Monday, May 30, 2011

Fresh Artisan Bread

Baking yeast goods never appealed to me, and when I would attempt baked cinnamon rolls or other things that had to rise it daunted me.  I was afraid that whatever I baked would turn out in a flat lump of hard dough.  I admit I did have unsuccessful tries as well.  When I moved to a city with a high altitude, I really didn't want to experiment with yeast goods and have to adjust the recipe.  Fortunately, I first stumbled upon an Irish soda bread recipe which didn't need to be adjusted and it wasn't your typical soda bread in that it was made with spelt and had a variety of seeds in it.  Since I like out of the ordinary and it wasn't a bread that I had to wait and let rise, I knew that it would be a good start to baking bread at a high altitude.

The Irish soda bread was a success and so started my desire to attempt to make more bread, even if I had to work with adjustments at a high altitude.  First, I dug out a Julia Child book to master a french loaf.  That under taking took most of a day to master, but I was as amazed as my boyfriend when the bread had been baked and it actually tasted like French bread.  It didn't rise like I had wanted it to and I wasn't equipped to handle making bread, but it was a success that I later decide I wanted to repeat.

So I started reading...I read a book about a man who baked bread for a year.  He was a novice so I figured if he could do it, so could I.  I started researching a couple of books so I could make a purchase and it came down to Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.  I read through the first part about how to bake bread at home.  It included everything that I would need for supplies, the procedure I would need to learn, tons of photos so you know what the goal was, but the part that stood out was that there were people that had used this recipe and it also worked for them.  What was amazing is, that although I live at altitude, although I was worried about making a good and successful loaf of bread, although the leaven hadn't been ready the first time I attempted to bake the bread, it worked!
My very own first loaf of artisan bread.  The best part was that the bread crackled as it cooled and the crumb had very nice bubbles in them, despite it being the first time I attempted this kind of bread.  I encourage you also to try out baking your own loaf of bread.  And this recipe makes two loaves so you can take one with you to share with friends.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicken Enchiladads Verde

Since I am still stuck on Pam Anderson's Perfect One Dish Dinner cookbook, here is another easy to prepare recipe for chicken enchiladas. I really love enchiladas and though this is simple to prepare, I think I need to tweek it a little next time as I like it spicier than this version. I should have tried out the salsa verde before I made it with them, but oh well. You can always spice it up afterward with some lovely chipotle tabasco sauce or just some spicier salsa which is what I did. I also think that if the chicken is cooked in advance, letting it sit in salsa over night or for a little while before throwing it all together would help the flavors mesh together better.

4 cups cooked chicken
4 cups green chile salsa
1 can diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions
8 ounces cheese, I prefer sharp cheddar for more flavor, but you can use a milder one as well
Fresh cilantro (I like a sprinkle, but you can add more if you like the flavor)
Corn tortillas (16 or more to fit your pan)
½ onion, chopped
Sour cream for garnish

Heat oven to 400F. Mix chicken with diced tomatoes and onions. Add half the green chile salsa and stir together well. Add 1 ½ cups cheese, sprinkle of cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Spread one cup salsa in baking dish.
Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave on high until warm, about 30-45 seconds. Spoon in chicken filling and roll. Place seam side down into your baking pan. Fill the rest of the tortillas. Spread another 1 1/2 cups salsa over the tortilla rolls, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Bake for about 30 minutes or until heated throughout. Sprinkle onion slices and a little more cilantro. Let stand for a few minutes and then serve with sour cream and salsa.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans

After not posting for a while, I am back and determined to keep this up with some regularity. Where have I been you might ask? I spent some time in Hong Kong, eating and relaxing. Then once I returned home, I decided that I better get in some training runs for my up and coming races. With one half marathon completed yesterday in the drizzle and 39F once I returned to the car (and I have no idea how cold it was at the start), I thought I would take some recovery time to post. Thinking about protein and easy to prepare meals, this one is very good on both accounts.

Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans come from Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinner and below is my version of it. This book contains meals which are easy to prepare with delicious results. I like to tweak things to make them to my tastes, so here is my version of it. The roasted sausage in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar is divine. Try it and enjoy!

1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with onions and peppers
1 medium onion, cut into about 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoon diced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3 canned white bean (I used great northern and pinto)

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix sausage pieces, tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, bay leaves and sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper in a roasting pan. Roast until sausages are brown and tomatoes have thickened. This takes about 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven, stir in white beans and roast until everything is heated through. Remove from oven, remove bay leaves and serve. Serves 6-8.