Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowls and Broccoli Cheese Soup

After our brief heatwave (45 degrees Fahrenheit) we had below zero wind chills. On Tuesday, we had blizzard-like conditions. The snow was falling and the wind was blowing the snow everywhere. It was perfect day for a warm comforting dinner. I read about Nicole’s sourdough starter at PinchMySalt I have never made homemade bread before and was up to the challenge. I needed to start my own sourdough starter, thus making this bread bowl adventure an all day thing. The time and effort I put into this meal was well worth it. My first attempt was a success! My favorite thing to order from Panera Bread is their broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl. I do not need Panera anymore, because I can make my own, which is just as tasty!

I found a recipe for sourdough bread starter at the Food Network’s website, I chose Emeril’s recipe to follow. For my broccoli cheese soup, I adapted a recipe from my great grandma Nona. My grandma worked with my great grandma to type all of her recipes into a cookbook, which we received for a Christmas present in 1997. I have referenced it countless times when I need some inspiration for dinner. I am looking forward to getting a cookbook of my great grandma Dorothy’s recipes… hint, hint.

from Emeril

3 c warm water (110 degrees F)
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not foam, discard the mixture and begin again with a new yeast.)
Add the flour and stir vigorously to work air into the mixture. Cover with a towel let rest in a warm, draft-free place (an oven with its pilot light or light bulb turned on works well) for 8 to12 hours. (The mixture should become very bubbly.) Use immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Preserving the Starter: Each time you remove a portion of the starter for a recipe, reserve at least 1/4 cup and replace the amount you have taken out with equal amounts of flour and water.
For example, if you remove 1 cup of starter, you must replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk these ingredients into the starter until blended but not completely smooth, cover loosely, and return to the refrigerator.
Also, the starter must be maintained by feeding it every few days. Refresh by removing 1 cup of the starter (give to a friend or discard it) and adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk until blended but not smooth. Cover loosely and return to the refrigerator.
If you plan to be away longer than a week, freeze the starter in a sterilized, airtight freezer container. Thaw the starter 2 days before you plan to bake with it. Refresh as indicated above with 1 cup each of flour and warm water. Cover and leave at room temperature 12 hours or overnight before using.
CAUTION: Never keep your starter tightly closed! The gasses expelled by the yeast will build up pressure and may cause the container (such as a glass jar) to burst!

I left my mixture sit for 8 1/2 hours before I began to work with it.

from Emeril

2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter, recipe follows
3/4 teaspoon salt

In an electric mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour, starter and salt, and knead until it no longer sticks to the sides or bottom of the mixing bowl.
Place a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead gently, removing any large air bubbles. Knead into a small circle, then shape into a tight ball (for bread bowls, separate dough in half and shape into two tight balls), pinching the seams together underneath. Place on a well-floured board or baking peel, seam-side down. Cover with a kitchen towels and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat a baking stone, if available, on the bottom rack of an oven at 400 degrees F. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut a large “X” or cross-hatch pattern into the top of the dough.

Spray lightly with a mister and transfer to the baking stone (or place on a heavy baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal) and bake until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, about 60 minutes. (Sourdough should have a darker crust than other breads, so leave in the oven 5 minutes after you think it is done.)
Remove the loaf from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I brushed my bread bowls with melted butter when they came out of the oven.

adapted from great grandma Nona’s recipe

1 bunch broccoli -cut up
1 1/2 c boiling water (I used 1 c chicken stock and the hot water I used to rinse out the soup cans. I filled them 1/4 of the way full and swished them around to get the excess soup out)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 c light cream (I had none on hand so I used whole milk)
salt & pepper to taste
8 oz cubed Velveeta
1/2c shredded carrots
1/2 c minced white onion
1 T olive oil

Sautee carrots and onion in olive oil.

Add broccoli, chicken stock, soup(and water), milk, and Velveeta. Simmer on med-lo until broccoli is tender.

Once broccoli is tender, scoop out about 1/2 of the mixture and pulse in a blender a few times. Be careful because the mixture is very hot!

Add back to the pot and stir well. Scoop out the insides of the bread bowl and reserve for dipping. Add the soup to the bread bowl and ENJOY!


Soups On!

Like I said earlier, I would post the recipes for the soups I made last week. Unfortunately I don’t have photos to go along with them. Next time I make the soup I will include a photo. I apologize for not using “real” chicken stock, this was a 30 minute meal day.


3 carrots, pealed and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 T Olive Oil
salt/pepper to taste
1 hardy pinch of dried thyme
2 – 32 oz boxes Swanson’s chicken broth
3 c cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 – 32 oz package Reames frozen noodles

Sautee vegetables in the olive oil until softened. Add salt/pepper and thyme. Add chicken and broth. Bring to boil, add noodles and boil for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

I really enjoy my potato soup made with sauteed onions and crumbled bacon. When I made this soup the bacon was frozen. But feel free to add 4-6 slices cooked and crumbled to your soup.


6 Russet potatoes, pealed and cubed
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
pinch of dried thyme
1 c chicken stock
1 c cheddar cheese
2 c whole milk

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain. Sautee onions in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add salt/pepper and thyme. Add your liquids and the drained potatoes. Simmer until warmed through. Scoop out 1/2 of the soup with chunky potatoes and puree in the blender until smooth. Add to pot and stir in cheese. Simmer until cheese is melted.

Cheesy Baked Corn

Lately I have had a real love of the flavor of thyme. Just a dash in a dish brings a depth of flavor to it that I really have been enjoying lately. In the past week, I have added thyme to my chicken noodle soup, chunky potato soup, and just recently to my cheesy baked corn. I added pepper to my corn, however I would leave it out next time, so I have omitted it from my recipe.

Does anyone have any other recipes that feature thyme? Please let me know!

Cheesy Baked Corn

1-15 oz can creamed corn
1-15 oz can whole kernel corn-drained
1/2 c milk
generous pinch of dried thyme
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve of crushed snack crackers
2 T butter

Preheat oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine both cans of corn , milk, thyme, 1/2 c cheese, 1/2 sleeve of crushed crackers in a bowl. Put into a greased 8×8 pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and crackers. Dot with butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crackers are browned on top.


This weekend Alex and I had a few friends come to stay. I love to cook and wanted to make something delicious, but I did not want to slave away in the kitchen all afternoon in order to prepare dinner. Lasagna sounded good. It is easy enough to make, and if you use no-boil noodles, there is very little prep time required of you. So lasagna it was. My friend Michelle whipped up a Jello No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake while I assembled the lasagna.

Michelle and I ran to the grocery store to get the ingredients we needed, while the guys watched the kids and the results of the SC primary. Things were running smoothly, by my calculations, dinner would be ready just in time for the little girls to fill their bellies before heading off to bed. I had browned my meat and was beginning to assemble my lasagna when I realized that I only had FOUR lasagna noodles. FOUR. That was it. So I quickly made the girls peanut butter sandwiches (sorry girls!) and ran back to the store to get more noodles. Things didn’t go according to plan, but everything turned out perfectly in the end. While the lasagna was cooking; Michelle and I gave the girls a bath and put them in bed. This allowed the adults to have dinner in peace and quiet. It was a great weekend. Good food, good friends and a great time.


1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 T olive oil
2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 package Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
4 c mozzarella cheese
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown beef and sausage in olive oil, until cooked through. Make sure to break meat apart while cooking. Drain off excess fat once meat is cooked through. Combine egg, ricotta, 2c mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and salt/pepper together. Grease a 9×13 in. pan. Pour 1c sauce on bottom. Layer 4 lasagna noodles on bottom. Put 1/3 cheese mixture down on top of noodles. Next place 1/3 meat mixture, followed by 1/2c mozzarella cheese. Cover with 1-1 1/2 c sauce. Repeat process twice. Once you get to the last layer, place 4 lasagna noodles on top, cover with the last of the sauce, followed by last of the mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

Giant Crunchy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Sasha all bundled up.

It has been extremely cold here in Iowa. We have received about 10 inches or more of snow in the last five days. This morning when I woke up it was -17 and with the wind chill it felt like -30. BRR that is really cold. Needless to say, Marley does not enjoy going outside when it is that cold. When he is outside he does his business and he does it fast. I have been cooking all the comfort foods this week. Including Chicken Noodle Soup and Chunky Potato Soup (I will include those recipes in a separate post).

On Monday I felt like turning on my oven and do some cookie baking. I came across this eggless cookie recipe on Patricia’s website. However she calls her cookies Chocolate Chip Whoppers. You need to use both your hands to eat these cookies! I added crushed pecans to my cookie dough. My cookies came out EXTREMELY crunchy, so I changed the name. I may have accidentally left out a cup of flour, which could have caused the cookies to become so crunchy. I will try to make these cookies again and see if the result is the same. Alex and Sasha love these cookies, and that makes me happy. In fact, Sasha has become a pro at saying “Cookie. Please.”

Giant Crunchy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly–I used salted butter and omitted the tsp salt
1 c sugar
½ c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T water
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips –I used milk chocolate chips
1 c crushed pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place rack in the middle of the over. Mix flour, soda and salt together. In separate bowl cream butter and vanilla with sugars. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. The dough will look crumbly. Mix in the water. The dough will become soft and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Using 1/4 c measuring cup, scoop dough onto baking sheet and smoosh until 3/4 in. thick. Place cookies at least 3 in. apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until tops are browned with a few cracks.

Makes about 16 giant cookies.

Red Wine-Braised Chuck Roast Photos

I have to apologize for the low quality of these photos. I did not decide to blog about this dinner until after we ate it. You have to give me a break, I am new at this blogging stuff. From now on I will take more photos while I am cooking!

If you want to check out great food photography visit one of my favorite blogs, www.pinchmysalt.com Nicole does a fabulous job taking photos of her food. Hopefully, I will get the hang of this, and my photos will turn out artsy like hers.
Creamy Parmesan Thyme Polenta

Creamy Parmesan Thyme Polenta

What was left of our chuck roast

The red wine braising liquid

Red Wine-Braised Chuck Roast

I have gone gourmet, or at least last night’s dinner tasted gourmet. It was an absolutely delicious chuck roast if I do say so myself. This dinner demands little effort. I served this roast with a side of creamy parmesan thyme polenta (recipe below).

The chuck comes from the upper shoulder/neck area of the cow. It can contain connective tissue and collagen. The collagen provides lots of flavor to this meat as it melts during the cooking process. This cut is typically used for slow cooking, braising, roasting or stewing.

Red Wine-Braised Chuck Roast
3-4 lb chuck roast
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 yellow onions (thinly sliced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 c beef stock
2 T tomato sauce
1 750ml red wine (I used a Shiraz)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot over medium high heat. Pat roast dry, and sprinkle with salt/pepper on all sides. Place roast in pot and brown on all sides, about 10-15 minutes. Place roast on plate.

Add onions and saute until they become a pale golden brown color, about 10 minutes. Add salt/pepper, garlic, thyme, tomato sauce, beef stock and wine. Bring to boil. Return roast to the pot and cover with the lid. Put in oven and roast, after 1 hour turn the roast and continue to cook for another hour to 1 1/2 hours, you want the roast extremely tender. Take roast out of pan and let it rest on a plate for 20-30 minutes. Slice roast on the bias, place some onions on the roast and pour wine sauce over the roast.

While the roast is resting, take this “thyme” to make your polenta.

Creamy Parmesan Thyme Polenta
2 c chicken stock
2 c water
1 c polenta (ground corn meal)
1/2 tsp salt
3 T unsalted butter
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp thyme

Bring chicken stock, water and salt to a boil. Slowly add polenta (corn meal) whisking the entire time. Turn heat down to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat off, add butter, thyme and Parmesan cheese. Stir well.