Monday, February 28, 2011

French Bread

We enjoy this recipe so often that my husband recited the ingredients and directions with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back. Okay, I'm kidding about that last part, but we do eat this bread all. the. time., and he really did give me the recipe off the top of his head.

If you're in the mood for a crunchy and slightly chewy crust with a soft center, then this is for you. This French bread has a hint of whole wheat in it, which gives it a nice hearty flavor without being too dense. There's nothing fancy-schmancy about it, but it's the perfect accompaniment to just about any meal. My husband often doubles the recipe and freezes the dough so we can have homemade bread for dinner whenever we're in the mood for it, but it's also easy enough for him to make a batch for dinner right when he gets home from work.

Trust me when I say this bread is just plain good.

{Whole Wheat} French Bread
makes two loaves

1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs butter, room temperature (butter substitute is fine)
envelope of active-dry yeast
2 1/4 cups hot water (hot, around 114 degrees; not scalding)
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups AP flour (increase up to one cup)
drizzle, olive oil

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine salt, sugar, yeast, and butter. Add water; mix. Pour in two cups of water; mix in two cups of flour. (At this point, it will look like cake batter.) If using a stand mixer, attach dough hook. Slowly add the last three cups of flour. Mix on high for a few minutes; until dough is slightly sticky. If dough is too sticky, add additional flour until it's just slightly sticky.

Sprinkle working area with flour and knead dough for a couple minutes. Form into a ball. (You can also freeze it at this point: divide ball into two and tightly wrap each with saran wrap.) Lightly coat dough with oil and place in a large bowl. Cover bowl with saran wrap and place in a warm location for twenty minutes. (If frozen, let thaw and continue on from here.)

Take the dough, punch it down, and knead it to get air bubbles out. Divide dough in half. Knead and roll each half into a long log, about 18" long. Repeat with other half. Place dough on loaf pan. Take your sharpest knife and cut three diaganol slits across dough about 1/2" deep. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potato Casserole

I'm always looking for a new way to whip up a potato. While I do love the traditional baked potato, it gets a little boring sometimes. My husband has an adoration for anything in casserole form. When he see's me pull out his favorite red casserole dish he practically dances with excitement. Not to down talk my husband, it is all because of him I come up with some fabulous meals! I was making steak the other night and didn't want a normal baked potato or even mashed potatoes. I had an abundance of bell peppers and little red potatoes. Anytime I have ingredients but am not sure what I'm going to do with them out comes the red casserole dish. Cue dancing. Now I realize the picture isn't "pretty" in the normal sense of the word but in casserole world, it's crispy, it's cheesy, it's gooey... it's beautiful.

Potato Casserole
1 lb red potatoes (small)
1 of each red, green, yellow and orange bell pepper- julienned
1 small yellow onion- diced
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil- to coat pan
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1 tsp rosemary
Salt and Pepper- to taste
Johnny's Garlic Spread-(optional) if you don't own this, order it NOW! Thanks to my fabulous Mother in Law for introducing me to this. It now goes on everything I make, YUM.

Wash and boil the potatoes till cooked. In the meantime saute onion and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat. Once the peppers are soft add the garlic, continue to cook until caramelized but not burnt and lifeless. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain potatoes and slightly mash them, leaving them smashed but still chunky. Place the potatoes in a greased dish and top with the peppers, onion, and the pan juices. Drop spoonfuls of sour cream on potatoes. Sprinkle with mozzarella and cheddar. Season with Johnny's Garlic Spread, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake at 325 degrees until bubbly and gooey, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about 5 minutes more to give it a crispy top.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread

Before I share this recipe with you, I need to let you in on a little secret....I don't like pumpkin. I love pumpkin seeds and I really enjoy carving jack-o-lanterns, but I really don't like the taste of pumpkin. But that's not for a lack of trying, because every season I try it again, hoping my taste buds have changed. I figured that just because I don't like something doesn't mean I should hold out on sharing it with you.

With that said, I've been told—by pumpkin enthusiasts—that this bread is pretty darn tasty. It's moist, smells out of this world while baking, and has plenty of warm spices and the perfect amount of crunch to satisfy any pumpkin craving. I can imagine it'd be pretty great toasted with a little slab of butter on it in the morning for a quick treat.

We have an abundance of pecans in our house and too many cans of pumpkin laying around, which is how this bread came to existence. I doubled the recipe and sent both loaves off with my husband to work. He came back empty handed and said everyone gobbled it up, hardly even leaving a crumb on the plate. If you like pumpkin, you'll love this bread.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread
adapted from Very Best Baking
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 can (15 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated fat free milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. 
Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl. Blend pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, egg, egg white and oil in large mixer bowl. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Fold in 1/2 cup nuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan; sprinkle with remaining nuts. 
Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sweet Chili Tilapia

In our household, we enjoy eating fish at least twice a week for dinner. The problem with having it that often is that white fish can sometimes taste boring if it's not seasoned well. And we all know that boring food leads to dinner ruts, which leads to scrapping the fish idea and just eating out instead. So we have to get creative with what we put on our fish.

Enter Sweet Chile Sauce (found near the soy sauce in most supermarkets). We LOVE this stuff and put it on everything from fish and poultry, to rice and pasta, so expect to see more of it in the future. It has the perfect amount of zestiness to sweetness and enhances food so well. For this particular recipe, I use a 1-1-1/2 ratio. For every tablespoon of sweet chili sauce, add the same amount of soy sauce, and half the amount of Worcestershire.

Sweet Chili Tilapia
serves 4

4 tilapia fillets, thawed (can use any white fish)
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium, if possible)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
garlic powder (to taste)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix wet ingredients together in a small bowl. In a shallow baking dish, lay fish out evenly, without touching. Sprinkle desired amount of garlic poweder over fish. Pour chili mixture over fish; marinate for about 10 minutes. Flip and marinate other side for another 10 minutes. Bake for 10-15 minutes until fish is white and flaky. Serve and pour excess sauce over fish. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brandy Truffles

I haven't made truffles in years, and I figured there would be no better time to make them then Valentines Day. I love the dark chocolate that goes into these and how rich and amazing they are once all the steps are completed. It will truly be hard to keep from eating them in the process. I'll admit it is a long process but so worth the wait. And the brandy makes them an extra special grown up treat. The perfect chocolatey dessert for a special evening.

Brandy Truffles
Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
3 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4- 1/2 cup brandy
8 oz semisweet chocolate
Cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, dusting sugar, powdered sugar, etc. (for coating)

Melt 10 oz of chocolate with 3 Tbsp of butter in a microwave safe mixing bowl for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, repeat one more time. Set aside.
Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a put over medium heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat and pour it over the chocolate and butter mixture. Let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until it's melted and becomes smooth. Once it's creamy stir in the brandy. Pour the chocolate mixture into an 8 by 8 baking dish (I like using an 8 inch cake pan) refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the chocolate from the fridge and scoop it out with a melon baller onto a sheet. Place in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Put your coatings in separate pie pans or plates.

Heat 8 oz of chocolate over a double boiler until melted. You'll need to adjust the heat up and down until you achieve 90-92 degrees F. Try to not let it go over 94 degrees. You want the coating to have a nice snap to it and if you go past 94 degrees you wont get that snap in the chocolate. Adjust the heat to maintain the correct temperature.

Take the truffles out of the refrigerator and roll them into balls using the palms of your hands. I would definitely wear latex gloves at this point or else your hands will be covered in chocolate goo.

Dip an ice cream scoop or large spoon into the melted chocolate and roll it upside down to remove excess chocolate. If there is too much chocolate on the spoon it will make the coating process messier and they will take longer to set up. Place the truffles 1 at a time into the scoop/spoon and roll around until coated. Place the truffle in your coating of choice (I used chopped walnuts, red sugar sprinkles, cocoa powder, and white chocolate). Roll it around to coat then leave it in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds. Coat all the truffles and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan and allow them to set for at least 1 hour. Either in an airtight container in the fridge or in a cool dry place. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies {Valentine's Day Edition}

I've been saving this recipe since December, because I thought it'd be a perfect Valentine's Day treat. I'm a huge sucker for cheesecake and red velvet, so combining the two just seemed like a match made in foodie heaven.

Well I'm here to tell you that these are just as delicious as I imagined. They're creamy, velvety, and melt in your mouth. It has a perfect amount of sweetness that keep your taste buds begging for "just one more bite," and before you know it, the whole batch is gone.

You can slice and serve them in bars or get a little fancy and break out your cookie cutter for a little fun. If you do use a cookie cutter, just think of all those leftover scraps you'll get to eat! I know this next part will be hard to follow, but these really taste best when they're completely cooled. They're going to smell amazing and you'll want to eat it as soon as the timer "dings," but after you have a nibble, let them cool and try it later. Trust me, these brownies become sinfully delicious when they're completely cooled.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
adapted from Baking Bites
makes around 24

for brownies
1 cup butter
4-oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp red food coloring
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

for cheesecake
24-oz cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly lightly grease a 9"x13" baking pan.

In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and red food coloring. Add in the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Batter should be red. If a brighter red is desired, add an additional 1/2 tsp food coloring. Add flour and salt into the bowl and stir until everything is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

Prepare cheesecake mixture. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter. Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife. (Really get in there and and make the batters mingle!)

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.

Cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving, either at room temperature or chilled.
Brownies can be refrigerated, covered, for several days.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kale Chips

I first heard about kale chips sometime last year when I was searching for a healthy alternative to potato chips—my weakness. I crave the crunchy, salty, and flavor chips encompass, but hate the excess calories.

I'll admit I was extremely skeptical the first time I tried these. I mean, really? How in the world could a leaf calm my chip craving? So with a cynical mind, I made my kale chips and about ten minutes later I was chowing down on something amazing and surprisingly delicious.

I made them a few times while my husband was out of town, just to make sure I knew what I was doing. Then, when he came home, I asked if he wanted to try them. I was waiting for the typical man response of, "You want me to eat WHAT?" But instead, he willingly tried them and liked them! SUCCESS! Now, we make kale chips several times a month, if not more, and eat them as a snack or have them along with meals. Sure, I still have an occasional weakness for real chips, but believe me when I say these scratch my potato-chip itch!

I suggest playing with the ratio of oil, salt, and pepper until you figure out what you like on the chips. The nice thing with kale is that there's usually so much that you'll have plenty to play around with. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I still burn my kale chips, but then I just pop another batch in the oven and try it again!

Kale Chips

1 pound kale, chopped and stems removed
olive oil (drizzle or spray)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, drizzle or spray olive oil over kale. You want the kale covered with oil, but not drenched or saturated. Sprinkle and mix with salt and pepper (to taste). Place kale on baking sheets, somewhat spread out, trying not to overlap too many pieces. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Keep a close eye on them towards the end and take them out when they start crisping. Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011


I can't remember when I first tried hummus, but I remember thinking that it was some sort of exotic, luxury, and expensive treat I could only have a couple times a year. Hummus is essentially a Middle Eastern dip typically made with five ingredients: chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, garlic and salt. Yes, you can make your own hummus with only five ingedients (seven if you include extra-virgin olive oil and paprika for garnishing).

If you're wondering where you get Tahini, I usually find it in the "ethnic" aisle at the grocery store. The price is sometimes a little steep, but one jar will make around three or four batches of hummus, and each batch makes a little more than two cups (and I believe a serving is around two tablespoons). Please don't let buying Tahini defer you from making your own hummus.

I'll admit that the first time I made this I was terrified it wouldn't taste the same as store bought—the directions and ingredients seemd too simple. But once I made it and tasted it, I vowed to never buy the packaged stuff again.

This is an absolutely perfect base recipe for hummus, and from here you can let your imagination run wild with ways to spruce it up (roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, spicy red pepper, etc.). I'm usualy the first one to jazz something up with spice or other flavors, but believe me when I say that this is fantastic as is. The recipe below is only slightly adapted from the original (I added more garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes—naturally), so definitely taste as you go and create it based on your preference.

slightly adapted from Desert Candy

2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas
1/2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water from chickpeas
olive oil, parsley, paprika or cumin for serving

1. Rinse chickpeas. Place chickpeas in saucepan with water; cover by one inch. Place saucepan on the stove; bring to a boil and simmer until chickpeas are very soft: test a chickpea by squeezing it between your fingers, it should smush easily, this could take between 5 and 20 minutes. Remove from heat, skim off any chickpea skins that have floated to the surface and discard them.

2. Place garlic and salt in a food processor; pulse to chop. Add tahini and lemon juice; process until mixture is slightly whitened and contracted. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chickpeas to the processor (don't discard the cooking liquid); process until very smooth. Thin the hummus to desired consistency with reserved cooking liquid (I use about 1/4 cup of reserved liquid). Taste and adjust seasoning with lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate.

3. When ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spices if desired. Serve with pita bread, pita chips, veggies, or eat alone!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oat Waffles

When my husband was a little boy, his dad would wake up early every Sunday morning to make waffles for the family. My husband loved this tradition, so when he requested we put a waffle maker on our wedding registry, I happily went along with the idea, thinking that we'd maybe eat waffles a couple times a year. Little did I know that when he said he liked waffles he really meant that he wanted to make them almost every Sunday. And even better (for me!) it meant he'd make them while I was still sound asleep. Can anyone see where I'm going with this? Almost every Sunday I get breakfast in bed! Have I mentioned we're still newlyweds?!

Anyway, back to the waffles. He started out making waffles *gasp* from "the box," but once he saw this recipe, "the box" hasn't made it back out of the pantry to see the light of day. He likes making the batter the night before so he can sleep walk to the kitchen Sunday morning and not have to worry about measuring and whipping up the mix. I highly suggest following in his footsteps.

And since we're also all about watching our figures over here, he makes several substitutions to the recipe below. We've had both versions several times, and I can honestly tell you that I can't taste a difference between the real and the better-for-you waffles. His substitutions will be in parenthesis.

If you own a waffle iron, take it out of your cabinet, dust it off, and take a few extra minutes to make these. They taste better than a box or the frozen variety any day! 

Oat Waffles
adapted from Alton Brown
makes about 8


  • 5 1/2 ounces old fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, beaten (or 3/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (2 ounces Brummel and Brown)
  • 16 ounces buttermilk at room temperature (or powdered buttermilk)


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread oats on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Cool oats in pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Grind toasted oats in a food processor until their the consistency of whole-wheat flour, about 3 minutes.

Heat a waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.

Whisk together the toasted oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, melted butter together, and vanilla in another bowl, then add buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; stir until combined. Rest the batter for 5 minutes (or cover and leave in fridge overnight).

Coat waffle iron with cooking spray before each use. Ladle waffle batter into the hot iron (amount will differ per waffle iron—we use about 1/2 cup). Close the iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from the iron. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately or keep warm in a preheated 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Easy Fried Rice

There's just something about fried rice that I absolutely love. What I don't love is how absolutely horrible it is for you. Sure, there are veggies in there, but sometimes they're so tiny that you can hardly call it a serving of vegetables. Not to mention, it's typically fried in a lot of oil and then saturated with tons of soy sauce. Hello, MSG! But I love fried rice and continue to eat it all the time—in fact, I've had it four times this week!

Since I'm trying extremely hard to be healthy, I took matters into my own hands and tried making my own fried rice. It can't be that hard, right? But after three tries, I gave up. My attempts never tasted like the real deal. I chalked fried rice up as something I'll leave to the pros, and went on my way.

Then I found this recipe on Weight Watchers' website and decided to give it a shot since it had the word "easy" in the title. It turns out that not only was it ridiculously easy (seriously, how was I messing this up before?), but it actually tasted great, and it's only 3 points+ per serving! The trick, I think, is using older rice—if it's too fresh it just makes it mushy, so I made the rice in the morning and used it at night. I plan on bulking it up with even more veggies (bean sprouts, snap peas, more onions, etc.), trying it with brown rice, and adding some protein the next time I make it. In the mean time, this is a perfect, basic recipe for fried rice. Enjoy! 

Easy Fried Rice
adapted from Weight Watchers 

2 spray(s) cooking spray   
2 large egg(s), lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg beaters)   
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped    
1 cup scallions, sliced, divided  
3 cups cooked white rice   
1–2 cups frozen green peas and carrots (or mixed veggies), thawed  
1/4 cup(s) low-sodium soy sauce, or to taste   

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; warm pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs; tilt pan so that eggs cover bottom. When eggs start to set, break them up into pieces with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. Cook until eggs are cooked through, about 1 minute more; remove eggs from skillet and set aside.

Off heat, recoat same skillet with cooking spray; set over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and all but 2 tablespoons scallions; sauté about 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in cooked rice, veggies, and soy sauce; cook until heated through, stirring once or twice, about 1 minute. Gently stir in cooked egg and remaining scallions; heat through. Yields about 3/4 cups per serving.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Modern take on a Wedding Cake

It may not seem like it but I do have ALOT of recipes to post. I haven't been avoiding posting on purpose. We're having an internet problem over here and it hasn't been available to me. As soon as it's all fixed I'll be playing catch up. However Jessica's got plenty of great stuff coming out of her kitchen to keep everyone's mouths watering! While I have access I'll post a picture of a wedding cake I did this past weekend. It's a white and chocolate cake covered with white fondant and accented with black and teal designs. I LOVE how this turned out, hope you do too!

Cake made for Kara and Tiago Oliveira

January 28th 2010