Monday, February 27, 2012

Country White Bread with Flax

I am the self-proclaimed queen of fiber (it's good for cholesterol, managing weight & more!), so we eat a lot of whole grains around these parts. Wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc. But after months of making the same wheat bread recipe, I decided we needed something different. I had tried to make a plain country white bread before but that clearly didn't turn out so great. So, it was back to the drawing board.

This time, I started with a recipe that originally used 2/3 white flour and 1/3 whole wheat and just made it all white. Then I add flax seeds for a little texture and color (sorry - I couldn't help myself!). This time, I was very happy with the results!

The dough rose to heights I've never acheived with wheat bread and the crumb ended up being light, but not too light. These bread definitely stands up to toasting and making sandwiches. It really is delish. I'm glad to have another option to throw into the rotation. I'm thinking of adding just a touch of whole wheat flour to up the health factor next time, but I don't want to lose the wonderful texture. If I do try it, I'll let you know. 'Til then, we'll get started with this:

Country White Bread with Flax

1 1/2 tsp. active yeast
1 1/4 warm (room temperature) water
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
3 cups high-gluten bread flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. powdered nonfat milk
2 Tbsp. flax seeds
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (soft)

Mix yeast, water and sugar together in a small bowl. Let sit about 10 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, mix bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt, powdered milk and flax seeds. Stir in yeast-water mixture. Then add butter. Mix until dough is even moist and starts to pull together.
Pour dough onto floured board. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth.
Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1.5-2 hours until dough is doubled in size.
Grease 8" x 4" loaf pan.
Place risen dough on a floured surface. Flatten into a rectangle about 10" long and 6" wide. Starting on the short side, roll into a log, pinch ends in with each roll. Place in greased loaf pan and let rise another hour to 1.5 hours until dough rises about 1/2"-1" above top of loaf pan.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place bread in preheated oven. Bake 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 20-25 minutes until bread is evenly browned and has an internal temperature of at least 190°F.
Remove from oven and let cool 10-20 minutes before removing from pan. Cool fully before slicing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#La Romanella Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna (and a La Romanella Giveaway!)

I recently had the opportunity to create an Italian recipe using the delicious La Romanella line, available at Smart & Final. I love Italian - so I had lots of ideas in mind. At first, my plan was to do a homemade ravioli stuffed with sausage and simmered in a roasted red pepper tomato sauce. But, when I went to Smart & Final to shop for my ingredients - they were out of mild Italian sausage. I didn't think hot sausage would quite work, so I quickly changed up my plan and decided to make a Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna. You can check out all the details of my Smart & Final shop here on Google +. I ended up with a great selection of La Romanella products:

I still wanted to go with homemade pasta, because it really is unmatched. Yes, store-bought works - but if you have the time and can put in the effort, going homemade will take your dish over the top. Lucky for me, I had a little helper this time:
My mommy - visiting from New Hampshire.
Together, we made a pretty awesome, unique roasted red pepper lasagna:

Mmm - doesn't that look good? Check out the full recipe below. If you like what you see, please go to and vote for me! If you do, you'll be entered to win one of 8 $50 SmartCash cards! And if you like it so much you want to try it out yourself (or make another Italian favorite) -- you're in luck. Purchase your favorite La Romanella items from Smart & Final, then go to and enter the code on your receipt to be entered to win a weekend trip for 2 to one of the most luxurious Italian inspired resorts in Las Vegas!!

So - head on over to your local Smart & Final to get your #La Romanella goodies, then visit their Web site to enter your code and vote for my lasagna!

La Romanella Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna
(Makes a 9 x 13 pan - enough for 6-8 adults)
For the sauce:
1 Tbsp. La Romanella olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
3 whole La Romanella roasted red peppers (from a 28 oz. can)
2 28-oz. cans La Romanella whole peeled pear tomatoes with basil
1/2 c. red wine (Chianti is my favorite)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste

Lasagna filling/topping:
16 oz. La Romanella ricotta cheese
1/4 c. La Romanella grated Parmesan cheese (+ extra for sprinkling on top)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

For the homemade noodles (alternatively, buy the no-bake ones at the store):
2 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs

Start the sauce first. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add ground beef and brown.
While that's cooking, put 3 roasted red peppers and 1 can of tomatoes (undrained) in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add to browned beef. Pour in remaining whole tomatoes (undrained). Bring to a boil, then stir in 1/2 c. red wine. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer while making noodles (or about 45-60 minutes). Just before you get ready to assemble the lasagna, add chopped basil and salt & pepper to taste.
A nice Chianti is always my secret sauce ingredient!

Mix up the ricotta mixture by stirring together 2 cups ricotta, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and 2 2 Tbsp. parsley flakes. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the noodles, put the flour in a large bowl, making a well in the middle.

Add the eggs to the well and scramble them up a bit with a fork. Then starting pulling flour into the eggs with your fork until its fully combined (add a little water if it's dry, a little flour if it's wet).

Pour the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and consistent in color and texture.

Cover with a wet towel and let rest 15 minutes. After resting, the dough is ready to roll out. I used my pasta maker, but you can also roll it by hand with a rolling pin. Break off about 1/5th of the dough and run in through your machine (or roll it out with your pin)
The goal is to get nice thin, long sheets of pasta:

To make the lasagna, just cut the fresh sheets of pasta to the size of your pan and use them as you would boxed noodles (no need to cook the pasta first - it will cook when baked). Assemble by layering noodles, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/4 mozzarella and 1/4 sauce. I made 3 layers with ricotta, then a final layer of noodles topped with sauce and mozzarella. I also sprinkled some Parmesan on top.

Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 40-45 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Cool 10-15 minutes, then cut & enjoy!

This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias #CBias. All recipes and opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Easy Chicken Bruschetta

Every year, my sister-in-law helps put together a cookbook for a charity that benefits The Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia Beach, where she lives. This year, she asked me to contribute a few recipes -- and then gifted me with a copy of the finished product for the holidays. It was the perfect gift and I've already tried several yummy recipes.

My favorite so far is this chicken bruschetta casserole:

It's simple, gets dinner on the table in under and hour and uses ingredients I usually have on hand. Most importantly, it's delicious! My husband requests it often -- and I'm happy to oblige.

Easy Chicken Bruschetta
(adapted from Cooking with the King's Daughters, original recipe contributed by Ginger Jamieson)

1 package chicken stove-top stuffing (or 3 cups of homemade stuffing mix)
1 can diced tomatoes with basil, undrained
1/2 c. water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt & pepper
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 13" x 9" baking dish with olive oil.
In a large bowl, mix stuffing mix, undrained tomatoes, water and minced garlic well. Set aside.
Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread on bottom of greased dish.
Sprinkle dried basil on top of chicken.
Spread shredded cheese in an even layer over that.
Top with stuffing mix (which should now be nice and moist).
Bake at 400°F for 35-40 minutes until stuffing is nicely browned.
Cool 5 minutes before serving.