Friday, February 22, 2013

Focaccia Bread

 As many of you know, I am NOT a baker.  I've had disaster have disaster happen when I decide to bake- especially with yeast.  But every once in a while, I decide to give it another try.   I actually saw Anne Burrell make this focaccia on her Food Network show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  I felt like everything she did I could do, and Michael has been bugging me to try this ever since. 

The case:
Focaccia Bread by Anne Burrell 
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  1. Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.
  3. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.
  4. Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
  5. Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (Chef's Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).
  6. Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef's Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)
  7. Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  8. Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

The ruling:
This was very good.  Very similar to a focaccia bread we get at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.  I can't tell you how much pride I get into making a bread that comes out the way it's supposed to come out.  When she says use the olive oil and salt liberally, use it liberally!  If I can do this anyone can! 
The rating: 4.5
Make again? Yes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cinnamon Toast

No food reminds me more of my childhood than cinnamon toast.  I've tried making it several times before, but it has never tasted quite like my Mama's.  Last month I finally got her to come down and show me exactly how she makes it.  I can finally make it just as delicious as her.  Ingredients are one of the most important factors here. I only use Nature's Own Honey Wheat Bread and Land O Lakes spreadable butter.


Cinnamon Toast

  • Bread- only Nature's Own Honey Wheat for me
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
First, I take the butter out of the fridge and leave it out on the counter for 5-10 minutes.  This makes it easier to spread on the bread.

Next, I mix my sugar and cinnamon together.  Yes, this is very important.  Don't waste money on the premade stuff- that was my biggest mistake over the years.  The sugar/cinnamon ratio is off in the mix you buy at the store.  I don't have exact measurements for this, but first I put the sugar in a bowl.  Then, I whisk in the cinnamon.  Don't be shy with the cinnamon.  It is the star of the show!  You want your mixture to be a light tan.
After the butter has softened, go ahead and butter the bread.
 Next, sprinkle on a heavy helping on the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Next broil in the oven for 3-5 minutes.  Make sure you watch it!  The longer you leave it in the toastier the bread and cinnamon sugar mixture will be.  Leave it less time if you like it softer.

Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Sticks

I'm always trying to figure out more ways to feed my family vegetables.  We roast our veggies more than anything else.  I love roasted asparagus and knew I had to try this when I saw it on Pinterest.  I can't wait to try to crunchiness of the Panko on the asparagus!

The case:
Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Sticks from How Sweet It Is
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 egg whites 
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese 
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay a wire rack on a baking sheet and coat with non-stick spray.
  2. Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus spear. On two separate plates, add the eggs (lightly beaten) and the panko + flour + cheese. Season the panko mixture with salt and pepper if desires. Coat each asparagus spear in egg whites, then lay in the panko mixture and thoroughly cover. If the panko won’t stick, dip back in the egg and roll in panko once again. Lay each spear on the wire rack. 
  3. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

The ruling
Okay so these were a mess to make!  They were good, but I would rather eat them roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper and to sprinkle Parmesan over the top at the end.  Just as good (probably better) and SOO much easier.
The rating: 3
Make again? No

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monterey Chicken

I love eating chicken breasts cooked in the oven.   They can be so easy to prepare and cook and are relatively healthy, and there are so many different marinade combinations and toppings to choose from.  I'm always excited to try a new way.  I found this recipe on The Recipe Critic.  The addition of BBQ sauce is a new one for me that I couldn't wait to try!

The case:
Monterey Chicken adapted slightly from The Recipe Critic
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey
  • 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 8 slices thick bacon, crumbled
  • Barbecue sauce
  1. Mix the honey, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and salt together. I cut my chicken breasts in half making them tenders. Marinate your chicken breasts in this sauce for at least an hour but can be marinated overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I poured a little of the sauce along the bottom of the pan and placed the chicken on top. I covered with aluminum foil and cooked for about 30 minutes. Make sure center is no longer pink and juices run clear.
  3. While chicken is cooking, fry up the bacon and set aside.
  4. When chicken is cooked, spread with barbecue sauce (, top with bacon and cheese. Put back in oven and broil until chicken in bubbly.

The ruling:
I absolutely loved this chicken.  It is so simple to make!  I only marinated the chicken for an hour.  I'm sure it would have been even better if it would have been marinated longer.  I dumped the whole zip loc bag of chicken and sauce in a foil lined 9 x 13.   I used Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. The hardest part was frying the bacon.  Make sure to spoon some of the sauce over the chicken before serving.
Rating: 5 Stars
Make again? Yes!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thai Peanut Noodles

To be completely honest, I'm not a huge peanut fan.  I'm not really sure why I'm so intrigued with this recipe, but I am.  I have only been to a Thai restaurant once for a friend's birthday in Nashville.  (Shout out Mandi P) I guess technically the restaurant was in Franklin, but anyway I loved the chicken and noodle dish I got.  I was pregnant- and I mean very pregnant, about 2 weeks away from giving birth.  And even though it made my feet and ankles swell (sodium anyone?)  I have been thinking about it ever since.  This is the first Thai recipe I've come upon since then.  I guess that's why I'm so intrigued.

The case:
Thai Peanut Noodles from Picky Palate 
  • 1 lb whole wheat thin spaghetti noodles
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • ½ Cup smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ Cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Cup hot water
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ Cup finely chopped white onion
  • ½ Cup finely chopped red or orange bell pepper
  • 1 Cup cooked, shredded chicken breast
  • ¼ Cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ Cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
  1.  Cook noodles according to package. Drain, rinse with cold water, place in large pasta bowl and toss with sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Place garlic and ginger in food processor until well chopped. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Pulse until well combined and slowly add hot water. Set aside.
  3. Place olive oil in hot skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in chicken breast, cilantro and salt. Stir until heated through.
  4. Add sauce and chicken mixture to noodles. Toss to coat and garnish with peanuts and sesame seeds if desired.

The ruling:
Okay, this wasn't bad by any means, but the taste wasn't exactly my thing. It was VERY peanuty.  But I can see some people enjoying these flavors. 
Rating: 3 Stars
Make Again? Probably not but possibly

Friday, February 15, 2013

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken & Saffron Rice

I'm sure most of you have seen this recipe on Pinterest.  I've actually seen it recreated on several blogs.  I've been meaning to make it forever and am excited to finally be trying it.  The original recipe is from 365 Days of Slow Cooking.  I have altered it slightly below.

While I was looking up Arti's recipe for Basmati rice, I saw Sunny Anderson's Saffron Basmati rice recipe on Food Network.  I decided to try it for something new. 

The case:
Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup cashews
  1. Combine flour and pepper in resealable food storage bag. Add chicken. Shake to coat with flour mixture.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side. Place chicken in slow cooker.
  3. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in small bowl; pour over chicken. 
  4. Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Add cashews and stir.  Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.
Saffron Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 to 4 threads saffron
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse the rice in a colander under cold water until it runs clear, picking out any little pieces of grit or debris. Shake off the excess water. 
  2. Heat a pot over medium heat, and then add the rice, oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper. Stir and toast the rice until the cayenne and saffron are fragrant, about 4 minutes. 
  3. Shake the pot to level out the rice, and then add the chicken stock to fill about 1/2-inch over the rice. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and cover to cook for 15 minutes. 
  4. Remove from the heat and let the rice stand another 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork. Stir in the lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and serve.
Sorry for the quality of the picture.  I left my camera at my parent's and had to take thus using my IPad.

The ruling:
This is a great alternative to getting Asian takeout.  I really liked it.  The cashews make the dish for me!  I loved the texture of the chicken.  Coating the chicken in flour and cooking it slightly in the skillet gave it an authentic fried Asian chicken consistency.   The rice put this dish over the top. Not only did we enjoy the flavors from each dish individually, but they melded perfectly together. 
Rating: 4 Stars
Make again? Absolutely!