Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday's Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday’s Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday I baked a white loaf for a friend who’d recently had surgery.  Since it was a crummy day and the oven was hot I decided to make some more bread; just something a bit different.  I came up with this recipe and tried to duplicate it today without the bread maker (which I used just to mix/knead the dough) and I’d used the last of the potato flour yesterday.  Today’s was a bit different, but really didn’t matter too much as they were both delicious! 

Today's Rosemary Olive Bread

Today’s Rosemary Olive Bread

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Summer Peaches

My brother posted on Facebook the other day that with the record heat in California his peach tree’s fruit ripened seemingly overnight and the peaches began dropping off while he was exploring the Death Valley’s street cooking potential.  (He brought sous vide steak and some tin foil to cook eggs on the sidewalk

Anyway, he was wondering what to do with his sudden plethora of peaches.  I gave a few ideas: peach & blueberry crisp similar to what I’ve just made, peach simple syrup or puree for Bellini cocktails, using his dehydrator, and the one suggestion I got from a wedding I was working at last weekend– grilled bread with peaches and ricotta cheese.

Grilled Peach & Ricotta Toast

Grilled Peach & Ricotta Toast

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Bread again

I’ve fallen in love with making bread.  I can’t believe it.  I really truly never made bread more than once or twice in my life (besides things like banana “bread” which is really cake) before this year.  An inside joke with one of my girlfriends from Dunedin, NZ… “I’ve never made bread with milk before.”…long pause… “I’ve never made bread!” I am not an Atkins Diet sort of person, or any diet sort of person for that matter, and I couldn’t imagine my life without carbs. 
I have started a sour dough “starter:”, but considering I rarely have time for this blog and never seem to get my laundry done, I haven’t had the moment I need to dedicate to sour dough bread.  But now I’ve found a perfect dry yeast.  Rapunzel Rize Organic Active Dry Yeast.  (I don’t get anything for endorsing them, I’m just sharing) I bought it at Whole Foods and can’t believe the difference it’s made in my breads.  I could tell the moment I opened the package, the waft of yeast hit my nose —I knew this one was for real.  And the bread is airier yet still substantial and the taste is phenomenal.

First two times I made it with some ground spelt and then I made it with just organic all-purpose flour.  Really, it’s so easy using this recipe I blogged about before and oh, so good. Hard crust, soft and chewy inside. My kids love to eat it fresh from the oven plain or with a touch of butter. 

A Day of Baking

We have new neighbors so I made some cookies and bars to bring over to them; welcome them. They haven’t moved in yet, doing renovations, but the builder was there and put them in the fridge. I got a message that did get them at least, just have to wait to meet them.

I made the Apricot In-Betweens my friend blogged about here. I actually made 3/4 of the pan with apricot and put chocolate chips in the other 1/4. Both tasted great.

I thought of making some chocolate cookies but didn’t have the patience (nor time) to make most recipes- melting chocolate and then chilling the dough for a couple of hours when there was a ton of housework calling out to me, just didn’t seem like the best idea. So, chocolate chip cookies are an easy thing to make. But still I wanted something, more… I found it in the form of Ghirardelli’s White Mocha Hot Chocolate Mix. I made the recipe (but just half) from just the back of a Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chip package but substituted the White Mocha mix for the white sugar. It was subtle but delicious, especially when still warm from the oven.

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt       

1/2 tsp baking soda

Set aside. 

Mix until creamy:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Ghirardelli’s White Mocha mix

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

Add 1 egg and beat.

Mix in dry ingredients.

Stir in 1/2 package chocolate chips (about 6-8 oz)

Place rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake at 375F (preheated) for 8-10 minutes.  Makes about two dozen cookies.


I also mixed the ingredients together for the No-Knead Bread I posted here.  It’s best to mix the dough the day before you’re baking it.  I made this one with regular flour and just a Tbsp of ground flax-seed.  Yum!  Really, such a great method.  I never used to bake bread, now I make it all the time!

Summer Daze Ahead

It was the last day of school today, ahhh summer… couple of months without running to make the school bus.  The past couple of weeks have included lots of picnics and parties to celebrate the year’s end.  We’ve also just enjoyed our favorite summer pastime- Sunday Concerts on the Green.  Packing a picnic or planning something to bring to a party can be tricky when trying to keep the food choices healthy, but it’s possible.  Whether they’ll actually eat the healthier choices when confronted with ice cream truck offerings and ring pops, is another story!

I made a few types of salads to bring to different events.  I got a nice surprise the other day with a box of 3 different Briannas salad dressings from the company sitting on my front porch.  Who doesn’t love free stuff?  They sent it to me because I had called them in order to respond to a reader’s question.   I’d never tried the 3 flavors they sent me, so that day used the Champagne Caper Vinaigrette on a mixed greens and Romaine salad with orange bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, mint and parsley.  The dressing was nice, a little sweet but complemented the choice of vegetables well.  The boys ate the salad without any complaints.

We used the Santa Fe dressing for a pasta salad we packed in a picnic dinner for our Concert on the Green. 

  • Cook Farfalle pasta according to directions, then chill. 
  • Blanch zucchini and summer squash whole in boiling water.  Shock with ice water and then sliced first in half lengthwise then in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. 
  • Red and yellow bell pepper sliced into thin strips (not too long).
  • Chop scallion (green onion)
  • Dress with Briannas Santa Fe Blend dressing and sea salt to taste
  • Toss all together.  Also great with chicken added.

My eldest two liked it but youngest found it a bit spicy for his three year old palate.

I also made a fruit salad (no dressing on this).  Sliced bananas and squeezed lemon juice on them —they don’t turn brown and also gives them a nice tartness.  Sliced and hulled strawberries. Picked the grapes off the bunch but left them whole (I only use organic grapes because the sulfur dioxide they usually spray on grapes makes me weeze. All my berries are also organic if not local).  Tossed them all gently with the raspberries.  I don’t find it necessary to add sugar because I find the sweetness of the grapes and bananas goes nicely with the tartness of the berries.  My children usually devour fruit salad.  We had also packed a separate container of cut up watermelon chunks. 

And for non-salad items this week we roasted chicken drumsticks.  In a large bowl, coat the drumsticks with olive oil, salt, pepper and Penzy’s Mural of Flavor (mixture of garlic powder, thyme, oregano and basil would do).  Roast in oven for 45-65 minutes at 350F (you can start it at 425-450 for 10 minutes for crispier skin).  After 45 minutes check temperature with instant-read thermometer, should be 160 to remove from oven.  Will continue to cook while it rests.  You can make this to eat immediately, but is delicious cold too.  The kids love eating drumsticks because they’re allowed to pick them up and eat them without forks. 

We also brought along the bread almost every event we went to lately.  I’ve been experimenting with combinations of different flours and really like the 1 cup spelt, 1/8 cup ground flax seed and 1 7/8 cups all purpose (unbleached, unbromated) flour.  It only takes minutes to mix and just being around to bake it.  There’s just something about fresh baked bread that’s still warm.  My kids can hardly get enough of it. 

With all these great foods to choose from, kids are bound to eat well.  Of course an after dinner treat of an ice cream from the ice cream truck is bound to please.

© 2010

Accidental Baker

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not much of a baker, but I seem to be doing my fair share lately.  I attribute some of it to getyourbakeon!, some to actually finding out how easy it is to bake delicious artisanal bread, and some to my natural curiosity when it comes to creating things that I think would go well together.  I often cook this way too, occasionally it’s because I like certain combinations of flavors or that I’ve had some dish in a restaurant and I try to replicate it — even if it’s not the exact ingredients, it often doesn’t matter because it usually works out well.  

I recently bought the kids Banana Cheerios thinking they’d like it, but they don’t.  So, what to do with the box?  Throw it away?  Then two days ago I figured out what I would  do with it.  I had a party to go to yesterday and needed to bring something.  I had some overripe bananas and decided to make banana cream pie with the Banana Cheerios as the crust.  I had never seen or read about using them, just thought they’d make a good one.  I looked up some recipes for graham cracker crusts and other cookie crusts, so I got the general idea of what to do. 

The filling isn’t as easy as pie, but if you have some time and an instant read thermometer(I suggest you get one if you don’t— best way to figure out if your chicken or steak is done), it’s doable.   I found some recipes (Icebox Pies by Lauren Chattman was my main source) and then adjusted them to my preference. 

         Banana Cream Pie  

  • 2 Tbsp cold water
  • 2 tsp of gelatin (about 2/3 packet)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 3 ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla (separated into two 1 teaspoon portions)
  • 5 cups Banana Cheerios
  • 1 stick butter, melted

For the crust, preheat oven to 375F.  In a Cuisinart, use regular metal blade to chop the cheerios until they are small crumbs.  Add the melted butter and 1 tsp of vanilla.  They should be mixed until they stick when pressed together.  Pour mixture into pie plate and press to edges.  Bake for 6-8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl dissolve the gelatin in water (sprinkle on top or stir in, it works either way), set aside.  Whip cream and when stiff, put in fridge for use later.  In a double boiler (metal bowl over couple of inches of boiling water) whisk the eggs and sugar together (temper) until they reach 160 F.  Remove from heat and beat in gelatin— mix for several minutes until creamy and fairly cool.  Stir in bananas, salt and 1 tsp vanilla.  Fold in 2/3 of the whipped cream. Pour into cooled crust.  Chill in fridge for an hour then use the remaining whipped cream to spread on top.

I made the bread again and also turned a failed blueberry mousse into ice cream. 


© 2010

Homemade Bread- No Knead

Last week I mentioned my desire to make bread for the kids (and me, love my carbs!) but didn’t have the time to make the no knead recipe I’d seen by Mark Bittman in the NY Times.  It comes from the Sullivan St Bakery and found on their site.  Since I had planned it out this time around I could make it. 

I am not a huge baker and like to cook because I can improvise; in baking it’s very important to follow directions.  I guess I just have a hard time doing that, even here.  So, I decided to use 1/3 Spelt flour  and 2/3 unbleached wheat flour.  I also looked up some yeast starter recipes too becuase I love a good sour dough.  I didn’t have the time to let the yeast ferment but I started it ahead of the rest of the mixing.  I took 1/3 of the flour mixture, the yeast, one cup of water and a teaspoon of organic cane sugar.  I let it sit in a warm place in a glass container for a couple of hours.  Then I mixed the rest of the flour, salt and water in with my starter.  For the first 8 or so hours the day was warm and I let the dough rise in the calphalon dutch as directed, but when I woke up the next day to turn/pull it I noticed how the sudden temperature drop affected the rising, it had sunk a little. 

This is the pre-oven state.  It never regained that really puffy state because it wasn’t as warm, but when I got it out of the oven, saw the golden top, cut it, and smelled the waft of fresh yeasty bread, I was so thrilled.  The taste totally lived up to the sight and smell.  And my kids loved it!  So did everyone lucky enough to have a taste—a friend I brought a taste to, my husband and I.  

If you see from the recipe, it does not take a lot of hands-on time.  Plus you can give your kids the most wholesome hard-crusted, soft-centered bread without the unnecessary vitamins (if they eat well, you don’t need fortified bread, cereal, oj, etc, etc.) and other ingredients.

© 2010

Best laid plans… or no plans

I wanted to go to bed but I also knew my sons want some toast in the morning.  All three love a slice of toast or bagel before they have the rest of their breakfast (eggs, oatmeal, cereal).   We ran out of bagels and toasting bread and I had picked up fresh eggs, rhubarb and milk from one farm and our shared harvest (CSA) from another but forgot about bread.  I just searched online for the bread recipe (wish I’d had more time to do the no-knead one that Mark Bittman featured in the NY Times recently). Since I am not a huge baker, my yeast might be a little old because the dough didn’t rise.  Ugh.  So, I put the dough in a preheated to 100F convection oven for twenty minutes. That didn’t work.  Next I took 2 different yeasts I had and tested them with some water and sugar.  Both bubbled and rose.  So I added more of it with some more flour.  I want it to rise once, punch it then go to bed.  Boy do I want to punch it.  It’s rising now at least.

So not every dinner works out as planned.  Or I mean not every dinner is enjoyed as much as I would wish.  Tonight I made a pasta because with chaperoning a field trip, driving over 2 towns for pick-ups and drop-offs, and making it back after 5 pm I just didn’t have dinner planned.  So I thought I’d use some of the spinach, parsley and garlic scapes in my CSA bin (the center of the young garlic shoot- great grilled).  I sautéed a chopped scape in olive oil, added two chopped plum tomatoes, chopped parsley, sea salt and pepper.  Tossed the pasta with them and added steamed spinach and some Trader Joe’s party meatballs.  I thought it was great.  The kids thought the spinach was too bitter and mostly just ate the pasta and meatballs.  Oh well.  Not every meal can be a success.  At least we ate together, talked about the day and I tried to get them to eat all their veggies.   In the end I warmed up some of last night’s peas just so they got some more greens without me having to spend more time in the kitchen…. before bedtime.