chicken enchilada casserole

I have an unabashed love for Mexican food. But who doesn’t?

For the hubs and I, we get our Mexican fix from several different local joints around town – we have a place for excellent margaritas and good food, a place for good margaritas and amazing food, and a place for amazing margaritas and amazing fish tacos. Depending on our hunger {or thirst} cues, one of said places often makes the cut.

But what does one do when you’re craving enchilada casserole?

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I can’t remember what struck that particular chord in me not long ago, but I had such an intense craving for an enchilada-style casserole that I just could not shake it. So imagine my surprise when this recipe found its way, seemingly right into my hands, not long ago! I immediately bookmarked it and knew that it would make a dinner appearance as soon as I could make it happen.

Luckily, a week-long deluge of rain {followed by an equally rainy weekend} presented the perfect opportunity. A wet Sunday afternoon set the tone for dinner, and yes…it was time for me to make this. I rolled up my sleeves and set to work, happily bumping around my tiny kitchen, working away and rolling tortillas up with delicious filling.

The beauty of this dish is multifold…it requires few pieces of equipment, utilizes ingredients most of us have on hand, comes together in no time, and can be made to fit anyone’s taste buds. I stuck pretty closely to the original recipe, but as I sit here typing, my mind wanders to the idea of using shredded pork instead of chicken, crumbled queso fresco instead of shredded Mexican blend cheese, mixing pico de gallo in with the enchilada sauce, incorporating other vegetables into the topping…you see where I’m going with this.

It’s dishes like this that keep me coming back for more, both seconds at dinnertime and into my repertoire of favorite recipes. Enjoy! And do share any variations you might come up with when you prepare it – I’d love to hear from you!

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from The Kitchn}

Easy enough to throw together even on the busiest of nights, this chicken enchilada casserole will leave you feeling satisfied and happy! Can be customized to fit any taste buds, or particular diet {sugar-, dairy-, gluten-free, etc.}. Leftovers freeze beautifully, or can be prepared and frozen in advance.

Ingredients:

1 {15-ounce can} red enchilada sauce *whatever brand you prefer is fine!

10-15 corn tortillas, set out to room temperature

1 lb. cooked shredded chicken* {can be from a rotisserie chicken; 2-3 cooked chicken breasts; or pressure-cooker chicken}

1 {4-ounce can} diced green chiles

1 to 1-1/2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

1 medium red pepper, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced into strips

optional toppings: sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, pico de gallo, salsa, sliced avocado, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

*I prefer to toss the chicken with a bit of seasonings, done to taste – here, I used: salt and pepper, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin. Feel free to do so according to your preference! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Ladle enough of the enchilada sauce into the dish to barely cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce – about 1/4 cup or so. Set dish aside, but within reaching distance.

On a covered work surface, begin assembling the enchiladas. Lay one tortilla out, and spread down the center {no more than 2-3 Tbsp.} the shredded chicken. Top with a small scoop of the diced green chili. Gently roll the enchilada up and place it seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling mixtures, until you cannot fit any more into the dish.

One the casserole dish is full, sprinkle on the sliced onion and red pepper. Cover completely with remaining enchilada sauce, ensuring that all the surface area is covered. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Portion out and assemble with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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autumn oatmeal cookie bars

Another squash recipe, but this time – a sweet version!

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I don’t know if it’s the cooler nights, seasonal flavors, or the fact that it’s no longer “swimsuit season” {LOL} but this time of year I start craving desserts. There’s something so special about sitting down at the end of the day, dinner cleaned up and dishes put away, and enjoying the perfectly sweet bite of dessert. For some people – ice cream {year round!}, others – cookies and cakes. I am not going to say no to any of those options, but boy…do I love me a good cookie.

This particular recipe was inspired by…as mentioned above…squash. I LOVE pumpkin, y’all! It’s a great ingredient to work with; packed with vitamins and minerals, full of flavor, and it serves as a great way to scale back on some of the typically not-so-good items that go into cookies. Paired with tangy Greek yogurt, the resulting cookie is perfectly moist and chewy, and loaded up with spices. A combination of rolled oats and all-purpose flour lends a hint of nutty flavor, which is beautiful with the pumpkin and brown sugar. The little nuggets of chocolate chips and raisins don’t hurt, either ; )

Once you bake up a batch of these, don’t expect them to last long. BUT! If you want to, portion of a section of the pan to freeze; your weeknight self craving something sweet, but not overly indulgent, will be glad you did.

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Autumn Oatmeal Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Averie Cooks}

Traditional chocolate chip cookie meets pillowy pumpkin cookies. They taste every bit delicious as they look: perfectly fluffy, with crispy edges and bursting full of flavor and goodies. Ideal for any autumn get-together; I promise, they won’t last long. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed {light or dark is fine}

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree {not pumpkin pie filling!}

1 Tbsp. molasses

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

pinch salt

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour {I used a combination of 2 cups AP flour and 1-1/4 cups oats, just for extra texture and flavor}

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2-1 cup assorted dried fruits…cherries, apricots, cranberries, raisins, etc. *nuts of your choice can also be used

*optional: for a sweeter cookie, add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar 

**optional topping: 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, mixed together

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine plain Greek yogurt, brown sugar {optional granulated sugar to be added here, if using}, and beat on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes to cream ingredients together; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the egg and vanilla, and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add in the pumpkin, molasses, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, pinch of salt, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add in the flour {or combination of flour and oats} and baking soda, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips {and any add-ins you might like} by hand. Cover the mixing bowl and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes {I only chilled for about 30 minutes because of time constraint}. Dough can be chilled for up to 4 days.

Prepare your 9″ x 13″ baking dish by coating liberally with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the batter into the dish, making sure to spread it out evenly and ensuring that all corners are filled. Top with optional cinnamon/sugar mixture, and bake for 20-25 minutes {edges will be golden and set, and the top will have just set; they will continue to firm up as they cool}. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three months.

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chicken and mushroom gravy: crockpot edition

Time to dust off the crockpot, y’all. It’s the most wonderful time of year!

…crockpot season, that is! While this beloved appliance of mine makes celebrity appearances during the summer {for dishes such as this and this}, it truly shines during the cooler months. There’s something so special about a slow cooked meal, and walking into your home at the end of a dreary day, greeted by aromas wafting from the kitchen. It is instantly soothing, like a hug or a pat on the back with someone saying – “don’t worry, dinner is on me tonight”.

Except we prepared ahead! This dish couldn’t be easier. For awhile now, I’ve been craving a mushroom gravy. I didn’t know with what, though; I spent a few nights last week brainstorming dinner ideas, and when I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew it would be perfect. I tweaked it a bit to fit the current state of our refrigerator, and voila! A perfect chicken dinner, prepared in no time.

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I spent the day at work {and the hubs too, I’m sure!} dreaming about this dish. Like I mentioned, I love the anticipation of the end of the day, knowing that dinner is doing work on itself. And y’all, it was amazing. From the moment I walked in until we sat down for our meal, there was nothing but smiles. The chicken is perfectly tender; the gravy is rich and flavorful. And piled high on top of your favorite starch, it’s a match made in chicken heaven.

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Enjoy!

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Chicken & Mushroom Gravy: crockpot edition {recipe adapted from food.com}

Wonderfully comforting and delicious, this dish is the ideal fall meal. With minimal prep time, it can be thrown together minutes before walking out the door for work; you and your family will be rewarded with the glorious aroma of roasted chicken and gravy after a long day! 

Ingredients:

3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken breast

8 ounces plain Greek yogurt

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. rosemary

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

1 large onion, thinly sliced

8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms {I used shiitake}

2 Tbsp. cornstarch + 1/2 cup boiling water, combined {to be used at the final 15 minutes of the dish}

1 Tbsp. butter

To Prepare:

After removing the skin, generously season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place into the crockpot, and top with the sliced mushrooms and onions.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, 2 cups of the chicken stock, and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and vegetables.

Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or until chicken is done and falling off the bone. At 15-20 minutes before serving, uncover the crockpot and shred the chicken and stirring well with the gravy mixture. Remove any bones you see! Pour in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock, and add in the slurry {cornstarch and hot water}, making sure to combine thoroughly. Lastly, stir in the butter.

Serve over rice, egg noodles, or my favorite – – – smashed cauliflower.

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Enjoy!

philly mac n’ cheese

From a culinary standpoint, birthday celebrations are a big deal in our house. I look forward to them every year {more so the hub’s birthday than my own} because not only are they are good reason to pull out a good bottle of wine, but because we tend to go over the top in terms of dinner.

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We celebrated the hub’s birthday not long ago, and we spent quite some time trying to figure out what kind of meal to prepare. Every year, I let him decide on exactly what it is he wants. No limits, no rules – his dinner wish {and dessert!} is my command. It’s pretty much a win-win for both of us; he gets a meal of his own creation, and I get to have fun whipping it up in the kitchen!

When he settled on the more traditional mac n’ cheese, I asked him to come up with some sort of twist on it, sort of a way to spice it up a bit. We bounced ideas back and forth…flavor combinations, dishes that he likes, we we somehow steered the conversation to sandwiches.

“What about a philly?”  I asked him. His eyes lit up, and I knew we had found the dish of the year. The end result? – a combination of a few staple dishes in my repertoire, with some funky additions that make it perfect for him. It’s an indulgent dish, and you bet that we will be bringing this out again once the cooler autumn months come around.

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Enjoy!

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Philly Mac n’ Cheese {recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Definitely one of the more creative birthday dishes we’ve dreamed up over the past few years, this mac n’ cheese hits all the notes of a classic cheese steak sandwich: perfectly loaded with cheese, traditional vegetable add-ons, and of course…oh-so indulgent. 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. dried pasta, such as cavatappi

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup freshly shredded champagne cheddar cheese {if not available, feel free to swap out with extra sharp cheddar}

1 package frozen spinach {cooked, drained, and cooled}

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms

2 cups chicken {cooked, cooled, and shredded}

1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup Panko {Japanese bread crumbs}

olive oil, for sauteeing the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet, cook the mushrooms with a splash of olive oil until lightly sauteed, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and melt he butter. Add the cornstarch and cook, stirring well, until the cornstarch is thoroughly incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and an generous pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking frequently to smooth out any lumps, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add a pinch of pepper and stir to incorporate. Slowly add in both the Gruyere and champagne cheddar cheese, making to sure combine thoroughly.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir well. Next, fold in the spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan and Panko. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of roasted vegetables {we opted for asparagus!}.

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Vegas.com – A Challenge!

Awhile back, y’all might remember that my friends over at vegas.com provided me with an opportunity…a “challenge” if you will. I was asked to pick a dish from one of the famous Las Vegas hotels, and put my own unique twist on it. In typical Alicia fashion, I dove in head first, excited to stretch my culinary legs and see what I could come up with!

for those of you who might want to peak back, here’s my dish!

So I couldn’t be more excited to announce today that I was offered the opportunity to do it again! This time, we had a different list of restaurants to choose from. Immediately, a ‘roast chicken’ dish caught my eye. Something so simple, but offers endless possibilities. My brain started working and, after a few days of rolling ideas around, I finally got the light bulb – shepherd’s pie!

Now, before I go any further; this was no ordinary roast chicken dish. We’re talking gorgeous sauces, fine mushrooms, season vegetables. The whole nine yards. I mean, it’s Vegas after all! So I thought it would be a lot of fun to make the ingredients from the Vegas dish mimic the appearance of an actual shepherd’s pie. Fun, right?

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Perfectly seasoned ground chicken replaces the traditional beef.

Diced asparagus looks a lot like peas!

Mushrooms and onions add an earthy note to the dish, which pairs oh-so-nicely with the white wine that we’re incorporating into the base of the dish.

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And of course, no shepherd’s pie is complete without a generous spread of mashed potatoes..but I went rogue and used my smashed cauliflower! Delicious.

This is one dish you’ll want to recreate over and over, I promise. After the first bite, the hubs proclaimed it “one of the best casseroles he’s ever had.” The proof is in the pudding…er, casserole.

Here we go!

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Vegas-Style Shepherd’s Pie

Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided on making some fun modifications to one of Vegas’ most famous restaurants; I took their classic roast chicken recipe and made it my own! 

Ingredients:

smashed cauliflower {here’s my go-to recipe…so quick and simple!}

1 lb. ground chicken {I used extra lean, because it was what I had on hand}

1 large onion, finely diced

1 box of baby portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 lb. asparagus, washed and sliced into medallions

1/4 cup white wine {you can use chicken stock, for an alcohol-free version}

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil for coating the pan

1/2 – 1 cup of cheese {your preference; this will be used for the topping}

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside for later.

Add a drizzle of olive oil into the bottom of a large nonstick saute pan. Bring up to medium heat; once the olive oil is sizzling, and in the ground chicken. Use a wooden spoon to break into pieces, and cook until done. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Without cleaning the pan, add in the diced onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the white wine and bring the heat up to high {this will help cook off the alcohol, as well as reduce the liquid}. Add in the asparagus, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add in the mushrooms and cook only until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Prepare the casserole: place the cooked chicken into the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Next, top with the onion/asparagus/mushroom mixture. Evenly dollop the smashed cauliflower on top, making sure to seal in the edges. Lastly, top with the desired amount and type of cheese.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is beginning to brown slightly. For additional crunch, turn the broiler on and let it go an additional 1-2 minutes.

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Enjoy!

The Wynn, Las Vegas

I love a good challenge, and a few weeks ago when my friends over at Vegas.com contacted me with just that opportunity, I knew I had to take them up on it!

More recently, the Wynn resort has paired up with renowned vegan chef Tal Ronnen to create dishes catered towards those who have chosen to adopt a vegan-or-vegetarian-based lifestyle. So what does this have to do with little ol’ me, you might ask? I got to pick a dish, any dish on their menu {the vegan/vegetarian menu is available all throughout the Wynn} and put my own twist on it. How fun is that, y’all!?

After hungrily perusing their menu and website, I knew I was going to stick with the one that jumped out at me right off the bat – the ‘Mushroom Risotto’, an offering at the Lake Side restaurant. Rustic and simple, but full of rich and earthy flavors, I knew that it was something I would want to recreate.

Now, all of you already know that risotto, while insanely delicious and enjoyable, is not exactly a “weeknight” friendly dish. While therapeutic and comforting to prepare, it requires a good amount of time and careful watching during the preparation; you can go from perfectly done to overcooked in the blink of an eye. So as I was thinking about how I wanted to change this up, my mind wandered over to the concept of…dumplings! Brilliant!

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By keeping the structure of the sauce {caramelized onions and fresh herbs, lots AND lots of mushrooms} the dish stays true to its roots, but is made a bit simpler for weeknight enjoyment. It takes only a few minutes to assemble, and only requires one dish for cooking! For my dishwashing hubby, that is the ultimate dream.

I also developed a bit more flavor in the base of the stew by caramelizing the onions with a splash of white wine – the bright notes {I used a chardonnay} make the dish lean a bit more towards spring flavors; it also helps you scrape up those wonderful bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan. The dumplings get an herbal punch with fresh thyme and sage, and nutritional yeast pumps it up with a subtle cheesy flavor and a bit of added protein.

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Be sure to check out @Vegas to see what other bloggers have come up with! Enjoy, and happy cooking!

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Mushroom Stew & Herb Dumplings 

You can’t mess with a classic like this dish. Perfectly wonderful served piping hot, right off the stove top. I’ve noted where options can go from vegetarian to vegan; feel free to adapt as you like! 

Ingredients:

5 to 6 cups vegetable stock {amount will vary on how thick the stew becomes when cooking the dumplings}

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cups assorted seasonal mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

Herb Dumpling Ingredients:

2 cups flour {I used gluten-free}

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter {for a vegan option, a buttery spread can be substituted}

1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk {for a vegan option, a nut milk of choice can be used}

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh sage

pepper, to taste

Stew Directions:

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Once hot, add in the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until golden brown in color, about 10 minutes. Add in the wine, scraping the bottom to loosen up any bits. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and darkened in color, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock; raise the heat and bring to a boil.

Prepare the dumplings while waiting for the stock mixture to boil – in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, baking soda, fresh thyme, fresh sage, and salt. Whisk to combine and then add in the butter, buttermilk and pepper.

Once the stock mixture is boiling, drop the dumpling dough in using two large spoons {like making drop cookies}. Boil until the dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Ladle into large soup bowls and enjoy!

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fresh italian loaves

Homemade bread absolutely delights me. There’s something so special about the act of rolling out dough, letting it rise, and watching it bake and become beautiful in your oven. The aroma isn’t so bad, either.

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Perhaps it also means so much to me because growing up, my mom was constantly making homemade bread. As I’ve mentioned before, we grew up with a bread maker in our kitchen, one that saw so much action, I think that we went through two or three {at least} before I up and went to college.

It was one of my first “big” purchases as an adult, for my very own kitchen. I wanted to carry on that tradition that my mom started – homemade doughs and rolls, fresh loaves so tall you have to slightly tear off the top from the machine. It definitely holds a special place in my heart, and one I can’t wait to share with my children someday. For now, the hubs and I delight in constant bread rotation.

The recipe today is one that is practically a staple in our kitchen; if there’s not one in the bread box, there’s a loaf in the freezer, yearning to be thawed and toasted for the next meal. These Italian loaves are so, so simple; a few simple ingredients come together to form a bread that is so light and airy on the inside, but perfectly golden and crisp on the outside, it’s impossible to resist…especially out of the oven. We especially love it served warm, with some herbed olive oil on the side for dipping. It makes wonderful sandwiches; can be transformed into croutons for breakfast casseroles and bread puddings or, if you’re like us…you dig right in when it’s hot out of the oven.

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Fresh Italian Loaves {yields two large loaves}

Perfectly simple to prepare; all ingredients process together in the bread machine. A simple roll and rise is all it takes for fresh bread to be produced from your oven in no time! I’ll note here that you can also find great success using half whole wheat flour; the results will be nuttier and a bit heartier, perfect for pairing with rich soups and stews.

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp. honey

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

3-1/2 cups bread flour

2-1/2 tsp. yeast

1 heaping tbsp. vital wheat gluten, optional

To Prepare:

Add the ingredients into your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The dough cycle on mine lasts about an hour and fifty minutes, with the option to add additional time if I’m going to be running in and out of the house, doing errands, etc. Don’t feel the need to check on the dough as it processes! – the heat will be lost and you run the chance of compromising the integrity of the dough.

As the cycle comes to a close, prepare your baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal. This results in a crisp bottom; feel free to use as much {or as little} as you’d like.

Once the dough is ready, turn out onto a floured rolling surface. Divide into two discs; place on aside. Begin with the first disc by rolling out into a rectangle, roughly 12″-14″ wide x 8″-10″deep. Starting at the long edge closest to you, “jelly roll” the rectangle; that is, roll it on top of itself {it will be like making a cinnamon roll}. Seal the edges and seam by pinching tightly with your fingers. Place directly onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the other disc.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 50 minutes in a warm location.

About 20 minutes before the rising stage is complete, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once the rising stage is complete, slash the top of each loaf 5 or 6 times with a sharp knife, and brush lightly with cold water. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, keeping a close watch. The bread should should hollow when tapped, and be a beautiful golden brown.

Serve with any of your favorite spreads – I love using my compound butter!

bread will keep fresh on the counter, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days. Freeze any remaining by wrapping in foil.