Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fresh Bread Made Easy

If you love homemade bread and you haven't picked up the book "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" then you are missing out on an easy, delicious way to have fresh bread baking in minutes!

By using the basic recipe, you can create many different flavors and variations. And the dough itself is so easy to make, no kneading is necessary and the longer the dough sits in the refrigerator, the better the flavor gets! I love being able to bake a small roll or larger loaf at a moments notice.

This time around I added shredded cheese, hazelnut flour, a bit of milk and olive oil to the original recipe. I wanted a small loaf with a different shape than normal bread loaves so I decided to bake a few in my mini Le Crueset casserole dishes. They rose up beautifully just like a souffle and smelled amazing! The top was crusty, inside had just a hint of cheddar, a little nuttiness from the hazelnut flour and had an almost buttery flavor. Delicious! Next time I will add a bit more cheese but I love the results.

Cheddar-Hazelnut Bread Dough
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (active dry or instant)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups water
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix flours and cheese together in large bowl. Add water, milk and olive oil and combine until all liquid is absorbed, add more water if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Place container in refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to bake, tear off pieces the size of an orange, roll a bit in flour if dough is too wet and place in oiled Le Crueset mini casserole. Let rise for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with flour. Bake in 450 oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from casserole and let sit until cool.

Store remaining dough in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Has Arrived in My Garden

Happy 1st day of Spring!! I woke on this gray, cloudy, foggy morning to water the flowers, strawberries and lettuce I planted a few weeks ago and found signs of new life and also signs of destruction. The ranuculus and gerbra daisies are growing like crazy so I picked a few to have around the house. Beautiful. I also found little green strawberries peeking out from under the leaves, I can't wait for those! Lettuce is popping up everywhere and looks delicious.

I went to water my already sparse ginko biloba tree--which was just starting to sprout new growth--and found that the squirrels chewed all the lower branches from the tree! Never before have the squirrels destroyed any of my plants but they chose my wonderful ginko and then I saw that they were enjoying my bamboo plant as well! Why don't they enjoy clovers? I could definitely use some help with getting rid of those!

Nikko, among the large clover field

Deciding to inspect the rest of the yard, I walked through the overwhelming field of clovers--another sign of growing by leaps and bounds--to find that my artichoke plant has its first bud! I planted it last year and knew it wouldn't produce until this year and just left it alone and now I'm so excited to see how many artichokes it will give me.

Artichoke flower

I'm getting ready to plant peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and more herbs and look forward to the many months of amazing, fresh foods!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Color Series: White, Yellow and Green

A few more images from my color series. The first of many tones in white, yellow and green. Can't wait for all the fresh green Spring peas, white asparagus and yellow crookneck squash.

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Alyssum, Horsetail

Sage, Rosemary, Lemon, Thyme, Garlic


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fresh from the Freezer: Herb-Roasted Chicken

I love making roast chicken. After the first meal you can use the meat for other meals throughout the week. Sandwiches, tacos, salads, there are so many wonderful things that can be made with the meat from a roast chicken.

I had a 5.5 pound chicken in my freezer and I was excited to use this wonderful, all-natural chicken. I made a compound herb butter and rubbed that under the skin and on the skin, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. The chicken was stuffed with rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon (herbs and lemon from my garden), and garlic. Asparagus, carrots and potatoes roasted along side the chicken were tossed with thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.

An amazingly simple and delicious meal for a mid-week dinner. And the only items I had to purchase were the potatoes! Everything else was on-hand from leftover items, picked from my garden or in my pantry and freezer.

Herb-Roasted Chicken

Compound Butter
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, fresh
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh
1/2 teaspoon sage leaves, fresh

Soften butter or leave at room temperature. Chop herbs and mix with butter. Add a pinch of salt. Reserve 2 tablespoons for gravy.

Roast Chicken
5.5 pound chicken
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs sage
1 lemon, cut in half or sliced
3 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse chicken inside and out. Dry. Place in roasting pan with rack. Fill cavity with fresh herbs, lemon and garlic. Tie legs with twine.

Rub 6 tablespoons butter under the skin and all over the breast, thighs and back of chicken. Drizzle chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast in oven 1 1/2-2 hours, checking after 1 hour and if browning too fast tent with aluminum foil. When chicken reaches 160-165 degrees on thermometer remove to a platter, cover with foil and let sit for a few minutes

Pan Gravy
1 tablespoon shallot
1/2 c. white wine
1 c. chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons compound herb butter (reserved from above)

Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from roasting pan. Place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook until softened. Add white wine and cook until reduced by 1/2. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in flour until absorbed and whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place chicken and roasted vegetables on plate, top with gravy and drizzle with fresh herbs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Raspberry-Filled Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies

The other day I was craving something sweet and found a simple recipe for these delicious cookies. The dough is a simple mixture of butter, flour, cinnamon, sugar and egg. Rolled into balls, then filled with raspberry preserves.

I topped them with powdered sugar and these were the perfect cookie to go with a cup of tea. I have some ideas for some minor modifications...hazelnut flour, chopped pecans, lemon zest. I'm looking forward to the many different variations of this simple cookie. I'm working on some revisions to the recipe and as soon as I have it perfected I'll post the recipe.

Fresh from the Freezer: Boeuf a la Nicoise

I made Boeuf a la Nicoise (aka Braised Beef Stew) for dinner the other evening. We were having a few friends over and this was the perfect dish for the evening. Grass-fed beef that was braised in a sauce of tomato, red wine, orange zest, carrots, fennel, onion and thyme at 325 degrees for 3 hours. It turned out very tender, rich and moist. The beef was served over a bed of wide noodles with olives, spinach and parsley. I also made fresh baguettes that were perfect for sopping up the wonderful sauce. The meal started with an arugula-spinach, goat cheese, radicchio, goat cheese and pine nut salad and my husband loved the salad almost more than the beef!

I am just loving these fresh from the freezer meals! A meal that fed 6 people and the only ingredient I had to purchase was a bottle of red wine! Very affordable, filling and delicious.


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