Warm Baked Bread from the Oven…

There’s nothing better to eat than a home baked loaf of french bread.  From the start of our marriage, Mike asked me to learn how to make a really crusty bread.  So I bought a bread machine. Sure the bread tasted good.  But where was the hard crust? So a few years ago, I contacted the master bread maker in our family, Judy.  She has so many different types of flour in her pantry.  She emailed three recipes to me.  I’ve still only made one.  But I continue to make it over and over again.  This bread is so easy you won’t believe it!

I use an old cast iron pan that my mom got as a wedding gift. I never wash it out.  Nothing but my bread is cooked in it.

Speedy No-Knead Bread

3 cups bread flour

1 packet rapid rise yeast

1 1/2 cups Water

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Oil as needed

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it; fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes more.

3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide the dough and put it into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

4. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 1 loaf

Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Avocado

Each Sunday night,after a nonstop weekend of cooking by Mike, I ask the boys, “What should we have for dinner this week?”  I ALWAYS get the answer, “Tortilla Soup”.  Of course, this scrumptious recipe started off as Mike’s.  Well to be honest, he just made the recipe right out of the Williams-Sonoma Soup Cookbook.  This is the BEST SOUP COOKBOOK!!!!

Somewhere along the way I took over the making of this dish and made it into my own.  Last week, I posted on Facebook that I was making it for the family.  I got so many requests for the recipe that…well…here it is!

I head over to Raley’s and pick up a roasted rotisserie chicken instead of using raw chicken breasts. 

The secret ingredient I use is Chicken Stock made by Mike.  Nothing beats homemade stock.  This past week he had created an awesome Turkey Stock…so it got used with great success!

Of course, you can never add too much garlic.  After the onion, garlic, and cilantro are browned, I throw them into my food processor.  I like to keep the onions a little chunky. Then add some cumin and toss the mixture into a frying pan for about 5 minutes.  It will get a bit darkened.

Now you’re ready to add the broth and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, fry up the tortillas strips until they’re brown.

Soups on!

Here is the original recipe from Williams-Sonoma (page 97)

Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Avocado

Makes 4 servings and takes about an hour start to finish.

½ c. plus 2 T. vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic (I use more)

¼ c. plus 2 t. chopped fresh cilantro

1 c. drained canned plum tomatoes (doesn’t matter if they’re whole or chopped)

½ t. ground cumin

4 c. chicken stock or broth

1 skinless boneless whole chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces (I use a store roasted chicken)

Salt & Pepper

4 corn tortillas

1 dried chile

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced (I like strips)

¼ c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 t. fresh lime juice

In a frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and the 2 teaspoons cilantro and sauté just until golden brown about 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, combine the sautéed mixture and the tomatoes and process until smooth.

In the same frying pan over medium-high heat, warm another 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the tomato mixture and cumin.  Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and darkened, 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add the stock.  Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  Add the chicken and simmer until they are just opaque throughout, 2-3 minutes longer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup is cooking, cut the tortillas in half and slice each half into thin strips.  In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the ½ cup vegetable oil.  Drop a tortilla strip in the oil, and if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.  Drop handfuls of the tortilla strips into the oil and fry, turning with tongs, until crisp and browned, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the chile until fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Shake the pan often; do not let the chile burn.  Let cool, then crumble and set aside.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls.  Divide the tortilla strips, crumbled chile, the ¼ cup cilantro, the avocado, cheese, and lime juice evenly among the bowls and serve immediately.

Connecting to Thanksgiving….a whirlwind of afternoon cooking

I feel like I’m making headway on this Thanksgiving Cooking Journey.  I must say, as of this evening, I’m having a good time.  Today’s list has everything checked off of it, except the steak part of tonights dinner.  Seems to me that might be a manly dish for Mike to make. 

It was quite a busy kitchen day.  It started with Banana Nut Bread and Cookies.  A couple of yummy fish tacos at Rubios, the purchase of almost what I wanted wine glasses at Home Goods (but they had five of them and that’s the number I needed), a second round of grocery shopping at Raleys, and I was back at home to spark up the kitchen again.

I’m pleased to say, my Pie Dough is in the refrigerator ready to be filled and baked tomorrow morning.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pastry-Dough-240606 

And at this very moment, the Turkey Stock is simmering on the stove.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/printerfriendly/Homemade-Turkey-Stock-240445

Mike isn’t very fond of turkey.  He’ll eat it, but would rather have ham.  So tomorrow night, upon Big D’s arrival, I’m going to serve a ham.  It’s pretty easy, and we can serve it again on Thanksgiving along with the Turkey.  Tonight I’m making Mac and Two Cheeses with Carmelized Shallots .  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mac-and-Two-Cheeses-with-Caramelized-Shallots-350762   There’s so much, I think there’ll be enought to make it through Thursday evening.

And now time for a glass of wine.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Thanksgiving Connections…Big D arrives on Wednesday.

Big D arrives on Wednesday afternoon.  Mike has spent the last twenty bazillion Thanksgivings with Dino.  Our lovable Big D is Kevin’s Godfather and Mike’s BFF.  It is a well-known fact that Big D loves sweets….especially minty sweets.  From an early age, Kevin knew to remind me to pick up Oreos every time Big D was coming.  We always try to have thin mints in the cabinet for him. You should see the ice cream supply in the freezer.   What would a weekend be like if we didn’t have sweets when Big D was here?  Connected to our Friends.

This Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to try a new twist to an old cookie.  The only chocolate chip cookies I make are Nestles’ Toll House.  Sorry to all the fancy, dancy recipes out there.  I love the Toll House cookies because I don’t have to go searching for the recipe, and they always turn out great!  Last week, I found that Nestle has Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels.  The recipe is identical to their traditional Toll House cookies.  The last batch is about to come out of the oven.  They smell delicious.  Connected to Cookies.


Thanksgiving Connections…Banana Nut Bread

A couple of year ago I found a great recipe for Banana Nut Bread on Epicurious.com.  Although the recipe was good, there was a MUCH better recipe down in the comments section.  My bread is in the oven.  Your turn.  Baking and Connected.

Let me give you a GOOD recipe for banana bread. I’ve been searching for years for the perfect recipe and I think I have found it at a bed and breakfast in Louisville,Ky. BEST EVER BANANA BREAD 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter 3 very ripe bananas 2 eggs 1 1/4 cups flour 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 cup crushed walnuts Preheat oven to 350 degrees,Cream sugar and butter. Add bananas and eggs beaten. Sift flour,salt and baking soda 3 times. Blend and add to banana mixture. Pour patter into a 9×5 loaf pan. Bake for 55 min. Cool on rack. If this is not the tastiest and moistest bread you’ve ever eaten, I will eat your peels.