Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

I was in dire need of some good whole wheat bread yesterday – and the grocery store bakery just wasn’t delivering on all my cravings. I wanted rich and nutty aromas, a bread chock full of nutrients, and deliciously guilt-free. So to the kitchen I went, to concoct the bread my mouth was watering for.

Whole Wheat & Seed BreadYes, this is healthy bread that’s full of bird seed  flax and sesame seeds. But it’s also good bread. It can side a bowl of soup, goes great with butter and honey, or can be the ideal ends (and middle…) to a fantastic Club Sandwich. Something a little like this :club Sandwich

Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

  • 1 1/2 C. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 C. rolled oats
  • 1/4 C. flax seeds
  • 1/4 C. sunflower seeds (roasted)
  • 1/4 C. sliced almonds
  • 2 – 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast and honey. Allow to proof for 5 minutes. Add in salt, oats, flax, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Mix on low with the dough hook for 1 minute. Add in 2 cups of flour and stir on low until combined (scrape down sides of the bowl as needed). If needed, add in more flour 1/4 cup at a time. Dough will be tacky, but should form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Pour in oil while mixer is running. With the mixer on medium-low, knead for 7 to 10 minutes.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough, lightly knead in the bowl for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough into an oiled loaf pan, and  allow to rise until dough crowns over pan by 1 inch (about 1 hour).

Bake bread at 375F for 30 – 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing from pan.

Club Sandwich

Layer, from bottom to top :

  • Toasted bread
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices deli meat (rotisserie-style chicken)
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Tomato, thick sliced
  • Toasted bread with mayonnaise
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 egg, over easy
  • Toasted bread with whole grain mustard
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Mmmeatballs

There are two things that I always regret ordering at a restaurant – meatballs and fresh pasta. Not to brag, but I make a damn good meatball, and my fresh pasta is fantastic (ok, I totally just bragged…). So I can’t justify paying someone else to serve me a dry, flavorless meatball or gummy, wrongly cooked fresh pasta – I’m almost always disappointed. And it makes me want to go home and make my own!

Browning Meatballs

Unlike most meatball recipes, mine does not call for bread crumbs. I know the rational behind adding bread crumbs (or even bread) is to prevent the meatballs from drying out – but dry meatballs are not a problem that I encounter. I think it is because of my preferred cooking method – pan seared then braised in tomato sauce. The browning ensures a good texture, flavor, and stability (ie, your meat stays in a ball) and the slow braise keeps the meat tender and juicy.

Meatball Ingredients

Let’s talk about meat! I like a 50/50 mix of lean ground beef and Italian sausage (I used hot chicken today, but sometimes use pork sausage). The fat ratio is good (not too fatty, but enough to hold your balls together and retain juiciness) and you are giving yourself a head start on the seasonings with the sausage. Ground veal is another popular option for meatballs, but it is not my preference. The price is too high, and the positive impact it makes on the meatball is too low to justify paying the price – or killing a baby cow for that matter. Now bring on a tender veal chop, and I’ll overlook the baby butchering…

Meatball Mix

Take off your rings, trim your fingernails, and get ready to be wrist deep in meat – because the best way to mix your meatballs is by hand. Similar to making hamburgers, you want all of your flavors evenly distributed. You also don’t want to over work the meat. Hands are the perfect tool for ensuring both. I start by mixing my seasoning, cheese, cream and egg (do this with a fork or a whisk). Then add in the meat and get to work. Once you are happy with the meat mixture, start to form the balls.

You may be wondering does size really matter? No, not really (not with meatballs anyways…). I like about 1 inch round balls, but feel free to go big (or small, if that’s how you roll). Just keep in mind that with larger meatballs, they will need a longer time braising in the sauce. If you are planning on letting your sauce simmer all day (which isn’t a requirement, but it is a good idea!) then this isn’t a problem.

Browning Meatballs2

Before you start cooking the meatballs, make your sauce. After they are browned, you’ll want to transfer them into the simmering sauce. If you have a go-to tomato sauce recipe, then use it. If you need a new favorite, use mine (recipe below)! But God forbid, do not dump a jar of Ragu in a pot. These meatballs deserve the best, and the best is homemade.

The ideal pan for browning the meatballs is a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, go buy one use a nonstick skillet. Heat the pan over medium heat and add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Take your time with the browning and don’t crowd the pan. It will take a few minutes per side to get a nice caramelized crust. If you go to check or turn your meatballs and they stick, wait a minute or two longer – once they are good and browned they will come right off. Move the browned meatballs over to the sauce, and give it a stir to make sure they are completely submerged.

Deglaze

Once all of your meatballs are browned and transferred to the sauce, you may notice some little bits of seasoned meat stuck to your pan. We don’t want to lose those – that is some good flavor right there! Turn the heat off and pour a little chicken stock (or water. Or red wine….no judgment here) in the pan to deglaze. With your wooden spoon, scrape up all the stuck on bits. Now pour it into your sauce with the meatballs. Give it a good stir, and leave it to simmer for the next couple of hours.

Meatballs

I like my meatballs served over a nest of fresh pasta and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Sorry, I don’t have a tutorial on making fresh pasta yet. I’ll need to grow a third arm or entrust The Man with the photography duties before I can feature a post about it. I’ll work on both…. But in the meantime, use the pasta that you prefer.

Meatballs

  • 1 Lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 Lb. Italian sausage (hot chicken)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. Italian parsley, minced
  • 1 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cream (can use 2% or whole milk instead)
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock

Whisk together egg, cheese, parsley, garlic, herbs, cream, pepper, salt and Tabasco. Add in meats and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Form into balls (about 1″ round) and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium. Brown meatballs on all sides. Do not over crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Once browned, transfer meatballs to simmering tomato sauce. Stir to cover.

After all meatballs are browned and transferred to sauce, pour chicken stock into skillet. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any meat that is crusted onto the pan. Pour chicken stock into tomato sauce and stir through.

Allow meatballs to simmer in sauce, uncovered on low heat for at least 1 hour. For best results, simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. thyme, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or 28 oz. can pureed tomatoes)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onion and saute until translucent. Add in garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. continue to cook until onions are lightly browned. Pour in tomatoes and water. Stir in brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

The traditional meat for Easter Dinner in The Man’s family is lamb. A roasted leg of lamb alongside roasted potatoes, vegetables, and usually some excellent popovers. But since I don’t have  a large family to feed, I skipped the larger leg (or my favorite, the shoulder) and went with some thick meaty rib chops!

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

I had some garlic bread crumbs leftover from making Shrimp Scampi the other night. Along with a blend of freshly chopped herbs, I was able to create a crunchy crust for the chops. I went with what I had – parsley, rosemary, and thyme – but I think the addition of mint would have been ideal.

I served the chops with Ina Garten’s Dill Fingerling Potatoes. Although I didn’t use dill or fingerlings….but the cooking method is what’s important here. I went with petite Honey Gold potatoes (but any small potato will work) and topped them with rosemary and garlic. The potatoes cooked in a Dutch oven over low heat for half an hour (no peeking! You want to keep the steam trapped) and come out perfectly fluffy inside with a nice golden outside. Perfect pair for our crusty, juicy chops.

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

  • 4 lamb chops 
  • 1/4 C. garlic bread crumbs
  • 2 T. mixed herbs, chopped (parsley, rosemary, thyme)
  • 1 T. olive oil

Combine garlic bread crumbs and herbs in a small bowl. Season lamb chops with salt and pepper, and pack bread crumbs onto each side. Set aside. In a cast iron skillet (or non stick) heat up the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the lamb chops 3 to 4 minutes per side (for medium). Remove from heat and allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Lemon & Honey Grilled Chicken

After a trip to the Savannah Bee Company, I’ve been mildly addicted to their Sourwood Honey. The local store is a favorite of ours. Beyond the great honey and products, they have a live hive inside (no, the bees don’t fly around the store…but you can watch them work through the clear walls!) and a children’s “hive” for coloring and reading. While shopping one day, I indulged in no less than 8 samples before deciding I really ought to buy some of the liquid gold.

sourwood honey

Even if you don’t have a jar of sourwood, you should try using some good honey the next time you fire up the grill. Lemon & Honey Grilled Chicken combines the tang of lemon (which tenderizes the meat during the marinating time) with the sweetness of honey to create a flavorful departure from your standard grilled BBQ chicken.

Lemon & Honey Chicken

Marinade

  • Chicken (thighs, trimmed)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T. dried Italian herb blend
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a food processor or blender. Pulse until well chopped and blended. Pour marinade over chicken, and refrigerate for a few hours (I did 4).

Lemon & Honey Glaze

  • 1/4 C. lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey (sourwood)
  • 1 T. butter, melter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk all ingredients together. Brush onto chicken in at the end of the cooking time.