4/21/14

Italian Easter Sweet Bread

Italian Easter Sweet Bread


Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend and enjoyed the nice weather that I think most of us had. I think it's finally really Spring outside! As I type this, I'm sitting at my kitchen counter with my windows open. It's so nice to air the house out! I'm knee deep in laundry and housework today on my day off, but that's ok. I'll get that all done and then my reward will be a nice long walk outside in this beautiful weather.

So yesterday I decided to make Easter bread for the first time. I had been wanting to make this bread for years and just never got around to it. Also for some reason I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult than it was... I have no idea why. But, thanks to Laura Vitale over at Laura in the Kitchen, I saw that it really wasn't all that difficult to make and according to Laura, it tastes so so good!  So, I decided to make it myself on Easter morning to share with Mark's family for Easter dinner and thankfully it was a success!  I think the finished product is really pretty and fun and I plan to make it every year from now on!  The taste and texture is amazing.  It's got a sweetness to it and a hint of an orange flavor from the orange zest.  The outside is a little crusty and the inside is so light and pillowy.  The sprinkles add a little more sweetness on the outside as well.

So thank you so much, Laura Vitale, for showing us all how to make this bread as well as hundreds of other recipes on your YouTube channel!  Be sure to check Laura's channel out here and check her blog out here.

To see how I made this bread, check out my video below (even though the quality of my video is far worse than Laura's, but hey, I'll get better with practice haha... ):




2/22/14

A Week of Cooking Light: Friday: Chicken Picatta


Welcome to Friday's meal from Cooking Light's Sunday Strategist meal plan for this week!  Sorry it's a day late...  it was another late night dinner and I was feeling way too lazy to blog last night.

So after getting through this whole menu this week, I can safely say that I liked every dinner I made this week!  Friday's meal was a classic: Chicken Picatta.  I hadn't made this in a really long time, so it was nice to have it.  As you can see I didn't use orzo and I didn't make the broccoli rabe (even though I LOVE broccoli rabe) since I didn't have orzo on hand and we had a bunch of asparagus, so I really needed to use that instead.  It turned out great!  The only thing I would say to do that the recipe doesn't mention is after you pan cook the chicken, put it on a cookie sheet and stick it in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking.  Since chicken breasts can be thick, it's kinda hard to cook them completely through in a pan without making the outside too done and tough.  So just get the chicken nice and browned on both sides, then stow it away in the oven and move on with the recipe.

I asked Mark what he favorite meal was from this week and he said he really did like them all.  He really enjoyed the fish stew and the grilled cheese.  I loved knowing what I was going to make each night.  I really like the idea of planning the week's meals the weekend before.  I'm pretty busy at work a lot of the time, so it's nice not to have to dream up what to make on some nights.

It was also really nice to eat lighter.  Not that we eat badly, really, but we could probably do a better job at eating lighter.  We always get in our veggies and we always eat a variety of foods and really don't stuff ourselves.  Anyway, I think I'll try and keep this going and look for more meal plans and lighter recipes to prepare through the week.  I'm kind of excited to see what the Sunday Strategist will post for next week's plan!  They post it every Sunday morning, so be sure to look for yourself tomorrow and try making a week's worth of Cooking Light meals, too!  If you do, let me know how you liked it!  Send me pics and I'll be sure to post them here on the blog.

If you'd like to create your own meal plan using Cooking Light recipes rather than following the Sunday Strategist's plan, you can use their WAY COOL Weeknight Meal Planner and create your own plan.  Click on the link to go to the meal planner page where you can search for recipes and then drag and drop your favorite recipes into your plan.  How fun! 

Ok, so to see how to make the Chicken Picatta, check out my video below.  Thanks for going on this journey with me and stay tuned to see what my next project will be.  Hmmmm, what should I do next?  Suggestions?  Leave them in the comments below.  



2/21/14

A Week of Cooking Light: Thursday: Spicy Cod and Fennel Stew with Cheesy CiabattaToasts


Welcome back to my week of Cooking Light!  This week has been really fun, actually.  It's so nice to already know what I'm going to be cooking all week.  It's also really fun to make brand new recipes that I've never tried before.

I found this recipe in particular to be really interesting.  It was one of THE EASIEST recipes I have ever prepared in my life.  It is so super simple and the finished product was really tasty.

So as always, I did make a few changes to the recipe.

  • I used cod instead of tilapia.  They are similar fish, so it worked beautifully.  
  • I did not have jarred arrabbiata sauce, so instead I used a jar of marinara sauce and added red pepper flake, because arrabbiata is basically just "spicy spaghetti sauce".  
  • I added salt to this recipe.  You just have to if you want to bring out the flavor in anything.  This recipe doesn't even mention salt, and that just wouldn't work.  I didn't have to use a lot of salt, but I did add it to the fennel when I was cooking it in the oil, and I also added a few more cranks of sea salt at the end after I tasted the soup to bring out the flavors a bit more.  So for this recipe, I suggest seasoning with salt to your individual taste.  
  • Instead of using cooking spray, I used olive oil.  I don't buy cooking spray.  I don't see the need for it.  I'd rather use olive oil.  Spray on food is just not my style.
  • I also didn't prepare the ciabatta toasts per the recipe.  I decided to use olive oil in place of the mayonnaise.
Even though that looks like a lot of changes, they really were very minimal.  Remember, any time you follow a recipe, make sure you make that recipe work for you.  Take your individual taste into consideration and also look at what you have on hand.  If you can use something similar that will allow you to use something up or save some money, why not do that?  Recipes are never set in stone.

As for how this stew tasted... I really liked it!  I thought it was so neat that I could turn a jar of marinara sauce into a stew!  I never would have thought to do that, so I thought it was a cool idea and again, a super quick week night meal idea.  I highly suggest it.

Remember to check back tonight as I will be posting Friday's meal that I will be preparing for dinner this evening.  


Ok, so to see how I made this stew, check out this video:






2/20/14

A Week of Cooking Light: Wednesday: Penne with Sausage, Cannellini Beans, and Kale


Here we are at Day 3 of this week's Cooking Light Sunday Strategist meal plan!  Yes, I KNOW it's Thursday...  haha

We had a late dinner last night, so by the time we ate it was basically time to go to bed.  SO, here is what we had for dinner yesterday.  As I mention in my video below, I have made this particular dish many times, so I really didn't have to consult the recipe at all.  I only changed a few things about the recipe: I used penne pasta instead of farfalle, I didn't add the italian seasoning (because the sausage is already so seasoned that I didn't feel the need for it, and I didn't add sundried tomatoes because I don't think this recipe needs it.  I also used andouille sausage because that is what we had on hand.

This is a seriously easy recipe to make.  Great for weeknight dinners and it's so fresh and delicious.  For the simplicity of this dish, it really is a hearty dish as well.  I also really like making this with whole wheat pasta if I have it.  There's no real "sauce" in this dish, however the chicken broth mixed with the cooked down cannellini beans and the parmesan cheese actually create a bit of a creamy light sauce.  The red pepper flakes add that touch of spiciness to it.  It's just a perfect dish and you must make it immediately!  :-)

As I mentioned in my video, I've blogged about this very dish before.  You can check out that post here.

Check out my video below to see how it's made: