My Year of Adventurous Eating

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscotti May 22, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 11:14 am

Cookies for breakfast!

What could be better?

If you ever need an excuse to eat cookies for breakfast, I have one for you.  Biscotti!

There is nothing complicated about biscotti.  They are just cookie dough shaped into a log and baked, then sliced and baked again.  And this particular recipe really could not be simpler…believe me.  I invented it!

I didn’t even put any butter in it, so, you know, you could make the argument that these biscotti are almost healthy!

I mean, you could! 

I would.

Start with three eggs in a large bowl, and dump in a cup of sugar.

Pour in a teaspoon or two of vanilla..

And add 1/2 c. of peanut butter but don’t take a photo of it.  You can use crunchy or smooth, whatever you’ve got on hand.  Just dump it in and mix it up until everything is blended together.  Then don’t take a photo of the resulting mixture.

You may not have noticed, but I’m super organized.


Meanwhile mix up three cups of all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

(To measure the flour I fluffed it up with the measuring cup before scooping it up and leveling the top with a straight edge.   Flour tends to settle in the bag and get a little compressed, and if you don’t fluff it up before you scoop it your dough may come out too dry.)

Dump this into the bowl with the egg mixture and mix well.  The dough will be very thick and heavy.  You can do this with a spoon or probably a hand mixer, but I’m really glad I had my stand mixer for this part!

While the dough mixes up, chop some bittersweet chocolate into big chunks (or you can use a bag of regular chocolate chips–I just like these big, rustic bits of chocolate in the finished biscotti).

Add the chocolate to the bowl and mix one more time, just to distribute it evenly into the dough.

See what I mean?  Thick.

Note: at this point it will be very tempting to eat this entire bowl of dough but I really must advise against it.  For one thing there are raw eggs in the dough and you could end up with a nasty bug that will keep you from enjoying anything for quite some time.  For another, if you eat all the dough,  there won’t be any biscotti!

Now divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each part into a log about as long as your cookie sheet (my logs were probably about 14″ long).

If you have parchment paper, use a sheet to line your baking pan.  Set the logs on the parchment and press them to flatten them to 1/2″ thick.

Bake the logs at 375º for thirty minutes, then remove the biscotti but keep the oven on.

Let the cookie logs cool for 10 minutes, then peel from the parchment and slice into 1/2″ thick pieces.  Lay the slices back on the cookie sheet and bake again for 15 minutes, turning the biscotti halfway through.

The slices will be lightly toasted and crispy and delicious!  It’s like a peanut butter cup cookie that you can dip in your coffee, or eat with milk, or serve for dessert with some ice cream!

Here’s the recipe.


3 large eggs

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. peanut butter

2 tsp.  vanilla

3 c. all purpose flour

1 tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.  In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and beat just until the ingredients are incorporated.  Add the chocolate chunks and mix until distributed.  Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each into a log about as long as the cookie sheet.  Place on the cookie sheet and flatten until 1/2″ thick.  Bake the logs for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven but keep the oven hot.  Let the cookie logs sit for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Slice the logs into 1/2″ thick slices and lay the slices on their sides back on the cookie sheet.  Bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, turning once half way through the second baking time, until the biscotti are golden brown and toasted.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee or milk, or with a scoop of ice cream.

Eat and be happy!


Caprese Panzanella May 5, 2012

Filed under: Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 2:51 pm

My parents’ cats had kittens exactly five days ago.  Look at this face!


The photo is a little fuzzy, but then, the kitten is a little fuzzy.  And not very inclined to be still, even while asleep!

I just love spring!

Speaking of spring and fresh produce and my happy little back-deck herb garden which I forgot to water for three days straight but has still managed to survive, how about some summer food?

You can’t get much more summery and fresh than panzanella salad, and if you make it with the right ingredients, why then you have…

Caprese Panzanella!

Holy cow.


It’s fresh and hearty and flavorful and wonderful for days when it’s just simply too hot to even consider turning on the stove!

It’s also a wonderful way to use up some leftover stale bread…really chewy, crusty, rustic Italian bread is the best for this kind of recipe!  If you don’t happen to have any stale bread sitting around you can definitely use fresh, but consider toasting it up in a skillet or the oven before throwing it in the salad…you could end up with fresh veggies and mush, which would probably still have great flavor, but not great texture!  If you want to use up some softer-textured leftover sandwich slices, dice or tear them up and toast them into croutons then add them into the salad at the last-minute to avoid any off-putting sogginess.

Start with a slew of fresh veggies and herbs!

I used tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, English cucumber, red onion, Italian parsley, and tons of fresh basil!

Also pictured in the background there are white balsamic vinegar (a little lighter and not as sweet as regular balsamic), extra virgin olive oil (go ahead and spring for the good stuff here…it stays raw and rich and wonderful!) and lovely, hand-made, fresh mozzarella (Be still my heart!) there in the super-blown, way too bright, over-exposed tub in the back row.

I’m a cook, not a photographer!

I also used half a lemon and two cloves of garlic, not pictured because I’m a space cadet.  Oh, and half a loaf of really stale, rustic Italian ciabatta, also not pictured because I am a space cadet.

That’s two times space cadet!

And salt and pepper, but that’s understood, right?

Start by dicing up half the red onion (I made mine about 1/4″ dice…I like red onion in moderation, but big chunks of it can be pretty overwhelming, especially raw!)

Then pour a little of the balsamic into a large bowl of icy-cold water,

And then dump the diced red onion into the bowl to soak and mellow out for ten or fifteen minutes!

(You can skip this step if you really love raw onion, but I like that it sort of tones down some of that really oniony bite while leaving it crisp and fresh).

Mince up the not-pictured garlic, and mash it up with some salt to make a fine paste.

You can decrease the garlic to 1 clove, if you are the sort of person that believes garlic can be overdone.

Note: the garlic doesn’t get cooked, so the flavor is pretty powerful!

Slap the garlic paste into a bowl and drizzle over a few tablespoons of that lovely, refreshing, tangy white balsamic!

Or you could use a good quality red balsamic, if that’s what you have on hand.  It would be every bit as delicious, and a little richer and sweeter!


Next, drizzle in several tablespoons of good quality, extra virgin olive oil.

Use the good stuff.  You’ll really be able to taste it in the end!

And squeeze in the juice from half a lemon, just to give it a little extra freshness and cut some of the vinegariness (is that a real word?)

If I were using regular balsamic, I might skip this step since it would be sweeter and richer and the vinegar flavor is less pronounced.  What do you think?

Next dice up all your veggies in 1/2″ to 3/4″ chunks.  I like mine somewhere between salsa-sized and bite-sized.

I used English cucumber.  Why English?  Because they have tender, sweet skin and don’t require peeling.

Read: I’m lazy.

Two crisp, fresh sweet bell peppers.  Use whatever colors you like…the more colorful the better I think!

And several wonderful, ripe red plum tomatoes!

Plum tomatoes are perfect for this kind of recipe.  They have lots of flesh and very little pulp, which means they don’t make the salad watery and they hold their shape nicely!

Next, drain the diced red onion and pat it dry between paper towels, then throw all your diced veggies into a large bowl…

Along with your super crusty, diced stale bread!

And pour that wonderful, garlicky, lemony, olive oily, balsamic-y dressing over the top!

And then…

Oh, then…

The Herbs!

Don’t skimp on the basil here.  You will regret it for the rest of your life.  Just gently tear the leaves up into great big chunks (or leave them whole, if they are small) and dump them into the bowl!

Then roughly chop up a big handful of Italian parsley and throw that in too!

(My tummy is rumbling…)

Then give it all a stir, then lean in and inhale deeply and say a little prayer to say thank you for garlic, and basil, and olive oil, and balsamic, and fresh veggies!

(I mean it!)

But wait!  There’s more!

You could stop here and call it vegan, but why oh why would you want to when there’s…

Fresh mozzarella!

Plus, if you leave out the fresh mozzarella you no longer have Caprese Panzanella.  You just have Panzanella.  Still delicious, but not mind-blowingly delicious!

If given a choice between delicious and mind-blowingly delicious, I’ll choose mind-blowingly delicious every time.  Wouldn’t you?

I would have taken a photo of the wonderful, creamy, tender, hand pulled balls of fresh mozzarella before I diced them up and stirred them into the salad, but I got so distracted sneaking bites that I forgot.

It happens.

Dice up the mozzarella about the same size as the veggies and gently toss them with the rest of the salad.


Taste it for seasoning and sprinkle in more salt and pepper if you need it.  You can serve it right away, or (if you have the time) cover it and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours so all the flavors can meet and fall in love and get married and make sweet little flavor babies and the bread can soak up all those wonderful juices!

Here’s the recipe!


Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 lb. ripe plum (roma) tomatoes

2 sweet bell peppers

1 English cucumber

1/2 small red onion

1/2 loaf stale, rustic Italian bread

1-2 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons white (or regular) balsamic vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon

4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 c. loosely packed basil leaves

1 c. loosely packed Italian parsley leaves

1 lb. fresh mozzarella

salt and pepper to taste

Chop the red onion into small dice.  Pour 1 teaspoon of the vinegar into a bowl of cold water and add the red onion, allowing it to soak in the vinegar mixture for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash the garlic with salt into a fine paste and dump it into a small bowl.  Pour over the remaining balsamic, the olive oil, the lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Whisk until combined.

Dice the vegetables into bite sized chunks.  Tear or dice the bread up into 3/4″ to 1″ cubes.  If your bread is fresh, you may want to toast the cubes in a 400° oven for 10 or 15 minutes to crisp them up and dry them out a bit.  Otherwise, just toss the bread into a large bowl along with the veggies.  Drain the red onion and pat dry on paper towels, then add to the bowl with the bread and vegetables.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss everything together gently.  Tear the basil into big chunks and roughly chop the Italian parsley.  Add the herbs to the bread/vegetable mixture and toss again.  Dice the mozzarella into 1/2″ cubes and add to the salad, tossing very gently one more time just until distributed.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.  For the best, tastiest, most developed flavors, cover the salad and let sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

Eat and be happy!


Shepherd’s Pie…? March 23, 2012

Filed under: Next!,Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 12:35 pm

Running a week late is about as “on schedule” as I ever seem to get.  It’s something about the nature of my job where everything is an emergency and everything needs to be done stat-stat-statty-stat-stat and once I get home it’s just impossible to maintain that level of urgency.

But in any case, without much further ado, as promised, here it is.  My super-rockin’, crazy tasty, way kickin’ shepherd’s pie.  Just in time for St Patrick’s Day.  Next year, that is.

Except you won’t find a crumb of lamb in it.  Just beef.  So, I guess more accurately it should be called Rancher’s Pie.  Or Cattleman’s Pie.  Or Wrangler’s Pie.  Or…

Never mind.

To begin, make beef stew.

Now, if you have some leftover beef stew in the fridge, excellent.  Leftover stew makes the best shepherd’s pie, not to mention cutting down your prep time by about three hours!  (Literally).

But if you do not happen to have some leftover beef stew just languishing in your refrigerator, begging to be made into shepherd’s pie, why then you will just have to start at the beginning!

I always start a stew by browning the meat in a little olive oil.

Brown is good.  Brown is flavor.


I like to wait to salt stew meat until it’s thoroughly caramelized.  In my experience salt draws a lot of moisture out of the meat, which causes it to steam instead of brown.  And then the juices burn to the bottom of my pot before the meat gets a chance to turn crispy and delicious!  So I wait.  Spread the meat out in a single layer and leave it alone for several minutes.  When it is thoroughly caramelized and perfect, the meat will release easily from the bottom of the pot.  At this point, turn and repeat until the meat is browned on all sides!

While the meat is browning, dice up a large onion and some carrots.  About three medium carrots oughta do it.

After the meat is completely caramelized, dump it onto a dish and set it aside.  If there is an excessive amount of grease in the bottom of the pot (say, more than a tablespoon or so), pour it off and pour in a little fresh olive oil.  Dump in the carrots and onions with a light sprinkle of salt and give ’em a good stir.  Then let ’em sweat!

While the carrots and onions sweat and get soft, mince up some garlic.

A lot of garlic.

Like, six or eight cloves.

Or more.

Or less if you don’t absolutely love the garlic.  But I do love it, so I use a lot of it!

Keep in mind we’re going to put some garlic in the smashed potato topping too, so if you are one of those people who believes you can actually put too much garlic into something, you may want to hold back a bit here.

I’m not one of those people.

Next, dump ye the garlic and the meat (along with any juice that has collected in the dish) back into the pot and sprinkle ye all of it with salt.

Then stick your face over the pot and give yourself a garlic ‘n meat facial!


And now things will start to get really exciting.

Pour in a cup or so of dark beer.  We just happened to have a tasty Irish stout on hand (it being St. Patty’s Day and all).

I poured in half of this 16 oz can, and it was just the right amount.  You really taste the beer and it added tons of rich flavor, but it wasn’t so much that the stout flavor became overpowering.  You may need to adjust the amount you add based on how powerful your stout is and how much beer flavor you really want your stew to have.

Next, just to kick up the spice and add some much-needed tang to cut through all the richness, dump in a 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes (or tomatoes with hot peppers if you want things a bit spicy!)

This is not a typical Shepherd’s Pie.

Next, pour half a 32 oz. box of beef stock over the whole thing.

Note:  If this were going to be regular, plain ol’ stew for eatin’ stew, I’d just dump the whole box in.  Since it’s going to get covered in mashed potatoes and baked, I wanted the stew to be thicker and a little less soupy.  Plus, we’re going to use some of the rest of that broth when we thicken the stew in a bit!

Stir all this up, throw a lid on it and let it simmer on medium low for a couple of hours.  The longer the better, really.  Check the stew every once in a while to make sure the liquid hasn’t cooked away.  Pour in more broth or water if it dries out and starts to scorch.  If you were going to add any dried herbs (Thyme, Bay, Rosemary or Sage would all be extra delicious!) here’s when you would want to do it.

I didn’t.  And I regret it.

About an hour before dinner time, start preheating the oven to 400°.

Now it’s time for the potatoes!

Now, you could use plain old mashed potatoes if you have some on hand.  This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!  However, I happened to have a three-pound bag of these gorgeous little multi-colored fingerling potatoes on hand, so I decided to do something extra special!

Aren’t they pretty, with all the red and purple and gold and pink?  I just love fingerling potatoes.  They are so fun, and colorful, and sweet, and tender!

Dump them all into a pot and boil ’em up until tender (about 20 minutes).  Drain them and let them sit in the pot with the lid on for a few minutes to dry out.

Meanwhile, mince up a couple more cloves of garlic.

I ended up using just about a whole head of garlic total in this recipe.  Some might say that is too much garlic.  I would not.

I’ll leave it to your discretion.  To get just a mild, light touch of garlic flavor, you could cut back to  2-3 cloves in the stew and 1 or 2 cloves in the topping.

Dump the garlic into a big bowl and pour a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over it.

Garlic and oil!  Probably one of the most magical flavor combinations in all of the world of cooking!

Stir this up with a sprinkle of salt, then dump in a couple pats of butter.  About two tablespoons.

Now dump all those steaming hot, adorable little potatoes into the bowl!

Aren’t they sweet?

The heat from the potatoes is going to melt the butter and release all the amazing aromas of the garlic and oil.  Try not to pass out.

Now give them a very, very light smash.  Just sort of gently crush them enough to open up the creamy middles but still leaving nice big chunks of all the gorgeous colors!

Stir them up from the bottom to get the butter, olive oil and garlic all evenly incorporated.

I just love those gorgeous little purple potatoes.  They really perk up the mashed potato topping and make it so colorful and enticing!

Pour in just enough milk to bring it all together (about 1/2 cup) and season it with salt and pepper to taste.

I love to add a little freshly grated nutmeg at this point too.  Just 1/4 teaspoon gives this magical warmth and flavor to the mashed potatoes.

Now, set the taters aside and let’s get back to the stew!

I dumped in about a cup of green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

and a cup or so of frozen peas

because if I can find an excuse to add more vegetables into a meal I will.  Especially a super rich and heavy meat-and-potatoes meal like this one!

Stir it all up and let it simmer while you mix 2-3 tablespoons of flour into a cup of the remaining beef broth.

Bring the stew to a boil and slowly pour the broth and flour mixture in, stirring the whole time.

Except for when you have the set the spoon down to take a photo.

But then start stirring again.

Let the whole mess boil for a full minute and the gravy will get thick and velvety and wonderful!

Pour the stew into a deep casserole and cover it with the smashed potatoes!

Try not to dive face first into the dish and inhale it all.  The magic isn’t done yet!

Set the casserole onto a baking sheet covered in foil (because if you are like me the shepherd’s pie will boil over and make a mess while it is baking approximately 117% of the time) and bake until the potatoes are crispy and browned and gorgeous!

This’ll take 30-45 minutes.  The crispier the potatoes are, the better!  But when you take how hungry you are times how delicious this smells plus the number of hours it has been since your last meal, you may choose to sacrifice some of the crispiness in order to have some of this pie in your mouth.  Now.


Don’t burn your tongue.

Here’s the recipe in a nutshell!

SHEPHERD’S (Or Cattleman’s, or Rancher’s, or Wrangler’s…) Pie

For the Stew

2-3 tbs. olive oil

1 lb. stew beef

1 large onion

3 medium carrots

2-6 cloves garlic (depending on your taste preference)

1 c. strong, dark beef (such as a good stout or porter)

3 c. beef stock, divided

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (or tomatoes with hot chilis)

1 c. cut green beans

1 c. frozen peas

2-3 tablespoons flour

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot, brown the meat thoroughly in olive oil over medium heat.  Remove from the pot and pour off any excess grease.  Sprinkle the caramelized meat with salt.

Dice the carrots and onions and add to the pot with a little fresh olive oil.and a light sprinkle of salt.  Stir and let sweat for about five minutes, until softened and translucent.

Mince the garlic and add to the vegetables in the pot along with the beef.   Pour the beer, the tomatoes and 2 cups of the beef stock into the pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours (or longer), until the meat is fork tender.  Stir occassionally, adding more beef stock as needed if the stew dries out and begins to scorch.  Towards the end of cooking, stir in 1 c. cut green beans (if using frozen or fresh add about 30 minutes before the end of cooking.  If using canned add right at the end) and 1 c. frozen peas.

Stir 2-3 tablespoons of flour into 1 cup of the remaining beef stock until completely mixed in and no lumps remain.  Bring the stew to a boil and pour in the flour/stock mixture, stirring the whole time.  Continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly.

For the Smashed Potatoes

2 lb. multicolored fingerling potatoes (or substitute with Little Reds or Yukon Golds)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk

salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Boil the potatoes (whole if using fingerlings, or halved if using larger) for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender.  Drain and let sit in the pot with the lid on while you mince the garlic.

Dump the minced garlic into a large bowl and pour the olive oil over it.  Sprinkle with salt and stir with a fork to loosen up the garlic.  Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl.  Dump the hot potatoes into the bowl and crush lightly with a fork or potatoe masher.  Just mash them enough to open them up, leaving large chunks.  Mix the potatoes gently to incorporate the garlic and oil.  Add enough milk to just moisten the potatoes, but not make them creamy.  Season to taste.

For the Pie

Preheat the oven to 400º

Pour the stew into a large, deep casserole dish (I used a 3 qt. casserole with a lid and had a bit of spillage during the baking, so you may want to use a larger dish).  Spread the smashed potatoes evenly over the top.

Set the casserole on a foil-lined cookie sheet (just in case!).  Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the edges of the potatoes are crispy, browned and delicious!

Let sit for 10 minutes before digging in.

Eat and be happy!

Happy St. Patricks Day!  (Sort of…)


Honey, I’m Home! And Herb Cheese Bread January 5, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 2:03 pm

Did everyone have a good Christmas?!?

I sure did. The holidays whooshed by in a twinkle-light-tailed blaze of glory.  It was a week and a half of family get-togethers, birthday parties and impromptu gatherings and I thank my boss for kindly giving me the time off to enjoy it! How any of you all found time to enjoy your holidays, get sleep and maintain a blog all at the same time I’ll never know. Props.

And yes, I did say birthday parties. I’m surrounded by Christmas babies! I myself had my oldieth birthday just a week ago. I’m old years old and am finally trying to act my age.  Sort of.

That is to say, I vowed to see a dentist at least once this year. And I bought myself some gummy vitamins.

In any case, I’m back (finally) and carefully considering the next step of my food adventure.  I think I can’t continue to put it off.  Now that the holidays are over I’ll need to bite the bullet and schedule the next one.

I’ll get back to you.

I may have cheated a bit and sneaked a little eggs benedict during my time off.  I loved it!  Poached eggs are a revelation. They outshone the cream cheese hollandaise  ten to one on my Tuscan-themed eggs benedict at Snooze (the trendy new brunch place that just opened up on Pearl Street here in Boulder…). Cooked to perfection, the whites were tender and cooked through while the yolks were still velvety and creamy enough to run into the white bean and kale ragu beneath. Sheer decadence!

I had my first go at making poached eggs myself this morning and mostly ended up with a pot full of stringy, cooked egg whites and two soft boiled yolks. It is apparent that some practice is in order!

Anyhoo, after a couple of weeks of being pampered and fed by others, I’ve made it back into the kitchen with a new slew of inspirations and recipes to try!

As I write this I’m letting dough for my new favorite bread recipe rest in the kitchen. This bread is virtually fail-proof and comes out flavorful and delicious every time! It’s a very rustic loaf, with a crunchy thick crust and dense, herb-infused crumb. I like to knead some cheese into it to make it extra delicious!

Start with 20 oz (by weight) of bread flour.

The recipe tells me you could make this with all-purpose flour. I haven’t tried it that way yet, and don’t know if there’s any extra special treatment you would need to give the dough if you did. Any advice?

Hello. I am Phobicfoodie, and I am new to baking.

Anyways, dump two teaspoons of salt into the flour and stir it around a little.

Next, melt 4 ounces (1 stick) of butter and mix in some chopped herbs.

I’ve tried it with Rosemary (just a couple tablespoons of fresh or a teaspoon or two dried nicely minced gives it an amazing fragrance and flavor!), with dried dill (not my favorite permutation so far) and with 1/4 cup chopped green onions. They’ve all been pretty darn tasty options!

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast over a cup of luke warm water

and let it sit for a minute or two before stirring to combine.

Now dump all the ingredients into a stand mixer, pop the dough hook into place, and turn the thing on low to get things mixed up.

If the dough looks particularly dry and ragged, pour in up to 1/4 cup more water just a bit at a time until all the dough comes together.

You can do this by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer, but to be honest I have no idea how long it would take! With the stand mixer on low, let the dough knead for about 10 minutes, or until you can gently stretch a small portion of dough out until it becomes translucent without tearing.

On a side note, I really should start kneading my bread by hand to offset some of the calories I consume by eating it. Food for thought, I guess.

Dump the dough into a bowl and set it in a warm spot to rest for about half an hour. It won’t rise much during this time. When the dough is good and relaxed, knead it for about two minutes more to redistribute the yeast. Now’s when you’d want to knead in any other mix-ins, like cheese (which I highly recommend doing. It’s ridiculously delicious!).

Form the dough into a round loaf.

Oil a heavy, oven proof pot (I use my cast iron dutch oven) generously with olive oil and place the loaf into it, seam side down.  Pour a little more oil over the loaf and use a pastry brush to make sure the whole surface is coated.

Sprinkle some coarse salt over the top…

And make a large ‘X’ in the top so it can rise while baking.

Let the loaf rest for another hour or so (again, not a lot of noticeable rising during this part. I just think it results in a slightly lighter, more tender finished loaf).

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°. Make sure the knob on the lid to your pot can withstand that temperature. If it is plastic you will want to remove it before you begin baking your bread.

When the oven is thoroughly preheated and the bread is nice and rested, pop the lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven on the center rack.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake it for at least another 30 minutes.

During the baking time, I highly recommend you step out of your house for a minute or two and then come back in and inhale deeply. You may pass out from pleasure, but it’s worth it!

Dump the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack (the top should be a nice golden, chestnut color. It may seem too dark and overdone, but that deep brown is where all the flavor is!).

Let it cool completely before slicing into it!

This is important. It’s virtually impossible to do, but trust me on this! The bread will continue to bake even after you pull it out of the oven. If you slice into it while it is still hot the first two slices will be divine, but the rest of the loaf will become doughy, dense and disappointing!

Anyways….Herb Bread.  Comforting, home-made deliciousness in a loaf!

(You’ll note that none of these pictures are of the herb cheese bread.  This could be because I’m a nerd face.  It could also be because the version with lots of pockets of melty, delicious cheese was our favorite and we devoured it before I could figure out where I’d left my camera the last time I’d used it.  I’ll let you guess which story is true.  Anyways, the moral is, Herb Cheese Bread is exponentially tastier than Herb Bread.  Make it.)

Here’s the recipe!

Herb Bread

20 oz. (by weight) bread flour

2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling

4 oz. melted butter with chopped herbs

8 oz. luke warm water, plus up to ¼ cup extra if needed

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Olive oil

8 oz. cheese (such as cheddar, swiss or Colby jack), diced (optional but highly recommended!)

Sprinkle yeast over 1 cup water and set aside for a couple of minutes while you measure out the other ingredients.  Stir before adding to stand mixer with the flour, salt, butter and herbs.  Turn the stand mixer on low.  Add up to ¼ c. more water if needed to bring dough together.  Knead dough until you can gently stretch a small portion of it out until it becomes translucent without tearing, about 10 minutes with the mixer.

Let dough rest for about 30 minutes, then knead for 1-2 minutes more.  At this point also gently knead in the diced cheese if you are using it.

Form the dough into a round loaf.

Generously oil a cast iron pot and place the loaf in it seam side down.  Brush the top of the loaf with more olive oil and cut a large ‘X’ in the top so the bread can puff up and rise while it is baking!

Preheat oven to 450°.

Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes to an hour (it won’t really rise during this time), then cover the pot and place on the center rack of the preheated oven.  Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, then remove and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove bread to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Eat and be happy!



Mozzarella Basil Chicken December 13, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 10:01 am

It looks fancy, but really it’s simple.

Really simple.

It’s so simple it’s not even fair.  It’s so simple it’s like cheating.

It’s so simple I had to add a step just to make it more complicated!

And it’s fast!

It’s Mozzarella Basil Chicken cutlets!

Preheat your oven.  Go ahead.  Do it.  400°.

Oh, and place a large, heavy bottomed, oven proof skillet over medium-low heat while you’re at it.

Start with some chicken cutlets.  I got a pound, which happened to be three cutlets…but part of the beauty of this recipe is how easy it is to double (or triple, or more!) depending on how many you are feeding!

Chicken cutlets are just chicken breasts that have been butterflied or sliced in half flat-wise to create two, super thin pieces of chicken.  I like ‘em because they cook quickly and very nearly always come out super juicy.

I also like ‘em because they are the perfect size for one serving.

I also like ‘em because they are so thin that any seasoning can penetrate the whole piece in a very short time, so they turn out super flavorful every time!

I also like ‘em because they are very difficult to screw up.

I like ‘em, is, I guess what I’m getting at here.

Anyways.  Take your super thin chicken cutlets and lay them out on a very sturdy cutting board, then cover them with a good layer of plastic wrap.

Then pound them out with a rolling-pin or meat mallet until they are even thinner and an even thickness all the way across.

Or, you know, mostly even.

Long day at work?  Frustrated and exhausted?  Make chicken cutlets!

We’re looking for a thickness of about ¼” all the way across.

Sprinkle a little salt on each side of each cutlet.  Or forget, like I did, and have to figure out how to get the chicken seasoned after it is topped.

Next, tear up some fresh basil leaves and layer it evenly over the cutlets.

Now, you could mince the basil.  You could chiffonade the basil.  You could lay whole basil leaves across the chicken and not mess with their shape at all!

This is just what happens when you get home from the store and discover that your vibrant, green, fresh basil is wilty and spotty and actually a little less than fresh.  You tear out all the little spots and use whatever still looks good.

As it turns out, this method worked just swimmingly, so, you know, I recommend it!

Next, top each cutlet generously with mozzarella cheese!

In the recipe I give below, I am going to tell you to top each cutlet with ¼ cup of mozzarella cheese.

But you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to!  You can use lots of mozzarella cheese if you want to!  You can use as much as you want!

But don’t tell anyone I told you.

Sprinkle a little pepper over the top and set the cutlets aside for a couple of minutes while you get everything else ready.

Now, if you are like me and you can’t in good conscience make dinner without the use of a little garlic, do this:

Pour a little olive oil into your preheated skillet. Let it warm up a bit, then dump in a smashed clove or two of garlic. Stir them around in the warm oil for a minute or two…just long enough for the cloves to soften and become fragrant and mouth-watering, but not long enough for them to start to color. Let the oil absorb all that wonderful garlic aroma and flavor, then pull the garlic cloves out and discard them.

Listen to the rumbling of your belly, and be glad that dinner is now less than fifteen minutes away!

(This, by the way, is the extra step.  It is entirely unnecessary.  Dinner will still be delicious if you skip it.  But I love garlic, and this step will give your chicken just enough delicate garlic taste to make your taste buds hum with happiness the second you take a bite!)

Now increase the heat under your skillet to medium.  When a drop of water flicked (CAREFULLY!) into the skillet (FROM A DISTANCE!!!) dances and evaporates right away, it’s ready!

If the oil begins smoking, you’ve got things too hot.  Just slide the skillet to a cold burner for a couple of minutes until things cool down a bit.  If the oil starts to smoke and smell burned, pour it out, wipe down the pan, and start over with fresh oil and new garlic.

To avoid this, keep a close eye on your skillet!

When the skillet is ready, add the cutlets, keeping them evenly spaced (don’t over crowd them…try to keep the edges from touching.  If you’ve doubled the recipe, you may need to use two skillets or do things in batches).  If you are like me and you forgot to season the cutlets before you topped them, sprinkle a light layer of salt over the oil before you add the them to the pan.

Let the cutlets sauté on one side, without moving them, until the edges of the chicken have turned white.  At this point, just slide the whole skillet onto the middle rack of your preheated oven and let it all cook for another ten minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is completely melted.  If you want, towards the end of cooking, turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes and let the cheese bubble and brown a bit.

Mmmmm.  That’s what you want.  With all the cheesy and the chewy and the melty and the bubbly and the creamy…


Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve up with some salad and some simple buttered pasta!

(I cooked some pasta and simply tossed it with a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts…minus most of the oil.  The easiest pasta sauce ever!)


I like a simple tomato salad with this recipe:  sliced tomatoes with a light drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and a little sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I even got red, orange and yellow tomatoes to make things even prettier!

As it turned out, everything in this meal ended up being varying shades of browns, golds and oranges, so I got a sadly monochromatic plate for all my efforts.

Not great for photo taking.

But delicious!

Here’s the recipe!


4 thin sliced chicken cutlets

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 c. basil leaves, torn

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400⁰

Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat.

Place cutlets on a sturdy cutting board and cover with a layer of plastic wrap.  Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound to an even thickness of about 1/4 “.   (If the cutlets are already very thinly sliced you can skip this step).

Sprinkle both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle basil evenly over one side of each cutlet.  Sprinkle cheese over basil.

Pour olive oil into skillet, turning to coat the bottom of the skillet.  Add two smashed cloves of garlic and cook gently, stirring, until the garlic has softened and released its flavor into the oil.

The aroma is to die for!

Remove the garlic and increase the heat to medium, letting the skillet warm up for a few more minutes before beginning the next step.

Skillet is hot enough when a drop of water flicked on it sizzles and evaporates right away.  If the skillet is smoking it is too hot.

Immediately add cutlets, cheese side up.  Cook for 3-5 minutes (or until the edges of the chicken have turned white) then transfer skillet to oven.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the cheese is completely melted and beginning to brown.  Let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

Eat with salad and pasta and be happy!

Note:  This recipe also rocks because you can adapt it to your tastes and cravings on any given night…try it with sage and fontina, or thinly sliced tomatoes and cheddar, or sautéed mushrooms and swiss…you get the idea!  Have fun!


Ratatouille Gratin December 5, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 3:19 pm

Tragedy has struck the Phobicfoodie household.

The dishwasher is broken!


Ah well.

Oh, and…

The can opener is broken.

This means that it will give out on me half way around the top of the can and force me to turn it upside down and start over on the bottom side. Oh my.

Anyways, all this is not enough to keep me out of the kitchen!

After seeing the amount of butter we used in Thanksgiving dinner, then going ahead and making that crazy rich turkey tetrazzini the next day anyways, I was feeling a little concerned about my arteries…

And about the five pounds I’m pretty sure I gained just by smelling the gravy…

And about my chin…

And the state of my love handles…

So I decided to try to cook a little healthier…

Which brings me to ratatouille gratin…a slightly fancier version of the traditional, rustic vegetable stew.

This ratatouille gratin may require a fair amount of slicing and prep work, but it is so rich and delicious and hearty and healthy it’s definitely worth it! Served with some good, crusty bread, this flavorful, tender, juicy veggie gratin can make a wonderful vegetarian meal…you could even leave the parmesan out and make it vegan. Or you can go the other direction and sear up some chicken for a little lean protein.

And believe me…it doesn’t taste good for you. It also doesn’t taste vegetarian. It tastes decadent. And sinful.

Start by making a simple tomato sauce. I started with a minced red onion. Let it sweat in a couple tablespoons of olive oil for a bit.

Meanwhile, open up a large can of tomatoes with your (sometimes working) can opener. I like to use whole tomatoes and mush them up with my hands. It give the sauce a rustic, chunky texture. Plus, it gives me a chance to play with my food…very theraputic! You could also use crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes or plain ol’ tomato sauce if you prefer not to muck around in your food with your hands.

Pour the tomatoes into the sauce pot with the onions and add some thyme and the minced garlic.

Let all this simmer while you prepare the vegetables!

Thinly slice a small eggplant

a medium zucchini

and a medium yellow squash.

Layer the slices on paper towels, sprinkling each layer generously with salt. Let the veggies sit for about 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw some of the liquid out.

Meanwhile, slice up a few tomatoes

(Mmm. Red food on a red cutting board. Food photography at its finest! Not.)

and a red bell pepper

and some basil into thin strips.

Next mix a cup of panko bread crumbs with ½ cup of grated parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. This is the gratin part!

Now it’s time to assemble! Pour the sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 casserole and spread out in an even layer.

Sprinkle half the basil on top, then layer on the squash,

red pepper,

(sorry for the garish circa 1970’s oversaturation and flat lighting here…it was a rough night for lighting in Phobicfoodie’s kitchen!)


eggplant and tomatoes. Then pour ½ c. dry white wine evenly over everything,

and sprinkle the rest of the basil over.

Finally, sprinkle on a thick layer of the breadcrumb mixture.

Cover the casserole with parchment paper

and bake at 350° for 1 ½ hours, removing the parchment for the last 20 minutes.

The finished gratin will be bubbly, golden brown, crispy topped and fabulous. And the aroma is out of this world!

Serve with delicious, warm bread and glasses of crisp, white wine.

Here’s the recipe!


Makes 8-10 servings

1 small onion, diced

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes

8 cloves garlic, minced, divided

1 tsp. dried thyme, or 2 sprigs fresh

5 tbs. olive oil, divided

1 small eggplant, sliced into ¼” thick slices

1 medium zucchini, sliced into ¼” thick slices

1 medium yellow squash, sliced into ¼” thick slices

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into thin slices

3 medium, ripe tomatoes, sliced into ¼” thick slices

1/3 c. basil chiffonade

½ c. white wine

1 c. panko bread crumbs

½ c. grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

Begin by making a simple tomato sauce: in a medium pot sweat the diced red onion in 2 tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Crush the tomatoes and add to the pot with the thyme and ½ of the garlic. Stir and let simmer while you prepare everything else.

Preheat oven to 350°

Layer the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash slices in single layers between paper towels. Sprinkle each layer with salt to draw the excess liquid out. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the red pepper, tomatoes and basil.

Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and the remaining garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Spread the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9”X13” glass casserole dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the basil. Pat the eggplant, squash and zucchini dry. Layer the vegetables in the casserole, ending with the sliced tomatoes. Pour the evenly over everything. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the top, then top with the breadcrumb mixture. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the casserole.

Bake for 1 ½ hours, removing the parchment for the final 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Eat and be happy!


Monster Peanut Butter Candy Cookies! December 1, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 11:43 am

So I had all this chocolate in my house.

This is not usual for me.  Chocolate is lucky if it lasts a day around here.  But there it was:  chocolate with hazelnuts.  Chocolate with toffee.  Chocolate with espresso.  Chocolate truffles!  What is happening to me?!?

Well, the next best thing to chocolate by itself is chocolate in a cookie, so…

Monster Peanut Butter Candy Cookies!

They are much prettier if you use candy coated chocolate bits (the alliterative name of which I will not drop here) but chocolate chips or chocolate chunks or chopped chocolate bars taste just as good (and sometimes maybe better…depending on the chocolate…)

The best thing about a cookie like this is the variety of mix-ins you can add…chocolate, candy, nuts, toffee, caramel…just chop it all up roughly and mix it in!  Having lots of different kinds of candies makes each bite an adventure!

These cookies are also gluten free, so the argument could be made that between the energy-packed peanut butter and fiber rich oatmeal they are actually good for you.

Oh.  I can justify.  If you ever need an excuse to eat a cookie, I can provide it for you.

Start with ye olde basic cookie ingredients:  butter, sugar, brown sugar.  Also add some peanut butter for good measure!

Mix this all up until it is creamy and fluffy…


…add in three eggs and some vanilla.

Whip this up and dump in a couple of teaspoons of baking  soda.

Then add the oatmeal and mix again.

Then add your mix-ins.

When all the mix-ins are all mixed in, scoop the dough with an ice-cream scoop (bigger than a cookie scoop…thus Monster Cookies!) onto cookie sheets lined with  parchment paper, then bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.  Let rest on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes before removing to cooling racks.

I advise you to devour a cookie or two immediately, supplemented with a glass of milk.

It’s the right thing to do.

Here’s the recipe!


Makes about 3 dozen monster-sized cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/2 c. peanut butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 1/2 c. instant oatmeal

About 1 c. chocolate chips, chocolate candies or other mix-ins

Preheat oven to 350º and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Beat in baking soda, then oatmeal and mix-ins.

Drop onto cookie sheets with an ice cream scoop and flatten slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Don’t over bake ’em!

Remove from oven when slightly golden.  Let cool on sheets for a few minutes until they have firmed up enough to remove to wire racks.

Eat and be happy!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

You know, I actually haven’t forgotten about my food project or the whole original purpose for starting this blog.  The Project has slowed down for the holidays, but I haven’t given up on it yet (you’ll note I did cook with mushrooms recently…this is a big step for me!)

I do have plans for my next challenge (Hollandaise, mayonnaise, and all other – aises here I come!).  I even have a location picked out.  Now to find the time!



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