Tuesday, February 25, 2014


There are few things quite so satisfying as baking homemade bread.  But, let's be honest, I rarely have the foresight or inclination these days to plan ahead a day in advance and go through all the steps.  As such, it's been quite a while since I made bread.  So long, in fact, that when Jon saw this he asked where it was from, ate some, and commented that it was good, like real bread.  I don't even know what that means, but I chose to take it as a compliment.  My little bread monster could barely wait for it to cool down before digging in himself, but he is an easy win with anything freshly baked.

There are several great reasons to make focaccia.  It can all be done in one day.  It's essentially a glamorous version of pizza dough.  It makes a whole tray full.  It has an olive oil crust.  I could go on, but I don't think I need to.

recipe based on Anne Burrell

Total time: About 3 hours
Prep: 20 minutes
Inactive: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Baking: 20-25 minutes

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
5 cups all purpose flour, plus any additional for kneading
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil, divided

Dissolve the sugar in warm water in the bowl of your mixer.  Sprinkle in yeast and allow to sit until bubbling, 10-15 minutes.
Add flour, kosher salt and 1/2 cup olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook on low speed.
This is a good step for your little helper, especially if you turn around and he has already started scooping flour.

Once dough has come together, increase to medium speed (4) and knead for 5-6 minutes until it forms a soft ball.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand a few times, forming into a ball.
Place dough in a large bowl drizzled with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.
Put bowl in a warm place (I put mine on top of the refrigerator).  Allow to rise until doubled in size, at least one hour.  If you are going about your day, it's ok to let this rise go longer.
Coat a jelly roll pan (baking sheet with sides) with a layer of olive oil.
Put the dough in the pan and press it out to fit the size of the pan.  Once dough is stretched to fill the pan, use your fingers to poke holes in it.
Put the dough in a warm place for a second rise until it has doubled in size, about an hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle the top of the focaccia with coarse salt, parmesan cheese, or a mixture of herbs (or all three).
Bake until the top is golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

This lasted for a few days, even around here in carb heaven.  One night we made sandwiches with pesto chicken, tomatoes, sliced mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic dressing.  So good!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Creamy Balsamic Dressing

If you follow At Home With Ann on Facebook  you saw this picture last night.  If you don't, you are missing out on even more of my hilarious commentary and pictures of Colin wreaking havoc in the kitchen.

Given that Colin is a toddler and prone to occasional pickiness or completely nonsensical mind changes, the success of dinner can be quite varied.  There are days he surprises me and eats two cups of green beans, and days he decides he doesn't like pasta anymore.  Who doesn't like pasta?  In any case, I knew the Cobb Salad would be a bit of a stretch for him since he's been wary of any red vegetables since the hot pepper incident last summer, and eggs go in and out of favor daily.  He ended up eating mostly bacon and chicken with a side of yogurt.  I, however, loved the salad and even he agreed the dressing is good.

I usually make a very simple vinaigrette for our salads, a quick combination of salt, pepper, dijon, vinegar and olive oil.  This is really just an enhanced version of that, but the added creaminess makes it extra good.

Creamy Balsamic Dressing
recipe adapted from Gourmet Kosher Cooking

4 cloves garlic, grated

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
With an immersion blender, regular blender, mini food processor or by hand with a whisk, combine garlic, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, salt, pepper and vinegar.  
Slowly add in the olive oil while mixing until emulsified.
Makes 1 2/3 cups.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Classic Cheesecake

Cheesecake is my go to dessert.  I have made many, many flavors.  From classic, to the ever popular roasted strawberry, to the Thanksgiving favorite pumpkin, to the key lime that nearly crippled my fingers from juicing so many tiny limes.  When I considered what to make for Christmas dessert (yes, still backed up posts to Christmas here at AHWA), I naturally landed on cheesecake.  I have a couple tricks for ensuring they are always perfect and delicious.

My secret weapon in the food processor.  Use it to the make the crust, then give it a rinse and use it to make the filling.  It ensures everything is evenly mixed and a lovely smooth consistency.  My second trick is to bake in a water bath.  It can be a bit of a pain to wrap your pan in foil and fill up the roasting pan, but it keeps the top from cracking, so it's completely worth it.

Classic Cheesecake
modified from Tyler Florence 

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 6-7 sheets)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
Zest of one lemon
1 dash vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Wrap the bottom of a springform pan, and up the sides, with foil.
Use a food processor to grind graham crackers.
Pour cracker crumbs in a bowl and mix with cinnamon and melted butter.
Press into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.  My pan is nonstick, if yours isn't, you might want to coat it with cooking spray first.
Bake for 10 minutes and remove to cool on a wire rack.
In a food processor, process cream cheese until smooth.
Pour in sugar and lemon zest and mix well.
Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing to mix after each addition.
Add in sour cream and vanilla and process until well combined.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
Pour mixture into prepared crust and place springform pan in a roasting pan.
Boil water in your tea kettle and pour into the roasting pan, making sure not to splash any into the cheesecake.
Bake for 1 hour.  The middle should be barely set.

If you live anywhere north of Miami, you have spent most of this winter in an arctic tundra.  Removing your hot cheesecake and putting it on your cold counter will cause cracks.  If you don't have toddlers running around, open the door of your oven with it turned off to let it cool slowly.  If you do have reasons not to leave your hot oven door open, remove the roasting pan and allow the cheesecake to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before transferring to a rack.

Chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight, before serving.
Top with fruit or chocolate, if you like.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Cookies

Thank you so much for all your sweet comments and notes from my last post.  It really does help to know Sarah has so many people in her corner!

These cookies are so healthy, you can eat them for breakfast.  Plus, they only have four ingredients and come together in less than five minutes, so you could even bake them in the morning.  I made them with the help of my trusty kitchen assistant one very cold morning last week who ate handfuls of batter straight from the bowl.  By lunchtime we had nearly finished off the batch, but it's ok, because they are good for you!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Cookies
recipe from Skinnytaste

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup uncooked oats
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
~1 Tablespoon jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a baking sheet, either  by spraying or lining with a baking mat or parchment paper.
Mix banana, oats and peanut butter together.
Drop heaping tablespoons (I like my little cookie scoop for this) onto baking sheet.
Using a 1/4 teaspoon, make small indentations on top of the cookies.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove and spoon a little jam into the indentation on each cookie.

Eat as many as you want.  To Colin, that means every time you walk through the kitchen a little hand reaches up onto the counter and grabs one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

My big sister and the egg sandwich that might cure her cancer

I usually like to keep things light hearted here At Home With Ann.  Simple recipes, awkward jokes, toddler antics and kitchen fiascos.  But we all experience times in life when we are thrown for a loop and face something that stops us in our tracks.  I, like a classic control freak, tend to keep things to myself.  Everything is under control, see? My house is clean, dinner is cooked, the dishes are done, I'm on schedule, I blow dried my hair, I don't need help.  See?  See?  But this time it's not about me, it's not something I can control, and wishing it away won't actually make it go away.

Me, my Mom and Sarah last Summer

Three years ago my sister, Sarah, was diagnosed with a form of leukemia called AML (acute myeloid leukemia).  My reaction was typical.  This happens to other people.  Not my 33 year old sister who lives by the ocean, gets tons of fresh air and exercise, and eats healthier than anyone who has ever entered Whole Foods.  She can't be sick.  She has a four year old and a 9 month old who need her.  She can't be sick.

But she was sick, and that fall instead of visiting her at home where her house is always some level of chaos caused by activities, kids, friends and cooking, I visited her a hospital room where I wore a gown and a mask and helped her cut off her shedding hair.  I spent time taking care of my nephews while her husband tried to juggle working, nighttime parenting a baby, and visiting his wife in the hospital.  I was in such shock and crises mode than I never considered what might happen in the future, we were just trying to get through the next day.  I saw her friends, family and acquaintances send more love, support and prayers than I could ever imagine.  And it worked.  By the time 2011 rolled around she was healthy, the cancer was gone, and we could all go back to our normal lives.  My life that year was filled with the happy excitement and anticipation of our baby.  He was born and immediately filled our hearts and all our time.  As his second birthday rolled around, Sarah told me she was getting another bone marrow scan, because her blood work was concerning and she wasn't feeling well.  OK, I thought, well it won't be cancer again.  She has worked for the past three years to ensure she is as healthy as she can be.  It won't be cancer again.  But it is cancer, and she is looking down the barrel of chemo and a bone marrow transplant.

So I am here at home, with my life rolling on, taking care of my family and playing with Colin.  She sits in a hospital room hooked up to various tubes and needles, doing her very best to be patient and cure her disease.  She'll be fine, I say.  She's done this before.  She has an amazing attitude.  She has all the support and medical technology on her side.  She still has little kids who need her.  And most of the time that works, but there are times it all hits me.  This is scary.  This is unknown.  I can't control or fix or clean this.  I just want my sister to be well.

Some days when we talk I can tell how hard it is, but other days it's just like normal.  One such day last week she told me that one of her friends has been bringing her the most amazing egg sandwich every day.  Egg, goat cheese and pesto.  I'm not making any scientific statements here, but she's eaten quite a few of these, and when she gets well, it might just be in part to this egg sandwich.  Just in case, here's my version.

The Egg Sandwich That Might Cure Cancer
1 slice toasted sourdough bread
1 egg, fried or scrambled
Goat Cheese

Layer it all together and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Be well.

photo 1-1 photo 1-2