Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Feta Bruschetta

     This is my go to appetizer.  This version of bruschetta has the best texture and flavor.  Every time I make this I get so many compliments and requests for the recipe! 
10 slices of french bread, 1 inch thick
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1-4oz pkg of crumbled feta cheese
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (I often times use a can of diced tomatoes from the store)
1/3 cup green onion

- In a bowl combine the butter and olive oil.  Spread on both sides of sliced bread and bake in oven @ 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
-Combine feta, garlic & basil, and sprinkle over toasts.
-Combine tomato & onion and sprinkle over cheese toasts.
- Bake 8-10 minutes longer, until heated through.

Enjoy!  I even enjoy these cold out of the fridge the next day.  They're quick & easy and DELICIOUS!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Water For Elephants

     I recently finished the book Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen.  This book was WONDERFUL!  The setting is a 1930's circus.  The main character, Jacob Jankowski, takes you with him on his time in the circus and falling for Marlena, the beautiful equestrian act.  This book took me only two days to finish because I couldn't put it down!  Here is a brief description of the book from the author's website:
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.
It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

    After finishing the book I watched the movie.  You know the typical results when a movie is made from a book, it's good but just not the same.  Well, that rule of thumb does not apply here!  This movie was a wonderful adaptation of the book.  It was pretty dead on with the book, and made me feel just as strongly for the characters as I did while I was reading. 
     I strongly recommend everyone reading the book as well as watching the movie!!  This gets 5 stars in my book on all levels!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tsoureki Easter Bread

     We had an absolutely wonderful meal yesterday for Easter.  Filled with all sorts of goodies including ham, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, green bean & artichoke casserole, lemon cheesecake and a Tsoureki Easter Bread, which was one of my contributions.  This year I decided to try something new for bread, so I did a little research. 
     Tsoureki is the traditional Greek Easter bread.  It typically is made the day before Easter, and then brought to the Saturday evening service the night before Easter to be blessed.  For the traditional bread they place a red hard boiled egg in the dough prior to baking (to symbolize Christ's blood), however I left the egg out of my recipe, to save me a bit of time :-) 
     The bread was pretty typical of any bread I've made, a little yeast, a little flour, a little sugar, a lot of kneading and rising.  However where this bread stood out to me was the heavenly aroma it produced while it was baking!  I have never made such a delicious smelling bread!  My husband even commented on the pleasant smell coming from the kitchen.  The following is the recipe that I used, however there are a few variations on the Internet if you browse.  Enjoy!

1 cup milk
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups flour, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
3 eggs & 1 egg yolk
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla

1) heat milk to very warm and pour into mixing bowl
2) whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar and yeast until well mixed; cover with plastic wrap & let stand in warm place until bubbly (aprox 30 minutes)
3) add eggs one at a time to yeast mixture
4) add another 2 cup of flour, orange zest & salt; mix
5) add softened butter, vanilla & orange juice; mix
6)gradually add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough
7) knead on a well floured surface for aprox 6-8 minutes
8) coat a large bowl with vegetable oil/cooking spray
9) place dough in bowl and flip dough once to coat each side
10) cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rice in a warm place until doubled in size (aprox 1 1/2 hrs)

11) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
12) divide the dough into thirds, and shape each third into a rope
13) braid the dough making sure to tuck the ends under
14) let the braided dough rise for about 1/2 hr (don't let it rise too much as it will get to airy and full of holes)
15) mix egg yolk with 1 Tablespoon of water, and brush over the braided loaf

16) Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until bread is golden brown.
17) remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes on pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely

And... Voila!  Here is my finished product

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easy Plan Ahead Quiche

     This recipe that I'm giving you is the basic staples for a quiche.  You can then add whatever ingredients you like to make it your style.  The great part about this recipe, is that it makes two.  You can cook one now and freeze one for up to three months.  It's easy to make and even easier to pull out of the freezer when you're too busy to cook a nice meal.  Here is what you'll need:

2 unbaked pie shells (deep dish)
8 eggs
2 cups half & half
4 cups shredded cheese (I like cheddar, you can mix up any kinds you like)
1/3 cup green onions (can be omitted)
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp paprika
**Optional Additions** bacon, sausage, ham, veggies, etc. 

- Bake pie shells in oven @ 400 degrees for 5 minutes covered.  Remove covers and bake 5 more minutes. 
- Spread shredded cheeses evenly in pie shells. 
- Top cheese with any additions you like.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, half & half, dried mustard and paprika. 
- Pour egg mixture evenly into pie shells. 

- Cover outer edge with foil or Pie Crust Shield. Bake freshly made quiches @ 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

- Freeze quiches for up to 3 months covered tightly.  When ready to bake your frozen quiche, remove from freezer 30 minutes before baking.  Cover outer edge with foil or Pie Crust Shield.  Bake @ 400 degrees for 55-60 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Cupboard Project

     So, when we moved into our house one of the first things we did was get rid of the tiny refrigerator.  It was very dated (I'm thinking 70's) and could not hold a third of the food that I like to keep in my refrigerator.  Then we bought a new one, it's HUGE!  It's got the french doors on the top, the pull out freezer on the bottom, and enough room to keep a family of 10 happy (or my family of 4 :-)!  Problem was, it wouldn't fit in the designated refrigerator nook.  So, we put it on another wall, and were left with a hole where the old one was.  I've been trying to find just the right hutch or cupboard for that space for months and haven't been able to find anything to fit the measurements. 
     Thankfully, my mother has been on the mission as well.  She does love a shopping mission.  This weekend she came through (Thanks Mom!) and got us a wonderful little metal topped antique cabinet.  Fits perfect!  However, it didn't match the kitchen.  So I painted it.  I sanded it, cleaned it, took all the handles off and painted 2 coats on it.  The finished project is wonderful.  Below are the before and after pics. 



    My total project time was only 1 and 1/2 hrs!!  I'm always so afraid to start these projects, thinking I'll never finish it in a timely manner, but it's really much easier than you think.