I had never been to Rachel's before, but I had heard really good things about the food, the atmosphere and the people who worked there. So, I arranged to spend the day with Rachel in her bakery. I had such a great time learning and talking in the kitchen all day! Rachel and her employees were very nice and shared their passion for positive hospitality and good food willingly. I enjoyed it there so much I became an employee a couple months later! That was four years ago now and I have grown so much since then and continue to learn by working at what is now called Anna's Bread (Rachel retired).
At Anna's Bread we pride ourselves on being a small, local bakery/café that still specializes in European style breads and pastries as well as serving daily breakfast and lunch options with international influences. Working at the bakery has taught me so much about food, and helped nurture my curiosity in the kitchen. Since beginning my work there I have learned to make French staples like pastry cream and lemon curd as well as entire cakes, soups & stews and so much more. The lessons I've learned from both Rachel & Anna have been invaluable in my development as not only a chef, but a human being as well. I have taken what they taught me and brought it all back home to my own kitchen. I love to experiment and try new recipes, no matter how daunting the task.
One of the things I have never attempted since working at the bakery is making my own bread. I know surprising, right?! I've seen probably thousands of loaves of bread come and go from Anna's and I have yet to try making my own...until today! I took this French Bread dough recipe from Rachel herself and decided to try my hand at making some loaves. Using the skills I learned from working at the bakery I was able to work out how long to let the bread rise, how best to shape the bread, how to get that crunchy exterior and how long to bake it all on my own. I am actually very happy with the way the loaves turned out. They were satisfyingly crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I am very proud of the growth I have made from working at the bakery and will cherish my time there forever.
I encourage everyone to try making their own bread. I know it may seem time consuming or a little daunting to take the steps necessary to make it, but I promise your hard work would be worth it when you take those loaves out of the oven and take your first bite! Happy baking!
2 1/2 cups warm water
4 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. salt
6 cups flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.
Add 4 cups for flour and mix well until the flour is combined.
Dissolve the salt in 1 Tbs. of warm water and add to the dough. Mix well.
Add the remaining 2 cups of flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.
(about 10 minutes)
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth and let raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down and dump onto a work surface.
Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a round loaf.
To shape the dough, tuck the bottom edges of the loaf underneath while rotating the dough to create a smooth outer surface.
Place the finished loaves on a baking sheet covered in flour and lightly dust the top of the bread with flour.
Let the bread rise for another 45 minutes.
While you bread is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and fill an 8x8 baking pan with water.
15 minutes before the bread goes in the oven, place the baking pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven. (The steam from the water is how the bread creates the crispy crust)
Once the bread is ready, place it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the baking pan of water and discard.
Let the bread bake for another 25-30 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom if it.
Let the bread cool for 15 minutes and enjoy.
I must admit that I am no historian or Canadian delicacy expert so don't come for me if anything I say is inaccurate. According to several sources, poutine was invented in 1957 by a man named Fernand Lachance who was a restaurant owner in Quebec, Canada. One of his customers ordered French fries with cheese curds and gravy on them, and so poutine was created. Also, bonus fact, "poutine" is Quebec slang for "a mess" which definitely describes this wonderful dish. While I've never been to Canada and tasted authentic poutine for myself I have always been curious about how something so simple and hearty could become so iconic.
When I was in Peru I had something that could possibly be a distant South American cousin of poutine. Salchipapas is a unique street food found in Peru that consists of fried potatoes topped with any number of things from caramelized onions to chorizo sausage drizzled with various sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise, or gravy. As usual, I was very excited to sink my teeth into this very indulgent dish and I enjoyed every minute of it. The fries were perfectly crisp and salty and the sausage added a nice spice to the dish. The best part, however, was when the sauce soaked into the fries causing them to be a bit soggy. The whole thing was just the best kind of unhealthy and I savored every last bite.
The great thing about dishes like poutine is that they can be so versatile. The base of fries and gravy and cheese lends itself to experimentation. In the picture above I added chicken and curry spices to make Chicken Tikka Poutine and the possibilities are endless. The recipe below is just the simple base recipe, but I encourage you to be creative with your poutine. Add different spice combinations different proteins or vegetables to make it your own. Happy cooking!
4 Tbs. butter
1/4 minced onion
3 Tbs. flour
2 cup broth of your choice
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a heavy sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onion is translucent.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir continuously until the flour is toasty and slightly brown.
Carefully pour in the broth continuing to stir until the mixture thickens into a gravy.
Season with salt and pepper and set to the side.
Vegetable oil for frying
2 lbs. of russet potatoes
2 cups of cheese curds
Wash and scrub the potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch sticks.
Soak them in cold water until you're ready to fry them.
Heat up about 4 inches of oil in a big sauce pan until a piece of bread immediately begins to bubble and brown when dropped in.
Working in smaller batches fry the potatoes the first time for about 5 minutes.
Drain the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and pat off excess oil.
Once you've fried all the potatoes, fry them again!
Turn up the heat of the oil so that they are flash fried for crispiness.
Fry them in batches until they are golden brown, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Place them on a fresh baking sheet lined with paper towels and immediately season with plenty of salt.
To assemble the poutine pile the fries on a platter then sprinkle the cheese curds all over the fries.
Take the gravy and pour generously over the entire platter.
Now that I have gotten your attention, here are a couple donuts that have, with out a doubt, changed my life. In no particular order:
I could go on and on but this post is already kind of long and I haven't even talked about this recipe yet! I found this recipe for cinnamon sugar donut holes in a cookbook I recently got for Christmas. While it is a little time consuming the work is definitely worth the reward. These little morsels of fried dough are perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The caramel sauce on its own is out of this world and would be great on anything from ice cream to your finger. I hope you try these wonderful creations and share them with others (or not!)
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup & 1 Tbs. milk
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
1 egg & 1 egg yolk
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
Vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
To make the donut holes, place the potatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until they are fork tender. (about 20 minutes)
Once they are done drain and mash the potatoes until smooth.
In a small sauce pan combine 1/2 cup & 1 Tbs. of mashed potatoes and the milk and heat until warm to the touch.
Remove from the heat and stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar and yeast, let sit until foamy. (about 10 minutes)
In a stand mixer, add the yeast mixture and the egg and extra yolk. Mix to combine.
Add in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth dough forms.
Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then add the melted butter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Once it has doubled in size, remove the dough and divide into 24 equal pieces.
Using your hands roll each piece into a tight ball, with a smooth surface.
Place the finished dough balls on a greased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for another hour.
In a separate bowl combine the cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and set to the side.
In a large sauce pan heat about 4 inches of oil until a piece of bread fries immediately when dropped in.
Fry the donuts in small batches, flipping when needed, until they are golden brown. (4-5 minutes)
Drain finished donuts on some paper towel. Once they are a little cooler toss the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture until they are thoroughly coated.
To make the caramel sauce, heat the brown sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until it begins to caramelize.
Add in the butter and cream., stirring constantly until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth and silky.
Season to taste with salt and serve along side the donuts.
One of the most coveted of her recipes is the one for her Oatmeal Molasses Cookies. Let me tell you; these cookies are synonymous with my grandma! I don't know how many times we would visit her house and there would be a plate of these cookies waiting for us. They are so delicious, and even better when they're fresh out of the oven. The molasses and cinnamon give them a warm and deep flavor and the nuts and raisins are like little nuggets of joy hidden throughout the cookie waiting to be found.
Some of my strongest memories of these cookies took place at our lake house that we shared with my grandparents. During the summer we would spend the weekends up at the lake, skiing, fishing, and enjoying the sun. There were countless times we went out on the lake to swim for hours and as we packed up and made our way back to the cabin, we could smell these cookies on the breeze. When we got back to the dock, we would hurriedly unpack all of our things and run inside eager to eat at least three or four of these delicious morsels as fast as we could.
One Christmas, my grandma gave me a recipe box filled with all of her best recipes, written on little note cards. I was so excited to finally have a chance to make these wonderful dishes! I made these cookies recently and the smell of them baking immediately brought so many childhood memories rushing back to me. These cookies are near and dear to my heart and I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.
Oatmeal Drop Cookies
1/2 cup soften butter
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1 cup raisins
Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, & dark molasses until smooth and well combined.
Add the flour, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon and mix well.
Fold in the oatmeal, nuts & raisins and stir until just combined.
Allow to dough to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees,
Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a lightly greased baking pan about 1" a part
Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
Let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Some days are great and you feel productive and motivated, while others feel kind of empty and pointless. All that being said there are so many good things that this situation has given us. It forces us to appreciate our friends and family more. We take the time to video chat or call those we care about bring us together even when we are far apart. It also gives us the opportunity to work on things we may have been putting off. Home projects, hobbies, and decisions come to the foreground, giving us a chance to work on bettering ourselves and our environment.
With everything that is happening around us you can't help but notice the outpouring of support and compassion from all corners of the world that brings us all together under mutual understanding. The images of apartment buildings singing together and car parades celebrating a friend's birthday are everywhere, proving that we are all in this together.
Well, to be honest this is not where I saw this post going, but I guess this is on my mind today and that's the point of this blog so here you go...
My housemates and I decided to make our own soft pretzels recently as an afternoon project. It was a fun activity to do together and was a great way for us to spend the many hours together under one roof. We each shaped and seasoned our own pretzels and when they were done we stood around the kitchen counter and devoured them as fast as we possibly could.
They were perfectly fluffy and warm, and the different seasonings we used like, everything bagel seasoning, garlic Parmesan, and garam masala made these pretzels unique and extra exciting. I encourage you to make these with your family or friends (whoever you're "stuck" with) and spend the afternoon being creative and making great food. Good luck.
4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1 tsp. Sugar
1 1/4 cups Warm Water
5 cups of Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Baking Soda
4 cups Hot Water
Salt or other seasonings for topping
In a small dish combine the yeast, sugar and warm water. Set aside until foamy.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and salt and mix to combine.
Add the yeast and the oil and mix until a dough forms. If the dough it too wet add more flour, if too dry add a tablespoon of water.
Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (about 7-10 minutes)
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning the dough to cover it in oil.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to raise for 1 hour.
Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and combine the hot water and baking soda in a bowl.
Dump out the dough and divide into 10 equal pieces.
Roll the dough into thin ropes, making sure to pop and air bubbles in the dough.
This is where you can be a little more creative. You can create the standard pretzel twist or you can make your own unique pretzel shapes like we did.
Once the dough has been shaped, dip it in the baking soda water and place on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle your desired seasoning on top and bake in the oven until they are golden brown (Approximately 8-10 minutes)
Eat immediately out of the oven for best texture and flavor.
Dip in your desired dipping sauce, or eat plain.
Lomo Saltado is hands down one of my favorite Peruvian dishes! Consisting of sauteed beef, tomatoes, onions, fried potatoes and rice, what isn’t there to like about it? I had the opportunity to enjoy this dish countless times throughout my SST adventures and it always made me, and my stomach, happy.
The first time I learned how to make this dish was in Lima with my host mother. She brought me into the kitchen and told me that we were going to cook dinner together! I was so excited to finally get the chance to make some of the food I had grown so quickly to love. I was in charge of the potatoes. I peeled and chopped them into sticks. Then I fried them in hot oil, while I watched her cook the beef, onions, and tomatoes. The whole time we were cooking, she and I would tease each other and talk about whatever came up. She loved to talk and tell stories about her childhood and her children when they were young. The amazing aromas of garlic, onions and fried potatoes lingered in the air for hours after we had finished cooking. Some of my favorite memories of my time in Peru were made in that kitchen with a woman I barely knew, making food.
I also had the opportunity to help my host mother in Ayacucho make Lomo Saltado while I was there for my service placement. It was really cool getting to share this time in the kitchen with these two amazing women. Even though they were hundreds of miles apart, the passion for food and sharing in their culture was so comforting. It just goes to show how universal cooking can be.
2 lbs. of steak, cut into 1” cubes
2 large tomatoes, chopped in wedges
2 medium red onions, chopped in wedges
6 cloves of minced garlic, divided
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and sliced into lengths 1” thick
1/2 a of cup apple cider vinegar, divided
1/4 of a cup soy sauce
2 cups of white rice, cooked
salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the beef in a ¼ cup vinegar and salt, pepper and 3 cloves of garlic for about fifteen minutes. Pan fry potatoes in batches until golden brown. Season with salt and set aside to drain excess oil.
Sauté the beef in an oiled pan until cooked through and set aside.
In the same pan, fry the onions and remaining garlic until the onions are semi-transparent.
Add the tomatoes and cook until their skins burst.
Add in the beef.
Add the remaining ¼ cup of vinegar and the soy sauce.
Stir everything together and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pile the fries and beef over a bed of rice and enjoy.
Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE meat! Just the thought of sinking my teeth into a juicy Italian sausage or a hearty sirloin steak drenched in garlic butter, makes my mouth water uncontrollably. It wasn't like I intentionally decided to become vegetarian. It actually was almost entirely out of my control!
My junior and senior years of college I lived off-campus with several of my friends. I had never thought about how living with other people might effect my eating habits, but when we moved into our house I happened to find myself surrounded by vegetarians. I guess, it didn't make sense to me, as a college student who didn't have a steady income, to buy chicken or steak if I was the only one in the house who would be eating it. So, the natural thing to do was conform. That's how I became an accidental "vegetarian"!
This wasn't a big deal to me, really. I didn't really care if I had meat on a regular basis or anything like that. As long as the food tasted good and I could eat it, I enjoyed it. Of course, I would still have meat if it was available, like if I went home or went out to eat, but having it as less of an option most of the time gave me the opportunity to try things I had never tried before. It forced me to become more creative in the kitchen and made me think outside of the box I had grown up in.
To this day I still live my life mostly as a "vegetarian" (with the occasional meat if I'm feeling indulgent). In all actuality, I think my experience as a "vegetarian" has made me a more well-rounded chef. If meat isn't available I can still make something that is delicious and hearty, with ease. I know how to make traditionally meaty dishes without any meat and have them taste just as good (if not better).
This is where the Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara recipe comes into play. Typcially, carbonara has bacon or pancetta in it, but I took the dish and made it vegetarian to fit my friends' dietary choices. Adding the mushrooms gives it an earthy and hearty flavor without the addition of meat, and the peas add some greens to the dish, making it healthier as well.
For this dish I used fresh pasta (see the previous blog post for that recipe) but any long pasta will work. The only difference would be the duration it takes to cook the pasta. I hope you enjoy!
Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara
1 lb. Pasta (Spaghetti or Linguine)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup green peas
4 Tbs. butter, melted
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt and then add your pasta. Cook until al dente.
In a separate bowl add the eggs, cheese and pepper, mixing well.
Saute the mushrooms in a hot pan with a little bit of olive oil until they are a lightly browned on all sides.
Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
Add the egg mixture to the pasta, stirring constantly on low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce thickens slightly.
Add in the peas and mushrooms, and butter.
Stir to combine. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and black pepper on top.
Recently I have found myself
Since then, I have made my own pasta several times and each time has been equally successful and delicious. The recipe in this post shows you how to make a simple linguine pasta from scratch, but the dough is the same for any type of pasta. Once it is rolled out, you can experiment with different shapes of pasta like farfalle or even ravioli on your own, but linguine is definitely an easy shape to start with, for those who have never made pasta before.
I took this pasta and made a Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara with it. If you are interested in that recipe it will be up on this site soon so stay tuned for that.
Basic Pasta Recipe
3/4 cup of Flour
3/4 cup of Semolina flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. Water
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Combine the dry ingredients together, and form into a mound on a clean work surface.
(You can form the dough in a bowl or stand mixer if you prefer)
Form a deep well in the middle of the flour mound and fill with the eggs, water, and oil.
Slowly begin to stir the flour into the egg mixture incorporating it little by little, making sure not to let the liquid spill out of the well you made.
Once the liquid is well combined and has formed a very shaggy looking dough, knead the dough with your hands until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and has a nice golden color. (This will take 7-10 minutes of kneading)
Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to let it rest.
Add the pasta to a salted, boiling pot of water and cook until al dente.
(It will probably only take 5-7 minutes since the pasta is fresh)
Look for an upcoming post to see how I used the fresh linguine I made here to make Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara.
This past summer
We walked around the historical city centers, took in the cultural sights and hiked through the mountainous landscapes, but the thing that I was most excited about was, hands-down, the food! Whenever I get the chance to travel the first thing I do is look up what kind of food the place is known for. I have always thought that food is a great way to experience a new culture or location. By tasting the food, you can get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the people who live there.
When I got to the United Kingdom I excitedly tried every traditional dish possible; steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash you name it I tasted it, eagerly. So naturally, when we got to Scotland there was one thing on my mind...Haggis!
I had always been intrigued about haggis. I have to admit I was curious about how a stomach stuffed with the more "undesirable" cuts of meat would taste. My friends and I found this little pub in the middle of Edinburgh and I finally got my chance! I ordered chicken stuffed with haggis and smothered in this AMAZING black pepper gravy, and it did not disappoint. That meal was definitely the highlight of my time in the UK and I would have it again in a heart beat.
While I did not have these Blue Cheese Fritters during my time in Ireland or Scotland this recipe does bring back memories of my time there. The piping hot blue cheese fritters and the savory tomato sauce pair perfectly, and when I made these for my friends a while ago, we stood around the kitchen counter and devoured them in a matter of minutes.
Blue Cheese Fritters
2/3 cup of flour
7 Tbs. butter
3/4 cup of water
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp. Tabasco
1 tsp. Worcester sauce
Oil for frying
Melt the butter in a saucepan with the water and Worcester sauce.
Once the butter is completely melted, raise the heat and bring the liquid to a rolling boil.
Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir immediately.
Once the batter begins to roll away from the sides of the pan, remove from the heat.
Add the eggs a little at a time, until it is well combined and the batter has a glossy sheen.
Add the blue cheese and mix well until the cheese has melted completely.
In a deep saucepan heat the frying oil until a small cube of bread sizzles. immediately.
Using 2 spoons, drop even-sized globs of batter into the hot oil, turning them over as they fry.
Remove them once they are puffy and golden brown on both sides. It should only take a minute or so.
Place them on some paper towel to drain the remaining oil.
Continue to cook in batches until all the batter is gone. Serve hot with the tomato sauce to dip in.
1 Onion, diced
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, diced
2 Sticks of Celery, peeled to remove the stings and thinly sliced
6 ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 pint vegetable stock
Fry the onions, celery and garlic in the oil for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper.
Simmer the sauce on low heat for about 20 minutes.
Pour the sauce into a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth.
For me, Zucchini Bread
There were several years where we had an obscene amount of zucchini squash. We would give some to family members or family friends and we would still have too much for ourselves! I remember my mom resorting to some creative measures in order to use it all. We had zucchini stir fried, roasted, baked, and even pickled! One of my favorite ways to enjoy zucchini is baked into bread.
This recipe in particular brings back many memories because it is my grandmother's recipe. She and my mom made it all the time and it was always best right out of the oven. Now that I'm older I can really appreciate the flavors and complexity this recipe has and have had the opportunity to tweak it here and there to my liking. The many spices like, fresh ginger and cinnamon add a special zing to the bread giving it warm and almost floral notes that make it very enjoyable. Typically, the recipe calls for walnuts which is absolutely delicious, but I added chocolate chips to this batch to add a decadent twist. I encourage anyone who tries this recipe to experiment with what they put inside to make it their own. Happy baking!
In a large mixing bowl combine the following ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 cups raw grated zucchini
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 tsp. fresh ginger
In a separate bowl combine the following ingredients and mix together:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. allspice
Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients and stir till just combined
Fold in 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped walnuts
Pour into 2 greased 8" loaf pans (or muffin tins if desired)
Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or when a knife comes out clean.
(Muffins bake for about 30 minutes)
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wrack.