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!

 

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Chia Seed Pudding

Overnight oats are everywhere right now. I understand the appeal, set it up the night before and save time in the morning while enjoying a healthy breakfast that’s quick and easy. Personally, I like to have my oatmeal for lunch and I have the time to make it and have it while it is hot so I have not been tempted to try one of these recipes. However, the chia seed pudding dishes that have come across my Pinterest and Facebook feeds intrigued me. I am not a huge fan of pudding per se but do love chia seeds and add them to other recipes when I want to boost the fiber content or need a healthy thickening agent. So, when I saw this particular recipe I decided to give it a try, with a couple modifications.

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My Recipe

3 T. chia seeds

¾ c. cashew milk (I use Silk)

1 T. Bourbon maple syrup

¼ t. Vanilla bean paste (substitute ½ t. vanilla extract if you can’t find vanilla paste)

 

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Mix the ingredients and refrigerate overnight.

Pretty straightforward, of course the website used a mason jar, which seem to be the trendy thing to do right now. I used a regular cereal bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, and that was just as effective.

 

I was a little worried when I saw the texture the next day, it looked a bit gelatinous for my taste, but my concern was unwarranted as it was delicious!

 

I added banana, pecans and blueberries but many other additions would be just as tasty.

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I will make this again for a healthy meal, but don’t be fooled by the health halo! The recipe made as written is 375 calories, after the additional topping you are pushing 500 calories, far too much for a snack, but appropriate for a light lunch or dinner.

I hope you give it a try, it’s easy, tasty and has the right amount of healthy energy to keep you going!

Nutritional info:

Calories:         375

Protein:          17g

Fiber:              11g

 

 

Artisan Bread from your home oven!

Of all the items I enjoy baking, artisan bread is far and above the top of the list! The culinary program where I was enrolled offered many, wonderful courses and I learned a great deal from each one. But Artisan bread baking was my favorite. We used 20-quart mixers and rotating shelf ovens with a stone platform and the ovens had steam injection options. My home oven is, well, normal and does not have any of those features that produce a crackling crust and the wonderful chewy internal texture that are synonymous with artisan bread. I have spent many hours (and more than a few dollars) to turn my normal oven into the best artisan bread production center possible. I am pretty happy with the results so far, but am always on the lookout for a better upgrade.

Now that the craziness of the holidays is dying down I wanted to get back to baking some of my favorites. The first on the list is Ciabatta, Italy’s answer to the French Baguette. This bread, like many other artisan bread begins with a preferment (more later).

I want to take a moment to talk about lean bread dough. A lean dough is when a recipe only calls for flour, yeast, salt and water. Since there are so few ingredients each is vital to the finished product, as is the ratio in which they are combined. I am rather picky about my bread flour and often order it on the internet. One of my best go to product is King Arthur Flour, which is found in many grocery stores. The specialty flours I have to order, for this ciabatta I am using this blend.

 

This has 11.7% protein content, a good medium strength flour for this recipe.

 

 

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This stores for long periods of time, does not require dissolving and I use it interchangeably when recipes call for active yeast, I have found no need to convert measurements. For the salt, I like to use Kosher and, unless stated in the recipe, use temperature controlled water.

Back to the preferment!

If you have made french baguettes than you may be familiar with the poolish, which is made from equal parts flour and water and used within a short time frame, generally 2-3 hours. A biga is only 30% water to flour and requires a much longer fermentation time, generally 18 to 24 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. I started my biga at 6:00pm the night before by mixing 737g (13oz) bread flour, 199ml (6.6fl. oz.) 80°F water and a pinch (~1/8 t) instant yeast in my 6 quart stand mixer.

 

 

 

Once combined, the biga was left covered at room temperature until 2pm the next day.

 

 

 

By the end of fermentation the biga should have risen and begun to recede, and appear bubbly and airy. This took 20 hours in my rather cool kitchen!

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Now you are ready to mix the dough. You will need the rest of the flour, water, instant yeast and salt. The full recipe is at the end of the post.

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I combined the biga, water and salt with the dough hook attachment on my 6 quart kitchen aid set on low to begin mixing, then added the flour and yeast to form this wet, slack dough. Artisan dough is wet by definition, you do not want to add more flour at this point, resist the temptation! After the dough is combined, transfer to a large bowl to bulk ferment until doubled, ~ 30 min.

 

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I sprinkled a little flour around the outer edge of the bowl, to help with the transfer to the counter later and a little on the top to help prevent drying out. I covered the bowl with plastic and a tea towel and placed it in a draft free area.

 

 

 

Everything up to this point has been fairly standard bread making, until now. This is where traditional bread and artisan bread become quite different. If you were making a standard loaf you would add enough flour so you could pull out the dough and knead it until it held your final shape. The key to artisan bread is to retain as much hydration (water content) as possible. You will not be able to knead this dough, instead you will be doing a series of stretch and fold techniques.

First transfer the dough to a floured surface. I find that my plastic bowl scraper works best for this process.

 

 

The dough will feel like jelly and be quite sticky. Using floured hands, lift one end and stretch the dough as you fold it back over the midline.

 

 

Repeat with the other side. fold-1k

Now you have completed 1 fold. Rotate the dough 90° and begin fold #2

 

 

Then return the dough to the bowl for the second fermentation (another 30 minutes). You need to do one more stretch and fold after the second fermentation. Then it is time to shape your bread.

Each time you fold then rest the dough, it will begin to hold its shape better as the proteins align and strengthen.

 

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The bread is still too fragile for a rolling pin and you need to take care to avoid tearing it with your fingers. Working with the palms, stretch the dough into a rectangle.

 

I decided to make two full loaves and six buns.

 

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Using a bench scraper, I divided the dough through the middle, into two halves. I set one half aside for the buns, and split the other half, longitudinally, reshaped into rectangles and placed on a couche. A couche is a floured, cloth that allows the dough to proof and will be useful in transferring to the oven later.

 

 

 

The other half of the dough was also split longitudinally, then sectioned into three rolls each, yielding 6 rolls total and placed in the couche.

 

 

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The bread was covered with a tea towel and allowed to proof for another 45 min.

While the bread proofed, I turned my attention to the oven. In order to mimic the oven found in a professional bakery I had to purchase a home oven baking stone. I bought mine from Breadtopia.com another one of my favorite websites!

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I leave my stone in at all times to help it cure, but only use the surface directly for my bread baking. To mimic the steam environment, I purchased a smoker box from Home Depot and filled it with volcanic rock. I load the stone with my bread and pour a cup of cold water into the smoker box, then quickly close the oven door to keep the steam inside. Resist the urge to open the door in the first 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent the humidity from escaping!

Now it is finally time to transfer the bread to the oven. A few key tips and tools for this process! A baguette flipping board will come in handy, and again, I bought mine from Breadtopia.

Transfer the bread to the baguette board that has been dusted with flour.

 

 

Flip the bread onto a pizza peel or a sheet pan for loading on the pizza stone. Dusting the surface with semolina flour or cornmeal will allow the bread to slide off the surface onto the baking stone.

 

 

 

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The loaves will slide off the cornmeal dusted surface quite easily

The bread needs to bake for about 30 minutes or until desired color is achieved. I like my bread on the darker side.

 

 

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I hope you are inspired to try some artisan bread baking at home!

Ciabatta Bread

  • Servings: 4 loaves or 2 loaves and 6 large sandwich rolls
  • Difficulty: moderate to advanced
  • Print

This Ciabatta recipe produces a wonderful crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior. This bread hold up well to saucy ingredients such as pulled pork or barbecue and pairs well with your wine and cheese tray.

Credit: Baking and Pastry textbook 

Ingredients

-Ciabatta  Makes 4 1/2 lbs of dough (2.02 kg)

For the Biga:

-13 oz or 368.5g Bread flour

-6.6 fl. oz. or 199ml water (60°F/16°C)

-a pinch of instant yeast

 

 

For the Final dough:

-1 lb 10.8oz or 0.76kg Bread flour

-1/4oz or 3.5 g Instant yeast

-22.6 fl. oz or 680ml water, temperature controlled to ~80°F/26°C)

-Biga from the day before

-1 oz or 28.5g salt 

Directions

  1. Prepare Biga the night before. combine flour, water and yeast and mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment for 3 minutes, or until combined thoroughly. Transfer to a container, cover and ferment at 75°F/24°C for 18 to 24 hours, until bigs has begun to recede; it should be airy and bubbly.
  2. Prepare the final dough. combine the flour and yeast and set aside. place the biga, water and salt in the mixer and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Then add the flour and yeast and continue to mix on low for 4 minutes and then medium speed for 1 minute. Dough should be combined by still slack and very wet.
  3. Bulk ferment in a tub or bowl until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Begin the stretch and folds by folding gently in half four times (it should feel like jelly). Ferment for another 30 minutes. Fold in half again, gently, two times. Allow to ferment for another 15 minutes.
  4. Place the dough onto a floured surface and, using the palms of your hands, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Be careful to avoid tearing the dough with your fingertips. Divide the dough into desired shapes and place onto a floured lined couche. Gently reshape as needed.
  5. Proof, covered, until the dough spring back slowly to the touch but does not collapse, 30-45 minutes. While the bread proofs, preheat the oven to 460°F/238°C. Lightly flour the top of the dough, flip each ciabatta over onto a floured transfer board and slide each one onto the floured peel.
  6. Load the ciabatta into the oven and add steam. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the ciabatta sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on racks. 

 

 

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.

Maple Oatmeal Scones and Cinnamon Star Bread

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Long before there was the Food Network or The Cooking Channel there was a little show called Martha Stewart Living. There was nothing else like it at the time and the only broadcast that really showcased recipes and home decorating. It began in 1993 and was very popular moving into the late 90s and early ‘00s and, of course, predated the Internet before it exploded and was readily accessible to everyone. And, no dial-up service does not count! Martha had really cornered the market at that time and it was a big deal if she endorsed or promoted a chef or product. I was busy working full time and raising two toddlers with barely a moment to breath, but I never missed Martha’s weekly show. I didn’t have the time, equipment, culinary skill or money to make her recipes but tried to learn as much as possible. One day she introduced a woman who ran a specialty food store in East Hampton called The Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten came on the show and I don’t remember exactly what she made for Martha, but she had my attention. Her show began in 2002 on the Food Network and I have been making her recipes every since.

Back in the early ‘00s the Food Network had shows that were hosted by accrediated chefs to teach skills and techniques that were helpful for home cooks and I tried to absorb all that great information. Now, they give cooking shows to celebrities who have no actual culinary credentials. It’s like when MTV used to play music vidoes instead of the train wreck, “reality” TV programming you find there today. But, I digress!

One of my favorite Ina recipes is her Maple Oatmeal Scones. I have made them so many times over the years that I (almost) don’t need the recipe anymore. I make them for Christmas gifts for our good friends that we see each year over the holiday time frame. There are three of us couples and we take turns hosting a dinner. I hosted last year so tonight we head over to one of their homes. We have a real gift for the other two couples but, if I don’t bring a baked good, the gift will be incomplete.

This recipe comes together quickly. Combine the dry ingredients, add the butter and cut into the dry until the size of peas. I go with very large peas!

Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and four eggs and mix well

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add this mix to the dry and expect an extremely sticky batter!

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I use a lot of flour and pat into a big circle, about ¾ inch thick. You will not be able to knead this dough, its way too sticky. Have lots of flour on hand!

I used a 2 ½ inch round cutter and had a yield of 20 big scones. Be careful to not twist your cutter when stamping out the scones, or you will seal all those great layers that you worked so hard to create!

I made the glaze with the powdered sugar, vanilla and maple syrup but I like a nice, thick glaze, really more like icing, so I used less syrup and just eyeballed the amount until I hit the consistency I wanted.

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Thank you, Ina!

Another delicious recipe I found was Cinnamon Star Bread. I was not going to review this originally so there are no production photos. My family really flipped over this bread so I felt it should be included. I know that there are a lot of star bread recipes out there and I have made savory ones myself but this dough was amazing to work with! It came together quickly and, even though it was cold in my home, the dough rose well with a little extra time. It rolled out nicely after resting and it will be my new go to star bread formula from now on.

It baked up nice and golden and then I added lots of powdered sugar.

I highly recommend both these recipes and hope you enjoy them!

A Muffin Query

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A Muffin Query

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There is no shortage of great recipes during the holiday season and I recently came across one for a delicious looking quick bread. The recipe, which was titled A to Z Bread, was a pretty standard quick bread formula, but what made it stand out was the number and type of variations it included. In a little under an hour and a half I could make two loaves with a variety of options. But what to choose? Many of the combinations sounded great and I couldn’t decide. It occurred to me that it would be fun to enlist my friends and family in the process, so I went with muffins, which are easier to portion, instead of a full loaf and I split the batter so that I could try out a couple variants.

I combined the dry and wet ingredients as per the recipe and added the 1 cup of pumpkin.

Then I split the batter equally, and yes, for those who know me, I did use my scale for that!

I added ½ cup butterscotch chips to one batch and ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips to the other. Each batch yielded 10 standard sized muffins when measured by a scoop and they were baked off at 350°F for 15 minutes.

Now, lets be honest here, muffins are really just cupcakes with a tighter crumb. They are not healthy or good for you, so why not own that! I always glaze my quick breads and did not see a reason to stop now. I made two types of basic glazes for the different muffins. The pumpkin butterscotch was iced with a cinnamon vanilla bean shown here.

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Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze

The pumpkin chocolate was topped with a mocha coffee glaze. I was pleased with the results. The muffins were moist and had that nice crumb that is associated with quick breads. It was now time to start the competition.

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My first test subject were my two good friends from culinary school. We had a split vote, one cast for each flavor. One of those friends asked her husband to weigh in with his opinion and he voted for the mocha muffin. My son also went with the mocha flavor but my husband and daughter were clearly in the butterscotch camp. If you are keeping track that makes the score even, three votes for each variation. That makes me the tiebreaker. It was a tough position to be in but I finally choose butterscotch.

Now I am the first to point out that seven data points are not statistically significant and there is no way that this study would make it through a rigorous peer review process, but the bottom line is this. They were both quite tasty and I had a lot of fun with conducting this sweet survey! I can see a possible recurring query segment in my near future. If you have an idea for me, please let me know!

Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 t. vanilla paste

1/4 t. cinnamon extract

1 T. milk, plus for more consistency

Combine sugar, vanilla paste and cinnamon extract. Add the milk, 1 T. to start and whisk. Add milk in small amounts until desired consistency for drizzling.

Mocha Coffee Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2 T. Dark cocoa powder

2 T. prepared coffee, cooled

1/4 t. coffee liqueur

Combine sugar, cocoa powder, coffee and coffee liqueur. Whisk together adding more coffee if a thinner glaze is desired. Thin with more coffee or milk if needed.

Great Recipes

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are heading out for food, football and festivities. I am lucky because I have amazing parents-in-law (is that a term?). Both my mother and father in-law are kind and generous and have always made me feel like part of the family. After 30 years with my husband, I have come to appreciate them more each year. My mother-in-law loves to cook so there is not a lot I can bring to the table, with one exception-bread!  We all love fresh baked bread and rolls and I happen to really enjoy bread baking. This year I decided to do something different and found these adorable pumpkin bread rolls on Pinterest. This is one of those great recipes that you don’t have to tinker with at all. Usually I change some things to accommodate my picky family, but these are perfect as is!

I found this from the “handle the heat” page, Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and served them to our dinner guests one evening. It was hard to tell which they liked better, the rolls or the cinnamon butter served on the side. I decided to make them again for Thanksgiving. One thing I should mention about my style of cooking and baking is that I am one of those who likes to weigh out my ingredients. I am a molecular biologist by training and love the reproducibility and precision that results from scaling out ingredients as opposed to using measuring cups which can produce different volumes and introduce variable results. Ok, I got that out of the way! I use an inexpensive scale purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond and it works great (both english and metric units)

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It is dusty from flour and I said I am precise-not neat!

This recipe is simple, once the dough comes together it will double in 45 min to an hour.

I use plastic wrap and mark the time with a sharpie, otherwise I will forget how long they have been rising. I love my granite counter tops but they do get cold in the winter months so I often will place the bowl on a towel to warm the bottom of the bowl, then cover with cloth and hope the room is warm enough!

The fun part is the shaping. I use my handy scale again and weigh out 2 oz. of dough, which yields 16 rolls. The recipe says to divide the dough into 15 balls, but I like mine to be more uniform and am not capable of eye balling 15 equal pieces. One of the tricks is to get a smooth surface for the ball of dough. In culinary school, I was shown a number of ways to get that taught surface but only one method worked for me. I take the 2 oz. clump of dough, flatten it and push the smooth side through a ring formed by my index and thumb, while pinching the underside together to form a seam. This is a good picture, but not my hands doing the work!

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Eventually my rolls looked like this, these are my hands!

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The rolls were flattened slightly and the “ridges” of the future pumpkin were made by slicing 8 seams (leaving an intact center) which looked like spokes of a wheel.

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I placed 8 sliced rolls onto a parchment lined, full sheet tray (so, two trays total) and let the rolls rise for another hour. At that point I used the end of a wooden spoon to make the indentation for the future stem, brushed them with the egg white wash and baked them off in the oven at 350F, for about 25 minutes. My oven takes a little longer time to finish baking due to the bread stone that I keep in there for artisan breads (more on that in another post!)

The pecan “stem” was added after they had cooled a bit and they look a lot like the Pinterest picture. I was quite happy with the appearance but even more satisfied with the taste. Just the right amount of pumpkin.  I think the family will be very happy tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!