ON THE RISE, PART II

It is rainy and windy today, not really a surprise around here! It is the perfect day to spend time baking in the kitchen and I wanted to try a few more shaping techniques from the Craftsy class that I reviewed here. I used the same recipe and, once again the dough came together nicely, and was allowed to double in size.

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The dough was portioned slightly differently as I wanted to make three different shapes.

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The six smaller portions on the left were to be made into small, Dutch crunch rolls, the larger were earmarked for 4 telera rolls and 4 double knots

I was on my own today and did not have help to make a video like the last post, so I will try to describe the shaping process for each roll.

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The six rolls at the top were made by flattening the dough portion and each corner folded into the center to form a loose ball. The ball was placed, seam side on the counter and rolled to form a denser ball, with tension, to form the tight surface. The four at the bottom of the pan were shaped the same way but then two deep indentations were made to form the telera pattern. It should look like this when baked:

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The four in the middle were rolled as was shown in the video I made previously, but the long log was then tied in the middle, like a single knot, then the ends were tucked in the hole in the middle. This is the double knot shape.

The six small rolls were supposed to have the Dutch crunch topping but, turns out I did not have the rice flour that I thought I had! So, they were egg washed and sprinkled with sanding sugar, the double knots were also egg washed, the telera were left with just the flour for a more rustic look. All were baked at 350°F for 20 minutes.

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The indentations in the telera rolls proofed away! They look like potato rolls instead. I think the tender sweet dough was too soft to hold up to the shape of the telera roll. I may have to try again with a firmer dinner roll recipe.

The double knots and small round rolls held their shape better, all three were delicious!

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In an attempt to believe spring is actually here, I made an Easter bread basket.

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Up next, Hot cross buns for Easter Weekend!

 

Three layer Lasagna

We have a crazy schedule this next week. As a family, we are all over the place! Our son has a performance one night, my husband is working two nights, we are rock climbing a couple days and we have 17 miles on the half marathon training schedule this week! We need some easy, fast, quality fuel that any one of us can just throw into the oven or microwave whenever we find time for a meal. So, I made a recipe that always delivers! It’s one that I have been tinkering with for a few years. I finally have decided that it is exactly how I want it. This three layer lasagna will feed us for the week, and it will taste just as good next Friday as it does tonight on Sunday.

There are a couple components to make before the assembly but they are simple and quick. I started with the preparation of the noodles. I followed the package instructions and intentionally under cooked the pasta as it will continue the baking process after assembly of the lasagna.

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I placed the par boiled noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet and coated them with olive oil to prevent sticking. Next I started on the tomato meat sauce.

I sautéed the onion and garlic first then added the sweet Italian sausage and cooked until the pink color was gone. Then the tomato products, seasoning, and herbs were added and the mixture simmered until thickened. The final component was the cheese mixture which included ricotta, goat cheese, pecorino and parmesan. There are a total of five cheeses in this recipe!

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Then it was time to assemble the final product. I like to use a larger baking dish (10 in X 17 in) and place the noodles along the short side, 6 lasagna noodle fit for each layer.

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The layers are as follows: 1/3 of the tomato meat sauce, 1/2 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, and repeat.

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The final layer has the last 1/3 of the tomato sauce, 1/3 mozzarella and big handfuls of more pecorino and parmesan cheese. Since all the components are already cooked the lasagna only needs to heat through and brown on top. I garnish with fresh herbs at the end.

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I made a quick garlic bread to finish the meal and we were ready to eat!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

You can view the recipe by clicking on the link below, I hope you give it a try!

 

three layer lasagna

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup

I have been battling a cold for a few days now, and the weather here has been non-stop rain. At least it hasn’t been too cold to run, just trying to get in a work out between rain showers has been tricky. So, between my cold and the rain I have been yearning for some good comfort food. When I saw this recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod I knew I had to make it. I love their blog, if you haven’t checked it out you really should! I didn’t stray too far from their vegan recipe, but I did not have vegetable broth and used chicken broth instead, I used cashew milk instead of almond and I did feel the need to add a little balsamic vinegar to round out the flavor. It is a keeper!

I started with the classic mirepoix of onion, celery and carrots, diced and heated in a large dutch oven with olive oil. Minced garlic, bay leaves and tomato paste were added after the veggies had softened.

The crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, broth, sugar, dried thyme and red pepper flakes were added and the mixture simmered for another 15-20 minutes.

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The milk and basil were incorporated 

Now it was time to break out my immersion blender.

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And that was it! The soup was ready for the bowl. But I wanted comfort food remember? I went back to the Dutch Oven Bread that I made the day before. There was not a lot left but a couple slices would work. I spread them with some pesto and added thinly sliced apples, cheddar, ham, grated gruyere and popped them under the broiler while the soup bubbled away.

This was the meal my cold wanted and my soul needed, and it came together in about 30 minutes!

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I garnished with some candied seeds 

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If it is still winter at your house, I strongly recommend this recipe! Enjoy!

Valentines’ at Vestal

We usually don’t make a big deal out of Valentines’ Day at our house. Most of the time I make dinner for the family, my husband and I may, or may not, exchange cards and we are often sick of chocolate hearts as they have been on sale at the grocery store since December 26th. But this year, we went all out. We got dressed up, bought gifts and cards for one another and made the long, traffic filled trek into Seattle for dinner at a restaurant that we had never heard of before that night. We did not know what to expect and we were pleasantly thrilled at our choice!

Vestal was listed as one of the top 10 romantic restaurants in Seattle and it did not disappoint, the ambiance was spectacular. The wait staff were attentive and timely and the food was top tier! We had their 5 course prix fixe menu which was specifically designed for Valentines’ Day. Of course we had to start with a cocktail (or two)!

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We also opted to start with the wild brook trout caviar which was served with mini buttermilk biscuits and maple bourbon butter. I am not going to lie, the maple bourbon butter stole that show! We also had some of their sourdough bread which was amazing-sorry no pictures of those!

Our first course was the Kumamoto oyster & pink scallop with cara cara orange granita and smoke.

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I am probably the only person in Washington State that does not love oysters, so my husband got two and said they were fantastic. I do know the scallop was great too!

The second course was my favorite. It was albacore crude, candied Meyer lemon, pickled shitake, dashi, lemon oil with nori chips. A lot of ingredients that added up to a ton of flavor!

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I could have had two bowls of this and been happy!

The third course was pure country pork ravioli, pickled celery, roasted shallot with parmesan froth-yes, froth. There was some molecular gastronomy going on at Vestal.

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This was delicious, just delicious!

The next course offered a choice. Either a ribeye steak or cedar planked steelhead, steelhead skin chicharrones and charred carrots. We both chose the steelhead and were glad we did. It was perfectly cooked and had a soy glaze that was incredibly succulent!

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At this point we were truly stuffed. My husband also had the wine pairing and was falling behind on his wines (I was driving so only a couple sips for me!). But, there was no way we were going to miss the dessert. Dark chocolate, black sesame tuile cookie, caramelized kasu ice cream with freeze dried mandarin rounded out the menu.

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The tuile cookie contained the dark chocolate mousse, but the star for us was the ice cream!

Of course they had to offer us a parting treat with the bill. The final palette cleanser was a house made vanilla macaron and it was executed to perfection just like the rest of the meal. Just a warning, this is not a cheap date! But if you are looking for a unique experience with great food then you will be happy you went! We will definitely be recommending Vestal to our friends and family for a special occasion.

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentines!

Sally’s Baking Addiction, February Challenge

Have you heard about Sally’s Baking Addiction? She has an amazing website and blog all about baking. She has launched a monthly baking challenge where she will post a new recipe each month, with all the instructions and videos you need to create the dish. I have decided it would be fun to accept this challenge which started in February. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sally posted her chocolate lava cake. This recipe is straight forward, easy and delicious! There are two options, either using 4 ramekins or making 6 cakes in a muffin tin. I chose the ramekins and they needed to be greased and dusted with cocoa powder to ensure the cakes would release after baking.

 

 

There are only six ingredients and I started with melting the chocolate and butter in a microwave proof bowl.

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The flour, powdered sugar and salt were combined and the eggs were whisked.

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The dry mix and eggs were added to the chocolate mixture and combined until smooth.

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The batter was equally distributed between the four ramekins and went into the oven for 13 minutes.

 

I waited one minute, as per the instructions, then inverted the cake onto a plate-and held my breath and hoped for the best. It worked great and looked just like Sally’s picture.

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I topped the warm cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and added caramel and chocolate sauces, added a few raspberries and we dug in.

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The molten center really did flow

I really recommend this one if you love chocolate and want something easy to impress your dinner guests-I am looking forward to March’s challenge!

A Healthy Dinner to fuel Your Evening Workout

Last night we wanted a quick, healthy dinner before heading off to rock climbing. I turned to my Pinterest recipe board for some much needed inspiration and found this super easy, fast one dish wonder.

Cashew Chicken Quinoa Bake combines lean protein, from the chicken and quinoa seeds, with healthy carbs to keep you moving and feeling full. I appreciated the fact that I had most of the ingredients on hand, but did make a couple substitutions. I did not have Hoisen sauce so swapped in Oyster sauce instead, and I used chicken broth in place of the water because, well, flavor!

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I had one each orange and red pepper and used white quinoa

While the oven was preheating, I toasted the cashews in a dry sauté pan to get a little color going, and added some sea salt. This was set aside for later.

After the quinoa was rinsed it was layered on the bottom of the greased 13×9 baking dish. The onion and peppers were added next.

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The raw chicken-yes, raw- was cut into bite size and layered over top.

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The remaining ingredients were combined to make the sauce, poured over the chicken and it went into the oven for 45min.

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After 45minutes I added the cashews and let the dish cook for another 10 minutes. I garnished with chives and let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the quinoa to absorb the sauce.

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My adult children are just as picky now as when they were little so I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter liked it (my son refused to try it, some things never change!)

 

dscn2236We will definitely be having this again in the future!

 

Our Yoga Retreat Wrap Up!

We finally made our way back to Seattle, which thanks to Trump and his new policy made it quite difficult as we were swept up in the protest at SeaTac! But, mine is not a political blog and I will leave that story for someone else to tell!

I spent our first day back much like anyone else arriving home after a week away. I did bills, laundry, grocery shopping and a run to Costco to stabilize the household. Now I have a moment to describe the last two days of our retreat.

Thursday morning we got an early start, to beat the heat, and went on a hike to an abandoned hotel. Palm Royale did not survive for long. The story that was told is that the hotel was finished and was scheduled for a soft opening. However, the workers were not paid the wages they were owed and they decided to dynamite the only road leading to the hotel to protest the lack of reimbursement. The developers never reopened! Now, I don’t know if that story is true but it is certainly colorful. The hotel sat at the top of a mountain and the views were outstanding!

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We arrived at the top just after sunrise

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This is a birds’ eye view of the shoreline where we met our boat for the snorkeling tour

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As you can imagine, this is a favorite hang out for local teens to tag and party!

We made our way back down and headed over to La Cumbra for breakfast. This restaurant is located in a gated community consisting of condos mostly owned by Americans who have retired and relocated, at least for some of the year, in Mexico.

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The view from our table located outside on the patio

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This is a small portion of the full condo complex

We were told about a bridge on the property that had been damaged, some years ago, by a hurricane and had never been repaired. So, of course we had to go investigate after our meal.

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It did not look to bad yet!

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We started to see what they meant!

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It was stabile enough for us to cross one at a time, and the view on the other side was worth it!

That evening we had a special treat. A local woman came to our condo to teach us all how to make authentic Mexican tamales and enchiladas. I am not a big fan of Mexican food in general but do love to learn how to properly cook alternate cuisine, so I was very excited to learn from her. She is the “lunch lady” at the local elementary school down the road from our hosts. She brought a mix of masa, which is corn meal, flour and lard, and a variety of fillings for the tamales and enchiladas. She then proceeded to show us how to construct and cook the dishes, she even brought her personal steamer which was large enough to hold all 24 tamales.

With the tamales done, it was time to work on the enchiladas.

Of course, no Mexican meal is complete without home made corn tortillas. I got to try my hand at making these. The mixture was just corn meal and water, no lard this time! I rolled them into a ball, then pressed them with a traditional wood press. We then cooked them off in a dry sauté pan. It was actually surprisingly easy!

We ate, too much, then went to evening yoga and meditation. The next day was our last full day in El Naranjo. I skipped yoga in lieu of one last run in the warm weather! I ran 5 miles and then jumped in the pool! After breakfast we headed to the Tortugario Ecological Center of Cuyutlan. This is a sea turtle preserve and plantation. We were treated to a boat ride in the mangroves to search out snakes, birds, iguanas, turtles and crocodiles.

The turtles were easy to find, the other animals, not so much!

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The large adults in their holding tanks would swim right up to the edge to check us out

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These cute little guys hatched not too long ago

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The eggs are protected by fencing and marked with plastic buckets

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We made our way to the boat and got our first glimpse at the mangroves and tropical forest

We saw many birds and a few iguanas that hid too far back into the jungle to photograph. We did catch a couple interesting sights.

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Two Great Snowy Egrets

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This little croc was hiding in the reeds trying to cool down.

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These are two of the biggest termite nests I have ever seen!

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The tour was at an end. So, you know when you take your kids to the zoo which ends with the obligatory trip to the gift shop, and they want everything in sight? Well, you won’t have that problem at this gift store!

We had one last evening yoga session that night and prepared to leave paradise the next day. We had a blast on this retreat! Our hosts, Susan Lewis and Bill Pecha are amazing! They provided all the meals, transportation, lodging and excursions-this was truly all inclusive and can they cook! The food was amazing, better than any of the restaurant meals that we had! They worked with our yoga teacher, Lisa Kaulen, to put together a great week of activities that kept us motivated and engaged. We highly recommend this type of trip if you want to see some place that is not just the regular touristy sights, and enjoy physical activity!

Good Bye El Naranjo!

Ham, Lentil and Corn soup

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We were hungry last night and, of course, we had nothing prepared. So, I started rummaging around in the pantry and fridge and came up with this pile of ingredients.

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We also had some leftover Honeybaked ham from Christmas dinner. I decided to challenge myself and try to put together a ham and lentil soup.

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I started by heating the oil in a large Dutch oven, and browned the onion, carrots and potatoes.

soup-3I added ½ cup water, salt and pepper then covered the pot for ~10 min. Next in the pot went the chicken stock, lentils and thyme and the mix simmered, uncovered until the lentils were tender (this took about 20 more minutes)

Since my ham was fully cooked, it was added near the end just to warm through. The fresh corn was added for only the last 2-3 minutes to finish the dish.

Pretty quick and simple! And most important, tasty! This soup was even better the next day.

By the way, if you are following Gratitude for Attitude 30 day challenge, I have decided to just update the post as opposed to reblogging everyday. I was worried your inboxes would get too full after a full month!

Ingredients

1 T olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, medium dice

1 lb. carrots, medium dice

1 lb. Yukon gold or red new potatoes, medium dice

½ cup water

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. fresh ground pepper

4 C. chicken broth + 1 C. water

1 C. dried lentils, rinsed well

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

8 oz. cubed cooked ham

2 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed, or 1 cup frozen corn

Directions

-Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and potatoes and cook until light brown.

-Add ½ cup water, salt and pepper and cook, covered, until the vegetables soften, ~10 minutes.

-Add the chicken broth, dried lentils and thyme leaves bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables and lentils are tender, ~ 20 minutes.

-Add the ham and corn for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve hot.