Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Fried rice. Simple, quick, and easy – as long as you’ve cooked your rice ahead of time, that is! I like to make it in the morning before work, so its ready to go when I come home. Then just fry up your egg or tofu, add veggies, and you’re golden.


Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Some recipe notes: I fry my eggs in coconut oil or butter. It doesn’t seem to affect the taste, and its healthier too. Coconut oil also has a high temperature point, which browns the egg nicely.  I use Bragg’s liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and I find it tastes just as good. For the veggies, I use frozen mixed vegetables from Meijer, which work really nicely. Alternatively, you could throw mushrooms or onions. You can add broccoli, but remember that it’ll take longer to cook.

fried rice

This recipe is great for a weeknight dinner! What do you guys like to put in your fried rice?

Challah Bread from the Smitten Kitchen

We were blessed with an overabundance of eggs this week: two dozen from my uncle’s farm and a dozen from our local co-op. I decided to make challah bread, or braided egg bread, from the Smitten Kitchen. In Jewish culture, the Sabbath begins on Friday night, and families traditionally open their first Sabbath meal over two loaves of challah.

This simple recipe requires 5 eggs, and its unbelievably good for French toast.


I began with the ingredients: bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, olive oil, eggs, and sesame seeds. In a large bowl, I dissolved the yeast in lukewarm water, then added the sugar and salt. I whisked in the oil, then added the eggs one at a time. (Sorry about the picture quality; it was a rainy, dark day.)

ingredients for challah bread  liquids

Time to add the flour. This recipe called for 8 cups, but 7 cups seemed to do the trick – possibly because I used bread flour. The recipe got thicker and thicker, forming the dough.

dough  dough mixed

I kneaded the dough until it formed into a smooth, elastic, heavy ball. After two risings, I cut the dough into two halves. I further divided the halves into six balls each, then rolled them out to form long strands, like breadsticks. I braided the six strands together, using the Smitten Kitchen’s method.

dough kneaded  dough rolled out

I put the two loaves on the baking pan, gave them an egg wash, and let them rise for a third time. After an hour passed, I gave them another egg wash, sprinkled sesame seeds on top, and put them in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.

braided, no rise  dough after risen

Finished product! A perfect way to open the Sabbath.

challah bread just out of oven  challah on cutting board

Do you guys make any traditional dishes for special occasions or holidays?

Fiesta Soup with Garbanzo Beans, Corn, and Tomatoes

Fiesta soup is a super quick and easy meal, perfect for when you don’t really feel like cooking. I’ve been baking challah bread all day, thanks to an abundance of eggs, and I was getting hungry! This soup, perfect for a cooler summer day, was ready in less than 30 minutes!


fiesta soup recipe card

For this recipe, I used colorful vegetables (red onion, yellow corn, tomatoes, green onion) to make the dish bright and festive. Tomatoes, lemon, and feta gave it a slightly acidic taste, while cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes added a bright, zesty flair.

fiesta soup

Colorful fiesta soup – plant-based and gluten-free!

We just had to eat it with the freshly baked challah bread. It went together surprisingly well – the milky, egg-y bread balancing out the acidity.

fiesta soup with challah bread

Mixing Jewish and Mexican tastes and cuisines

This soup is so flexible – if you don’t have an ingredient on hand, its easy to substitute. For example, kidney beans instead of garbanzos, white instead of red onion, cayenne instead of red pepper flakes, and any type of cheese would probably work. In fact, you could remove the cheese altogether to make it vegan and add Fage Total 0% yogurt instead.

What recipes do you guys make when you don’t feel like cooking?

4-Hour Classic French Baguettes from Farmgirl Fare

Homemade bread is such a treat – the delicious smell when its baking, the crackle of the crust when its cut, and my happiness when I see Eric gobbling it up!

I haven’t made baguettes for a while, but when I went grocery shopping on Monday, I couldn’t pass up a great deal on fresh mozzarella – $1.80 for 8 ounces! Fresh mozzarella deserves fresh bread, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.


I used Farmgirl Fare‘s 4-hour Parisian baguette recipe here, which I’ve made before and love. Ingredients are simple: flour, instant yeast, water, and salt. I also used a large mixing bowl, a baking stone (you can always use a baking tray), a plastic scraper (you’ll need it), parchment paper (again, you’ll need it), damp kitchen towels, and ice cubes.

baguettes ingredients

Only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water

I began by combining bread flour and yeast, mixing it with the scraper, and adding the water. It formed quite a sticky, clumpy mass. I sprinkled the salt over it, gave it a quick mix, and covered it with a damp towel to rest. This allowed the gluten to form, which helps give the bread its shape and texture, and the damp towel kept it from drying out.

dough, before sitting

Bread dough, after first mix

When I came back after 20 minutes, the dough had softened somewhat. I used the scraper for the bits still stuck to the sides of the bowl, then dumped it onto a lightly floured surface.

dough, after sitting

Bread dough, after sitting 20 minutes

I kneaded the bread for ten minutes (here’s a how-to video). I don’t worry too much about technique – as long as you’re manipulating it somehow, it will work. I knew it was done when the dough formed into a firm, smooth, heavy, sticky ball. I put it back in the greased mixing bowl, covered it with a damp kitchen towel, and let it rise for 45 minutes. When I checked on it, it had nearly doubled in size (it was a warm day).

the dough, after kneading

After kneading and first rise

I gave it a quick turn and let it rise for another 45 minutes. The “double-rise” technique is a necessity of bread making, as it develops the gluten structure and prevents so many gaping holes caused by the air in your bread.

bread, after second rise

Second rise

After the second rise, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with the baking stone and cast iron skillet inside. I shaped the baguettes, using the technique at the bottom of the page of Farmgirl Fare’s recipe. (Sorry, the top baguette is a little lopsided haha.) I formed the couche using the parchment paper and kitchen towels and let the bread sit for another 30 minutes. The couche is essential because your bread will rise and expand, and the couche prevents the baguettes from sticking together and keeps their shape.

baguettes, rolled out

Baguettes, shaped into loaves

Time to bake! I quickly scored the loaves (the knife marks you see) and transferred them onto the baking stone, using the parchment paper. I very carefully stuck a handful of ice cubes into the skillet to create steam inside the oven, which helps the loaves develop a nice crackly crust. Lastly, I turned the oven down to 450 degrees. After 20 minutes, they turned a lovely golden brown.

baguettes on the cutting board platter

Just out of the oven!

The loaves turned out wonderfully. I cut them right away and served them with the fresh mozzarella, basil, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, and olive oil.

baguettes, the whole spread

Our delicious dinner

Yum! They were also just as good the next day.

sliced baguettes

Baguettes with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil

Have you guys ever made bread before? What were your experiences?

Basil-Parsley Pesto Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives

I started a balcony herb garden a few months ago, and an overabundance of basil and flat-leaf parsley led to one of my favorite summertime recipes: pesto! So I gathered my ingredients to make this delicious sauce: basil, parsley, walnuts, garlic cloves, Parmesan cheese, salt, and olive oil.


Basil-Parsley Pesto Pasta Recipe Card

I combined all ingredients, except the olive oil, in the food processor.

pesto ingredients, before

Ingredients for pesto, except olive oil

Then I processed it until a thick paste formed. I absolutely love the vibrant green color in this photo.

pesto, without olive oil

Pesto ingredients, processed

I slowly drizzled the olive oil in as I processed some more. Pesto, simple as that!

pesto!

Voilà! So green and vibrant.

The thick, chunky pesto worked really well with radiatore pasta, mixing perfectly with the small, ridged shape of the noodles. (Apparently, an industrial designer came up with radiatore, based on on the look of a radiator. Who knew?)

radiatore   pesto pasta, mixed

Cherry tomatoes and black olives completed this summery pasta dish.

pesto pasta, plated

Dinner for two, all in less than 30 minutes!

So simple, fresh, and delicious! What recipes do you use to make pesto?

 

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberries and Chocolate Chips

Eric and I love eating leisurely Sunday breakfasts together, and pancakes seemed to fit the bill today. I used this recipe from All Recipes for some inspiration to make healthier pancakes from scratch.

To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill, oats that were processed in a gluten-free facility (again like Bob’s Red Mill), and Rumford baking powder.


whole wheat oatmeal pancakes 2

I began by combining a half cup of whole wheat flour (instead of all-purpose) and a half cup of rolled oats in the food processor. I added baking soda, Rumford baking powder, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract to the mix.

oatmeal pancakes ingredients  oatmeal pancakes in the food processor

Next up: organic whole milk instead of buttermilk, coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and an egg. I blended it all together to make the pancake mix.

oatmeal pancakes in the food processor with egg and coconut oil  oatmeal pancake mix

I used a 1/4 measuring cup to pour the mix into a hot pan coated with coconut butter. I added dark chocolate chips and blueberries on top. When I flipped them, they had turned a lovely golden-brown on the bottom.

oatmeal pancakes with blueberries and chocolate chips in the frying pan  oatmeal pancakes golden brown in the frying pan

This recipe made 8 pancakes, using the 1/4 measuring cup. I drizzled mine with maple syrup, while Eric preferred nutella. Needless to say, there were no leftovers. 🙂

oatmeal pancakes, done!  oatmeal pancakes ready to eat!

I will end with this adorable shot of Leia, our Sheltie puppy, doing her best to be cute for a bite! (Sorry girl.)

leia

What are some of your favorite breakfast recipes?

Wednesday Wedding Thoughts: Practical Money-saving Tips

When Eric and I got married, we had a specific amount of money to spend on the wedding. We had both taken out student loans. Eric was in his last year of physical therapy school, and I had only been working for one year as a speech therapist. It was very important to us to stick to a budget.

Many websites out there offer good money-saving tips, such as:

  1. Get married in the off-season, or in the afternoon on a weekday.
  2. Limit your guest list, and don’t allow people to bring dates.
  3. Get married in a park or public space.
  4. Buy a used wedding dress, and let your bridesmaids pick their own dresses.
  5. Serve appetizers and/or desserts, not a full catered meal.

We didn’t follow any of these rules, and yet we still managed to stay within our budget. Here are some practical money-saving tips from personal experience.


1. We got married on a Sunday afternoon in August, and ended the reception around 4:30. Afternoons were simply cheaper. Since many of our guests traveled 1-2 hours to get there, an early wedding also allowed them extra time to get home for work the next day.

2. Similarly, we served a late lunch around 1:00, which was less expensive than dinner prices.

3. I bought my wedding dress in December for less than $500. After Christmas was great time to buy because stores were getting ready for the spring collection. I bought my veil from this Ebay store for less than $20.

wedding dress

Wedding dress shot

4. Littleborroweddress.com. This wonderful website allowed my bridesmaids to rent their dresses for $50, plus shipping. I chose the color, and I allowed them to choose the style/neckline they wanted. Since a few of them lived in the same area, they shared the shipping fee.

bridesmaids

Gowns from Little Borrowed Dress

5. I used Hobby Lobby 40% off coupons religiously. I love the Retail Me Not app, and I literally went to Hobby Lobby every single day to use that coupon. I bought props for the photo booth, rolls of tulle, a garter, string, cords and rings for our unity ceremony, place card holders, craft paper, double-sided tape, and even thank you cards. Fyi, Jo Ann’s and Michael’s also accept competitor’s coupons.

unity cords

Braiding the cords for our unity ceremony

paper hearts

Paper hearts that I made from old books

wedding centerpieces

Book-themed centerpieces, with paper flowers that we made from old books

6. We bought a small display cake from Harding’s, a local grocery store, and ordered three large sheet cakes. It cost us less than $200. It did entail a $35 delivery fee, but it was still less expensive than ordering from a specialty bakery.

wedding cake

Wedding cake on display

What are your money-saving tips for planning a wedding?