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Be a star breadwinner.

When my home is filled with the scent of bread baking in the oven it always brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood.

On Friday’s when I’d come home from school, and before even reaching the front door, the aroma of fresh baked bread filled the air as Friday’s was my mom’s baking day—breads, buns, pies and cookies—she made enough for the week ahead to feed a family of seven.

A slice of delicious love with creamy butter, and homemade jam awaited me for an after school snack.

When I had a day off from school, I would help, and it is at our kitchen table that I learned how to put love into baking and cooking. I made a lot of mistakes when trying it on my own, but my mother taught me that making mistakes is how one learns to make great meals.

As I watched her knead the dough for the breads, I saw how much love she put into each loaf, and how happy it made her when they came out of the oven, all risen and deliciously golden.

She would always make the sign of the cross, and say a silent prayer after she finished kneading the dough.

I followed this routine, as I knew she was giving thanks for the flour, yeast and all the food she was able to prepare.

I told her once that it was such a nice tradition to give thanks while baking.

She told me that it was one of the reasons she prayed while baking, the other reason was that she prayed the dough would rise. 🙂

ITALIAN BREAD RECIPE

Following is my recipe for making bread and buns. I did learn to knead the dough by hand, but thanks to modern technology, a stand mixer does a great job as well, and saves time.

I’m also sharing a tip on how to make your crust golden and crisp and the inside of the bread soft and chewy for a scrumptious slice of carb heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and ¼ c warm water (between 100F & 110F)
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 4 cups flour (You can use any of these flours: 00 or bread flour or all purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • spray bottle with water
  • A tray of ice cubes or a oven-proof bowl of water

    Directions:
  • In a small bowl, add: yeast, sugar & water, and stir lighty. Cover with a cloth and let it sit for 10 minutes, or until yeast doubles.
  • Add the yeast into your stand mixer bowl (if not using a stand mixer, add into a large bowl), then slowly add 3 cups of flour and the salt.
  • Using a dough hook on the mixer, mix everything at low speed. Use a spatula to scrape the sides.
  • When all ingredients are incorporated well, mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. (If not using a stand mixer, mix with a large wooden spoon for 8 to 10 minutes).
  • Cover bowl with a dish towel and allow dough to rest for 1/2 hour.
  • After 1/2 hour, turn mixer to low, and add 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing on low until all the flour is incorporated. (If not using a mixer, use your hand to mix the dough well).
  • If the dough is wet and shaggy, add a bit more flour (about 1/4 cup or less) until you get a smooth consistency and it does not stick to the sides of the bowl.
  • Set mixer at medium speed, and mix for 8 minutes. (If you are not using a mixer, then knead the dough by hand for 25 minutes).
  • Once you’ve finished the kneading process, add some olive oil to a bowl, then put the ball of dough into the bowl and ensure dough is all coated with oil.
  • Cover bowl with a tea towel (or you can use plastic wrap) and let the dough rise in a warm (draft-free) area for one hour (should be doubled in size)
  • Preheat your oven to 400F (doing this at this point will ensure your oven is hot enough to bake the bread)
  • Put an oven proof bowl of water at the back of your oven
  • You can either use loaf pans or a baking sheet to bake the bread, whichever you use, line with parchment paper, and after the dough has risen, sprinkle flour on a surface and use this surface with floured hands to shape your bread into an oblong loaf.
  • Put your dough either on the baking sheet or in a loaf pan.
  • Using your spray bottle with water, spritz the dough, cover and let it rise for 40 minutes.
  • After 40 minutes, score the loaf with a sharp knife, with criss cross slashes or diagonal slashes
  • Put the dough in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • While bread is baking, spritz the loaf fully with your spray bottle every 10 minutes
  • To check if bread is done after 30 minutes of baking, you can use an instant read thermometer (190F means it’s done), or tap the bottom and it should sound hollow.
  • Once baked, allow the bread to cool on a cooling rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

HOME MADE FRESH BUNS

You can use the same recipe and technique to bake buns.

Bake buns for 15 minutes.

The bread or buns would be great with a steaming bowl of Italian Barley Soup. Click here for recipe.

This blog post is dedicated to my mamma. A beautiful, witty, loving, strong woman who lives in my heart and memories every day of my life.

I’m sure she’s baking a lot of goodness in Heaven.

I love you, my Angel.

Get Mugged

It is a fact that chocolate makes everything better; no matter what is happening in your world or the whole universe, chocolate will comfort you, never disagree with you, never cause you stress, and best of all it’s healthy.

 

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Health benefits of cocoa bean:

  • Powerful source of antioxidants.
  • May reduce heart disease risk.
  • May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
  • Raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation.
  • May protect your skin from the sun.
  • Could improve brain function.

I know what you’re thinking—“Selena is a self-professed chocolate guru/chocoholic, of course she’d say chocolate is an important part of a balance diet.”

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There is that, but Mayo Clinic does agree with me. Click here to read how chocolate can be part of a nutritional and healthy eating plan.

CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

 

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Go get mugged with this easy, quick (takes less than 10 minutes to make) recipe for those times when you need chocolate to satisfy a craving.

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBSP powered peanut butter (or creamy peanut butter)
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBSP warm milk (or warm water)
1 egg white
1 tsp. olive oil (or canola oil)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. maple syrup (or 1 tsp. agave nectar – or – 1 tsp golden syrup)
1/4 tsp. baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Spray a 10-12 oz mug with non-stick spray

2.  Add all the ingredients in a small bowl, and stir well together, until smooth.

3.  Pour the mixture into the mug.

4.  Microwave on high for 60 – 90 seconds (will depend on your microwave’s wattage) or until center of the cake is done.

5. Serve warm.

Top it with your favourite yogurt and fruit, (I topped mine with vanilla Greek yogurt and berries) or whipping cream, or chocolate chips—get creative.

Enjoy in good health!

 

Long Live Chocolate

 

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Cadbury eggs move over—it’s ZEPPOLE time

It’s that time of the year again, where everyone is hunting down Cadbury Easter Eggs, chocolate bunnies, or marshmallow eggs, so why not raise your sweet tooth bar a little higher and bake up a batch of these heavenly balls of dough—ZEPPOLE.

 

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Zeppoles are deep-fried dough balls, topped with powdered sugar.

However, as is with most things of my people, every household has their own recipe. Some recipes including filling the dough with pastry cream, custard or butter and honey.

I am sharing my family’s recipe for Zeppole.

Get your Italian on and fry up a batch.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 TBSP cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of a small lemon
1 stick butter (or 1/2 cup)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Olive oil (for frying, and use the light olive oil, not the extra-virgin kind)
powered sugar (in Canada we call this icing sugar, in USA it is called confectioner sugar)

Directions:

In a bowl mix together: 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside.

Turn your stove on to medium heat, and using a saucepan, combine the following in the saucepan: butter, 3 TBSP sugar and the water.

Stirring constantly, bring this to a boil.

Once it has boiled, remove from the stove and stir in the flour.

Return the saucepan to the stove, and keep stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Continue stirring for 5 minutes.

Take mixture from saucepan and add to the sugar/cinnamon/vanilla/lemon bowl you had set aside (or if you prefer to use a food processor you can put it in there).

Using a hand mixer (or food processor), add your eggs one at a time, so that each egg is mixed in well with the dough.

Continue beating until mixture is smooth.

At this point you are going to fry the dough, but if you want to do it later, you can. Simply cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate and fry them later.

TO FRY THEM:

Add enough oil into a large frying pan (about 2 inches). Heat oil over medium heat.

Fry them in batches so they are not crowding each other.

When oil is hot, using a melon baller, or small ice cream scooper or a tablespoon and drop the dough into the hot oil. Turn the zeppole a few times so that all sides get a nice golden color.

Once they are all puffed up and golden on all sides (takes about 5 minutes) place each one on paper towels.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and if you like, you can sprinkle with cinnamon as well.

Best eaten right after they are made.

Let me know if you have any questions about this recipe if you give it a try.

Feel free to post your favorite traditional recipe as well.

Zepoli

FRITTATA: Potato, Zucchini, Leek, Pepper, Mushroom & Cheese

FRITTATA

This version of an Italian omelette makes for a quick breakfast that will fuel you and your family for the day ahead, and it’s also ideal for lunch, or for dinner by adding a green salad, and crusty bread.

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes (Yukon gold or russet), peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups leeks (thinly sliced)
1 pepper (orange, yellow or red), diced
1 zucchini (yellow or green), sliced
8 oz provolone cheese (you may use cheddar, mozzarella, or any cheese you like), diced
2 TBSP chives, minced
8 large eggs
1 cup egg whites
2 TBSP parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

  • Boil the potato slices for 5 minutes, then drain well and pat dry with paper towel
  • Heat an iron skillet (or a non-stick, oven proof pan) over medium-high heat, and add enough oil to cover the bottom (about 2 TBSP). Once oil is heated, add the potato slices, season well with salt and pepper, and cook until potatoes are a golden brown, then remove potatoes from pan and set aside.
  • Return pan to medium-high heat, add a bit more oil then saute mushrooms, peppers, and leeks, seasoning this mixture with salt to taste.
  • Once these vegetables are cooked (al dente), remove from heat and set aside.
  • Add eggs and egg whites in a large bowl, plus 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. of freshly ground pepper, and whisk together well. Once all whisked, add the chives.
  • Turn heat on low, line the bottom of your skillet with potato slices, then slices of zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and leek mixture, then pour the egg mixture evenly to cover the whole surface of skillet.
  • Dot the cheese cubes on top, spreading evenly, and then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over.
  • Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the surface has set. You can check with a fork to ensure eggs are cooked all the way through.
  • Remove from oven when cooked, let it cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the frittata with a spatula, and slide it onto a cutting board.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

It’s a Kneady Time of the Year

Few things in life are more comforting during cool, crispy weather than fluffy socks, soft lounge-wear, favorite background music (Beatles, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart, Ed Sheeran for me) and the scent of freshly baked goods.

 

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ITALIAN BUNS

This warm and cozy bread recipe will guarantee that you’ll be
complimented on your hot buns.

 

 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 3 TBSP water (tepid at 100 – 110 F)
  • 3/4 tsp. honey
  • 2 cups bread flour (if you don’t have bread flour, you can use all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 TBSP. olive oil (plus more for brushing)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add water and honey to a small bowl, and stir so that the honey is incorporated with the water, then sprinkle the yeast on top of water, and let set for 5 minutes (or until yeast has foamed). Stir well.
  2. Add flour and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk together, then make a well in the middle. If you don’t have a stand mixer, do the exact same thing, using a large bowl.
  3. Add the water, honey, yeast mixture to the middle of the flour mixture.
  4. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment and turn on medium, and let it knead until the dough forms a ball. If there is dough on the sides, simply scrape it off and let it continue kneading for 10 minutes. If you are not using a stand mixer, then knead with your hands on a floured board and knead. About 15 minutes.


    NOTE: Here is how you can check if your dough needs more kneading.
    Indent the dough with your fingertip, if the indentation fills back quickly, you’re dough has been kneaded enough and you’re ready to let it rise.

    If it stays looking like a deep dimple, continue kneading.

  5. Lightly oil (with olive oil) a large bowl, then form the dough into a ball, then roll the dough in the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free area for 1.5 – 2 hours, the dough should be doubled in bulk.

    NOTE: I let the dough rise in the oven with the oven light on.

  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then punch down the dough, form the dough into 12 balls, keeping the rest of the dough covered as you form the balls
  7. Place dough balls on the baking sheet, cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free area for 1 hour (or until doubled in size).
  8. Preheat oven to 400F
  9. Brush each dough ball with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes. The buns should be golden, and you can tell if they are cooked by tapping the bottom of the bun—it should sound hollow.
  10. Once baked, remove from oven and put on a cooling rack. Can be enjoyed cooled or warm.

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It’s tangy, hearty, classic & comforting.

 

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Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

This meatless take on a classic comfort food is not only hearty, but it’s filled with robust flavors and you will not miss the meat.

 

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INGREDIENTS:

For Potatoes

  • 3 lbs (8-9 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP table salt
  • sea-salt to taste
  • dash of fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

 

  • Add potatoes in a large pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling add 2 TBSP of salt, and cook until potatoes are tender.
  • Drain well then return potatoes to the pot.
  • Add buttermilk and butter to the potatoes and mash until smooth. Add sea-salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, give it a good stir to mix the seasoning in and set aside.

For Vegetables

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • TBSP butter
  • 2 pounds mushrooms (Portobella are meaty and good ones to use), cut into cubes
  • 1 small Vidalia onion (or any other sweet onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 2 TBSP fresh rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 1 cup broth (vegetable, chicken or beef, your choice)
  • sea-salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat oven to 350F
  • In a saute pan, heat oil and add mushrooms along with 1/2 tsp. salt, and make sure you don’t overcrowd the mushrooms, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • To the mushroom pan, add: onion, carrots, parsley, rosemary and season with 1/4 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of black pepper and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in: minced garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
  • Sprinkle flour over this mixture, stirring to coat all the vegetables and let cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add broth, peas, corn and stir for 5 minutes.
  • Turn heat off and spoon the vegetables in a casserole dish.
  • Top with the mashed potatoes in an even layer. (If you want, you could add a few dollops of butter on top of the mashed potatoes.)
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the broiler on and broil for 5 minutes.