I'm not sure if each week gets easier or harder. I think harder because I want to stay creative and try new things, yet I also have to remember not to be too crazy. That brings me to a story about my first attempt at cooking for our family a few years ago, when my husband and I just moved in together. I thought I would try to experiment with cooking (this has happened a few times during our time together and I have to say that this time has probably been my longest and most successful attempt). My husband still jokes about (and reminds me not to try something like this again) my "Hidden Zucchini Pasta." It was actually really good, but definitely not a dish for my husband. I'll never forget the look on his face when I brought it out and he said, "where is the pasta sauce" and then "what makes you think I would want something that has hidden zucchini in the name." Yes, he can be rather dramatic, and Henry already appears to take after his daddy. I'm in trouble.
This week I only made two meals because we had to take Max to the vet to get his nails trimmed and we attended a church session meeting at which we joined a local church so that Henry and Derek can get baptized in October. Henry also turned four months old this week. Can't believe my baby boy is so big!
Meal: Mock "Del Taco" Tacos and Fries
- 2 cans vegetarian refried beans
- Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Lettuce, chopped
- Small flour tortillas
- Frozen french fries
- Bake fries according to package directions.
- Heat beans on medium high heat on stovetop.
- Dampen a paper towel and wrap around tortillas (up to 5 at a time).
- Place paper towel with tortillas on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 30 seconds. Keep wrapped until ready to use.
- Assemble tacos and serve with fries.
Notes: Before my husband, I never ate fast food, but, with his help, I actually found an affinity for many foods I would have never eaten if not for him. Del Taco is one of those food places. We miss it now that we are in Alabama so I decided to make a mock Del Taco meal of tacos and fries (that may sound strange to those of you who have never been to Del Taco, but I assure you, it's a delicious combination, try it!)
The last picture above is of my lunch the next day. I used the leftover beans to make some different tacos with feta cheese (Yum!).
I find the fastest and easiest way to heat tortillas for soft tacos is to wrap up to five of them in a damp paper towel, place them on a microwave safe plate, and microwave them for 30 seconds. They will be warm, soft, and fresh tasting this way.
Verdict: Derek is already asking for this meal again!
Meal: Pesto Tortellini with Homemade Ciabatta Bread and Summer Fruit Salad
- For the tortellini...
- Package of cheese tortellini
- Jar of pesto sauce
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Mix with pesto sauce and serve warm.
- For the ciabatta bread...
- 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast*
- 2 tablespoons warm water*
- 1/3 cup room temperature water*
- 1 cup bread flour*
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons warm milk
- 2/3 cup room temperature water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- *these ingredients will make the sponge
- Make the sponge by stirring together 2 tablespoons warm water and 1/8 teaspoon yeast.
- Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Pour yeast mixture in another bowl and combine with 1/3 cup room temperature water and 1 cup bread flour.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at cool room temperature for 12-24 hours.
- Stir together 1/2 teaspoon yeast and 2 tablespoons warm milk.
- Let sit for 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine milk mixture, sponge, 2/3 cup room temperature water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 2 cups bread flour with a dough hook on low speed until flour is moistened.
- Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
- Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and beat for 4 minutes.
- Place dough ball in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Let rest for 1 1/2 hours.
- Line your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper cut in half.
- Flour the parchment paper.
- Cut the dough in half and form two 9 inch long rounded rectangles and place on on each sheet of parchment paper.
- Dip your floured fingertips into the dough to create dimples and then dust the tops of the loaves with flour.
- Cover with a dampened towel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- At least 45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 425 degrees with a pizza stone on the lowest rack.
- Transfer one loaf with the parchment paper onto the pizza stone and back for 12-20 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Remove to a cooking rack and repeat with second loaf.
- For the salad...
- Chopped romaine lettuce
- Canned pineapple chunks
- Canned mandrin oranges
- Fresh blueberries
- Fresh strawberries, sliced
- Pecans, toasted
- Salad dressing of choice
- Combine all ingredients, toss salad, and serve.
Notes: For the salad this time, I didn't add the dressing so that my husband and I could use different dressings. My husband used the poppyseed dressing again, and I put apple cider vinegar on top of mine. It was delicious. I liked how light and fresh it tasted. I also toasted the pecans in the oven by putting them on a lined baking sheet and placing them in the oven while it was cooling down after I made the bread.
This was my first time making bread with a sponge. It was delicious as well--very soft and fluffy. As you can see by the pictures, I cooked the first loaf longer than the second one. Also, I may or may not have eaten the whole second loaf as part of a sandwich for lunch the next day.
Verdict: Another meal my husband gave two thumbs up to and is asking for again already.