Focaccia Bread

When I worked in restaurant, I was always the one they turned to when it came to making pizza dough or bread dough.  I love making bread and I seem to have an affinity for dough.  I love the feel of dough when I am kneading it and the smell of bread baking in the oven makes me incredibly happy.  I find I make bread more often in the fall and winter, there is something very comforting about turning on the oven, warming up the house and pulling hot, yeasty golden brown bread from the oven.  I barely wait for it to cool down before slathering it with butter and eating more than my fair share.

I was making baked ziti for dinner this weekend and I wanted something a little different that the traditional garlic bread I usually serve.  I pulled out my cookbooks and came across the recipe for focaccia bread.  Super simple, ready to bake in 2 hours, PERFECT choice for an Italian meal.  I was sold.

foccacia

I brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled it with himalayan pink finishing salt before baking it in the oven.  It came out with a super crispy crust, a nice chewy interior, and just enough salt to make it awesome.  I served it with some olive oil that I mixed with a small spoon of pesto and a bit of grated parmesan cheese.  It was divine.  I think I could have eaten the entire thing for dinner and skipped the pasta….I didn’t mind you, but I was sorely tempted!

It took longer than expected…

But the hubby fell off the wagon.  He insists he will continue to be a pescatarian for the rest of the month of January, but he could no longer ignore his need for hops.  I figured he’d quit before now, so I can’t say that I am surprised.  He left this morning for a business trip to a town known for great seafood (which he loves!) so he may just keep his promise to not eat meat, only time will tell.   He intends on watching the football playoffs at one of his favorite breweries so there is definitely beer in his immediate future.

Before he left, I made us a quick breakfast, nothing fancy, just eggs, toast, and potatoes.  Simple and satisfying.  I LOVE TOAST. What is it about crunchy bread, drenched in butter that makes me so very happy? Anyway, I love when I have time to make eggs for breakfast.  During the week I usually have a yogurt or container of cottage cheese at my desk with a cup of hot tea, but on the weekend, I get to indulge in creamy eggs, buttery toast, and fried potatoes.  It is a beautiful way to start the day.

 

Rolls – Two Ways

I have been itching to get back to making bread. I have been feeding my sourdough starter, week after week, for months but I haven’t had the chance to actually DO anything with it.  Thankfully, I had a few days off over Christmas so I decided now was my chance!  I took a look at a bunch of recipes, but they all made WAYYYY more that we can eat and I absolutely HATE when food goes to waste.  I decided to make one batch of dough and create two different rolls with it.   One to eat that night and one to have the next morning.

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I used the King Arthur Flour Recipe for Buttery Sourdough Rolls.  I split the dough, creating a garlic and butter roll for dinner and a cinnamon roll for breakfast the next day.

It worked beautifully!  I melted some butter and added three minced cloves of garlic to it.  I brushed that on one half of the dough, rolled it up and cut it into rolls.  I placed them in a greased 8″ round pan and set it on the stove to rise.

Garlic and Butter Sour Dough Rolls - Baked

Fresh from the oven!

With the other half of the dough, I brushed it with melted butter and added a mixture of cinnamon and  brown sugar.  Again, after rolling it up, I sliced it and placed them in a greased 8″ round pan.  I set that on the stove to rise for 30 minutes before covering it and allowing it to finish rising in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, I pulled them out of the fridge an hour before I was ready to bake them, to allow them to come to room temperature.   I baked them for 25 minutes, then made a glaze of powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and heavy cream.  When the buns came out of the oven, I poured the icing over them and let it melt slightly before serving.  OH MY GOODNESS…they were amazing!

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Definitely put both the hubby and I into a sugar coma for the rest of the morning, but it was TOTALLY worth it!  We certainly indulged ourselves the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I don’t regret a thing.

 

Beef….

Is what I did for Thanksgiving!  This year it was just the hubby and I for dinner.  Our niece has a big family Thanksgiving meal at her house on the Saturday after Turkey Day so I knew we would be having turkey.  It gave me a chance to change things up a bit.

t-day-menu

Between my work schedule and the husbands travel schedule, I haven’t been spending as much time in the kitchen as I like.  I find it very therapeutic, so I took the opportunity to spend the entire day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.   We started with bacon and homemade buttermilk waffles.

Because honestly, a day that starts with bacon is ALWAYS a good day in my book!  For lunch, I made a pot of pasta fagioli soup and paired it with a good old grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

soup-and-sammie

Late afternoon, I put out a plate of cheese and crostini, I found a really awesomely sharp cheddar and a creamy brie.  It was a perfect little bit to get us through the second football game of the day.

Finally, it was time for dinner.  Our first course was homemade pumpkin ravioli.  I made the filling in the morning and just before dinner, I made the dough.  I picked up a ravioli maker from Williams Sonoma and it made my life so much easier.  That and the pasta rolling attachment for my kitchen aid meant I went from a ball of dough to actual ravioli in under twenty minutes!

I made a very simple cream sauce, butter, cream and Parmesan cheese for the ravioli, they were amazing.  I can’t wait to make them again!

For dinner, we grilled beef tenderloin steaks and asparagus, and I made twice baked potatoes. I even made homemade bread using my sour dough starter, I am telling you, I was in the kitchen ALL DAY LONG, and I loved it!

It is always good to end the day on a sweet note, neither the hubby or I are big fans of pie, so I made a caramel apple cheesecake instead.  It was AWESOME!

 

It was a very relaxing, enjoyable day, which I think we both needed and for which I was truly grateful.

Sour Dough Starter

Isn’t just for making sour dough bread!  I have been trying to find new and different ways to use my sour dough starter.   I feed the darn thing each week, but I only use it a few times of year when I make bread.  I decided this fall, that was going to change.

banana-bread

We had some banana’s that were getting a bit too ripe so I googled to find a recipe that used sour dough starter to make banana bread.  I found a recipe on this site, Cultures for Health.  It was really simple, I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I threw caution to the wind and tried it.

The bread rose higher than any other sweet bread I had ever made, it wasn’t overly sweet, and the hubby and I really enjoyed it.  I did add a handful of chopped walnuts to the bread before baking, because  we love banana nut  bread.   The recipe is definitely a keeper and it used up some of my sour dough starter, DOUBLE WIN!

 

Speaking of bacon

Bacon…..lovely, lovely bacon.  It makes waking up on a Sunday morning something to savor.

breakfast

I woke up starving and I needed to eat right away.  I put the bread in the toaster, started the bacon, and last, but not least, cracked two eggs into a skillet.   Once the bread was toasted, I slathered it with a generous amount of butter.  Within minutes I had a hot, tasty breakfast on the table.  The best part, I had the entire day off so I was able to enjoy not one, but two cups of tea, while sitting outside eating my breakfast.  It was an awesome way to end the long work week.  I know technically Sunday is the start of the week, but for me, Sundays are end of the week.  A day meant for relaxing, catching up on chores at home and savoring a really good meal.  Happy Sunday!

Last days of summer

I am doing my best to savor the last few days of summer.  To that end, I have been hitting up the farmers market almost daily for produce.

tomato-sandwich

There is nothing better, in this world, than a tomato sandwich made with fresh, vine ripened tomatoes.  All you need is some good bread, lightly toasted, with a smear of mayo and a bit of salt and pepper.   Best summer lunch…..EVER!

peppers

I also grabbed some peppers.  I diced them, tossed them with some onions, olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them on the grill alongside a package of brats.

brats

Summer dinners are so easy and quick, plus if you have a grill, you can cook the entire meal outside and not heat up the kitchen. The sun is setting earlier and earlier each night, which doesn’t thrill me, summer is coming to a close, but I intend to enjoy every last second!