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Friday, January 29, 2010

Rosemary & Olive Focaccia

Don't panic! I know this recipe sounds like I'm going to bake some Hollywood children, but it's really just bread. Delicious bread.

Disclaimer: I love bread. We go through at least a loaf a week, more when we're not rationing it. You're going to find a LOT of bread recipes on this blog once I get going. Today it's Focaccia.

I had olives left over from Greek Salad the other night and figured I could pop them in some bread. I needed to make focaccia anyway for a bruschetta recipe I came across the other day.

I used a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, via Epicurious. I adjusted the instructions based on the comments/reviews.

Focaccia with Olives and Rosemary


2 cups warm water (105°F; to 115°F;)
2 teaspoons dry yeast (I used quickrise)

4 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata or Greek),pitted, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried


Place 2 cups warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over; stir with fork. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes.

Add 4 1/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Knead dough on floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into ball. Oil large bowl; add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough; knead into ball and return to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes or less.

Coat 15x10-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down dough. Transfer to prepared sheet. Using fingertips, press out dough to 13x10-inch rectangle. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle olives and chopped rosemary evenly over. Let dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475°F. Press fingertips all over dough, forming indentations. Bake bread until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve bread warm or at room temperature.

My changes:

1. I made two loaves, one with feta & rosemary and one with olives & rosemary. Both turned out great.

2. I kneaded in the olives and feta slices after the second rise, though I did reserve a few olives for the top.

3. I totally forgot to add the olive oil on top, and to make the little indentations. I remembered the oil about 10 minutes into the baking time and poured it on then. Seemed to work okay. Next time I'll make sure I remember.


Dense and chewy, this bread is great for sopping up saucy or juicy dishes. We ate the feta loaf with some pasta & sauce, and it was a perfect complement. The dough is quite salty, but that just adds extra flavour to the sopping action. I'm anticipating it toasting/frying up really well tonight for the bruschetta base.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I was browsing through my cookbooks the other day searching for inspiration, and I came across the gnocchi recipe in Jamie Oliver's COOK book. It seemed simple enough and I had most of the ingredients, and we needed potatoes anyway, so I put it on my mental list to try.

Gnocchi. I understand now why you can buy it frozen. Who would want to go through the pain and heartbreak? Oh. Except for the fact that it's freakin delicious, even when it's melting on your spoon.

This is what has to say about gnocchi:

[NYOH-kee, NOH-kee]
Italian for "dumplings," gnocchi can be made from potatoes, flour or farina. Eggs or cheese can be added to the dough, and finely chopped spinach is also a popular addition. Gnocchi are generally shaped into little balls, cooked in boiling water and served with butter and Parmesan or a savory sauce. The dough can also be chilled, sliced and either baked or fried. Gnocchi are usually served as a side dish and make excellent accompaniments for meat or poultry.

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Oh sure, just shape them into little balls, boil, then toss with Parmesan. Trust me, it's a tad more complicated than that. I figured that out when I noticed that JO's directions mentioned having to do it a few times before getting it right. Turns out that I'm not that bad though!

Here's the recipe:



6 medium potatoes (I used Russet)
olive oil
1/2 a nutmeg (I used 1/2 tsp. and it was too much, next time I'll use only 1/4 tsp.)
sea salt and ground pepper
1 large egg yolk
1-2 handfuls of all purpose flour
semolina flour (I ended up using cornmeal because I was out of semolina)


Preheat the oven to 425F.

Rub the potatoes with olive oil, prick them with a fork and lay them in a roasting tray. Bake for an hour or so, or until the potatoes are fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. (I baked mine 1h15m.) Allow them to cool for a couple of minutes and then, while they are still hot, use a dish towel to pick them up one at a time, cut them in half and carefully scoop out the flesh into your mixer bowl.

Mix until you have a very smooth mashed potato (I used the beater attachment, but you could probably use the whisk as well.)

Add the nutmeg, a tablespoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, the egg yolk and enough flour to bind it together. I ended up using about 3 tbsp. of flour.

Mix, then knead with your hands (unfortunately you can't get the stand mixer to do this for you) until you have a dry dough.

To get the hang of perfect gnocchi dough, you'll have to practice a few times. If you're unsure, try testing one by chucking it into some boiling water - if it falls apart, add a bit more flour.

I did have boiling water, and found that really useful for keeping me on track. It seems like a lot of work, but it's better than wasting a bunch of ingredients!

Divide your dough into three, then roll into a sausage.

Cut each sausage into 1 inch pieces. Place on a bed of semolina flour, then put in the fridge to set 10-20 minutes.

Once set, boil some salted water, and chuck them in! They take about 4 minutes to cook, they're done when they float. Be careful when you take them out. Keep in mind that they are little balls of mashed potato, you need to be gentle or they'll fall apart.

I cooked mine with some mushrooms that I sautéed.

Flippin' delish. The kiddo was a super fan too! Though I had forgotten to take his portion out prior to adding the red pepper flakes. Um, yeah, that didn't go over so well, but he was a trooper and just kept eating yogurt in between bites.

While the whole process takes a while, gnocchi is actually relatively easy to make. I won't be adding it onto the weekly menu, but I'll probably make it monthly. One of the best parts of staying at home with the kiddo is that I have the time to do this kind of thing. Once the second one comes along this blog will be full of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Recipes coming!

I faced off against a dead chicken on Saturday to extraordinary results! I have that post almost done.

Also, today I am trying a new pasta recipe, so I'll let you know how that turns out!

Miss K

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stretching my wings, so to speak

When I was sixteen my family moved to warmer climates and I got a job working at a little health food café. We sold things like tofu and made fresh carrot juice every morning. We had herbal teas and essential oils on the shelf. Our friendly cook made rice and beans everyday. The popcorn-y smell of basmati rice still brings back memories to this day. All this to say, it rocked my world.

I grew up in a house that valued (and in fairness, I suppose it had to) eating to live rather than eating to enjoy food. We ate a lot of staple foods: potatoes, beef, broccoli, and corn. When I began working at the health food store, I met people that viewed food and the act of eating very differently than me. I tried tofu smoothies to start (delicious), then smoked tofu on pizza (heavenly), eventually moving along the spectrum to a full out vegetarian.

Turns out I didn't like tofu enough to eat it as my main protein source though, and I hadn't yet been won over by other legumes, so I ended up going back to meat a few years later. I couldn't stomach pork or beef and seafood grossed me out, so I went back to chicken. Good ole chicken. Not with bones though. Or skin. Or dark meat. It had to be boneless skinless chicken breast. I just couldn't deal with it otherwise, I would start to become faint even walking through the red section of the meat aisle, and bones in anything were a dealbreaker. No matter how good it was, I didn't want to be reminded that I was eating an ANIMAL!

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I have never entertained the idea of cooking a whole turkey or chicken. Ugh. The skin, the bones, the cavity! There's no pretending it's something else other than a dead animal. So. Accept it. Move on. Right? Well, yes. Right.

When my friend L brought a gorgeous herbes de provence bread to my attention and Mr. Man brought home some recipes for roast chicken, I figured it was time to face my chicken fears. At the grocery store, I just bought the first package I saw. It happened to have two chickens, so be prepared for another recipe once I've dealt with this one. I also figured that if the first one was a complete disaster, at least I could try again. If the second one went the way of the first, I'd be comfortable saying that at least I gave it a fair shot and I could walk away from the chicken with a sigh of relief.

Turns out, I'm a half decent chicken cook. Leaving aside that given my one experience, I'm not sure how it would be possible to screw up roast chicken, I was very pleased with how well I had fared against my nemesis. Here's the breakdown.

P.S. I apologize in advance that I don't have any fully finished photos of the bird, we ended up eating over at my in-laws' house and I forgot the camera. D'oh! Next time!

Caramelized Onion and Apple Stuffing - KM styles


1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. of unsalter butter (divided)
2 small heads of bok choy or about 2/3 c. of celery, sliced
1.5 local apples (I used Spartan), cored, peeled, and chopped
1 tsp. dried ground sage
2 or so c. of old (but not mouldy) bread (I used 3 day old baking powder biscuits)
30 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar


In large sauce pan, melt half of the butter over medium-low heat; cook onions and half each of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat; fry bok choy/celery, apples, sage, and remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add to bowl.

Add bread, stock, and vinegar; mix well.

Olive Oil and Herbes de Provence Bread

This comes from my friend L who had great results.

1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope yeast (1 tbsp)- I used QuickRise
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flour, more if needed
1 tablespoon herbes de provence


Stir the sugar, yeast, oil and salt into the water, and set aside for 10 minutes to dissolve. Fluff with a fork if need be, it should be quite foamy.

Put yeast mixture in your stand mixer. Beat in 1-1/2 cups/285 g of the flour, until smooth, along with the herbs. Work in the remaining cup/125 g flour, until you have smooth, springy dough.

Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise to double, about 45 minutes. I always use my oven with just the oven light turned on for a bit of heat. Works like a charm, even when it's -30 outside!

Punch the dough down and shape it. L made a really nice round artisan type loaf, and I made buns.

Let rise again 45-60 minutes and bake at 400ºF/200ºC for 25 minutes until done. I took the buns out after 20 minutes, and they were baked perfectly.

Let the bread cool a little before slicing to serve.

Roast Chicken - KM Styles


1 2-3 pound fryer chicken
a lemon
some Herbes de Provence (see a theme?)
olive oil


Preheat oven to 450F.

Basically I just washed, then stuffed the chicken. Put it in my dutch oven, then patted it down with a mix of lemon juice, oil and Herbes de Provence. I had ground the Herbes de Provence quite fine in my coffee grinder because I hate those whole rosemary pieces. I sprinkled a bit of the regular stuff over top though since it looks nicer.

Roast chicken for 15 minutes. Baste. Turn down to 375F and cook for another 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear and temperature registers 180F. I had the lid off most of the time.

FYI - For you experienced chicken roasters, you'll have likely looked at the times quoted and had a good chuckle. Yes, it takes about 2.5 hours at 375F to cook thoroughly when stuffed. I'm sure if I had left the cavity empty, an hour and a bit would have been enough.

As you can see I added potatoes because I love me some roasted potatoes.

This all comes down to:

Miss K: 1
Chicken: 0

Re-match next week!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pancakes - Our weekly indulgence

Every weekend we have pancakes. Usually on Sundays, but sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. Or sometimes we'll have crêpes on Saturday and then pancakes on Sunday. Hm, that reminds me to talk about crêpes next week, I have all sorts of stories about those!

Back to pancakes though. I had never really had a proper fluffy pancake unless I was in a restaurant. I could never get my pancakes that I tried to be fluffy enough. I wanted big, thick pancakes, not tiny, hard little nubbin pancakes. Eventually I gave up.

When I bought Jamie Oliver's Happy Days though, I saw his recipe for USA pancakes. They were fluffy he said. The picture looked fluffy. I started to hope. At the time I only had a handmixer though and there was no way that I was going to stand at the counter and whip egg whites just so I could have fluffy pancakes. (That's right I said it again. Fluffy pancakes. If this was a drinking game you'd be drunk by now.)

When I bought my stand mixer though, I thought, what the heck, I'll give them a try. And a weekend tradition was born. What's great about these is that you can make all sorts of variations and they inevitably turn out well. I think it's the egg whites. Make sure they're nice and stiff.

You'll need:

3 large eggs
1 scant cup of flour (white or wholewheat, doesn't matter)
1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder
a bit of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk/water/soy drink (vanilla flavoured soy stuff is delicious)

Separate your eggs, putting the white in your mixing bowl and tossing the yolk into a separate bowl. Start whipping your whites. It'll take a while.

Add the rest of the ingredients to your yolks. Pay more attention to the consistency than to the measurements. It should be thick and sticky, but not doughy. Add more milk/flour if need be.

Your egg whites should be nice and stiff, but not yet shiny. It'll come from your mixing bowl all in one clump.

FOLD into your batter. The whole point is to have FLUFFY pancakes, so be gentle.

I use an electric skillet set to between 300 and 350 degrees. Splat in some margarine for the first batch if you want, though it's not necessary. Grill until bubbles form, the edges are dry and the bottom is golden brown. Flip, cook until golden brown and then move to a warm plate.

Mr. Oliver suggests all sorts of things on pancakes like corn, blueberries etc. My husband insisted on the corn pancakes at harvest time in September and voted them thumbs-up, so you can give it a try if you want! Just shuck fresh corn and then skim the kernels into your batter. Mr. Man also just tried pancakes with cheese last time. He was okay with it, though I had made the batter quite vanilla-y and he would prefer a savoury pancake with the cheese. Who knew? I'll see what I can come up with next time.

I usually go for the peanut butter, then topped with banana and maple syrup, but that's just me. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. Or maybe, I just love my fluffy pancakes.

As an aside, you can make a double batch and then freeze the ones you don't eat. Just pop them in the toaster oven or the toaster. Almost as good as fresh! I usually put them in between wax paper and then use a Ziploc freezer bag for storage. Needs to be Ziploc, I've found, or they get really dry.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pasta - The Next Frontier

I got spoiled at Christmas. I admit it. I had been drooling, dignity gleefully set aside, over the KitchenAid attachment pack with the meat grinder, slicer/shredder and the pasta maker. I spent hours on the internet researching the best price, why people liked it, how you could use them. For all of November and December I would bring these findings to my husband and he would say, "That seems like a great deal hon, but maybe we'll just wait until Boxing Day." Fair enough.

Boxing Day came and went. Throughout November and December he kept talking about how much I was going to like my gift, it was so great, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yes, of course NOW it seems obvious, but my baby brain was in full effect and I made no connection.

On the 27th, I finally managed to get his gift wrapped and under the tree. He immediately says, "Oooh! Let's open gifts now then!" Such rare enthusiasm had my curiosity piqued. I begin opening this heavy beautifully wrapped box and the whole time he's saying things like, "I can't believe you haven't guessed! Do you know what it is? I just can't believe you haven't guessed!" Staring back at me is my brand new attachment pack. I won't lie. I shed tears.

You will shed tears of joy as well when making your own pasta. I know it's a truism now that everything tastes better fresh, but pasta. Delicious, silky pasta really does taste better fresh.

I don't remember where I found this recipe, but this is what I used:

1 c. semolina flour
1 c. all-purpose flour (I used both white and whole wheat in different recipes and got great results with both.)
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
3 eggs

You know what I love about my stand mixer? That you can just dump everything in and mix. So that's what you do. Use the dough hook.

Once it makes a smooth dough, I turn it on a higher speed (4-6) for a minute or so to really knead it. Then wrap it in clingwrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. My first batch I wasn't ready to make the pasta that early so I just put it in the fridge and then brought it back to room temperature for a half hour. Worked perfectly.

You'll want to have your salted/oiled water boiling if you want the best results.

Attach your pasta maker and bring your mixer to speed 10. Start feeding little lumps of dough, waiting until the grinder is clear to add another. Process about 2-3 little lumps, then smash it back into lumps and reprocess, the first few are a bit funny. Once your pasta starts coming out just wait until it's reached the length you want, cut it off with a sharp knife and throw it in the water. When it's freshly out of the processor, you don't need to separate it, the boiling water does that for you.

I tried both lasagne noodles (Fail) and spaghetti noodles (A+).

These are supposed to be lasagne noodles. Yeah, I don't see it either. They tasted great, but weren't exactly what I thought they'd be. Booo for that. Also, such a pain in the ass to try to separate once they've dried even a bit. Much easier all around to just have the water ready.

These only need to cook for a few minutes, so I tested them after about 3-4 minutes and they were nice and chewy, just slightly undercooked.

This recipe makes about 4 servings of pasta. My husband and I each had a plateful of spaghetti and then enough for two lunches. I'd double it if I had a bigger family.

That's my kid rummaging in the pots and pans. Cooking safely with a kid winding in and out of your legs, that's talent!

I forgot to take a photo of our dinner, but suffice it to say, it was definitely worth the effort. I've been trying to use up the rest of the pasta and used some in tomato soup today, I think it gets better with age. Kiddo sucked it back like it was going out of style.

Pasta - Final verdict - Worth it, just have your water boiling!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avocado Bread French Toast

It seemed to me that this would be a good combination, and I was right! I used a half cup of milk and three eggs with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. I added a 1/4 tsp of ground cloves too, because I love the taste.

It's not exactly the breakfast of champions, but my husband and I enjoyed it on a lazy Saturday morning. I think that since avocados are good for you (read: have healthy fats in them) that the breakfast isn't a total write-off health-wise. Not to mention that one loaf was whole wheat! I was doing myself a FAVOUR by eating this breakfast. That's how I justify things. Go ahead, give it a try.


P.S. That's homemade Chokecherry syrup courtesy of my husband this September. See why I cook what I do? He makes it so easy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Avocado Bread

I'm kinda cheating because I baked this bread the other day, but I have photos and it was delicious, so I'm keeping it anyway!

I'm a compulsive avocado buyer. Not sure what it is about these little fruits that makes me think we'll need 6 a week, but I almost always buy the whole bag. Then within a few days they're all perfect and ready to be eaten, but I can never think of anything to make with them other than guacamole. And there's only so much guacamole a girl can eat, you know?

So I took to Google to figure out what the heck I was going to do with them. Voila! One of the first things I see: Avocado bread. Brainwave! Why have I never thought of doing this before? I love avocados, I love bread, it follows that I would love avocado bread. (Okay, it doesn't really logically follow, but stay with me here.)

I used this recipe.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup mashed avocado (1 medium avocado)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and avocado. Stir in the buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in the pecans.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yield: 1 loaf

From: Judy Gorman's Vegetable Cookbook

I made a couple changes though.

1. I used two avocados. I needed to get rid of them and it seemed to be a better balance with the amount of flour. The bread was super moist.
2. I used only about 2/3 c. of sugar. Since the bread was still quite sweet, I think next time I'll only use 1/2 c.
3. I just plain ole 1% milk since I didn't have any buttermilk.

The bread batter was really thick, smack dab in between a proper dough and banana bread.

Once baked, it was a gorgeous crispy golden brown on the outside and a creamy mild green on the inside. If it's possible, it tasted better than it looked. A balance between moist and heavy, creamy and sugary, it rose well and the crumb itself was nice and even. Still a bit too sweet for my taste, this would be a good breakfast bread or even a dessert bread.

I'm going to leave it overnight tonight and try it with cinnamon & nutmeg in french toast for breakfast tomorrow.