Tag Archives: sour dough bread

A New Year, a New Grill and a New Panzanella Salad

When one reaches a certain age, the excitement over Christmas presents diminishes somewhat. It truly becomes a situation of it being better to give than to receive. That’s where we are. We lavished (as much as two people on fixed incomes can) gifts on our children and grandchildren, and enjoyed the glow of their happiness.

We have wonderful children who are raising wonderful children of their own. They were both thoughtful and generous in the gifts that they gave us. One son gave us a dinner at a small cafe in the city because he knows that we love going into Chicago and discovering out-of-the-way places to eat. The other son knew that one of the things we’ve missed most with our smaller home is grilling out. If you’ve been following my adventures over the last year or so, you know that grilling is our cooking method of choice much of the time. So imagine our delight at receiving a small grill from him for Christmas.DIGITAL CAMERA

While this grill is small, it gives us a platform to resume our favored cooking method. It meets the guidelines for the complex we live in and has ample space to grill enough food to feed two people very well. We’ve used this more than a few times since we’ve received it. Steaks and turkey tenderloin have turned out well, even though my husband, Jeff is virtually cooking in the dark. (note to self…buy a lantern or some kind of outdoor light source).

DIGITAL CAMERAOur latest team effort was some wonderful pork steak. I created aDIGITAL CAMERA smoky rub and Jeff worked his magic on the grill. In what turned out to be a genius touch, I topped each steak with Apple Cinnamon Goat Cheese. It added another dimension to the pork steak and complimented the smokey rich meat beautifully. This is most likely a seasonal item at Trader Joe’s that will be gone by the time I get back there, but there’s always next year.

As we get a better feel for what the grill is capable of, we’ll expand our grilling repertoire to include side dishes. For now, the oven has been a marvelous platform for healthy sides. A recent salad that tweaked the summer favorite, Panzanella is the perfect case in point. We’ve been having a serious love affair with roasted brussels sprouts. We often roast them to golden goodness with bacon, but a new year and a return to healthier choices caused me to choose red onions and colored bell peppers instead. DIGITAL CAMERAThey didn’t miss the bacon, and honestly, neither did we. Panzanella is after all, bread salad, so bread had to join the fun. I opted for some sour dough that had seen fresher days.DIGITAL CAMERA Cubed and lightly coated with olive oil spray it was helped along by a quick toast in the oven, to get ready to absorb the bounty to come. DIGITAL CAMERAA simple vinaigrette with white balsamic and lemon juice was a perfect partner.DIGITAL CAMERA Some mini heirloom tomatoes were tossed in to give it a touch of the traditional panzanella.DIGITAL CAMERA The result was a side that perfectly complimented the grilled pork.DIGITAL CAMERAThis turned out so well that I plan to create other panzanella salads this winter. There are lots of veggies and many varieties of bread out there that would undoubtedly love to get together in a salad bowl. 

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
Print Recipe
Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Salad
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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Try this basic recipe and come up with your own bread salad. One can’t live by bread alone, but it does make life more delicious.

 

 

Reflections on Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving weekend has come to a close. Looking back on it, I have to say that it has been one of the happiest I can remember. The days were filled with family, food, shopping, and most of all love. Love, you know, makes everything better. You can see it and you can definitely feel it. The holidays are resplendent in love. I’ve had five days to bask in the sunshine of love and I must say that glow does wonders for me inside and out.

Family was at the center of the weekend. Thanksgiving dinner was a delightfully blended affair that was centered on the newest addition. We all gathered at Jakob’s house to share a dinner that everyone contributed to. Turkey and Ham were the stars each prepared by a grandma. The sides were everything that tradition demands and then some. Mashed Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole shared the table with Italian Green Bean Salad and Sour Dough and Artichoke Stuffing.

Yes, Mama D (aka Nonna) brought the California inspired stuffing that had more than a little Italian influence. The recipe actually was born during our time in California. Loosely based on recipes from Sunset Magazine and Weight Watchers it has developed over the years to become the family stuffing of choice.

Starting with toasted sour dough bread cubes,DIGITAL CAMERA it became  a Cali-Itali creation with the addition of Italian sausage, artichokes, spinach and more than a little onion and garlic.DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything came together in a health conscious manner (turkey sausage, low sodium chicken, etc). until it donned its gay holiday apparel of some grated Asiago Cheese

DIGITAL CAMERA before being bathed in olive oil and butter.DIGITAL CAMERAThe stuffing (I should call it dressing as it never saw the inside of the bird) was a huge success; gone before a photo of the finished dish could be taken. Trust me, it looked beautiful and tasted amazing.

Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until it is well browned. Turn and break apart as needed.
  2. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute stirring frequently until the onion is golden and the garlic is fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the artichokes and spinach to the pan and continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. The artichokes should have a little color and the spinach should be wilted.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, sausage, and the vegetables from the pan (include all the drippings, too). Toss to combine.
  5. Add the seasonings that you are using along with the cheese and toss again to combine.
  6. Pour in the eggs and blend well. Add the chicken stock. Use enough so that the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to the seasonings. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.
  7. Grease a large rectangular baking dish. Add the stuffing and smooth out evenly. Do not pack it down. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
  8. Combine the remaining olive oil and the melted butter. Remove the stuffing from the oven. Take off the foil and drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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For the first time I was in a position to begin Christmas shopping early (this IS very early for me). I was also in the pleasant position of being on the paying side of the cash register and that did change my perspective. Visits to the nearby mini mall and lovely downtown Geneva gave me what feels like an early jump on the whole shopping experience. Not a single long line at the mall, and the knowledge that I was supporting small businesses in Geneva while finding some unique little gifts began to fill me with Holiday spirit.

That holiday spirit reached its peak when I got to spend some quality time with my grandsons.We just bought a futon for the second bedroom and I invited Dylan over to take it for its maiden voyage. All that was just an excuse to have lots of time with him. We ( I should say Dylan), baked Peanut Butter Blossoms with a little good- natured hassling from Grampa. In spite of it all, they were perfect.DIGITAL CAMERAA walk around the grounds of our apartment complex became an adventure of sorts. I got us on the wrong path in the woods, but thanks to Dylan’s kindness and keen eye we made it out in one piece and eventually got back home. He’s become such a fine young man and I’m so proud of him.

Jakob brought his parents over for dinner on Saturday. Again, this was just my way of getting more time with my new Grand Boy. While the Lychee Bellini and Three Treasure Fried Rice were delicious, they couldn’t hold a candle to the delicious sweetness of holding Jakob and marveling at his wide-eyed wonder at our new home. I know the lights and the glow of the flickering candles had something to do with that wonderment, but it didn’t diminish the joy I felt.

December is here and the path to Christmas is always shorter than I imagine. Thanksgiving has given me a glimpse into the real gifts to come. The decorations will start appearing today and the baking will start soon. All of that is just the trappings of a time filled with love. I plan to relish the journey to Christmas and treasure the time spent with my family. I hope your holiday journey is filled with the same kind of joy.