Apr 01 2014

#FirstOnTheFirst: Homemade Naan

I’ve never met a bread I didn’t like.

While my palate could be much more refined than it is, there’s one thing that’s universal regardless of its cuisine of origin: bread. Flat or fluffy, soft or crunchy, bread in all its forms is wonderful.

homemade naan

Years ago, I took a History through Fiction course that focused on books set in Eastern Asian countries. The concept was simple: learn a little bit about a culture by the books set in and written by authors who have lived it. Memoirs of a Geisha, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, The Ramayana and A Passage to India were just a few of the works we read. The instructor, a former member of the CIA, always had the best stories to tell. Because of her, I came very close to minoring in Asian Studies. What would I have done with that? I’m not sure. But she captured my interest and had me wanting to know more. It wasn’t just the content–it was her teaching style that attracted me. I enjoyed every minute in her classes.

But back to the History through Fiction course. This was a night class at a regional campus for UCONN and, as such, took place right around dinner time. Our teacher thought it would be fun if we had an Asian-themed meal during one of the classes. This was before the explosion of options came to my town–no Thai, no Hibachi, and definitely no sushi. No Indian food either. If you wanted pizza or pasta, you could toss a stone and find a place to go, but there wasn’t a whole lot else to pick from. The idea of eating something other than Chinese take-out seemed quite exotic. And a little scary.

homemade naan

The class voted and chose Indian for our meal, which had to be retrieved 30 minutes away. (See! I told you! We were a barren wasteland then!) I had never seen Indian food before, so I had no idea what to expect. And, to be honest, I have no idea what I ate. The colors and aromas all mixed together in my memory. But I did learn one thing–naan is awesome. That night, I became addicted to it. And many years later, when I discovered it was available in the grocery store for enjoyment at home, I thought I had struck gold. Woohoo! It has become the base of many lunches and dinners (and breakfasts and snacks) ever since.

Like most other things, making naan at home is much more economical than buying it at the store. I managed 10 flatbreads with this recipe and it probably cost me no more than $2 to make. Hard to argue with that kind of value! They freeze well for later use and are great to have on hand for quick pizzas, sandwiches, dipping in hummus, and just plain eating. There isn’t a lot of active work involved, just some waiting for the dough to rise and then standing at the stove when cooking them off. It’s easy enough that I’ll probably show my nearly-9-year-old how to make them soon. She’s looking forward to it!

First on the First Homemade Naan

These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:

I cannot wait to see their results! As always, I’m eternally grateful for those who take part in these challenges with me. It’s always more fun when you can share something new with great friends!

Next month’s First on the First challenge will be Mille-Feuille

Also known as Napoleons, these are little pastries that consists of layers of puff pastry and pastry cream and/or fruit. They’re delicate and delightful and I’m really looking forward to tackling them! Please do come back on May 1st to see how they worked out!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Naan
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 10
  • ¼ cup hot tap water (you don’t really want it above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or you’ll kill the yeast)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for the work area
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup warm whole milk (again, not really above 100 degrees Fahrenheit; a quick hit in the microwave should be sufficient)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Organic Smooth & Creamy Whole Milk Plain yogurt)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the yeast, stir, and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl or 4-cup measuring cup, combine the milk and yogurt. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir it into the milk/yogurt, then add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Turn the mixer on to speed 2, mix and then knead the dough for 5 or so minutes, until you get a smooth yet somewhat sticky dough. (You can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if, after kneading for a few minutes, it’s too sticky that it won’t clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be stuck to the bottom of it; if it’s too dry to come together, you can add more warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time–try not to do these unless absolutely necessary, as they can throw off the balance and mess up the dough.)
  6. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, transfer the dough ball to it, cover with plastic wrap, and set somewhere warm for 1½ hours (I usually set my oven to the lowest temperature then shut it off once it reaches that, so it’ll hold some warmth for proofing without being too warm).
  7. Once the hour and a half has passed, flour your work surface well and transfer the dough to it. Cut into 10 equal portions then let sit for 30 minutes so the dough can rest and relax the gluten a little.
  8. Melt the butter and get out a pastry brush.Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  9. Roll out the portioned out dough to ovals/circles roughly the size of your skillet.
  10. Brush the tops with melted butter.
  11. Place 1 in the preheated skillet, butter side down, then brush butter on the top.
  12. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the edges are dry and the surface is bubbly.
  13. Flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes. When done, the bubbles will be browned but the rest of the naan will still be pale.
  14. Remove to a plate or wire rack to cool.
  15. Repeat with the rest of the naan.
  16. Naan can be stored in a large zip-top bag for up to 3 days or wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

This recipe was adapted from food52.

Now that you have your naan, why don’t you make some onions and peppers naan pizzas…?

What’s your favorite Indian food?

Mar 28 2014

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken Wraps #client #HiddenValleyIt

I love a good sandwich. Growing up, my dad was a master sandwich maker. All he had to do was ask and I was game. I’d watch as he toasted bread and layered meat with cheese, tomato and lettuce, and his spread of choice. Sometimes they were open face sandwiches, slipped under the broiler for a little melty goodness. Other times, they were on English muffins, which remains one of my favorite building blocks for sandwiches to this day. Always, they were delicious. My dad–the sandwich man.

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken Wraps

These days, while I’m still a sandwich fan, it’s easy for familiar combinations to become old and tired quickly. I mean really, I eat a sandwich most days of the week for lunch? How many different ways can you make a sandwich? When ennui sets in, it’s time to shake things up a bit and think outside the box. Take the tried and true original pieces and swap them out for something a little more exciting. And that, my friends, is where this wrap comes in.

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken Wraps

Yes, a wrap is a sandwich in a rolled-up form. And by selecting a flavored tortilla for my base–in this case, sun-dried tomato–we’re already breaking a case of the blahs. The chicken is a stand-by, for sure, but the roasted tomatoes give it a bit of oomph. Store-bought tomatoes taste so bland this time of year anyway–roasting gives them a flavor boost that is addictive. Then some chopped olives for a little bit of brininess and cheese, of course–have to have the cheese–and you have yourself a sandwich. Almost. Once you’ve assembled all your filling components, you have a tough decision to make. The piece-de-resistance comes next–the spread, the dressing, the mortar that holds it all together. And after you’ve put so much work into your masterpiece, you don’t want to waste your efforts on something boring. Go for something a little different, a lot of tasty, and easy to procure. You want Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch.

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken WrapsHidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch is transformative, with its zesty twist on the Ranch you already love. Peppercorn, garlic, and onion give it a nice little bite that makes you want to take bite after bite after bite. It’s addictive. Soon, you’ll be pouring it on everything. I highly recommend French fries. In the meantime, let it use its powers to bring your sandwiches to new heights of enjoyment. You’ll wonder how you ever got by without it before.

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken Wraps

Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Chicken Wraps
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Sandwich
Serves: 4
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut in strips
  • ¼ teaspoon Maldon or sea salt
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 10-inch sun-dried tomato wraps
  • 2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
  • ⅓ cup chopped black olives
  • ½ cup shredded Colby/Monterrey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch
  1. In a cast iron skillet heat ½ Tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) EVOO over medium high heat. Sprinkle salt over the chicken and cook, flipping once halfway through the cooking time, til there's no pink left and cooked all the way through (you may have to cook it in 2 batches, in which case you'd use half the salt for each batch). This should take 5-7 minutes per batch. Set aside.
  2. In an 8x8 baking dish, spread out the cherry tomatoes and toss in the other ½ Tablespoon EVOO. Put in a cold oven, set temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Drain and set aside.
  1. Lay out 4 wraps.
  2. Divide the lettuce into 4 portions and lay out a line of it in the middle of each wrap.
  3. Over the lettuce, place 4 or so chicken breast strips (about 4 ounces of chicken for each wrap).
  4. Sprinkle ¼ of the olives over each wrap.
  5. Spread out ¼ of the roasted cherry tomatoes over each wrap.
  6. Sprinkle ¼ of shredded cheese over each wrap.
  7. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch over each wrap.
  8. Fold over the flaps (left over center, right over center) and secure with toothpicks.
  9. Eat right away or wrap with plastic wrap and bring to work for lunch.
You can use leftover or pre-cooked chicken, as well. The wraps taste just as good with cold chicken.


From dressings and dips to sandwich spreads and side dish solutions, the special blend of herbs and spices makes Hidden Valley the perfect addition to any recipe. For more delectable ranch recipes, visit www.hiddenvalley.com.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Hidden Valley Ranch. The opinions and text are all mine.

Mar 25 2014

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Jam Bars #chocPBday

Right now is the beginning of the best day ever – Chocolate Peanut Butter Day! Hosted by Carla of Chocolate Moosey and Miriam of Overtime Cook, more than 30 bloggers are sharing their favorite chocolate peanut butter recipes, ranging from cookies and bars to scones and muffins. Follow the hashtag #chocPBday on social media and join us with your favorite chocolate and peanut butter recipes. Want to find all the recipes in one place? Follow our Pinterest board. We are also teaming up with OXO, King Arthur Flour, and Peanut Butter & Co. to bring you three fabulous prize packs. If you love to bake, you don’t want to miss entering!

chocolate chip peanut butter jam bars

We have a whole lotta chocolate peanut butter love going on today! Make sure you check out all these other fantastic offerings and Pin them to save for later–you’re going to want to try them all!

chocolate chip peanut butter jam bars

And, of course, my recipe. Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Jam Bars.

Because I wanted a cookie bar that evoked memories of childhood, while being just a little more sophisticated. Chocolate and peanut butter chips stud this peanut butter cookie crust and topping, hiding a layer of cherry jam that is simply amazing. I say this serves 16–it’s more like 2. It might be a good idea to double the recipe and prepare in a 9″x13″ pan instead. I won’t judge you. Peanut butter and chocolate are good for you, right? (I keep telling myself that, anyway…)

chocolate chip peanut butter jam bars

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Jam Bars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 16
  • 1½ cups King Arthur Flour white whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 large cage-free egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup peanut butter chips
  • ¾ cup cherry jam
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8"x8" baking dish and line with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to grip and remove the bars after they've cooled. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar. Beat until creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the egg and beat until well-incorporated, at least 1 minute.
  5. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  6. With the mixer on medium low, gradually add the flour mixture. Mix until almost incorporated, then add the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Mix until incorporated.
  7. Press half of the cookie dough in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread over that the jam.
  8. Grab handfuls of the remaining cookie dough and break it up over the top of the jam so you have crumbles everywhere.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden in color.
  10. Cool completely, then grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift straight up to remove from the pan.
  11. Cut and serve.

chocolate chip peanut butter jam bars

I want to send out a HUGE thank you to our sponsors for Chocolate Peanut Butter Day. Thanks to them, 3 of you will be receiving some pretty amazing prize packs! Be sure to follow them on social media:

OXO: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | YouTube

King Arthur Flour: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

Peanut Butter & Co: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest| Instagram | YouTube

Yup, that’s right, there are 3 big prizes available today. Because it wouldn’t be a celebration without prizes!

chocolate peanut butter day prizesPrize Pack #1: OXO Baking Tool Set: One 3-in-1 Egg Separator, One Bent Icing Knife, One Brownie Spatula, One Cake Tester, One Cookie Spatula, One Cupcake Icing Knife, One Cupcake Corer, One Egg Beater, One Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, One Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons, One Medium Cookie Scoop

Prize Pack #2: King Arthur Flour ingredients: One bag of all-purpose flour, one package of Guittard bittersweet chocolate disks, and one bottle of pure vanilla extract

Prize Pack #3: Peanut Butter and Co. package including: one Dark Chocolate Dreams 6-pack, One Variety 6-pack, and One 31 Days of Dark Chocolate Dreams cookbook.

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will be picked from random draw. Giveaway ends Monday March 31 at 11:59 PM. The winners will be notified via email and have 24 hours to respond. If not, the prize is forfeited and another winner will be chosen.

Enter in the Rafflecopter box below for your chance at all this goodness. Good luck!

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Disclosure: OXO, King Arthur Flour, and Peanut Butter & Co. are providing the prizes for this giveaway, free of charge. I received no product or compensation from these companies for this post. All opinions are my own.

Mar 17 2014

#FromLeft2Write: The Divorce Papers and Pondering What’s Left Behind

The Divorce PapersThis post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel told mostly through letters and legal missives. Join From Left to Write on March 18 we discuss The Divorce Papers. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

What do we leave behind when we’re gone?

It’s kind of a morbid question, I know. But hear me out. What would someone find out about us someday if they ever went looking? It used to be the legal papers were all that remained. The things you’d find in your Town Clerk’s office: birth certificate, marriage certificate, deeds and mortgages, (god-forbid, foreclosures and lis pendens), name change certificates if you divorced and reverted to your maiden name… Who were your parents? Where were you born? Which houses did you own? How much were they assessed for? How much did you pay in taxes? Did you ever get any Zoning variances or special exceptions? Was that deck constructed with a Building permit? These are the remains of a life. These are the building blocks, residing eternally on record, that the people who come after us will have available to them to reconstruct our lives. Or, it used to be that way. Because anyone who uses the internet knows that the internet is forever. And there’s a whole lot more of our lives preserved now, whether we like it or not.

There’s a meme going around on the internet that goes something like I’m so happy I was young and stupid before the internet. One moment of insanity can now be captured for all to see and even if you delete it from one of your multiple social media accounts, that doesn’t mean it goes away. There are many heads to cut off this beast. And you never really know who has shared your content, who has right-clicked and saved something to their own computer for future use. You just don’t know who is reconstructing your life, even as you live it. And it’s a little frightening, when you think about it.

Someday, when my daughter is a teenager and starts wondering who her parents are, she’ll have more than a yearbook photo and silly farewells trapped in a book that hasn’t been cracked in decades at her disposal. She’ll be able to see every selfie I’ve taken in bars with friends. She’ll have access to the dream vacations and desired home renovations I’ve collected on Pinterest. And all those Twitter chats I’ve participated in will show her how boring her mom can really be. There will be so much information at her fingertips that she’ll likely get bored and move onto something more interesting, like writing her name in hearts with the latest boy band object-of-desire’s last name tacked on to hers. Life is no longer summed up; it’s transcribed. The full record is there for review, should anyone want it. Though I’m not sure who would want to rummage through it all.

More is not better. Sometimes, more is just more.

And now, a life that once had only its high points or highlights on file for future generations’ perusal will bog down the system with every inane thought and action that ever happened. Carrie has a case of the Mondays. Carrie is at Starbucks. Carrie went to the bar with her friend Crista. Carrie liked Brian’s picture of his lunch. It’s all there. And in some ways, it makes a life a little less special.

Guilty as charged.

What are your thoughts on a life viewed through the papers and information left behind?

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