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Dinner Rolls

I love baking bread.  I haven’t done it for a while and it was nice to get back into the habit with this fairly easy recipe for dinner rolls.  This recipe creates about 40 rolls and as much as I love bread, I certainly did not need to be eating 40 rolls in a couple of evenings.  So, I created the rolls and froze half of the dough balls.  The other half I baked but I then took half of the baked rolls and froze those as well.  So, I should have enough rolls stocked for the holidays in baked and non-baked forms.  I pretty much followed the original recipe, but if one wanted you could mix in some whole-grain flours to make a slightly more nutritious dinner roll.

Dinner Rolls (see original recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups luke-warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6-7 cups bread flour

Instructions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water.  Make sure the water is luke-warm, not hot.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the oil and stir/knead in the 6 – 7 cups of flour.  It took me about 4-5 minutes to knead in 6.5 cups of flour.
  3. Let rise 1-2 hours in a warm place until doubled in size.  My favorite method (especially if your house is on the cooler side) is to put the bowl of dough in a (cold) oven with the oven light on and fill a container with hot water and put in the oven as well.  This creates a nice humid and warm environment for the dough to rise.
  4. Punch down dough and form into golf-ball sized balls (about 40).  At this point, you can freeze this dough.  I put mine on a tray lined with freezer paper and put in the freezer for about 2 hours to let the balls freeze individually and then put them in a freezer bag.  If baking now, place on a greased baking sheet 2″ apart and let rise another hour.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.
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Cheesy Potato Soup

I love the autumn.  I love the colors and the cooler temperatures.  I love the foods associated with autumn: apples and pumpkin, turkey and potatoes and the warm spices cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  I love comfort foods and this time of year is just perfect since you just want to curl up with a big bowl of yumminess and then hibernate.

Last night I tried out a new soup recipe and was very happy with it.  I probably needed to add a bit more salt and pepper but that is easily remedied.  The original recipe came from http://www.pillsbury.com.  I didn’t add the celery called for in the original recipe because 1) I didn’t have celery on hand and I didn’t want to buy a bunch only to use 1 stalk and 2) I’m not a huge celery fan anyways.  I used a blend of cheddar and colby jack instead of cheddar/american as called for in the original.  I also didn’t saute the onions in bacon fat because I already had some pre-cooked bacon and I was lazy and didn’t want to dirty a pan just to saute the onions so I just put the diced onions in the crock pot.  Sauteing the onions in bacon fat would increase the flavor but it was good skipping this step as well.

Cheesy Potato Soup (see original recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bacon (I used more – because bacon is awesome, but this is optional if you don’t eat bacon)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 5 cups diced, peeled potatoes
  • 32 oz chicken broth (I used low sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (you might want to increase if you are using lower sodium broth)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (I recommend increasing this amount)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar

Directions:

  1. Cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove and drain and refrigerate.
  2. Using reserved bacon fat, saute the onions until tender.
  3. Add cooked onions, potato, broth, salt & pepper to crock pot.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the half & half and flour.  Add to crock pot.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in cheeses until melted.
  6. Garnish soup with crumbled cooked bacon.

This is a lovely warm soup to eat on a chilly evening.  I baked up a batch of rolls to eat along with it so the carb-loading qualities of this meal were complete.  😉

I also love crock pot meals.  I love the simplicity of dumping a bunch of ingredients in a pot and having a dinner made later without a whole lot of fuss.  So, enjoy!

Salsa Chicken

My mother has asked for this recipe and so I figured I’d share it here as well.  It is one of my go to crockpot recipes because it is super easy and super tasty.  I actually took the leftovers of this and put over tortilla chips (instead of rice) and made some rockin’ Salsa Chicken nachos.

The original recipe is from SparkRecipes but I have tweaked it a bit from the original recipe found here: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=672711.  The original recipe calls for cream of mushroom soup but I prefer the cream of chicken.  They also leave the chicken breasts whole and I prefer to shred it.  Both are personal preferences on my part.  I’m sure it’s tasty either way.  🙂

Salsa Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on the size, I only used 2 the last time I made this because the chicken breasts were HUGE)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use the low sodium/low fat version)
  • 1-2 Tbsp taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I use the low fat version)
  • Shredded cheese (Mexican blend) – optional
  • Rice

Instructions:

  1. Mix salsa, soup and seasoning in the crock pot.  Add chicken.  Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
  2. Take chicken out and shred it.  Mix chicken back into crock pot and add sour cream.
  3. Serve over cooked rice and sprinkle with shredded cheese if wanted.

The next time I fix this I’ll try to take a picture.

It’s been a while…

My last post was over a year ago and what a year it has been!  Unfortunately, not in a good sense.  My health took a fairly dramatic downturn toward the end of last year and continued on until I was hospitalized for six weeks this summer.  During the hospital stay I ended up having the majority of my large intestine removed, a 5″ blood clot removed, a couple pulmonary embolisms and an internal abscess (which for a while they thought was a heart attack).  So, not the best summer.

But, on the bright side, I am now starting to feel much better than I have for a long while, even though I am still slowly recuperating.  And, I look forward to getting back to my recipe blog.

Over the next couple months, I want to try out some new interesting dishes and get ready for the holiday season.  Among the things I have planned:

* The search for the perfect meatloaf

* Developing an excellent baked spaghetti recipe

* An adventure into Belgian cooking

* Some new bread recipes

* Foods for holiday gifts

* Some new soup and stews for the cooler weather

So, I hope everyone is doing well and I look forward to getting back to cooking and feeling better!

Whole Grain Bread

This week I am trying to stay away from overly processed/pre-packaged foods (or at least if I have to, that it’s real food not preservatives, artificial colors/flavors, no HFCS, nothing that I have no idea what it is or cannot pronounce).

So, as part of that I decided to bake my own whole grain bread.  I had been wanting to try out the recipe in the March-April 2011 Cooks Illustrated anyway.

My recipe is a little bit different from the published recipe but the procedure is basically the same.  The Cooks Illustrated recipe uses whole wheat flour and wheat germ.  I use two different kinds of whole wheat flour (both hard & soft) and whole oat flour.  I get my flour from The Grain Mill of Wake Forest who grinds it for me so I get freshly ground whole flours.  They’re some pretty spiffy folks, so I recommend them.

This bread has a lot more whole grain that I am normally able to put into a sandwich bread and it not be as dense as a hockey puck.  Now, don’t go expecting Wonder Bread consistency, but it had a much lighter texture considering it is over 60% whole grain.

I think a large part of this is because of the soaker, which soaks the whole grain overnight to help soften it.

And, unless you are a bread nerd like me, you might be wondering what the heck a biga is.  It is a type of pre-ferment used a lot in Italian baking.  But, it helps develop the yeast and the flavor.  So, now you know and can impress all your friends.  🙂

Whole Grain Bread

Ingredients:

Biga –

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Soaker –

Dough –

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. The night before, prep the biga and the soaker.  Mix the biga ingredients together, cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.  In a separate bowl, mix the soaker ingredients, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day add the biga and the soaker to mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Mix on low for 2 minutes until combined. Increase to medium speed to knead the dough for 8 – 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from mixer and hand knead for 2 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Punch down and fold dough over itself 8 times. Let rise 45 minutes.
  5. Separate dough into 2 portions forming each into a rectangle and rolling into a loaf shape to fit into a lightly greased loaf pan.
  6. Let rise in pans 60 – 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 400. In the lower rack, place a pan and put a couple cups of boiling water to make a humid baking atmosphere. When oven comes up to temp, lower the heat to 350 and bake loaves for 40 – 50 minutes (internal temp of 200) rotating pans half way through.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove bread from pans and let come to room temp on a rack.

Notes: I make my oven into a proofer for the dough to rise, which is especially good during the winter or if you have drafts, etc.  With the oven OFF – place a pan (I use a cake pan) on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it with boiling water.  I then place the bowl with the dough in the oven.  Just make sure you don’t turn the oven on.  Bad things happen.  This creates a nice warm, moist atmosphere in the oven that bread dough likes to rise in.

Good Sunday Morning to you all!  I figured a lovely breakfast was in order this morning.

My plan was to make Raspberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast from justapinch.com.  However, upon finding that my grocery store did not have raspberries (frozen or fresh) and no challah or hawaiian bread, I decided to embark on my own version with what I could scrape up from my grocery store (since I wasn’t interested in running all around town just to find breakfast ingredients).

So, here is my take on a stuffed french toast.  And, if I do say so myself I thought it was pretty good.  Although very filling!

Cheesy-Blackberry Stuffed French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 8oz cream cheese, softened (I used the low-fat version)
  • 8 large slices bread (I used a Sweet Buttermilk bread – Pepperidge Farms, I think)
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries, defrosted (you can use fresh or you can use other kinds of berries)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Dash salt

Instructions:

  1. Mix honey & cinnamon into the softened cream cheese.  Spread cream cheese mixture on one side of each of the slices of bread.
  2. Place some of the blackberries on top of the cream cheese side of a slice of bread.  Cover with a second slice (cream cheese side down).  To make a cream cheese & blackberry sandwich.
  3. Mix the beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a shallow dish (I prefer using a pie plate).  Place the “sandwiches” in the egg mixture and let it soak up.  Flipping so both sides will soak up the egg mixture.
  4. Place in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Flip the french toast and bake for another 10 minutes.  The egg & bread mixture should be set and no longer runny.
  5. I had mine with blackberry syrup (recipe below) but you could certainly use regular maple syrup or warmed honey.

Blackberry Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Bring everything to a boil in a saucepan.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Mash the blackberries in the pan as they are cooking to help them release their juices.
  3. Strain syrup to remove seeds.

Enjoy your breakfast! 

Having a Souper Time!

Since it’s been chilly around here I think it’s time to try out some new soup recipes!

Monday night in preparation for the Ice-pocolypse that was going to hit the south, I decided to try Thai Chicken Soup.

I left the cilantro out of the original recipe since my husband does not like cilantro.  I also thought I had fish sauce in my pantry – but it turned out to be Oyster sauce.  I used that anyways.  I know it’s not the same thing, but I had it.  And it tasted just fine.  I also added more rice noodles than the recipe called for because I didn’t want to deal with a partial package of rice noodles (it wouldn’t go back in the original packaging – at least not well) and I really like noodles anyway.

Other than that, I pretty much followed the original recipe from the Food Network.

Thai Chicken Soup from the Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp green curry paste

6 c. low-sodium chicken broth

1 (15oz) can coconut milk ( I used the lite coconut milk)

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

4 oz thin rice noodles, broken into pieces (I ended up using the whole package)

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, very thinly sliced crosswise

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 cup freshly chopped cilantro (I omitted this and added parsley instead)

Instructions:

1) Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and curry paste and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; cover and bring to a boil.

2) Add the bell peppers and noodles and simmer, uncovered, until the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Add more fish sauce and lime juice, if desired.

But, this was definitely a fun twist on a normal run-of-the-mill chicken noodle soup.  I think next time I have a cold, I’m going to be making this soup.

Last night I made a Roasted Garlic Soup which was also very good.  My husband thought it would be better as a sauce.  I think I might do that with the leftovers, just thicken it up with some pasta and chicken.  Mmmmm…  But I also liked it in soup form.  We definitely kept the vampires at bay because it has a lot of garlic in it.

I based my recipe on the Poached Garlic Soup recipe from foodnetwork.com; however I changed it around from the original recipe and I think it turned out quite well.

Roasted Garlic Soup

Ingredients:

6 heads of garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 c. diced onion

1 c. diced leek (white part only)

1 bay leaf

1 c. peeled, diced potatoes

4 c. low-sodium chicken broth

4 c. chopped swiss chard

1 c. heavy cream

1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

1) Roast the garlic at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the garlic is soft.  Squeeze softened garlic from the peels (I suggest to let the garlic cool a bit before doing this).

2) Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onion, leek, bay leaf and a little salt.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, but not brown, around 10 minutes.

3) Add the potatoes, roasted garlic, Italian seasoning and chicken stock.   Bring to a boil then reduce the heat cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

4) Add swiss chard and heavy cream and cook an additional minute until the greens wilt.

5) Blend in a blender until smooth.  Be careful to only fill the blender about halfway as the hot liquid will expand when blending

I served this soup with some ham & cheese melts that are basically home-made hot pockets.  I just wrapped some ham deli meat and cheddar cheese in crescent roll dough and baked.

These soups have definitely hit the spot with the weather being cold and nasty.  And I have a whole list of other soups I want to try!

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