I always say that nothing beats a homemade bread. While it is not complicated, or difficult to make, it requires some advance planning. As soon as I get a whiff of that yeast working in a bowl with flour, salt, and sugar, and then seeing the dough slowly rising, and finally the aroma of that bread baking in the oven, I always ask myself why I don’t make time to prepare homemade breads more often. It is good for my soul, even our kids gobble them up, which says a lot about how often I really need to make this. Even when it’s baked a little longer than I wanted to, but it’s still beautifully browned :)
I made this bread as a celebration of me getting a new job. I have decided to pursue an opportunity in a brand new field, a role that I am humbled to have been offered the opportunity to do at all. After much thoughts and long considerations, I took the leap. It is still with the same company that I very much love and respect, and I’m so elated and ready for the change. Change like this, while extremely scary, is so good for the soul, and I must even say it’s necessary for growth. With the spring around the corner, a rejuvenation is in the works, and I’m glad that mine is here, all for me to savor and take. This focaccia is such a perfect bread, it is made from a part whole-wheat flour, which allows you an extra, or two slices, and then parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper on the top add a little extra oomph to the flavors. If you’re looking for other bread inspiration, make sure to check out Heather’s blog for our bake-along group the end of this week. Have a great week everyone!
Several weeks ago, along with the rest of the Midwest, we were hit by pretty heavy snow storm, with approximately 20 inches of wet snow (no joke!). With our luck, our snow-blower died before we could barely clear off our driveway. My poor husband went to borrow our neighbor’s snow blower to try to finish up, but the snow was so wet that he ended up having to do a lot of shoveling. He was probably outside for almost three hours just clearing off the driveway so that we could get our vehicle out the following day for work. We had to scramble to find a snow plowing service, as well as someone who could fix the snow-blower. Blah, it was so stressful; we didn’t end up leaving the house at all (not even to pick up groceries) that weekend. Since we were all pre-occupied by the snow and how to clear off the driveway, I decided to make this creamy macaroni and cheese. I was lucked out that I had all of the ingredients ready in the house (which doesn’t happen too often). Nothing really says comfort food like a bowl of creamy and cheesy pasta with lots of garlic bread on the side.
I’ve been having a heck of time keeping up with cooking in general, so this recipe really fits like an ideal meal since it is pretty simple and makes two batches. The added bonus is that it actually freezes pretty well. I love the addition of crunchy panko on the top, while our kids didn’t really care for it, so I left a little portion of the casserole without the panko. While the recipe also provides an option for you to bake and serve right away without any waiting time, I suggest that you don’t bake this right away, since the pasta will be pretty runny . You can make it the night before and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and it will have a better consistency. I hope everyone is staying warm; and I know that I’m ready for the first sign of spring to peak.
Have you gotten hit by the Cupid arrows yet? I know it’s a little corny, but I’m seeing red every where and I love it. It makes me smile. I love seeing last-minute shoppers leafing through Valentine cards in the grocery store isles. And I’m guessing that those isles will be a lot more crowded tonight and tomorrow. This morning, my daughter gave Valentines to her teachers at school as soon as she arrived at her school. She trotted around like a mother hen, handing out these Valentines like it was a little magic in a box. She was met with kind and sweet embraces from her teachers. She then whispered to me: “They were so happy to get those Valentines Mommy.” It warms my heart, and I couldn’t help but responded: “Of course! They appreciated that you thought of her. That’s a way for you to thank them for taking care of you. Don’t you love it when someone thinks of you?” She nodded.
I don’t have a big fancy plan for Valentine’s this weekend. My husband and I are going out for a Pho lunch this afternoon, without the kids, since that’s the type of meal that we just can’t enjoy with the kids. I’m looking forward to it since we don’t get to do it very much. These cinnamon rolls are also going to make a rare appearance at breakfast tomorrow morning. These big, warm, and fluffy rolls lathered in sweet and tangy cream-cheese frosting is surely a treat that we don’t make very much; so I always save these for special occasions, like Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter or birthdays. Since the process of making homemade cinnamon rolls is pretty time consuming, I’m glad that I was able to find a recipe that actually requires me to let the dough rest overnight. You can significantly shave off a significant amount of time in the morning by prepping this the night before, and then all you need to do is get these rolls out 30 minutes before you bake them in the oven. You’re basically an hour away from homemade cinnamon rolls. Whatever your plan is for this weekend, I hope it’s something that you love to do with those that you love.
With Valentine’s Day being a week away, I thought that we should talk about Valentine’s Day menu. As much as I can recall, I was never the girl who needed to go out to dinner with her special someone on Valentine’s Day. As a matter of fact, as I was writing this post, I was thinking that I never actually went out to dinner on the actual Valentine days. Do I like getting roses on Valentine’s Day? Of course I do. But not more or less than getting roses on any other days. My hubby always tells our mutual friends that I’m actually a closet introvert, meaning that I really just prefer a very small group of friends, which is the complete opposite of what everyone thinks that I am.
An ideal way for celebration would to be have a special dinner at home, with every single dish being completely planned and thoughtfully paired with one another. I really love this Simple Roast Chicken with Sage and Garlic or Pan-Seared Steak with Red Wine as the main meal, and maybe Roasted Potatoes and vegetables, like this Roasted Cauliflower with very yummy dessert. The best part about roasting vegetable is that you have very little active time at the beginning, then you just throw them onto a pan, roast it, and you have time to finish the rest of the meal. This one is super simple, because I just cut up the cauliflower, cube the pancetta, toss them together, and bake. Voila!
Happy First Day of February!! How did we end up to be in the second month of the year already? I’ve been busy sorting, organizing, and de-cluttering our house, thus you’d notice the lack of blog post. We’ve been living in our house for almost four years now, and I joked that we finally started putting up our windows treatment. Since I moved to Iowa for a job almost nine years ago, I’ve basically moved every three years for a new job. You’d think that I’d be a pro in decorating our house by now. I had put off a bunch of small projects for a long time, and decided that we just needed to work on them this month.
Now… on to these cookies. I made these cookies a couple of weekends ago when the weather was deadly cold. The wind chill was so cold that I think they said that you only need to be exposed to it for 15 minutes before you get frostbite; so I decided to stock up our freezer with cookie dough. What do you do when you crave for homemade cookies, but also want to feel like you’re eating something healthy? You make Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I always justify that since oatmeal and raisin are both very good and healthy ingredients, these cookies are actually good for you! Since we’re going to be snowed in again this weekend, it looks like a good day to enjoy freshly baked cookies. This recipe is simple, it’s intended to highlight the juicy raisins and oatmeal. A little bit of spices added some warmth tone to the cookies. They’re great with a big cup of coffee, or hot cocoa. Have a great Sunday!