The Best Homemade Pita Bread

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Can you pass up freshly baked bread? I can easily pass on the bread basket served at most restaurants, unless with one sniff as the basket is laid before me, it’s freshly baked, warm from the oven.  Then I need to immediately rethink my ordering to balance out the bread.  I am one of those, do not combine foods girl.  That means no protein and carbs at the same meal.  Yes, it gets tricky with sandwiches and spaghetti and meatballs, but I’ve done it for so many years, I hardly think about it.  When I eat pasta, I eat pasta!!  but no meatballs!

And when I eat bread, it has to be worth every bite.  There is a pita bread that I so love and miss from Ohio that every time I visit I have to bring some back with me.  They make it ultra thin, soft with a slightly chewy texture.  I can eat them warm from the oven, toasted for a crisp crunch, topped with a tossed salad, perfect with hummus and especially good paired with a warm brie which we enjoyed over the holidays.  Continue reading “The Best Homemade Pita Bread”

Pumpkin Granola

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On the positive side of all my recent relocations, I’ve definitely downsized, including my pantry.  Over the last year and a half, my pantry stores the basics for healthy Mediterranean style cooking and baking.  I prepare meals mostly from scratch so having good quality basic ingredients on hand; I can easily pull together a simple and delicious meal. Continue reading “Pumpkin Granola”

Puttin’ On The Ritz: Spiced Pecans

Have you ever stayed at the Ritz Carlton and tasted their spiced pecans? Oh my heavens, they are addicting but oh so good!

I recently spent a few days at the Ritz Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation where I was surrounded by nature and Southern charm.  My balcony overlooked a tranquil lake and inside my room was the ultimate comfy bed with crisp white linens, the softest downy pillows and a little glass jar of these naughty pecans! Continue reading “Puttin’ On The Ritz: Spiced Pecans”

Quinoa Pumpkin Granola

I have to be honest here, this started with a desire to make pumpkin quinoa pudding, you know, like a rice pudding swapping the rice for quinoa.  Not so uncommon in my life, I start with an idea I’m excited about, plan it out and along the way another concept pops up.  Actually, let’s cross off “another” and replace with “several“!

It then becomes what to make first as I stop to jot down the flurry of ideas and images racing through my mind.  This time it had to do with my noticing the oatmeal jar..right next to the quinoa jar.. right next to the near empty granola jar!  Priorities rule, refill the granola jar! Continue reading “Quinoa Pumpkin Granola”

Italian Edamame

Edamame is one of those fun to eat appetizers.   Grabbing a pod and squeeze biting it to release the little bean in your mouth.  It becomes one of those mindless snacking foods; chatting and snacking away.   It’s also a great stress reliever which I for one can attest to right now as I eat a bowl of these for my dinner. Continue reading “Italian Edamame”

Almond, Lemon and Thyme Bread with Fig and Lemon Jam

Quick breads many times are full of oil or butter, sugar and white flour.  I’m attracted to the “idea” of these breads but then get turned off by the ingredients.  Not that I don’t use white sugar and white flour when making my Italian cookies as I like to keep to the traditional recipe.  But  during the rest of the year, I prefer to enjoy all I eat while knowing that I’ve tweaked it to be healthier for me…and that means enjoying what I eat without any guilt!! 

I do see more recipes around switching out the butter or oil for applesauce or yogurt, white sugar to raw sugar or agave and white flour to wheat or a blend of flours.   While I don’t have a gluten intolerance, I do try to lessen the gluten I consume.  This bread could be completely gluten free by replacing the 3 tablespoons of white/wheat flour with gluten free flour.  I personally just don’t like the smell of gluten free flour!

This bread can be served for breakfast, tea, as a side with dinner or a light dessert.  I prepared a jam of sorts as I don’t can I make just enough to last me for a week.  Figs and lemons simmered with orange blossom honey, cardamon and cloves provided just enough sweetness and taste to compliment this bread. 

Almond, Lemon and Thyme Bread

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup raw sugar (turbinado)

Zest of one organic lemon

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons white/wheat flour (replace with gluten free flour for a gluten free bread)

1 teaspoon baking powder (Rumford Baking Powder /Clabber Girl Baking Powder are gluten free)

3/4 teaspoon citrus sea salt or Kosher salt

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the yogurt and sugar until well combined.  Add the lemon zest and eggs, one at a time, mixing well.  Add in the flour mixture, blend to combine and stir in the almonds until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for about 50-55 minutes or until lightly golden and toothpick tested clean.  Let cool completely on wire rack. 

Fig and Lemon Jam

3 small lemons

8 dried figs, chopped small

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 teaspoon cardamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  tablespoon orange blossom honey

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon citrus sea salt or Kosher salt

Prepare the lemons by slices off both ends to allow the lemon to stand flat.  Using a paring knife, cut the peel and pith off by following the curve of the lemons.  Cut the lemon segments out and chop into small pieces.  Place lemon segments and any juices into a small saucepan.  Add in the remaining ingredients and allow to simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until thickened.  Allow to cool, refrigerate for up to 5 days. 

Lemon Foccacia

My father would share many of his memories and stories growing up in Sicily.  His parents had moved to America before he was born but soon realized they missed their home and lifestyle too much.  My grandmother was then pregnant with my father so they waited for his birth and when he was a few months old, returned to Sicily.  At the age of 17 and on his own, he left Sicily to come back to his birthplace.  My father was always proud to say his was born an American and never returned back to Sicily, not even to visit. 

There were many things he missed and spoke of; his family, brothers and sisters, the abundance of fresh seafood and freshly prepared dishes and the ocean he swam in almost every day.  And the lemon trees growing in his family’s orchard!  I could tell what was most precious to him by his raised interest and excitement, and well, from a child’s perspective, his repeating of the same stories over and over again! 

His meals included lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lemons were used quite frequently in his cooking.  He prepared simple food taking what he had and turning it into delicious meals.  Sitting around his table for a visit, you had better arrive hungry, as the food constantly appeared covering the table with quite an assortment.  There really was no excuse for being full or not tasting all that he offered!

I know he would love this lemon focaccia bread to dip in herbed oil or slice in half for a sandwich.  The recipe evolved from a mix of different recipes and notes.  There is no olive oil in this but is drizzled on at the end.  I like to use olive oil that I have gently heated in strips of lemon rinds and cooled.   It’s lightly lemon flavor is balanced with sharp pecorino cheese, thinly sliced red onion, Kalamata olives and fresh oregano.  A sprinkling of citrus sea salt and a drizzle of the lemon infused olive oil at the end finalizes the amazing flavor!   

And back to you Lisa, this focaccia bread would go fabulously with your Cannellini Bean Dip at Smart Food and Fit !! 

Lemon Focaccia

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

¼ ounce (1 packet) instant yeast

2 cups water, room temperature

2 ½ teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt

1 lemon, very thinly sliced

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

½ cup chopped Kalamata olives

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh oregano Or 1 tablespoon dried

½ cup pecorino cheese, shaved thinly

Freshly ground black pepper

Citrus sea salt, optional

Lemon infused olive oil or good quality olive oil

Using a KitchenAid mixer, combine the yeast, 2 ½ cups flour and water.  Whisk to combine well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Add in the remaining 2 ½ cups flour and salt.  Knead with dough hook for about 8-10 minutes.  Dough will be quite soft and sticky, but not overly sticky that it sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Add additional flour as needed.  Turn dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 3 ½ – 4 hours until doubled in size.  (The dough can also be made up to 3 days ahead; refrigerate the dough after it is kneaded and on the baking day, remove from the refrigerator and allow to double in size on the counter, about 4 hours).  Remove the dough to a large baking sheet, about 17 x 22 and gently press dough into shape using your fingers to dimple the dough.  Allow to rest for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lay the lemon slices on the dough, onion, olives, oregano and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle on some olive oil.  Reduce the oven to 450 degrees and place in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove and add the pecorino cheese, rotate the pan and return to the oven.  Continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until lemons and crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Sprinkle on citrus sea salt and a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

3 Easy Leftover Turkey Ideas

As soon as the whirlwind of cooking and feasting is over, what do you do with the leftovers?  I actually love to have leftovers, especially at Thanksgiving.  I always have an abundance of food prepared, being able to send some home with my guests and having enough for a few leftover meals to carry us over for a few days.  Especially since immediately following Thanksgiving, I’m gearing up for the Christmas holidays.  No black Friday shopping for me as I’m busy putting away my fall decorations and bringing on Christmas!

So, while I’m focusing on the decorating part of the holidays, I’m thrilled to have a frig full of leftovers to create my three favorite and very easy leftover dishes; Nachos, Open Faced ‘Bruschettas’ (Sandwich) and Frittatas.  These three quick recipes really work well with any leftovers.  There are no real recipes to follow.  It will all depend on the amount of servings, follow a basic method and have on hand a few pantry items such as your favorite quality tortilla chips, bread, and organic eggs.

In addition, don’t throw out that turkey carcass!  Immediately after the Thanksgiving meal, remove all the meat from the carcass to store safely.  That evening or the next day, drop the carcass, carrots, celery and onion in a large stockpot.  Add enough water to cover and simmer away for about 2-3 hours, strain and you have homemade turkey stock!

Turkey Nachos:  Great football game food!  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Evenly layer the chips on a wide shallow baking pan.  Lightly top with leftovers of your choice: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce, etc.  Top with another layer of chips and leftovers.  Sprinkle some cheese on top.  Heat in oven for about 15-18 minutes or until cheese is melted.  I like to drizzle warmed gravy on top, srirachi sauce, sour cream and chopped fresh sage or cilantro.

Open Faced ‘Bruschettas’ (Hot Browns!):  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grill or toast thick slices of bread, about ½  to 1 inch thick.  I like Costco’s Rosemary Olive Oil bread.  Whenever I’m there I purchase a loaf or two, immediately slice and freeze (to avoid all temptation).   Place the grilled bread on a baking sheet and top with leftover chopped turkey, stuffing, veggies, finishing with potatoes and a drizzle of gravy.  Heat until warmed through, about 15-18 minutes.  Serve warm with additional gravy.  Best eaten with fork and knife!!

Fritattas:  Following along with my Fun with Frittatas post, heat a large skillet with olive oil, toss in about 2 1/2 cups of leftovers and heat.  Beat together 4-5 eggs (or mix of whole eggs/egg whites) with 1/4 cup of milk.  Pour the egg mixture over the turkey and veggies and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes to set the bottom.  Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and place under the broiler to complete cooking, approximately 5 minutes or until the top has set and the cheese is lightly browned.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Skillet Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Here’s a quickie tip for those of you that forget you placed your seeds in the oven to roast and find out they are burnt little seeds…..I like to skillet toast my pumpkin seeds.  Right in front of me, where I’m stirring and sniffing till perfection!

After cleaning your seeds from all the slimmy fibers of the pumpkin, rinse well and allow to somewhat dry out on a towel lined baking sheet for at least an hour.  When ready to toast, heat up a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Use the hand test to feel the heat; hold your hand about 6 inches from the skillet to feel the heat (1-2 seconds is high heat, 4-5 seconds is medium).  Meanwhile, drizzle the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil and season to taste.  My son prefers a simple kosher salt and a creole-type mix of cayenne, garlic, black pepper, oregano and paprika.

Toss the seeds with the olive oil and seasoning and pour into the skillet.  Toast the seeds by stirring often about 5 minutes or until golden toasty brown.  As I love to eat them hot from the skillet, I prepare these right before serving.  Leftovers, if any, are great tossed into salads!