29 January 2009

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

I got a fab recipe for a slow cooked pot roast from my friend Laura. The recipe has gotten rave reviews from everyone who makes it.

I doubled the recipe so it would serve three plus leftovers. When we got home, the house was filled with the smell of the roast. The recipe listed below represents exactly what I did, including doubled ingredients. For the original, 2 lb. roast recipe, simply halve all ingredients.

To Die For Crock Pot Roast

4 lb. roast, any kind
2 packets brown gravy mix
2 packets ranch dressing mix
1 packet Italian dressing mix
1/2 c. white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1/2 c. water
5 carrots, peeled and quartered

Mix together all packets in a small bowl. Poke the roast all over and rub packet mix all over it.
Put carrots and liquid in bottom of crock pot and place roast on top. Cook on low 8 hours.

Laura's recipe indicated to cook the roast on high 4-5 hours. I opted to cook on low for 8, since I was at work and wouldn't be there to turn the crock down. My slow cooker has an automatic warming function, so after the 8 hours were up, the roast sat in the warm pot for another 2 hours. Laura's recipe includes quartered red potatoes in the crock, but I opted to make homemade mashed potatoes instead.

The meat was falling apart - juicy, flavorful, and so delicious. It is pretty tough to photograph meat - I'm not posting the pictures I took of the sliced meat, because it looks gross, belying it's deliciousness. Andrew doesn't usually eat carrots, regardless of how I cook them, but he told me he loved these, and even reheated some when he ate the leftovers. I'll definitely make this again - and you should try it too.

27 January 2009

Restaurant Review: Mediza

I was in Connecticut last weekend visiting my family, and somehow ended up eating my way through the state. Be on the lookout this week for my restaurant reviews - in the three days I was in town, I ate at four different restaurants, all of them new to me.

Lunch on Saturday was at Mediza, a tiny jewel just off LaSalle Street in West Hartford Center. The restaurant is small, but the food is authentic, the service prompt, and the flavors are amazing. My mom suggested we do a girls lunch and my friend Kristi suggested the place. She and I were thrilled to hang out with our moms for the afternoon.

We started with the Mediterranean Sampler, a fabulous combination of "babaganoush, hoomoos, tahini and falafel" - the babaganoush was stellar. The pita bread is homemade - light and floury, it makes the perfect dipper.

For lunch, I opted for one of the specials - a Pesto Shrimp Salad in a Lemon Truffle Vinagrette. Though I asked for the dressing on the side, it was brought already mixed in. It worked out fine, as the salad of arugula, grape tomatoes, red onion, and pesto-coated shrimp was lightly dressed. The vinagrette was a nice balance of rich and light - the truffle and lemon were well paired.

My mom and Marlies split the Fall Goat Cheese Salad and the Chicken and Avocado Panini. Kristi opted for the house soup - a Spicy Vegetarian Lentil that we found to be not at all spicy, but still rather delicious, and the Falafel. Kristi maintains that her lentil soup far surpasses Mediza's, so stay tuned for that recipe at a later date.

After lunch, we all ordered coffee and tea while Kristi and I decided to attempt dessert. We decided to split the Baklava with Fig Ice Cream. The ice cream was divine, but the baklava left something to be desired. It was served cold, and shaped into a cigar - nowhere near enough layers, nowhere near enough honey, and nowhere near the right texture.

Overall, we really liked Mediza and agreed we'd return. Their dinner menu looks just as varied and delicious, with offerings including Pan Seared Sea Scallops with butternut squash risotto and Moroccan Glazed Organic Pork Chop.

Kristi and I have been friends forever, and it's always great to see her. Here's a photo of us in Boston for my Bachelorette Party - I'm the one with the veil!

26 January 2009

Banana Carrot Walnut Muffins

Two weeks ago, I bought bananas at the beginning of the week so they would get ripe and I could make some homemade banana nut muffins. By Saturday of the same week, there was only one banana left! Apparently Andrew likes bananas more than I thought.

I decided I still wanted to make banana muffins, but knew I would need something to bulk up the muffins. I had some large carrots left in the fridge, so I typed "banana carrot muffins" into Google and found an interesting recipe.

The carrot and banana blend nicely - the carrot is really a background flavor, while the cinnamon and banana steal the show. I really liked the addition of walnuts - they give these muffins a carrot cake type feel.

Below is my adapted recipe.

Banana Carrot Walnut Muffins

2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large mashed ripe banana
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. Canola oil
2 eggs
1 c. finely grated carrots
2/3 c. chopped walnuts

Mix together first four ingredients in a medium size bowl, set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine bananas, sugar, oil, and eggs. Beat at medium speed (#4 on a KA mixer).

Stir in dry ingredients. When fully combined, add carrots and walnuts and mix thoroughly.

Bake at 350 for 18 minutes.

The recipe says you get 2 dozen muffins - this is absolutely a lie. You will be lucky to get 18 very small muffins. If I had it to do over, I would have made just 12 muffins so that one would suffice for breakfast. As they are now, eating one isn't quite enough, but two makes me feel tubby.

Despite the miniature proportions, I love these muffins. I kept five of them on the counter for breakfast that week and froze the rest. To freeze muffins, wrap individually in plastic wrap and seal in a food storage bag in the freezer.

Don't be nervous about freezing muffins or anything else. As my Nonnie always says, "baked goods are the only thing that come out of the freezer better than when they went in." She's right - these muffins are moister and more flavorful after being frozen.

22 January 2009

Our Newest Addition

It's been quite a saga for us as pet owners these last couple months. One of our cats, Bogey, ran away, and our attempts to find him were both hilarious and heart-breaking. Though Bogey never came back, we did come across a sweet little stray. Our other cat Evin is Bogey's brother, and we knew he was lonely, so we did the only thing we could - we adopted the stray we found.

I'd like to introduce you to Juliet:

As you can see, in her free time, she enjoys surfing the net and hanging out on the couch.
Below you can see the original "kamikaze night owls" as Andrew liked to call them. Bogey is in front, Evin is in back. We miss our sweet boy.

Of course, I've posted pictures of Finn in the past, but here's another one, just because he's so darn cute and this is a pet post:

Happy Thursday everyone!

21 January 2009

Guest Chef: Andrew Makes Dinner

It's always a treat when Andrew offers to make dinner. I had planned a Spicy Peanut Pork for dinner tonight, but with scant stir fry veggies on hand and Andrew's declaration that he "doesn't really like peanut butter in dinner food," I took him up on his offer to create a special pork dinner.
Andrew put together an excellent meal of Pork with Garlic & Apples, Green Beans with Fried Garlic and Scallions, and a little help from the store with a seasoned rice packet. He did a great job with his "secret recipes" - everything was seasoned and cooked to perfection. The good news? He forgot about the "secret" part and told me everything he put in our dinner!

Pork with Garlic & Apples

2 bone-in pork chops
1 Gala apple, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tbsp. butter

Saute apples in 1/2 tbsp. butter until juices coat bottom of pan. Add garlic, pork, and remaining butter - cover and let cook 10-15 minutes, or until juices run clear when pork is sliced.

Green Beans with Fried Garlic & Scallions

3 c. fresh green beans, washed and snapped
2 tbsp. butter
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 c. scallions (white & light green), chopped

Saute all ingredients in a covered pan on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. If desired, stir in 1/2 c. breadcrumbs. Turn heat to medium-high and saute until greens are cooked al dente and still bright green and breadcrumbs are slightly charred.

The garlic and scallions are coated with buttery breadcrumbs and fry up beautifully in the high heat of the pan. This may not be the healthiest way to get your veggies, but the crispy fried bits are so delicious, it will definitely be your favorite way to eat them.

Happy Inauguration Day, Mr. President!

If you're curious about the food that was served at the inaugural luncheon yesterday, you can find the menu pretty much anywhere on the internet. But how cool is it that you can also download the recipes? Check them out here. And call me if you make that Seafood Stew, it sounds amazing!

20 January 2009

Crab-Stuffed Salmon Pinwheels with Green Lentil Ragout

I received the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Essentials of Healthful Cooking as a gift, and had yet to make anything in the book. I have so many cookbooks, yet I keep requesting them as gifts and buying them for myself. I sat down and flagged a bunch of recipes in this one, then decided to add one to my menu plan for the week.

I edited the recipe when I found beautiful crab-stuffed salmon pinwheels with a Manager's Special tag on them during my grocery run. I've reproduced the green lentil ragout recipe below.

1 c. dry French (green) lentils
2 c. reduced-sodium, fat-free broth
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 boiling potato, peeled and cubed
garlic salt, pepper, powdered Adobo

*A good way to cut large carrots is to halve them first, then cut them into equal sized pieces. I cut the halved carrot vertically to about the point where the width of the small end is almost the same as the width of the halves. Then I can cut crosswise all the way down the carrot without having to then cut each of the half moons in half again.

Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh seive, picking through to remove any that may be misshapen. Place into a saucepan with 3 cups of water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and cover. The recipe says to cook 45-50 minutes, but this is WAY too long. Cook them for 30 minutes tops or they will be mush!

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Allow to boil until broth is reduced to 1-1/2 cups and remove from the heat.

In a nonstick frying pan, warm 1/2 cup of the reduced stock until it bubbles, then add onion, carrot, and potato. Cook until liquid has almost evaporated (3-4 minutes).

At this point, I packaged the vegetables and the lentils separately. I cooked this ahead of time on Sunday for a meal I was planning for Monday. Obviously, if you wanted to cook this all at once, you could skip this part.

*Since I refrigerated both the lentils and the veggies, I took them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before I wanted to cook dinner so they could start to come to room temperature. Then I added the veggies to the frying pan and caught up with the recipe here:

Pour in the remaining stock and add the cooked lentils. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in salt, pepper, and at least a teaspoon of Adobo. The lentil-veggie mixture will be relatively bland, so season liberally.

I baked the salmon pinwheels in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes, until the fish was flaky and the stuffing heated through. I spooned the lentil mixture onto plates, topped with the pinwheels, and garnished with fresh parsley.

The lentil mixture left something to be desired. If I hadn't added garlic salt and Adobo, there would have been no flavor! Andrew didn't love the lentils, and neither did I. I'm glad I learned the method, but I don't know that I would do this again. The pinwheels were fantastic, and I will probably try to recreate them using a homemade stuffing and salmon fillets.

There are still recipes I want to try out of the Wills cookbook, but lentil ragout only got half a thumbs up from us.

19 January 2009

Apple Crumble

It was my new co-worker's birthday on Saturday, and I wanted to make something sweet to celebrate his special day.

I found a great Apple Crumble recipe that used the ingredients I had on hand by googling "apple crumble with oats". FamilyFun magazine has a good recipe that's super simple. The ingredients and method I listed below are my version of FamilyFun's recipe.

Apple Crumble
adapted from FamilyFun magazine

5 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 c. rolled oats
6 tbsp. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 tbsp. orange juice

Stir together all items except apples and orange juice. Divide apples between twelve ramekins and top with oat mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 tbsp. orange juice over each ramekin. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until apples are cooked and topping is toasted.

I put the ramekins on a cookie sheet to make it easy to move them in and out of the oven. Everyone liked the individual desserts, and they were so much easier to serve at work.

Next time I make these, I would do another apple so that each ramekin had half an apple in it. I would also make a homemade caramel sauce to drizzle over the top. Andrew and I brought two of the leftover crumbles home with us and ate them after dinner. They were really yummy topped with French vanilla ice cream!

Baking in ramekins was a really neat idea, and I'm glad I tried it. There are so many more desserts I want to try this way. Pear and cranberry would be a great one to try next time!

Roasted Garlic Crockpot Chicken

This fantastic crockpot recipe is a great way to roast a whole chicken on a lazy Sunday - or any day of the week, for that matter. The recipe is simple, like most of the slow cooker recipes I've tried, yet yields delicious results.

Roasted Garlic Crockpot Chicken

1 - 5 lb. fryer chicken
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick)
5 cloves garlic
1/2 c. chicken broth

Rinse chicken inside and out. Season cavity and skin with salt, pepper, and paprika. I used many more cloves of garlic than the recipe calls for - more like ten! I smashed five of them and placed them in the bottom of the crockpot. Then I put the other five through my garlic press and smeared some inside the chicken and smeared the rest onto the outside of the chicken.

Pour 1/2 c. of chicken broth into crockpot, then place chicken into crock. Cut up stick of butter - press pats all over chicken and scatter any remaining butter around chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

The chicken was falling off the bone and the sauce was garlicky and delightful. I served it with Roasted Thyme Potatoes and fresh steamed green beans.

Roasted Thyme Potatoes

3 baking potatoes, cubed
olive oil
dried thyme

Toss all ingredients and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

The photo at the beginning of the blog is after Andrew coated his whole plate with garlic powder and pepper, but hopefully you can get a good idea of what it all looked like.

I set aside a fair amount of the chicken for Chicken Caesar Salads later in the week. I put the chicken carcass and the last of the garlic butter sauce into a stockpot and covered with water. I simmered it on the stove tonight for a couple hours with two rough cut stalks of celery and one quartered onion.

17 January 2009

Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is such an easy meal to put together, and you can use whatever you've got on hand. I try to keep bags of frozen veggies to get started with - sliced peppers, broccoli, green beans, peas, etc. Then I can add whatever meat I have - frozen shrimp, leftover grilled chicken, roasted garlic pork, the list goes on.

Here are the basics:

1 medium onion, sliced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. canola oil
veggies & meat of your choice
1/4 c. Szechuan-style stir fry sauce
green onion, sliced - optional
toasted sesame seeds - optional

I always start a stir fry with sliced onions in a bit of canola oil. Olive oil is too heavy for stir fry, as is butter, and canola oil is a good option both because it's light and because it's so good for you. You're not looking for carmelization, just soft onions, so salt them immediately.

If I have raw meat, I add it once the onion softens. While the meat is cooking, I put any frozen vegetables I'm using into a colander and run hot water over them to get rid of any ice and increase the temperature of the veggies.

Once the meat is cooked almost all the way, I add the thawed vegetables and the Szechuan sauce and put a lid on the pot. I let the frozen vegetables heat all the way through, then remove the lid, add any fresh vegetables, and put the top back on. If I'm using meat that is already cooked, I add it at this time.

Lastly, I spoon the stir-fry over a bowl of rice or stir into whole wheat spaghetti for an easy lo mein. Top with the green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

This time, , when I added the onions, I added sliced carrots at the same time. I had grilled chicken from a previous nights dinner, so I cubed it and threw that in. I have a can of water chestnuts in my cupboard - it's been there for the past three stir fry nights, and I forget it every time. Yet again, I forgot, so the poor water chestnuts remain languishing with the Tupperware and crackers.

We do stir fry once or twice a month - it's never the same twice, but it's always delicious.

13 January 2009

Asparagus & Jack Cheese Frittata

I adapted Aida Mollenkamp's recipe on Food Network for an Asparagus & Jack Cheese Frittata. I had never made a frittata before, so I really wanted to learn the method so that I can mix and match ingredients.
I used my cast iron skillet to saute the asparagus in the oil/butter mixture. I thought the cast iron gave the asparagus a roasted flavor - it really added something to the taste of the frittata.

I'm glad I followed a recipe so I could learn the timing - how long to cook on the stove and how long to cook in the oven. The instructions were very easy to follow. I used one less egg than was called for (7 instead of 8) because that's all I had! Other swaps included using olive oil instead of the suggested vegetable oil and fresh flat leaf parsley instead of cilantro.
I was a little nervous when I added the egg mixture, since I was one short, but I spread it out with a spatula and it covered the asparagus and started cooking nicely.

The frittata was light and fluffy, the asparagus was slightly charred from roasting in the cast iron skillet, and the jack cheese added just the right tang and bite without overpowering the dish.
Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe was lifting the skillet in and out of the oven. The thing must weigh a good fifteen pounds empty. I'm going to weigh it and let you know how much it weighs. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe I need to work out a bit more. (Update: I weighed it - 11 pounds!)

Look at all that good green stuff ^ This recipe is healthy, filling, satisfying, and pretty - basically everything I require in my food!

12 January 2009

Something New...

I installed Stat Counter today. It lets me track who visits my blog, where they came from, and what part of the world they're in. It's a pretty nifty tool - I won't use it as much as someone who uses it for their business, but it's still an interesting way to see who is looking!

Check out my super cute new counter - it's on the right side of the page, at the bottom. It will show me how many visitors have checked out my blog. Unfortunately, it starts from the time you install it and doesn't retro the counts. So keep clicking here to see what's new!

11 January 2009

Resolution #2 - In Progress!

I posted at the beginning of the month about my plan to make monthly resolutions. Well, I've been doing good at #1 - eating more fruits and vegetables. And I think I've been doing pretty well at #3, which was to blog more often.

So, here we go at #2 - removing the wallpaper from one of our bathrooms.

Here's Andrew spraying and scraping away:

It may be difficult to see, but the wallpaper in this bathroom was covered with lighthouses. We're ocean lovers, but this was too much. We've been gunning to get rid of this wallpaper since we moved in last August, so we were only too thrilled once we started peeling it off in huge hunks.

We're still scraping away, but I feel so great about everything we got done this weekend. I'll try to post updates on Resolution #2 as we get more done.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

When I make homemade macaroni and cheese, I always use Alton Brown's recipe in some capacity. I usually make changes to it, but it's a good starting point, so I always come back to it.

I doubled the recipe, using one pound of pasta, and baking in a 4 quart casserole dish.

This time, I used the ground mustard called for in the recipe, which I haven't done in the past. It was a good move, because the mustard flavors the roux nicely.

I added the paprika at the same time I added the mustard, cooking it into the roux (as opposed to adding it with the milk as Alton's recipe calls for). I never have a bay leaf, so I didn't use one.

The recipe calls for shredded sharp cheddar - I had mild cheddar on hand, and it worked fine. I also had some cheese left over from Christmas Eve, so I made use of that.

On the left in the photo above is the spectacular Five Counties Cheddar, from the U.K. On the right is a smoked cheddar that added some great flavor to the mac & cheese.

I chopped the cheese into small pieces so that they would melt evenly and added to the roux along with the milk.

There was so much pasta and so much cheese sauce that I couldn't combine them in the pot. Instead I layered them in the casserole dish and then poured the remainder of the sauce over the top. It worked out fine, although it seemed WAY too soupy - I was afraid I had mixed up the ratio of cheese to pasta somehow. It thickened up a lot when I baked it though, and the consistency was perfect.

I realized after I had combined everything that I forgot to add salt and pepper, so I topped the dish with S&P and hoped for the best. I figured we could season it on our plates, and that worked out fine.

I topped it with both the shredded and the smoked cheddar, then added the bread crumbs mixed with butter. I had homemade bread crumbs in my cabinet, so I used those rather than Panko as recommended. The top browned beautifully and gave the dish a fantastically rich, homemade flavor.

This recipe never fails, even when I tweak it. And honestly, what could be better than pasta covered in cheese and topped with buttery breadcrumbs? Make this - you won't regret it.

06 January 2009

Creamy Corn & Shrimp Risotto

It's been quite some time since I made risotto, despite it being one of my favorite comfort foods. Tonight, I was definitely in the mood for some major comforting. Even though my menu plan read "Cream of Broccoli Soup" for tonight, I had to switch it up to make myself happy. I still made the soup, which Andrew ate for dinner, so now I have tons of leftovers!

Creamy Corn & Shrimp Risotto

1-1/4 c arborio rice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
4 c chicken stock
3/4 bag frozen corn (equals about 12 ounces)
1/2 c. cream (I used fat-free Half & Half)
12+ cooked cocktail shrimp, peeled and cut into thirds
fresh parsley, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add chopped onions and cook until they begin to soften. Stir in garlic and butter. Salt onions and garlic and allow to cook until onions are translucent. Add rice to the pot and stir to coat in oil and butter. Toast approximately five minutes prior to adding any liquid - this really brings out the flavor of the rice.
In the meantime, bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a simmer on another burner:

I set my stove up as above, with the chicken stock behind the rice pot. Off to the right, I put my spoon rest. I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to move stock from the back pot to the front, then set it on the spoon rest when I'm not using it.

Begin by ladling 1/2 cup of chicken stock into the rice. Stir the mixture, then allow the rice to absorb the liquid before ladling in the next 1/2 cup. If you have a good white wine on hand, feel free to substiute one cup of white wine for the first cup of chicken stock. The rice will absorb the wine and take on a more intense flavor.

When you have about a cup of stock left, stir in the frozen corn with the final cup of liquid. Once this round is fully absorbed, stir in cream and shrimp. Salt & pepper to taste, and garnish with fresh parsley.

This risotto came out soooo good. The rice was creamy, the corn was crunchy and delicious, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the parsley added a beautiful bright freshness to my bowl. I would definitely make this again. The only bummer was that I didn't have more shrimp! Risotto can easily become a main course when you add meat and vegetables to it, so don't be afraid to experiment.

05 January 2009

Cheeseburgers with Sweet Potato Fries

Dinner tonight was simple, but it was still really good.

I had hamburger patties in the freezer that I bought from the Schwan's truck a while ago that really needed to be used. We haven't had good ol' ground beef in a while, and it's been ages since we made hamburgers, so it seemed like a great idea.

Andrew loved the Cajun burgers at the restaurant I worked at. They just closed last week, so I thought I'd put together something similar for him. I cooked the burgers on my Griddler. I haven't figured out how to change the grill plates yet, so I'm going to have to read up on the website. Luckily, they were correct for grilling, so I didn't have to worry about it tonight!

Back to the Cajun burger...I had leftover sauteed onions in the fridge, so I heated those in the microwave once my burgers were cooked and topped with cheese. I piled the onions on top, then added hot sauce. The only thing missing is the homemade Chipotle barbeque sauce they used to make at The Grill (the restaurant I mentioned).

I toasted the buns face down in the toaster oven. They got great "grill marks" and looked really cute.

I served dinner with a side of sweet potato fries. I love them salted and topped with honey. Andrew likes them plain, so I just lightly salt them before baking, then pile the salt onto my own once they're on my plate. I drizzled honey over the top, and they tasted like such a treat!

Sweet Potato Fries

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
olive oil
fresh ground salt & pepper
honey (optional)

Chop the sweet potatoes into "fry-like" shapes - wedges would be good too, but I wanted these to cook quickly, so I made them small.

Spread potatoes out on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes.

I can never wait long enough for my fries to get crispy, and always end up pulling them out as soon as they're cooked. Oh well, one of these days I'll exercise some willpower and Andrew will get crispy fries!

I attempted to be good - no roll on my burger, a side of roasted brussels sprouts, and two pickles on the side. Granted, the hunk of homemade bread and butter I ate before I made dinner isn't pictured here, but nobody's perfect, right?

04 January 2009

Turkey Pot Pie

I previously posted my mom's super simple recipe for Chicken Pot Pie, but last time I made it, I wasn't able to take a picture.

I have tons of leftovers in my freezer from Christmas Eve dinner, so I'm slowly thawing and reappropriating them as new meals. I had a nice bag of turkey in the freezer - I only used about half the bag for my pot pie, so I'm brainstorming a soup for this weekend.

The pie crust I had in the fridge completely fell apart when I tried to unroll it, so I re-rolled it and slit it into strips, which I then laid across the top. I'm a relatively novice baker, so I've never attempted a woven pie crust before, and I wasn't about to try one at 5:00 on a Sunday night. Oh well, it is what it is, and it tasted fantastic!

Served with a slice of homemade, crusty bread, this was a comforting Sunday dinner that didn't require a ton of work.

Country Crust Bread

I have been really wanting to bake bread, and after lusting after some delicious looking recipes, I finally decided to give Country Crust Bread a try. I got the recipe and method on one of my new favorite blogs - The Way the Cookie Crumbles. I've been reading Bridget's blog like crazy for the past few weeks and she makes baking bread look so easy. I finally took the plunge and tried baking it myself.

You can get the full recipe here. I used two cups of white flour and one cup of wheat flour and opted for the sugar over the honey. My first rise was 40 minutes, the second was 20, and bake time was 42 minutes. I don't have an instant-read thermometer, so I just had to chance it.

The bread came out beautifully - crusty on the outside, wheaty and soft on the inside. I topped it with the homemade butter I made for Christmas...now I can die happy! I will definitely be experimenting with bread baking again very soon.