Perfect Bread for Mini Sliders

We’ve all had days where we get to the end of it and wonder if the moon was out of alignment.  Yesterday was like that for me.  Lots of wacky stuff seemed to happen and it was highlighted by two encounters with two gentlemen around 80 years old.  Maybe highlighted is too positive a word.

It started just before work when I was dashing across the street to get breakfast and the first guy stopped his little transit van, rolled down the window, and yelled out that I was a beautiful lady.  Since he didn’t say I was a broad or chick or something I smiled and said thank you.  As I was waiting for the bagel I started texting my husband about it.  Then I looked up.  There was the guy, arms wide, beaming at me.  He calls across the store how beautiful I am.  Things are starting to get awkward.  But I figured be nice because maybe he’s not all there.  I smiled again and said thank you.  He took my hand and started kissing it.  Oh boy.  I wished him a nice day and headed out.  But he followed me.  Kept saying over and over I’m beautiful then he started saying he loves me.  Hell of a way to kill a compliment.  As I pulled out in my car I looked across the street and he was still there waving!  He literally parked his car and followed me into the store.

A few hours later I was up front at work and another guy comes in wanting to have a walk in appointment.  He looked at the photos on the wall. Now admittedly I have a photo up there that was done by a professional that is several years old.  It still looks like me though.  He declares he wants to sit with Virginia Payne.  Keep in mind I have a name tag on plus that is a picture of me.  I said that is me and unfortunately I don’t have time for a walk in.  He said that’s not you.  Yes it is.  Not it’s not, it doesn’t look anything like you.  Well thanks, I said.  Then he doubles down and said the photo looks better you should keep it.  What on earth?

And that was my day in a nutshell.

A few weeks ago we were having a potluck with friends and I made mini sliders with my pulled pork recipe.  My sister gave my husband a book for Christmas called “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I found this really intriguing.  How can you have decent bread?  The five minutes is a bit of a misnomer but not far off.  The cool thing about this book is that there are a lot of recipes that take minimal effort for decent results.  And if you are wary of trying to bake bread, this would be a good place to start.

I chose the master recipe for the boule.  In a clear container that has a lid add 680 grams of lukewarm water and 10 grams of yeast.


Add 20 grams of kosher salt.  Then add 910 grams of all purpose flour.


Mix the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated.


No kneading required!  Goes completely against everything I believe with bread making.  But I was trusting the recipe.  Cover loosely with the lid or with cling film.  Set it on the counter for a few hours to rise.  It needs to rise then begin to collapse.


Pop it into the fridge at least 3 hours though you can have in the fridge overnight.  Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.  Shape the bread into balls about 2in/5cm in diameter.  The trick here is not to overwork the dough.  This takes 20 to 40 seconds. Snip a cross into the top and let rest 30-45 minutes.


Because these are small rolls they only need to be baked 15-20 minutes.  When you put them into the oven add about a cup of ice to a cast iron container that is below the baking sheet.  This will add the steam necessary for a nice crust.


Slice in half, add the pulled pork with shredded cheese and red onion that has been marinated in apple cider vinegar.  These are a little messy so not for dressy parties but for casual get togethers these are perfect.



Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

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Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

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Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

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Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

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Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

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For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

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Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  🙂

Bringing Out the Big Buns

I think if you are a parent you will find yourself at some point say something that your young child will think is the funniest thing and from that time forward it becomes an in joke.

Several years ago we were having a family game afternoon, I think it was Monopoly, and I was ready to make a big move.  I meant to say “I’m bringing out the big guns!”  Instead I said “I’m bringing out the big buns!”  Oh boy.  The kids just lost it laughing.

This past weekend I managed to do it for real with brioche.  I was going for small but ended up with the opposite.  I was planning on making cheeseburgers so I wanted to make the buns.  I found a brioche recipe by Paul Hollywood.  Most of the recipes follow pretty much the same ingredient list.  I chose to follow his because he used weights for the ingredients.  This is a two day affair.

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In a large mixer bowl add 500g of bread flour, 7g of salt, 50g of sugar, and 10g of yeast.  Keep the yeast separate from the salt until you start mixing.

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Add 5 medium eggs and 140ml of whole milk that has been warmed.  You don’t want the milk to be hot, just warm to the touch.

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With a dough hook blend all the ingredients together.  Once the ingredients are combined increase the speed of the mixer to medium and “knead” for 6-8 minutes.  The dough will become shiny and elastic.

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Add 250g of softened butter.

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Mix until the butter is completely incorporated.  You will need to scrap the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  This will create a very soft pliable dough.

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Place the dough into a plastic container with a lid.  Put it into the fridge overnight.  You want at least 7 hours to chill.  The next day flour a counter well and tip out the stiffened dough onto the countertop.

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Punch the dough down to remove the air.  I followed the recipe and divided the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for baking this in a round tin with nine balls proofing together.  I wanted separate buns so I got out a cookie sheet.  Roll out each piece into smooth balls.

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Evenly space out the balls.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the dough.  Proof the dough for 2-3 hours.   They will be about double the size.   Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Bake until the brioche is golden brown and cooked through.  You will need to check with a skewer to make sure the brioche is done.  It takes about 20-30 minutes.

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It was at this point I realised I probably should have made 18 balls of dough.  Here were the big buns.  Keep in mind I only had a pound of ground beef which means quarter pounders with buns that could take a lot more.  Harkens back to the “Where’s the Beef” adverts.

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You want an even crumb that is soft and bounces back when pressed with your finger.  If it stays indented it wasn’t baked completely.

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I made up our gourmet burgers and kept it simple with a side of chips.  This bread isn’t difficult to make and the flavour is really good.  If you can find the time I highly recommend giving this a go.

The Process of Baking Ciabatta

It’s a bit of a running joke in our family how much I don’t like shopping.  I find it a frustrating experience.  Mainly trying to find things that fit.  It’s annoying how many things out there are standardized like the FDA trying to ban cheese aged on wood.  Which will make the cheese even more blah.  I find that type of stuff a huge overreach.  But a size 10 should be a size 10 regardless of where you go.  So imagine my shock when we did a family shop day and everything but one fit!  Including jeans which is my nemesis.  I was waiting for the other foot to fall and I was afraid to press my luck.  But press I did!  Albeit I was waiting for lightening to strike me down if I stepped wrong.  🙂  I survived though.

The other challenge I faced this weekend was baking a new bread.  I thought I’d try ciabatta bread and I once again turned to our Local Breads by Daniel Leader for the recipe.  I found this to be an interesting process as it didn’t quite go as the book said.  It still turned out delicious but I will be trying this again to see how the results come out.

This does take time to make and it needs to be started the day before.  The biga needs to be made up 9 to 17 hours ahead of time.  I follow the metric weights for the recipe as we’ve found that works the best for us.  Mix 65 grams of tepid water, 2 grams of instant yeast, and 100 grams of unbleached flour.  If available use high gluten flour.  Mix together in a small bowl and then knead for a minute or two.  Cover with cling film and leave in room temperature for an hour then refrigerate for 8-16 hours.  About an hour before you prepare the full dough take the biga out of the fridge.  It will be nice and bubbly.

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In the mixer add the biga with 425 grams of tepid water and break it up into small clumps.

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Add 10 grams of instant yeast, 500 grams of the flour, and 10 grams of sea salt.  Mix with the dough hook until all the ingredients are incorporated.  This will be a very wet dough.

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At this point grab a book or something.  If you are using a kitchen aid put it on 8 to knead the dough for 13-15 minutes.  Keep a hold of the mixer as it will walk otherwise.  Periodically scrap the bowl and dough hook as it will climb up.  Then turn the mixer up to 10 for about 3 minutes.  At this time check the dough to make sure it can be opaque without tearing.  If it tears mix for 3 minutes more.

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The directions say that the dough needs to rise triple the size.  So pick a container that can handle that.  Spray with oil and then cover with cling film.

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It was at this point things got a bit weird.  It said it would take 3- 4 hours to triple in size.  I happened to check it after an hour and I’m glad I did because this is what I saw.

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This was insane!  And I was flummoxed.  Usually the times given for the risings are set to help the yeast do it’s thing.  But this was over the top.  So I decided to divide the dough into two containers and let it continue the rising.

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About an hour and a half later I had this:

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Dust parchment paper and divide the dough into two rectangles.  Actually I divided the first container.  Dimple the dough and let rise for another 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 475F/250C.

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It didn’t really rise for me on the last bit but I bake it and it did bubble up.  For the second container I didn’t divide the dough to see what difference there was.  That bubbled up much more for me.  I baked the bread using convection for 20 minutes on a pizza stone.  When the dough is put into the oven add 1/2 a cup of ice to a cast iron skillet below the stone to add steam.

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I have to say though, despite the whacky bread rising, I got the best crumb I’ve ever done.

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And oh was it good with butter.  And fabulous with the cheese that we had for dinner.  The next time I try this I will stop the rising when it is triple the size and see what happens then.



Don’t Let It Get Your Goat

Reading other blogs definitely helps spark the imagination.  I come across ingredients that I would never think of using or trying.  Goat is one of them.  I love goat cheese but never thought about the meat.  I found some ground goat meat at our local co-op and thought now was a good a time as ever.

Of course then I had to figure out what to do with it.  Because I knew I wanted cheese to be one of the components I had to come up with something that would work with jarlsberg as my husband doesn’t like goat cheese.  I found this recipe for goat burgers and I adapted it to make it mine.  For the burger bread I made the baguettes that we like.  The crumb on it is getter better and better with practice.

I started with the carmelised onions first as those need to be cooked slowly.  Heat some olive oil and toss in the onions.

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Don’t cook them fast or on high heat otherwise you’ll burn them instead of carmelise them.  For the pound of goat meat I chopped up a few garlic cloves, fresh rosemary and thyme, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix together without overworking the meat then add a few squirts of brown mustard and a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce.  Form into patties and set aside.

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Add a few teaspoons of brown sugar and a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce to the onions and stir well.

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While this continues to cook heat up some olive oil in another skillet and brown both sides of the burgers.  I cooked them about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove and put them on a baking tray.  Add the cheese to melt.

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Bake in the oven at 375F/190C until the burgers are cooked to the desired doneness and the cheese has melted.  Place them on the buns and top with the onions.

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Serve with the veg of your choice.  We found these enormous asparagus and they turned out to be lovely even though they were hard to cook without overcooking them.

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We really enjoyed the goat meat.  I’ll have to find goat chops to try something else but we’ll definitely be making goat burgers again.

Setting up the iPad has gone well.  I found an app to let me put a watermark on the photos which I’ll be trying as soon as I get the adapter delivered that will let me take the photos off the SLR.  The only app I need to find now is one that allows me to resize photos taken with the iPad or iPhone.  Haven’t figured that one out yet.  Any suggestions?


When Life Hands You Lemons Make Grilled Cheese!

Thank you for those that watched my daughter’s episode, the feedback made her smile.  🙂  As you know the trick of adding acid to a dish was mentioned though the surprise was to add it to grilled cheese.  Never thought of that.  But I loved the idea.  Of course I had to wait until the show came out so I didn’t spoil any surprises.

Last night I gave it a go.  When I asked what kind of grilled cheeses I should make our son piped up with ham and pineapple!  Crazy kid but I said sure.  I bought some fontina cheese to go with it and he loved it.  For the rest of us who aren’t as adventurous I thought I would do a mushroom grilled cheese.

I slices up a few mushrooms, chopped about 3 large cloves of garlic, and prepped some fresh thyme.

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I heated up some olive oil in a skillet and sauteed the mushrooms first until they started browning.  Then I added the garlic, thyme, and a few teaspoons of lemon juice.  I think Luca likes to add a bit of lemon juice while you are cooking the actual grilled cheese but I wanted to incorporate it into the mushrooms.

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Once the garlic is cooked set aside until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.  We were also do sweet potato and regular potato fries to go along with the sandwiches and that bit can take awhile!  Especially when we are using a saucepan to fry.  For our mushroom sandwiches I used Jarlsberg.  Butter the outside of the bread and layer the cheese and mushrooms.  We use our homemade sourdough for this.

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To grill we used our cast iron griddle and press.  Make sure both are hot and cook until golden and the cheese is melted.

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My daughter and I added some ham to ours.  This got a thumbs up and our son hopes we make his again as well.  😉  A fun dinner for a laid back weekend.

Take the Thyme for Rosemary Bread…

We had thunder today and the bucketing rain to accompany it.  It’s been a wild several days of bitter cold, snow, rain, and thunder.  And it’s only the 6th of January!  I’m just hoping that winter is a quick one because I’ll be ordering my seeds this week and the seedlings get started in a couple of weeks.  I wonder what the kids will choose for their veg this year.

One ingredient I wish was a perennial in our area is rosemary.  It’s funny because the UK is much further north than we are but my MIL grows it and she grumbles how it gets out of hand in their mild weather.  I’d gladly trade!

Last night Downton Abby started, finally, stateside so I was ready for a cosy evening with my husband.  The only thing missing was a fine bottle of red wine due to my cold.  Any time it wants to go away will be fine by me.  We had some rosemary left over so I thought I’d make the rosemary bread we love from our go to book Local Breads by Daniel Leader.

My husband and I have recently improved our bread making.  We’ve made bread for several years and it’s been good but they weren’t light and airy like the European breads.  While we haven’t achieved the large bubbles because the flour we should really use isn’t available here we’ve started to see a nice bubbly texture.  The big change we made?  Follow the weight measures rather than using cups, tsps, etc.  That change alone has really helped.

This bread gets started the day before when the biga is made.  Biga is a type of starter for breads.  While this bread isn’t difficult it is just time consuming in that you need to be near it for a good amount of time.

In a small bowl mix 65 grams of warm water, about 70-78F/21-25C, 2 grams of instant yeast, and 100 grams of unbleached all purpose flour.  With a spatula mix the ingredients until they clump together and then knead for a minute or so.  Leave in the bowl covered for an hour at room temp. Place in the fridge for 9-17 hours.

In the morning it will have doubled in size.

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In his book he talks about the biga being soft and airy.  I have yet to get it that way so that is something I need to research.  Mine comes out a bit stiff.  Next I get the mixing bowl for the kitchen aid and put the biga in and cover it with 300 grams of warm water (same temp as for the biga).  Stir to soften and break up the biga.

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The recipe calls for 10 grams of rosemary but we have found that doesn’t impart enough fragrance or flavour so we increase to our liking.

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Chop the rosemary and to the biga and water add 5 grams of instant yeast, 500 grams of the flour, 65 grams of extra virgin olive oil, the rosemary, and 15 grams of sea salt.  We’ve run out so I used kosher salt for this.

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Using the mixer on low speed bring all the ingredients together so it is well blended.

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Bring it up to medium speed or about 4 on the Kitchen Aid for 10-12 minutes to knead the bread. At this point I have one hand on the mixer and play Words with Friends with the other.  Otherwise it’s a bit like watching grass grow!  About half way through using a spatula scrap the dough off the dough hook and the bottom and then keep going.

Once it is smooth test the dough to make sure it’s been kneaded enough.  You want to be able to stretch a small bit of dough without breaking so it is very opaque.

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If it breaks knead for a few more minutes.  The dough is very sticky so it was tricky getting the shot without messing the camera.  I had to try stretching the dough one handed!

Place in a greased container and cover with greased cling film.

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This is another step where we learned more is not better.  We would sometimes get carried away with the rising.  Not a good idea!  For the first rising it should only go for 1 1/2 -2 hours where it is allowed to double in size.

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It is time to shape them into baquettes or logs.  Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape into a rectangle.

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Then fold into thirds.  Roll the top third down then fold the bottom up.  Place seam down onto the parchment paper.  They should be about a foot long.

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Using a lame slice cuts into the tops about 5 times each.  Do this quickly and don’t hesitate.  Otherwise you can flatten the airy bubbles.

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The second rising is for 45-60 minutes and they will almost double in size.  Preheat the oven to 400F/205C with the baking stone in the oven.  I baked the bread using convection so it only needed 30 minutes to bake but using regular it could take up to 40 minutes.  You want it a nice golden colour.

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The book says to allow it to cool completely which I did this time as I made it early.  But it is also gorgeous served right out of the oven with butter.

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My husband said it smelled really good while baking.  I miss the smell of fresh baked bread.  Thank goodness I can still taste it!  So good with cheese.  🙂

Get Stuffed….

I love stuffing especially with gravy.  To me it is great comfort food that is dressed up for the holidays.  I generally make this stuffing for Thanksgiving but when we were back in the UK my MIL did up a lovely roast pork with stuffing balls.  If I was smart I would have asked for the recipe.  I wasn’t.  However, I figured I could adjust my usual stuffing, add an ingredient, and make them into balls.  I think they are great because the best part of stuffing is the browned edges with a bit of crispy to it.  Now everyone gets it with their stuffing.

Unlike the spinach balls, I knew I had all the ingredients!  🙂

It’s important to plan ahead somewhat for this dish as the bread needs to be stale.  I usually get a sourdough boule and break it up a day or two before making this.  Leave it out for all the pieces to get a bit hard.  Because these will make the balls the pieces need to be somewhat small.

I baked these at about 350F/175C.  Because we had so many things going on in the oven this seemed the average temp.  These can be baked at a higher temp, just keep an eye on them.

Chop up about a half an onion finely and a few cloves of garlic.  Saute them in olive oil until softened.

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Add two cups of veg bouillon and simmer for about 10 minutes.  While this is cooking chop about a cup of cranberries and several fresh sage leaves.

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Mix the cranberries and sage in with the bread and then work in about a pound of sausage of your choice.  I chose mild Italian sausage for this.  I didn’t want any flavours overpowering the sourdough or the sage.

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Now here comes the messy part.  Just take off your rings and roll up your sleeves!  Pour in the broth with the onions and garlic and mix well.  Take a few minutes to do this so you don’t have any dry bread bits.  Add about a cup of shredded Italian cheeses and mix thoroughly.  Form into balls and place onto a cookie sheet.  As these won’t spread while baking you can keep them somewhat close to each other.  This recipe makes a lot of balls.

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I baked these about 20 minutes or so.  Once they are golden brown check one to make sure it is cooked through.

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These could easily be made vegetarian.  Just remove the sausage.  Though I have to say this is the first time I used meat in stuffing and it worked really well with the sourdough.

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It also paired well with the apple sage gravy I made to go with the turkey.

I Don’t Give a Fig, Actually That’s Not True….

As many of you know I do my best to buy local foods but because some ingredients can’t be grown here and we’ve been spoilt by having them available anyway as I’d be hard pressed to give up real Parmesan cheese.  And wine.  But there are some ingredients that either we just can’t get or are strictly seasonal and we may get lucky here and there.  Figs are such an ingredient.  I have come across many a fig recipe that just makes me envious and I can’t do anything about it because we can’t get figs!  So you better believe when I saw some at the co-op I grabbed them.  They are very expensive so I only got one pack.  Wonder how many I would need to get to make fig bars?

In any case I wanted to do something simple for dinner.  I came across Taste Spotting on Pinterest that has loads of crostinis.  Their version of crostini used brie which I did for my husband but for me I used goat cheese.  I also made up so more buttery mushrooms and baked brie to have with crackers.  Perfect after a long day!

This is super easy but the flavour is amazing.  The ingredients needed are figs, goat cheese, salad greens, prosciutto, and crusty bread toasted.

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You can grill the figs on a proper grill but it was really cold so I took our cast iron grill and did it stove top style.  Slice the figs and place on the hot grill.  I did spray some cooking oil on the grill before heating up.  Cook on each side until grill marks start forming.  You want them to soften and warm through.

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After you toast the crusty bread spread the cheese, layer on prosciutto and salad greens, then top with the fig.

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As I said this was amazing!  This is now one of my favourites by far.  The sweetness of the fig against the savory of the rest of the ingredients was a great balance.  And it takes less than 10 minutes to make.  Perfect!

Leftover Roast Chicken? Soup Is On Of Course!

I know it’s not very original to make homemade chicken soup after doing a roast chicken but it tastes so good!  My husband has conference calls every Tuesday evening and we usually do pizza but I wanted to do something different.  Soup was perfect because I could make it early then it was ready when he was done.  I’m usually very hungry by then!  So is he to be honest.

Over the weekend I made an Apple Sage Roast Chicken and there is still quite a bit of chicken on it.  I need to use more of the chicken so I can use the bones to make stock.  As it is a local farmed chicken it is a little more expensive than store bought so I use everything.  Which you should do anyway but the motivation is a bit higher!  And with the USDA stating China can muck about with our chicken and not label it as such I am more grateful than ever I can get local meats!  Honestly what were they thinking?

Chicken soup is one of those super easy meals to make and if you have leftover gravy from the roast even better.  Half your work is done for you.  During the week that is perfect.

I prepped the ingredients first as it only takes a few minutes to get everything in the pot.  I cut off the chicken from the roast and chopped up 4 cloves of garlic, half an onion, a carrot, and some pearl mushrooms.  The mushrooms are local and I hadn’t seen them until recently but they have a light flavour.

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Heat up some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic and onions for a few minutes then add the chicken.  Cube some potatoes.  Ours came from one of the small bins of potatoes growing in our garden.  It’s funny how small some will come out but I still use them.

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Add in the potatoes and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes then add just over a cup of leftover gravy.  Add water until the veg is covered.

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Bring to a boil and simmer til the potatoes are cooked through.  This takes less than 15 minutes to throw together.  And because the gravy was full of flavour so was the soup.

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We served it with my husband’s homemade rosemary bread.  It was so good.  I love it when he makes bread.  🙂