Late to the party


A couple of years ago, food writer Mark Bittman wrote an article in the New York times about a remarkable bread that was so simple you could mix the dough with a spoon, you didn’t have to knead it and it could live in the refrigerator for a couple of days where it would magically knead itself and develop the kind of wonderful flavor that really good artisan sourdough bread has but it required such easily available ingredients as instant yeast and regular bread flour.  This amazing bread could be baked in a dutch oven!  This article took the Blogosphere by storm.  Bloggers everywhere were baking up loaves of this remarkable “no knead bread”.  Both seasoned bakers and neophytes were singing the praises of this remarkable bread.  Le Cruset must have made boatloads of money selling dutch ovens to rabid no knead bread bakers.  Recipes evolved faster than viruses.  Books were written about the subject and sold like hotcakes.


At that time a girl named Mimi was just starting to discover her first food blogs.  She entertained the notion that she might want to be a food writer too.  She started to read everywhere about this amazing no knead bread.  She wasn’t sure what the hype was.  She already owned a bread machine, a standing mixer and a food processor.  All of these machines alleviated her from chores such as kneading bread.  Besides.  No knead bread called for commercial yeast.  This girl wanted to be a sourdough baker.


Fast-forward two years.  That gal named Mimi has a food blog and is a pretty decent sourdough baker now.  She is also searching everywhere for healthy recipes.  She buys the February copy of Eating Well magazine and sits entranced, as she reads about someone’s amazing no knead breads.  These recipes are so different now!  All of the recipes she sees in this magazine are so delicious looking.  Her mouth begins to water, as she contemplates actually making a no knead bread, thus becoming possibly the last person in the blogosphere to attempt to make no knead bread.


The recipe that really caught her attention was something called Everyday Whole-Wheat Bread.  The recipe is for a loaf that is over half whole-wheat but fortified with bulghur, wheat germ and honey.  The gal had just received bread pans for Christmas and this was not your usual bake it in a dutch oven bread, so she was excited to give her new equipment a test run.  But wait!  She does not own commercial yeast.  Could she possibly make this bread with sourdough starter instead?  Yes.  Yes she could. And… it was extremely good.


I am submitting this great recipe to this week’s YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast. 




Sourdough whole-wheat no knead bread

Adapted from Everyday Whole-Wheat bread in the February issue of Eating Well magazine


¼ cup bulgur

1/3 cup boiling water

2 ½ cups plus up to 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour

2 tbsp toasted wheat germ

1 ¾ tsp salt

½ cup well fed sourdough starter

1 ½ cups room temperature water

¼ cup mild honey

3 tbsp olive oil


Stir bulgur and boiling water together in a medium bowl.  Let stand 15-20 minutes until the bulgur absorbs all of the water.  After the bulgur soaks up all the water mix in the additional 1 ½ cups water, honey, sourdough starter and oil.


In a large bowl, combine 2 ½ cups whole-wheat flour, all of the white flour, wheat germ and salt. 


Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Use a wooden spoon or some other sturdy implement to mix the dough well.  The dough should be moist and a little sticky.  If you feel like it is too dry and won’t mix, add a little water.  If you feel like it is too wet, add a bit of flour.  Mine turned out just right.  Lightly coat the top of the bread with oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for 12-18 hours.  (I left it overnight and it worked out to 19 ½ hours, the dough was fine).  Refrigerate the dough for 3-12 hours before starting the second rise.


Generously coat a bread pan with oil.  (The original recipe suggested a 9”x5” pan.  I used a 10”x5” pan and it was adequate).  Stir the dough to deflate it.  Transfer the dough to the bread pan.  Lightly coat the top with oil and then press the dough into the pan, making sure to get it into the corners, with a spoon or your fingertips.  Dust the top of the bread with between 1 tsp –1 tbsp of whole-wheat flour.  Using a lame’ or a sharp knife, cut a ½” deep slash down the length of the loaf.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap.  Allow the loaf to rise for up to 4 hours.  It should get to the top of the pan.  Uncover and let it continue to rise for a few more minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Bake the bread for 55-60 minutes.  Cover the loaf with foil and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes.  You can test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer to look for an internal temperature of 205 degrees.  Alternatively, insert a skewer into the loaf; it should come out fairly clean with just a few crumbs.


Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes.  Turn the loaf out of the pan (you may need to run a knife around the edges of the pan) and allow the bread to continue to cool until it is at least warm if not cool to the touch.


Makes one large loaf, approximately 14 slices.




Pure comfort food


I have a recipe I love for baked penne.  It is loaded with three kinds of cheeses and these ethereal chicken meatballs that you fry in olive oil until they have a brown crunchy crust.  It is wonderful and when I make it, it takes hours to prepare and I always feel vindicated to have an especially massive piece of it after such hard labor.  Since I embarked on my weight loss journey, I have been terrified to make this particular dish because I know it is loaded with fat and calories and I know that I can’t be trusted to eat a tiny portion.  In fact, I have been known to dig cold meatballs out of the casserole and pop them into my mouth at a moments notice.  Not a good thing to have in my house, no.


I love Italian food and I especially love all of the baked dishes.  I didn’t think I could indulge in such cheesy, saucy fare so I have seriously been depriving myself for so many months now.


Recently, I have expanded my usual magazine fetish due to finding out how great Cooking Light and Eating Well have become.  As a matter of fact, I can’t get enough of Cooking Light magazine.  During the holidays, I noticed a special edition Meals in Minutes issue of Cooking Light at the store and took it home.  There was a baked pasta dish included in this issue.  It sounded sort of pedestrian.  Not so special as the baked penne I love so much.  However, looking at the nutritional information, it looked like it would fit nicely into my allotted food for the day.  I decided to give it a try.  The original recipe called for spicy Italian turkey sausage, regular white pasta and full fat mozzarella.  I switched these ingredients for chicken basil sausage, whole-wheat penne and part skim mozzarella.  I used a really full flavored parmesano reggiano.  What came out of my oven last night made me want to weep.  Nothing can replace my original favorite recipe but this was so very good, so healthy and so simple to make that I am very happy indeed.


Baked penne with sausage

Adapted from the best of Cooking Light meals in minutes


1 pound whole-wheat penne rigate

1 pound chicken and basil sausage

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp tomato paste

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (with basil and garlic if available)

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella

1 cup grated parmesano reggiano

Olive oil cooking spray


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and return to the pot.  Cover and set aside.


Remove the casings from the sausage.  Heat pan over medium heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Add onion, garlic and sausage.  Cook until sausage is browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add the fresh basil and sauce into cooked pasta and mix well.   Oil a 9”x13” pan.  Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.  Top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan.  Pour the other half of the pasta mixture on top of the cheese layer and smooth with a spoon.  Top the pasta with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.  Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.  Makes 8 servings.



Happy New Year!

I decided that with a new year, my blog should have a whole new look.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Have a wonderful and happy year.

A very healthy side salad indeed


After a year and half or so of blogging, I am beginning to feel like I am getting recipe amnesia.  There are some things I cook that are such a part of my repertoire that I am certain I have shared the recipe with you.  I make the most delicious, the healthiest, thebest ever carrot raisin salad…. and I was sure it was on this blog until I did a search of the recipes here and found out that I had omitted it.  What a terrible omission!


I make carrot raisin salad whenever I need something quick and tasty to eat during a barbecue.  I make this salad for people I love because I know it makes them healthy and happy and I used to make it a lot when I took my lunch to work ages ago. (Which is a habit that I should go back to, but can’t seem to do.  I am a bit of a hermit and eating at home suits the hermit habit better).  This salad is so clean and healthy tasting that it never occurred to me that some people cannot even stand the sight of carrot raisin salad.  Carrot raisin salad is absolutely scorned by some people!  Back when I used to bring lunches, I brought a big container of carrot raisin salad.  I had been looking forward to eating it all day.  When I opened the container and one of my coworkers saw the bright orange glare of my salad he exclaimed “Ewwwwww!   Carrot Raisin salad!  Gross!!”  Hmmm… now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I don’t take my lunch to work anymore. Anyway, please don’t listen to my coworker.  This is no ordinary carrot raisin salad.  Please try it even if you aren’t a big fan.  I think you may be surprised by how much you like this version.


A note:  Use fewer carrots if you like a sweeter moister salad.  More if you want a milder carrot raisin salad.  The last time I made this, I realized that I no longer measure the carrots.  I shredded three enormous farmers market carrots and I’d estimate that they yielded at least seven cups of carrots.  The salad was very mellow and delicious with less dressing and raisins to carrots.  Also, I cannot remember where this recipe came from but I acquired it years ago during the low fat craze.  I prefer to stick with the original intention of this salad to be low fat and make it with reduced fat mayo. It is not very rich this way.  You can certainly make it with full fat mayo (I have before) but you may want to adjust the mayo to your taste, using real mayo will make the flavor richer.


Carrot Raisin Salad

4 cups (or more) shredded carrots


½ cup raisins


3 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise


1 apple, shredded


½ cup natural apple juice


Shred the carrots and the apple in a food processor (you’ll be happy you didn’t have to do this by hand).  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing the salad well.  Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving to allow the flavors to blend.  Mix again before serving to make sure the dressing is distributed throughout the salad.



The best use for a tiny ciabatta roll


Since I baked up my teensy ciabatta rolls, people all week have been telling me that size doesn’t matter.  I decided to listen to them and enjoy them in the form of a diminutive breakfast sandwich.  After all, I love tea sandwiches and they make up for their size by sheer force of will.  Any good tea sandwich will be loaded with creamy, sweet, smoky, meaty, eggy flavors.  A tea sandwich is so rich that a smaller size is almost required so that the eater is not overwhelmed.


I haven’t gone to a favorite breakfast place of mine in awhile but that particular restaurant had the best bagels I have ever had (which probably isn’t saying much since I have never had a New York bagel, but trust me, these were pretty amazing bagels!).  One way they served their delicious bagels was as a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich.  I decided the mini ciabattas would make a great stand in for those wonderful bagels and once I heated them in the oven so that the crusts crisped back up and the insides became warm and soft from the heat, I had an amazing breakfast on my hands. 


Most smoked salmon sandwiches seem to be made with the kind of smoked salmon that comes in slices.  I prefer the chunks of smoked salmon instead.  I am lucky to have Trader Joes where I live and they currently have wild caught smoked king salmon.  The salmon is merely cut into half-pound slabs of salmon filet on the skin and then smoked.  I prefer it this way because the salmon seems meatier yet delicate in texture.  That texture is just right for such a rustic sandwich as this.


Smoked Salmon Sandwich

For each sandwich:


1 mini ciabatta roll, small multigrain bagel or two diagonal slices of

baguette (or the bread of your choice)


2 oz smoked salmon filet


1 tbsp whipped light cream cheese or regular cream cheese


Thinly sliced red onion to taste


Capers to taste


If using the ciabatta roll or a bagel, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the oven has warmed, put the bread in the oven to warm for about 3-5 minutes.  Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool slightly before slicing it open.  If the center of the bread is still very hot, let it cool slightly, then spread cream cheese on both halves.  Sprinkle the thinly sliced red onions onto the sandwich halves and then top with sliced salmon.  Sprinkle liberally with capers.  Enjoy!