Orange Cranberry Walnut Bread

I don't know about you, but I'd love a few more hours in a day this month.  Between birthdays, Christmas festivities and an anniversary thrown in there, I feel like I can't get ahead.  These events happen every year so you'd think I'd know better and start planning and shopping waaaay before December but it always manages to sneak up on me.  Then I'm scrambling to fit everything in and come January I'm ready to go into hibernation.

I take solace in the fact that I know I'm not the only one who is a little overwhelmed with all the busyness this time of year.  That's when having a few quick breads in your arsenal comes in handy.  Just in case you remember two hours before your party that you were supposed to bring a treat. Avoid a panic attack and whip this up instead. 

Orange Cranberry Walnut Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl combine sugar and orange zest.  Mix together with fingers to incorporate orange oils into the sugar.  In another small bowl, stir together milk, sour cream, butter, and egg; set aside.  Whisk together flour, orange zest sugar mixture, salt, and  baking powder in large bowl. Stir liquid ingredients into the dry until just moistened. Gently stir in cranberries and pecans. Do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees; continue to bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes longer. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely before serving, at least 1 hour.

lightly adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen


Rustic Thyme Bread

This loaf of bread was born out of my new found love of thyme.  I started growing it this past summer and gained a whole new appreciation for the delicious herb.  It's so easy to maintain that it practically takes care of itself.  A total win.  

The weather has been getting colder and that means soups are on the menu at least once a week in this house.  I know most people don't consider soup and sandwiches a dinner meal, but we love that here.  (Plus that means there is usually room for dessert those nights!)  I knew I was making a tomato based soup this particular evening and since thyme + tomatoes = true love, I whipped up this crusty, chewy bread and made the best grilled cheese I've ever had with it.  Of course when I smear Boursin cheese on anything it could be considered the "best ever".  That stuff is phenomenal. 

The ingredient list is short making this bread really easy to put together.  I like to bake boule shaped loaves in a dutch oven.  The crust gets all thick and chewy and perfect.  If you don't have a dutch oven or would just rather not use one, place the boule on a sheet pan or stone and bake.

Rustic Thyme Bread

20 ounces (about 4 cups) bread flour 
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups water, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (can sub.dried)
shredded asiago cheese, for topping

Mix ingredients together in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Knead for about 8 minutes or until dough is soft and pliable.  Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place dough into refrigerator and let rise for at least 8 hours or overnight.  

When ready to bake remove dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Shape loaf into boule and place into bowl lined with parchment paper (this makes transfering it to dutch oven much easier).  Allow to rise until doubled, one to two hours.  

When dough has almost doubled, place dutch oven in oven and preheat at 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes (remember to remove plastic knob from lid so it doesn't melt).  When oven is preheated and dough has risen, sprinkle with asiago and carefully place dough into dutch oven, by lifting parchment paper.  Slowly place both inside.  Lower oven temperature to 450 and bake bread covered for 20 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden and temperature has reached 210 degrees.  Cool on wire rack for at least one hour before cutting.    


Bacon Cheese Dip

Sundays have become football nights.  Living in a house full of boys I knew it had to happen sooner or later.  Actually, I'm surprised it has taken this long.

 Really though, it's ok with me because what goes with football? Football food. And I am all over that.  I have been known to make a meal out of dips and appetizers and now I have an excuse to call that dinner.

I made this dip up the other night to use up some leftovers.  And because I wanted something with bacon and cheese to load up on a slice of freshly baked baguette.  Not in the least bit good for your heart, but oh so good for your soul.

Cheesy Bacon Dip

3 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 ounces smoked gouda cheese, shredded
4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/4- 1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan cook bacon until crispy.  Remove cooked bacon with slotted spoon and place onto paper towels to drain.

Empty leftover bacon grease from sauce pan, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons.  Wipe out pan with paper towels and add reserved bacon grease.  Over low- medium heat cook the diced onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add milk to the onions in the pan and heat until steamy.  Stir in the cream cheese until smooth.  Mix the monterey jack, cheddar and gouda into the cream cheese mixture and stir frequently until completely melted.  Add more milk to thin to desired consistency.  Once heated through, stir in the bacon and serve.

Makes about 2 cups.


Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

       I'm one of those people that enjoys pumpkin treats all year long. But during the cooler months, I become border line obsessed.  So I hope you aren't too pumpkin-ed out yet cause along with this recipe, I have a few more pumpkin recipes to share in the next few weeks.

     Even if you ate a few too many pieces of pumpkin pie over the past week, you should still try these cookies.  The usual warm spices of a snickerdoodle, paired with the wonderful, yet subtle flavor of pumpkin.  Clearly a winning combination.

     Knowing that pumpkin makes a cakey cookie, I tried out a Cooks Illustrated tip and cooked the pumpkin for about 5 minutes to remove some of the moisture.  I definitely think it helped achieve a more chewy texture.  But if cake like cookies are your thing, by all means skip this step and add the pumpkin straight from the can (or the processor if you made your own puree).

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

For the cookies

1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cardamom (optional)

For the cinnamon-sugar coating

1/3 cup white sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

In a small saucepan, simmer pumpkin over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes (it will become shiny).  Add cinnamon and cardamom (if using) to pumpkin and cook for another minute.  Transfer pumpkin mixture to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with beater attachment) cream the butter until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add sugar and cooled pumpkin mixture and continue to beat well.  Now add in the egg and vanilla,  scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time just until incorporated.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix coating sugar ingredients in a small bowl.  Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they're coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a glass with a nice, flat bottom to dip in sugar and flatten the balls.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet for one minute then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

adapted from Recipe Girl