Tuesday, January 29, 2013

French Bread

Make this bread. Just stand up from the couch, desk, floor, bed, wherever and proceed to your kitchen to make this bread. You probably already have all the ingredients and it's super easy. So just do it. This crusty outside, soft inside, french bread is fabulous. It's very easy to make and even easier to eat. I once taught a cooking class and selected this recipe to share with the class. I'm not sure if the class learned anything but I know I did and it's that this recipe is so forgiving, it would take a lot to screw it up. Some people brought stand mixers and some people brought mixing bowls and wooden spoons but they all took home beautiful loaves of french bread to proof and bake at home. This is the perfect bread to serve along side any Italian dish like this  or this , but it's great as garlic bread served with soups too, or even sliced thin and used as panini bread. Any way you eat it, it's sure to be a new favorite!
2 1/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp oil (canola or olive just depending on which flavor you prefer)
5 1/2 - 6 cups bread flour (All Purpose works too I've had success with both)
1 egg
1 Tbsp water
1/2 cup cornmeal
Sesame seeds (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or even a large mixing bowl, if you want an arm workout) dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let this sit for a few minutes until it bubbles and looks foamy on top, about 3 minutes. Add the salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well, until the flour is mixed in. Slowly add in 2 1/2 -3 more cups of flour. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too sticky – be careful not to add too much flour. Knead for a few minutes.
Leave the dough in the mixer (or bowl) to rest for 10 minutes covered with a damp kitchen towel and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. When the proof/mix time is over turn dough onto a floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Roll each part into a 9×13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. 
Press the edge together with your fingers. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second part of dough. With a sharp serrated knife score the bread making shallow diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Cover lightly and allow to rise 30 minutes.
With a sharp serrated knife score the bread making semi-shallow diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Cover lightly and allow to rise 30 minutes.
When rise time is done brush entire surface with an egg wash (one egg beaten mixed with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. You'll know it's done when the crust has browned and a gentle knock on the crust sounds hollow. Remove from the oven, cool and enjoy. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Culinary School Week 18

This week we covered some fun things in my classes. In my hot foods class we learned about all things beef. I made a (really ugly) beef wellington with madera sauce and a grilled cilantro and lime marinated flank steak topped with fresh pico de gallo. The good news is that it all tasted great the bad news is that, that wellington was pretty hilariously ugly! But I'm learning! I would put a picture up but seriously, it was just too bad. My steak was great, perfectly cooked and had good flavor. In garde manger (cold foods) we covered sandwich preparations this week. I made a killer triple decker club sandwich with layer upon layer of bacon, cheesy, meaty goodness. We also made home made chips and a bunch of salads to go along with all the sandwiches. I really liked the Monte Cristo a guy in my class made it's like a ham and cheese and french toast mixed together. It was tasty. Overall another great week. Although I love all this cooking and learning these new techniques something has been confirmed to me this semester. It's that I am a baker. Not having a baking class this semester has been tragic hard, but I am grateful to be learning all the facets of this industry, from really talented people. Everything that we're covering in my classes is cool and I enjoy it but it's nothing like last semester when I remember being elated to go to class. On more than one occasion I couldn't sleep the night before class because I was so excited to go to school the next day (seriously!). However, I've still got so much to learn and am really going to try to enjoy this semester. I want to soak it all in because if anything I'll be able to make an amazing club sandwich, and that's something to be proud of.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oatmeal Caramelaties

My family has been making these oatmeal caramelaties for years. I remember going to my grandparents cabin in the summers and sneaking into the laundry room (where the treats were kept) to cut myself off bites these delicious, rich, tempting bars. They are everything you want in a dessert bar, they're chewy and chocolaty and laced with caramel. They're just plain good and are my go to treat for pot lucks, party's, movie nights, welcome to the apartment complex offerings, meeting at work, church or otherwise. People just love them and they're super simple to throw together and you probably have everything on hand. Once I shared these treats at a funeral and two weeks later someone who had attended, (somehow) tracked me down specifically to get this recipe. They're memorable! Like I said people love them. And so will you!   

Oatmeal Caramelaties
2 cups flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 jar of caramel (Ice cream topping or Mrs. Richardson's works great!)
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying with non stick cooking spray. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the flour, oats brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and butter.  Evenly press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Just before the bars come out of the oven place the jar of caramel in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it gently. When the bars have been removed from the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crust and pour the melted caramel over the top. Sprinkle the rest of the crust over the top and press down slightly, bake in the oven for an additional 10-12 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely and lift out of the pan using the foil edges. Cut into bars and serve.

Just a thought

(Photo from the window of our M street apartment in Washington DC)
Last night I got home from school late. I was exhausted but instead of sleeping I started clicking through photos from the last couple years. It was so fun remembering those trips and cooking projects and party's and outing's from the past. I sat there remembering where we were in life and what we were doing where we were living and realized something. In almost all varying stages of life I've gone through in the last several years I remember (to a degree) wishing my time away. I remember wanting to move out of Provo and to Washington DC so badly. Then when I got to DC I remember wanting to move back so I could start school. Now (I hate to admit) I want to be out of school, living some place else working. I struggle with the whole "enjoy the ride" thing. I focus way to much on the beginnings and the endings of the chapters of my life making everything that happens in between get lost.
I'd like to make a change. This year I'll try harder to enjoy the present and worry less about the future. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


Eating yummy Mexican food with my guy, my favorite shelf at school, the best breakfast, the biggest nightmare ever (tangled necklaces took me an hour to work through), Rocky Mountain chocolate treat, having fun at sundance, admiring the beauty of cherry tomatoes, and the best chocolate croissant (ever).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Culinary School Week 17

This week in classes we continued to review things we learned last semester. In my cooking class we worked with salmon. I filleted a whole salmon and then worked on making 4oz portions, which is actually much harder than it sounds. The shiny salmon scales kept sticking to my hands and knifes, mostly it was annoying, but it was kind of awesome too (hello mermaid status!). In garde manger this week we covered salads and vinaigrette's, and served at a catering event. The catering events used to drive me crazy, and let's be honest they still kind of do, but it's great experience and I'm able to learn a lot of tricks of the trade while participating. And I get to laugh at all the old people who fall asleep at their tables. So yeah, I guess they're not too bad. Moving forward we are going into uncharted waters and experimenting with meats and cold sandwiches. Hooray for learning new things.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baked Lemon Thyme Chicken

This dish screams freshness. Right in your face it's screaming: "Hey, I'm fresh and delicious and you should make me because it's cold outside, and I will remind you of better, warmer days". And it does, it absolutely does remind me of better, warmer days (Spring, I miss you!). It's lemony and herby and is simplicity at its finest. It's really good. I made this dish for dinner on Sunday and it was so simple, we had thyme rice pilaf as well as sauteed green beans and this salad. Yum. The whole meal was just perfect. The best part of all is that the chicken is healthy as well as delicious. And it provides great leftovers - salad topped with shredded chicken, stir fry, chicken sandwich, leftovers = freaking yum. You should make this soon, you'll be so glad you did!

Baked Lemon Thyme Chicken
4 large bone in, skin on chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp white wine vinigar
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 lemon juiced, and zested
4-6 sprigs of thyme
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Salt and Pepper

In a small pot heat over medium low heat olive oil, garlic, chicken broth, vinigar, chopped thyme, oregano, juice and zest from one lemon and 1 tsp salt. Warm the mixture until it becomes fragrant and simmers slightly, about 5 minutes.

When the oil mixture has finished cooking pour it into a large baking dish place chicken breasts over the oil mixture, skin side up. Using a pastry brush (or your hands) smear oil mixture over the top of the chicken breasts, till covered completely. Drizzle with a few more tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Tuck lemon wedges and thyme sprigs around and in between chicken breasts.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 - 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees) and skin has become brown. Finish with a final sprinkle of salt and plate with lemon slices and extra thyme for garnish.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tart

I really like fruit tarts. They make me happy. They're pretty. And yummy. And easy to make. And I can't think of a better way to end a meal. This sugar cookie-esq crust is filled with a lemon and cream cheese filling and topped with what ever fruit your little hear desires. I went with berries because I love me some berries, but you could get fancy and use kiwi and mango. Like I said whatever your heart desires. This tart comes together quickly, and easily and is always impressive.

Fresh Fruit Tart

For the Crust:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, divided (use the other half for the frosting)
1 1/4 cups four
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon (1-2 tablespoons)
Other half of lemon zest from above

Fresh Fruit Topping:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch round cake pan or tart pan with non stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in egg, vanilla, and 1/2 of the lemon zest. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and add to bowl mix until just blended. Press the dough into the prepared pan, making the edges thicker than the center. Bake the dough for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Do not over bake or the crust will become dry and crumbly. The center of the crust may look undercooked, don't worry pull the crust out when the edges look done the center will set up as it cools. Cool the crust completely before adding the cream cheese filling.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, and few lumps remain. Add the granulated and powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice, and other half of the lemon zest. Remove cooled crust from tart pan or cake round and using an off set spatula spread the filling onto the cooled crust to within 1/2-inch(ish) of the edges. Arrange fruit on top of the tart and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Chill until serving time.

*I would shy away from fruit like bananas or apples because they brown quickly and may look a little unappetizing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Culinary School Week 16

I'm back in it. Full force up to my eyeballs in dishes, knife cuts, and lecture. This semester I'm taking Professional Kitchen I which is a build on class from my cooking class last semester. We get into menu planning, plating and food pairings, as well as more advanced cooking techniques. I'm also taking Garde Manger it's basically cold food preparation. We cover salads, vinaigrette's, sandwiches, cheese making, fruit carving and lots more. I'm wasn't sure going into my Garde Manger class whether or not I was excited, I think more than anything I just wasn't really sure what to expect but now that I've got a better understanding about what I'll be doing I've become more excited. The things I'll learn in that class will be things I can regularly use, and as of right now the techniques and recipes are things I'm fairly unfamiliar with, I'm really looking forward to delving into this new material. This week in my cooking class the chef wanted to see where we were as far as some of our techniques go. We broke down some chickens and worked on knife cuts and made two dishes a coq au vin and a pan seared chicken breast. In garde manger this week we made mayonnaise, bleu cheese dressing and ceasar dressing. I really liked everything we made (even the mayonnaise) the dressings were really delicious I especially liked the bleu cheese dressing. Homemade dressings are really easy and are so. much. better. It was amazing how different the ceasar dressing was fresh than when I buy it in a bottle. As we worked away in the kitchens this week I was taken back to my first weeks of school and remembered those exciting first few days. It's amazing to me to see my skills and techniques get better and become more fine tuned. I'm learning so much about what I love and am so grateful for this opportunity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Big Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've said it many (many) times on this blog that cookies are my favorite food. And truth be told I really don't think it gets any better than a big, chewy, buttery chocolate chip cookie. Does it? I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn't like but I certainly have my preferences and these big and tasty beauties are at the top of my list as far as yummy chocolate chip cookies goes. I have several great cc cookie recipes but this is the best as far a flavor goes. The recipe doesn't make many because hello you're making 5'' diameter cookies but you could certainly scale the size down if you needed to feed a crowd. Or if you and your husband plan on consuming each delicious cookie all by yourselves, over the course of a weekend, then make em' big, it'll save you from having to walk to the kitchen too many times to get another. Just sayin'.
Big Chocolate Chip Cookies
12 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and move both oven racks to the middle two shelves in the oven. Mix the melted butter, brown sugar and sugar together in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
Add egg and egg yolk and vanilla. Mix salt, baking soda and flour together, gradually add it to the wet ingredients until few streaks remain, add the chocolate chips and finish mixing dough. Using a 1/4 measuring cup shape 1/4 cup sized dough balls onto a greased cookie sheet. Leaving 2 - 3 inches between cookies and sides of pan, I usually fit about 6 - 8 cookies per sheet pan. Bake in preheated oven for 13 - 15 minutes, rotating pans half way through. (At 7 minutes, into the bake rotate pans by switching the bottom pan to the top position and vise versa and rotate the cookie sheets so that the front cookies are now at the back of the oven and vise versa.) Remove cookies from the oven when slight browning starts around the edges of the cookies (they may still look a little doughy in the center, don't worry they'll set up) and let cool on a cooling rack. Makes about 18 BIG chewy cookies.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Disney World Christmas Part 4: Animal Kingdom

Our day at Animal Kingdom was so fun it rained that morning which made the air was thick with humidity. Which seemed appropriate because it frizzed my hair out to lion's mane status. Get it? Animal Kingdom? Lion's mane? Animal? Ha. I feel like Animal Kingdom doesn't always get the recognition it deserves. It's a way cool park! There are some awesome rides and it's usually less crowded than some of the other Disney World parks. 
And there are Mickey Premium bars a-plenty. So that's good.
Probably one of the biggest, and most popular attractions is the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride. It's pretty amazing - there are real live animals. My favorite animal that we saw were the hippos, I love hippos. I think they're neat! We also saw lions, zebras, crocodiles monkeys and many more.

We stopped for lunch at a yummy bar b que restaurant. Adam was critical but I thought it was great. My guy has been spoiled his whole life with real Kansas Bar B Que.
The center piece of the park is the amazing tree of life. Hundreds of different animals are carved all over the trunk, limbs and roots. It really is an amazing sight. 
All in all another fantastic day.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chicken Breasts in Mushroom Cream Sauce

"Babe, hear me when I say: this is the best food I've ever put in my mouth." Maybe Adam's biased but if I'm being honest it was pretty freaking delicious. Even when playing the which-is-better game for Adam it beat out lasagna and jambalaya (which is a big deal). This easy and flavorful chicken dish is a sure to be a winner on your dinner table. This a dressed up and delicious way of using up (boring) chicken breasts. The cream sauce is out of this world delicious, full of rich buttery flavor it acts as the perfect accompaniment to chicken. About two bites into my chicken I may (or may not) have filled a drinking glass up to the brim with the extra sauce and literally drowned my chicken and mashed potatoes. It really was that good. This recipe comes from Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 (Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons), I made a few minor changes and loved the outcome of this dish. Serve the chicken breasts with buttered green beans and mashed red potatoes - with plenty of extra mushroom sauce to around. Enjoy!

 Chicken Breasts in Mushroom Cream Sauce 


For the Chicken Breasts:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 lemon, juiced 
Salt and Pepper, to taste  
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot 
1/4 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth 
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste 
3 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
Begin by heating oven to 350 degrees. On a large plate squeeze half of a lemon over chicken breasts and rub to cover, sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In a large oven proof pot or casserole dish (a dutch oven would be ideal here) melt butter over medium high heat and add shallot cooking for a moment, add mushrooms and a little sprinkle of salt, cook for two minutes until fragrant and tender. When mushrooms have cooked down add chicken breasts, pushing mushroom/shallot mixture to the middle of the pot, placing the chicken in a part of the pot that's bare. Quickly sear the breasts on both sides until a nice golden color is developed, about 1 - 2 minutes per side, don't worry about cooking them through, the sear is just to help develop flavor and keep the breasts from drying out in the oven. Once the chicken is seared cover the pot with a lid and bake in pre heated oven for 20 - 30 minutes, until the chicken registers 160 - 165 on a meat thermometer or is no longer pink in the center. 
Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil, while making the sauce. In the same pot over medium low heat sprinkle in the flour and stir to absorb the butter. Add the chicken broth and the cream and bring to a boil, the mixture will thicken slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Taste and adjust accordingly. Serve immediately with sauce spooned over the chicken.  

* The portions of this dish are easily adjustable it's written to serve 4 but can be halved or doubled depending on how many you're feeding. 

*Any kind of fresh mushrooms can be used - I happened to have a large portobello cap in my refrigerator so I removed the stem and diced it up before adding it to the pot. You could use small cremini mushrooms cut in half or even sliced button mushrooms.  

*If the sauce is not thick enough whisk 2 tablespoons of flour together with a little water to form a runny paste. Add a little at a time to the sauce whisking to incorporate, while it's still over heat the will sauce bubble and will become more thick. If it get's too thick add a bit of cream till you reach your desired consistency. Make sure you adjust for seasoning.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Disney World Christmas Part 3: Hollywood Studios

Our day at Hollywood Studios was so fun - to be honest probably one of my favorite days. It's just low key and easy. We got to the park and rode a few rides, saw a few shows, watched dancing Christmas lights, and even drank some egg nog - it was a great day.

We had to do the obligatory jumping picture before entering the park, to show off our enthusiasm.

One of my favorite rides in all of Disney World is the Tower of Terror, it's a little different (and scarier) than the one in California and is always a lot of fun! 

Probably one of the coolest Christmas attractions in all of Disney World is the dancing lights on the streets of America in Hollywood Studios. This part of the park is home of buildings and streets that are modeled to look like those of major US cities, On one street you can see the empire state building in the distance and there are New York City news paper vendors along the sidewalks, another street is molded to look the one in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge towering in the distance. During the Christmas season every building, street corner, roof top, doorway is completely covered in Christmas lights. But not just any old lights, these light dance and change color and shine with the beats of festive music that blasts through the streets. This is one of my most favorite Disney traditions.
Just before the sun sets "Santa Goofy" comes out to flip the switch that sets the streets a glow with lights. 
It's basically the coolest thing ever. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Disney World Christmas Part 2: Magic Kingdom

On our Disney World Christmas trip we spent two days at Magic Kingdom. It's the park that's most like Disneyland in California. Full of most of the same rides with some additional ones. Disney World just expanded the Fantasyland area in Magic Kingdom. There is a new area devoted to Beauty and the Beast, including Gaston's Tavern, a couple of little shops and the Beast's castle, a fine dining french restaurant. There's a few new rides in fantasyland and still more construction going on expanding and building more and more.
Our first day in Magic Kingdom was on Christmas Eve, to celebrate we ate dinner in Cinderellas castle and were treated like royalty.

The castle was decked out in traditional Christmas decorations, and light flooded through pretty stained glass windows that over looked the park. The food was good I got a creamy pasta dish and Adam got the beef tenderloin. We finished our meal with flourless chocolate cake and pumpkin cheesecake.

We did lots of ride-riding, and ice cream eating and picture taking. Adam's favorite ride was big thunder mountain and mine was Ariel's Grotto (it's a ride about the story of the little mermaid and her under water adventures...maybe I made my family ride it twice - haha). We all bought hats (because we're cool like that) and rocked them while in Magic Kingdom. 

We had to try Gaston's tavern, because I had heard rave reviews of the maple glazed cinnamon rolls, and LeFou's brew, a frozen apple juice drink topped with mango foam. Both were well worth the buzz they received. These were two of my favorite treats from the trip. The tavern itself is like a picture straight from the movie, his chair, the fireplace, the antlers it was all over the top amazing.

Our second day at Magic Kingdom we gave the Beast's castle a try for dinner. And I'm so happy we did because it was a wonderful experience. The food was fabulous and the atmosphere was dreamy. From the tile mosaic when you walk in to the grand ball room with floor to ceiling windows,  even the "snow" falling out side the windows with the view of the french country side, all played a part in making our dining experience magical. There were three main dining rooms, we ended up in the ballroom but the west wing and rose galley were really neat too. The attention to detail always blows me away with anything Disney engineers get their hands on. As far as food goes it was great, I tried the cornish game hen and potato leek soup, Adam had the thyme roasted pork loin and french onion soup - both were delicious. 

We sat through Disney's classic electrical parade and loved it as much as we did when we were kids. Even the castle was completely decked out in tiny sparkling lights.  
I think one of the most memorable moments of the trip for me was on our way out of the park on Christmas Eve. It was 12:15 (technically Christmas day) and my sister and I started walking down main street to meet up with the rest of my family. I stopped in the bakery for a big mouse shaped chocolate chip cookie (of course) and discovered on my way out of the sweet shop that it had begun to snow on main street in the middle of Orlando Florida. Christmas music was playing in the background and the castle was brightly lit up (and changing colors) behind us. For some reason it just struck me, and I was awe struck. Again it's those Disney details that always make any marginal experience a magical one.