English Muffin Bread

Quick Post: This bread couldn’t be easier! It doesn’t require kneading, either – mix it up, dump it in the pan, rest and bake. It finished loaf is light, the interior is moist and full of holes which become super crunchy when toasted. It’s so weird that this really is similar to an English muffin with all the nooks and crannies. The butter, honey or jam fills all the holes up and makes for a really crunchy and tasty toast. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

**My Canon camera is not working right at all! (sad face) I have to take pictures with my phone until I can get a new one…**

English Muffin Toasting Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 3 cups ap flour (I used bread flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan
Directions –

1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.

2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don’t have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.

3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.

5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal

6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

8) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Banana Bread 2

I had six bananas on the counter that were becoming more and more spotted, which meant they became more and more perfect for banana bread. My husband noticed (of course it’s food related, right?) and mentioned he’d like to eat some banana bread for breakfast in the morning. I didn’t go grocery shopping like I should have, and then it rained the rest of the day so I didn’t want to go to the store, plus the kids were with me…excuses, excuses! 😉 I told him that I would find a new recipe that didn’t require buttermilk for times such as this. (I didn’t even have lemons or white vinegar on hand to make a buttermilk substitute.)

Verdict: This banana bread is moist, light and full of banana flavor – duh, right? I like this type of recipe that doesn’t add spices that mask the flavor of the banana. I did add toasted walnuts to mine because I like the crunch and texture it gives to the finished loaf. Also, I doubled the recipe because I had so many bananas, plus the container of sour cream had the perfect amount left for it.  Mine took about 50 minutes to bake using the convention setting on my oven. Whenever the smell of what is baking becomes really noticeable is when I start to check it. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

**You know what I’m loving? Measuring in grams! What a difference – it’s so much easier and there are no fractions! Alton Brown mentioned that very perk and I was immediately intrigued. My favorite website to convert cups into ounces or grams is here, and I don’t even bother with measuring cups anymore.**

Banana Bread – adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny!
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) light butter, softened 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream (I used full fat)
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 bananas)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Directions – 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a stand mixer, or hand held, mix together softened butter and sugar until well combined.  Then add in eggs and mix well.  Next add in vanilla, sour cream and mashed bananas then, while the mixer is on, slowly add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix slowly until completely combined, scraping the sides and the bottom.
Meanwhile, grease your pan(s) and lightly flour so that your bread won’t stick.  If using one 9×5 loaf pan, bake bread for about one hour.

Garlic Shrimp Over Pasta

This is simple, weeknight fare at its best. My family loves shrimp, so I knew this would have to be a winner. I’m not usually a fan of less saucy pasta recipes, but this resulted in a light and flavorful pasta dish suitable for company. I served these with leftover breadsticks that I rewarmed in the oven, and Pecorino Romano cheese for grating over top all. The addition of lemon zest and juice was my adaptation of this recipe, plus the swap for white wine instead of using beer. I like the brightness of the lemon that cuts some of  the richness of the butter and the light flavor of the wine over beer. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Garlicky Shrimp over Pasta – adapted from Steamy Kitchen via Thermador

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti (or other pasta)
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ¼ pound butter
  • ½ bottle beer of your choice (*I used white wine)
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon zest, lemon slices and lemon juice – to taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
  • handful fresh basil leaves

1.    Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions.

2.    While the pasta is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter and when beginning to bubble, add in the onion and the garlic. Saute for 4 minutes until very fragrant.

3.    Pour in the beer. Turn the heat to medium-high. When the beer begins to bubble, add the shrimp,  fresh basil, lemon zest and juice. Cover and let cook for 4 minutes.

4.    Season with salt, pepper and crushed pepper flakes. Stir and taste sauce – season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve over pasta.

Weeknight Italian Wedding Soup

Quick Post: This recipe couldn’t be easier! For those cold nights it’s perfectly warming and comforting. We had another blast of cold weather the past few days which was surprising since it’s recently been in the high 70s regularly. I always love taking advantage of a cool night by making it a good excuse for some comfort food and carbs in the form of these lovely breadsticks. I didn’t change a thing about these recipes and we were all happy about how they turned out. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Italian Wedding Soup – adapted from Bev Cooks

  •  3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (12 oz) package Al Fresco tomato and basil chicken meatballs
  •  1 small onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red
  •  1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 10 oz baby spinach
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a small skillet and brown the chicken sausages on all sides, until heated through, 5 minutes total. Remove from heat.

In a deep pot, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Add the crushed pepper along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until the veggies start to soften, 6 minutes.

Add the wine and stock. Bring to a light boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 6 minutes.

Add the chicken sausages and spinach. Simmer for about 5 more minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Almost Famous Breadsticks – adapted from Food Network

  • 1 package yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups AP flour,plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine salt

For the Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of dried oregano
Directions –

Make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.

Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 1 1/2-inch-long pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch-long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make the topping: Brush the breadsticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

Insane, Triple Layer Brownies

(Sorry for the bad picture, but you get the idea)

These are known over the internet as “Slutty Brownies”, and as hilarious as that name is, I can’t in good conscience title this post with that name. When I came across it last week, I just had to laugh and then find out why someone would name something so decadent after an insult. Apparently they’re called this because: “…because they’re oh so easy, and more than a little bit filthy.” (The Londoner) If you can get past the name to try these, you should – because no one likes to choose between cookies or brownies, right? 😉

Because I like to make things from scratch as much as possible, I decided to go with this version of the recipe. The original one is boxed mixes and refrigerated cookie dough. So, maybe this version isn’t “slutty” at all! I’ve redeemed you, brownies! 😉 However, they’re still pretty bad for you – eh, go for a run afterwards. Besides, holiday calories don’t count and this is a special dessert for my sweet-toothed hubby.

Verdict: These taste about at good as you might imagine – rich, sweet and chocolaty. Vanilla ice cream is a must to cut through the richness of these crazy brownies! M really enjoyed these and I’m sure he’ll request them again in the future. With all the butter and sugar amounts in this, I certainly wont make these more than twice a year at best, but we will see if I am able to get away with that! 😉 I passed some of these out to our lucky neighbors and thankfully, they don’t seem to mind too much. Before I make these again, I will have to invest in a 9×9 baking pan. These were super thick because I only have 8×8 pans in my kitchen, and that extra space would have helped. The leftover cookie dough will probably become some deep dish cookies – another one of our favorites. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

 

Slutty Brownies – adapted from Handle the Heat

Brownie layer:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Oreo layer:

  • 16 double-stuffed Oreo cookies

Cookie layer:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate cips

For the brownie layer:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9-inch pan with tin foil then spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder, whisking to combine. Add salt, vanilla, and eggs. Whisk until combined. Add flour, mixing until just combined. Set aside.

For the cookie layer:
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and mix on low until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

To assemble:
Press half of the cookie dough mixture into prepared pan in an even layer. Reserve remaining cookie dough for another use (store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months).

Layer Oreo cookies into one even layer on top of cookie dough, pressing in slightly.

Pour all of the brownie batter on top of Oreo layer and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife comes out mostly clean when inserted into the middle of brownies. Serve warm (will be messy) or let cool completely and cut into 16 bars.

Buffalo Wings

I have never made wings before, so what better time to make them than for Super Bowl Sunday?? It wasn’t the easiest task to prep the wings, but now that I know where to cut it should be much easier next time. I like this method of cooking the wings, because I’m not a big fan of frying – I enjoy eating fried foods, just not being the one responsible for not burning the house down 😉 The steaming renders off a good amount of fat so that when they roast in the oven, there is far less steam and mess to deal with later. It’s actually slightly healthier, too – especially when compared to deep frying. We will soon see if the extra effort and my cautious nature pays off. I have a new 5 quart stainless steel pot that has a steamer insert in it and was able to cook the wings in two small batches. The insert in so much easier to clean than those small, collapsible steamer baskets.

Verdict: These were so good, I wished I bought the party pack! I used Frank’s Red Hot, which has the perfect combination of flavor and heat and the minced garlic gives it a little something extra. These aren’t difficult to prepare, and the only part I didn’t like about making them is dividing the wings. However, after tasting these I would make these again – they’re perfectly moist, tender, juicy and flavorful. The only thing that’s missing is the super crispy skin you get when you fry them. I’m so glad when a little extra effort goes a long way in flavor. Oh, I made a blue cheese dip for these too. It couldn’t be easier! I’ll post that below the wing recipe. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Buffalo Wings – adapted from Alton Brown

  • 12 whole chicken wings
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions:

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.

Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.

Super Easy Blue Cheese Dip –

  • crumbled blue cheese – as much or as little as you want
  • mayonnaise
  • sour cream
  • fresh cracked pepper

It couldn’t be easier – just add the amounts that you prefer. For about one cup of dip, I use at least 1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese, 1/2 a cup of sour cream and 2 – 4 TBSP of mayonnaise, and lots of pepper to taste.

Meaty Meat Sauce (aka Man Pasta)

I tweaked The Pioneer Woman’s recipe just a little to use what we had here and to enhance the flavor. I tried this once a couple of years ago and I remember that M really enjoyed it because he’s not much of a tomato sauce fan. He is a big meat fan of course, so this one made it to repeat status. I like the addition of Italian sausage and I get mine from a local specialty food store. They make their own sausages and these are so much better than any brand I have tried. Pair this simple sauce with a hearty pasta shape, serve with garlic bread and if you’re feeling a little guilty – a green salad. You can’t go wrong with this dinner, and the men in your life will thank you 🙂

Pasta alla Marlboro Man – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (I used a combination of hot and mild)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 1 teaspoon (generous) Ground Thyme
  • 1 28 ounce can San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 8 ounce can no salt tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds Rigatoni

Directions –

Heat olive oil in large skillet or pot over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook a couple of minutes, until starting to turn translucent. Add garlic and stir, cooking 1 minute, making sure not to brown the garlic.

Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of excess fat. Add salt, pepper, and ground thyme. Stir to combine. Dump in canned tomatoes with their juice, and tomato sauce. Stir, reduce heat to low, and cover pot. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Uncover the pot and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Cook rigatoni according to package directions—don’t overcook! Drain and pour over top the meat sauce. Cook and combine over low heat.  Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan into the sauce. Check and adjust seasonings.

Coconut Milk and Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding

I’m trying something a little crazy…my go to arroz con leche recipe has plain ‘ol milk in it. This is my first time using coconut milk and it’s my first time knowingly trying any food with this in it. Hopefully it’s not a complete waste of ingredients and time…I love rice pudding and it’s something that reminds me of my childhood. My Gram made her version (my fave no matter what) often and my siblings and I ate it hot as a breakfast treat. I’m sure I’ll never be able to recreate hers, but in the meantime, I’m having fun tasting other versions. This need for rice pudding came when I realized that I have several Madagascar vanilla beans patiently waiting to be used in my pantry. I bought them over the summer and haven’t used a single bean! How dare I! 😉 It has been at least a full year since the last time I made this decadent treat, so why not put the two together? While searching through Tastespotting, I found several versions of the classic – some with coconut milk and some with vanilla bean seeds. This recipe is a mishmash of a few recipes and techniques that will hopefully come together beautifully!

Verdict: So good, I love this stuff! Creamy, slightly sweet and perfectly comforting in my book.  I didn’t notice the coconut flavor, but it wasn’t as thick or “butter fatty” as the other recipe. I only used one cup because coconut milk has such a  high fat content, so I’ll be on the look out for lighter coconut milk. Also, I was also able to make a bigger batch of vanilla sugar the day I made this, so hopefully I can find the perfect use for some of it. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Coconut and Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding – 

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • lemon zest (strips, not grated)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt

Directions –

Pour rice and water into a 4 quart dutch oven or larger. Add the lemon peel, cinnamon stick and vanilla seeds to the pot. Let sit for an hour.

After soaking, bring the rice mixture to a boil on high heat, uncovered. When it starts to boil (about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.

Add the milk and stir well to mix, add the sugar  and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, until it thickens slightly or until desired consistency, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the lemon zest and cinnamon sticks.

Serve hot, cold or room temperature.

Chili Cheese Dogs

This turned out to be really tasty. I’m glad I took the time to make this instead of opening up a can of chili like I normally do. Those are always so full of salt and other preservatives…it kind of looks like dog food! The flavor and texture were so good, a little smokey, a nice kick and even a little sweet. We enjoyed this over nitrate/nitrite free all beef hot dogs and these homemade buns. The leftovers would be fantastic on top of fries, tater tots, or just with some cheese melted on top. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Chili con Carne – adapted from Seasaltwithfood
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 4 Tbsp Ancho Chili Powder (I used 2 TBSP Ancho, 2 TBSP Chili powder)
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • Sea Salt
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Sour Cream, optional

Directions –

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the cast iron pot over a moderate heat. Add the oil, garlic, and onion and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Turn the heat on high, mix in the ground beef, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and stir until the beef mixture is deep red in color and the meat is no longer pink.

Add the beans, diced tomatoes, and water into the beef mixture. Bring it to a boil, switch off the heat and cover with a piece of parchment paper and then cover with the lid. Cook in the preheated oven for about 1 ½ hours and season with sea salt. Serve the chili with cheese, cilantro, and sour cream, if desired.

French Toast

I have a great go-to recipe for french toast, but I decided to try something different to go along with the Challah bread I made. This one is an Alton Brown recipe that seemed kinda boring, but I didn’t want the custard to overshadow the homemade Challah bread. I love cinnamon in my custard and this has none, and it doesn’t even call for vanilla! I dried out the sliced pieces of Challah in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees so they would soak up even more custard. This recipe also has two separate cooking steps that is supposed to ensure crunchy outside and creamy inside texture.

Verdict: Eh…next time, I’ll go with my “recipe doctoring” instincts and add the cinnamon and vanilla – maybe even a little fresh nutmeg. The plain Challah was flat too, but when toasted the flavors were turned up a notch. I will make a richer Challah next time. No worries! I love trying out new recipes anyway 🙂 Thanks for reading, enjoy!

French Toast – adapted from Food Network

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Directions

In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.