Monday, November 23, 2009

Rustic Italian Bread

I love homemade bread. The feel of it in my hands while I am kneading it. The puffiness of it after it rises. The smell of it as it is baking. And the wonderful luxery of it warm out of the oven with melting butter! So have I convinced you yet that you NEED to make some homemade bread to accompany your dinner tonight? Well if so, but you are thinking that bread is too hard to make. Or it would never turn out for you, then give this recipe a chance. This Bread is delicious and takes almost no effort at all to create! Rustic italian bread that is so quick and simple it may very well become a staple in your kitchen.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 packet (around 2 tsp) of yeast
1 tsp honey or sugar
3 3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp salt 

Disolve yeast in water and sweetener of your choice. Add in 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and oil. Mix thoroughly. Cover tightly and let sit for 30 minutes.

Mix in another 1 1/2 cups flour. Dough will be very sticky. With floured or oiled hands turn dough out onto a floured surface using the remaining 3/4 cup of flour. Continue to knead the bread until it is no longer sticky. Cut into two equal parts and form two small loaves. Place loaves onto a pizza stone preferebly. If you do not have one, a cookie sheet works also. Place in cold oven for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes slice diaganol lines on bread and set oven to 425 degrees while loaves are still in the oven. Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until golden brown. Can use a single large loaf pan also for one larger loaf.

Tortilla Soup with Rice

If you are a cilantro fan then this will become your new favorite soup. I would almost call it Cilantro Tortilla Soup. A spin on my friend Amy's wonderful chicken tortilla soup recipe. And even though it's meatless it will not leave you missing the chicken!

1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
1/2 chopped onion
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 cup Basmati Rice
4 3/4 cups Chicken stock
Rotel Original Mexican Tomatoes
Mexican Corn
Tortilla Chips
Shredded Cheese

Begin with a soup pan with olive oil. Add your rinsed rice to the pot and dash with salt. Allow rice to toast for a minute. Add 3/4 cups Chicken stock, onion and cilantro. Bring to boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Add in remaining broth, tomatoes, and corn. Simmer for another couple of minutes. Serve soup over crushed tortilla chips of your choice. Topped with shredded cheese and a squirt of lime. The lime makes an amazing flavor combination. It's worth it!!!!

There are some different variations to experiment with. Add sliced avacado for a creamy texture. Black beans for added protein. To create a chicken tortilla soup simply cook the chicken in the cilantro and all the broth. Add the rice or leave it out. Lots of different options with this one depending on you own preferences.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes

Now... before you turn your nose up give me a chance! This is a spin on regular pumpkin pancakes and the changes to make them whole grain will add nothing but lovely texture and lots of fiber, protein and Omega 3's. But all you will taste is a wonderul fluffy pancake oozing with spice and warmth surrounded by the endearing flavor of pumpkin that the season is most famous for. So give these a try next time you are making pancakes for breakfast. Or surprise your family with breakfast for dinner and let them enjoy the sweetness of the pancake while you enjoy knowing you are filling them with nutrients and strength.

2 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup ground oats
1/2 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger

I put every thing in my mixing bowl one after the other and just kept the mixer on. Easy and fast!
Mix together eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, vanilla and pumpkin. Add in flours, flax, oats, baking powder, sugar salt and spices. Blend well.

Serve with butter and syrup, cinnamon butter, cinnamon sugar or any other topping you and your family love.

*I added a few chocolate chips to the last couple pancakes for my little boy. He loved it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

     My husband and I occasionally dine out at Bella Cucina. A wonderful place in our quaint little town. The atmosphere is romantic, the chef is award winning and the location sits directly off of our town's fountain park. It's perfect! Lunch at Bella is a treat and dinner there is magnificant experience. An experience saved mostly for special occasions. But sometimes, just sometimes, a spontaneous and somewhat desperate date night out from our toddler and infant!
     One afternoon we visited there, after I had just had baby number two so I was entitled to splurge. I ordered the pasta with a basil cream sauce, asparagus and petite diced tomatoes. It was warm and gooey and topped with Feta cheese. It was outrageous! We gobbled it up like it was our last meal. As we took our last bites, my husband looked at me and said "I wish we could eat that all over again." Even though it wasn't even his meal to begin with! I excitedly replied to him that he could... because I could easily make it! Needless to say he is very grateful for my love to cook and need to experiment with new dishes. If you can make a white sauce you can make this dish... enjoy!

1 box of your favorite pasta. We use whole grain bow ties.
Olive Oil
1/2 sweet onion
1 bunch of asparagus- chopped (other options: zuchini, peas, or spinach)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour
2 Cups milk
Parmesan cheese
Garlic powder.
Basil Pesto- homemade or jarred.

Bring water to boil and cook pasta as directed.
Saute onion in olive oil over low-medium heat until they are soft and clear. Add chopped asparagus and allow those to saute until tender. Maybe 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes. Turn off heat. Tomatoes will warm through as they sit.

The Pesto cream Sauce:
In a pot melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk. Allow to cook for a minute or so. Add the milk and whisk until it all begins to bubble. Add desired salt,pepper,garlic and parmesan cheese. Consitency should thicken up as you whisk and it bubbles. When it is thickened take off heat. Stir in 1 cup or so of your pesto. Taste. If it needs more of something. Add more of something. It's that simple!

Combine the pasta with the vegetables then the sauce. Sprinkle with feta cheese, dried basil, or both! And eat. Eat it till your heart's content!