Category Archives: Comfort Foods

Skinny Tortilla Soup…A Hominy Story

1 cup is less than 2 Weight Watcher points but you don't need to be watching your calories to appreciate a yummy bowl...or two!

1 cup is 2 Weight Watcher points but you don’t need to be watching your calories to appreciate a yummy bowl…or two!

I’m a soup girl. I could devote an entire blog to my soup creations. I could eat a bowl of any soup any time of day. There is something comforting to me while I have a large pot steaming away all day while I go about other chores, visiting the pot to add an ingredient, give it a stir or to simply taste its progress.

Though a mystery to my Mom, as I was not a fan as a child. I would turn my nose up to anything considered a soup or stew opting for a PB&J instead. I’d pout, make terrible faces and whine until she would cave and excuse me from my bowl.

Despite that I deserve paybacks from my own children, to my pleasure, they too, share my (Now as an adult) love for bowls of anything soupy.

This recipe really got its inspiration from a blog called http://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/youll-love-our-heavenly-chicken-tortilla-soup/ I of course added my own twist, but truly, this was the base recipe I used for my own

First, before I continue onto my recipe, let’s get a little lesson on Hominy. These corny nuggets are what really make this the BEST Tortilla Soup ever!

Why Hello, Hominy, welcome to my kitchen.

Why Hello, Hominy, welcome to my kitchen.

According to Wikipedia, Hominy consists of dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization….okay, lesson over…just know this stuff is really cool…indians used it too…so it must be magic!

Here it is, the healthy, yummy, lick your bowl clean recipe:

Ingredients for Skinny Tortilla Soup

1 large or 2 small chopped onions

2 stalks celery sliced

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 corn tortillas chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon quality cumin (more to taste)

1 teaspoon Mexican chili powder (regular is fine too)

1/2 teaspoon smoked spicy paprika (offers a really nice smokey spicy flavor, I found mine at Penzy’s)

3 TBS tomato past (save the rest of the can in a ziplock baggie in your freezer for later use)

1 15oz can Fire Roasted Tomatoes juice and all

1 Can green chilis, drained

1 15oz can black beans drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Yellow hominy drained and rinsed

2 cups of cooked lean chicken

Juice and zest of 1 lime plus more for garnish

In a large stockpot sweat your onions and celery in a bit of EVOO for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and chopped corn tortillas. Sweat for another couple of minutes. Add spices, tomato paste, broth, tomatoes, beans, chilis and bring to a slow bubble. Turn back heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Add hominy, and chicken. Simmer for another 10 minutes taste and adjust seasonings. I believe I ended up adding more chili powder and cumin. Just before serving, add the zest 1/2 lime into soup and juice of whole lime.

Garnish with cilantro, baked corn tortilla strips and a wedge of lime

Baked Corn Tortilla Strips

Simply cut 2 corn tortillas into strips, spray sheet pan with cooking spray, lightly spray tops of tortillas and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees until edges begin turning golden, about 10 minutes or less.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Come to Mamma!

Fall is here and so is the canned pumpkin. My grocery store had it on sale for only a dollar, so the thrifty shopper I am, stocked up! As I stacked the cans in my pantry I delightfully pondered the recipe possibilities.

There were the obvious options of pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, muffins and bread, but then it occurred to me! Why not pumpkin cinnamon rolls! The project began. I went to my trusty internet and found that other home cooks have shared my thoughts. So began the exciting process of my first cinnamon rolls from scratch and Pumpkin would be the star!

Remember that bread machine long forgotten in the back of the cupboard? Get it out, as it’s going to be your best friend. You are going to use the dough setting to make this recipe so much easier!

Ingredients for dough:

1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/3 cup warm milk

1 egg beaten

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 TBS melted butter

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

Set bread machine to dough cycle, and dump the above ingredients in machine, start and forget about it! The dough cycle will mix, knead, and bring you through the first rise. Meanwhile, begin making the filling and icing.

Ingredients for filling:

1 stick butter at room temp.

2/3 cups white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

Mix all ingredients together until well blended, set aside.

Ingredients for Maple Cream Cheese Icing:

6 oz cream cheese at room temp.

3 TBS butter (room temp)

1/4 cup Maple Syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, mix with electric mixer all ingredients until well blended. Transfer icing to a large ziploc plastic bag (1 gallon size) seal and chill.

When dough cycle is finished, remove dough from bread machine onto a floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll into a rectangle about 9X12. Spread filling mixture over dough (I found that using my hands worked the best) Roll dough from the long side into a log. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 1-inch slices placing into a greased 9×12 baking dish. Cover and let rise again for about 45 min to an hour.  Bake in a 375 degree over for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, let cool slightly. Cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the icing bag and drizzle over the warm rolls.

Enjoy your Ooooeeey-Goooeeey creation warm with your favorite loved ones!

Rice Cooker Fiesta Mexican Rice

  

Recently, I added a rice cooker to my collection of useful kitchen appliances. I didn’t spend much, in fact, this little guy was under $20.00. Not sure if It would end up in the appliance graveyard or a much appreciated purchase, I was reluctant to leave us eating hotdogs and pasta for the week so, I bought the second cheapest model.

To my great surprise, I am in love with my rice cooker! Like a crock pot, this is a busy mom’s dream! Fill it and forget about it. Perfect rice in about 30 minutes. 

Unfortunately, I have not found many rice cooker recipes that impress me. So, today, after spending too much time browsing the internet for a tasty Mexican Rice recipe to serve for a Fiesta night, I made my own.

Slice a lime and crack open a Corona, this recipe deserves a toast!

Note: Recipes Yields about 6 cups cooked.

All the goodies for our recipe

 

Ingredients

1 Cup white uncooked rice
EVOO
1 med onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 Can (about 15 oz) of diced tomatoes (I used fired roasted)
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 Can of beans (about 15 oz) drained and rinsed (pinto or black beans are perfect)
1 Cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian recipe)
1 Cup of corn (I used a leftover ear of grilled corn removed from cob, adds great flavor, but frozen would be fine)
2 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp of Smoked Hot Paprika (if you do not have, substitute with cayenne)
1/2 tsp dried Oregano

Directions:

In a frying pan, brown rice in EVOO to make it toasty. This is what adds the nutty flavor to traditional Mexican rice. Add onions and garlic, stirring often until onions are beginning to turn translucent.

Your rice should turn golden brown, and the onions should become translucent

 

 Lightly spray inner part of rice cooker with cooking spray and add rice/onion mixture. Combine remaining ingredients, set cooker to cook.

Add all ingredients into Rice Cooker....Whoa, careful, this baby sure is full!

 

 

 When cooker turns to warm setting, give a stir and return cover. Let stand for another 10 minutes.

Look at that fluffy spicy goodness...Ole I say

 

Serve with fresh cilantro and sour cream or shredded cheese if desired.

French Dips with Au Jus and creamy Horseradish Dill sauce

Or “Ahhh Juice” as my 5-year old calls it, after he slurps the remaining jus from the little bowl.

Any time I find roast beef on sale at my deli, and sometimes even when it is not, I make these toasty sandwiches, topped with swiss cheese and a creamy horseradish Dill sauce. Served with a side of flavorful Au Jus for dunking, it’s sandwich utopia!

Creamy horseradish Dill Sauce:
This can be made ahead of time, and should be chilled at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.
1/3 cup sour cream
2 heaping TBS of mayonnaise
2-3 TBS prepared horseradish (depending on preference)
1 TBS fresh snipped dill (or 1 tsp of dried)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve.

Ingredients for Au Jus
Makes 4 – 1/2 cup servings for dipping
EVOO
1 tsp butter
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 TBS flour
Splash of Red Wine
2 Cups Beef Broth
A few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce

In a medium sauce pan, heat about 1 TBS EVOO and 1 tsp butter. Add Shallot, and allow to begin to soften stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, careful not to burn for about a minute. Sprinkle flour into onion garlic mixture and cook for about another minute. Add a healthy splash of red wine and let cook down until it begins to reduce. Slowly add beef broth, bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare French Dips.

Ingredients For the French Dip:
Recipe Yields 4 Sandwiches

1 loaf french bread from your deli, divided into 4 sections and the cut crosswise making a top and bottom
1 pound Deli sliced Roast Beef

While Au Jus is simmering, toast the bread in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes, remove from oven. With a pair of tongs, dip roast beef into au jus about 20 seconds and place on the bottom part of sandwich. On the top, spread a generous layer of horseradish Dill Sauce, assemble sandwich cut in half for easier handling. Pour 1/2 cup Au Jus into a small container for dipping. I prefer to strain the Au Jus before serving removing the shallot and garlic, this is optional

Chicken Cordon Bleu – Ohh la la!

Not many dishes can compete for the presentation award as rolled and stuffed meat! With a bit of time, you can impress and appear to be a master chef with this Chicken Cordon Bleu and  cream sauce recipe.  I found I was able to assemble the chicken ahead of time (a few hours), cover and move on to the rest of my meal plan (or in this case, attend to a sick 5-year-old)

Recipe makes 4
4 chicken breast trimmed of any visible fat
4 slices smokey deli ham (no honey ham here)
4 slices swiss cheese
Dijon mustard for brushing on chicken
2 eggs beaten
splash water to thin egg wash
Italian bread crumbs (or plain) for coating chicken

Between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, pound chicken to about 1/4 inch flat, careful not to tear. Salt and pepper both sides, brush the inside of the chicken (the side that doesn’t look as pretty) with Dijon mustard, place slice of ham and cheese on chicken and begin to roll. Secure with toothpicks. Dip in egg wash and coat with bread crumbs. Place rolled chicken onto baking sheet or 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. At this time, you can immediately bake or store in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest before slicing.

Cream Sauce:
2 Tbs butter melted in a heavy sauce pan
1 cup white wine, I used Sauvignon Blanc as I like it to drink also
2 TBS bouillon powder
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBS corn starch whisked into a bowl with the heavy cream
2 TBS fresh herbs chopped, I used parsley so not to compete with the flavor of the sauce, but thyme or rosemary would be great too

Heat pan and melt butter, add wine and bouillon powder bring to a boil reduce by 1/3. Slowly add cream and cornstarch, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add fresh chopped herbs. Pour over sliced Chicken Cordon bleu. Sauce is also wonderful over steam vegetables such as asparagus or broccoli.

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham, sharp cheddar cheese, spicy brown mustard and refrigerated biscuits are a tasty dinner sure to please the family and help you use up the leftovers.

As the holidays have come to an end, I find that there are many tasty ingredients in my refrigerator worthy of being showcased. With a bit of help from store-bought biscuits, an impressive and easy meal was made. Once you’ve tried these, the filling options are endless! I simply served these pockets with a side salad for a complete and nutritious meal.

Yields 8 Pockets

Ingredients:

1 Package of large refrigerator biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands biscuits)
2 cups diced ham
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
Spicy Brown Mustard
1 egg
water
sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make your egg wash by whisking 1 egg and a splash of water to thin, set aside. Lightly flour surface. Roll a refrigerated biscuit to a 6 inch circle. Smear a thin layer of mustard in the center. Place 1/4 cup diced ham and 1 oz cheese just off from the center. Dampen bottom edge of biscuit with either water or I used the egg wash as it was next to me. Fold in half gently so not to tear dough. Gently seal with a fork. With a sharp knife, make 2-3 slits in the top. Lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve.

These are so easy and will disappear just as quickly as they were made. I did, make a few with ham, diced green apples, cheese and Dijon mustard. These were the kids favorite! Other ideas for filling would be pizza sauce, fixings and mozzarella cheese. Or, as a friend of mine suggested, use pie filling, and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar for dessert.

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut, a Polish tale

A Polish Tradition, Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

In our town, Grand Rapids Michigan, we just had our yearly event Pulaski Days. It’s our polish holiday and quite frankly, one does not have to be Polish to appreciate the wonderful food and many halls available to quench one’s thirst. It is a much-anticipated weekend by Polish and non-Polish residents of our town. Our own Westside is where these jolly events take place with many authentic dishes including Kielbasa and Sauerkraut.

The Pulaski Days is an annual local three-day celebration of General Casimir Pulaski in Grand Rapids, Michigan where the normally private Polish Halls open their doors to the public. The celebration takes place on the first full weekend in October. Most of the halls involved (14 total in the Grand Rapids area) were established in the mid-to-late 19th century.

The Polish Halls use this event as a fund-raiser to maintain their non-profit organizations. The celebration of Polish heritage draws attendance from throughout Michigan as well as other areas of the country with populations of Polish origin.

Since I work every weekend, I missed out on the terrific food and have been craving some yummy polish kielbasa. So,on my way home from an appointment the other day, I pulled into a very well-known grocery store on the west side, Ralph’s. It’s not a fancy market, not at all. The neighborhood has seen better days, but they make their own kielbasa from an old family recipe that has been passed down through generations. There are many locals who will debate which of the old markets on the westside has the best recipe for Kielbasa. I wouldn’t dare disagree with any of them, but Ralph’s was right on my route home, and my obvious choice. I am not disappointed at all!

Though I have enjoyed in the past, simply browning my Kielbasa and adding the sauerkraut to a crock pot and cooking it slow for hours, my boys did not care for the sour flavors and left my kraut untouched. This time, I decided to make it a bit sweeter. To my surprise, even my little one ate his right up! Success!

Yields: 6 or more servings

Ingredients:
2 lbs fresh Kielbasa (I opted for the extra garlic flavor this time)
1 32 oz package sauerkraut drained and rinsed with cold water
1 whole onion sliced
EVOO to saute onion
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon allspice
Fresh Ground pepper to taste
Do not add salt to this recipe

Cut kielbasa into 3 inch pieces. Heat a large frying pan and 1 tsp of EVOO and add Kielbasa. Brown sausage about 3 minutes and turn to brown other side. It does not have to cook through as it will finish in roasting pan later. Remove sausage and set aside. Add more EVOO if needed to saute onions. Be sure not to burn. When onions are beginning to soften, add chicken broth, brown sugar, Dijon mustard and allspice. Whisk together until sugar and mustard are well incorporated. Bring to a boil. Add sauerkraut and kielbasa. Gently mix all ingredients, remove from heat and transfer to an electric roasting pan or crock pot. Heat at 250 degrees for at least 3 hours and up to 6. Serve together or as many of the Polish like to do, serve on a piece of rye bread with extra mustard.

Note: This may also be prepared in the oven at 250 degrees. Cover 9×13 pan tightly with foil, checking every couple of hours to be sure all of the liquid hasn’t evaporated.

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze, just may replace your traditional Holiday Ham

It’s mid-October and already time to begin thinking about our holiday plans. Just yesterday, Dad and I sat in my dining room (he came to hang up a shelf, Thanks Dad!) enjoying his first cup of Chai with me. This spicy, warm and creamy tea seemed to inspire a discussion about the upcoming holidays. As we leisurely visited and sipped our Chai, I found that little voice in my head saying “Sheri, you need to try out some new recipes to treat the family this year”.

After all of these years, Mom has perfected the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. There is comfort and warmth when we enjoy these time-tested traditional family dishes. We work together in the kitchen as if performing a well-rehersed dance. I treasure these days, full of pride as my role in the kitchen has graduated from prepping the vegetables to a true partner, one to be consulted or trusted to actually make the mashed potatoes.

Okay, so back to the ham. My shopping place had a great price on bone-in smoked ham. I got a 6 1/2 lb piece for about $8.00. A steal, as I knew it would produce many meals for my family. I already planned to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for later. I quickly bought it and it sat in my fridge for 2 days, taunting me! See, I’ve never had to make the Ham, Mom always had that dish mastered, decorated with the pineapple, cherries and cloves and some years a honey-baked one that was presliced. Since this one was pre-cooked and simply only needed to be heated, I shouldn’t have been intimated, but a large piece of meat can do that!

I went to the trusty web for inspiration. What I found was a ton of sweet glazes using orange juice, pineapple juice, lots of brown sugar and often cloves. I do not prefer these super sweet sticky glazes, or sugary crusts. A bit discouraged, I was about to resolve to simply heating the smoked ham as was. Then, it dawned on me! A while ago, I made Honey Dijon Pork Chops that my kids and I raved over! I knew I would utilize many of the flavors I’d used with the pork chops as they were savory and had the perfect amount of sweetness; the ultimate combination. The result was, what is now, our favorite ham recipe. This perfectly juicy baked ham with its beautiful golden crust, is a blue-ribbon winner! Mom, we just may have a new Holiday Ham recipe.

So began the creation of what I consider to be possibly the very best ham I have ever eaten (sorry Mom!).

Recipe:
1 Bone in smoked ham already cooked
1 cup white wine or apple cider
1-2 cups chicken stock
Fresh herbs if available (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme and sage still on stems)

Glaze ingredients:
1/2 cup Apple cider
1/3 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Honey

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.Unwrap ham, carefully trim off excess fat, taking care not to cut into meat. Make diagonal score marks into the tough outer layer of ham. In a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the ham and cover tightly, place on a rack (I have a rack about 1/2 high) in roasting pan. Pour in broth, wine (or cider) placing herbs around ham in liquid. Cover and bake.

Now it’s time for a bit of math. For every pound of ham, plan to bake 15 minutes. I had just over 6 pounds of ham, so I figured about 1 1/2 hour plus about 5 more.

After the ham was getting cozy in the oven, I leisurely began making the simple glaze. In a small sauce pan, whisk all ingredients together and heat over medium heat. Careful not to let it burn, stir occasionally and allow to gradually thicken. After about 20 minutes or so, it should have the consistency of tomato soup. If not, let cook down longer. Keep on low simmer stirring occasionally when desired results have been obtained.

During the last half hour of cooking time is when you will begin basting your ham with the glaze and a basting brush. Remove from oven, bast liberally, return to over with lid off. Repeat 2 more times every ten minutes.

Remove ham from oven, bast one more time and let sit on cutting board or serving plate for 10 minutes before carving. I’d had high hopes of using the juices in the bottom of the roasting pan for a sauce, but found it too salty from the ham. The wine and herbs perfume the ham perfectly and keep it so juicy it didn’t need a sauce anyways. Don’t forget to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for another day.

Split Pea Soup with Ham – The way Grandma Would Make it if she had access to Ma’s Garden

Get out the stock pot, as soup season has begun!

We love our homemade soup! With all of its liquid goodness, my boys and I enjoy a big bowl of homemade soup and crusty bread. The season officially begins when I pull out my giant stockpot and make a batch of Split Pea Soup with Ham. I crave it all spring and summer, but with the warmer weather, it’s just not the same. Serve this with a thick piece of fresh baked Free Form Artisan Bread.

Although there are many “quick” soup recipes and crock pot recipes, I am a true believer, that soup must be given the love and respect of simmering for many hours. This is an endeavor that takes love and patience. Soup days are also days I plan other home projects, such as laundry, paper work, blogging and phone calls. One does not have to be a slave to the stove as much as you have to visit it periodically to stir, taste, and occasionally add an ingredient. I consider soup to be the perfect food. It usually has a protein, carb, veggies and herbs. It’s everything good in one pot, and how I trick the boys (and myself) to eat vegetables they may not try otherwise.

Earlier in the week, I made a Baked Honey Dijon Ham with the bone in. I removed most of the leftover ham from the bone, leaving some meat around it, put into a large plastic bag to use later. I don’t always have a ham bone like this to make my soup, so often I will purchase ham shanks to use instead. Here it is, My Spilt Pea soup with Ham that I’ve made more than any other recipe as it’s simply a family favorite.

Recipe yeilds…lot’s of soup

Ingredients
2 1-lb bags of dried split peas, sorted and rinsed
1 ham bone (from 5-7 lb ham with some meat still intact) or 2-3 lbs of ham shanks.
2 quarts of Chicken broth (I used 1 quart of store-bought and 1 quart of homemade I had defrosted from the freezer)
Water (as needed throughout)
2 stalks celery sliced
1 large onion diced (I used a Vidalia)
2 TBS garlic finely diced
3 bay leaves (remove before serving)
2 large carrots quartered and sliced
3 TBS fresh herbs (I used a combination of Thyme and Sage, but savory and parsley are good too)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Sea Salt to taste
2-3 chicken bullion cubes (optional)

After you’ve sorted out your peas (I pour them on a large baking sheet so I can easily pick out any unwanted discolored ones) rinse well under cold water in a colander and pour into large stock pot. Cover with water (about 1 inch above the peas) and bring to a boil for 2 minutes, turn off heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. This is preparing the peas. There is also an overnight option, but I just prefer to use this method.

After an hour has passed, pour in broth and add ham bone (or shanks). All of the peas and bones should be covered well with liquid. If needed, add water (I often have to add some water throughout cooking process). On high heat, bring to a soft boil. Meanwhile, begin chopping onions, celery and garlic. Add to soup and bring down temp. to a high simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

After simmering for about an hour, add carrots and water if needed. Simmer another 45 minutes still stirring occasionally. Then, add fresh-cut herbs, simmer another 15 minutes or so. Remove ham bone or shanks with thongs and let cool on cutting board until able to handle. Remove meat and cut into little pieces. This process can be a bit tedious, but is worth it for the final result. Return meat to soup. This is when you begin tasting and adding salt and pepper to taste. Carefull with the salt as the ham adds it own, so add slowly, taste and adjust. Personally, I have been known to throw in a couple of chicken bullion cubes in place of the salt as it adds extra flavor and contains salt. Keep adding water as the peas absorb liquid and it evaporates during the process.

Soup is very forgiving and gets better the longer it simmers. Like a tomato sauce, it only gets better the next day. Freeze leftovers in individual servings for quick defrosting another day as a quick hearty lunch or dinner.

If you happen to have a dog, or your neighbor has a canine friend, send the bone for a special treat!

Free Form Artisan Bread

Crusty outside with a soft and chewy center

Having never made fresh bread unless it was from a frozen loaf from the grocery store or a boxed mix in my bread machine, I have to admit, I was intimidated. Motivated by a good friend Nancy who encouraged me to try this recipe as she claimed it was easy enough. The picture of her finished bread looked so amazing that I was determined to give it a whirl.

A quick look at the ingredients left me in disbelief, so few, could this really be as good as it looks? I trust my friend as she definitely knows her way around the kitchen. “B” day arrived, as I now call my baking day. I reread the recipe and even consult my friend via Facebook to clarify the directions and perhaps a bit of encouragement. I suddenly realize I am scared of a little yeast and water. See, I really don’t bake, I cook. Cooking meals and baking are two different worlds as I see it. I happened to be out of my comfort zone here. I love Artisan Bread from my local bakery so much and have paid almost $6.00 for a loaf to go with my homemade soups, so the idea of being able to make my own fresh at home, for a fraction of the cost pushes me forward.

Later in the evening, after following all of the directions, I have 2 loaves of amazing bread to go with the Spilt Pea Soup and Ham I made the day before. I couldn’t believe I did it! the recipe is really simple after doing it once (even for me) The real beauty of this recipe is that it makes about 4 – 1lb loaves and the dough stays good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It gets better as it hangs out there! Genius! I will never buy from the bakery again as I now have this wonderful recipe and I hope you try it too!

Here is the recipe I received from my friend Nancy who got it from a friend…..A very special Thank You for sharing your recipe and once again, teaching me!

For the dough:

3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tablespoons granulated yeast
1.5 Tablespoons kosher or other course salt
6.5 cups white all-purpose flour
cornmeal

Mix water, yeast and salt in a large container no smaller than 5 quarts. It should have a lid but not an airtight lid. I used a large bowl and loosely covered with plastic wrap.

Measure your flour using a spoon to scoop and sweep method so that the flour is not compacted.

Add the flour all at once but do not knead. Just stir so that there aren’t any pockets of flour. The dough will be moist…cover and leave at room temperature or until it has doubled.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

The dough may now be used or left in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The longer it sits in the fridge the more the texture and flavour improves. This quantity of dough makes 4 good size loaves. Or make smaller loaves adjusting cooking time.

Baking Day:

Artisan Bread is crusty and usually free form (no pans). Sprinkle the surface of the dough with a little flour and pull up and with a serrated knife, cut off 1 ball the size of a grapefruit. This should weigh about 1 pound. Lightly dust the ball with flour so it won’t stick to the work surface. Gently stretch the dough out and under so that you have a smooth ball with a collection of “edges” at the bottom. Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal and place the dough on the peel. I do not have a pizza peel so just used my large cutting board. Allow to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. After 20 minutes, place a baking stone on rack in oven ( I simply used my baking sheet) and on any rack which will not interfere with the baking process, place an empty broiler pan (I don’t have a broiler pan so used an 8×13 cake pan and placed on the very bottom rack). Preheat the oven to 450F Dust the top of the loaf with flour (or cornmeal if desired) and with a serrated knife slash the top of the loaf. Quickly slide dough onto hot baking stone (or baking sheet). Also quickly pour 1-2cups of water (I definitely used 2 cups) into the heated broiling pan. This produces steam. Quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a cooling rack.

This recipe makes a perfectly crusty and chewy bread! Now that I’ve made this recipe, I am going to experiment with flavoring the bread with spinach, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes….you get the picture. I encourage you to try this recipe and would love to hear your feedback! Happy Cookin!