French Bread Rolls

I originally made this recipe from My Kitchen Cafe to go along with her Italian Meatball Subs. I made them again yesterday, just trying to get some practice in (I have a long way to go when it comes to baking still), and although they turned out much better than the sub rolls from the night before (which still tasted great, just didn't look pretty), hers are much prettier (see them here)! The good news is that any bread recipe that I can follow get a yummy result with, you can too :-). One of these days I'll get it down!

(makes 12 large rolls)
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
To the yeast mixture, add the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12-14 equal pieces, and form into round balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth (or greased saran wrap), and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Bake for 12-13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
*Can freeze the rolls after baking – microwave on high for 2 minutes before serving.

Sopa Azteca

When I saw this on Sarah's blog, I really, really wanted to try it, but I was a little nervous. It has some fancy ingredients and if I had just seen it in a cookbook I probably would have passed it off as too complicated, but thankfully Sarah made me brave enough to try it! I even called her from the grocery store to see if I was getting the right chile...I think it's pretty funny that we had not actually spoken on the phone for nearly 5 years and a dried chile finally got me to call :-). It was worth it! The flavor the chile gives the broth of this soup is AMAZING.
L-O-V-E this soup and will make it again and again!

(recipe from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook)
•1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded (see pic below)
•One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, preferably fire-roasted
•2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
•1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
•3 garlic cloves, peeled
•2 quarts chicken broth
•1 large epazote sprig, if you have one (Sarah’s note - I’ve never used this and it’s fine. Sometimes we have cilantro on the side to add at the end)(we just used cilantro)
•4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 2 cans chicken)
•1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
•1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar (I used Monterey Jack)
•A generous 4 cups roughly broken tortilla chips
•1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraĆ®che for garnish
•1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

1.Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)
2.Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.
3.Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).
4.Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema. Pass the lime separately.

This is what my chile looked like (the AA battery was the first thing I saw to use as a size comparison)...
All the goodies before the broth/chicken mixture was poured on top...

Chocolate Truffle Sauce

I actually tried this recipe the very day I saw it posted on The Sister's Cafe! At Christmas time my friend Amy gave us a jar of THE most delicious chocolate sauce EVER, but the recipe is top secret so I have been left wanting some for months :-). When I saw this is sounded like the same idea and I couldn't wait to try it. It is simple AND delicious...almost as good as Amy's, and definitely enough to scratch the itch until she's ready to share her secret :-)!

3/4 cup whipping cream
2 Tb butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 t vanilla

Put butter and cream in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until cream is hot. Do NOT BOIL. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let it melt then whisk until smooth and add vanilla.

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach

The May 2010 issue of Cooking Light featured a series of risotto recipes and this is the one that I was most excited to try. It was my first time trying risotto and I'm ready to try another now...especially since I have the rice I need for it! This one was SO good! The crunchy bacon was the highlight and I loved the rich flavor the different mushrooms added to it. Tasty!!!

4 cups Homemade Chicken Stock (you can view their recipe here; I just used store bought chicken broth)
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped shallots (I used green onions)
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 cup uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice (they said Carnaroli was best, but I could only find Arborio at my store)
1/3 cup Madeira wine or dry sherry (I used sherry cooking wine)
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt (leave this out if you use store bought chicken broth, or use low sodium chicken broth...ours was a little on the salty side)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

-Bring Homemade Chicken Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil); keep warm over low heat.
-Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon.
-Add shallots, oil, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally.
-Stir in mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Add rice, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
-Stir in Madeira; cook 1 minute or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
-Stir in 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
-Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total).
-Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with bacon.

Crock Pot Chicken, Black Beans and Cream Cheese

I was going for easy meals this week and it doesn't get easier than this. It was simple, cheap to make and really tasty...especially with sliced avacado on top. I made this DELISH cilantro rice to go with it and it was great! (thanks to Cassie Craves for the recipe)

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut in half (I just put them in whole)
1 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained
1 15-ounce can corn, drained
1 15-ounce jar salsa, any kind (I used medium)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (I used 1/3 fat)

1. Add chicken breasts to Crock pot.
2. Add black beans, salsa, and corn.
3. Cook on Low 6 to 8 hours, or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Add cream cheese and cook for 30 more minutes. Stir to combine.

Grandma's Eggs

I remember loving this gravy type sauce when my mom made it growing up. My grandma has had the recipe forever and despite the picture above, you are supposed to serve it over toasted, buttered English muffins (like below). I quickly took the pictures below on Easter and didn't like how they turned out so I took another one with some of the leftovers yesterday, but we only had regular bread. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can put it all in the crock pot and it's ready to serve when you are. And it is SOOO good :-)!

1 doz. hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise
18 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup

Mix together, heat and serve over buttered, toasted English Muffins
(told you it was easy!)

Spring Brunch Bake

This was my contribution to our family Easter brunch yesterday (hence the hurried picture before it was devoured :-). I knew it was risky trying a new recipe to share with everyone, but I just thought it looked so good (and I'm on an asparagus kick right now), so I went for it. Luckily, it was delicious. It was also easy to prepare and not too bad for you in comparison to most breakfast bakes. (the recipe was in some junk mail trying to get me to buy a Taste of Home cookbook)

8 cups cubed French bread
2 cups cut fresh asparagus (1-in pieces)
1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham (I just realized I put in 2 :-). I used lunch meat)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
6 egg whites
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups FF milk
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t garlic powder

-In a large bowl, combine bread, asparagus, ham and cheese.
-Whisk egg whites, eggs, milk, lemon juice and garlic powder; pour over the bread mixture and stir until blended.
-Transfer to a 13x9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.
-Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
-Uncover and bake 8-10 minutes longer or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
-Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Diane's Lasagna

Aren't family recipes THE best?! Tried and true and tasty. This is Mike's mom's lasagna recipe and it was first ever lasanga attempt was a success! It makes A LOT of lasagna though, so be prepared. I used 3 separate 8x8 dishes, which worked out well for me (1 for Mike and the girls, 1 to share with a friend, and 1 using gluten free Penne noodles for me and Preston). If you don't have a humongo dish, I think a 9x13 and an 8x8 would do the trick.
*Boil water for 1 lb pkg lasagna pasta noodles and cook as directed.

3/4 lb hamburger
3/4 lb Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp dry basil leaves
2-3 Tbsp dry oregano leaves
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I didn't have one on hand)
salt and pepper
*Mix all of the above and fry in a pan. Break up meat as it cooks so there aren't big chunks.

10 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 pkgs spaghetti seasoning mix, Lawry's original is best (didn't have it at my store)
add the amount of water the seasoning mixes call for
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (I used 2 14 oz cans w/ garlic and onion in them)

*Simmer 20 minutes, stir occasionally
16oz cheddar cheese, grated
16oz mozzarella cheese, grated
24oz cottage cheese

-Spread some meat sauce in bottom of pan to prevent noodles from sticking
-Cover the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan with a single layer of noodles
-spread half of meat sauce over pasta
-add another layer of pasta
-spread all of cottage cheese on pasta, sprinkle half of both cheeses over it
-add another layer of pasta
-spread remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining cheese on top

*Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, until hot in center.