Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Super Simple Crusty Bread

This is by far the easiest bread I've made and I don't think bread is all that hard to make. Time consuming, yes, hard, no. Other than waiting, this bread isn't even that time consuming. After reading about this bread, I've also discovered that I'm about 6-10 years late in the food blogging world. It's generally called no-knead bread and supposedly it appeared in the NY Times for the first time.  It's made its rounds over and over again and yet somehow I seemed to have missed it. Maybe that's because I wasn't baking as much bread as I do now, who knows. The point is, I'll be making this bread a whole lot more from now on.

It's perfect for dipping in olive oil and making panini or just as toast with melted butter on it. I'm starting to salivate. I'd be noshing on a piece right now if we hadn't finished it the other night with dinner. I do think this bread is best eaten the day you make it or the next. As with most homemade items without preservatives, it goes bad quickly. Plus it loses that outer crustiness. Unless you warm it up in the oven or toaster, like I did. (I put it in the toaster at 200° for about 12-15 minutes to warm it up and it turned out great.)

I don't own a cast iron pot, (the key to crusty bread) so I borrowed one from a friend, but I'm definitely going to be checking out the sales, because I must purchase one to make my life easier. I've read all different ways you can "make" your own using a pizza stone, crockpot insert, pot of water, terra cotta pot, etc. The list goes on. I honestly just don't want to bother with that. Although I do have a Pyrex that I might try. As long as what you are using can withstand 450°, you can use it. The other important thing here is that it must have a lid. The lid creates steam and therefore makes the bread crusty. Or at least that's what I read somewhere on the internet and we all know that everything we read online must be true.

It takes a whopping five minutes to put this bread together. Then let it sit. 12-18 hours. I find it's best to make it at night and then bake it the next day. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting throughout the house is fantastic. So far, I've only made it twice and both times it turned out great. I really want to add in some extras like rosemary and garlic with parmesan on top. Or cheddar and jalapenos. Maybe get a little fancy and add lemon zest, nutmeg and gruyere. I tend to go savory with a bread like this, but I guess you could also go sweet and add cinnamon, sugar and currants. Regardless what you add, I have a feeling it will be fabulous.

My boyfriend has already decided that I need to make this bread at least two days a week. He's a bit of a carb-aholic. He also said that of the tortillas, white bread and chips.

So how do you make this wonderful bread? I've read different resting times and different amounts of yeast, but this is what I did and it worked beautifully. Please let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

Super Simple Crusty Bread
Yield: One loaf
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 12 - 18 hours including proofing

3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast. Add water and combine until shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a dry, warm environment for 12-18 hours. Dough will be full of bubbles and very wet.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn out dough. Work into a ball and cover for thirty minutes minimum. I used plastic wrap, but some like to use a flour sack. The flour sack will help it retain it's shape better.

Heat oven to 450°. Heat pot for about 30 minutes and carefully remove it. After dough has rested, drop it into the pot and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from pot and cool on wire rack. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sweet Potato Chips in Coconut Oil

Apparently these sweet potato chips were a hit, because the batch wasn't even done and my boyfriend was requesting more. They cool down fairly quickly, so you can start munching on them pretty much right away.

It only takes three ingredients to make these crunchy little snacks; sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and sea salt. I used a mandolin to slice these bad boys into the perfect thickness. I guess you could do it by hand, but they would be different thicknesses and it would take a long time. The mandolin is much quicker. Just watch out for your fingers.

I used a candy thermometer and heated the oil to about 300°. The oil can splatter, so be very careful. They only take a few minutes to cook. This is the slightly tricky part. Don't overcook them and don't undercook them. If they are undercooked, they are soft. You want a nice crispy chip. If they are overcooked, they turn brown and have that it's almost burned taste. Make sure you have good lighting to see when they are turning brown. Be sure to salt them as soon as they come out of the oil. The salt sticks to the chips better when they are still wet.

I made regular potato chips years ago and I didn't remember if I did this or not, but I flipped them a couple of times during baking. When they started to curl, you knew they were almost done.

As far as whether these are easy to make or not really depends on the person. It does take quite a bit of time and it's kind of a pain in the neck and frankly in the future I would stick to buying them. Just don't tell my boyfriend that.

They should keep in an airtight container for at least a week, but they won't last that long in this house.

Sweet Potato Chips
Yield: 4 - 6 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 - 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes to an hour


2 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
sea salt


Peel and slice two medium sweet potatoes preferably with a mandolin. Heat oil to 300° in a large sauce pan or use a deep fryer if you have one. Cook sweet potatoes in small batches for about 1 - 2 minutes. Be sure not to over crowd the pan. Keep a close eye on them as they brown very quickly.

Place on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Salt immediately. Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Browned Banana Bread

What's browned banana bread you ask? It's not some new fancy schmancy way of making banana bread. It's just regular banana bread that you accidentally left in the oven a few minutes too long because the weather finally broke and you were outside playing with your son. Despite that in my perfectionist mind, it was overdone, it didn't seem to stop any of us from eating it. It was still quite good.

I don't think this recipe is as good as the banana muffins, but it's labeled as low fat and it's a bit easier to make, since it has a few less ingredients. It's a little heavier, but does transport well and freeze well. I have made a few adjustments to it over the years and added pumpkin to it when I only had two small bananas. That was delicious. I used four really old bananas for this. Most people would have surely thrown these in the trash. When my bananas start to turn, I try to freeze them for smoothies. Try being the key word here. It's like one day, they look perfectly good to eat and then you forget you have them and the next thing you know, you've got black bananas. The darker the bananas the sweeter they are. So, dark bananas work really well in baked goods.

I prefer walnuts in my banana bread, but I only had about a 1/4 cup, so I just put them on top instead of in the batter. Plus, it looks pretty. I like my food to not only taste good, but to look pretty.

Banana Bread
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Yield: 2 loaves
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour (cool 2 hours 10, minutes)
Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus cooling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/ 2 whole milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat oven to 350° and move oven racks to lowest position. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 or one 9 x 5 x3 loaf pan with butter.

2. Combine milk with vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour. Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Stir in bananas, "soured" milk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until moistened. Stir in nuts. Divide batter evenly between pans.

3. Bake 8 inch loaves for about an hour and 9 inch loaf about an hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on wire rack.

4. Loosen sides of loaves from pans: remove pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 4 days, or refrigerate for up to 10 days. Can also be frozen for up to two months.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Panini

I'm not a big meat eater. I never have been and I never will be. I don't like burgers. I know for all of you burger loving fans out there, it's an atrocity. And for all of you vegans and vegetarians, you're probably loving it. But I never understood that whole burger craving. I crave peanut butter and chocolate. Never a burger. They always smell good, but I never like the taste of them. To me they are like coffee. The smell and the flavor are completely different. Once my former husband thought he could convince me that I would like them if he put all my favorite fixings one them, grilled mushrooms,  onions, and cheddar cheese. I took one bite and said that it would be great if the ground beef patty weren't there. I do like chicken, but sometimes I just don't want meat. Any meat at all.

In walks my vegetable panini. Not only is this an easy panini that can be made several different ways, but the house smells great while they are roasting. If you haven't noticed my most sensitive senses are my sense of smell and taste. My boyfriend is always commenting that it's not normal that I can smell garbage that is sealed in a plastic bag in the trash can or someone smoking a cigarette on the highway with the windows rolled up in the car in front of us. It's my spidey sense. I can't help it. As you know your sense of smell goes along with your sense of taste. I think I might be one of those super tasters.

Back to making the panini. First things first is deciding what veggies you like. I prefer eggplant, zucchini or squash, onions, mushrooms, red peppers and tomatoes. Unfortunately I didn't have all of those ingredients on hand, but I did have several. I had never put roasted tomatoes on a sandwich before, so I wasn't sure how it was going to taste. Wait, let me back up. I've used the oil packed kind and the dry packed ones from the store, but never ones I actually roasted. Usually when I make roasted veggies, I don't add tomatoes. Well, from now on it's a must. It totally made the sandwich. Without them, it would have just been blah.

Roasted Vegetable Panini

Yield: depends on how many vegetables you roast
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: two hours 
Total time: 2 hours, 30 minutes


Roasted Vegetables

Grape tomatoes
Zucchini/ squash
Red Pepper
Portabella mushroom
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

2 Slices of bread of your choice (I used a garlic loaf, but a sourdough would be great)

Basil pesto
Mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 250°.

2. Slice the vegetables and place on a cookie sheet (or two). Try not to over lap. Sprinkle on spices and olive oil. Bake for two hours.

3. Spread pesto on one side of a slice of bread. Top with vegetables, cheese and other slice.

4. Grill over medium heat until golden brown and cheese has melted or put in your panini press.