Olive You, Too (Kalamata Bread & Honey Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread)

With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to you for your visits here.  They make me smile.

Consequently, I carry that smile into the world and other folks benefit from it.  (Thought you should know that!)  So, thank you.

(And as the title implies… Olive You, Too!  xo)

Since everybody’s schedules are kicking into high gear (mine included), my next post won’t be until after Thanksgiving.  (Thought you should know that, too.)  Sometimes ya gotta keep it simple.

Speaking of which…

Honey Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread

(adapted from Taste Of Home)

1 c. Caprino cheese (or other creamy goat cheese)

1/3 c. mayonnaise (I used regular mayo)

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine ingredients; mix until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

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As for the bread, it couldn’t be any simpler.

Kalamata Bread

Knead 1 1/2 to 2 cups sliced kalamata olives into this recipe and thank Ally Phillips while you’re there.  (Thanks, Ally!)

And lest I forget… lavish with Honey Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread. :)

If you don’t have time for bread baking, simply serve with baguette slices (or pita chips) and assorted olives.

Happy Thanksgiving to you ‘n yours from The Man Of Few Words n’ me.

Enjoying sharing smiles,

~ Kim

Loafing Around

The title of this post and the halcyon appearance of my last post might lead you to believe that I do nothing but enjoy a life of leisure since I made the transition to home.  Not so.  I’ve been working my butt off!  (Figuratively speaking, of course… although climbing up and down hills does have its merits.)

Part of my “back to the basics” kick has been to create a space conducive to writing — inside and out — household and self included.

This has meant perspiring in the 90°+ mid-day heat as needed, pushing my proverbial boundaries, and hacking away at a four-page “to do” list until it’s no longer dangling over my head.  (My brain is funny that way.)  Some folks call it all-or-nothing syndrome; I prefer to call it “no more excuses.”

Between this influx of activity, I worked up a powerful hunger.  (A girl’s gotta eat, ya know…)

Food-wise (in my opinion), there’s nothing more basic than bread.  With a history spanning thousands of years and variations ranging from flat to fluffy, bread has graced many a table and sustained multitudes of generations.  Who can resist its universal appeal?  (Even Maria von Trapp extolled its virtues: do re mi fa so la TI….. with jam and bread.) ;)

Soft, warm, crunchy… homemade bread presents pillowy pockets of opportunity, waiting to soak up a smear of butter, a spoonful of jam, a drizzle of honey, a dab of peanut butter, or — my perennial favorite — gravy.  (You haven’t lived until you’ve “sopped gravy,” as many a Southerner can attest.)

But, it was too hot too think about gravy, so here we are again… “back at the very beginning.”

The best “basic” bread I’ve eaten in recent history was inspired by Alice D’Antoni Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen.  Profuse thanks, Ally!  It truly fulfilled my basic requirements.  (And made wonderful croutons!)

Basic Baguette

(adapted from Rustic Boho Buttermilk Bread, linked above)

3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided

1 tsp. sea salt

1 (1/4 oz.) pkg. active dry yeast

2 1/2 Tbsp. warm water (110° F)

1/2 tsp. sugar (I added some to speed things along)

1 c. buttermilk, at room temperature (or a scant cup of milk “soured” with 1 T. lemon juice)

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for the “rising” bowl and baking sheet

First, whisk together 2-1/2 cups of flour and the salt; set aside.

Next, lightly oil a large bowl; set aside.

In another large bowl, combine yeast and water (and sugar, if using); stir to break up any lumps.

When mixture is foamy (about 5 – 10 minutes), stir in buttermilk (or sour milk) and olive oil until combined.

Add 1 cup of the flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (I used a sturdy wooden spoon.)

Add the next cup of flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (Ditto.)

Add enough of the remaining flour/salt mixture to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.  (I used my hands at this point.)

Sprinkle remaining “plain” flour on a flat surface.  (Note to self:  sprinkle first, then get hands sticky.)

Turn dough onto floured surface; knead 5 to 10 minutes.  (Note to you: only knead in enough flour to keep it from sticking!)

Place dough in previously oiled bowl; turn “bottom side up” so the oiled surface is topside.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until double.  (Approximate rising time is 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how “active” your yeast is.)

Punch down dough; let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° F and lightly oil the middle of a large baking sheet.  (No need to oil the whole sheet.)

Turn dough onto floured surface again; knead 3 to 5 minutes, then shape into one long baguette.  (I rolled it like a Playdough “rope” — FUN!)  (By the way, the original recipe makes two loaves… much as I love bread, I can only eat so much.)

Place baguette on oiled baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes in the top, 3″ apart.

Bake 15 minutes at 450° F.  Reduce heat to 350° F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you “thump” on it.  (The original recipe called for 20 to 25 minutes of additional baking time, but a single loaf only required 10 to 15 minutes.)

Cool slightly.

Break out the butter and jam.

Enjoying the basic-ness of bread — and writing,

~ Kim

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Guest Post: Chili Chicken Soft Buns

One of the perks of living on a lake is that folks just naturally stop by to visit.  Of course, a warm welcome and a little lunch is in order. :)

Via the wonders of modern day technology, that same warm welcome can be found in foodie friends’ kitchens all over the globe.  One particularly welcoming place is Exquisite Niche.  (Note, per Kimby:  website no longer functional; link has been disabled.)

I was drawn to Gursahiba Anand’s blog for several reasons: 1) the name!  2) her passion for “delectable food” and 3) the fact that she loves to create a joyful ambience in her home.  Now, Gursahiba has graciously agreed to come to “the lake” and I’m tickled to introduce you to her!

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Kim recently did her first guest post for me on Cardamom Braided Bread.  This was incredible and utterly delicious.  This is my first guest post too!!:)  And I am as much excited as her to do all this together.  She asked me to do something that I absolutely love to do.  If you follow my blog then you must have guessed, it’s BAKING!!

Since my school times, I often visit a small confectionery shop called the ‘Maxims’.   Its got the most fresh breads, pizzas, rolls, buns, pastries, muffins, cakes etc..  If I happen to stop by, I always buy more than what I can eat.  I know since childhood the taste of any of its fresh bakes hasn’t changed till date.  This shop hasn’t even opened more outlets but happens to be very popular.  My most favourite are the fresh chicken rolls or buns which they make.  I always wanted to learn how to make them.  When I actually tried it, trust me, the homemade ones were as good as what I eat there.

Often I am asked “why Exquisite Niche?”  It’s because I want everything in my house and life to be just exquisite (like all the women in this world!)  But I truly believe homemade goods create some sort of warmth in the house which brings your loved ones together.  When I cook and bake, I not only get appreciation, but I enjoy when my husband, JS, comes over and helps me out and is my official tester.  This brings us to spend more quality time together, enjoying our most favourite activity EATING!! ;)

“Moments like these not only make my food exquisite, but the ambience and the energy in the house, too.”

My fling in the kitchen making these soft buns has been the most fun-filled experience.  I hope you enjoy it too!!:)

Chili Chicken Soft Buns

Bread dough:

1 cup warm water

1 tbsp fresh yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

500 gms all-purpose flour

1 egg

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Stuffing:

250 gm boneless chicken cut into very small pieces

1 small capsicum, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 onion, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp chili paste

1 tsp soya sauce

2 tsp cornflour

3 tbsp tomato ketchup

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Garnish:

Some black caraway seeds

Preparation:

Put the salt, sugar and yeast in the warm water.  Keep aside for 5 minutes.

Mix the flour and the egg. Pour in the yeast mixture.  Knead the dough well.  The dough would be soft and very sticky.  Knead for about 10 minutes.

Add oil gradually.  Knead well with the knuckles until the dough is soft and can be rolled into a ball in the hands.  Knead a little more.

Dust a bowl with flour and place the dough in it.  Cover and keep aside till the dough is doubled in volume.

While the dough is kept aside, prepare the stuffing.  Heat oil in a pan.  Add the chicken pieces and saute till they are cooked.  Keep aside.

In the same pan, heat some more oil.  Add garlic, chilli paste and onions.  Add capsicum and saute for 2 minutes.  Add soya sauce, cornflour, ketchup, salt and pepper.  Add cooked chicken; mix well and keep aside.

Bring the bread dough back.  Punch it down.  Divide the dough into small balls.

Take one ball and roll it flat into a circle.  Put 1 tsp stuffing in it.  Bring the edges together and make a ball using your hands.  Place on a greased baking tray with the joint side down.  Cover and let it rise to double.  Sprinkle with black caraway seeds and bake at 180 degree celsius for 30 minutes until golden.

Serve and eat HOT!!!

Thanks Kim, for letting me share this space! :)

-Gursahiba Anand

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It was my pleasure having you here, Gursahiba!

Enjoying the joyful ambience of friendship,

~ Kim

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Grandma's Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Sometimes you revisit the past to move forward in the present, only to discover the past has changed. (!)

This post was originally entitled “My First Guest Post” and it was linked to a blog that apparently no longer exists.  (No worries.  I totally understand… “stuff happens.”)  Following are excerpts from the original post, along with Grandma’s Cardamom Bread recipe.

One of the things I love about blogging is that it’s like having the world’s cookbook at your fingertips.  You can find a recipe for anything, anytime, anywhere!

Coincidentally (or not), cardamom isn’t so easy to find, especially in the middle of Oklahoma.  After I finally located some, I promptly made a batch of Kheer that I’d been wanting to try…

As well as my Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread) — a recipe from my past, in more ways than one!

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

1/4 c. warm water

1 pkg. yeast

1/2 c. milk, scalded & cooled

6 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 c. butter, softened

2-1/2 to 3 c. flour (more or less), divided

1 tsp. cardamom

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 c. raisins (I use regular & golden raisins)

Powdered sugar icing

Maraschino cherries & whole blanched almonds, for garnish

Dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand until foamy.

Combine milk, sugar, and salt.  Stir in yeast mixture.

Add egg and butter; mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add enough flour (in two additions) to form a soft dough.  Use only enough flour as needed and “don’t be afraid of a sticky dough,” per Grandma.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until it springs back and forms a smooth ball.

Place dough in a buttered bowl, then turn “buttered side up.”  Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled; punch down.

Allow to rise until doubled a second time; punch down again.

Sprinkle dough with mace, cardamom and raisins; knead in until combined.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts.  Shape 3 parts into 14″ long ropes and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Braid loosely to form one large braid; pinch ends to seal.

Divide remaining dough into 3 parts; shape into 12″ long ropes.  Braid them and place smaller braid on top of larger one; pinch ends together.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Bake 40 to 60 minutes until golden and “hollow sounding” when thumped.  Transfer from baking sheet to a wire rack.

Drizzle powdered sugar icing over the loaf while it’s warm; garnish with maraschino cherries and whole blanched almonds.

Cool completely before slicing.

Grandma's Cardamom Bread

Enjoying the flavor of friendship — past and present,

~ Kim