Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brown Rice with Cherry Tomatoes

This is an easy side dish that mimics the flavor of pasta salad with the health benefits of whole grain brown rice. You can do so many variations with this recipe, but it's super easy. (I love my Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook!!)

My only drawback with this recipe - my garden has been growing VERY slowly, so my fresh basil was not at all ready to be picked and I had to use dried:( It was a bummer, but wow - it would be great with julienned fresh basil, just like Ina Garten suggests. Give it a try:

Brown Rice Salad with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup White Wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon good olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ripe cherry tomatoes
1 cup packed basil leaves (1 large bunch), julienned (cut into thin strips)

Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil and add the rice and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Return to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Transfer the rice to a bowl.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, remaining teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Pour over the rice. Add the tomatoes and basil. Mix well and check the seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, June 13, 2011

St. Anthony's Day bread

Buona Festa di San Antonio a tutti!

Today is the feast of the great Saint Anthony of Padua! Traditionally on this day, Italian Catholics would start the day with Mass, followed by the Priest blessing animals, lilies, and bread in honor of the charitable San Antonio!

Likewise, Italians traditionally exchange loaves or baskets of bread rolls with other families as a token of prosperity and health that they may never go hungry. It is a long standing practice among past generations, and it's something we need more of today. Warm, freshly baked bread makes a great gift for any family, especially when it's blessed! So today, I've got my latest whole wheat bread recipe for all of you.....

Except this one is kind of cheating!! I use my bread machine to do most of the work, and then I take all the credit. The machine mixes, kneads, and rises the dough. Then, when that's all done, I simply roll it out and bake it! Perfect for a pregnant mammarella who won't be caught barefoot in the kitchen for TOO long!

NOTE: Most bread machines can accommodate a 2 lb. loaf (which this recipe's dough capacity is) but if yours does not, simply cut this recipe in half. Also, if you do not have a bread machine, you can always use this recipe with a hand-kneading method (but really, why would you want to?)

Bread Machine Rolls
Pane di San Antonio!

4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp. salt
1 heaping TBSP. Active Dry Yeast
1 heaping tsp. vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups very hot water
1 egg, beaten

Add the oil, water, honey, and egg into your bread machine container. Mix the dry ingredients (except for the yeast). Add the dry ingredients on top of the liquid, maintaining the separation of the liquid & dry layers. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the yeast. Turn on the bread machine (set on a 2lb dough cycle) and wait patiently!!!!

When the dough is done, remove it from the bread machine. This dough will be wet and sticky. Use enough all purpose unbleached flour to coat it and make it workable.

You can shape it into rolls like this:

OR you can braid it into a
pull-apart loaf like this:

This recipe makes a soft, fluffy dinner roll. If you want a crisper bottom, try baking it on a pizza stone with a water bath in the oven, but it really is not meant to be a crusty loaf, yet it still tastes AWESOME and is versatile enough for almost any meal!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Friday Five: Boursin Cheese Alfredo Sauce

Last week I purchased the three pack of Boursin cheese from one of my favorite places in the universe: Costco!! I served one with my homemade crackers, and used the other in this Fabulous Friday Five recipe!

Trick your family into thinking you slaved over a restaurant style homemade Alfredo, and let the Boursin do all the work.


One 5.2 oz. package Garlic & Herb Boursin Cheese
2-3 TB Butter for sauteing
2 TB minced shallots
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup grated Romano Cheese

Saute the shallots in the butter until translucent. Add in the Boursin Cheese; gently melt it. Add the cream, stirring often. Add the cheese until incorporated. Simmer until thickened. Season with salt & pepper and pour over your favorite pasta!

Add chicken, shrimp, mushrooms......or even add a little white wine after the shallots for a fancier sauce!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Whole Roasted Chickens

My first born turns seven tomorrow (*sniffle*) and as goes family tradition, he gets to pick out what he wants for his Birthday Meal. What does he choose? Chicken Soup!!! Right smack dab in the middle of June!

Oh well, he's gonna get it! Today I roasted two organic whole chickens with this fancy herb oil. This works well with fresh herbs too. Experiment and be creative!

about a cup of extra virgin live oil
8 - 10 cloves minced garlic
freshly ground black pepper
about 2 tsp each of dried:

Make this mixture in the morning, or even a day or two ahead of time (if you're that efficient). Let mixture sit in fridge so the flavors incorporate. Rub all over the outside of the whole chickens.

I bake my two birds at 375 for one hour (depending on size and weight). You pretty much want the internal temp to be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

After we eat these beauties for dinner tonight, I'll take the bones and make a homemade stock, from which I'll make his birthday soup!! Even with the six of us eating tonight, we usually end up with some leftover chicken meat. I'll use some in the soup, then I'll save the rest for another whole meal. (I do this roast chicken thing about once a month - I love trying to come up with new ways to stretch a chicken!)

Remember this????

Anyone who knows me knows I like to cook, but hate to bake!! It's too scientific for me. One mistake and you've ruined the whole recipe. Not so with a Sunday Gravy!! You could always add a little more of this or that to fix it, and no one would ever know!! Now, that's my kind of cooking!

But yes, this mamma can sometimes be clumsy in the kitchen (hard to believe considering how perfect I am the rest of the time) - especially when it comes to baking.

However, I've recently fallen in love with learning how to bake certain goodies for my family, especially in my new Stoneware Muffin Tin!!!!!! Can I just say I LOVE Stoneware for baking.....such an excellent conductor of heat, and it cooks recipes like my banana muffins perfectly evenly.

Well, imagine my surprise when the packaging on my stoneware had a picture of this:

Remind you of anything? For anyone who keeps up with all of my Mamma Meets the Cucina Food Challenges, you might remember the meatball challenge this past February. I humbly (but happily) gave the victory to my dueling co-blogger, Dominic Condo for his Meatball Stromboli. It was super yummy! But MY recipe was actually a MEATBALL RING, much like the picture on my stoneware packaging!!!! So really, my creative unique idea is a little more popular than I thought.

NOTE: they obviously stole this idea from my blog and immediately had it printed up for their company's promotional purposes. Despicable. Naturally, my lawyer is drawing up copyright lawsuit papers as you read this......

Monday, June 6, 2011

Homemade Crackers (better than wheat thins!)

Now that summer has made it's debut, we have been having a lot more get-togethers with family and friends. One of the easiest hoers derv's to serve is cheese & crackers.

Given my obsession with cheese during this pregnancy, and all the milling of fresh whole wheat flour that I have been up to lately, I decided to make try my own crackers from scratch!

The recipe is a piece of cake, and worth it once you get the hang of it. I can't say I'll make these all the time, but they are WAY healthier than the store bought variety and JUST as tasty!

4 tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/4 whole wheat flour (all purpose would work as well)
1/2 tsp. salt + more for topping
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup cold water, as needed

Cut the butter into the flour/salt/sugar/paprika mixture. Add in the cold water until a smooth dough forms. Knead only as much is necessary to form the dough - do not overknead!
Separate dough into four pieces (this makes rolling out a bit easier).
Roll out each dough ball as thin as possible onto lightly floured parchment paper.
Poke with a fork all over, THEN cut with a pizza cutter into squares.
(If you do not poke until after you cut, your crackers will get all messed up, so follow the order of instructions here, people!)
Sprinkle them with salt.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 - 7 minutes or until edges of the entire rolled out cracker dough begin to brown. Let them crisp up in a warm oven. (After I'm done baking all my crackers, I just leave them in the cooled oven once it has been off for a bit)

Serve with some YUMMY Boursin Cheese!

For a variation, try adding 3 or 4 tsp. of Italian Seasoning to the flour before mixing! I've done it and it's fabulous!
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