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!

Vegetarian Taco Soup in the Crock Pot

I really needed an easy recipe that I could throw in the crock pot before I left for work.  I searched google and found this one on the The Spruce.  Of course, I didn’t follow it EXACTLY, but then again, when do I ever!  It was definitely more stew than soup, which is perfect for us, we LOVE our soups to be very hearty.

I used what I had on hand rather than following the recipe exactly.  Instead of canned corn, I used a full bag of frozen.  I had an open can of white beans, a very large can of red kidney beans, and a 14oz can of black beans.  I put all of that in a bowl, and tossed it with a packet of taco seasoning.  I added more cumin and garlic and two 14oz cans of Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies.

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I was able to do all of this the night before so right before I left for work, I was able to transfer the items from the bowl to the crock pot, set it and leave for work.  It didn’t look like there was enough liquid so I added an 8 ounce container of vegetable stock to the mix.

When I got home, the house smelled amazing!  I steamed a bit of rice, honestly because I wasn’t sure the hubby would be satisfied with a bean soup without meat.  I thought he might ladle the beans over the rice and not even notice the lack of meat – and guess what, I was RIGHT!

taco soup

A little shredded cheese added to the top and dinner was served.  It was super easy, delicious and very, very filling.  I will certainly make this again, although the hubby has asked if next time I can add some ground beef to the pot, so we once again gained a new recipe for February!

Veggie Burgers

The hubby is not a fan of mushrooms, which, tends to limit my options when it comes to vegetarian meals….sigh…anyway, I promised no mushrooms for at least five days.  He loves burgers so I thought, hey, I am sure I can find a vegetarian burger made WITHOUT mushrooms, how hard could it possibly be?    Thankfully, I found a recipe on the Epicurious site for White Bean Burgers with Corn and Zucchini. 

My work schedule can be a bit crazy and I have a very long commute so dinners during the week need to be something I can throw together quickly, make ahead, or put in the crock pot.   In this recipe, the burgers are frozen for 20 minutes before cooking.  There was a note at the bottom of the recipe that you could make them ahead and freeze them until you were ready to make.  BINGO!  I made the burgers on the weekend when I had a bit more time and froze them for a dinner to be named later.   You have to cook the burgers a big longer, twenty minutes total instead of twelve to eighteen.  No big deal, as far as I was concerned.

veggie burgers

I used white quinoa, because I had it in the pantry.   The burgers came together in under 30 minutes.  I formed them into patties, put them in a container and slide them into the freezer.

The night I went to cook them, all I had to do was grab some rolls and prep a side dish.  It has been a crazy week at work so I took some help from the store and our side dish was a bag of frozen french fries that I cooked in the oven.

I used my cast iron skillet to cook the burgers.  After twenty minutes, they were done, completely cooked through and piping HOT.  I added a slice of cheddar cheese to each burger and let it melt.  We used a jalapeno mayo on our buns with a bit of lettuce and red onion.

veg burger

The burgers were  a bit blah…not bad, just uninteresting.  Next time I am going to dice up a jalapeno to liven up the flavors.  They were incredibly moist, to the point where they were difficult to eat on a bun.  If I make them again, I will serve them over a salad and serve it with a nice vinegary dressing.  Live and learn, oh and next time – DOCTOR THE HECK OUTTA THEM!

Jammin’ in June

Holy heck this month is flying by, why I thought things would slow down in June is beyond me……

I was seriously afraid that I wasn’t going to get any strawberry jam done this year, thankfully, I had one day that I could devote to jam making!

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I bought one flat of berries and made a total of four batches, two of strawberry and two strawberry lemon.   I had hopes of making more, but I am just not sure I will have the time before the season ends.  Hopefully I can start another batch of Bachelor’s Jam,  but it will depend on if I can get back to the farm stand before they run outta berries.  Wish me luck!

The end is in sight….

Whew, it has been a crazy two weeks, I have been working non stop for days.  I have worked the last fourteen days straight, six of those days have been 15+ hour days and five of those I have had less than a six hour turn around.  To say I am tired is putting it mildly!  The good news……one graduation ceremony is done, I have one more to go and then I get FIVE, count ’em, FIVE whole days off….IN A ROW…. I can’t seem to contain my excitement.

Anyway, I have been trying to eat well, since sleeping well doesn’t seem to be an option right now, and I have been doing fairly well.  I made a really large batch of quinoa salad and took that with me to work to eat for lunch, and the occasional dinner.

mexican quinoa

I will admit, I took a lot of help from the store on this one.  I bought two different kinds of fresh made salsa and dumped them into a batch of cooked quinoa.  It was tasty, colorful, filling, and best of all HEALTHY!   It really saved me from eating cookies from the vending machine this week, thank goodness, and I didn’t have any of those horrible sugar crashes. Win/Win situation, if you ask me!

December Birthday Lunch

We only have one December birthday baby in our office, and she was very clear that the only thing she HAD TO HAVE for her birthday lunch was a store bought ice cream cake.  She was leaving the rest of the menu up to me because there isn’t anything she won’t eat.

Because of my insane work schedule, I knew I needed to make something that was easy to prepare, that I could make with my eyes closed, and preferably only one hot item so I didn’t have to bring in a ton of equipment.   My original thought was chili, I could bring in some cornbread muffins, a ton of toppings, and call it a day, but we had chili at our tailgate the weekend before and I didn’t want to eat the same thing twice in one week.

On my way home one night, I thought, heck, the sloppy joe’s I just made are awesome and I could pair that with some coleslaw, macaroni salad, some chips and dip.  I called Courtney and asked if she liked sloppy joe’s and got a resounding YES!

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We have one vegetarian among us and I knew I could make the same meal for her, just use soy crumbles instead of meat.  I had two pans going on the stove, one with beef, one with soy.  It worked out beautifully, I was able to chop and drop into both pans and while they simmered, I threw together a batch of macaroni salad and coleslaw.   I was really thankful she wanted a store bought ice cream cake.  I had actually picked that up a few days before and stashed it in the freezer at work.  I brought in my slow cooker the day before the lunch and picked up two different types of dip, several bags of chips, and some potato rolls.

The sloppy joe’s were a big hit!  When I got to work, I poured the beef joe’s into my crock pot and set them on low to heat through before lunch.  The vegan joe’s I was able to heat in the microwave just before serving.  Two of our work study students were in the office so we invited them to join us.  It was a lovely way to spend our lunch hour, enjoying good food and good company.

I say this with peace and love, THANK GOODNESS THERE ARE NO JANUARY BIRTHDAYS!  We have quite a few February birthdays so it should be an exciting lunch, I wonder if they will all agree on a menu or if it will be a mismosh of food items.  Stay tuned…..

 

 

Gazpacho

For the August birthday lunch, our co-worker couldn’t make up her mind about what she wanted me to  make.  I finally took matters into my own hands and settled on a make your own salad bar, gazpacho, bread, and chocolate chip cookies.    I love gazpacho, but the hubby despises cold tomatoes so when the opportunity to make it for work came about, I jumped at the chance.  Besides, it would use up a lot of my garden and CSA vegetables, which is always a plus.

gazpacho

I pulled up a few recipes on the internet, I didn’t find one that stood out to me, so I ended up winging it, with fantastic results, if I do say so myself.

Gazpacho

1 Cucumber, seeded and finely diced

2 Peppers, seeded and finely diced

5 Tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

1 Red Onion, peeled and finely diced

3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely diced

1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

5 Cups Tomato Juice

Juice of One Lime

Take half the vegetable and half the tomato juice and put it in a food processor.  Pulse until everything is smooth and uniform.  Pour into a serving bowl, add the rest of the diced vegetables, the lime juice, and the rest of the tomato juice. Taste, season with salt and pepper.  Chill for a minimum of four hours, preferably overnight.  Serve with a garnish of thinly sliced scallions.

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Everyone at worked loved it.  The fact that it was made with fresh picked vegetables, it was both vegan and fat-free made all of the girls very happy.  We had nothing left for me to put away when lunch was over.   Now that is what I call a winner!