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Ciabatta


I recently tried to make focaccia bread.  It was delicious so I decided to try to make other sandwich breads too, like ciabatta.  I looked at the recipe for ciabatta and saw that you needed something called a “biga” that you had to prepare a day in advanced.  “Nope, not for me.  Too advanced,” my brain said.  Then Adventurous Holly (who made her appearance after sampling the skittles vodka) impulsively decided to start the biga.  I’m now going to take this moment and thank Adventurous Holly.  This ciabatta was delicious and not as difficult as I thought it would be.  So, thanks, Adventurous Holly.  The lesson I learned is one you can too:  Making ciabatta is like making any other bread, but you start it much earlier than normal.

There are many breads that require starters like the biga for ciabatta.  Sourdough is probably the most well known.  In my searchings about biga, I found that a biga is used to make the bread chewier and add some flavor as well.

Making a biga is really simple.  It only sounds intimidating because it’s a weird word and requires planning.  It’s easy to plan though.  If you have a day off, start the biga the night before.  The biga takes 5 minutes to set up at the most so it isn’t a big deal.  I promise it’s fine.  The bread is so delicious, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort

This bread had the perfect light fluffy interior and a perfect crunchy outside.  I had never had homemade ciabatta and it’s infinitely better than store bought. I think the main difference is the crust.  This crust has a great texture and has that crunching sound you want to hear when you bite into ciabatta.  Perfection in bread.

Recipe: (original here, but I found this to be confusing and I hope I can clarify things here)

Ingredients:

Printable Version

Biga:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup water

1/4 tsp yeast

Dough:

1/4 cup water (plus extra if dough is dry)

2 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp nonfat dry milk

1 tsp yeast

Active time: 25 minutes

Inactive time: 20 hours

Servings: 12 servings

Cooking Instructions:

Start the biga about 12-15 hours before you want to begin making the bread.  In a bread machine or an electric mixer combine the ingredients for the biga.  Mix until fully combined (about 5 minutes).  If using a bread machine, set to dough and then stop once combined.  Allow to rest for 12-15 hours.  It will rise a bit and then start to sink.  This is when you want to use the biga.  The biga will big liquidy and bubbly.

To start the dough, combine the biga and the other dough ingredients into the bread machine pan or the electric mixer bowl.  If using a bread machine, set to dough cycle and start.  If using an electric mixer, use a dough hook and a low setting to mix for 5-8 minutes and then let rise for 1 hour.  The dough should be sticky and tacky.  It should not be liquid, but it should be close.  Add water or flour as necessary.  Whenever you handle the dough, wet your hands with water or oil to prevent it from sticking to you.  Half way through the rising time turn the dough over in the pan or bowl.  This will be tricky because it’s so sticky, but just do your best.

Cover a cutting board in plastic wrap and cover the plastic wrap with oil.  Cover two cookie sheets with oil (I only had one and all my bread baked into each other.  Bad call, use two).  Remove the bread from the bread machine or mixing bowl after the rising cycle is complete or it has risen for 1 hour and place on the cutting board.  Divide the dough into 6 equal parts for large sandwich rounds or 12 for smaller sandwich rounds.  Place half on one cookie sheet and the other half on the other cookie sheet.  Shape the dough by pushing and pulling the edges of the dough until it is shaped how you want.  It won’t be perfect, so don’t try.

Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.  Uncover and (with wet fingers) poke holes gently into the dough.  This will give it a more rustic look.  Recover with freshly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the baking sheet and turn off the oven.  Place the bread back in the oven and crack the oven open while it cools.  Allowing the bread to bake this way will create a crunchier crust (maybe take one out to munch on while the rest crisp up).  Remove from oven and enjoy.  And don’t forget to go for second helpings!

Cauliflower with Tahini


This sounds weird, I know.  I first saw this combination on a menu at Pita Jungle.  This place is awesome.  All the food is delicious and healthy.  If you have one in your area, you should check them out.  So when I first went there, I thought I’d try something new, “Caramelized Cauliflower with Tahini.”  It was amazing.  I’d go there just to get some of this.

Then I tried it at home.  The first time, I accidentally fried the tahini.  Whoops.  Don’t do that.  The second time I realized how easy it was to make on my own.  I still get it all the time at Pita Jungle because it’s still slightly better there, but I make it for myself a lot too.

This recipe only requires 4 ingredients.  One of which is tahini.  Tahini is sesame seed paste.  It’s quite tasty and is a key ingredient in hummus.  You can find it at Trader Joe’s next to the hummus in the refrigerated section.  You won’t use all of the tahini you buy in this recipe so you could use some to make hummus.  This recipe is delicious as a snack and will make you love cauliflower.

Recipe:

Printable Version

Ingredients:

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets

2 tbsp tahini sauce (found at Trader Joe’s)

1 tbsp pine nuts

2 tbsp olive oil

Prep time: 15 minutes

Serving size: 1 snack sized portion

Cooking Instructions:

Add the olive oil to a medium sized skillet.  Heat to medium heat.  Once hot (water sizzles when you drip a little on the pan), add the cauliflower.  Saute until soft.  To speed this up, you could cover the pan and stir occasionally. Add the pine nuts and cook for 1 minute longer.  Remove from heat and pour into a serving bowl.  Add the tahini sauce and mix together.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy and don’t forget to go for second helpings!

Pineapple Shrimp Southwest Salad


On black Friday, I raided all kitchen supply stores.  I also got some presents from my mom of things she rarely used (thanks, Mom!).  One of the things I got was a pineapple corer.  It’s a weird device that allows you to easily remove all the best parts of the pineapple and leave the rest behind.  The next week, I saw pineapples on sale.  It was a sign.  The new pineapple corer needed to be used.

I got home, excited to eat the pineapple when my boyfriend asked, “What are we going to eat the pineapple with?”  I really only ever ate pineapple raw and plain as a kid.  Sometimes, as a treat, we would have it with coconut and chocolate sauce, but other than that it was always plain.  I went in search of what else pineapple was used in. One person suggested eating it in a salad with shrimp.  I’ve also seen it in salsa.  I decided to combine these two ideas and make a Pineapple Shrimp Southwest Salad.  Since I’m a vegetarian, I made mine without shrimp and it was still delicious.  I let the salsa act like the dressing.  Since my recipe for salsa has tomatoes and onions in it, it also made it so I had to add fewer ingredients but still got a great variety of flavors.  I also decided to let corn chips act like the croutons.  The combination sounds odd, but it was quite delicious.

For this recipe I won’t add exact amounts since it’s all about what you like and what you don’t like. Salad is very customizable like that.  I’ll give you the ingredient list and you can find the proportions that make this your favorite salad.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

Fresh sliced pineapple

Canned black beans

Romaine lettuce

Blue corn tortilla chips

Fresh chunky salsa

Shrimp (optional)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking instructions:

Chop the romaine lettuce with a lettuce knife (not metal) or tear it using your hands and place it in a salad bowl.  Heat the beans according to instructions and add on top of the lettuce. Scoop some chunky salsa on top.  Crush up the tortilla chips and sprinkle over the salad.  Top with prepared shrimp.  Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve the same day.  Enjoy and don’t be afraid to go for second helpings!

Chunky Salsa (and how I met my boyfriend)


Salsa is part of the reason why my boyfriend and I are together. The story of this salsa goes back even further than that though.  My sister got this recipe from a chef in Mexico that prepared the food at the hotel where she was staying during a trip.  She loved the salsa so much that she went and asked him for the recipe.  When she got back to the US, she made it for our family, and I became obsessed.  It was the best salsa I ever had.

Fast forward to college, freshman year.  One of my friends got tomatoes from his professor’s garden (that’s the kind of school I went to) so we decided to make salsa.  As we were walking around campus to go buy the rest of the ingredients, I saw two huge bushes.  My name is Holly and I was wondering if there were holly bushes.  A friendly fellow who happened to be walking by replied that they were, in fact, holly bushes.  He introduced himself to me and ignored my friends.  After talking a little bit, we discovered that we were planning on making salsa in the building where he lived.  We promised to get him when the salsa was finished.   Me and my friends parted ways with the friendly person and continued with our plan to make salsa.  When the salsa was complete my friends urged me to go get the guy that was talking to us by the holly bush, insisting that he thought I was cute.  I did, and we’ve been dating ever since. ♥

This is the recipe for that salsa.  From a hotel in Mexico to bringing a couple together in Washington state, this recipe has gotten around.  Aside from the obvious sentimental value, it still is the best salsa I’ve ever had.  If you have a Chipotle in your area, it’s similar to the chunky mild salsa that they make.  So if you like chunky tomato-y salsa, this one’s for you.

Recipe:

Printable Version

Ingredients:

5 roma tomatoes

½ white onion

3 jalapeños

Juice from 2 lemons

½ cup cilantro

1 tsp garlic powder

Dash of salt

Dash of black pepper

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Servings: Makes about 4 cups (nutrition facts for 1 cup)

Cooking Instructions:

Remove the seeds and core from the jalapenos. Finely chop the cilantro, tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños and place in a large bowl.  Add the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Mix all the ingredients together.  Add a little bit of water if the tomatoes were not juicy enough to blend the flavors together.  Serve immediately with tortilla chips.  The salsa will save a few days, but the tomatoes may get a little wrinkly after some time.  Enjoy and don’t forget to go for second helpings!


Whole Wheat Breadsticks


First of all, I’d like to thank people that have been pinning my posts on Pinterest.  It’s a great way to spread the recipes around, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.  I will be pinning all of my recipes on my board here so if you want to re-pin those pins, that’s fine.  If you don’t know what Pinterest is, you should click here.  It’s a useful tool for finding new ideas and sharing yours.  Now on to the story and recipe!

This week, my boyfriend’s mom had us over for a soup night.  I was in charge of bringing bread.  I, of course, brought made the favorite crumbly bread (recipe to come!).  As it was baking, I thought, “How are we going to dip a crumbly bread into soup?  This makes no sense.  It will fall apart into the soup!”  So I decided to make some breadsticks to go along with the other bread.  One to dip and one to eat on the side.  It turns out that these are PERFECT for a delicious hot soup.  They are strong enough to scoop chunky soups and soft enough to soak up creamy soups.

 

I actually didn’t use my bread machine to make these breadsticks.  I know you all are very surprised since I have a mild bread machine addiction.  I wanted to make sure I was doing it right so I found a useful video to help me with my kneading.  My dough was stiffer than in the video, but it was still a good reference tool.  I ended up adding a little more water to my dough so that I could knead it more easily.  I added about a ¼ cup more than what I have listed below.

 

Recipe:

Printable Version

Ingredients:

1 cup water (plus extra if needed)

1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups wheat flour

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Bake Time: 20-25 minutes

Makes: 16 breadsticks

Cooking Instructions:

Stir the yeast in the milk and water until mostly dissolved in a large mixing bowl.  Add the honey and salt and continue to mix until the yeast and honey are completely dissolved.  Stir in both types of flour and mix until a ball of dough forms.  Add more water if the dough is extremely stiff (again, I added about ¼ cup).

Remove from the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until you can gently press on the dough with two fingers and have the indentations stay.

Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces.  Roll the pieces out until they are about an inch around.  Grease a cookie sheet lightly and place the breadsticks on the sheet.

Melt the butter and add the parmesan cheese and garlic powder to the butter.  Brush the butter mixture over the breadsticks.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF and let the breadsticks rest while the oven preheats.

Once the oven preheats, bake for 20-25 minutes.  Check after 15 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet and let cook on a wire rack for a few minutes.  Enjoy immediately or reheat in the microwave and serve with soup. Don’t forget to go for second helpings!

Spicy Orange Rum Sauce


Remember the stray kitty I found? He’s doing well.  He’s got the sniffles, but it looks like my sister will be able to take him so he will have a good home.

In food related news, I made a yummy orange sauce that is perfect for dipping meats or as a sauce on vegetables!  I bought a pack of fried shrimp for the boyfriend a while back.  He ate half of it but used all the sauce that came with it so I tried to recreate the sauce when he ate the other half.  It came out really well, so I made it again to share with you all.

It’s spicy, but that can be changed by altering the amount of red pepper flakes and chili powder in it to make it a sweeter orange sauce.  A little bit of this sauce adds a lot of flavor so you don’t need to pile it on to taste it.  This is good because it keeps the calories lower and makes veggies taste better!  Isn’t that what everyone’s looking for?  Something yummy and healthy?

Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 tbsp apricot jam

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup spiced rum

1 tsp spicy brown mustard

1/2 tsp  chili flakes

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Splash of tequila

Splash coconut rum

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: Makes 1/2 a cup of sauce (2 servings)

Cooking Instructions:

Combine the jam, orange juice, sugar, rum, mustard, and spices in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  While stirring, heat until the sauce begins to simmer.  Reduce heat to medium low and continue to stir until sauce thickens.  When the sauce is the desired thickness, add the tequila and coconut rum.  Continue to stir until the sauce reaches the desired thickness again.  Enjoy!

Stuffed Pita


This the final post in three part series involving recipes for piquillo pepper hummushomemade pita (or pitta), and now stuffed pita.  The hummus is amazing and the pita is the best I’ve ever had.  Combine with a few more simple ingredients and you have a scrumptious snack.  This snack, or light meal, is also quite healthy even though it does not taste like it at all.  I feel like it’s a treat even though it’s good for me, and I’m not one of those people that enjoy eating tofu and call it “yummy.”  My skinny jeans wish I was though.

 

When I was going to make dinner, I was planning on making stuffed zucchinis.  I’ve made them before, and they were awesome.  I chopped up the onion, and I pulled out he zucchini and….the zucchinis had begun to rot.  I was VERY bummed.  But, I had just made pita and hummus and my mom sent me falafel mix I had been intending to try.  So I took the lemons that life handed me and made stuffed pita.  This turned out to be a very good decision.  I didn’t have feta cheese which is typical in stuffed pitas so I used a different kind of goat cheese crumbles.  The tangy flavor of the goat cheese really complimented the other flavors in this pita in an unexpected, yet harmonious, way.

Before the recipe, I would love input regarding what types of recipes you, my audience, would like to see more.  More bread?  Healthy options?  Vegan recipes?  I would also love input about my writing, photography, and recipes.  Do you like having the nutrition facts and printable versions?  Since this is a very new blog, I’m still trying to find out the best way to cater to my readers.  I think the best way to do this is to ask my readers.  Please comment or email at hollyshelpings@gmail.com if you have any suggestions, questions, or just want to say “Hi.”  Now, for the recipe.

Recipe for Stuffed Pita:

Printable Version

Ingredients:

1 pita pocket

1 tbsp piquillo pepper hummus

2 prepared falafels*

Torn off bit of Romaine lettuce

1 tsp chopped red onion

1 tbsp goat cheese crumbles**

*I used a falafel mix.  I tried to make my own and, as my sister put, they were fa-AWFUL.  I used Telema® brand.  They were slightly salty, but very easy and yummy in this stuffed pita. I got the mix from my mom and will update with where she bought it.

**I used Montechevré brand crumbled goat cheese “fresh & natural” from Fry’s (a Kroger owned supermarket).  This cheese has a very strong and tangy flavor so I did not use very much.

Active Time: 5 minutes

Inactive Time: 0 minutes

Makes: 1 stuffed pita

Cooking Instructions:

Using a serrated bread knife, cut the pita in half. Take one of the halves and spread the piquillo pepper hummus on the thicker side inside of the pita pocket.  Sprinkle the goat cheese in the pocket in an even manner.  Do the same with the onion.  Make sure the front of the pocket has as much goat cheese and onion as the back of the pocket.  Wrap the falafel ball in a tiny bit of romaine lettuce and stick it in the pocket.  Do the same for the other half of the pita.  Devour.

This snack is so amazing, healthy, and easy that you must go for second or third helpings.

Since there were  so many variants in this recipe, I have not posted nutrition facts.    The pita is 100 calories, the hummus would be about 25 calories, and the falafel brand I used would contribute approximately 50 calories.  However, I used a very specific brand of falafel mix and goat cheese and these factors could change the nutrition content significantly.  I would say that it is likely to be no more than 250 calories per whole stuffed pita (2 halves).  If you have questions about this, please leave a comment or email (address above) and I will do my best to answer.

Also, I love to talk to people about food and read food blogs.  Please comment so I can visit your blog too!

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