Being Thankful

November 24, 2010 08:23 by Suzy

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday...good food, family and friends, football, plus no gift-giving stress.  But then four years ago this month, we got the "all clear" news from JD's cancer treatment, and that was the best Thanksgiving ever.  It's easy to forget how lucky we all are, so I love how Thanksgiving helps us put everything in perspective.

So, when you sit down to your Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, remember to be thankful for the people you have around you, and for all of the blessings in your life.  Trust me, they mean more than any possession you could imagine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
--Albert Schweitzer

You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know when it will be too late.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.
--Charles Dickens

Homemade Bread

November 21, 2010 17:51 by Suzy

The other day I discovered a new blog called "Cookbook Lovers Unite" which celebrates the wonderfulness that is the printed cookbook.  Every two weeks, a theme is announced and bloggers are invited to share posts on that theme with a recipe from a cookbook...not a magazine, the internet, your grandma, etc.  I absolutely love this idea.  Books in print seem to be on their way out, but I hope this never happens with cookbooks.  I am a fan of the e-book, and I love my Kindle, but I have no cookbooks loaded on it.  Cookbooks, to me, need to be more tangible than a mere digital version.  The handwritten notes, dog ears, spills and spatters tell such a story when you skim through an actual cookbook.  My mom had a cookie cookbook when I was a kid that was a favorite of mine.  She loves using it now, with all of the "yummy!" and "mmmmm" notes everywhere in my juvenile scrawl.  You just can't get that from an e-book.

I'm so excited to be participating (just under the wire!) with the current theme at Cookbook Lovers Unite:  Warm and Cozy.  During this time of year, Warm and Cozy is almost a requirement of anything you make in the kitchen.  I love how Warm and Cozy could mean almost anything...savory stew, spicy apple pie, hot tea with honey...anything that is the culinary equivalent of wrapping yourself in a warm blanket.

For me, my first thought for Warm and Cozy was homemade bread, fresh from the oven, and luckily, I have the perfect cookbook to use:  Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan and with Julia Child.  It's filled with some wonderful recipes and this is one of my favorites.  Classic, simple, but certainly not boring.  Your house feels warm and cozy while you are baking it, and you feel warm and cozy when you are eating it.

Be sure to check out all of the other Warm and Cozy posts at Cookbook Lovers Unite!

Homemade White Bread
adapted from Baking with Julia

2 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Put 1/2 cup of the warm water in the bowl of your heavy-duty mixer.  Sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and stir.  Let the yeast mixture rest for 5 minutes, or until creamy.

Add the remaining 2 cups of warm water and 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed for a few pulses.  Then, with the mixer running on low speed, add 3 1/2 cups more flour and mix until combined.  Increase speed to medium and beat until the dough comes together.  Stop the mixer and scrape the dough hook and bowl as needed.  Add the 1 tablespoon salt and continue to knead on medium speed for 10 minutes.  Dough will be smooth and elastic.  Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  The dough will look like it is coming apart when you add the butter, but don't freak out.  Keep beating and the dough will come back together.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a ball.  Put the dough in a buttered bowl, turn the dough over to coat all sides with the butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. 

Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about an hour.

Gently deflate the dough and dump out onto lightly floured surface.  Divide dough in half.  Flatten each piece of dough into a 9" x 12" rectangle.  Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter) and pinch seam to seal.  Fold in the ends and pinch to seal.  Gently place into 2 buttered loaf pans.

Cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap (I usually just spray the plastic wrap with non-stick spray) and let rise in a warm place 45 minutes, or until doubled.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake loaves in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown.  An instant read thermometer stuck into the bottom of a loaf should read 200 degrees.

Immediately remove loaves from the pans and cool on a rack.  Wait until nearly cool before slicing.

Chunky Minestrone Soup

November 7, 2010 16:44 by Suzy

Fall is officially here in the mid-Atlantic...perfect weather for making a big pot of soup.  Yummy and warm, filled with vegetables, this soup will likely be my lunch for the rest of the week.  Delicious, cheap and good for you...what more could you want?  Damn, I feel like someone's mom.

One common issue with pasta in soup is that it doesn't keep well; the pasta absorbes all of the broth and turns to mush.  This recipe has a great solution:  cook the pasta separately and combine with the soup just before serving.  Just cook as much pasta as you need for that meal and you're set!

Isn't it pretty?

Chunky Minestrone Soup
adapted from Delicious Dishings and The Pioneer Woman

2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
1 28 ounce can tomatoes (or quart jar of homemade canned tomatoes)
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
ditalini pasta
1/2 pound fresh green beans
Parmesan cheese

Slice the zucchini and yellow squash into chunks; toss with olive oil on baking sheets.  Roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned.  Set aside.

In large pot, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion, carrots, and celery until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, oregano and basil and saute for a minute or so.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, cannellini beans, red wine vinegar to the pot; bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Boil ditalini pasta 10 minutes or until al dente.  Drain and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking.  Set aside.

Cut green beans into 2" pieces.  Add to soup and simmer 10 minutes.  Add roasted vegetables to soup and simmer 10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Spoon a portion of ditalini pasta into each bowl and top with soup.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.