Cuban Baguette Bread

 photo 60621CAC-602B-458F-ACFE-BC63CF79D55D_zpsykuhslef.jpgThis recipe is similar to my Easy Cuban Bread loaves recipe, but baked and shaped differently.  It still provides a crunchy crust on the outside, but a soft texture inside. I mix the dough in my bread machine, shape, and finish in the oven.

This makes 3 baguettes or two french bread style loaves.  Whichever way you choose to shape and bake, the loaves freeze well.  

Note that this bread is very similar to classic French bread, with the main difference being the ratio of liquid to flour, rising time, and how the loaves are shaped for baking. Cuban bread is quicker to make and simply rolled or stretch into a "log," while French bread dough is flattened, then rolled up and pinched at seams as layers are formed to shape a loaf. 

This bread is perfect for serving with soups, salads, or pasta dishes.  It's handy to have on hand for slicing into thin rounds and topping with appetizers or cheese spreads.
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I have baguette pans, but you can shape into loafs and bake on a sheet pan. My smaller baguette pan makes three 12-13 inches long loaves, and my larger pan, makes two larger 12-13 inches long loaves.  The non-stick perforated pans sell for around  $15 or less and make evenly shaped baked loaves, allowing for even heat circulation while baking.

Cuban Baguette Bread
3 cups bread flour
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water

olive oil for brush afterwards optional

Place everything in a bread machine, according to instructions, and turn to the dough setting. Usually liquids go in first, then salt and sugar, then flour and lastly, yeast on top.

Once the cycle is complete, let dough rest in the warm machine for another 30-45 minutes. Remove to shape for a second rise.  (If using a mixer or mixing by hand, combine and mix all ingredients, knead shape into a mound and place in a greased bowl, cover and let rest for at least a half hour.)
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Divide into 3 equal portions and roll out and stretch into log-like loaves, dust with a generous portion of flour and place in baguette pan.  Let the dough rest and rise again doubling in size in a warm place. (Or divide into two french bread style loaves.)

For a more professional look, make 3 or 4 angled slashes across the tops with a razor blade or sharp knife.  Lightly spray or brush tops of loaves with water.

Bake on middle rack of oven at 450 until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, depending on loaf sizes. Check at 20 minutes and add more time if needed. I sometimes brush with olive oil afterwards to bring out the golden color and give the surface a glossy look.

Estimated cost: .60 cents or less for three baguettes; .20 cents or less per baguette

Zucchini Ribbon Salad and Dressing

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I'm always looking for new salad dressings and/or ideas for salads, as we have a salad every night with dinner. With a variety of salad recipes to choose from, meals never seem boring.

While looking for ways to use zucchini from the garden, I ran across this Zucchini Ribbon Salad from The Splendid Table website and tweaked it a bit.

It's delightful - colorful, flavorful, sweet and crunchy.  The dressing can be used on any salad greens, so I made a triple batch and then used it for other tossed salads later in the week.

This recipe calls for 5 cups of zucchini, or 6 servings, so cut the recipe in half if wanting fewer servings. With the dressing made and on hand, it's a quick way to use zucchini for an attractive salad. 

If growing your own zucchini or your neighbor shares, the cost per serving is practically nothing!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad and Dressing

Lemon Salad Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tabs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
black pepper to taste
grated lemon zest, about 1 tablespoon
3 Tabs. finely chopped black olives
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil in a small bowl with the lemon juice, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in the lemon zest, black olives and red pepper and set aside, or place ingredients in a jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.

 photo CDFF6138-9855-41B3-9A62-A8C529A6E92E_zpsduikpdtk.jpgFor the Zucchini Salad
2 pounds medium zucchini, about 5 cups when shaved
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, or Parmesan, shaved into long furls
1/4 cup almonds coarsely chopped
Drizzles of honey

Using a vegetable peeler or kitchen mandoline, slice zucchini into long, thin, ribbons. When ready to serve, toss the zucchini in a large bowl with the dressing to lightly coat. Gently fold in the shaved Romano or Parmesan.

Turn out onto a large platter. Top with the almonds and lightly drizzle with honey, or arrange on individuals plates, then top with almonds and the honey. Serves 6.

Estimated cost with purchased zucchini: $3.00 or less; .50 cents a serving or less.

Sweet and Sour Kidney Bean Salad

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI grew up enjoying the taste of "Sweet and Sour" in a variety of recipes on the German side of my family.  A great-aunt often served this at family gatherings.  

I've made it with mix beans, but this is her original kidney bean salad recipe, with a cooked dressing.

I buy dry beans in bulk and cook in my electric pressure cooker, then freeze and vacuum seal to have on hand, for salads or chili, but canned beans are just as handy. 

At home I serve on bed of lettuce or spinach leafs.  It's easy to double or triple for a potluck or large family gathering.

Sweet and Sour Kidney Bean Salad
1  15 oz. can kidney beans, drained, about 2 cups
4 celery ribs
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App5 sweet pickles
1 small onion
1/2 green pepper

5 Tabs. vinegar
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 Tab. sugar, or Splenda
5 Tabs. milk

Cut celery, pickles, onion and green pepper into small pieces and mix with kidney beans in a bowl.

In a saucepan combine and mix vinegar, egg, salt, pepper, sugar and mustard. Whisk and blend well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly then remove and add milk and beat or whisk quickly. Pour over chopped vegetables.  Set in refrigerator at least 4 hours or more to chill before serving.  Serves 6 to 8.

Estimated Cost: $1.80 or less; .30 cents per serving or less.

Tomato Bisque

Tomato Bisque photo D5784467-214A-44A2-9652-7E9365B79B6E_zpspcoumwdk.jpgA friend mentioned the best tomato bisque soup she ever had was served at a local restaurant in Pennsylvania. Their site featured the recipe, so I had to try it.  I make homemade soup every week to have on hand for appetizers, lunches and light dinners, so am always looking for something new to try.

I discovered "Bisque" is a term for a richly seasoned, creamy, thick pureed soup normally made using shellfish, but can also be made using vegetables.

Another tomato soup I often make is Tomato Blue Cheese, especially when my garden is producing summer tomatoes. But if fresh tomatoes aren't available, canned tomatoes work well enough.

This offers a hearty, flavorful soup -- it's a meal by itself. Most often, I serve it with a salad for dinner, or have by itself for lunch.

Tomato Bisque
The Brasserie’s (famous) Tomato Bisque with Croutons and Cheese
16, 1/2- inch thick French bread Baguette slices (or store-bought croutons)
Olive Oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Tomato Bisque photo null_zps8200bc6d.jpg1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with puree
3/4 cup tomato juice
3 Tabs. tomato paste
2 Tabs. golden brown sugar
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Tab. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups chicken stock, or canned low salt broth
4 to 6 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Thin slices of Provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slices on heavy large cookie sheet. Brush both sides of bread with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Tomato Bisque photo null_zps0c4452e0.jpgMelt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Add half of chopped tomatoes, all chopped carrots and celery and half of chopped onion; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes. Mix in crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, sugar and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Cool tomato mixture slightly. Puree in batches in a blender or use an emulsion wand. Set puree aside. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining chopped tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, parsley, oregano, basil and thyme and saute until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
Tomato Bisque photo F083190E-B971-4A3A-AB5C-044FD8EA5689_zpsampt0qos.jpgMix in pureed tomatoes and cream. Soup will be thick. Add enough stock to thin to desired consistency. Cook until heated through, stirring frequently. Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate soup. Store croutons in a plastic bag at room temperature. Rewarm soup.

Preheat broiler. Ladle soup into 1 to 1-1/2 cup oven proof soup bowls. Top each with two baguette croutons, or several commercial croutons. Top with mozzarella and provolone cheese. Broil until soup bubbles and cheese melts, watching carefully, about 1 minute. Serve hot. Makes 8 -10 servings.

Estimated cost $7.20 or less; $.90 cents a serving or less.