Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We Knead to Talk...

Get it?  We knead to talk?  Ok, I'll stop.

I first stumbled across Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in early 2012.  I had been increasingly alarmed by the ingredient lists on most of the store-bought breads available and the price tag for bakery bread at the farmer's market was a bit steep for my liking.  Plus, my domesticity got the best of me and I just honestly had a hankering to bake my own bread!  It's worth it just for the heavenly aroma.

Think you don't have the time or skills to make homemade bread?  Think again, my friends.
This book is a revelation.  The title is for real!  You can make healthy, homemade bread in 5 minutes a day--no kneading required.  No stand mixer with dough hook attachment necessary.  This easy peasy technique is what keeps me coming back to this method time and time again.

The beginning chapters discuss ingredients, equipment and technique.  A treasure trove of 100 whole grain bread recipes follows (including some wonderful gluten-free options).  Here is the one I keep coming back to time and time again.  The good news?  You can make 4 one-pound loaves out of one recipe.  And the dough will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks allowing you to bake the bread whenever you have a time and hankering for a slice of fresh, homemade bread.

The Master Recipe
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Makes 4 one-pound loaves of artisan bread

5 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (can use white whole wheat if desired)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 TBSP granulated yeast (or 2 packets)
1 TBSP kosher salt (it seems like a lot but it's a lot of flour)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (Bob's Red Mill is a good option)
4 cups lukewarm water
Cornmeal or parchment paper for pizza peel/pizza stone
1-2 TBSP assorted nuts & seeds*

Ready, set go!  This looks like a lot of steps but it is really, really easy.  I promise.
1.  Measure dry ingredients into a bowl (preferably one with a lid--doesn't have to be airtight)
2.  Mix in water
3.  DON'T knead!  Just mix until the last of the flour is incorporated nicely
4.  Loosely cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap.
5.  Let rise appx. 2 hours.  Then refrigerate overnight.  Do not punch down the dough.  No matter how much aggression you need to take out.  
6.  On baking day:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a metal pan in the oven.  This is going to help with the whole steam approach in step 9.  When you are ready for a fresh loaf of bread, flour your hands and grab a grapefruit-sized ball of dough from container and shape into a ball, tucking the ugly edges under.  Make an elongated loaf shape and plop on a pizza stone you've prepped with a sprinkle of cornmeal.
7.  Let the dough rest and rise for 90 minutes (it may not rise a whole lot but be not alarmed--it will rise even more in the oven.  Brush with water and sprinkle with your seeds mixture if desired*
8.  Put the bread in the oven, still on the pizza stone.
9.  Pour 1 cup of hot water in the metal pan (please don't use glassware; it might shatter and cleaning up glass shards when you are supposed to be eating bon bons is NOT part of the plan here).  Quickly shut the oven door so the steam stays in the oven and provides a nice sauna for the baking bread.
10.  Bake bread for 30 minutes until deep golden brown and crusty.  Supposedly one should let the bread cool before eating but I usually can't wait that long.

The loaves are ready for the oven and their spa treatment.

*I made an "Everything Bagel Bread" by using sunflower seeds, flax seeds, poppy seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, dried onion flakes and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Ah, fresh-baked loveliness!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mango Tango Bowl

Let's be perfectly honest - there are days when cooking is the last thing I want to do (and I LOVE to cook!).  Traditionally this feeling hits me just about every Friday.  I'm a working girl so Friday dinner prep after a 40+ hour work-week at the office is kinda low on my priority list.  My go-to supper?  A bowl of yummy plant-based deliciousness.  Sets me up for a fabulous Saturday morning workout and also makes me feel totally not guilty about a sweet treat while I curl up with a good book or movie!

Black beans and mango are a perfect pair.  Add in some avocado, spicy radishes, red onion and a squeeze of lime juice and we are on our way to a one-dish supper that's not only delicious but good for you!

This dish can be thrown together in just about 10 minutes or less.  You can eat it plain or serve it over some brown rice or spoon it into warm corn tortillas--it's splendid at room temperature and even better after it's chilled out in the fridge for a bit.  

My mango had seen better days and was waaay ripe.  You could also use some thawed frozen mango if you aren't seeing good mango choices are your local store/produce stand or don't have a fresh mango pining to be used in this Mango Tango Bowl. 

Mix it all up in one bowl!  Fewer dishes to wash!  This type of dish is all about easy, less about technique.

Mango Tango Bowl
*Serves 2
*Prep time: 10 minutes tops!
*Kitchen gear required: cutting board, knife, bowl, colander

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained in a colander
4 radishes, washed and diced
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup diced mango (one largish mango should do the trick)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste

Ready, set, go!
1.  Open can of black beans and dump them in a colander.  Rinse.
2.  Chop up the radishes, avocado, onion, cilantro and mango
3.  Combine veggies with beans, add lime juice and cumin.
4.  Stir (gently!)
5.  Serve as is or chilled or spooned in warm tortillas or over warm brown rice (I love the Trader Joe's microwavable brown rice--done in 3 minutes!)


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sweet 16 Old Hollywood Glam Party

"A party is a party" as Mr. Elton from Jane Austen's Emma would say.

But a Sweet 16 Old Hollywood Glam Party?  Fabulous dahling.

I had so much fun planning this shindig for my sister.  This is confirmation that you can throw an amazing party on a budget!  Total cost of decor, party favors {vintage headbands}and cake?  Less than 100 buckaroos!

The highlights of this party were the vintage headband making and homespun photo booth...

First, our inspiration.  I grew up with this classic gem and do love it so.

I used an amazing free printables website (they were actually for weddings but totally made them work for this event) to make the menus for the table and some photo booth props.  Free Printables

I kept the menu fairly simple, a light luncheon.  The cake was an awesome Groupon deal from a local bakery here in Orange County:  Cinderella Cakes 

My favorite food item?  The cute jello cups!  A breeze to put together and they looked so pretty.  We used vintage glassware my Grandma gave to my mom a couple summers ago.  Just make jello like you normally would.  Put in your first layer and throw in the freezer (not literally, mind you). Then add 2nd layer. While those are chilling, whip up remaining layer (we used peach) into a frothy frenzy. Spoon on as final layer and then chill.  The foam stays foamy and firms up nicely.  

The key to throwing a great party on a budget is to think outside the box.  With a little elbow grease (ok, I'll be honest, throwing parties is a lot of work but totally worth the outlay of time), you can create an event to remember!

All the guest put their thumb prints on a cute framed picture (also a free printable!) for the birthday girl.  

I was thrilled with the way everything came together!

Happy Birthday, Dearest.  Hard to believe you are 16 going on 17
(more like 25 if you ask me, you smart cookie, you.)


P.S. We had a beautiful candy buffet at the party designed by my amazing sis-in-law, Hannah {for some reason I have zero pictures of that on my camera--epic fail} Check out her website for your next event!

Dainty Delectables

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Soundtrack

Soundtrack for my Saturday...looking forward to the three-day weekend!

Nickel Creek = Awesomeness

Chris, Sara and Sean...won't you get back together pretty please?  


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rustic Layered Vegetable Stacks

You know what I love most about about fancy restaurants?  Well, besides the food.  It's the descriptions on the menus.  You know of what I speak (I'm already quoting Lord of the Rings...heaven help us).  Back to the menus.  Maybe it's because I love words so much and think that writing menu descriptions would be a fabulous job--I mean, how fun to come up with those descriptions and use weird, trendy punctuation.  It got me thinking, why can't we do that with the meals we cook at home?  What's to stop us from describing our daily nourishment in ravishing detail full of vip and vim?

I would describe these Rustic Layered Vegetable Stacks thusly:

Sweet potato rounds.  Grilled zucchini.  Tomatoes 
{insert heirloom tomatoes here if they had been on sale this week}  
Fresh basil & spicy lemon cashew crumble.

Doesn't that sound appetizing?  Let's make these little beauties.  A dish like this falls under what I have deemed "FancyPants Foods."  They look oh-so-pretty and would knock the socks off of your dinner guests if they happened to be wearing socks.  But not only is this dish  lovely to look at and tasty to boot but it's healthy!  Chock full of veggie goodness and very low in fat.  Did I mention also soooo easy to make?

We start with our cast of characters.

Look at all  that color.  We are eating the rainbow, folks!

Yams are put on the stove to simmer for a bit.

Zucchini is sliced and dusted with salt, fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Yes, I am smashing my zucchini with my yam pan.  Improvise baby.  We want those lovely grill marks from our grill pan.  If you don't own a grill pan, you can easily substitute a regular skillet pan here for the zucchini.  But put a grill pan on your wish list won't you pretty please?

That's what we are looking for.  Rustic grill marks.

Healthy raw cashews are ground into a powdery crumble with more red pepper flakes, lemon zest and nutritional yeast for added nuttiness.  We're simulating Parmesan cheese here and it works beautifully!

These stacks are sprinkled with lemon zest.  Aren't they so pretty?

Another option is to set the stacks in a luscious pool of marinara sauce.

Yum, yum, yum!

Here's the recipe.  Actually, first a disclaimer.  Those of you who have seen me cook know I am not a recipe girl.  The goal of this blog is to help others free themselves from recipes and improvise and get comfy in the kitchen.  But, it's a process.  So here goes with a recipe!

Rustic Layered Vegetable Stacks
*Serves 3-4 (or 1-2 depending how hungry you are!)
*Prep time:  30 minutes tops
*Kitchen gear required:  saute pan, grill pan (or 2nd saute pan/skillet), largish knife, cutting board, saucepan if serving with marinara, food processor

1 medium-sized yam or sweet potato, peeled and sliced (aim for 1/2-3/4 inch slices)
1-2 zucchini, sliced diagonally
2 tomatoes, sliced
10-15 basil leaves, washed and dried
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
pinch of red pepper flakes
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt if you are going to use marinara sauce)

Ready, set go!
1.  Peel and slice the yam/sweet potato.  Plop yams in skillet with 1/2 inch of water.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 10-15 min. or until tender.  Keep an eye on these as they easily burn once the water is gone!
2.  Slice the zucchini, sprinkle with salt (easy there tiger) and pepper and red pepper flakes.
3.  Throw zucchini on pre-heated grill pan or saute pan.  You can use a bit of olive oil mist to help with sticking.  Press zucchini down with yam pan or other less-tacky approach of your choosing (you could press down with a spatula, etc. but I don't like to stand still and do things like that) to achieve lovely grill marks.
5.  Slice tomatoes and wash basil, set aside.
6.  Pulverize cashews in food processor (I used my Cuisinart mini prep).  Don't over-process or you will end up with cashew butter--delicious in its own rite but not what we want for the veggie stacks.
7.  Add nutritional yeast, half the lemon zest and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to the cashews and blend a bit more.  Set aside.
8.  Heat marinara sauce if using.
9.  Let's stack!  I'm not going to tell you how to do this...just stack!  Let yourself go and you choose the order...yam/tomato/zucchini/basil, etc.  Sprinkle with cashew crumbs and additional lemon zest or serve with marinara sauce if desired.  The amount of veggies you cook will determine the number of stacks.
10.  Proceed to gobble these up!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keeping It Real

For Mother's Day I made darling potato nests with baked eggs (courtesy of Pioneer Woman) for my Mum.  They were crispy.  They were cute.  They did not want to leave their muffin-tin home.  Yes, I am aware Mother's Day was 10 days ago.  No amount of soaking will get these little eggy-potato bits to budge.  I'm ready to admit defeat. Note to self:  Use cupcake liners.  Always.

Oh cupcake liners, I am sorry I ever doubted you.  Or complained of your  costliness. 
Just keeping it real, folks.  Just so you aren't deceived into thinking my muffin tins are spotless, ya know.  

Rest in peace, muffin tin.  Rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Testing, testing, 1-2-3

Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

My first post.  I've been planning and dreaming this blog thing would come to life for such a long time and whatdya know?  It has!

Super excited to begin this blogging journey (a big shout-out to all those people who have cheered me on my way!).  Thanks for the love and hugs.  Let's get cooking!

By the by, if you are looking for a good read, might I suggest Rip Esselstyn's new book, My Beef With Meat.   I got my hands on a copy last Thursday at Whole Foods and skimmed a bit.  Definitely getting myself a copy pronto.  On sale @ Amazon right now.

We tried a couple of the recipes at the Tustin Whole Foods cooking class last Thursday and let me just say...Kale Ceviche Salad...yes please.  Made it again for dinner tonight with a few of  my own humble additions.  Recipe to follow in short order! 



(Is it just me or does that seem too close to "eerily?"  The last thing I want to be is "eerily yours."  Too gothic and Jane Eyre-esque for this forum.  Your input is desired.)