Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese

It seems like the combination of pears and blue cheese is a pretty trendy flavor pairing right now--in the past month, I've had it three times.  It is a popular pairing because it is a good combination.  The sweetness of the pears with the sharpness of the blue cheese.  Yum.  Try it on bruschetta or salad.  In fact, I have some leftover pears from this salad, I might just bake a loaf of bread!  I made this salad for our Thanksgiving this year (my sister and I tend to lean toward the "gourmet" side of cooking, so it fit right it) and it received some mixed reviews.  If your palate is adventurous and you like extraordinary flavors, you will love this salad.  If you are looking to expand your culinary horizons, you will love this salad.  If you are looking for a fresh way to incorporate pears into your cooking, you will love this salad.  (Are you noticing a theme here?!)

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

3 ripe but firm d' Anjou pears*  
freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecan halves, chopped
1/2 cup apple cider
3 tbl. red wine
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 ounces baby arugula
kosher salt, optional
*To ripe pears to perfection, place them in a brown paper sack with a banana in the sack.  Fold sack over to close.  In a couple days, they will be ripe but firm, juicy but not mushy.  Perfect.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl.

Peel the pear (a vegetable peeler works the best!) and slice them lengthwise into halves.  With a small sharp paring knife, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling.  Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so they they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling.  Toss the pears with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.  Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.

Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans together in a small bowl.  Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation.

In the same small bowl, combine the cider, red wine, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the mixture over and around the pears.  Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside until warm or room temperature.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the cider basting liquid in a large bowl or shake in a jar.  Add the arugula and toss well.  Divide the arugula among 6 plates and top each with a pear half.  Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt (if desired), and serve.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Biscotti

So, if you've been a blog reader of mine for even a month, you will know that I love soup.  And coffee.  And snickerdoodles.  And biscotti.   Definitely biscotti.  I'm sorry that this is the first time I've mentioned this to you.  I feel like I've betrayed you by holding out on you this very key piece of information about me.  

I discovered biscotti a couple of years ago on one of my favorite food blogs (see source link below).  Never having been one to buy biscotti (somehow, hard cookie-things in a glass jar at the coffeeshop just never appealed to me), I was surprisingly stunned to discover how E.A.S.Y biscotti is to make and how absolutely delightful homemade biscotti is to eat.  

Now, for those of you who don't like to dunk cookies and ruin a good cup of coffee with soggy crumbs, I'm in that boat with you.  You're not going to need to dunk this biscotti.  But you will need a steaming cup of joe.  Make sure you leave a comment if you become addicted after the first bite.  We might need to band together and start a support group for our developing biscotti addiction.  There will be coffee at our therapy meetings.  And probably biscotti. 

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Biscotti
Source:  Annie's Eats

3¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups sugar
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. orange zest
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl; stir together with a fork and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest until well combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries with a rubber spatula.

Divide the dough in half.  Working with one portion of dough, shape into a 12" x 3" log on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough so that the logs are laying parallel and spaced apart on the baking sheet.  Bake until the logs are golden brown, 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 25 minutes, maintaining the oven temperature in the meantime.

Carefully transfer the logs to a work surface and remove the parchment paper from the pan.  Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into ½-inch slices on the diagonal.  Lie the slices on one of their cut sides back on the baking sheet.  Return to the oven and bake for 12 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know that I have been flooding my blog lately with soup recipes. I will apologize to you who don't like soup. Sorry. Cold weather flips the soup switch in me and I am just excited to share my repertoire with you! I had intended to make a chicken tortilla soup recipe that has been in my recipe binder for a while now, but when I was reading through it, for some reason it no longer appealed to me. But my mind was set on soup, so I went hunting on the internet for another, more interesting soup recipe. Once I settled on one, I changed it all around!! Go figure. So, Cheers to brisk, wind-blowing, overcast autumn days and a pot of steaming soup!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, ribbed, and diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a dash of ground cayenne pepper, for heat (optional)
3-4 cooked, shredded chicken breasts
8-10 oz corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)
handful of chopped cilantro

For garnish:
tortilla chips, crushed

shredded Monterey Jack cheese
sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, 4-qt soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno pepper and saute about 5 minutes, until the vegetables become soft. Stir in the chili powder and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover, decrease the heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste and ground cayenne pepper (if using) along with the cooked chicken.   Add corn and black beans to the soup and gently heat until hot. Add cilantro just before serving.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Top with a spoonful of sour cream if desired. Serve.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soft Garlic Knots

I know I say it a lot, but YUM!  As I sit here staring at my computer screen, my mind is bit of a blank as far as creative writing goes.  So, I'm wondering if you trust me (and like me!) enough to take my word at how delicious these rolls are and go start a batch.  Right now.  So easy.  Fluffy and yeasty.  The garlic pushes these rolls over the top.  Yes, it takes a bit of extra time (but not that much!!), but rolls like these are why I no longer buy pre-made frozen garlic bread (and actually haven't bought frozen garlic bread consistently for quite some time now).  These rolls are the perfect pairing to soup, pasta, or if you're like my Brecken, they are a meal unto themselves!

Soft Garlic Knots
Source: Annie's Eats

For the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. lukewarm water (110 degrees)

For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. Italian seasoning

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients.  Add the olive oil, milk and water.  Mix until ingredients have formed a dough.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope and tie into a knot.  Take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center.  Take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center.  Transfer shaped rolls to a baking stone, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy.

To make the glaze, finely mince the garlic or press it through a garlic press.  Mix with the melted butter and Italian seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls.  Bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

After making homemade ricotta cheese a couple times this summer, I was intrigued by the other varieties of cheese I could make at home without having to go all crazy about buying special equipment.  While not quite as simple as ricotta, homemade mozzarella is a breeze to make and doesn't require specialized equipment or hard-to-find ingredients.  If you're like me and you love fresh mozzarella cheese, but hate paying $3+ for one ball, then this is a fun alternative and much less expensive.

There are a lot of options for this process if you google it; I will try to simplify it for you by telling you exactly what I did and where I found my ingredients.

The ingredients you will need are a gallon of milk (I used whole since I have a 1-year-old and that is just what I am buying these days), citric acid, rennet tablet, and some salt.
  • Let's talk about milk--your google search will tell you that you need local, organic, fresh-from-the-cow, milk.  Bah.  Just buy some milk, but make sure that it isn't "ultra-pasteurized" as that milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese.  I get my milk at Aldi for less than $2 a gallon.
  • Ok, next, citric acid.  I will admit to having a hard time finding this ingredient at my local Meijer, as I wasn't really sure where to look for it.  In my area of small-town "Amish-ville," there is a quaint little store that sells bulk foods repackaged in "normal" sized containers.  Voila.  Tripped across it there.  Those of you who know where I live in NE IN will know exactly what store I am talking about.  My best advice to you:  google citric acid and see where you can get it in your area.
  • Next, rennet.  Again, I found this at my little Amish-ville country store.  It is next to the ice cream making/custard making ingredients.  A brief google glimpse into what rennet actually is determined that I actually don't want to know what it is.  But, you're going to need it anyway.  It helps curdle the milk and make the cheese curds.  You should be able to find this fairly easily at your grocery store.
Ok, the equipment that you are going to need you likely already have in your kitchen--a large pot, a long thermometer (I borrowed my MIL's candy thermometer) that will read both 88 and 105 degrees, a mesh strainer or slotted spoon, a colander, and some cheesecloth.

Ok, now that you have all your ingredients and equipment, the only thing that you're going to need is about an hour to make this.  It is pretty simple!  Ready?  Here we go!

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
1 gallon of milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized)
2 tsp. citric acid, sprinkled over the milk
1/2 of a dry rennet tablet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water at room temperature
salt, to taste

Pour milk into a large stock pot.  Sprinkle the citric acid over the milk and use a wooden spoon to stir.  Over medium-low heat, bring milk to 88 degrees.

Add dissolved rennet mixture to milk.  Stir until milk reaches 105 degrees and keep it there for about 5 minutes until curds begin to form and separate from the whey.  The whey (liquid) should be clear; if it is still milky looking, allow the mixture to heat a bit longer.  Off heat.

With a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer, scoop out curds.  Place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain whey.  When all the curds have been removed from the whey in the pot, place your hand in the colander to push/squeeze out remaining whey.

Form the curds into balls and place in a glass bowl.  Microwave them for thirty seconds.  On a dry, flat surface, knead the cheese balls just like you would bread dough, squeezing out whey as you go.  Re-form into balls, heat again for 30 seconds.  Knead again, and heat again.  After the second knead, add your desired amount of salt.  Continue to knead cheese balls, pushing together the curds and squeezing out whey until the cheese becomes glossy and firm in your hands.

The more you knead your cheese, the drier it will become.  The drier it is, the easier it is to shred.  I stopped kneading mine once it retained a ball shape in my hand--I didn't shred my cheese.

I yielded 2 tennis-ball-size balls of cheese.

See, simple, huh?  It takes bit of time to knead the cheese, but it is simple and not labor-intensive.  I was fascinated at how the curds transformed in my hands!  Welcome to the Homemade Cheese Club!

As for taste, you might ask?  Well, since mozzarella doesn't really have a strong flavor anyhow, it tasted just as you would expect fresh mozzarella cheese to taste.  I added it to a pasta dish and it was just what I had envisioned!

Ok, here are the pictures of the process:

 The ingredients that you will need--milk, salt, rennet, citric acid, and a candy thermometer.

 Dissolve 1/2 a rennet tablet in a 1/4 cup water.  You will add this mixture to your milk at 88 degrees.

 Though this thermometer is different than the one pictured above, you will need your thermometer to be able to read as low at 88 degrees.  The one above started at 100 degrees.

 Once your milk has reached 105 degrees, maintain that temperature for about 5 minutes to allow the milk to curdle.  Once large curds have formed and you can see them separating from the whey, use a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer to remove the curds.  In the picture, mine were still a bit wet, so I let the milk sit for a bit longer before trying again.

 I found it best to line a large colander with cheesecloth and use my hand to push out the remaining whey.  You want your curds to be dry before beginning the kneading process.

 Once I pushed out the whey, I formed my curds into very rough balls.  At this point, there is still a lot of whey in the curds that I will have to knead out.

 Place the cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds.  On a flat surface (I used a wooden cutting board), begin kneading.  Repeat.
After the second knead, you are ready to add salt to your cheese.  How much you add depends on how salty you want your cheese to be.  I used kosher salt, and didn't measure.  Continue kneading the cheese until it becomes firm and stretchy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blushing Apples

Generally speaking, the complementing side dishes that accompany my main entree are always the most challenging for me.  While I don't purposfully choose the most labor-intensive main dish, I will admit that for any given meal, my time and prep is wrapped up in the star of the meal.  So, I either have to plan my sides or have an easy go-to that I can whip up in essentially minutes.  What I love about this apple side is that they can be simmering while you are eating your main dinner.  They can pass as a simple dessert or can be a wonderful, fresh side dish to have towards the end of the meal.  (Who am I kidding?  I usually have some sort of "real" dessert lying around here!)

Anyway, simple.  Easy.  Prep friendly.

Blushing Apples
Source:  A Kraft Food & Family magazine (who knows which one!)

2 pkgs. strawberry flavored gelatin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups water
4 medium apples, such as Granny Smith or Gala
whipped cream, optional

Combine dry gelatin mix and cinnamon in a large saucepan.  Add water.  Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring frequently until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Core and peel apples.  Add to gelatin mixture in saucepan; partially cover saucepan with lid.  Return to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10-15 minutes until fork-tender.  Remove apples from liquid.

Serve warm and garnish with fresh whipped cream.  (Or cool and store in fridge at least 1 hour or overnight).

Monday, November 15, 2010

White Chicken Chili

One of the things I look forward to most about the weather turning cooler is a nice big pot of soup or chili simmering the day away on the stove.  I love the simplicity of chili and I love that it really only needs some yummy yeasty bread or sweet cornbread to complete the meal.  To add a bit of variety, I incorporate white chicken chili into the chili roundup....I love the creaminess and the garlic of this one!  Topped with slices of avocado, this lends itself to a fresh, comforting meal for those chilly days when coziness is a must.

White Chicken Chili
Source: Main Dishes from The Pampered Chef

3 cups cooked chicken (you can make this ahead the day before in the crockpot, or oven roast a whole chicken and used the meat from that--whichever is easier for you!)
6 cloves of garlic, roasted in the oven (see link for procedure for roasting garlic)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 cans (15 oz. each) great northern beans, drained, rinsed, and divided
2 tsp. light olive oil
3 cups chicken broth (if using canned, about 3 cans)
2 tbl. taco seasoning
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbl. cornstarch
1 tbl. cold water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, snipped

Chop onions and jalapeno.  Drain 1 can of beans and transfer to a small colander.  Gently squeeze roasted garlic cloves from papery skins into beans; mash.  Drain remaining two cans of beans and set aside.

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and jalapeno, cook 4-5 minutes until tender.  Add cooked chicken, mashed bean-garlic mixture, whole beans, broth, taco seasoning, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

In small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water, stirring until smooth.  Add cornstarch mixture to chili and continue cooking 5 minutes, stirring constantly to thicken.  Stir snipped cilantro into chili just before serving.

To serve, top with shredded jack cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a few slices of avocado.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roasted Zucchini Parmesan

So, you may remember my lament over the lack of zucchini from my dad's garden this summer.  I had all this inspiration of the many things I was going to make with zucchini this summer, and when he told me early on that the plants were done, I think I must have gone into conserve mode and mentally stashed those ideas and recipes away.  Well, a friend gave me a zucchini from her garden.  My dad gave me a couple more.  My sister gave me her last three.  But, while this should have resurrected my inspiration, it was long gone.  So, instead of being overjoyed and exuberant over my good fortune and plethora of zucchini, I found myself at a loss for what to do with all this zucchini.  I resorted to shredding one and making a zucchini pound cake which is just not in my nature to make willingly.  Anyway, summer is way over and I still have 3--count them, 3!--zucchini in my pantry, threatening to rot before I turn them into something marvelous.

And then it hit me.  I needed to make zucchini Parmesan.  You know, like eggplant Parmesan?  Only with zucchini.  Score.  Done deal.  I can always go for garlic- and basil-infused meals.

A sidenote:  I think that this would have just pushed me over the top if my zucchini would have been the freshest of fresh.  Alas, however, it was still delightful.

Roasted Zucchini Parmesan
A Karla-Original, inspired by Annie's Eats

1 large zucchini, or several small ones
1 cup flour
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
Parmesan cheese (can you have too much of this?)
at least 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (again, the cheesier the merrier!)
olive oil, for greasing the baking sheets

For tomato sauce:
1 onion, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped fine
1/2 tsp. oregano
3-4 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tbl. sugar
3 tbl. unsalted butter
1 large handful of fresh basil, snipped
2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium shallow bowl, combine the flour and the bread crumbs.  Set aside.  In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Set aside.

Slice zucchini into 1/4-in. slices.  Dip each slice into the egg mixture then coat both sides in the flour/bread crumb mixture.  Place each coated zucchini slice onto a rimmed baking sheet that has been coated in olive oil.  When all zucchini slices are prepared, bake in preheated oven until zucchini is well-browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes and flipping the slices after 10 more minutes.  Do not turn off oven when zucchini is done roasting.

While zucchini is roasting, prepare the tomato sauce.  In a medium saucepan, drizzle the bottom with some olive oil; heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and oregano and saute until tender.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.  Add the tomatoes with their liquid and salt and pepper to taste.  Add bay leaf and sugar and simmer gently to let flavors blend, about 15-20 minutes.  Add butter and let melt; stir to incorporate.  Off heat.  Add snipped basil leaves and Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

To assemble, pour some of the sauce on bottom of a 9x13 baking dish to cover the bottom.  Place one layer of zucchini slices on top of sauce.  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese.  Add more sauce.  Repeat zucchini layer, followed by cheese, sauce, and finish with a final layer of cheese.

Bake uncovered, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is browned, about 13-15 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes, scatter any remaining basil you might have over the top and cut into squares to serve.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Granola

I am trying so desperately to make a granola that I love.  This is close.  I love the "fall" flavor that the pumpkin puree imparts; the challenge remains for me to make a crisp granola that isn't also chunky.  You know, like big chucks that threaten to break a tooth?  Yeah, that's what I am talking about.  I wonder if I need to use a different type of oats??  (I was told by my friend "Low & Slow."  I haven't tried it, but you might consider lowering the temperature of the oven and cooking a bit longer).

Anyway, I'm sure once I toss a handful into some yogurt or splash some cold milk on it, it will be perfect!

Pumpkin Spice Granola
Adapted from Annie's Eats

3 ½ cups rolled oats
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice  (I made up my own, using 1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, as well as 1/4 tsp. ground cloves)
¾ tsp. salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree (I used homemade)
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
up to 1 ½ cups chopped nuts  (I used pecans, my favorite)
up to 1 cup dried fruit (I used a combination of raisins and craisins)

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place oats in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin pie spice, salt, sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Whisk until very smooth.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until the oat mixture is evenly coated.  Spread on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Then turn over the granola using a large, wide spatula.  Sprinkle the nuts onto the granola and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until crisp and golden.  Depending on the size of your baking sheet, the center may not be fully dried if your granola layer is thick, so if necessary remove the edges of the cooked granola and let the rest cook until done, 10-15 more minutes.  Cool on pan or on a fine wire rack. Be careful not to burn the granola!

Break up granola as desired and toss with dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zuppa Toscana

Hmmmm.....what to write?  Except, "YUM!"  I have such a weak spot for soup....  This is a popular soup at a popular Italian restaurant and it could not be simpler to make at home!  I personally think that using pancetta imparts a better flavor and texture, but bacon is a fine, less expensive alternative.  Pair this soup with some warm breadsticks and you have yourself a wonderful cold-weather meal!  Kale is a great way to add some major fiber and folic acid and other great nutrients to your diet--it is one of the most nutritious leafy greens.

Zuppa Toscana
Adapted from Allrecipes (submitted by MARBALET)

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
a drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pkg. pancetta or several pieces of bacon (reserve remaining bacon for another recipe!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup kale, rinsed, stems removed, and chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream or half-n-half

In a large skillet, brown sausage, crumbling it as it cooks.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

In a large soup pot (like a dutch oven), drizzle olive oil and saute onions and pancetta/bacon until tender and cooked.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.  Add the chicken broth, water, and potatoes, and bring to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.  Add the sausage, kale and cream and simmer for 5 more minutes.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Breadsticks

My husband loves bread....he is definitely a carb king.  Now, I love a good yeasty bread as well, but especially when we go out to dinner, I will not often indulge in a lot of bread before the main dish arrives to our table.  Not my husband.  In his love affair with bread, he will fill himself half up with bread before his dinner arrives.  The exception to the "don't eat a lot of bread before dinner comes" is when I order soup and salad and the bread then just enhances the other two dishes.  Like these breadsticks.  Pretty basic.  Pretty yummy.  Pretty filling.  Pretty perfect next to a bowl of Italian soup.  

Homemade Breadsticks
Source:  Here

1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
1 packet yeast (2 tsp. if using a jar)
1 teaspoon sugar
3-1/2 cups flour
3 Tablespoons butter , room temperature
1 Tablespoon salt
Melted butter to brush over tops
Your choice of toppings

Mix warm water, sugar and yeast and let proof for 10 minutes (or until mixtures puffs up a little). Mix with flour, water, salt, and butter. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, knead with this for about 5 minutes. Otherwise, lay dough on hard, flat surface and knead by hand until dough is soft and elastic.

Tear off dough balls and shape into desired sticks, rings, or twists. Place on baking sheets or pizza stone and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes, until doubled-looking and puffy. I always  place dough in a 170-degree oven for rising.  Just make sure you turn the oven off when you put the dough in!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with toppings. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tops are just turning golden. Remove from oven, but eat as many warm ones as you can.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Egg & Sausage Casserole

We are very simple around our house when it comes to breakfast....a bowl of cold cereal and a glass of juice.  Bennett can help his sister and brother get started on breakfast, which is very nice.  Cereal is cheap, and my kids don't mind the generic brands.  Win-win.  However, sometimes I get a craving for a nice hot breakfast meal, but in the spirit of "sleeping in" (you know, with 3 kids! ;/), I will usually serve breakfast for dinner.  For my family, this usually guarantees that all three kids will chow down.  I love this casserole for the reason that it is not a bread-based one (although I love those too!).  The hard boiled eggs change it up quite nicely.

Egg & Sausage Casserole
Source: Favorite Brand-Name Best Loved Casseroles

1 pound pork sausage
3 tbl. butter, divided
2 tbl. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2-quart oval baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Crumble sausage into large skillet; brown over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring to separate meat.  Drain sausage on paper towel-lined plate.

In same skillet, melt 2 tbl. butter.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth.  Gradually whisk in milk; cook and stir until thickened.  Add sausage, potatoes, and eggs; stir to combine.  Pour into prepared baking dish.

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter.  Combine cornflake crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle evenly over casserole.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Sprinkle with green onions and serve.