprinkled on the top.

I also placed some cheese on top on one of the halves and placed it under the broiler on high.  This was also good but I preferred the cold version more.

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There’s a Ninja in my kitchen and I’m calling him Samurai Jack

Yesterday morning I was making the boys smoothies for breakfast and my blender decided it was only going to do about 1/3 of the job.   Kinda like our Congress.    Great, what do I do with a milky substance with chunks of frozen banana and chocolate?  I struggled with the blender and convinced it to work a little more.   Too bad we can’t do that with Congress.  They seem content with just pushing out some bills but avoiding the chunks and calling it a complete job.

So, I convinced sons #3 and #4 that it was a chunky style smoothie. Maybe I could have a career in politics! I don’t think they even cared to be quite honest, because hey it was chocolaty!  Chocolate coat anything and someone will eat it.  Again, much like our Congress.  I decided that the Osterizer blender needed an upgrade.   A trip to Target helped me achieve that and a Ninja professional series blender (aka Samuari Jack) now proudly sits on my counter.  Too bad Congressmen and women upgrades aren’t as easy or fruitful.  Pun intended.

Samurai Jack looks fierce!  I swear I think it could blend up a 2×4 into sawdust.  I put Samurai Jack to the test and made smoothies yesterday afternoon.  “That’s all you got?”  Samurai Jack seemed to be saying as he quickly assaulted the frozen strawberries and bananas. I can’t wait to try mixing some “adult drinks” in this machine.  I saw a recipe on Pinterest some time ago to use lime sherbet, Tequila, and ice for a quick and easy Lime Margarita.

There is a  whole board on Pinterest for Margaritas.  So many to choose from!  Samurai Jack is going to be busy when the weather warms up.  Wait!  It’s near 80 today.  Hmmm….

Easy Fettucini Alfredo Sauce

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Chicken “Fettucine” Alfredo

I love pasta, especially when it’s covered in Alfredo sauce.  Before I learned how to make Alfredo sauce I would buy the pre-made jarred Alfredo sauce.  It never tasted right to me.  It lacked the creamy, cheesiness that restaurant Alfredo has.  At first I thought it must be difficult to make because why else do they charge so much for a plate or bowl of pasta with a sauce? $12 at Olive Garden for this dish. Yikes that would be $72 just for a family of 6 for the meal.  Add in drinks and tip and this is $100 for this meal.  Ok so maybe it’s expensive to make?

I found neither to be the case and most people have all these ingredients as a staple, well except maybe the heavy cream.

I know of two ways to make this sauce.  One is quite easy and the other is just a little complicated but still not difficult.  I am going to show you the easier way and then tell you the other way.  I like the simple version taste and it has less cholesterol this way.  though this by NO MEANS is meal friendly to the scale and once again it’s one of those meals that will make your doctor cry.

What you will need:

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  • Sauce pan
  • Large spoon for stirring
  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 cup of Butter (salted is best)
  • 3 cups of Fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tspns of jarred crushed garlic
  • Coarse Pepper and salt (to taste)
  • Fresh Parsley (optional)

Place butter in sauce pan to melt over medium low heat.

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Once butter is melted slowly add in the heavy cream and stir.

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Once mixed well, add in the garlic and then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Then add in the Parmesan cheese and mix well.

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Continue simmering and stirring until all the cheese is melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Pour on top of fettucine cooked pasta (or whatever type of pasta you have on hand) and serve.

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When I made this I also added some parmesan crusted chicken I had leftover from some Panini sandwiches. I also didn’t have fettucine noodles so I used regular spaghetti noodles.  For a complete meal serve with a salad and side of bread.  I like to serve with crustini bread.

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Ok. so now for the slightly harder version.  Follow everything above except where you pour the sauce over the pasta.  Turn the heat off the sauce and separate 6 egg yolks.  Add in about 1/3 cup of the sauce to the yolks and whip.  Add the cream and egg mixture back to the remaining cream mixture and whip.  Turn heat back on low and continue to stir until sauce thickens.

See not difficult but you must be careful to not cook the yolks when adding the sauce and mixing and then when adding back to the sauce.  And it’s not expensive ingredients either.  This makes enough sauce to feed my family of 6.  You can cut it in half for a smaller family.  I have not tried freezing the sauce so I do not know if it will freeze well for later use.

I hope you try this and enjoy this easy and inexpensive dinner.

Ciao!

Homemade Cranberry Almond Cereal

There are a couple of things that are a must when I am choosing a recipe to cook or bake.

1. it must be something that my family will eat (that’s actually easy with all boys in the house) and

2. it must contain ingredients that can be bought in the average grocery store (I don’t want to have to find some obscure market or take a trip to an exotic island for an ingredient – though the trip to an exotic island does sound tempting right now being that it’s mid January).

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This definitely fits my musts.  As I am typing this I heard someone in the kitchen.  Both younger boys had already had an afterschool snack of this cereal, so I knew someone was sneaking something.  I found my youngest son scooping yogurt in a bowl and the bag of cereal ready to be poured over the yogurt.  He said to me, “Oh mom its sooooo good!  can I please have a little more?”  What mom can say no to a healthy snack and a compliment to something she made herself?  LOL not me.  So, he got his seconds.  And I am a big pushover when it comes to my kids.  They know it too.

The base recipe for this cereal came from somewhere else and I’ve changed a few things about it making it my version.  I love this cereal and once again my kids do to.  It’s a nice change from buying store-bought cereal.  It tastes great in a bowl of milk, over yogurt (as son #4 can attest to) or even straight up!  I’ve never tried making cereal bars out of this recipe but I think it would be possible if added more honey to bind it better and pressed it into a pan.  I may try that someday.

What you will need:

  • 1/2 sheet pan
  • 4 cups dry oats
  • 1 cup of wheat germ
  • 2 cups sliced or silvered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tspns cinnamon
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tspns almond extract
  • dried cranberries (about 1 cup – you can choose to add as much or little are you want)

Heat oven to 300 degrees,  In a large mixing bowl add in oats, wheat germ, almonds, sesame seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  I didn’t take a picture of the sesame seeds.  These can often be hard to find without paying a fortune. I know I said this is a recipe that fits my muts and it is but I know sesame seeds can be tricky sometimes.  McCormick sells them in the spice section but you get hardly any in the jar.  There is a Spanish company that sells them in little bags for much less.  If you can’t find them or they are pricey, they can be left out.

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Mix well and make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

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In a small bowl put the oil, honey, water and almond extract, stir to slighty mix, but it will not completely mix.  Pour this into the well in the dry ingredients and mix it all together.

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Mix well and then spread evenly on 1/2 sheet pan.

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Bake for about 40 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Stir about every 10 minutes to prevent edges from burning.  Once done, let it cool add the cranberries and mix again.

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Store in an airtight container.  Gallon sized Ziploc works well or you can get fancy and buy one of the Rubbermaid cereal containers.

Beef and Sausage Florentine stuffed shells

This is an original recipe.  This recipe comes from a family friend, John, many years ago.  He was the cook in his family.  I’m not sure how he came up with this and honestly the name he gave it I choose to not title it with.  We lovingly still call it by this name at home, but had I posted it with this name, I am sure you wouldn’t even think to give it a try.  So, you are probably wondering what the name is.  Think Dr. Seuss, maybe you can guess it.

Anyway, this is another easy recipe and despite the fact that there is spinach in the recipe I have not yet found a kid that didn’t like these stuffed shells.  Though, the green color of the meat (hint, hint as to what we call this at home) can sometimes cause a few kids to turn their noses up at first.

What you will need:

  • Large roasting pan
  • Large fry pan
  • Large pot for boiling noodles
  • Olive oil
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Jumbo sea shell noodles – 1 lb box
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1.75 lbs Lean hamburger meat  (90/10 or 93/7)
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage (or Sage flavored ground breakfast sausage)
  • 2 cans chopped spinach
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

Pre-cook noodles until they are about 3/4 the way cooked; rinse in cold water to stop cooking process and allow shells to cool to handle.  While the shells are cooking, open and drain the 2 cans of spinach,  Press to get as much water out as possible.  Place spinach in a bowl and add the brown sugar and lemon or lime juice; mix well.  Cook hamburger meat and sausage in large frying pan.  When meat is cooked, drain grease from meat and add to the spinach mixture.  Mix spinach and meat together very well.  The meat will look green (ah ha another hint!!) when mixed completely.  Stuff each shell with the spinach and meat mixture.  Spray or sprinkle the bottom of the roasting pan with olive oil (I use a spray olive oil).  Place the stuffed shells in the pan.  Once all the shells are stuffed, pour as much of the spaghetti sauce as you would like on top of the shells and then sprinkle generously with mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes, then remove foil and back until cheese is well melted and starting to turn golden.

Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and freshed snipped basil and/or parsely.  Warm crunchy crust Italian bread and salad goes nicely with this.  As does a nice glass of wine 🙂 And if there wasn’t enough spinach in this recipe for you, it would be nice with a side of wilted spinach.

See.  It’s easy!  though it does create a few dishes to wash but there is time to wash while the meal bakes.  Or if you are lucky like me you may have a husband or partner willing to wash the dishes for you.  And once you’ve eaten this, you can sing “I’m strong to the finish, ‘cuz I eat my spinach!  I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!  Toot toot!” 

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