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Cooking Concoctions

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Cooking Concoctions published in 2018

January 2018

I want to wish all the readers a very Happy New Year. What better way to begin the New Year than with two delicious bread recipes. I will be focusing on different bread recipes from around the world for the next few months. So, if you have a great traditional bread recipe to share, just send your recipes to my email address above.

Focaccia: Is an Italian flat oven baked bread. It can be seasoned with olive oil, salt, and herbs. It can be topped with cheese, meat, and vegetables.

Rosemary Olive Focaccia
2 1/2 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Greek Pitted Kalamata Olives, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup quality extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
Fresh coarsely chopped rosemary leaves for topping

Yeast dough.:
Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl and let it sit in a warm place for about 15 minutes until frothy.

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add and combine the flour, salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Fit the stand mixer with a dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until the dough comes together, then increase to medium speed and continue to knead for another 5-7 minutes until the texture becomes smooth and soft. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour.
2. Remove the dough, spray the mixer bowl with olive oil, return the dough, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3. Coat a standard sheet pan with the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Do not skimp on the oil. That is not only going to enable some olive oil to absorb up into the focaccia from the bottom, it is going to produce a lightly crispy bottom crust.
4. Place the dough on the oiled sheet pan, pulling and pressing it with your hands to spread it across to fit the size of the pan.
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for another 60 minutes or until doubled in size. After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
6. Use your fingertips to press lots of deep dimples into the dough without breaking through the bottom surface of the dough. These deep depressions will enable the olive oil to absorb into the bread while baking. In addition, the dimples will also provide a convenient divot in which to place the olives.
7. Drizzle with olive oil. Be generous. Remember, focaccia is also known as “olive oil bread” and that is key to achieving the right texture and consistency.
8. Place the olives in some of the dimples. There is no right or wrong as to how many olives you use. I space them about an inch or so apart across the whole sheet pan.
9. Sprinkle generously with fresh rosemary and coarse salt.
10. Bake on the middle shelf for 15 - 20 minutes or until the top is light golden brown.
11. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before slicing into squares. It is best served immediately while the crust is still warm and crispy.
Note: Using fresh rosemary is an absolute must, do not substitute.
If you want a milder taste, use black olives instead.

Baguette: Is a rustic oblong French bread, this bread is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust.
1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ cups warm water
2 teaspoons natural sea salt
4 – 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Place the yeast, honey and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt and the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir 2 cups of the flour mixture into the yeast mixture; stir in the remaining flour mixture (dough will be stiff).
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead with floured hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Add a little flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking.
4. Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (or a clean kitchen towel) and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
6. Gently punch dough down to deflate it and shape into two oblong baguettes. Dust tops lightly with flour and place on a lightly greased baking sheet; let rise uncovered for 30 minutes.
7. Use a serrated knife to cut 3-5 small diagonal slits across the tops of the baguettes, and lightly sprinkle with cool water.
8. Bake in the middle of oven for 25 - 30 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Note: Best eaten the same day.

February 2018

This recipe comes from my dear friend, Helen, whom I have known since high school. She now resides in Athens, Greece.
Traditional Greek Pita Bread
Makes: 8 pita rounds

1 cup hot water but not boiling
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer (a large bowl will also work if you do not have a mixer), and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil.
3. If using a stand mixer attach the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, adding more flour until you have a smooth dough.
4. If using your hands sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It's better to use too little flour than too much.
5. Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and brush it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it's coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
6. At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.
7. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk.
8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough isn't sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
9. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess.
10. Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until bubbles start to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn't or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel.
11. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

These are best eaten fresh, but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.
you can use whole wheat flour, but the bread will be denser.

Reader, Agnes of Norway submitted the following recipe. This is a typical hearty Norwegian bread, with a crispy outer crust and a soft and moist inside.
Makes: 3 loaves

1 packet dry fast rising yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
5 cups lukewarm water
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup or light syrup
1 TBSP salt
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
4 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Pour the yeast, water, oil, sugar and maple syrup into a bowl of a stand mixer.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the rye and whole wheat flours, oats and salt and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then add the all-purpose flour.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and with a dough hook, start kneading the dough for about 10 minutes.
4. Pour the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide in three equal pieces and roll out to loaves.
5. Place in three 2-quart loaf pans (or you can just place them in free form on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
6. Cover with a towel and place in a slightly warm area for about 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the top of the loaves with melted butter, and bake for about 45 minutes.
8. Let cool on a rack but not too long, because warm bread and butter is the BEST!

Note: You can freeze any loaves you do not eat.

March 2018

A reader wrote to me asking for a diabetic lemon bread or cake recipe. Well folks, that’s all you need to do, write to me and ask. And for that reader, here is a recipe for you, but I hope everyone will enjoy it!

Lemon Bread: Delicious and healthy! Only 114 calories per slice!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Makes 1 loaf; 16 servings

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 TBSP finely shredded lemon peel
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup slivered almonds or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat an 8 by 4 by 2-inch loaf pan with non stick spray.

1. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and set aside.
2. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, milk, applesauce, lemon peel, and lemon juice.
3. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.
4. Stir just until moistened, batter should be quite lumpy.
5. Gently fold in nuts.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
7. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Optional: Stir together 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sugar. While bread is still in the pan, brush lemon-sugar mixture over the top of the loaf.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Variation: Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread; prepare as above, except substitute 1 tablespoon poppy seeds for the almonds or walnuts.

Nutritional Information (not including the sugary lemon glaze)
Servings Per Recipe: 16
Calories: 114.3
Total Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 76.0 mg
Total Carbs: 21.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 3.2 g

April 2018

I received an email from Stephanie, who lives in Utah. She asked if I had any suggestions for quick, easy, and healthy lunches to pack for her to take to work. I do! Follow the below guidelines, and suggestions and you can create numerous options for great tasty and healthy lunches.

Packing a healthy lunch: Whether you’re packing lunch for your kids or for yourself, these smart “brown-bagging” principles will help you prepare healthy and satisfying midday meals quickly.

Step 1: Pick a protein
Including a good source of protein is a smart way to stay satisfied throughout the afternoon. Research shows that, gram for gram, protein may help keep you feeling fuller longer than carbohydrates and fat. Some good and easy options include cottage cheese, cheese cubes, nuts, roasted tofu cubes, slices of turkey or chicken, pouches of tuna or hard-boiled eggs.

Step 2: Add some whole grains
Whole grains are rich in carbohydrates, the body’s main fuel supply and, compared to their refined-starch counterparts, offer more fiber, trace minerals and phytonutrients (plant compounds). Some smart lunch-box options include whole-grain bread or crackers, whole-wheat pretzels, cereal-based snack mixes, popcorn, whole-grain muffins and leftover brown rice or whole-wheat couscous from dinner.

Step 3: Include a mix of fruits and vegetables
Packing your lunch box with vegetables and fruits will boost your lunch’s overall nutrition by delivering phytochemicals, essential vitamins and minerals and a healthy dose of fiber. Pack whole fruits, such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, peaches, plums or nectarines, because they take no time to prep. Or, if you can do a little prep the night before, cut up fruit such as melons, pineapple or mango. Cut-up vegetables such as, red peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and celery, all smart choices. If you’re already making a salad for dinner, chop some extra veggies for lunch the next day.

Step 4: Enjoy
Savor the lunches you make: bringing nutritious lunches from home is a good move for your health, and for your pocketbook too!

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