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Sunday, November 24, 2013

One Pot Pasta Dinner & Fresh French Bread

I have to say, this is quickly becoming my favorite go-to meal when I have nothing planned and I'm running out of time. It looks like it's really nothing, but it has tons of taste and the best part - without any heavy sauce that leaves you feeling like you are uncomfortably full. And pair it with some fresh homemade french bread, and you're in heaven! The bread only takes an hour and the pasta only takes 15 minutes... so it's a very do-able dinner, even on a week night. Even if you don't do the bread, dinner in just 15 minutes? How great is that?  But............just look at these loaves! You know you're going to want them.

I found this recipe over at Keep Home Simple and I've changed a few things to how I prefer to make it. First we will start with the bread since we can make the pasta while the bread is baking. Start with combining your warm water with the yeast and sugar. Then add your oil, salt and flour. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix everything but you can use a spoon and then knead with your hands. Mix or knead for a few minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 

Then I put my oven on it's lowest setting, 170 degrees. When it reaches that, I turn it off, open the door and set my bowl with a clean towel over the top, on top of my oven door. Let it sit for 15 minutes. It should rise really well, like this:

Grease a large cookie sheet, or I have a french loaf pan. I also like to sprinkle a little corn meal on my pans when I bake bread for the loaf bottoms.

 Next, remove the dough from the bowl onto a clean work surface....

and divide your dough in half.

Shape each portion into a loaf size, tucking under the ends. Put them on your prepared pan.

Mix one egg with 1 tbsp of water to make an egg wash, and paint your loaf tops with it.

Then use a sharp knife and make diagonal slashes in the loaves, about an inch or two apart.Do not cut all the way through the loaves, just enough to slice into the tops.

Next, I like to add some spices. I sprinkled Italian Seasoning on one of the loaves. I left the other one plain, my youngest isn't fond of "colored pieces" on her food. Sometimes I add garlic & parmesan cheese.

Throw in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. That's it folks!! Don't they look wonderful?

Some of us like to eat it plain with butter....

And some of us like to dip our pieces in garlic & Parmesan infused oil...

When your bread has about 15 minutes left to bake, start working on the pasta. I put in the regular "basics" and then I add whatever I have on hand. When I have spinach, I add that. When I have mushrooms, I add those. Whatever you like, throw in. This time I only had the mushrooms. So, grab your stock pot or dutch oven and add uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, basil, and the mushrooms. 

Then add chicken broth.

and some red pepper flakes...

and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on top.

Cover the pot partially, and bring to a boil. 

When boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cover completely. Stir about every 2 minutes.

When the liquid has reduced to about 1/2" left in the pot, you're done!

See, it doesn't really look like much, but it's very tasty! 

Go grab yourself a plate and some french bread and enjoy!

1 Hour French Bread (printable version)
2 1/2 cups warm water (approx 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons (or 3 - 1/4 oz. envelopes) yeast (I use Red Star Quick Rise)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil (I use GrapeOla grapeseed oil)
5 1/2-6 cups flour
1 egg + 1 tablespoon of cold water for egg wash

In a bowl, add yeast to warm water and mix. Sprinkle sugar on top and let sit for about 5 minutes, until you see the yeast bubbly/foamy on top.

Stir in the salt, oil and add flour a few cups at a time until mixed in. Either knead the dough by hand in the bowl for a few minutes until smooth and pulls away from the edges of the bowl or use a stand mixer with dough hook.

Cover your bowl with a clean towel in a warm environment for 15 minutes. (i.e. warmed up oven turned off, in microwave after on for 2 minutes with a glass of water, etc.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a large cookie sheet. Optional: Sprinkle with corn meal. Move dough to a clean work surface (avoid adding more flour if possible) and divide dough in half. Roll into long loaves and tuck under the ends. Place onto prepared pan. Whisk egg & water together in small bowl and paint egg wash over the tops of the loaves. Using sharp knife, cut diagonal slits in the top of the loaf. Do not cut all the way through the dough. Sprinkle on any spices at this time if you wish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. (adapted from Keep Home Simple)


There are a lot of variations out there for this pasta recipe. Martha Stewart's recipe uses just water instead of broth. Some recipes use vegetable broth. I'm sure that would be delish too, but I'm more likely to have chicken broth on hand than vegetable. Sometimes I add feta cheese at the end and mix that in. It's all about EASE...whatever you have on hand or feel like throwing in!

One Pot Pasta (printable version)

12 ounces of pasta (linguine or spaghetti)
1 - 15 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 sweet onion, chopped or cut into julienne strips
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 small can mushrooms (or 1/2 cup sliced fresh) or 1/2 cup chopped spinach
4 1/2 cups regular chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, basil and mushrooms in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Pour in broth. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top and drizzle with the olive oil. Semi cover the pot until boiling. Cover fully and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. I like to keep about 1/2" left in the bottom. Season to taste with salt & pepper, stirring to evenly coat with the liquid. Garnish with parmesan cheese.


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Easy DIY Letter Sign

I want to share with you an easy project that you've probably already seen or maybe even made yourself. But for those of you who haven't, I want to show you just how easy it is to make your own letter sign. Not really sure what they're called, but that's what I'm calling it. 

The idea sparked my interest when I received a Groupon email deal for a picture like this, but it was for your last name. Even with the Groupon deal, it was still pretty pricey, and you had your choice of just the print or the picture matted & framed. I knew upon looking at this, it was something I could very easily do myself. I wasn't quite so interested in doing my last name, as I already have a nice family personalized decor item and I didn't want to have them all over my house. So instead, I thought I'd make a holiday one. As long as your willing to walk around your house, neighborhood or city to find the letters you want, you can make it say whatever!

Just for the sake of doing one quick, I decided to go with JOY. These 3 letters I found quickly in my own basement. J is just a pipe, O is some cable wound up and Y is another pipe. I have not watermarked these so if you want to save and use them, feel free.

I had copies of these made in a green tint using a free online editing program. You could do b&w, sepia, red, whatever you want.

I did not mat my photos, I just used a black 3 photo picture frame I had laying around. But you can buy big pieces of any color matting at Michael's for pretty cheap and customize your own mat.

Here are a few other letters just laying around the house. Imagine what you could if you went outside and used your imagination! Again, feel free to use any pictures.

The J has a glare, but you could easily do your own. 

That's how easy it is to make your own! It's kind of fun walking around trying to find letters out of everyday objects. Sort of like  "I Spy" with a purpose! 

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mint Oreo Chocolate Bundt Cake With Sour Cream Ganache

I have to admit, I normally do not like recipes that include candy or cookies in the recipe. Like desserts that have chopped up candy bars in them or cookies inside cookies or stuffed with Rolos or Snickers, stuff like that. It really just grosses me out. Throw in a boxed mix to get the result, and I'm really turned off. Usually when I see a recipe that lists a boxed cake mix, I immediately close out and don't go any further. Yes, I am a boxed cake mix snob. I admit it. Sorry, but I don't like the mass-produced chemical taste. To throw together a few more ingredients to get homemade, it's well worth it. But if you're OK using boxed, go for it.

I saw a chocolate bundt cake with ganache from Doughmesstic, and it looked great. Then I read the boxed cake mix in the recipe. But what intrigued me, was the oreo cookies and the picture of the cake looked so moist and yummy. The only store bought cookies we buy are Oreos (my kids like to make their own "blizzards") so I decided to make my own version without the box mix, and make my own ganache a little differently. It was delicious! I do however, need to work on my ganache drizzling skills LOL.

 I really miss the bright sunny days of summer to have my good lighting for pictures. Boo.

It's a super easy cake to make and uses very basic ingredients you'd be sure to have on hand. Just throw some Oreos in the food processor until you have 2 cups worth.

Add all your ingredients in the mixer.... and you're on your way to a delicious dessert!

I always get a little nervous using a cake pan I can't put parchment paper in...

But, greasing & flouring seemed to do the trick just fine.

For all my chocolate cake needs, I always use Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake recipe. It's great to use for bundt cakes, round cakes or cupcakes. I then added the crushed mint oreos. I wanted the ganache for the frosting, but didn't have heavy cream. I substituted lite sour cream for heavy cream and not only is it better on the waistline, but it tastes great! The cake is very moist and you can't even taste cookie crumbs in it, just the slight hint of mint. So, here's my version....

Mint Oreo Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache (printable version)

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups crushed mint Oreo cookies (threw in food processor & pulsed a few times)
1 cup boiling water

Equal parts (by weight) of sour cream and milk chocolate chips. I used 6 ounces each.

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

In a mixer bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed oreos. Gently stir in the boiling water. (Batter will be thin, this is correct.) Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes; Cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To prepare the ganache, mix both the sour cream and the chocolate together and melt using the double broiler method.  Drizzle over cooled bundt cake.

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