Sunday, March 25, 2012

Citrus Spinach Smoothie

Spinach Citrus Smoothies, dark chocolate garnish

Today was a beautiful March day.  76 degrees and a bright blue sky.  After a nice bike ride we found ourselves looking to cool off so what could be better than smoothies?

For me there is no single ingredient more flexible than spinach. I use it in bread, lasagna, pizza and yes, smoothies.  In these smoothies the spinach provides a nice balance to the citrus.  


Smoothie Ingredients
* Two big handfuls of spinach
* A couple of oranges ( peeled of course )
* A cup or so of apple juice
* A cup and a half of frozen mango
* A cup of frozen pinapple


This is pretty straight forward.  Jamb it all in the blender and let it rip.  If the blender is getting plugged up add a bit more apple juice and stir in with a long flexible spoon.

Ready to blend

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Herbs after about a month

Purple Basil, Rosemary and Sweet Basil

On the left are a couple of purple basil that have reached about 2 inches.  In the center are two rosemary that finally peeked their heads out of the soil about two weeks ago and on the right are three sweet basil plants that are growing at a much happier rate than their two buddies.

Rosemary and Oregano
I broke down and purchased a rosemary plant from the grocery and am trying to rescue an oregano plant from a bare root transplant.

Next week I will put all of these wonderful plants into the ground.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Starting an Herb Garden

My lone germinated rosemary

The kitchen in our new home has a window box for growing plants.  As a cook / baker my thoughts immediately went to herbs.  I have a fairly limited understanding of herbs and so I have started fairly basic. Two weeks ago I planted 3 sweet basil, 3 purple basil, 3 rosemary and 3 chive plants.  All three of the sweet basil came up, two of the purple basil came up, 2 of the chives came up and only one of the rosemary germinated.

I have planted more seeds with the objective of having at least 3 of each of the plants. If I am successful I will share these wonderful plants with my friends.

I also hope to learn what other herbs I should consider planting.
Left to right; sweet basil, purple basil, and chives

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rustic Potato Bread

potato bread
For Christmas my wife gave me the book; "The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Brother Rick Curry.  Brother Curry has baked for 30 years and shares his wisdom in a fairly no-nonsense approach. I have started working through the book to get an idea of what kind of great bread the Jesuit Brothers have. As it turns out they eat pretty much the same bread we do, they just happen to be exceptional bakers.

The first recipe I started working with is potato bread.  Potato bread is a white bread that is very soft inside and has a wonderfully crisp crust.

Difficulty: Easy
Duration: 2.5 hours
Makes a couple of loaves


1 peeled potato
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup skim milk
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
6 cups white (unbleached / unbromated ) flour
1 3/4 cups warm potato water


Peal and chop potato.  Boil for about 15 minutes, the potato should be pretty soft.  Separate about 1/2 cup of the potato water into a cool glass so that the temperature is lowered considerably. You want this water to be warm enough to activate the yeast without killing it. Yeast starts to die at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ideally the water would be about 90 degrees or so.  Combine this potato water with the yeast and set aside.

Combine potato, salt, sugar and butter. Add 3 tablespoons of the milk and mix until pureed.  I used my food processor to quickly puree these items.  Once pureed add remaining milk. Even though Brother Curry only has one arm, I believe he uses a spoon and makes his puree by simply vigorously beating the potato mixture.  

In a large bowl mix yeast / potato water with the potato puree and add 3 cups of the flour. If remaining 1 1/4 cup of potato water has cooled sufficiently ( should be able to hold your finger in it ) add it and the remaining  flour slowly to the bowl. The dough is probably a bit much to handle with a spoon so I turned it out onto the counter and mixed by hand.  Brother Curry's recipe only calls for 3/4 cups of potato water total. I found it was not nearly enough, but be careful as I may have mis-calculated somewhere along the line. 

Kneed dough for 7-8 minutes. Add flour if the dough is sticky. This dough should be very soft on the edge of being sticky.

Coat dough ball with cooking spray, place in a large bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place bowl in warm place (90 degrees is ideal).  The dough should double in size within about an hour.  

Dough ready for final rise
Remove dough from bowl and kneed for a couple of minutes. Shape two loaves into nice round balls and place on a large baking sheet.  I prefer to coat pan with corn meal but you could use parchment paper or cooking spray.  I cut three slices into the top of the dough for a nice look. I also added a sprinkle of flour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and allow dough to rise for 30-40 minutes.  

Bake bread for 40 minutes.

That's it! Enjoy! I know we did.

What a great texture on this potato bread

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sausage Egg Breakfast Roll

Whole Wheat Sausage Egg Breakfast Wrap
Every once in a while breakfast simply needs to consist of sausage, eggs and cheese.  I am a proponent of eating healthy but I am also a proponent of having some balance as well.  This recipe mostly falls on the 'balance' side of that idea.

This recipe really is just a fun way to take our favorite omelet ingredients and wrapping them with a warm and delicious whole wheat crust.  You should feel free to switch up and add peppers, spinach, fresh basil, etc to customize this making it your own.

Crust Ingredients

2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon honey 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt ( garlic salt is good )
1 tablespoon dried basil
7/8 cup of warm water

Crust Directions

Combine the warm water and yeast.  Allow water and yeast to sit for 5 minutes.  After yeast has activated combine all ingredients in a larger mixing bowl.  Mix this together until you are able to kneed it out on your counter.  You should kneed the dough for several minutes.  Roll dough out with a rolling pin into a long narrow strip roughly 10-12 inches wide.

Crust rolled out with egg
Filling Ingredients

6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 slices american cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 pound sausage
1 teaspoon butter 

Filling Instructions

Beat eggs, milk and basil together in a bowl.  Melt butter in a frying pan on a medium low heat.  Add egg mixture and cook until eggs are not runny, don't cook this too much past this point as it will also get cooked again in the oven.  In a separate pan brown up your sausage.

Putting it all together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread cooked eggs and sausage evenly along the length of the crust.  Cover with remaining Parmesan and American cheese.  Make sure you leave room on both sides of the filling ( as in picture above ).  Pull sides of crust to the top of the filling and pinch sides together.  Your ultimate goal is to have a nice long roll that completely encloses the filling.

Place roll on cookie sheet and bake in oven for 20 minutes.

That's it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is comes from my wife's side of the family and  since I end up modifying it every time I thought I would write it down and take some pictures this time.  In the past I have adapted this recipe to make monkey bread, you can do this by rolling the dough into small balls and covering with the cinnamon sugar mixture and baking in a bundt pan.  These rolls take a fair bit of patience but the wait is well worth it.  

Duration: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: moderate

Dough Ingredients:
4 cups flour 
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dried yeast

Sprinkle Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper ( optional )

1/2 stick of softened butter ( to spread on dough )

Initial Dough Instructions:
Mix and kneed dough into a nice round ball. This dough should be very soft.  A soft dough will not leave itself on your fingers but it should feel a little sticky.  Set dough aside in a lightly greased bowl in a warm ( 75 degrees or so ) location for an hour. The dough should expand to at least twice its original size.

Cinnamon roll Topping in greased pan
Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter ( a stick )
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (opt )
1 cup of walnuts or pecans

Topping Instructions:
In a sauce pan on a low heat melt butter. Once butter is melted add the rest of the ingredients then stir and bring heat up to medium. Be careful to not burn this. After a couple of minutes reduce to a low heat and cover with a top for a couple of minutes.

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray and pour out topping into the pan.  Set aside to cool while waiting for the dough's first rise.

Putting it all together

Rolled out and topped with the sprinkles
With a rolling pin roll out the dough into a long rectangle.  I choose to roll my dough fairly thin ( about a 1/4 of an inch thick ).  Thicker dough achieves wider rings on your rolls. Keep in mind, however, to make a nice long rectangle.

Spread softened butter evenly across the dough and liberally cover this with your sprinkles.  You may not use all of your sprinkles but keep in mind a warm buttery piece of toast is a great place to use up this cinnamon sugar mix.

Roll up the sprinkled dough into a long tube. Dough stretches so feel free to grab the ends of the tube and give a gentle tug and a shake to gain a little more length. To keep things easy I like to cut the tube up into 16 even rolls.  Cut the entire tube in half then cut those two smaller tubes in half cut those four tubes in half and finally cut all remaining eight tubes in half.

If your toppings haven't cooled to less than 100 degrees you will  have to wait.  We don't want the rolls to cook yet.  If the topping pan is warm to touch but you can leave your hand there comfortably then this is about right.  Evenly place your 16 rolls directly on the toppings in the 13 x 9 inch pan. Give them a little shot of cooking spray to keep the air from drying the surface.  Set this entire pan aside for one more hour.  During this time your rolls will roughly double in size.  About 45 minutes into this hour preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pan in oven and bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes.  Before you pull them out place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. When you pull the pan from the oven immediately quickly flip it onto the parchment paper.  Allow the pan to sit for about a minute on top of the rolls.  Gently pull up on corner of the pan and slowly remove it.  The hot topping has no desire to stick to the pan and will stay on the rolls.

That's it!  Enjoy!!

Cinnamon Rolls straight from the oven ( they didn't last long)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tomato Romano Basil Bread

Tomato Romano Basil Bread
Most Saturday mornings I wake up well before anyone else in the house. It is a perfect time to get after making some bread.  Most bread I make takes around 2 1/2 hours to complete.  This is due to a one hour initial proof and then an additional hour of rising in the pan and finally a 25 minute bake.

I love Italian food and that was the inspiration for this loaf.  Romano cheese, basil, olive oil and tomato blend together wonderfully. I am not thrilled with the pictures I took of the loaves but the smell and taste is fantastic.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 2 1/2 hours

Key ingredients for Tomato Romano Basil bread

6 cups flour
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup diced Romano cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey


Mix all ingredients together. Turn dough out onto counter and kneed manually for a few minutes to make sure the dough is well combined.  This dough should be pretty moist. If it sticks to your fingers add more flour until it doesn't.  Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl that is at least twice the size of the ball.  Place the bowl in a warm place (in the winter I put it on a hot pad on lowest setting). Allow dough to proof (rest) for 1 hour.

Turn out dough from bowl onto counter and split into two equal parts.  Kneed and form into two loaf shapes.  Place these loaves into a greased medium to large bread pan.  Allow these loaves to rise for an additional hour.

After 45 minutes of the final rise preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once the bread has risen for one hour cook the loaves for 25 minutes.  If you want a darker crust on top you can turn on your broiler for a couple of minutes.

That's it! Enjoy!!