all you knead is love

Bread. Where do I even begin? My love for bread goes way back. I remember once in a blue moon my family and I would have dinner at this cute Italian restaurant, Dicicco’s. There were two things I always looked forward to. One, was the side salad with sliced mozzarella cheese, salami (YUM), and their vinaigrette dressing. The second thing, which always came out first, was those beautiful baskets of warm sliced bread! I would butter those babies up or dip them in dressing, and just be in heaven for a while. It was perfect.

Baking bread has always intimidated me though. Kneading? Proofing? What?! When I found this recipe for no knead bread a few days ago, there was no way I wasn’t going to try it. I mean, come on! Dutch oven + flour + yeast + salt + time = homemade bread. It’s so easy, this bread practically makes itself!

The end result was a beautiful golden crust, with a pillowy soft holey texture. I think everyone should experience the excitement of having homemade bread baking in your oven. The smell alone will fill you with glee!

No knead bread from Bread & Honey

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of water
a pinch of cornmeal

Covered pot (five-quart or larger cast iron, Pyrex, ceramic, enamel… something that can go into a 450ºf oven.)

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients to combine evenly. Slowly add water, stirring gently, until dough forms. The dough should be sticky and shaggy, but not too wet. Place in a large, oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 15-24 hours. The dough is ready when the surface is dotted with tiny bubbles.

Dump dough onto a nicely floured surface and flip it over onto itself so it’s kind of folded up. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then, as quickly as you can, attempt to form it into a ball and let it rest another 2 hours, covered with a cotton cloth. (Terrycloth will stick.)

After an hour and a half of rest, pre-heat your oven to 450ºf with the covered dish inside, and let it go for about half an hour. By then, your dough should be ready (you can test it by poking a floured finger into it- it will leave a dent that takes a moment to spring back. The dough doesn’t rise much, so don’t freak out if it’s still the same size when you go to bake it).

Remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the bottom with a little cornmeal, and then do your best to flop the dough into the pan without burning yourself. Put the lid back on, put it in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, and then another 20 with the lid off.

(Thanks Alicia! I haven’t been this excited in my kitchen in a while.)

April 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm 1 comment

mushroom barley soup

Okay, it has officially been way too long since my last post! Like I stated previously, I have been unable to upload photos from my camera due to the chaos of moving. It’s been two months since we moved, and I must admit, we still haven’t finished unpacking. I’m sure that cord will turn up eventually, but I was jonesing to update, so my boyfriend bought a cord on Ebay for cheap! It never hurts to have two of something.

The first meal I made in the new kitchen was a mushroom barley soup. The recipe came from a cookbook I got from my boyfriend’s grandmother for Christmas – Simply Soup. It has some great sounding recipes and beautiful photography. It also has recipes for making your own vegetable, fish, chicken, and beef stock… which I’m definitely going to try out sometime soon.

This was also the first recipe I’ve made out of this cookbook. I had been craving mushrooms, so I was excited to try this one. Not to mention, I hadn’t yet had barley, but it sounded like the perfect recipe to try it in. My verdict? Find more recipes to use barley in! Not only is it a good source of fiber, but it will add a wonderful taste and texture to your soups.

I modified the original recipe only slightly by adding minced garlic cloves, 2 extra carrots, and 2-3 tablespoons of harvest coarse ground mustard to give it a little zip! Serve with garlic bread, a small side salad, and you have yourself a light yet fulfilling little supper.

Mushroom Barley Soup
serves 4

Ingredients

1/3 cup pearl barley
6 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
12 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
salt & pepper

Directions

Rinse the pearl barley and drain. Bring 2 cups of the stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the bay leaf, stir in barley, reduced the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes until they are golden brown, stirring often. Remove the mushrooms from the heat.

Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat and add onion and carrots. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened. Add the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Stir in barley with its cooking liquid and add the mushrooms. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the tarragon and parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh parsley and tarragon, and serve.

March 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Hiatus

I recently moved, and somehow, in the process, managed to lose my camera cable. I’m afraid I will have to put this blog on hold until I am able to upload my photos. :[

February 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

veggie rolls with spicy mayo

Tonight I made my first veggie rolls! I had everything prepped before my boyfriend came home with the most important ingredient of all, rice paper rounds. Man, were those hard to find! I had already been to three different grocery stores earlier today, so I was quite relieved when he showed up with them tonight. I’ll have to remember to thank his mother for pointing him in the right direction!

The recipe on the Food Network website calls for 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/2 cup of Sriracha. If you’re familiar with this Thai-style hot sauce, you know that putting 1/2 cup of it is going to set off some alarms! I ended up going with a little less than a 1/4 cup. I recommend adding the hot sauce a tablespoon at a time to achieve your desired level of spiciness. This was definitely a nice twist to the traditional spring rolls I’m use to.

Vegetable Rolls with Chili Mayonnaise from Giada at Home

Ingredients

For the Chili Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Sriracha (season to taste!)*
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For the Vegetable Rolls

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and cut into thin slices
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and cut into thin slices
1 large carrot, shredded
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
6 rice paper rounds*
6 butter lettuce leaves, ribs removed
1 1/2 cups cooked cellophane noodles or bean threads, cooled*

*Can be found in Asian markets, or in the Asian section of some grocery stores

Directions

For the Chili Mayonnaise: In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, fish sauce, garlic, and brown sugar.

For the Vegetable Rolls: In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, carrot, mint, and basil. Add the Chili Mayonnaise and toss well.

Lay a damp kitchen or paper towel on a work surface. Soak a rice paper round in warm water for 20 to 30 seconds until softened. Place the rice paper on the damp towel. Lay a lettuce leaf in the middle of the rice paper and spoon some of the vegetable mixture on top. Place 1/4 cup of the cellophane noodles on top of the vegetable mixture. Roll the rice paper around the filling and seal the ends with a little water. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Store the finished vegetable rolls in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours wrapped in damp paper towels.

January 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

panera panera

I spent most of the day out and about in Fort Worth looking for a new apartment to move into with my boyfriend. After the third one, we decided to take a much needed lunch break at what is quickly becoming one of my new favorite places to eat, Panera Bread. I see the place every time I go to Super Target, which by the way is ALL THE TIME, but had never gone in there until this past Sunday. Being the big bread fiend that I am, I’m surprised it took me this long to try the place out!

The first thing you notice when you walk into Panera Bread is how beautifully laid out everything is. If the decor doesn’t catch your attention, the complimentary baked goodies certainly will! They offer free Wi-Fi service, so you’ll usually find a couple of people quietly working on their laptops. It has a very chilled out atmosphere.

I went in there already knowing what I wanted. (I have a habit of checking menus online before I go to a place.) I got their “u-pick-2″ special – Mediterranean Veggie sandwich and a Fuji apple salad. That sandwich did not disappoint one bit! It came with zesty piquant peppers, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and cilantro hummus on Tomato Basil bread. It was incredible! The salad had mixed field greens, romaine lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips & white balsamic apple vinaigrette. It also comes with citrus-herb chicken slices, but I asked if they could hold the chicken. Those apple chips were sweet with a perfect crunch. I don’t think I even have to say how good the pecans and Gorgonzola cheese were…

My boyfriend opted for the Chicken Caesar sandwich on their Artisan three cheese bread with baked lays and a pickle spear. I think his only complaint was that it could have had a little more dressing on it. We washed it all down with their Iced Green Tea. It’s infused with passion fruit and papaya. My boyfriend, who is not a fan of tea at all, really enjoyed it as well. It was sweet and refreshing.

We left feeling quite satisfied with the food and service. It was money well spent, for sure. This definitely won’t be our last time at Panera Bread! I already know what I’m going to try next… ^_^

What is your favorite food item from Panera Bread?

January 21, 2009 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

a little slice of heaven

I finally used my KitchenAid stand mixer! It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to make first. Since I already had dinner planned out, I decided to go with a dessert… but not just any dessert, “food of the angels.” The recipe for this cloud-like cake is pretty basic. However, there are a few guidelines you want to follow to get a perfect cake every time.

1. First and foremast, get yourself an angel food cake pan. Preferably one with a removable bottom and cooling legs.
2. Make sure that your pan is clean and dry. Any amount of oil or residue could deflate the egg whites.
3. Use room temperature egg whites, and watch out for any amount of egg yolks! Again, any amount of fat could ruin your cake.
4. Cream of tartar- this will help stabilize and give more volume to your egg whites. You will find this in the spice section of your grocery store.
5. Cool the cake upside down for about 2 hours. If your pan doesn’t have cooling legs, balance it on a bottle like I did. This will help prevent decompression while cooling.

If you’re watching your weight this year, but still want to treat yourself, give this recipe a go. It’s a fat-free dessert that you won’t feel guilty about eating!

Angel Food Cake from All Recipes

Ingredients

1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
12 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sift together the flour, and 3/4 cup of the sugar, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed until the eggs make medium-firm peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. When the egg white mixture has reached its maximum volume, fold in the sifted ingredients gradually, one third at a time. Do not overmix. Put the batter into the tube pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack until cool. Top with your favorite fresh or frozen fruit for extra treat.

January 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm 3 comments

baked shrimp scampi

Last night I made shrimp scampi and roasted asparagus. According to Wikipedia, “scampi” is a culinary term that is alternately used for a species of lobster or a method of preparing seafood. It is also the name of a dish of shrimp served in garlic butter and dry white wine. Yum.

This recipe came from Ina Garten, and if you know anything about Ina, you know she likes to use a lot of butter. Regardless, the woman knows what she’s doing. I started off by using 1 pound of large shrimp instead of two. I used only 3/4 stick of butter instead of 1 1/2 sticks (but only because I was using less shrimp ^_^), and eye-balled the rest of the ingredients. As I was preparing the delicious buttery/garlicky topping… I reached for the red pepper flakes, which I was going to sprinkle on top… and ended up pouring about half of the container out on accident! When and why I had removed the shaker lid, I don’t remember, but luckily I was able to rescue my topping. And Oh. My. God. This dish was heavenly.

If you’re looking for something special to make, I highly recommend this recipe. It’s so good, you won’t care how much butter you’re consuming. Next time I’m going to serve it with sour dough bread to dip in the garlic butter sauce. Mmmm…

Baked Shrimp Scampi from Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

1 bunch fresh asparagus, washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan
1 lemon cut in wedges, for serving
salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Trim off about 1 inch from the bottom of each stalk of the asparagus. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and season salt and pepper. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Squeeze a little lemon juice and top with Parmesan.

January 11, 2009 at 1:13 am 7 comments

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