In winter when the days get shorter, colder, and gloomier, not only do I hunker down with hot tea, a good book, and my knitting needles, I also crave certain foods like starchy soups, stews, and heavy pasta dishes. The best thing to serve with these dishes are a warm piece of crusty bread. I always thought baking bread was a long and involved endeavor. That was until Pinterest arrived. Then I found out you can make yummy, fresh-baked bread with very little time and effort. It does take some planning ahead since you have to wait for the for the dough to rise, but other than that, it’s super easy.
On one of my first attempts, I tried making a loaf in the crock-pot following this recipe. I like my crock-pot. It gives the illusion of making things easier, and it doesn’t tie up my oven so I can use it for other things.
I don’t know if I did something wrong, but mine did not turn out very yummy. It looked, and kind of tasted, like plastic. I stubbornly ate it because I made it and didn’t want to admit defeat. However, I conceded after choking down the first slice and eventually tossed the doomed loaf to the birds. I might try it again, but after using a similar recipe in the oven successfully, I don’t see why I need to try out the crock pot again. Unless of course, I need my oven for other things.
The recipe I’ve been using is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. It’s turns out perfect every time. One thing I do that she doesn’t mention in her recipe is to dust the baking stone with cornmeal so it doesn’t stick. I’ve been making a batch of bread dough on Sunday, then bake it as I need it throughout the week. One batch makes about 2-3 loaves and keeps in the fridge for 5 days.
The recipe works well with whole-grain flours too. I usually use half whole-grain flour and half regular flour. I think the whole-grain tastes better myself, but my son would disagree with me.
And it goes perfectly with my Veggie Orzo Soup. For that you’ll need:
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 white onion
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced (I really like garlic)
- 1 32 oz. can of stewed tomatoes – fresh work too if you have them
- about 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1 can of plain, NON-marinated, artichoke hearts, drained
- herbs d’provence
- olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup orzo
- Heat up about 2 TBSP of olive oil in a heavy stock pot. Cook the onions, peppers, carrots, and celery until they are soft.
- Add the garlic and herbs d’Provence and cook until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. When it gets bubbly, cover, turn the heat down, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Next, add the orzo and artichokes and cook for about 10 more minutes. If the soup is too think, you can add more stock or water.
- Right before you serve, squeeze the lemon juice in and give it a quick stir.
You can really add any of your favorite veggies to this – zucchini, leeks, potatoes, kale, etc. If you like a meatier soup, sausage works well in this too. I’ve also added garbanzo or cannellini beans when I want a heartier soup without the meat – 1 15 oz. can of beans is a good amount for a pot of soup. If you use beans in the recipe, I would reduce the amount of pasta by half.
Next I want to try my hand at homemade pita bread. I’ve found a few recipes to try out. I’ll let you know how it goes.
On the running side of things, I only managed to get outside to run twice last week for a measly total of 5.22 miles. The weather has not been on my side, which is fine for this time of year I guess. However, I am ready for it to warm up and defrost. I’m beginning to wake from my hibernation phase. I’m done reading about running. I’m ready to actually run.