Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ciabatta bread made easy


Baking-the final 15 minutes!

There is nothing like a really good piece of home-made bread and I promise you I know good bread!  You are reading the writings of a true wheat farmer’s daughter!  My dad raised wheat and hand-milled the grain for our household use.   My mom would find all sorts of ways to use the grains, but my favorites were her whole wheat cinnamon rolls and her bread!  Remember, this was a long time ago–we didn’t have a mixer in the house, so everything was hand-kneaded and a labor of love!  Oh, how our house smelled–my mouth is watering (and so are my eyes) just thinking about our old farm, my parents, and those wonderful aromas.  I was (am) a very, very lucky girl!

The pizza oven has sort of forced my hand at baking and I am sooo happy about that change!  My crusts are really looking good and my confidence with baking is shooting to the moon.  In fact, Andy has recently been requesting that I start baking bread.  I had been pushing back knowing the type of effort that goes into even one loaf, but I remained open-minded enough to start doing  research into no-knead breads.  They sounded so simple, and the online pictures and testimonials were compelling, to say the least.  Last week I finally took the plunge and gave it a try.  My first attempt kind of flopped, but by then I was determined to make a success of it, so I did!  This is the ciabatta recipe that I have made 4 times now–and it gets better every time!  The thing about bread is that it is made from just a few simple ingredients:  flour, salt, water, and yeast (I have added red wine vinegar to this recipe so it can be made all in one day!) so why does homemade bread taste so much better??  Take a quick peek at the ingredient label on your bread packaging.   Maybe it has something to do with all of the ‘other’ stuff they throw into the mix when trying to keep bread from molding on the grocery store shelf.  I can promise you our bread doesn’t sit around long enough for it to turn green–and yours won’t either!!  So give this recipe a try!  If you hate it I will buy your next grocery store loaf (just kidding–I am BROKE!), but I know you won’t!

Bread made easy

Makes 1 loaf

  • 4 cups flour:  3  all purpose (or bread), 1 whole wheat
  • 2 cups very warm water (not HOT, just warm to the skin)
  • 1/2 t instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t red wine vinegar

Put all of your dry ingredients in a big stainless steel bowl.  Use your fingers to mix it together well.  In your big measuring cup add the wet ingredients.  Add the water mixture to the flour stirring with your fingers until it is all mixed together–less than a minute.  Don’t worry if there is some flour on the edges of the bowl or a few lumps in the dough–it doesn’t have to be perfect!  Cover the bowl and let sit undisturbed for 3 or 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  When the oven is hot, place your dutch oven in for a few minutes to preheat the pan.

Dump the dough onto your generously floured countertop.  Take each side (left, right, top, bottom) of the dough and fold it in once–almost like you are wrapping a gift–so there will be one long seam on the top.  Carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven and generously spray with PAM cooking spray.  Place the bread seam side down into the dutch oven and add the lid.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove the bread from the pan and let cool down a little.  Slice and serve warm!!

So far I have made the following adjustments to vary the flavor:  1.  Freshly chopped rosemary (about 1/4 c) and freshly ground black pepper (about 1 T) to the dry ingredients and sprinkle ground pepper over the top and sides before baking 2.  Chipotle pepper flakes (about 1 T) to the dry ingredients  — both have turned out beautifully~

I have several others (including sweeter, fruit breads) that I am hoping to try in the next couple of weeks.  I will let you know how they turn out!

Thanksgiving pasta

Chestnuts boiling

Thanksgiving pasta!

I cleaned out my fridge last weekend!  I know, I know…about time, right?!  I should take a picture cause it won’t be this organized and clean for long!  Anyway, as I was digging out the last of the items shoved to the back of my bottom shelf, I was pleasantly surprised (why?  I don’t know–I bought them back in November) to find my missing tub of chestnuts.   When I bought them I had plans to use them in a stuffing or something similar at Thanksgiving for my hubby–he absolutely loves chestnuts (and water chestnuts?!).  As you already know, I had surgery in November and we didn’t end up doing our big thanksgiving feast as planned, so in the fridge the chestnuts sat…and quickly got lost (buried is probably a closer description)!   Once we were reunited, I had to quickly find/create a great way to use these woody, sweet nuggets!  I decided a pasta would be the easiest and most efficient use since I have the fixins for most any type of pasta dish here at the house.  I found a pretty interesting recipe using pancetta with the chestnuts in a simple oil sauce and that was all I needed to get started!  Well, that is not true, I had to figure out how to process (skin and soften) the chestnuts first.  There were several different methods reviewed online, but I decided just to boil them to keep them soft and retain the sweetness.  It worked!  After about 15 minutes in boiling water they were pretty easy to peel, moist, and very sweet!  I have a really nice sage plant (big beautiful purple flowers right now–love it!) on my deck which provided many of its feathery leaves to season the pasta, along with loads of garlic and onion.  This pasta seriously rocked.  Andy said it tasted just like the best thanksgiving stuffing he has ever had–hence the name!  This is a pretty hearty dish, so we are leaving it off of regular rotation here at the casa, but it will probably replace stuffing next year on the big day and fill our bellies on many a cold, winter’s night.   Bon Appetit my friends!

Thanksgiving pasta

Servings:  5-6

  • 1 box gluten free spaghetti noodles
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1-2 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 4 large slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 T chopped garlic
  • 4 T fresh sage, chopped
  • loads of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 c chopped boiled chestnuts
  • 1 c chardonnay
  • 1/2 c pasta water (reserve after boiling pasta)
  • 1 c freshly grated Parmesan or uncheese, cheese sauce

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente–usually 11 or so minutes.  Save 1/2 c of the liquid, drain the rest of the water and set the pasta  aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat EVOO in a large skillet with the chipotle pepper flakes.  Add the chopped bacon and cook for about 10 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy.  When the bacon is starting to brown add 2 T of the sage.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, add the butter, garlic, and black pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the chardonnay and mix in well–scraping the carmelized bits of onion and bacon from the bottom and sides of the pan–cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the Parmesan and mix it in well.  The sauce should be getting nice and creamy now.  Slowly add the pasta water to get it to a consistency that will coat the pasta nicely without being too heavy.  You may not use the whole 1/2 c.

Add a big scoop of pasta into the sauce and stir so the noodles are coated nicely.  Continue until you are happy with how the pasta is coated and you still have a little sauce left in the pan for dipping your bread.  You probably will  not use all of the cooked noodles, so stick them in the fridge for a snack later in the week (add a drizzle of EVOO, a sprinkle of parm, freshly ground pepper, and chipotle pepper flakes and heat in microwave–YUM!).  Serve with a generous sprinkle of chopped sage and fresh bread!

Move over Starbucks make way for my coconut lattes

Are you spending too much of your valuable time in the drive-through line at Starbucks waiting on your morning hit or afternoon splurge?  When you get done tallying those numbers maybe you should take a look at your bank statement and see what kind of numbers are flying out of your account everytime you make that decision!  No reallly, DO IT!  This is money you could be sending to the red cross for disaster relief  (think JOPLIN people–PLEASE), MS Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society…should I go on?   Ok, I am stepping down from my soap box now…SORRY!

I guess you know by now how infatuated I am with Silk’s coconut milk, if not pay more attention please!  Anyway, I have been very busy here at 488  finding ways for you to use what you already have at home and avoid that dreaded drive-through!   The recipes I have tested couldn’t be easier to whip together and trust me at about $.58-1.25/8 oz, Starbucks has nothing on these cool healthful drinks!

Move over Starbucks, make way for my coconut latte recipes:

Benecafe smoothie

  • 8 oz Silk’s vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 scoop hemp protein powder (or your favorite pure HBV protein)
  • 1 t instant coffee–caf or decaf–our favorite is Extra Smooth Mountain Blend found at our local grocer
  • ice
  • Put all ingredients into a lidded container.  Shake the hell out of it.  I mean give it all you got!  Pour over ice and enjoy!

Benecafe frappacino

  • Follow the Benecafe latte recipe except throw it in your blender and give it a spin.  Serve and enjoy!

Benecafe fruit smoothie

  • 8 oz Silk’s vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 tsp high quality instant coffee
  • 1/2 c frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, banana–whatever you like!)
  • hemp protein powder

Thow all ingredients into your blender or smoothie machine and let it rip!  Serve and Enjoy!

Benecafe fruit ice

  • 8 oz Silk’s vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 tsp high quality instant coffee
  • 1 scoop hemp protein powder
  • 1/2 c frozen fruit

Throw this all into a container with a lid.  Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake!  Enjoy your drink and then have a nice fruit snack!  YUM!

Steel cut oats

Loving oats has always been tough for me.  I have spent a lot of dollars and time trying to at least LIKE them enough to make this healthful choice at breakfast a little easier.  After 20 or so years I think I may have found the solution–Irish steel cut oats made with coconut milk, a dash of cinnamon and topped with chopped fresh mangos!

The mouth feel is so creamy, the small round oats are firm and kind of explode in your mouth like caviar, and the fruit adds soft tropical sweetness–whats not to love about that??  My cholesterol has never been an issue–it usually runs about 120–but if you are looking for an easy way to drop yours a few points, this is it!   Keep in mind this does take a little more time to make than traditional oats — around 35-40 minutes if you do it on the stove top, but it is super simple and totally worth it.  If you don’t have that kind of extra time in the morning, do what my mother-in-law does and use your crock pot.  Before you tuck yourself in at night, just throw the liquids, cinnamon, and oats into a metal bowl (that will fit into the crock pot), place it in the crock pot, surround it with a water bath, set it on low, cover and go to bed.  When you get up in the morning you will have a perfectly cooked, warm and healthful breakfast waiting for you.  All you need to do in the morning is slice up your fresh fruit and you are set!  Heck, on Sunday night make a pot big enough to feed your family for the week.  Monday morning you can eat your fresh oats and store the remainder in the fridge to warm in the micro the rest of the week.  How smart and simple is that??

Oh, this morning I added some of my Baklava crunch nuts too–it was such a very nice treat!

Steel cut oats

Servings:  4

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups Silk’s coconut milk
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or a combination of all 3!
  • fresh fruit, sliced

Stovetop:  Warm your water and coconut milk slowly until it is boiling.  Stir in the oats and spices, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.  Serve with fresh fruit over the top.  Add more coconut milk as desired!

Crockpot:  Put water, coconut milk, oats, and spices into the crock pot and mix well.  Put the lid on and turn the heat to low.  Let cook for 8-9 hours.  Serve with fresh fruit and added coconut milk (as desired).

Baklava crunch

This is just sooooo good!

I hate to brag, but I have to say that I make a KILLA baklava!  I mean TO DIE FOR!  Which is why I am not posting that recipe here today…I wouldn’t subject my dear and health conscience readers to that level of indulgence!  Instead, I am sharing the recipe that I use to get my baklava ‘fix’ without all of the calories and fat.  Yes, it is still a decadent dessert, but you won’t feel the need to spend the next 3 days chained to the treadmill after this one!  This recipe will make about 2 cups of the topping which should last quite a while in your fridge or freezer.  Heck, sometimes at about 3 in the afternoon you will find me indulging in a big spoonful of this nut mix served over diced mango (sans the ice cream) as my afternoon snack!  This is behavior that I would not necessarily recommend, but it is a heck of a lot smarter than a big fat cookie or the like!  Hmmmm…I wonder what this would be like with a big spoonful of omega 3 laden flax seed ground in with the nuts??  I will let you know how it works the next time I make this!


Baklava ice cream crunch

Servings:  depends on how you use it!

  • 1 c black walnuts (unsalted)
  • 1/2 c pistachios (roasted and salted)–I buy big bags of shelled pistachios at SAMS
  • 1/2 c almonds (unsalted) almonds
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • dash of allspice
  • vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • 1 ripe champagne mango

Put the nuts, brown sugar, allspice, and cinnamon in your food processor and let it spin until the nuts are finely ground.

Dice the mango.   Sprinkle about 1-2 T of the nut mix over two scoops of ice cream (or yogurt).  Top with about 1/2 of the chopped mango.  Serve with a nice digestif!

Store the remainder of the nut mix in a tightly covered bowl in the fridge or freezer for future indulgences

Sugar SNAP seafood curry

See those green SNAPPERS in there??

Yesterday afternoon I discovered a small bag of sugar snap peas tucked away in the crisper drawer.  They were purchased for a clay pot that I made last week, but I had completely spaced and forgotten to use them.  You know I hate throwing veggies away and I was not about to let these green sweeties meet that fate, so I decided to try something new.

I fished some cod and shrimp out of the freezer, grabbed a few other veggies from the fridge and ended up with this super tasty dinner.  I really wasn’t expecting much out of the dish (you know my history with curries…) but WOW was I pleasantly surprised!

The broth was rich and sweet and the peas added this really great texture.  I served this snappy curry over a cocunut, black pepper and lime rice adding even more layers of flavor.  Give this one a try next time you are in the mood for something a just little different!


Sugar SNAP seafood curry

Servings:  5-6

  • 3 large limes
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil or veg oil
  • 1 c chopped shallots
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • About 12 oz sugar snap peas
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 1 T diced ginger
  • 1 1/2-2 T red curry paste
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t tumeric
  • 1/2 t mustard seed, toasted
  • 14 oz Silk’s plain coconut milk
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 20 oz cod, cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, uncooked shell-on
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped

In a large skillet heat the oil over med-low.  Add the pepper flakes, onion, shallots and ginger and cook until the onion has softened (about 10 or so minutes, maybe a little more).

Zest one or two limes (about 1 1/2 t) and juice 2 of the limes to get about 2 T juice.  Add the zest and juice to the skillet.  Add the cumin, tumeric, black pepper, mustard seed, red curry paste and stir in well to coat the onion mix.  Add the coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the broth is simmering chop up the fish.  Add the fish to the broth after it has simmered at least 15 minutes and has started to thicken up.  Cook the fish in the broth for about 5 minutes and then add the sugar snap peas.  Add the shrimp after about 5 minutes.  Continue cooking 8-10minutes (until the shrimp is cook through).  Serve a generous scoop of the broth over the rice (see recipe for pepper, coconut, lime rice) and garnish with a big hit of cilantro and a slice from one of your limes.

HOT candied nutz

I use these awesome nuts on my salads, as a snack, in breading for fish, in rice–the gourmet utility is almost endless!  The smoky heat from the pepper works so well with the sweet and earthy flavors of the nuts.  I usually do pecans, but black walnuts and almonds rock too!  They store very well, so be sure to make a BIG batch the next time your oven is warm!

HOT candied nutz

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place nuts in a small baking dish.  Cover with honey or agave nectar and sprinkle with Ground Chipotle Pepper (we use a LOT, but be careful this stuff is very hot!).  Bake for 8-10 minutes (or until golden brown).  Be careful not to burn the nuts!

Roasted tri-color pepper sauce

I had a big bag of bell peppers lounging in my fridge this past weekend just waiting for some attention from me.  It just so happened to also be abnormally chilly (for mid May) and very rainy-which set the stage perfectly for a comforting and warming pasta dinner!  And boy, is that just what we devoured!  Paired with a nice glass of light red wine and a big salad, our roasted tri-color pepper sauce over angel hair was the perfect way to end the gloomy weekend and prepare us for the warmth of the new week’s sun!  I hope this scrumptous dish warms you as much as it did us!

Sauce just before serving

Roasted tri-color pepper sauce

6 servings

  • 6 bell peppers, orange, red, and yellow;  quartered and seeded
  • 1-2 T EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 T diced garlic
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c red wine
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1 T smoked paprika
  • 1 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T anchovy paste – I haven’t tried it with this pasta, but a good sub for anchovy paste is supposed to be dark miso paste
  • fresh grated Parmesan as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roast the bell peppers (drizzled with EVOO if you desire) until soft and the skin starts to brown.

While the peppers are roasting start softening the chopped onions in EVOO  over medium low.  Add the chipotle pepper flakes, sage, and black pepper and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the anchovy paste and garlic and cook another 5 minutes.  Add the red wine smoked paprika, tomato paste and 1/2 of the feta.  Turn the heat down to low.  Chop the roasted bell peppers into 1/4 inch pieces along with the last of the feta to the sauce.  Allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the sauce really gets thick and starts to caramelize.

Angel hair takes about 5 minutes once the water is boiling, so start it when the sauce is just about finished.  Once al dente, drain the pasta, plate and serve with a big scoop of sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan and more fresh sage.

Mexi-color Salad

Ok, it doesn’t get much easier than this folks and yet it is so delicious it will make even the youngsters in the family shout for JOY!  Andy and I absolutely went LOCO over this colorful, fiber and vitamin packed taco salad.  Just look at that picture–isn’t it gorgeous??  Every one of those colors represents a different nutrient! Cool, huh?!  And what a  great way to end the day!

Bon Appetit!

Mexi-color salad

Servings:  2

Mexi-color saladServings-2

  • 2 big handfuls of Garden of Eatin’ Multi-Grain Tortilla chips (or your favorite), crushed
  • 1/2 c cilantro-lime rice – see recipe for cooking instructions
  • 1/4 c mexi cheese
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 c arugula
  • 1/2 c mexi-black beans – see recipe for instructions
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 large limes
  • 1/2 c mango salsa
  • sour cream (optional garnish)

In a medium sauce pan add 1 T EVOO, 1 t cumin seeds, and 1/2-1 t chipotle pepper flakes.  Add 1 c basmati rice and stir well to coat the rice.   Add 1 3/4 c water, the juice of 1 big lime, 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of kosher salt (optional).  Bring the pot to a boil, stir once, cover and let sit for about 20 minutes while you create the rest of your salad.

Pour a can of black beans into a small saucepan and warm slowly over low heat.  Sprinkle in about 1-2 t of cumin seeds and 1/2 t chipotle pepper flakes.  Cook over low while assembling the remainder of the salad.

Crumble 1/2 of the chips in the bottom of your salad bowl.  Add scoop of rice and black beans to the top of the chips.  Sprinkle with a generous layer of cheese.  Top with 1/2 of the arugula and squeeze a healthy dose of lime juice to the top of the greens.  Add 1/2 of the diced tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and mango salsa.  Sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro over the top of the salad.  Add more lime juice, and garnish with sour cream if desired.

Now get busy building your second salad!

Cilantro lime rice

Before we moved to the ‘wilderness’, my hubby could usually be found over his lunch hour standing in the ridiculously long line at Chipotle drooling as he waited to place his order.  He just could NOT get enough of their burritos.  So, given our distance to the local Chippy, I was VERY motivated to recreate their burritos to keep our gas budget from being completely BLOWN by his addiction!  Not a terribly daunting task, but I thought I would go ahead and post my version of their cilantro lime rice to make it easier for you in case you or a loved one has to fight this same addiction one day!  🙂

Cilantro lime rice

Servings 4-6

  • 1 c white rice (I use basmati)
  • 1 3/4 c water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • Juice from 2 large limes
  • 1 head of cilantro, chopped
  • sprinkle of salt (optional)
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1 t cumin seeds (not Chipotle, but darn good in here!  Also optional)

In a medium saucepan heat the EVOO over low.  Add the black pepper, salt, and cumin seeds (optional).  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Add the lime juice and again coat the rice.  Add the water, turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot, turn off the heat after about a minute and let the rice steam for about 20 minutes.  Test the rice to be sure it is done.  Once it is done, add the cilantro and mix in well.