Friday, February 29, 2008

Julia Child's French Bread!


So, I am very excited to announce that I have become a member of an amazing group of bakers called the "Daring Bakers." Each month, I will be faced with a new challenge...probably something that I've never had the guts to attempt before...case in point - Homemade French Bread. And not just any ole' bread, but Julia Child's French Bread.

This month's challenge was hosted by:
I have to admit that when I first saw this recipe - and what a whooper of a recipe! - I was pretty intimidated. After all, it took up 15 pages when I printed it. Yes, you read that correctly - 15 pages! I've made homemade sourdough bread before. In fact, that was my very first blog post a few months back. So, I thought maybe I could conquer my first Daring Baker challenge okay. It really wasn't as bad as I thought. Basically, the only ingredients are flour, yeast, salt and water. The recipe simply takes patience.

After putting it off for several weeks, I finally decided to put my apron on and start kneading last weekend. After an entire day of mixing, kneading, rising, baking, and re-reading the recipe I finally ended up with somewhat beautiful French bread. I started the process around 12pm, and I bit into my first piece of French bread yummy-ness around 11pm (yes it was late, and no we couldn't wait until the following day to try it!). I was proud of my efforts and the final product. My husband, Brad, usually isn't a bread person. But, he couldn't get enough of this stuff. I am a self-proclaimed bread girl, so I was excited to finally finish the challenge. I will admit that I was nervous though. I was worried that my entire day in the kitchen was going to be wasted if the bread wasn't any good. I anxiously watched as Brad took the first bite. After a few long seconds, he finally plastered a big smile across his face. At that point, I knew my efforts had been a success!


We love eating bread with seasoned dipping oil, so we of course had to try this bread with it. It was delish!

Because the recipe is so very long, you can use this link to view it in its entirety:
http://breadchick.com/?p=336
Don't let the recipe scare you. If you take the time to attempt this recipe once, you'll realize that it's worth almost an entire day in the kitchen!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomato Cigars

***Here's yet another yummy recipe from Giada. Her recipes never let me down! For this one, I only made the cigars....not the salad dressing. I used a pre-made, bottled Italian Vinaigrette to save time. However, I did want to include the ingredients and directions for Giada's homemade dressing because it looked so good.***

Cigars:
6 sheets phyllo dough
4 tablespoon butter, melted
8 ounces smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, drained

Dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Prosecco
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups field greens

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on a clean dry work surface. Use a pastry brush to brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Fold the phyllo sheet in half lengthwise, resulting in a 12 by 8-inch rectangle. Brush the top of the phyllo with melted butter. Place a few slices of smoked mozzarella at a narrow end of the phyllo rectangle, leaving 1-inch on each side. Top the cheese with a few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes. Carefully roll up the phyllo dough into a cigar shape starting with the cheese and tomato end. About half way through the rolling, tuck in the 1-inch ends of the phyllo dough, and continue rolling. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, seam side down, and brush the top with butter. Continue rolling the 5 remaining cigars. Bake until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small ball jar or in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid combine the extra-virgin olive oil, Proseco, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Shake well. Toss the Proseco vinaigrette with the field greens. Place the dressed greens on a serving platter or on individual serving plates.

Slice the cigars into 2-inch pieces. Place atop the dressed field greens. Serve immediately.
Source: Giada DeLaurentiis - Everyday Italian - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Monday, February 25, 2008

Apple Nut Pancakes



Something Brad and I love are homemade pancakes on the weekend. We've tried a lot of pancakes, and let me just say that these are the best I've ever put in my mouth! They are so scrumptious. They just melt in your mouth, and the chunks of apple are amazing. You've got to try these!

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup milk
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. applesauce
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I used cinnamon instead)
1 cup walnuts, chopped for garnish
maple syrup
whipped cream (I left this out)

Directions:
Preheat griddle over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and apples.

In a separate larger bowl, combine milk, egg whites, applesauce, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon). Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir to combine. Pour 1/4 cup batter at a time onto griddle; cook for 3 minutes. Once the sides and top of pancake begin to bubble, flip and cook another 3 minutes.

To serve, place pancakes on a serving dish and sprinkle with walnuts, maple syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream.

Source: "Inspirations" - The Fresh Market - Feb. 6 - March 4 issue

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Little Italy Chicken Pitas with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette


***These pitas are so good, that I made them 2 days in a row! I had them for lunch one day, and then for dinner the next night. This is another great Cooking Light recipe. They are light, fresh, and healthy....these are going on my favorites list!***

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil
1 tablespoon chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 3/4 pound)
1 cup chopped tomato (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese (I had to use grated parmesan instead)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
6 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
3 cups mixed baby greens

Directions:
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in chicken, tomato, cheese, and basil.

Line each pita half with 1/4 cup greens. Divide chicken mixture evenly among pita halves.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brad's Famous Spaghetti!




This is one of the first things Brad ever cooked for me....it is always fabulous! We've started a Valentine's Day tradition of cooking this spaghetti together, so it's only fitting that I include it in my blog....with Brad as my Guest Blogger! We served it with a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing and feta cheese, plus fresh French bread with seasoned dipping oil. We both love thick spaghetti sauce...if that's what you like, you'll LOVE this recipe! So, without further ado...here it is!

Ingredients:
1 box uncooked spaghetti
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (E.V.O.O.), plus 1 tbsp. E.V.O.O. for pasta
1 jar Ragu spaghetti sauce (we always get the garlic and onion flavored kind)
1 can tomato paste
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Garlic salt, to taste
Grated parmesan for seasoning
1 tbsp. butter
Directions:
Drizzle E.V.O.O. in a skillet over medium heat. Take half of the bell pepper and half of the onion (reserving the other half for later) and add them to the skillet; saute for a few minutes or until bell pepper and onion are softened. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add ground beef to the skillet and cook until no longer pink, gently breaking the meat apart as it cooks.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Season the water with a generous amount of salt and 1 tbsp. of butter. Cook pasta until al dente.

In a separate large saucepan, pour contents of Ragu jar. Add tomato paste, stewed tomatoes, and the other half of the bell pepper and onion. When beef is completely cooked, drain if needed and then add to the spaghetti sauce mixture. Season with the oregano and garlic salt to taste. Let the sauce cook through for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

***The reason Brad sautes half of the bell pepper/onion and then adds the rest directly to the spaghetti sauce later is because it adds texture. You will end up with half soft, sauteed bell pepper/onion and half slighty crunchy bell pepper/onion. It adds a special yummy-ness!***

Pour pasta in a strainer and rinse with HOT water. Let drain. Brad hates runny pasta, so that is why he adds this step! Put drained pasta back into the pot. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. E.V.O.O. and sprinkle with oregano. Stir.

Put cooked pasta on a plate and top with a generous serving of the spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Voila!

***We always mix the left-over pasta and sauce in a container and save it for the next day. It's even better the day after!***

Source: Brad W.
_________________________________________________________________
***Valentine's Surprise!***
On a side note, Brad surprised me with the beautiful red, round 5 quart Le Creuset French Oven that I've been drooling over for weeks...lol...he also gave me the matching Le Creuset tea kettle. I was beyond excited! Here are some stock photos until I take a photo of mine...

Giada's Gianduja Souffle with Hazelnut Liqueur



***I wanted to make something special for dessert on Valentine's Day. I saw Giada make these about a week before, and I knew that I had found what I was looking for. I'd never attempted a souffle before....I was a little intimidated, but I was up for the challenge! ;) The hazelnut liqueur really adds a nice pop to this recipe. I did use Frangelico like she recommended. The souffle itself was a wonderful, light texture....and then you get down to the chocolate hazelnut ball at the bottom of the ramekin....YUM-O! I found the cutest heart-shaped ramekins at Michael's...they were perfect!***

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (recommended: Frangelico)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped, plus 6 ounces chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Butter and sugar 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized balls about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins. Spoon the souffle mixture over the chocolate balls and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffle can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)

Place the ramekins in a hot water bath and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

S'MORE BROWNIES!



One word: YUMMOLICIOUS!
The photo for this recipe on the Food Network site made my mouth water! These brownies really do taste like s'mores. They are a little tricky to eat because the marshmallows are so sticky, but believe me....it's worth the trouble! After reading the reviews for the recipe, I made a few very minor adjustments...you'll see them below.



Crust:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I added a little extra butter-1 tbsp- to avoid a dry crust)
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt

Brownie:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 large cold eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
***I also added about 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil to keep the brownies moist***

Topping:
4 cups large marshmallows

Directions:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 by-8-inch square baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch.

For the crust: Lightly butter the foil with some of the melted butter. Stir the rest of the butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the brownie. Put the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave on 75 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir, and microwave again until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. Alternatively, put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl on the pan without touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. Stir the light brown and white sugars, vanilla and salt into the melted chocolate. Add the eggs and beat vigorously to make a thick and glossy batter. Add the flour and stir until just incorporated.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean, with a few crumbs, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and carefully position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat on low. Layer marshmallows across the top and toast under the broiler until golden, (keep an eye on it, it can go quick), about 2 minutes. Cool on a rack, gently removing the brownies from the pan using the aluminum flaps. Carefully separate any marshmallow from the foil and fold away. Cut into 12 (2-inch) squares.

Chicken & Asparagus in White Wine Sauce

***Here's another great recipe from Cooking Light. Although the chicken isn't baked, it still tastes pretty light....not greasy. I served it with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. I usually have bad luck when trying to cook asparagus, but this time it actually came out tasty...yay!***

Ingredients:
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken breasts evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done.

Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add wine, broth, and garlic to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 minutes. Add asparagus; cover and cook 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.

Remove from heat; stir in parsley and juice. Serve asparagus and sauce with chicken.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Lil' Bit About Me...

This should be fun! I've been tagged by Deborah at http://workingwomanfood.blogspot.com/ as part of an "About Me" post....exciting! Here we go...

These are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.


As you probably know by now, I love photos! So, I felt that I had to include some in this post. Here are a few of me when I was little....including fact #1.


#1. When I was little, my favorite toy was "Monk Monk." LOL. I still laugh about this. That monkey went EVERYWHERE with me....from shopping to the Bahamas....Monk Monk is well-traveled. =)




#2. I married my wonderful husband in May 2006. Here we are on our wedding day...the best day of our lives...so far!


#3. We have 2 dogs....Lady and Hannah. They are so much fun and are the sweetest dogs in the world!



"Lady"
"Hannah"
#4. My favorite movie of all time is "The Wizard of Oz." In fact, I wore a custom pair of ruby red slippers under my wedding gown. They were hidden under my ballgown skirt, so they were my little secret. ;-) Here they are...our wedding took place at our family home....that's it in the background. After all, "There's no place like home" for a wedding....heh.


#5. And finally, some shameless self-promotion. :-)
I am a Relocation Consultant for a large moving company called Armstrong Relocation. We're an award-winning agency for United Van Lines. So, if you know of someone that's moving....no matter where....I can help! We do local, long-distance, and even international moves. So, feel free to contact me for info!
Phone: 205-229-8837
E-mail: cward@goarmstrong.com


Here are some links to 5 of my favorite food blogs...be sure to check them out!:

1. MrsPresley - http://good-eats-n-sweet-treats.blogspot.com/
2. Elle - http://feedingmyenthusiasms.blogspot.com/
3. Katie - http://goodthingscatered.blogspot.com/
4. Melanie - http://mykitchencafe.blogspot.com/
5. Deborah - http://deborahsw.blogspot.com/

Fried Green Tomatoes!


Here's another classic Southern dish. Fried green tomatoes have always been a favorite of mine. I like them best when they're nice and crispy. The Creole seasoning in this recipe adds a nice little "kick" also. I served these with the Shrimp in Lemon Butter posted below. Yum-O!
And of course, anyone in the Birmingham area HAS to head over to the Whistlestop Cafe to try their fried green tomatoes...Yes, that's the very same Whistlestop Cafe from the movie! Theirs are heavenly! Check out the blog at: http://whistlestopcooking.blogspot.com/ and leave a "Hey Y'all" for Sandi. =)

Ingredients:
3 large green tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 tbsp. salt
Hot tap water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
Canola Oil


Directions:
Combine tomato slices, salt, and hot water in a baking dish; let stand 30 minutes. Drain.


Combine flour, cornmeal, and Creole seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge tomato slices in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.


Fry tomato slices in a large skillet of canola oil on medium-high heat until golden brown. Remove tomatoe slices from skillet and let drain on a paper towel. Season with salt.

Source: Southern Living magazine

***I keep any left-over cornmeal mixture in a ziplock bag and re-use it. It can also be used to make fried okra and fried pickles!***

Shrimp in Lemon Butter


Ingredients:
1 c. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt


Directions:
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Add shrimp; cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Garnish shrimp with lemon wedges, if desired.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mixed Berry Cobbler


I've been craving a good berry cobbler, and this recipe looked quick and simple....plus, I had everything I needed in the fridge. Of course, cobbler isn't cobbler unless it's topped with ice cream....Yum!


Ingredients:
1 bag mixed, frozen berries
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:
Pour berries into 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Stir flour, sugar and egg mixture, will resemble coarse meal. Sprinkle over berries. Drizzle melted butter over top of cobbler. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Chicken & White Bean Stew


Okay, I'm not usually big on soups, but this one is delish! Before making this, the only soup I've ever really made is vegetable stew. The bacon in this recipe adds a great taste, and we really loved the spinach as well....it's a hearty soup that I'll definitely be making again.


Ingredients:
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound red potatoes, cut into cubes
One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken broth
1 whole rotisserie chicken
Two 15.5-ounce cans small white beans, rinsed
5 ounces arugula (5 cups).....I used fresh baby spinach instead
Salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken broth and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pull the meat off the rotisserie chicken; discard the skin and bones. Add the chicken and white beans to the stew and cook until heated through. Just before serving, stir in the arugula and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: Rachael Ray - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Southern Biscuits



Ingredients:
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
9 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons shortening

These biscuits went perfectly with Paula's "Chicken Divan" below. As a Southern girl myself, these biscuits are a staple in my kitchen!
***I had to add a good bit more flour than the recipe calls for. After only adding the 9 1/4 ounces of flour, the dough was too soupy. Just add a little at a time until you get the right consistency.***


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the milk and lemon juice in a glass measuring cup and place in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips and working quickly, rub the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled milk mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold the dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform the scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Source: Alton Brown - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Monday, February 4, 2008

Paula Deen's Chicken Divan



Brad had to work late the other night, and this is one of those recipes I've been meaning to make. That night seemed like a good opportunity because this is a dish that could be re-heated easily when he got home. It was so simple to throw together. I served this with Southern biscuits (which I'll post next!). If this isn't comfort food, then I don't know what is! After all, Paula Deen is the queen of comfort food!

Ingredients:
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen broccoli, chopped
6 cups shredded chicken, cooked
2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (I had mozarella cheese on-hand)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the outer wrappers from the boxes of broccoli. Open 1 end of each box. Microwave on full power for 2 minutes, until thawed. Drain the broccoli and put into a casserole dish. Add the shredded chicken.

In a medium bowl, combine the soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, Cheddar, lemon juice, curry powder, salt and pepper, to taste, and wine. Whisk together to make a sauce. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and chicken. Mix well with a spatula.

Place the mixture into an 11 by 7-inch casserole dish or 2 (9-inch) square disposable aluminum foil pans that have been sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Pat down evenly and smooth with a spatula. Combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs and butter and sprinkle over the top.
Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes.

Source: Paula Deen - http://www.foodnetwork.com/