100% Whole Wheat Nut & Seed Bread

Quick Post: This is probably the healthiest bread I have ever made and it tastes  great. I am so glad too, because my last attempt at 100% whole wheat bread wasn’t that good. It baked up dense and the flavor was more bitter, and for those reasons, I decided not to blog about it. This one is so good and next time I will have to double the recipe. White whole wheat is what I always have on hand, and I find that the flavor is milder and less bitter than red wheat flour. You don’t need the KAF bread improver and vital wheat gluten worked as a good substitution. I chose to sweeten mine with honey and my oil of choice was coconut. I love using coconut oil whenever possible in anything that is baked at 350 degrees or less. Thanks for reading, enjoy!
100% Whole Wheat Nut & Seed Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour
  • 1 1/3 cups (10 5/8 ounces) lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) coconut oil
  • 5 tablespoons (3 3/4 ounces) honey, molasses or maple syrup
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or 100% White Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver, optional (*I used vital wheat gluten)
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) sunflower seeds, chopped*
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) walnuts, chopped*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

*A quick whirl in the food processor does the job nicely.

To prepare the dough: Combine all of the ingredients, and mix them till you have a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then knead till fairly smooth. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, shape it into a log, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a clear shower cap), and allow it to rise for about 2 hours, till it’s crowned about 1″ to 2″ over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking. Yield: 1 loaf.

Easy Cream Biscuits

These are by far the best biscuits I have ever made! I couldn’t get over how tender these were – so perfect! Especially considering the last batch I made were so bad I didn’t even post about them. They were that embarrassing – like hockey puck-embarrassing! This recipe couldn’t be easier and there are only two ingredients required (if you use self-rising flour, but if you don’t have that you can make your own). I decided to buy the recommended White Lily Self-Rising flour and I am so glad I did. Apparently, it’s no secret to southern home cooks that this is the flour to use for biscuit making. These rose high and were so fluffy, light and tender – seriously, I couldn’t get over that! 🙂 I am so glad that I finally found a fool-proof recipe for biscuits. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Easy Cream Biscuits – adapted from Leite’s Culinaria via Southern Biscuits

  • 2 1/4 cups (9.9 ounces) White Lily Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (*reserve 1/4 cup)
  • melted butter for brushing the tops
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a rack one level above the middle of your oven. For softer biscuits, prepare a 8 or 9 inch cake pan or oven proof skillet. The biscuits will fit together snuggly, helping each other stay tender but rise while baking. For a crisp overall exterior, select a baking sheet or large baking pan where the biscuits can be spaced wide apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crisp exterior.

2. Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 1 cup of cream into the hollow and stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the cream. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in 1 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved cream, just enough to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wettish dough. If the dough seems too wet, use more flour when shaping.

3. Lightly sprinkle a cutting board or other clean surface with some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Flour your hands and then fold the dough over in half. Pat the dough into a round about 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick, using a little additional flour if the dough is sticky. Fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold it a third time.4. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick round for a normal biscuit, 3/4 inch thick for a tall biscuit, and 1 inch thick for a giant biscuit. Brush off any visible flour from the top. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. Re-flour the cutter after each biscuit. (The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.)

4. Using a metal spatula, move the cream biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan so the front is now turned to the back. If the bottoms are browning too quickly, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation. Continue baking another 4 to 8 minutes until the cream biscuits are lightly golden brown. When the biscuits are done, a total of 10 to 14 minutes, remove from the oven and lightly brush the top of the biscuits with softened or melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.

Re-Post of the Best Birthday Cake (so far)

Our friends/neighbors’ birthday was this week (the same day, how cute/convenient is that?) and my husband suggested that we have them over. The kids made them birthday cards with their voucher for their free dinner and dessert which they happily accepted 🙂 For dinner, M grilled filet mingnon, which we served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and broccoli and everyone’s favorite – roasted garlic bread. Dinner was a complete success and I’m so happy that they enjoyed it 🙂
Now, onto everyones favorite part – the birthday cake! This is our favorite layer cake so far, but I decided the next celebration cake may need to be a different recipe. To make frosting the cake easier and less messy, I always wrap and freeze the cooled cakes overnight. It really does make a difference, and waxed paper squares underneath the cake help keep the cake plate clean. This buttercream icing is so yummy and not too sweet and the cake is rich and perfectly chocolatey. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Double Layer Chocolate Cake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

** This became a “triple layer” cake because I only have 9″ cake pans**

The recipe below is for 2 10-inch layers filled and coated in chocolate ganache. My adaptations were to split the layers to create a four-layer cake and use raspberry filling instead of chocolate. To do the same, use half the frosting and all of the raspberry filling, recipe at the end.

For cake layers

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature

Quick Chocolate Buttercream – adapted from Williams-Sonoma

  • 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions –

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Put the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler set over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 6 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then reduce the speed to low. Add the chocolate and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

Cheddar Buttermilk Cornbread

I’m loving this cold snap! The high is about 72 today and the low is 51 – now, I’m sure there are some of you who would wear shorts during these temps 😉 But I am not built for the cold – 75 is too low for me! Cooler temps bring more cravings for warm, comfort foods and this corn bread fits right into that criteria. I served this with chili – cornbread is an absolute requirement when I make chili. I used Bob’s Red Mill coarse cornmeal which I soaked overnight in the buttermilk to soften it up (hopefully).

Verdict: Soaking the cornmeal helped a little, but I will be on the lookout for a finer grind. My husband really enjoyed the addition of cheese and we liked adding the crumbs to our chili. Overall the flavor was good and not too sweet for us 🙂 Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Cheddar Buttermilk Cornbread – adapted from Michelle’s Story

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 8×8 baking dish or a 9 inch cake pan.

2. Melt butter in large skillet (I put it in the microwave for about 45 seconds). Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Fold in the cheese and pour into your prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.(*mine took 30 minutes with convection)

Chunky Beef Chili

This one is an old favorite. I don’t make it very often, but the weather promises to be much cooler tonight, so I had to take advantage of it! It’s not a quick meal but the flavors are worth the wait. The addition of the cinnamon stick is noticeable, but it is probably my favorite flavor note in this chili. The cinnamon’s sweetness/spiciness makes this dish so unique! Please don’t shy away from it 😉

Yum! This was so good and my husband was very appreciative of this dinner. It makes the house smell wonderful – so good, there should be a candle in the scent! 😉 The long simmer makes the meat fall apart tender and there is a pleasant kick to it. It’s not the tongue burning type, but the kind that you feel in the back of your throat. I used two jalapenos, one I left with the seeds and membrane and the other I scooped out to guard against the taste bud searing heat. Thankfully, the sour cream cools it down nicely and the cornbread I made for this (to be in a later post) is perfect crumbled over top the chili. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Chunky Beef Chili – adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 2 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, (ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired), diced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Toppings, such as shredded Monterey Jack cheese, pickled jalapeno chiles, sliced red onion, sour cream, fresh cilantro leaves, or hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat a Dutch oven (or a heavy 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid) over high heat until a drop of water sizzles upon contact. In three batches, cook sirloin until no longer pink; remove each batch with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
  2. Add sausage, breaking it up into small pieces; add onion and jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until sausage and onion are browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Return sirloin to pot. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomatoes (with juice), cornmeal, cinnamon, bay leaves, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until sirloin easily breaks apart with a spoon, about 2 hours.
  4. Stir in beans; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon and bay leaves. Serve.

Orzo with Chicken and Goat Cheese

I made a few modifications to this recipe even though it’s not something I usually do the first time around, but I enjoy taking recipes and making them my own. My fridge had a few things that needed to be used up, crimini mushrooms were one of them. I loved the mushrooms with the creamy richness of the pasta and goat cheese and the crunch of the panko topping. I was able to use more of my flavor-packed sun dried tomato pesto in place of the chopped sun dried tomatoes, which we spooned on top of our serving. If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, I recommend buying a good quality boxed stock. I also didn’t use uncooked chicken breasts in this, but added roasted chicken to the dish about half way into the baking time. Also, this recipe makes a lot of food so it would be great for company. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Orzo with Chicken and Goat Cheese – adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride
  • 1 lb orzo
  • 3 cups roasted and shredded chicken
  • 6oz log chevre, broken up and crumbled with two forks
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice from half a lemon (~2 tsp), and the zest
  • 4 cups chicken broth (*I used this stock)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 3/4 cup Panko
  • sun dried tomato pesto for topping
Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 400. Add orzo, chicken, chevre, thyme, and lemon juice to a 2.5-3qt baking dish.
2. Bring chicken broth, water, 1 Tbsp butter, salt, and pepper to a boil. Pour into the baking dish, stirring slightly to mix. Bake for 30 minutes.
3. While the pasta is baking, saute the mushrooms, garlic and shallot in a drizzle of olive oil – cook for about 7 minutes or until browned and softened. At about 25 minutes into the bake time, carefully take the pan out of the oven and add the sauteed mushrooms and shredded chicken. Stir to combine and place back in the oven.
4. Mix Parmesan and Panko together. Melt remaining butter in a small dish and add to panko mixture. Stir the butter into the bread crumbs until well incorporated. Give the dish a quick stir and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top. Bake for another 7-10 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Rosemary and Thyme Roast Chicken

Quick Post: Is there anything more comforting than roasted chicken? The smell and flavor were amazing! I am really happy with how this turned out and I will make this again and again. After pulling the chicken of the bones, I placed the carcass in the freezer for more chicken stock later on – it’s liquid gold and worth making! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Rosemary and Thyme Roast Chicken –

  • 1 – 4 pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half
  • half a small onion cut into four pieces
  • half a lemon, rolled and pierced with a knife
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • grapeseed oil
  • kitchen string for trussing
  • digital  probe thermometer – it’s been a worthy investment and I highly recommend one
Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and cut a piece of kitchen string (*it’s better a little long than too short).
2. Salt the cavity of the chicken and stuff with the onion, lemon, garlic and herbs – don’t be afraid to really pack these in there. Truss the chicken tightly. Drizzle grapeseed oil over the chicken and generously season the skin with kosher salt and pepper. Place a probe thermometer in the breast of the chicken, being careful not to hit bone.
3. Roast until the thermometer reads 160 degrees – mine took about 55 minutes on my convection roast setting. Take out of the oven and leave the probe in for at least ten minutes (*if you take it out sooner, the juices will flow from the hole the probe made*)


Doctored-Up Black Beans

Quick Post: I wanted a healthy side for these steak tacos. They’re simple, quick and tasty; not to mention healthy. Even my picky husband who doesn’t like black beans ate some and my son really enjoyed them.  I ate the leftovers served over baked brown rice and topped with a dollop of avocado dressing and some crumbled feta. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Black Beans –

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed really well
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6 mini bell peppers, diced (or one large pepper)
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • lime juice
  • cilantro leaves
Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until softened. Add the drained and rinsed beans to the pot and smash some with your spoon. Season with cumin, salt and pepper and pour about 1/2 a cup of water over all to thin out the beans slightly. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes and add your cilantro leaves – taste for seasoning. Serve with a lime wedge and feta (or cojita) cheese. Enjoy!

Italian White Bean, Spinach and Turkey Soup

Quick Post: This was really flavorful, warming, light and healthy. I used some of my homemade chicken stock for this and fresh herbs which I think made a huge impact on the finished soup. I used some ditalini pasta in this to soak up some of the extra broth and to make it more texturally interesting. We enjoyed this soup with a sprinkling of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheeses; and a slice our favorite garlic bread. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Italian White Bean, Spinach and Turkey Soup Recipe – adapted from Sunday Nite Dinner

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken stock (*or homemade chicken stock*)
  • 12-14 ounces fresh spinach, chopped (*I used about 8 ounces*)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:
1) In a medium stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until onions are soft.  Add ground turkey, season with fresh rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, break into small pieces and brown for 3-4 minutes. Pour the chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil.

2) Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pasta in and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the beans to the pot. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the pasta is almost cooking. Mix in chopped spinach and stir until wilted. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with some crusty Italian country bread or this amazing roasted garlic bread.

Flank Steak Tacos with Avocado Dressing

I haven’t eaten red meat in almost two months! I haven’t been craving it at all, but this recipe sounds good to me. Besides that, we haven’t had a taco night in months, so I know my son will be happy. I’ll serve this with baked brown rice and black beans doctored up with some onion, cilantro and jalapeno.

Verdict: Yum! This was really good. Next time, I’ll make sure to start marinating the steak sooner than I did today (only about 3 hours). The avocado dressing was really good, and will get even better as it sits. Today I tried some of it on this red lentil soup and it complimented the flavors so well. I plan on using the leftovers for sandwiches, salads or as a dip for veggies. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Flank Steak Tacos – adapted from Love at First Bite
For the Marinade:

  • 1 pound flank steak (or skirt steak)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 jalapeno (seeds and all), chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or olive oil

For Avocado Dressing:

  • 2 avocados, seeds and skin removed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Serve with:
Corn tortillas, feta cheese, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and lime wedges

In a ziplock bag or glass container, add all ingredients for the marinade, plus the steak. Marinate the meat at least 30 minutes, and up to 6 hours. In the meantime make the dressing.

In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients for the dressing and pulse until smooth and creamy. Put in a sealed container or jar, and place in fridge to let the flavors mix.

Heat a grill, or grill pan to high heat. Grill the steak for a couple of minutes on each side, until steak is seared on the outside and pink in the middle. It will take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your steak. Take off the heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes before you slice it (make sure to slice against the grain).

Serve the meat in a corn tortilla (for gluten-free, or whole wheat if you prefer), and top with crumbled feta cheese, lettuce or cabbage, lime juice, cilantro, and avocado dressing.