Rise Up x3! Sweet Braided Easter Bread

bread, baking, easter

Braided Easter Bread

As Easter approaches, many of us ponder our faith. And, since this year Passover and Easter coincide, more of us are taking time to think about what it all means.

I went to a super Catholic university somewhere in the middle. Like a school where students were encouraged to attend any one of the 26, yes 26, masses held between Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 6pm. A university where the Old Testament was studied as a history and taught (at the time) by the sole interpreter of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A school where a gentleman caller might ask you on a date to mass – this was a big deal.

Back then, the student body was pretty homogenous – I think it was something in the neighborhood of 90+% Christian and of that over 80% Catholic. Being surrounded by mostly Catholics and beer, oh and nickel purple passions, led to some more than riveting late night philosophical discussions and revelations about Jesus.

One such late night post purple passions or quarter beers we engaged in the most philosophical of all discussions about God and Jesus. So many questions. We all wondered was Jesus really the son of God? Did he really rise from the dead?

After much discussion, my very wise roommate summed it up perfectly for all of us. She said: I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God or rose from the dead. All I know is that Jesus was a really good guy who said a lot of really good things that lasted a really long time.

Makes sense.

One thing that I am certain will rise – and rise three times – is this sweet, braided Easter bread.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Clean as you go and reuse your prep bowls – you can temperate your eggs in the same measuring up that you used to measure your flour
  2. Active Yeast and Instant Yeast can be used interchangeably – I know because I Googled it
  3. Set aside enough time as while Jesus took three days to rise, this bread requires 90 minutes to rise and then 45 minutes to rise again

Sweet Braided Easter Bread (serves a whole bunch of people of any faith)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cups Whole Milk – since I don’t drink milk, I keep little Stop and Shop single serve milks on hand – they last forever in your pantry until opened, and then a few days in your fridge
  • 5 TBSPs of Sugar – I use Domino Sugar – always have, always will
  • 1 3/4 TSPs of active dry yeast…but I couldn’t find that – so used Instant Yeast. Also – 1 3/4 TSPs is LESS than 1 packet…so, yes, you have to measure it out
  • 2 Large Eggs at room temperature – you must temperate your eggs
  • 2 1/3 C of Flour– now, the recipe actually called for 2 3/4 Cups…but I screwed up and used less – it was all fine – there was math, but an Easter Miracle made everything OK
  • 1 TSP Kosher Salt – because we welcome all religions – The Morton Salt is good and less expensive than those designer Kosher brands…
  • 1/2 C = 1 Stick unsalted butter softened and sliced…I only had salted butter so I just used less Kosher Salt
  • Some melted butter
that's all you need for an Easter miracle

that’s all you need for an Easter miracle – I didn’t even realize that the Yeast package was using my photo of perfectly braided bread

1. In a small sauce pan, gently heat the milk over a low flame to 115 degrees – this happened super quick – so watch it. I used a candy thermometer, but any thermometer will do

Gently heated to 115 degrees -I used my candy thermometer to check

Gently heated to 115 degrees -I used my candy thermometer to check

2. Pour the heated milk into a 2 Cup measuring cup and stir in 1 TBSP of sugar and add the yeast – check out my awesome tiny Le Creuset rubber prep bowl! Whisk it all together.

baking bread recipe easter

Adding Instant Yeast (use like Active Yeast) from little rubber Le Creuset prep bowl

3. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk together

Make sure your eggs are at room temp!

Make sure your eggs are at room temp!

4. Once combined – set aside and wait for the first rise – the yeast will activate and make the mixture all foamy – this takes about 5 – 7 minutes

Rise #1 - foam forms

Rise #1 – foam forms

5. In the mean time – combine the flour, remaining 4 TBSPs of sugar and salt in the bowl of your KitchenAid stand mixer with the bread attachment. This was the debut for my bread attachment!

I've never used the bread attachment before. Love my KitchenAid!

I’ve never used the bread attachment before. Love my KitchenAid!

6. Pour in the foamy once risen mixture and begin to mix over medium speed

Wet into dry - always

Wet into dry – always

7. Slowly – one pat at a time – add in the butter

I love these Land O' Lakes 1/2 sticks. Butter must be softened and sliced.

I love these Land O’ Lakes 1/2 sticks. Butter must be softened and sliced.

8. Jack up the mixer to medium/high and let the kneading begin – knead on med/high for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth!

Silky Smooth! Sticky, but silky smooth

Silky Smooth! Sticky, but silky smooth

9. Transfer the dough into a bowl brushed with melted butter.

Love my little brush

Love my little brush

10. Brush the top of the dough with even more butter, cover and set aside for the second rise – about 90 minutes in a warmish place – Dough should double in size – makes me wonder – did Jesus get bigger?

patience, bread recipe, easter

Rise #2 – brushed with butter and covered. Now, wait for it….

11. After the miracle second rise has occurred – Put some flour in a tiny bowl and dip your hands in! The dough is sticky- so flouring your hands will help.

12. Divide the dough into three equal parts. Form each into a long loggish shape and set on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper and lightly floured. Now, since I didn’t use enough flour from the get go – I was more generous with the flour here.

Ready to braid

Ready to braid

13. Pinch one end of each log together and braid away!

Braided and Ready for rise #3

Braided and Ready for rise #3

14. Cover the beautifully braided dough with Saran Wrap and set aside for the third and final rise – Wait 45 minutes

Risen and Ready to bake

Risen, butter brushed and Ready to Bake

15. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

16. Remove the Saran Wrap from the bread and brush it with butter before placing in the oven

17. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the loaf is 190 degrees.

18. Slice and Eat!

bread, baking, easter

Braided Easter Bread

This tasty bread takes some time but is well worth it. And, while I’m no artist – I think the braiding is impressive. I mean it’s no miracle – but, this Easter weekend it did rise three times.

I’m still not sure what I believe (sorry Mom). But, when I question what it all means I always revert to the wise albeit boozy words I heard so long ago – No matter how you slice it, Jesus was a really good guy, who said a lot of really good things that lasted a really long time. Much longer than this sweet Easter bread will last, indeed.

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Skeptical of Microwave Corn? Don’t Give a Shuck

corn, microwave, vegetarian

Sheath. Corn. Just that easy

My business partner (for my manderpants company) tells me I’m the skeptical one. I’m the one that asks the questions. That brings up the potential for disastrous outcomes. That reads the Yelp reviews, all of them, before we book hotels – I mean, bed bugs are a real thing, people.That may be prone to thinking something just isn’t quite right. That maybe – just maybe – Googles too much – I’m a really good Googler.

So when the microwave corn video started showing up all over Facebook and in my other social media feeds – because I follow food stuff and stuff – I didn’t really believe it. I mean, people do lie on the Internet.

I thought I had mastered the most succulent and fabulous corn the old fashioned way…a best friend who is ‘corn-psychic’ and selects perfect cobs every time, lots of shucking, big pot of water, butter and whole milk (or cream, who cares?) in the boiling water…add corn, cover, turn off heat – wait 12 mins, eat.

But this is no longer the best way. Plus, if there’s one KP job I hate – it’s shucking. I said ‘shucking’…

So…the microwave corn with no shucking at all intrigued me.

Ingredients:

Corn IN the cob – 1, 2, 22 pieces, I don’t care – ps, it was on sale at Whole Foods this week, so, bonus!

Preheat the……wait, you don’t need to do that

Fill a large pot with water….nope, not that either

1. Open the microwave. Yeah. Do that.

2. Put an ear of corn or two or three, whatever, in the microwave – DO NOT GIVE A SHUCK

corn, microwave

I just made one to test – cuz I really didn’t believe it would work – ps, look how clean my microwave is. yep.

3. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, just 3

microwave, kitchenaid, corn

It’s very hard to photograph my microwave. but you get it

4. It’s very very hot – wear an oven mitt, please…AND – Remove from microwave and cut the base off – you need to cut about a 1/2 inch into the kernel part – it’s fine, you’ll have enough corn, promise, trust me, google it.

corn, microwave, whole foods

I had to cut twice as the first time I didm’t get enough of it – see two cuts…I was proceeding in doubt and with caution

5. Hold the icky hairy top part of the corn with an oven mitt and shake it like a Polaroid picture….this is sorta the hard part – you have to really shake to get it moving out of the sheath

corn, microwave

Hold and shake – fer reels. PS, my oven mitt reminds me of Muppet hands.

6. As the corn starts to come clean of the sheath, you can assist by pulling the perfect corn with a second oven mitt

corn, microwave, vegetables

AHHHHnd…it’s working! Shock and Awe.

7. et voila – perfect corn, no sheath, no hairy stuff and you don’t have to give a shuck

corn, vegetables

Seriously, perfect. Hardest part is the shake-ification

Test was so successful, that I zapped two more ears and made magical toasted corn.

Is the lesson have more faith in things you see/read on the Internet? Uh…don’t think so – but keep reading, investigating, googling, if you will…and ultimately, test it for yourself. Sometimes it’s best to be skeptical, sometimes it’s best to not give a shuck.

Patience and Perseverance: Broccoli Pie ’70s Style

The ladies of a certain generation are very protective of their old family recipes and refuse to share their secrets even among their closest friends. If, heavens, a woman finds herself forced to reveal the recipe, she might…I’m saying might…accidentally, like totally by accident…leave out one crucial ingredient rendering the replication far inferior to the original.

Such ingredient omission could result in conversations like “Louise, I made your pecan bars last week and they just weren’t as good…’ To which Louise might just smile and say ‘bless your heart’. (see Southern lady’s translation of this sentiment)

I had been begging a friend’s mother for her Zucchini casserole recipe for exactly three years. Every time I saw her I asked again and she always found a way around giving it to me.

Denial of its existence:       ‘I’m not even sure I have it written down.’

No way to send it:  ‘Oh, I don’t have email.’

Fear of being replaced:    ‘I don’t want the casserole showing up at dinner parties all over town.’

But, I was persistent and about six months ago, she sat me down, went into a triple locked vault and simply said: ‘Do you have a pen?’

Listening intently…I took copious notes and asked only one question: ‘do you think adding toasted bread crumbs to the top would be good?’ Horrified, insulted and thinking about ripping the recipe out of my hands, she shook her head disapprovingly and said firmly, ‘NO.’

When it came time to make the casserole, (and please don’t tell) I did make a few changes: I subbed out zucchini for broccoli and divided the recipe by 4 – ‘Louise’ (that’s an alias, she who has no access to the internet or this blog prefers not to be named) makes a giant batch, divides in to several 9-inch bread pans before cooking and freezes – then she pulls out a pan, thaws and bakes off as needed.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Bisquick ExpiryThis recipe was translated from one that made enough Zucchini casserole for an army – there was math – but it worked out. Don’t be afraid to do some dividing in order to cook for fewer than 57 people
  2. Write expiry dates on the side of packages that face out in the cabinet – that way each time you look in there, you’ll know how many more days you have left to use your Bisquick – I had until today (no fear, I baked this over the weekend)
  3. Don’t keep your 8×8 Le Creuset baking dish on the very top shelf of your cabinets – the fact that mine was up there kept me from using it for a very long time. Thank goodness for my Gracious Home step ladder

Broccoli Pie (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • bisquick recipes

    70’s mix

    2 Cups Broccoli Florets

  • 1/2 Large Onion
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Bisquick Baking Mix
  • 1/4 Cup Grated or Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • Pepper – if you want

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees

1. Mise en place – always miss en place – cheese, eggs, vegetable oil, Bisquick mix, onion half, Italian Seasoning

mise en place anne burrell vegetarian

All important Mise En Place

2. Chop the stems off of your broccoli and rough chop – then wash

broccoli vegetarian dinner side dish recipe

Lots of Broccoli – fresh from Fairway Market NYC

3. Pretend you’re going to make vegetable stock and keep the broccoli stems in the freezer until you admit that you’re not going to ever make vegetable stock and then throw them out.

broccoli stems vegetarian pie side dish

Be honest, you’re not going to make veggie stock

4. Roast the broccoli – this adds a great, browned, smoky flavor to the casserole. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet. Toss with ‘really good’ olive oil and salt. Roast for 15 mins, tossing them around a bit about halfway through.

roasted broccoli dinner side dish vegetarian

Brown food is good food – roasted broccoli

5. Turn oven down to 350 degrees

6. Allow the broccoli to cool for about :10 mins then toss it into your Cuisinart

7. Chop the onion into chunks and toss into the Cuisinart with the broccoli

side dish recipe vegetarian casserole

Thank you Cuisinart

8. Pulse until the broccoli and onions are well minced, but still have a tiny bit of chunkiness to them

9. If you’re using shredded parmesan (not grated) – add to the Cuisinart and pulse a few more seconds

broccoli casserole recipe vegetarian

Slight chunks AOK

10. In a separate bowl combine the 2 eggs, Bisquick, Vegetable oil, Italian Seasoning and pepper if you like that kind of thing. You already salted the roasted broccoli, so no need to add more. (Also if you’re using grated parmesan, add it now)

recipe side dish vegetarian broccoli

Bisquick-y mix

11. Add the broccoli, cheese, onion mince to the Bisquick mix and stir to combine

broccoli casserole recipe

Add the broc onion cheese mix

12. It should look like this – just make sure you get all of the dry bisquick-y stuff well combined with the veggies and eggs

vegetarian casserole broccoli recipe

Well mixed

13. Spray an 8×8 Le Creuset dish with Pam or other nonstick cooking spray. Can you use other than Le Creuset? No, no you can not.

14. Spread the mixture into the baking dish evenly – should be about 1 inch thick

vegetarian casserole dinner broccoli

Spread into modern Corningware = Le Creuset

15. Bake at 350 – did you remember to turn down the oven? – for :35 mins or until lovingly browned

broccoli pie casserole recipe

Perfectly browned edges

16. Slice into wedges and serve

vegetarian side dish recipe broccoli

Sumptuous Slice

The Broccoli Pie nee Zucchini casserole recipe was worth waiting, begging and ultimately fighting for. It’s a ’70s throwback to the time when most vegetables were over boiled or minced and most side dishes included Bisquick.

To those of you who are courting women of a certain generation for a secret family recipe, let me say just this – patience and perseverance pay off. And, if this dish starts popping up at dinner parties all over town – please don’t tell ‘Louise’ about this blog.

It’s OK To Be In The Can: Spicy Easy Bean Dip

spicy bean dip vegetarian recipe

It’s in the Can

I heart my iPhone 5…even though it has some glitches. Like I had to get the speaker replaced when all noises – text pings, Twitter tweets, phone chime, email bings etc stopped. And, for whatever reason…when my phone reaches 35% battery and I try to take and post a picture (sort of the way of life of a food blogger) it just shuts off. Telling me in it’s own Apple way that it’s done with the social media thing for that day. I’m OK with it, though.

iphone 5 texting vegetarian corn dip

Heat

One thing that does drive me crazy is the auto text correct. Sure, generally, the phone is right and I mean to type rosé, not rose. The phone seems to have picked up on summer wine season. So smart.

But, I almost…wait, I actually never mean to type that ‘I’m in the can.’ For whatever reason – maybe it’s because the iPhone speaks ‘Californian’ and those people don’t take cabs like we do in NYC – the iPhone refuses to accept that I’m in the ‘Cab’ not the ‘Can’. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to text ‘I mean Cab, not Can’ to people who are waiting for me and now think I have an ‘issue’.

That said, there are times when it’s OK to be in the Can….Like when people are coming over and it’s national hot and spicy food day and you need to quickly get an appropriate array of appetizers ready.

My most recent favorite mix is:

Spicy Easy Bean Dip (serves a bunch – but lasts two days, so just make it all)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You should probably always have these ingredients on hand, they don’t take a ton of space and last a long time…Oh, and they’re inexpensive too
  2. You don’t need or have room for an electric can opener…I was guest chef-ing…and the kitchen had one…fun, but sorta silly and a space waster for NYC apartments.

Ingredients:

  • Gindo's Spice of Life fresh and spicy pepper sauce

    That’s Hot!

    2 Cans Shoe-Peg or Whole Corn Kernels

  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Garbanzo Beans
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro – Like a hearty handful of leaves
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion
  • Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Honey Habanero Pepper Sauce…You can use the green mild sauce or the original Pepper Sauce but since it’s National Hot and Spicy Food Day…Go for the gusto!

Pay attention – this is tricky…

1. Open the cans of corn kernels and pour into the bottom of a large mixing bowl

2. Open the can (or box, sometimes it’s a box like 365 brand at Whole Foods) of Garbanzo Beans, drain, and pour into the bowl

bean dip recipe vegetarian dips hot an dspicy

This is exhausting!

3. Dice the 1/2 red onion and pour dices in

4. Open the can of black beans, rinse thoroughly, and throw them in the bowl

can opener electric bean dip vegetarian recipe

Who still has an electric can opener???

5. Chop up the cilantro – chop it pretty well…and, yes, if you absolutely hate cilantro, you can use parsley… whatever makes you happy. I don’t judge.

6. Pour 3 TBSP-ish of the salad dressing over the mixture

7. Toss in a few dashes of Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce – this’ll get your guests to go ‘hmmmm…wow!’ as the heat hits their tongues. Don’t be afraid here, the smooth taste of the garbanzo beans and the cool, fresh, sweet avocado will balance out the spicy hot sauce.

vegetarian bean dip hot and spicey

I guess at the amount of the dressing – it’ a pretty design!

8. Mix…just get in there and mix

bean dip vegetaran cold dips

This really is TOUGH

9. Cube up about a whole avocado and gently fold in…This part isn’t shown, because our avocados weren’t ripe enough and we had to do without…But, I recommend including them if you can

This dip is best if allowed to sit, chill for a while – at least 2 hours…The flavors all meld together and add to the deliciousness.

Serve with the dippers – you know the Tostito Scoops corn chips…

I can’t really think of an appropriate time to text anyone that you are ‘in the can’…still can’t figure out why my iPhone wants me to say that. Unless the iPhone thinks that somehow I’m shoe-peg corn or black beans or garbanzo beans. Then, being in the can is totes OK.

Happy National Hot and Spicy Food Day! Enjoy the dip!

Snakes and Maggots Couldn’t Drive Me Away: Roasted Potatoes

A lot more than she bargained for

A lot more than she bargained for

WARNING: THIS POST ISN’T REALLY ABOUT THE RECIPE.

There’s a story today on Yahoo! about some woman who found a snake, yep, snake, in a bag of potatoes she purchased at Walmart.

This got me thinking about the unwanteds I have found in foods over the past 100 years. I had an infestation of small brownish bugs in my kitchen once – by once I mean for about 2 weeks a year for 3 years I would find them creepy crawling up my cabinets or sneaking around in my breadcrumbs…eww. Blamed the flowers a male suitor had sent me. Anyone who has ever dated me since knows never to send me flowers. Take note.

sidney place brooklyn heights potatoes roasted

26 Sidney Place

When I first moved to NYC and my age was my salary – which we all thought was pretty cool at the time – I lived with about 1,000 other kids in an amazing brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. I didn’t really cook, and by ‘really’, I mean not at all. So, many nights I existed on fried rice from the local Chinese place on Montague Street – $4.75 and I could make it last for three meals.

Sure, I dabbled. There were tuna melts, grilled cheese and Raman noodle nights (I could fry stuff and boil water!). But, mostly when I didn’t have any left over fried rice, dinner was cold cereal. That’s right, ‘ready-to-eat’ cereal that we would purchase at the bodega between the Borough Hall Subway Stop and our house.

One night, my roommate/ BFF and I were walking home together – a rarity as she was an I-banker (read, worked late and made a lot more money) and I was in publishing (read, left work between 5 – 6pm and, well, we already discussed my salary). We stopped at the bodega to get some ‘dinner’. Jane, as she prefers to be called these days, selected a lovely box of Raisin Bran. I…it doesn’t matter what I got – the story is about her cereal.

Anyhoo, we trekked home, poured our cereals into bowls and topped with milk. We were hungry – growing girls – and stood together in the kitchen, shoveling it in. At about bite three, Jane started frothing at the mouth…literally spitting the tasty bran and raisins back in to the bowl.

‘What!’ I shrieked ‘Are you doing?’

She slammed the bowl on to the kitchen counter, continued spitting, wiping her tongue with a paper towel and just pointed her shaking finger at the bowl.

So…I looked….Still wish I hadn’t…But, I looked. How could I not? And, there it was…the cereal was….uhmmmm…moving. Yeah….Her cereal was moving. Like totally moving. Like horror movie moving.

I looked more closely and the cereal was alive with maggots. Still makes me shiver. Haven’t eaten raisin bran since…OK, no big sacrifice cuz this blogger hates the raisins. But, still…uhmmmm…ewww.

Roasted Potatoes Recipe food

Uhmmmm…EWWWW

So, after what I went through with the maggots and then with the floral delivery bug invasion…you might think that the Walmart-Snake-in-the-Potatoes story might scare me off of a starchy potato treat. Au contraire…It would take a truck load of maggots to move me off of potatoes.

Here is my go-to simple, crowd-pleasing, snake and maggot-free roasted potato side dish.

Soup Packet Roasted Potatoes (Serves 4-6)

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. Buy tiny potatoes – not just because they’re tiny like your kitchen, but because they cook more quickly, they’re cute and mostly because you don’t have to peel them or do much chopping
  2. When you buy the french onion soup mix – Lipton, of course – take the packets out of the box and store upright in a cabinet – the box takes up too much space.
  3. No…you can’t make these ahead of time. So, stop asking 🙂
  4. Heed the Parchment Paper lining tip – or you will ruin your baking pan

Ingredients

  • lipton soup dinner recipe side dish vegetarian

    Side Dishes Don’t Have To Be Difficult

    Like a pound of small potatoes – new potatoes or purple potatoes are good or if you’re fancy those bags with the three colors of potatoes…maybe not Yukon gold potatoes – they’re too soft.

  • 1/3 Cup of Olive Oil – IG would say ‘really good olive oil’
  • 1 Packet of Dry Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 TSP of Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt

Preheat oven to 425…or 450 doesn’t really matter

(I wish this was more difficult…but, like deciding to eat or not eat maggots…it’s not – I did warn you that this post wasn’t about the dish)

1. Wash the potatoes

roasted new potatoes dinner vegetarian

I might have chopped first and washed second…whatever. It’s all good

2. Quarter or halve the potatoes – you want bite size pieces – so depends on how big the taters you bought are

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the packet of french onion soup, Krazy Mixed Up Salt and Olive Oil

4. Pour the potatoes in to a Ziplock baggie – gallon style. Pour the olive oil mixture over the potatoes in the baggie

french onion soup lipton roasted potatoes recipe

Taters covered in EVOO and soup mix

6. Zip the bag…mix it around – with your hands move the contents –  making sure you cover all of the potatoes

7. Line a rimmed baking dish with parchment paper

8. Pour the potato, french onion soup / olive oil mix on to the lined baking dish making sure the potatoes are in a single layer

Roasted potatoes side french onion soup lipton dinner vegetarian

Single Layer! Very Important!

9. Put in the oven and bake for :45 – :60 minutes tossing a few times during the cooking process. Cooking time depends on how crispy you like ’em.

10. Serve immediately

roasted potatoes lipton soup side dish vegetarian

Piping Hot, Crisped And Ready

I like my potatoes crispy. My favorite late night fry is the one that is actually void of any potato flesh. Truth.

I like potatoes. Is there a support group for that? Even though there was APPARENTLY a smallish snake in one particular package at one particular Walmart – I will continue to eat the potatoes. I might even buy them at Walmart. When it comes to potatoes – even maggots couldn’t drive me away.