Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Focaccia with Tomato & Thyme

Personally, I find bread making to be a rather intimidating task.  I live in fear that the bread won't rise, that the yeast isn't active, that the temperature isn't just right.  But alas, it's really not that difficult.  Especially this Foccaccia.

Focaccia is on the lower end of the intimidating bread scale for me, mostly because it's not terribly fussy.   Since it's actually a flat bread, it doesn't require too much time to rise, and the possibility for toppings is endless.  I went with tomato and thyme, but it would be great with sauteed onions, bleu cheese crumbles, dried figs...anything your heart desires! 

* 1 package quick rise yeast (if you have active dry, follow the  activation instructions on the package before using)
* 1 c. water
* 1 tsp. salt
* 2 c. all purpose flour, divided
* 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
* 1 c. whole wheat flour
* 1-2 tbsp. yellow cornmeal
* 1-2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (depending on size)
* 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
* sea salt, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, 1 tsp. table salt, and 1 c. of the flour.  In a small saucepan, combine 1 c. of water and 2 tbsp. olive oil and heat over medium heat until warm.  Once the water mixture is warm, slowly pour it into the flour mixture with a mixer on low speed until just combined.   Once the mixture is combined, beat it for two minutes, then add in another 1/2 c. flour.  Once that is well combined, use a wooden spoon to stir in the whole wheat flour until you have a soft dough.

Knead the dough in a bowl for seven minutes, working in the last 1/2 c. flour as you knead.  Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400, and prepare a 9x13 pan by buttering it and sprinkling cornmeal over it.   After 15 minutes, pat the dough into the prepared pan, pressing it into the corners as needed.   Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.  After the dough has risen, use your fingers to make indentations across the dough, pressing almost to the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle the dough with remaining olive oil and add desired toppings. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

* Note: if you don't plan to eat all of the bread right away, I would recommend using a sun dried tomato over fresh as the fresh tends to make the dough soggy by the next day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blueberry Cobbler

Here in the south, fruit cobbler is one of those things, like BBQ sauce, for which everyone has an old favorite recipe.  Some people top it with fresh biscuits, others pie crust.  For me?  It’s all about the batter that engulfs the fruit, drowning it in a golden brown, crisp-yet-soft, wonder of buttery goodness.

This cobbler recipe is one that my mom has been making for years.  The key is to use a small enough pan so that the batter is forced to rise up.  An 8X8 would be ideal, but since I didn’t have that size, I went with the next best option, which was my small le creuset dish.  Use this method with any summer fruit you like!


* 1 stick butter
* 1 pint blueberries
* 1 tsp. lemon juice
* 6 tbsp. sugar, divided
* 2 tbsp. water
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1 c. self rising flour
* 1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Add butter to a small baking dish and melt it in the oven.  Combine blueberries, lemon juice, water, and 3 tbsp. sugar in a small sauce pan (if your fruit is not sweet, add more sugar to taste).  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, combine vanilla, flour, milk, and remaining 3 tbsp. sugar in a bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  When the butter is melted, remove the baking dish from the oven, pour the batter on top, then top with blueberry mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Club: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

I’m always on the hunt for a great book in the summer, so I figured I’d start sharing when I find one.

Personally, I love a great memoir or autobiography (side note: Rob Lowe’s “Stories I Only Tell my Friends” was one of the best books I’ve ever read).  It’s like getting all of the juicy details right from the source.  

I became a Ree Drummond fan in sort of a backwards fashion.  She was a highly successful blogger and morning talk show personality before hitting it big with her Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  That’s how I discovered her, then her blog, and then this book.   Ree’s cooking (we’re on a first name basis) speaks for itself.  She’s all about classic, unintimidating comfort food that can feed a crowd (or hungry cowboys as she says), but always with a creative gourmet twist.

What I love about “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” is that it gives you this amazing back story of a woman who met her husband by chance and completely derailed her law school plans to be with him.  She went from her comfortable, daughter of an orthopedic surgeon, living on a golf course life, and completely uprooted to a working cattle farm to start her life with Ladd, whom she affectionately calls the “Marlboro Man”.  This was truly one of the most charming love stories I’ve ever read and I promise you’ll be hanging on to every last word. 

I recommend you mix up one of Ree’s Mango Margaritas, pull up a lounge chair and get reading!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Green Thumb

This year, Mike and I decided to go green and plant a garden.  What a labor of love!  After carefully tending to our plants for the last few months, I'm happy to share we are finally reaping the benefits. So far we have enjoyed about 8 homegrown tomatoes, a bounty of fresh herbs, and we're anxiously awaiting our romaine lettuce, carrots, and onions to mature. 

These were our first tomatoes - what is it about a homegrown tomato?  There's just nothing like it; sweet, tangy, and so flavorful. We planted a few in the ground and left a few in pots, and the potted tomatoes absolutely took off. I think they are getting more sun than our garden and we've drenched them with water daily - they soak it up faster than we can pour!

I grew this oregano, as well as some chives and dill, from seeds.  After a lot of TLC, the oregano is finally looking strong and healthy. I also bought basil plants, rosemary and thyme.  It's amazing how much more you cook with herbs when they're right there in your back yard.

Mike still has his old truck from high school and sweet old Besse has been acting as our plant stand for the last few months.  We originally had the plants on the back porch but they get much more sun in the truck and it also keeps the critters away.

I'm so proud of my first tomatoes!  Aren't they gorgeous?

First tomato dinner: Tomato, fresh mozzarella and pesto sandwiches.   Preheat the oven to 400, slather both sides of a fresh baguette with homemade pesto, slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella and bake for 5-8 minutes on a foil lined sheet until the cheese is melted.  YUM!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4th Inspiration

This year I will be simultaneously celebrating Independence Day and the marriage of two great friends, Stephanie and Jim. Talk about a holiday double threat!  Here is some July 4th Inspiration for you!
Pottery Barn is having a summer sale. They have tons of patriotic swag at great prices.  Check out these fabulous napkins!

I'm loving this table top I found on Tori Spelling's blog.  Nautical themes blend well with the Red White & Blue.

Festive cocktails always add a little something special to a summer soiree.  Liven up your favorite clear cocktails with fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries for a simple, celebratory touch. 

For as long as I can remember, my sister, Laura, and I have whipped up a flag cake for the 4th and it couldn't be easier.  Start with a boxed yellow cake mix, prepare it as directed and let it cool.  Poke holes in the top, cover it with Cool Whip and chill it over night.  When you're ready to serve it, decorate with strawberries and blueberries. 

 Happy 4th! 

Enjoy it!