Rosemary Focaccia Bread

A favorite repost for the holidays….

Mom used to bake bread quite often when we were growing up.  As a young kid, this activity seemed marathon-like.  We had to wait forever for the yeast to rise, sometimes twice. I’d watch Mom combine the yeast with water and flour, stir it rapidly and then cover the bowl with a raggedy old orange dish towel.   Like a cub following its mother, I’d wander behind her into our secret “furnace room”.    The furnace room was off the laundry room and it was always dark and tropically warm.  Mom would place the bowl down on the dusty floor, explaining that the yeast needed to rise and in order to rise, it needed to be left in a warm area.  To me, the art of baking bread would forever seem magical and mysterious.  It also intimidated me enough to prevent me from every trying it.

Until a few years ago when I took a Basically Baking class at the Institute for Culinary Education, Rosemary Focaccia topped our long list of baked goods we’d be creating in under 4 hours.  So, just like that I found myself working with yeast. Before we began, the chef warned us to never ever let the water get too hot, or it will kill the yeast. I will never forget turning to my partner and revealing my life-long fear of yeast.  Luckily she was sympathetic and willing to work in tandem.  We whisked and beat the yeast vigorously (together). 

Kneading my first bread dough!

An hour later, our first rise was a success.  Our bread looked puffy, shiny and extra doughy.  After the second hour and another successful rise, we got the green light from the chef to spread the dough into a jelly roll pan and poke holes all over.  And, we happily poked away, knowing how close we were to having some fresh tasty bread.

Bread spread in pan awaiting holes and final baking

Now it’s “holey” bread

Sprinkling on final sea salt touches

As I pulled out that long slab of Focaccia from the oven, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment rush over me.  I’m certainly not an artisan baker but, before my eyes was my perfectly-baked Rosemary Focaccia bread.

It was truly magical.

From that moment on, I was no longer intimidated to make bread.  Check out some of the other recipes I’ve tried:

Apple Cider Challah

Cinnamon Raisin Quickbread

Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Loaf

Amish White Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Honey Bran Bread

 

Baked to perfection!

 

Have you baked bread at home?  If so, what’s your favorite recipe?  If not, why not?

 

Potato Latkes

While I like to say Hanukkah is my kids’ favorite Jewish holiday, I’ve never really admitted it’s mine too.

I truly enjoy turning out the lights after dinner to light the candles of the menorah and to sing the festive holiday songs.  Not surprisingly, my kids adore the holiday for the gift-giving.  We aspire to give a little gift every night.

Once annually I make our favorite Potato Latkes recipe from Fairway Market.

This recipe is so easy and takes very little culinary skill.  But, there are just a few additional suggestions I’d make (now that I’m a conditioned latke maker):

Make sure you place your shredded potato pieces in a sieve and press against the potato to adequately drain the excess water before you mix it with the eggs and other ingredients.

Potato Shreds…

Make sure your skillet is sufficiently hot, with the right amount of oil coating the bottom before dropping in the spoonfuls of potato mixture.  Gently press the potato down and let it brown around 2-3 minutes on each side.

Some latke recipes might have you lightly brown the potato pancakes in the skillet and then transfer them to the oven for a couple minutes of baking to achieve a nice fluffy center.

Potatoes pancakes cooking on the skillet

My latkes were crispy and somewhat flattened—exactly how I remembered eating them as a kid.

Lastly, make sure you place your newly-cooked latkes on a paper towel with which you’ll pat out all the grease.  While the oil is necessary to get your potatoes properly fried on the outside, if they’re too greasy, guaranteed you won’t even get through one whole pancake.

And, don’t be alarmed, Potato Latkes never look pretty.  In fact, they always look like a non-descript pancakes with irregular shapes. But, rest assured, with a little bit of salt to taste, some fresh apple sauce or perfectly chilled sour cream, you’ll enjoy each bite!

My kids gave the latkes 1 ½ thumbs up.  My son couldn’t figure out whether he was to eat the latke with his hands like a bagel, or cut into them.

Both kids preferred them hot, right off the skillet, and requested more salt and applesauce.  Neither tried the sour cream option.

In general, Potato Latkes tend to be bland, so don’t be shy.  Spruce them up with salt, pepper, and nice heaping spoonfuls of fresh apple sauce or sour cream as toppings too.

Enjoy!

A Curated #Thanksgiving Meal

Whether you’re hosting a Thanksgiving feast or you’re merely a guest required to bring an assigned dish, I’ve curated some recipe favorites from the blog to help fill in the blanks and take the stress out of the meal prep.

You can take your pick from appetizers to sides to main dishes to desserts.  I promise you’ll find tasty, easy to make recipes.  After all, if I can make them, anyone can.

So why not plan ahead and get cooking?

And remember to celebrate FOOD and family, and to give thanks.

APPETIZERS

Baked Brie

Hot Crab Dip

Mexican 7-Layer Dip

Chex Mix

Broccoli Cheese Dish

Hummus Dip

Homemade Guacamole

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

BREAD

Rosemary Foccacia Bread

Banana Honey Bran Bread

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

MAIN DISHES

Sweet & Sour Brisket

Pistachio-Crusted Raspberry Chicken

Garlic Chicken

Pot Roast Au Jus

Turkey Casserole

Turkey Meatloaf

SIDES

Brussels Sprouts w/Bacon and Maple Syrup

Sweet Potato Marshmallow Casserole

Carrot Pudding

Cauliflower au Gratin

Broccoli Casserole

Green Beans w/Shallots

Apple Butter

SOUPS

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

French Onion Soup

Sweet Potato Apple Soup

DESSERTS

Mom’s Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Pudding

Pumpkin Cappuccino Chip Muffins

Pumpkin Brownies

Bourbon Nut Cake

Peach Cobbler

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Earthquake Cookies

No Bake Chocolate Pie

Gingerbread

Rustic Apple Pie

Holiday Hazelnut Spread Pinwheels

pinwheelsfinal

A recent trip to Turkey boasted markets overflowing with the most beautiful arrangements of fruits, spices and nuts. We couldn’t seem to eat enough of them. Ironically, most everything can be found in the states.   However, our favorites abroad were the insanely fresh Turkish delights in all colors and flavors as well as the variety of creamy spreads, from Hummus to Hazelnuts.

While we continue to eat our Turkish delights sparingly, we love to incorporate our hazelnut spread on everything from sliced strawberries and apples to crepes and waffles. Their delicately nutty flavor combines perfectly with any puffed pastry or fruit. In fact, my children prefer hazelnut spread over melted chocolate.

With the holidays on the horizon, we’re canvassing our large recipe database to select those that will don that coveted spot on our Thanksgiving or holiday tables. For desserts, I was searching for items that taste “festive”- rich and inviting, with robust chocolate and nutty flavors.

I decided to make Hazelnut Spread Pinwheels. These treats are ideal for any party atmosphere. They’re two-bite finger food that tastes just as good freshly-baked as they do days later. In fact, the pinwheels compliment any dinner, lunch or brunch and guaranteed, your plate will be empty.

These baked goods are very easy to make, requiring only a few ingredients (all of which you’d find in your stocked fridge or pantry). In fact, it’s a fun activity for children (of all ages) to get involved in the assembly it’s a virtual art project –requiring very little culinary skill.

hazelnutspread

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For the dough, we used crescent rolls (it’s what we had in the fridge) and Almond Milk for the coating (little sweeter than milk and we have some minor dairy issues). Feel free to substitute the pastry dough for prepared cookie dough if you’re looking for a sinfully sweet dessert versus a bread based treat. Either way it’s prepared, you won’t regret one single bite.

And, if you’re crazy about your hazelnuts too, definitely fill out the Hazelnuts from Turkey Falling for Hazelnuts Sweepstakes entry form for a chance to win the grand prize of $500.

GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY EATING.

Disclaimer:  I was compensated by the Turkish Hazelnut Promotion Group for writing this post, however, all opinions expressed are, as always, my own.  I LOVE HAZELNUTS.

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