Monday, August 31, 2020

Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia

 This post contains affiliate links.
I cannot thank blogger friend, Monique (of the La Table De Nana blog), enough for letting me know about this crazy easy, amazingly delicious recipe for focaccia. After reading her Instagram post the other day, I found myself in the kitchen at 10:30 PM stirring the dough together. It took only a matter of minutes to come together; overnight it doubled in size. The following morning I dumped it into a pan, let it rise again, gave it a poke or two, topped it with flaky sea salt, everything bagel seasoning, and red onions and chopped Kalamata olives, and baked. Here is the end result, after brushing it with garlic butter. Incredibly good! I don’t know which topping is better, so I’m going to continue to experiment with toppings, and regularly bake this delicious bread. One final note, do NOT be put off by the length of this recipe. It is from the Bon Appetit Baking School and very detailed. Make this once, and you will no doubt have committed it to memory.

By the way Monique says that it halves beautifully, adding that she bakes her half amount in a cast iron pie pan. This is a must try! Your family will gobble it up!
Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia

1¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
2 t. honey
2-1/2 c. lukewarm water
5 c. all-purpose flour
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for hands
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
Whisk yeast, honey, and water in a medium bowl and let sit 5 minutes (it should foam or at least get creamy; if it doesn’t your yeast is dead and you should start again—check the expiration date!).

Add flour and kosher salt and mix with a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms and no dry streaks remain.

Pour 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into a big bowl that will fit in your refrigerator. This puppy is going to rise! Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with a silicone lid or plastic wrap and chill until dough is doubled in size (it should look very bubbly and alive), at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. If you're in a rush, you can also let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 3–4 hours.

Generously butter a 13”x9” baking pan, for thicker focaccia that’s perfect for sandwiches, or an 18”x13” rimmed baking sheet, for focaccia that's thinner, crispier, and great for snacking. Pour 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into center of pan. Keeping the dough in the bowl and using a fork in each hand, gather up edges of dough farthest from you and lift up and over into center of bowl. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat process. Do this 2 more times; you want to deflate dough while you form it into a rough ball. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Pour any oil left in bowl over and turn dough to coat it in oil. Let rise, uncovered, in a dry, warm spot until doubled in size, at least 1½ hours and up to 4 hours.

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°F. To see if the dough is ready, poke it with your finger. It should spring back slowly, leaving a small visible indentation. If it springs back quickly, the dough isn’t ready. Lightly oil your hands. If using a rimmed baking sheet, gently stretch out dough to fill. Dimple focaccia all over with your fingers, like you’re aggressively playing the piano, creating very deep depressions in the dough (reach your fingers all the way to the bottom of the pan). Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Bake focaccia until puffed and golden brown all over, 20–30 minutes.

Hold off on the last step until your ready to serve the focaccia:

Melt 4 T. unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Peel and grate ½ of the elephant garlic clove with a Microplane grater. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring often, until garlic is just lightly toasted, 30-45 seconds. Brush onto focaccia.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Curried Avocado Soup

This post contains affiliate links.
I love avocados in any form. I will cut them in half and eat them as is, I will put them on toast or in salads, whip them into salad dressing, I have even made gelato out of them. I have a favorite cucumber and avocado soup that is pleasantly mild and flavorful, but I had never thought about the addition of curry. While perusing the July 15th issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I cut out a recipe for Curried Avocado Soup, and had the opportunity to try it this week. I think this is one of my new favorite ways to eat an avocado. I seriously made moaning sounds with every bite. If you like avocado like I do, you need to give this a try.
Curried Avocado Soup
Slightly adapted from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 15, 2020

2 medium-ripe Haas (dark-skinned) avocados
2¼ c. vegetable stock, divided*
1 to 1½ t. curry powder
¼ - ½ t. salt, or to taste
¹⁄8 - ¼ t. white pepper
½ c. heavy cream
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Split the avocados in half with a knife and remove the pits. Set aside one half. Scoop out the insides of the other 3 halves with a spoon and blend with 1 cup of the stock in a blender or food processor (I used the latter) until smooth. Stir in the curry powder, salt, pepper, cream and the remaining 1¼ cups of stock. Chill.

When ready to serve, garnish the soup with thin avocado slices that have been cut from the remaining avocado half and dipped in lemon juice.

*If you don’t have vegetable stock, chicken works as well.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Chocolate Espresso Pound Cake

This post contains affiliate links.
I have an addiction to decorative Nordic Ware loaf pans. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is. I just can’t resist those fabulous designs, and now that I have discovered the wonders of Baker’s Joy baking release spray, there’s just no stopping me! Over the weekend I spent a good bit of time in the kitchen, and decided it was time to break that pan in. I did so with this recipe, a combination of a number of pound cake recipes I’ve made in the past. It is dense and chocolaty, and so delicious. Feel free to stir in a half cup of mini chocolate chips (tossed with a tablespoon of flour) if you want it to be extra chocolaty. You could also drizzle it with icing or ganache. I like it plain with a lovely dusting of powdered sugar.

Chocolate Espresso Pound Cake

2 t. espresso powder
 T. hot water
½ c. buttermilk
3 sticks of butter, room temperature
1¼ c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
½ T. vanilla
½ t. kosher salt
½ t. baking powder
¼ c. + 2 T. cocoa powder
1 c. flour 
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325° F. Spray a 5” x 9” loaf pan (I used this gorgeous one) with Baker’s Joy; set aside.

In a small bowl dissolve espresso powder in hot water. Stir into buttermilk; set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 5-6 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, salt, baking powder, and cocoa powder, and mix until combined.

With mixer on low add flour and buttermilk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool 20 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if using a beautiful Nordic Ware decorative pan like I did, or drizzle with icing or ganache.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hatch Seasoned Pecans

This post contains affiliate links.
Whether we’re serving guests or family, I think that we all like our dishes to be extra special. We want them to have that certain something that sets them apart from everyone else’s. There’s a secret to that, it’s easy, and I’m going to tell you about it.

As you have no doubt observed, I am a big fan of Melissa’s Produce. Everything they offer is of the highest quality. One of my favorite things is their seasoned pecans, and I cannot get enough of them. They offer two tasty varieties, Green Hatch Pecans and Red Hatch Pecans, both seasoned with the unique and so yummy deliciousness of hatch chiles. Nuts freeze beautifully, so when you see these in your store, be sure to stock up. A simple addition of nuts to a salad (and I am talking green salad, spinach, chicken, or tuna salad) makes a world of difference, not to mention increases the nutritional value.
In addition, chopping them up finely and using them to top a dip, whether you’re serving it cold, or baked, is going to add so much extra flavor, your diners are going to wonder why their food doesn’t taste nearly as good as yours. Pulverize them, and they make an excellent breading for chicken or fish.

If you make your own granola or muesli, adding some chopped, seasoned pecans, is going to give it that extra kick that your morning needs.

Try these for yourself, and come up with ideas of your own, and be sure to share those ideas. (If you’re stymied, I highly recommend the nut cookbook called In a Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds.) In the meantime, get shopping! If you can’t find them in your local stores, they offer them on the web, click
here for more information. Oh, and by the way, they are plenty delicious all on their own.

Nuts to you!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Zucchini Porcini Lasagna

This post contains affiliate links.
I have tried to grow zucchini all of my life, and have never had any luck doing so. It’s probably because of this that I am obsessed with it. I absolutely love zucchini — roasted, baked, used in breads, you name it. The other day I was rummaging around the web looking for a new way in which to use one of my favorite vegetables when I came across a recipe for Zucchini Parmesan. Naturally, I had to try it, and knew I could make it so much better by adding more of the woodsy taste that I love in all vegetarian dishes attained through the use of wild mushrooms. Here is the result.
This is so good! I can’t believe how fast I wolfed it down. Using the best ingredients makes a difference and I must confess to using Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce when putting this together. I had just harvested the last of my tomatoes and decided to put them to good use. It took the entire recipe of that marinara to make this casserole, but it was well worth it. I think this is one of the best, layered Italian dishes I have ever eaten, and between you me, it kicks Egg Plant Parmesan to the curb.
Zucchini Porcini Lasagna

1 3-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s dried porcini mushrooms
2 medium zucchini, horizontally, thinly sliced*
Garlic salt and black pepper to taste
1 16-oz. jar marinara sauce**
½ c. Parmesan cheese
2/3 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Hydrate mushrooms according to package directions; chop and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an
8” x 8” baking dish with PAM; set aside.

Season both sides of zucchini slices with garlic salt and pepper. Put a small amount of butter into a 10- or 12-inch sauté pan and, over medium high heat, cook the zucchini slices until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Spread 1/2-cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer zucchini slices, overlapping slightly on top of the marinara. Top with half of the chopped porcini mushrooms. Spread 1/2-cup marinara sauce over zucchini and porcini layer, top with half of the ricotta cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese, and half of the mozzarella cheese.

Make another zucchini layer, top with remaining porcinis, remaining marinara, remaining Parmesan, remaining ricotta, and remaining mozzarella.

Bake until cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Allowed to set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

*I used a
**I used homemade.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Fresh from the Garden Tomato Soup

This post contains affiliate links.
Considering the number of tomato plants that I have growing this year, I would have thought that I would’ve gotten a lot more tomatoes than I did. As it turned out, a couple of them were disappointingly determinant, so they are finished for the year. I decided to put those tomatoes to different use than I have in years past by making fresh tomato soup. I had never had fresh tomato soup prior to making it on my own, and if you find yourself in the same situation, you must give this a try. Other than a bit of chopping, there is really not much to this, considering the fabulously fresh, complex, and tasty results. My advice to you would be to double this recipe. This won’t last long.
Fresh from the Garden Tomato Soup

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Simple Changes Yield Big Results

I don’t know about you, but I do know that I am not the only person refreshing, redoing, renewing, and remodeling my home. I have seen more changes in my and my friends' homes during the lock-down than I have in the past decade! I think there is something about staying in, and looking at the same thing every day, that calls for a change. (I won’t mention whether or not that feeling has extended to significant others.)
I made a few changes to my entry hall, kitchen, and stairs leading to the great room that I will share later. Today, I’m going to share the simple changes with big impact that I made in my bedroom. My bedroom has become my sanctum sanctorum. There are days when I hardly leave my king-size bed; I just pile it up with books, craft projects, snacks, and the remote, and spend the day enjoying myself.
After a month, I started getting sick of looking at everything, so I gave it a good clean, and swapped out the draperies and bedding for something new. The second photo from the top is the before picture; I like it, I just grew tired of it.
Here is the after picture. I was looking for texture and pattern, as well as a worldlier look to complement the framed picture over the bed. I think I’ve accomplished that. It may surprise you to learn that, at the base of the bed, is an Anthropologie macramé table runner; running down the center is an African mud cloth throw. If you’re looking for a quick and interesting change, textiles make an impactful difference. Don’t be limited by their designated use, think outside the box. Drape them over chairs, sofas, or even your bed, as I have done here.
The basket at the end of the bed once held produce and other edible goodies (as well as a luscious bottle of wine) from Melissa’s Produce. I love the look and sturdiness of it, and have used it again and again. I keep ringing that bell, but nobody, thus far, has waited on me. ;-)

Sleep tight!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Thoughtful and Welcome Gift

These days, with all of us staying in our homes, it makes celebrations difficult. Not just that it’s been deemed unsafe to gather, but it’s not always wise to shop. And, even if you can get out to shop, in many cases, supplies are low. There are many places that, I’m sure, you routinely turn to shop when it comes to gift giving, but I’ll bet there’s one that you haven’t thought about, and that is Melissa’s Produce.
In addition to over a thousand wonderful products, and offering the freshest in fruits and vegetables, they also have incredibly beautiful gift baskets. Here is but one example. As recipient of this lovely gift, I can tell you that I was absolutely overwhelmed with delight when I received it. Your gift recipients will feel exactly the same. Melissa’s offers gift baskets in a variety of sizes and price ranges, so surely you can find one to suit your budget, as well as the tastes of your grateful recipient.
To see their various gift offerings, click here. I guarantee, this will be more graciously received than almost anything else that you can send. After all of the goodies are consumed, the beautiful basket is left as a functional and lovely reminder of your thoughtfulness.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Loaded Cheese Toast

This post contains affiliate links.
If, like me, you are a fan of the savory rather than sweet breakfast, then you are probably familiar with cheese toast. It’s simple, satisfying, and so delicious. But, if you decide that you want to make that cheese toast a little more special than your day-to-day variety, this is one you definitely need to try. You can assemble all of the ingredients the night before (in fact, it’s wise to do so, in order to allow the flavors to meld), and then just spread it on to a thick slice of baguette, sourdough, or Texas toast, and run it under the broiler until it’s hot and bubbly. It can also be spread into a pie plate, and baked at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, and served with toast points, or wedges of apple. Baked in individual ramekins, it can be most welcome when you have overnight guests, are serving social-distance appetizers, or even if you want to treat yourself. 
Loaded Cheese Toast

8 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, grated
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ c. plain Greek yogurt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper, optional
1 c. crumbled, cooked bacon, reserve 1 T. for garnish
¼ c. chopped scallions, reserve 1 T. for garnish

Place above ingredients (except that reserved for garnish) into a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, at medium speed, beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread onto thick slices of sourdough, baguette, or Texas toast. Broil until hot and bubbly; serve. Store cheese mixture, covered, in the refrigerator. Keeps five days.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Easy Chicken Divan

This post contains affiliate links.
I have set aside one day a week to make a casserole because it’s quick, easy, will feed me for two days running, and freeze for consumption at some point in the future. This is another star-together meal that is delicious, and a crowd-pleaser. Even kids, who don’t like broccoli, will consume it this way if it’s chopped finely enough, and drenched in cheese. The original recipe calls for fresh broccoli that is parboiled, drained, and chopped, but who has the time? I had a bag of frozen broccoli florets in the freezer, so I thawed and drained them. Use what you like, you can even consider using frozen chopped spinach if you prefer. Quick, easy, delicious.
Easy Chicken Divan

1 lb. chopped fresh broccoli
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 ½ c. cubed, cooked chicken
1 10.75-oz. can Cream of Broccoli Soup;
1/3 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. butter
Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate or 1½-qt. casserole dish with PAM; set aside.

If using fresh broccoli, place it in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, drain and chop.

Place broccoli into the bottom of your pie plate or casserole dish. Scatter mushrooms and chicken on top. In a medium bowl, whisk together soup and milk; pour mixture over chicken, Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over all and dot with butter.

Bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Parmesan Pizza Popcorn

This post contains affiliate links.
It’s not often that I have popcorn. I don’t know why, it just rarely occurs to me. But last week we had a sequence of rather depressing rainy days, all in a row, and I was feeling sorry for myself. I am a Type A personality (A+ my Type B- husband used to say), and feel as though I need to be accomplishing something every waking minute. But last week I decided to give myself a break, and set aside a day for popcorn and movies...and gin and tonic, but that’s beside the point. This recipe comes from What’s Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want by Gaby Dalkin. Wow! Is this popcorn delicious. I mean, can’t-stop-eating-it delicious. You might consider doubling the recipe if you live with a significant other/others. I knew from the first bite that I wouldn’t be sharing. So good!
Parmesan Pizza Popcorn
  From What’s Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want

6 T. unsalted butter
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried parsley
½ t.
flaky sea salt
½ t. dehydrated ground onion
½ t. red pepper flakes
½ t. dried rosemary
4 T. olive oil
½ c.
popcorn kernels
¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oregano, garlic salt, basil, thyme, parsley, sea salt, ground onion, pepper flakes, and rosemary, and stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to infuse
the butter and then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the popcorn kernels to the hot oil and cover the saucepan with a lid. Gently shake the saucepan by moving it back-and-forth over the heat source. Once the kernels start popping, continue to shake the pan until the popping stops. Remove the pot from the heat, pour the spice butter mixture over the popcorn along with the grated Parmesan and the remaining olive oil and toss to combine. Add more salt if needed and serve. Serves 4.