Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Italian Easter Bread

Easter bread was always a family tradition that my mother made during the Easter holiday. My mother used a spice called anise seed that gave the bread a slight liquorice flavor that made the house smell like the holidays. This bread can be very versatile, you could make toast with melted butter on it or French toast with real maple syrup. This recipe is easy and very forgiving for first time bread makers.


1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup white sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour (approximate)
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water


In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, just until butter melts.
In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs, and sugar. Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter. Add about half the flour and the anise seed and beat until smooth with dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until dough is not sticky anymore. Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in the oven, but do not turn oven on. Just turn the oven light on and it will double in size, about an hour.
Punch dough down, divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 2 inch thick rope about 12 inches long and taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends.
Place on three baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again.
Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Bake 350 degrees F until golden about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. Enjoy!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chicken Thighs with Red Chard

I did a change up from spinach to using red chard with a red pepper, a Cubanelle pepper and a Vidalia onion that brought out a flavorful taste to the chicken thighs. This is an easy recipe that you could serve with brown rice or whole grain pasta or a side salad.


4 to 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red pepper, sliced
1 Cubanelle pepper, sliced in rings
1 Vidalia onion, sliced
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
2 bunches red chard, rinsed, dried, roughly chopped
1 fresh bay leaf


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and brown the thighs skin-side down for 4 minutes per side. Season with the paprika on both sides. Then remove the chicken and set aside.
Add the garlic, peppers and onion to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the almonds, red chard, bay leaf, 1 cup of water and a liberal amount of salt and bring to a simmer. Top with the chicken skin-side up and bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Risotto

This risotto is easy to make and it serves two which is nice for a quick week night dinner. Since it is Spring, I thought asparagus would be a flavorful addition to the recipe. Also, I added a little sweetness with some Medjool dates and to finish, I stirred in a little Chavrie goat cheese that added a mild, tangy taste to the risotto.


3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallot
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 Medjool dates, sliced
1/2 cup asparagus, chopped
4 ounces Chavrie goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot.
In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat then add onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Use a ladle to add 1/2 cup chicken stock to pan and stir continuously until stock is absorbed. Add sliced dates and continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until nearly absorbed before adding more.
When there is about 3 additions of stock left, add asparagus and continue stirring until all stock is used.
To finish, stir in goat cheese and then add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Cherry Almond Scones

Scones are always a nice addition to a breakfast or brunch. These scones are made with frozen pitted cherries that are thawed and drained. This was easier then removing the pits from fresh cherries. I added almond extract to the mix to give the scones a rich almond flavor and I sprinkled some turbinado sugar on top of the dough to give the scones a little extra sweet taste.


2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup cherries, thawed, halved and drained
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Sprinkle cubed butter over flour mixture and use a pastry cutter to cut in evenly until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Place cherries between layers of paper towels and press gently to remove moisture. In a small bowl, combine cherries and 1 tablespoon flour, toss with a fork to coat.
Add cherry mixture to flour mixture, folding in gently.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and almond extract, add to flour mixture and fold in just until moist.

Use a spatula to scrape dough out onto prepared baking sheet, lightly flour hands and pat dough into an 8-inch circle.
With a long sharp knife, score dough into 8 wedges. Put 2 tablespoons of buttermilk in a small bowl and with a pastry brush, spread all over top of dough. Sprinkle dough with turbinado sugar and sliced almonds.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool before slicing into wedges.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and warm before serving. Enjoy!

Yields: 8 scones