Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sick Sunday = Productive Day

Still feeling under the weather unfortunately. It's even more unfortunate because it is a gorgeous, unseasonably warm and sunny day here. I had really hoped to be able to go for a run outside. Alas, that did not happen.

I decided to bake and finish laundry. As with all of my bread and dough recipes, I am trying to tweak them and make them healthier where possible. I have been using this Ciabatta Bread recipe from Recipezaar for several years now. It's not a complicated recipe at all, you use the bread machine to do all the hard work, but you still get to take the credit. Here is the original recipe with additions and changes in parenthesis and italics.

Ciabatta Bread
1 1/2 cups water (hot)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used sea salt)
1 teaspoon white sugar (I substituted with Agave Nectar per a recommendation from Alicia)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour (I substituted 1/4 cup of whole-wheat pastry flour just to get an idea of how it may work in lieu of bread flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
(I added 1 tsp ground flax seed)

  1. Place ingredients into the pan of the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer.
  2. Select the Dough cycle, and Start.
  3. Dough will be quite sticky and wet once cycle is completed, resist the temptation to add more flour.
  4. Place dough on a lightly floured board, cover with a large bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Lightly flour or use parchment lined baking sheets (I use silpat sheets).
  6. Divide into 2 pieces, and form each into a 3x14 inch oval.
  7. Place loaves on prepared sheets, dimple surface, and lightly flour. (I never flour)
  8. Cover, and let rise in a draft free place for approximately 45 minutes. (I typically use a non-stick baking spray on saran wrap to cover b/c I have found that anything will stick otherwise.)
  9. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  10. Dimple dough for a second time, and then place loaves in the oven, positioned on the middle rack.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
This bread is great alongside a bowl of your favorite soup, especially a creamy soup. It also makes great pizzas. Simply slice open a loaf and top as you would your favorite pizza.

I must say that substituting the Agave Nectar for sugar and 1/4 cup of whole-wheat pastry flour seemed to make no drastic differences. The bread did seem to rise much more, and was super light. I don't know if that was from either of the substitutions or weather related. Either way, it was a success. I think that I will try to add in another 1/4 cup of the whole-wheat pastry flour the next time and see how that goes. After making the bread, I wanted to incorporate it into dinner somehow. This really goes well with soups so I decided to try a new one.

I made Alicia's Red Lentil and Tomato Soup, which I have been wanting to try since I saw the post. If you haven't checked out Vegan Epicurean, you really must. She has some awesome, healthy recipes that will satisfy vegetarians, vegans, and even meat-eaters!

Red Lentil and Tomato Soup
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, scrubbed and diced fine
3 stalks celery, scrubbed and diced fine (I did not have)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup water
28 ounces of canned tomato sauce
14 ounces of canned diced tomato
1 pound red lentil, picked through
3 cups of water, or what is necessary to cook the beans and not scorch the soup
1 teaspoon fennel seed (I did not have)
salt and pepper, to taste
reduced fat tofu sour cream, for garnish - optional
2 tablespoons diced fresh zucchini, for garnish - optional
(I added dried basil and parsley)

Water sauté the onion, carrots, celery and garlic until soft. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomato, red lentils, water, and fennel seed and cook until the lentils are soft (about 30 minutes). You may need to add a little extra water as the soup cooks and the lentils absorb the cooking liquid.

Place the soup in your blender and puree until smooth. I had to do this in three batches in the blender. Return the soup to the cooking pot and keep warm until needed.

Before serving taste the soup for seasonings and add salt and pepper to your taste. Finish the soup with tofu sour cream and a little diced fresh zucchini if using. Serve hot. (I finished with tempeh bacon)
This soup is thick, creamy, and rich. Very satisfying and a new go-to recipe.

So, even though I wasn't feeling the best, I managed to make the most of the day. I took advantage of the time home to do some baking and recipe testing. I also managed to knock a few chores off the to-do list. So it wasn't a total waste at all.

So what do you do when you're not feeling so hot?