Yeast bread is by far my favorite thing to make.  Something about it makes me feel powerful.  Like if I can conquer the mighty yeast, then I can do anything.  And yes, I do realize that this makes me a weirdo.

Anyway, whenever I do a pasta with red sauce I always make some kind of yeast bread. Usually just french bread that I slather with garlic butter. This past week I was doing a spinach lasagna and wanted a fun bread to go with it.  My husband loves focaccia (he’s been known the make a special trip to Fresh Market just to pay $8 for a small round of it) so I gave it a go.

I was intimidated at first but the recipe I used was so simple. Instead of kneading, you simply stretch the dough and fold it over itself.  Do that a few times and then press it into a pan with your fingertips. Brush with some herb oil and bake. Really too simple for good bread. But boy was it good. Husband and little man both loved it and between the two of them went through the entire pan in 2 days.

Herbed Focaccia
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 5 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups water at room temperature
  • ¼ to ½ cup herb oil recipe below
Instructions
  1. Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil and water and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. (You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.)
  2. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square. Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.
  3. Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour and cover. After 30 minutes, repeat this one more time.
  5. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.
  6. Line a 17×12” sheet pan with baking parchment and proceed with the shaping and panning (instructions below).
  7. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to 3 days).
  8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. (You can use all of it if you want; the dough will absorb it even though it looks like a lot.) This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough a thickness of about ½-inch. Add any other pre-proof toppings desired. Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1-inch.
  9. Preheat the oven to 500° with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Gently place any pre-bake toppings on the dough.
  10. Place the pan in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450° and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown. If you are using any during-baking toppings, sprinkle them on at this point and continue baking an additional 5 minutes or so. The internal temperature of the dough should register 200° (measured in the center), and the cheese, if using, should melt, not burn.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack. If the parchment is stuck on the bottom, carefully remove it by lifting the corner of the focaccia and peeling it off the bottom with a gentle tug.
  12. Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
To shape the focaccia:
  1. Drizzle ¼ cup of olive oil over the paper and spread it with your hands or a brush to cover the entire surface. Lightly oil your hands and using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible.
  2. Spoon half of the herb oil over the dough. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it simultaneously. Do not use the flat of your hands – only the fingertips – to avoid tearing or ripping the dough. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface. Dimpling allows you to de-gas only part of the dough while preserving gas in the non-dimpled sections. If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes and then continue dimpling. Don’t worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100 percent, especially the corners. As the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally. Use more herb oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated in oil.
To make the herb oil:
  1. Warm ½ cup olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Add about 4 tsp. of dried herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or sage. Add about ¾ tsp. of kosher salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and 1-2 finely minced cloves garlic. You may also add paprika, ground cayenne pepper, fennel seeds or onion powder to taste. Allow to remain on low heat for about 1-1 ½ hours to allow the oil to become infused with the flavors.
  2. Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

 

4

I get those daily emails from Martha Stewart, you know, all 15 of them. I can’t really tell you why because I rarely even open them but a few weeks ago this recipe came. It sounded fun but I deleted the email anyway. A few days later, I’m flipping through Everyday Food and there it was again. I’ve owned this book for probably a year and never even noticed the recipe so I figured it was a sign. A sign from the pumpkin gods.

I regretted making these as soon as I began. I’ve always made enchiladas with a saucy inside. This was just chicken and green onions. Then I ran out of chicken and had to use some diced ham for a couple of the enchiladas. THEN I got scared of the pumpkin. My beloved pumpkin. It looked disgusting.

But then I tried it. And I wondered why it was good. I kept thinking that the next bite would be gross. Then the next bite. Then the next. And it never was. The ham was a giant mistake but the chicken ones were great. I still would’ve like some sauciness inside the enchiladas but I’ll give that a try next time.

Enchiladas in Pumpkin Sauce
from Martha Stewart
Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 6 scallions thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 jalapeno chile quartered (remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 corn tortillas 6-inch
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese 6 ounces
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine chicken and scallions. Season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. In a blender, puree pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth (hold top firmly as blender will be quite full). Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish.
  3. Lay tortillas on work surface; mound chicken mixture on half of each tortilla, dividing evenly. Roll up tortillas; place, seam side down, in baking dish.
  4. Pour remaining sauce on top; sprinkle with cheese. Place dish on a baking sheet; bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

4


I’ve really been slacking with breakfasts lately. Before this semester, I always had the freezer stocked with whole wheat waffles, muffins, and other “fresh” baked goodies. Lately breakfasts have been instant oatmeal, toast, or anything else that’s easy and quick. Easy and quick for me that is. Husband doesn’t have time for any of that in the morning and I’m usually not awake when he leaves. So poor guy goes all day without eating.

In an effort to get him to eat breakfast, I made these muffins. I got the recipe from a cupcake community I frequent and literally made them the day I saw the recipe. The husband loves doughnuts but I suck at frying so I figured this was the next best thing.

To me these are more likes cupcakes. They are pretty dense compared to most muffins but they really are good. Pretty addicting, actually. So far it’s looking like none are going to make it to the freezer but that’s okay because they were very simple to make.

Doughnut Muffins
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp butter melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar for rolling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract.
  6. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.
  9. When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.


3


This pasta… omg, I’m so in love with this pasta. I think I could have it once a week for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.

Now for the bad news. It’s a Rachael Ray recipe. Excuse me while I eat every bad word I’ve ever said about her recipes. This has restored my faith in her so much that I’ve actually got another one of her recipes on tomorrow’s meal plan. Crazy or what?

But I will say that the whole “three turns around the pan” thing still makes me want to scream. If you put 1/2 cup, just leave it as that. I don’t mind washing an extra measuring cup. Okay, thanks.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic cracked and chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf fresh or dried
  • 4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg ground or freshly grated
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate cooked to al dente
  • Romano or Parmigiano for grating
Instructions
  1. Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
  2. Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.
  3. Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.
4

I’ve had this recipe saved in my blogreader for months now. See, we have a favorite enchilada recipe and I was a little nervous to try a new one. But let me tell you, it was worth it. It was even worth the $8 I had to pay for Monterey Jack.

The honey and lime somehow… just worked. The honey was more noticable and it went fabulously with the chili powder. The spicy and sweet… YUM! I posted the recipe on a forum I frequent and I’ve already had two people tell me that they tried and loved it.

I definitely recommend this for EVERYONE and I’ll be making it again as soon as I find Monterey Jack on the cheap. Oh, but make more of the honey mixture! I didn’t have nearly enough.

Honey Lime Enchiladas.
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 5 tablespoons lime juice approx. 1 large lime
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder use a little less for a milder version
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound chicken cooked and shredded
  • 8-10 flour tortillas
  • 1 pound monterey jack cheese shredded
  • 16 ounces green enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Mix the honey, lime juice, chili powder and garlic together and toss with the shredded chicken. Let it marinate for at least 1/2 hour (or toss together in a ziploc bag and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours).
  2. Pour about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Fill flour tortillas with chicken and shredded cheese, saving about 1 cup of cheese to sprinkle on top of enchiladas. Mix the remaining enchilada sauce with the cream and leftover marinade. Pour sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until brown and crispy on top.
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