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No, this is not a post about Glee.

I must apologize for my lack of posts recently. I’ve actually reached a point of change in my diet. I am now learning to cook and eat with minimal to no gluten for my own health. This is kind of like starting over at the beginning for a pasta and bread fanatic like myself. That being said, A Vida Boa will still expand and become all I want it to be, there just may be a little less pasta and bread and a lot more whole food, fruit and vegetable based dishes.

Now don’t be too disappointed. I am nothing, if not creative! I am going on my first gluten-free grocery shopping trip tonight and will begin posting my experiments and recipes that satisfy my body as well as those of my gluten-loving family and friends. It’s sure to be an interesting and tasty ride!

Well we had a blizzard roll through Oklahoma today which meant one thing: snow day!! In other words, I got a paid day off work to read and cook. Needless to say, my kitchen has been full of wonderful aromas today! By far, a flavorful pasta is the ultimate comfort food for me. Pair a bowl with some hearty bread and I am a very happy snowed in cook :). So while other were making chili, cookies, and cobblers, I was scouring my pantry for some great, fresh ingredients.

Today I outdid myself! Not only did I make a phenomenal combination of pasta and bread….but I WROTE IT DOWN! This is quite the legendary feat for me, as I tend to create heavenly dishes and forget how I did it the next day. But today, I am able to grace you all with both recipes and pictures!

I have to say that my favorite recipes have a few shared characteristics:

  • FULL OF FLAVOR.
  • FRESH INGREDIENTS.
  • AFFORDABLE
  • SATISFYING

Today’s treats had all of these features and more! My mom was around to taste them and enjoyed both enough to ask for the recipe. So I’m very happy to give it to you below:

(Please pardon the picture quality. Working with what I have until I can purchase a higher quality camera.)

 

FOCACCIA WITH ONION AND DILL

Honestly, who can turn down a warm slice of focaccia? I certainly can’t. This focaccia, which I adapted from a similar Williams-Sonoma recipe, comes out perfectly, with just enough crisp on the outside to hold the tender middle inside. It’s honestly good enough to melt in your mouth. You can change up the seasonings if you want, or add some sun-dried tomatoes, olives, or cheese for taste. The possibilities are virtually endless…and very tasty 🙂 This is wonderful cut into wedges with a little butter, used as sandwich or panini bread, or served with a pasta like the one I made tonight!

Yield: 1 large oval

  • 1 Tbsp active yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups tepid water (110-115° F) **the temp of the water is very important! If it’s too cool, your dough will not rise and no one wants flat focaccia :(**
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 4-4 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour. divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh or dried dill
  • Kosher or coarse sea salt for sprinkling

In a large prep bowl (about 2 cups), combine 1/2 cup of the warm water, yeast,  and a pinch of the sugar until dissolved.

Let stand until very foamy, 10-15 minutes.

Add remaining water and sugar, the fine sea salt, 1 cup of the flour, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Beat for about 1 minute with a heavy spoon until well mixed. Add 1 cup of flour and beat for another two minutes. The dough will have an elastic feel to it as you stir.

Add onion and dill (and any other seasonings at this point) and mix until combined. Beat in remaining dough 1/4-1/2 cup at a time until a workable dough is formed and the ball of dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Using lightly floured baking mat, countertop, or piece of waxed paper, gently knead the dough until it is soft and slightly sticky, no longer than six minutes. Add a little flour if it becomes too hard to work with!

Loosely cover with lightly-oiled cling wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Layer a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread with 1/8 cup olive oil. This will make the bread brown and crisp on the bottom and makes for easier clean-up 🙂 When the dough is ready, lightly push it until it forms a large oval on the baking sheet. Cover again with the cling-wrap for rising.

*I highly recommend putting the dough in your cold oven to prevent drafts from interrupting the rising process. As this stagemakes all the difference in the relative latitude of your bread, this shielding helps a lot. Also, filling a pie pan or other glass or stoneware dish with very hot water and placing it on the rack underneath the dough helps it rise as well. It creates steam in the closed oven which promotes the dough’s expansion.

Let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Remove dough from oven and brush with remaining olive oil. Make indentions with your fingertips to give the bread its characteristic dimpled look. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise again, for 30 minutes, OUTSIDE of the oven this time.

The Williams-Sonoma recipe suggests placing a baking stone in the oven and preheating it to 425° F, and then placing the cookie sheet atop this. I like this method as well, but the cookie sheet can also be placed straight on the rack.

Remove plastic and top lightly with coarse salt. Place pan in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned both top and bottom.

TORTELLINI WITH BROWN BUTTER SAUCE

I must say that this a proud day for me. This is one of the best original recipes I have come up with me and I am so excited to share it! It will hopefully become a favorite for your family like it has for mine tonight. This recipe is scaled to feed two perfectly, so it could be doubled or tripled very easily.

Yield: 2 servings (1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 small pkg. tortellini (I used three-cheese)/28 g.
  • 6 Tbsp salted, butter *not margarine or any other imposter….BUTTER!*
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded havarti or other soft, rich cheese
  • 2 diced roma tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring 5 cups water to a rolling boil with a general pinch of sea salt. Add pasta and stir to keep it from sticking. Boil until tender, stirring occasionally, while working on the sauce. Drain pasta into a colander, but be sure to reserve some pasta water (about 1/2 cup). Return pasta to the pan and set aside.

MEANWHILE

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.

Once all butter is melted, add in shallots and garlic. Cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring constantly until the butter is golden-brown and very fragrant.

Add tomatoes and green onions and cook for two minutes or until softened.

Add havarti and cream and stir until cheese is completely melted and cream is incorporated.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from fire and pour over pasta.

Toss to coat tortellini and ENJOY!

Up and Running

Hello all!

I am very excited to start this blog for so many reasons. People have asked for my recipes for years and now I have an instant medium of communication. You stick around for a while and I guarantee I’ll give you the idea for your new favorite food or a way to enhance an old favorite. I have so many ideas and recipes to share, I can hardly wait!

But first, a little about me. I work in the legal field by day, but I would cook every hour if someone would pay me to do so. A Vida Boa will eventually be a catering company but for now, it is my hobby and my passion. I truly love food and have since I was young. My best memories are cooking with my mom and older sister at family holidays. I grew up in a “from-scratch” family where there was very little Bisquick or Hot Pockets. We made things the old-fashioned way most of the time and as a result, I learned a lot!

When I went off to college, I lived alone and had no desire to eat on campus. Thus, all my spending money went to my grocery budget. You talk about girls going nuts over a pair of shoes…you should see me with a wheel of smoked gouda! I learned quickly how to make a budget stretch while making flavorful and healthy meals from scratch. Sound impossible? It took four years but I got it down and now I want to share what I learned with you. In the last two years, I added another level to the challenge by holding myself to a natural-as-possible diet – focusing on fresh (organic when I can squeeze it) fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and as much unprocessed, preservative-free meat and dairy as possible.

The recipes I’ll post here combine the best of both worlds:

  • healthy, unprocessed ingredients you can actually afford
  • tons and tons of flavor!

That combination is to me, living the good life!

Make sure and subscribe so you don’t miss a single tasty idea or mouth-watering picture. You can also follow me @A_Vida_Boa on Twitter for even more great foodie talk and tips.

Time for a toast!

Welcome to A Vida Boa! Come on in and grab a plate!