Thursday, March 31, 2011

I have a sweet husband...

I had an incredibly rough day. One of the few bright spots was lunch with my mom and finding Shafer's (our 12 week old Golden Cava-doodle) "spot." My sweet husband came home and found me with a glass of wine at 5:05...I did at least wait until 5 to pour the glass. After spending about 2 hours discussing my day, he suggested an evening out, I hesitated for a moment, and then quickly situated the sweet puppies and we headed out the door to one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Nicola's. As it was a lovely evening, we decided to walk and enjoyed the setting sun and brisk spring air. Nicola's (on Preston in Dallas) is one of those unique restaurants in which you walk in off the street, with all of the problems of the world upon your shoulders, but as soon as you enter the doors and are greeted by the hostess, I honestly feel as though I am a million miles away in some swanky hotel. We were seated at the same small table in which we have sat many times before, with our same kind and warm Italian waiter. He actually is from Florence, and we had a wonderful discussion on Italian art this evening, really, in the middle of Dallas with our wonderful and thoughtful waiter. We started with our favorite dish, Focaccia Siciliana, a deliciously light and fresh dish to share and chat over with large glasses of chilled wine. A fresh flatbread is covered with tomato, pine nuts, sun-dried tomato, basil and olive oil. This combination is perfectly cooked in a wood fired oven, leading to a crispy and warm combination of textures and flavors. There is just something so special about sharing a meal and a bottle of wine with someone that allows you to share more than just food, but also thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams.

Anyways, I am going to a birthday party tomorrow evening, and I am planning on recreating this delicious appetizer...stay tuned for the results! In the mean is a picture of the real thing. I highly recommend this intimate and unique dining experience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Barbeque Meatloaf

For my first recipe, I decided to start at the very beginning of my journey with food: the first meal I learned to make. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans is my ultimate comfort food meal. It's a recipe my mother taught me as I stood next to her in our family's kitchen; I'm sure someday it'll be the first meal I teach my own daughter. 

My family has always made meatloaf in small miniature loaves rather than one large loaf so that each person gets their own. This method has led to my husband lovingly nicknaming this dish "Staci's Marvelous Meat Mounds." While I've never attempted to make this recipe into the traditional loaf, I'm sure it can be done. Feel free to do so if the thought of meatloaf in any other way is too much for you to handle.

1 lb ground turkey, or ground beef
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
2 T dark brown sugar
1 t worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. In a large bowl combine the first 6 ingredients and one of the cans of tomato sauce.
3. Using your hands, mix the meat mixture until all aspects are incorporated evenly
4. Form the mixture into 6 miniature loaves and place on a greased baking sheet
5. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
6. While the loaves are in the oven, combine the remaining three ingredients in a small bowl to make the sauce. 
7. Remove loaves from oven and top with tomato sauce and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

8. Remove from oven and serve with your favorite sides. I recommend mashed potatoes and green beans, but that's just me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Honey White Bread

So, I do not know of anything that makes me think of a warm and safe home more than homemade bread. Comforting, delicious and essential to life, bread is really my favorite food. I decided to start with a recipe I have worked on for quite some time in an effort to balance the texture and taste. My sweet husband has tried many failures, but it seems I have finally hit upon the perfect ratio that produces a consistently yummy and versatile loaf. Tonight I had two helpers, our 4 1/2 year old Beagle Cort and Shafer, our brand new 12 week Golden-Cava-Doodle. Certainly makes cooking more fun to hear the little pitter pats of puppies eager for you to drop something! I hope you enjoy not only the bread itself, but also the warm smells and therapeutic process of kneading and baking bread.

This bread produces a loaf with a delicately soft interior balanced by a slightly toasted crust. The use of honey rather than sugar leads to a slightly denser loaf with a hint of sweetness, and the added benefit of supporting local honey makers!


1 packet of highly active yeast
3/4 cup of warm water
3/4 cup of warm skim milk
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons of local honey
2 teaspoons of salt
4 cups of all purpose flour (or bread flour) plus extra for kneading

1. Attach the dough hook to your standing mixer.

2. Empty the contents of one highly active yeast packet into the mixing bowl.

3. Add 3/4 cup of warm water to the yeast. I usually just use my kitchen faucet and let it run until it is almost hot. If you add scalding water to your yeast, you might kill it before you even start!

4. Add 3/4 cup of warm milk to the water and yeast mixture. I heat my milk in the microwave for about 35 seconds. Again, you do not want the milk to be too hot or you will kill the yeast. You just do not want the milk to cool down the water and yeast, so just barely warm will be just fine. I use skim milk as that is what we have at our house, but I am sure that other types would work.

5. Add 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

6. Add 4 Tablespoons of honey. I use local honey as I think it is nice to support our local honey makers and bees! Also, local honey is supposed to help lessen your allergies, I am not sure if I believe this, but I will try anything to get through Texas springtime.

7. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.

8. Stir this mixture together.
9. Add 4 cups of flour one at a time, mixing between each addition. The dough will form into a ball on the dough hook.

10. Once the dough has formed into a ball it will still be slightly tacky, dust the dough and your fingers with flour and remove the dough from the dough hook and put the dough on a floured work surface.

11. Kneed the dough for about 5 to 8 minutes, incorporating flour as needed so that the dough is not sticking to your hands or the surface.

12. Once the dough has attained a nice elasticity and is no longer sticky, form the dough into a ball and lightly dust it with flour.

13. Very lightly oil a ceramic bowl and place the dough in this bowl.

14. Cover the bowl with a light weight cloth and place in a warm spot. I generally use my oven, and in the middle of winter I will turn the oven to the lowest temperature for a few minutes and then turn it off before placing the dough in the oven to rise.
15. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes, it should double in size.

16. After the first rise, take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down and form it into the loaf pan shape. No need to knead after the first rise.

17. Place the dough into your greased bread pan and cover with a light weight cloth.

18. Let the dough rise for about an hour, it should double in size.

19. Place the dough into a 375 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.
20. Remove the bread from the oven. It should have a nice brown crust and when you tap the bread with your finger it should sound hollow.

I am currently enjoying my freshly baked bread and an ice cold glass of milk as a little midnight snack before bed. I feel like I am five and all will be perfect with the world when I awaken. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome To A Thyme To Eat

Welcome to A Thyme to Eat! In the coming days, weeks and months, you'll join the Two S's, Staci and Suzie, as we explore our passions: food, life, love, wine ... and food. Whether it's Suzie's love of bread,  Staci's passion for Italia, or destination recipes unknown, we look forward to journeying to the end of the culinary universe and back in search of some of the tastiest, healthiest and easiest meals that aspiring amateurs can make. So, join us as we forge ahead in our new adventure!