Homemade Ciabatta Bread

I think I’ve found the way to Big Guy’s heart:  homemade bread.  Every since we started making homemade pasta, it seems that new kitchen adventures don’t seem quite as intimidating.  So this past Sunday we decided to give homemade ciabatta bread a try.  You do have to start the recipe the day before but that part of the process is super easy.  You make a “sponge” by combining some yeast, flour and water in a bowl and wrapping it tight and just letting it hang out until the next day.  The recipe I used does an incredible job of explaining each step.  The dough is incredibly sticky and I can’t stress the importance of following the timing of each step (especially the amount of time the dough is mixed in the mixer).

When we finally got to the final step – cooking! – we could not wait to see our final result.  The house smelled absolutely amazing.  When we took the bread out of the oven, we were a little worried – it was rock hard.  BUT as the recipe instructed, let it rest for an hour.  And miraculously the bread softened up and was perfection.  And while we had plans to turn the bread into pizza we couldn’t resist cutting an end off and enjoying the homemade bread in it’s purest form.

ciabattabread

Once the bread had completely cooled, it was time to turn one of the loafs into pizza.  Imagine a french bead pizza but with ciabatta bread.

ciabattapizza2

We picked up a local marinara sauce from The Raleigh Wine Shop and then loaded on the cheeeeeese.  We used fontina, provolone, mozzarella and after cooking a nice sprinkle of parmesan.  We also added some pepperoni and fresh herbs.

ciabattapizza1

Happy Valentines Day!

Golden Chicken with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto and Coconut Rice

How was everyones weekend?  Ours was filled with some amazing weather so we spent lots of time outside.  We took a quick trip to Raleigh on Saturday for brunch at Standard as well as to do a little grocery shopping before we went to a 1st birthday party for our dearest friends little guy.  It was a fun afternoon with friends before heading home and having an awesome steak dinner.  Yesterday was absolutely beautiful – I’ll take 80 degrees in February anytime.  We spent most of the day outside while also tackling homemade ciabatta bread for the first time. (p.s. it turned out perfect)  We took the homemade bread and make pizza – more on that later.

But let’s rewind to dinner Friday night.  I had planned dinner for Big Guy and me but unfortunately a delayed flight turned this dinner for two into dinner for one.  Don’t worry, there were leftovers for him.  The chicken marinates in a mixture of Greek yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, brown sugar and curry powder (where the “golden” comes from) for about 30 minutes before cooking.  While the chicken marinates, prep the pesto and the rice.

goldenchicken

The end result was incredible.  The chicken was so tender (bone-in chicken thighs for the win) and I adored the curry flavor.  The rice was fluffy and full of flavor from the coconut milk.  And the pesto added such a pop of freshness.  Fresh cilantro, a little fresh mint, garlic, cashews, lime zest and a little juice took this dish to a whole new level.

I hope you have an awesome week on tap.  I’m preparing for my parents to come this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited to spend time with them!

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

I was very uninspired by the internet this week.  Well, minus finding out that George Clooney’s wife is having twins.  George > Beyonce.  End of story.

But I was inspired by an excess of lemons and some leftover buttermilk in the fridge.  And with that inspiration, I baked a cake.  If there was ever a cake that deserves to be eaten at breakfast, this is it.  It’s light and bright and slightly sweet.

Does anyone else get a little anxiety when you pull a bundt cake out of the oven?  I mean, I pray to the bundt gods that it comes out beautifully while holding my breath and turning the pan.

lemonbuttermilk

And I always do a little bundt dance when it comes out perfect.

This weekend is rather low-key for us.  No real plans except a precious birthday party for our favorite one year old boy on Saturday afternoon.  But the weather is going to be GORGEOUS so I see a couple of long walks in my future and perhaps an adult beverage on the back deck.  I hope you have the best weekend ever – make it a little sweeter and bake a cake!

Cheers!

Sun-Dried Tomato Guacamole

Trust me on this one.  I loosely followed a recipe so I’m going to give you all the details as to how I threw together this amazing guacamole for the Super Bowl last weekend.  This is super simple and would be perfect for any occasion.  Or just a margarita.

sundriedguac

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic
3 green onions
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 lime, juiced
salt
pepper
sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil

In a food processor, whirl the red onion, garlic and green onions until finely chopped.  Add in the avocados, citrus juice and salt and pepper.  Taste to make sure there is enough salt – I always feel like I put in too much but you need a lot.

Transfer to a bowl and top with chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Serve with fresh veggies or some chips.

 

Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

Last week I had the privilege to take dinner to a friend that just had a baby.  I absolutely love being able to share my love of cooking with others and am that girl that takes “orders” when it’s my turn to deliver.  This particular mom requested something healthy so I made a quinoa casserole that I knew would feed them for a few meals as well as keep the calories in check while still being delicious.  Since it was a casserole and only one dish, instead of dessert I made her some breakfast/snack cookies.  I honestly had no intention of sharing this recipe but after getting a text message claiming she was going to have to hide them from her toddler, I knew they were worth sharing.  Big Guy also ate these cookies for breakfast last week – he liked to warm them in the microwave and add some cashew butter on top.

bfastcookies

The cookies are absolutely full of good-for-you ingredients.  If you don’t have a lot of these ingredients on hand, I recommend heading to Trader Joes.  They have everything on the ingredient list and they’re priced much better than say Harris Teeter or Whole Foods.

In the mix (plus a few other ingredients)…

Coconut Oil – it doesn’t give the cookies a coconut flavor, so don’t be scared!
Coconut Sugar (I actually bought this at Walmart)
Banana – naturally sweetens the cookies
Flaxseed Meal – great source of Omega 3 and fiber
Cinnamon – not only does it taste delicious, it’s helps regulate hunger
Rolled Oats – a whole grain and full of fiber
Chia Seeds – a powerhouse ingredient!
Blueberries – full of good for you vitamins and fiber
Walnuts – sign me up for their antioxidant properties

They taste like a blueberry muffin and I promise you’ll love them!

 

King Ranch Chicken and Quinoa Casserole

There is something so comforting about a casserole.  This casserole used the leftover quinoa from another dinner last week along with rotisserie chicken and a handful of other ingredients.  King Ranch Chicken Casserole has been around for a long time and it a popular Tex-Mex dish.  The name has nothing to do with a King or with Ranch dressing and instead refers to a large ranch in the United States.

Casseroles are one of those dishes that can be prepared in advance and then cooked whenever you’re ready.  I prepped this dish earlier in the day and Big Guy just popped it in the oven and it was ready when we were.

The casserole is full of cheese, quinoa, chicken, poblano peppers, onion, fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles.  It was so filling and delicious.  I actually loved how large the serving size was and didn’t feel like I was eating something “healthy.”

kingranch

I loved how the leftover quinoa was transformed into a new dish.  It’s nutty and a little spicy and a whole lot of delicious.

Do you have a favorite casserole?

I loved tuna noodle casserole growing up and chicken pot pie.

Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Chicken and Cashews

Wow!  What a game that was last night.  I didn’t have a dog in the fight but I was cheering for the Falcons.  And I can’t believe they didn’t win after leading on the scoreboard the entire game.  Unbelievable.  And the halftime show – I thought it was awesome!  Needless to say, I needed an extra cup of coffee this morning after staying up too late to watch the whole game.

Rewind to Friday night and an amazing yet easy dinner.  Friday’s have become pretty low-key around our house thanks to early Saturday morning commitments.  I’m not really complaining because our Saturdays have come so productive lately.  After a busy week with plans almost every evening, I was happy to have a relaxing dinner at home catching up on some of our DVRed shows.

cinnamonchicken

Sweet potatoes are topped with a sweet topping of chicken, cashews, dried cherries and raisins.  Thanks to a rotisserie chicken the topping comes together in a flash.  Simply sauté diced celery in a little EVOO and then add in the dried fruit, some freshly squeezed orange juice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt.  Once warmed through, top the baked sweet potatoes with the chicken mixture and then a good sprinkle of green onions.

So good!  I adored the flavor combination.  It was kind of like a warmed chicken salad.

p.s.  Cashews are my favorite nut ever.