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Basic French Bread

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By request.... this is my go-to bread recipe, which never lasts the night in my house. It uses olive oil, and I recommend using a high-quality one for best results. If you are so inclined to use a flavored olive oil, it will make a flavorful bread. You can scatter dried herbs on the dough when you bake it for yummy results.

I use my stand mixer for this. If you don't have one, stir the dough with a wooden spoon and knead by hand for 10 minutes. That's really boring, so I prefer the stand mixer.

I add a couple of tablespoons of bread enhancer as well, but I haven't been able to find it in a while. You'll get fine results without it. I also recommend using bread flour rather than all-purpose, but your mileage may vary.




BASIC FRENCH BREAD

1 packet dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. warm water
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine dry yeast, sugar and warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is fo…

Foodsgiving: French Onion Casserole

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Tonight's dinner is a tried-and-true favorite among the menfolk, and one of the few that doesn't have meat. It's not vegetarian, however, since it does use cream of chicken soup. But it's so beloved of the men that I have regularly doubled the recipe and turned it from a side dish to the main course.



FRENCH ONION CASSEROLE

3 tbsp. butter
3 large sweet onions (or 4 medium)
2 c. Swiss cheese (or 8 oz., shredded or sliced)
1 can cream of onion soup
2/3 c. milk
1 tsp. soy sauce
sliced French bread

Slice onions. Melt butter in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Add more butter if necessary. Saute the onions until clear with a little browning. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat soup, milk and soy sauce, stirring to blend.

In a 21-quart casserole pan (9x9 works fine), layer the onions, then a layer of cheese and a dash of pepper to taste. Pour the soup mixture over the onions and cheese. Top with bread slices.

Bake at 350 degrees uncovered f…

Foodsgiving: Disney Dijon Chicken

I love food holidays. It's utterly ridiculous how much fun it is to make up different recipes and confuse my menfolk. I am the weirdo who always wishes she could host a gathering of a zillion, and if my house could seat more than ten people at any given time, I'd be the one hosting every party from SPJ to the choir to the writing group to... well, random strangers.

Now I have an unprecedented MONTH off, as grades have been turned in, I passed everything, and the semester doesn't start until January 14. Naturally I will be spending most of the break writing, shooting, editing and other such things based in earning a living.

But I'll also be COOKING. Yum.

Last night was an old favorite, a variation on the basil cream chicken that comes from the Happiest Place on Earth. I have a number of Disney cookbooks, but this one I stole from my mother's cookbook of Disneyland recipes.

DISNEY CHICKEN DIJON SAUCE

2/3 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1/2 ts…

Recipe: Basil Cream Chicken

At the risk of becoming nothing but a food blog... this was requested.

Basil Cream Chicken, modified from Allrecipes.com.

There are two ways to do this: breaded and not. I usually don't bother with breading, since I find it doesn't change the flavor much and it's a pain. If you choose, start by dipping the chicken in milk and then breadcrumbs before adding it to the skillet, or if you're lazy like me, just go straight to the skillet.

Also, the original recipe called for whole boneless chicken breasts, but I found they were much too thick to cook properly. Thus I use boneless chicken thighs, and/or cut up the chicken meat into bite-size pieces so they stay tender and cook all the way through.

1 lbs. boneless chicken
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chicken bouillon
1 c. cream
1/2 c. Parmesan
3 tbsp. basil
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and flavor with salt and pepper to taste (I generally go very light on the pepper or use white pepper)…

Pie-xperiments

I had coffee hour at church today, and you know that means baking time.

Look. I have built-in taste testers at home. But they are pickypants pains. Boy has declared he does not like pie. Any pie, any kind. Man is extremely selective and getting more selective by the hour. No peaches, pears, plums, blackberry, strawberry... I’m down to blueberry and apple, and the latter I’ve not made into a pie yet.

I make a kickass key lime pie. Man snubs it - “I don’t like key lime.” Philistine. Boy requests more chocolate chip cookies.

So when I get the chance to experiment on other humans, I jump on it. I need willing victims!

This week’s selections included my trusty key lime pie, blueberry vanilla muffin bread, Clifty sugar cream pie and my standby cheese and crackers, ranch cheese spread, grapes and bagels. Plus chocolate chip cookies, which I apparently will make for every gathering forever.

The sugar cream pie comes from the Old Clifty Inn in Madison, Indiana. I was there for a book signing a…

Snippets

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It's been a while since we did one of these....

ME: Is my social media leader text too long?
EDITOR: Yes, and too complicated. It has to be shorter and simpler.
ME: Are you saying that people on Facebook cannot comprehend a compound sentence?
EDITOR: Yes. Duh.

----

JIM: Hey, free books on the table.
ME: Boooooks.
JIM: "Writing Great Short Stories." "Steps to Writing Well." "Characters and Viewpoint."
ME: Want.
JIM: "Eats Shoots and Leaves." "How to Read Novels Like a Professor." You want all of them? They are free for the taking.
ME: Yes. Any we don't add to the house collection can go to the Relay sale in the fall.
JIM: "Rhetorical Analysis."
ME: ... ugh.
JIM: I got all the ones about writing. I'll put them in my book bag.
ME: *bounce*
JIM: There are two left but I don't think you want those.
ME: What are they?
JIM: "Business School Essays" and "A Practical Guide to Family Therapy."
ME: No…

One small step for me.

This has proven much more difficult to write than I anticipated, probably because this is the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

Harder than the decision to leave Memphis and my career in the arts in order to pursue a life in journalism. Harder than the decision to divorce my first husband, the father of my child.

And I'm not one to take a leap without considering all the options, so you'd best believe that I have discussed this with Jim, with my parents, with close friends, with mentors. Probably until they were tired of talking about it with me. I have dithered and stalled, because once I post this, it's final. It's real.

I'm leaving the newspaper. With that decision ends 21 years in daily journalism.

Wow, that was hard to type. And I haven't even done it yet.

Please click here to check out my new site and all the details about this amazing new journey I'm about to take, and how you can be a part of it.