Here we are in our sixth and final part of the cooking and baking series and we are wrapping up with the PERFECT cheap, easy, and sorta fancy bread recipes that have been a weekly (if not sometimes daily) staple in our kitchen over the last six months. A friend recently asked me if I bake bread when I’m stressed and the answer is absolutely yes! I bake bread to give my hands something wholesome to do with themselves - something that makes a product that fills bellies and bring smiles. I bake bread because there is nothing more soothing than the steady push and pull of kneading the dough or more comforting than the steamy cracking open of a perfect floury crust. The yeasty smell of baking bread will always be my favorite scent and these recipes make it easy enough to keep that smell in the air almost anytime.
Join me in a few weeks for my first trip lookbook in a long long time...my review of our upcoming trip to Martha’s Vineyard! And in the meantime, enjoy the best gift I can give you: my three ride-or-die bread recipes. Here we go!
1. No Knead Dutch Oven Bread
This recipe is the one that began it all. I read a version of this recipe in Shauna Nequist’s book Bread and Wine and started making it to share over every pot of soup and bowl of salad shared over my table. This is the bread that brings my people the biggest smiles. It’s crusty and just the right balance of soft and chewy. If you’ve never been a bread baker, this is your gateway.
2. Egg (or Challah) Bread
I made this bread for the first time on Christmas Eve and we ate it with butter and jam while we opened presents at my Grandma’s. While this loaf looks super fancy and maybe a little intimidating, the dough has the stringy and soft consistency of a brioche and is a cinch to work with. This bread comes together beautifully and can serve as the centerpiece of a meal.
3. Homemade One-Hour Sandwich Bread
Some of you may know that Ben is raising money to go to San Salvador in June of this year. In order to raise the last of the money for his trip, I’m baking a bread whose recipe is adapted from this one! When I need a quick and warm loaf of bread with dinner, this is what I whip up. Unlike literally any other bread I’ve ever made, this one is done in one hour, start to finish. People, this recipe might be magic.
BONUS: Bread Illustrated
1. Slow Cooker Taco Soup
When you’re making healthy food a priority, that means cooking at home, and making that happen in real life means making close friends with your slow cooker. This recipe reminds me exactly of the chicken tortilla soup we had in El Salvador last summer and is just the right mix of delicious, simple, and healthy. It’s the perfect soup to transition to summer.
2. Energy Bites
Ben and I are both big snackers so we need to have healthy and filling snacks lying around. These have been a staple in our fridge for years because they taste like candy but aren’t horrible for you! And with only four ingredients to mix together, these are a no-brainer.
3. Thai Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles
I scrolled over this meal in my Instastories one day and DM’ed the blogger immediately to ask for her recipe! This is what she sent me and you guys, I’m just obsessed. The chia helps bind the ground chicken together and the Asian seasonings make the zucchini noodles come alive. Also feel complete permission to skip the homemade meatballs and just throw in a bag of frozen turkey meatballs, you do you.
4. Balsamic Vinaigrette
5. Avocado Dressing
Bottled dressings tend to have all sorts of sneaky fats and preservatives so when I found out how easy it is to whip up dressings and vinaigrettes at home I basically just stopped buying the bottled stuff. I tend to just use my bullet smoothie blender and then pour what’s left in a mason jar to store in the fridge. This is perfect on fiesta chicken salad or even as a chip dip.
Bonus: Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices
Finally, even when you’re eating healthy you need access to something sweet. These chocolate dipped orange slices are heaven right out of the fridge in the summer, especially with some flaked salt over the top and dunked in the darkest chocolate.
It was definitely baking desserts that got me started in cooking and now, baking is so therapeutic to me that if I have a few extra minutes, I’ll definitely spend them baking. For today, let’s focus on easy and accessible recipes that are sure wins and cheap to boot. Here are just four of my first favorites.
1. Soft Molasses Cookies
This recipe is from our good friend Betty Crocker and it’s my Christmas (and all the time) cookie go-to. Here’s the secret though: make sure you buy the yummiest molasses and dip half the cooled finished cookie into melted white chocolate for that indulgently sweet finish.
2. Banana Bread
Next up is the easiest, most delicious banana bread you can make. Every time my bananas start to go brown I whip up a few loaves of this and gift them to whoever I’m seeing that day. It literally takes about 10 minutes of hands on time so it’s a great first baking step if you’re new here.
3. Creme Brûlée (without a torch)
My grandma is a HUGE creme brulee fan, but often these are made with a kitchen torch and none of my family members are hard core enough yet to have a blow torch on hand. But when I found this recipe it was an instant home run! You just use your boiler setting on your oven to achieve the perfect crack-able crust. Bonus points here for looking extra fancy with your French dessert offering.
4. Deep Dish Peanut Butter Cookie for Two
Often the perfect baking motivation is just wanting something delicious to eat right now! This is perfect for that. I bake these deep dish cookies in those little ramekins you can buy in packs of two for three dollars in the Target Dollar Spot. You quick mix the small portioned ingredients, bake for just a few minutes, and press in the Reese egg, or Christmas tree, or heart, or cup or whatever as soon as they come out. Ben and I usually have these during movie night with a big scoop of French Vanilla ice cream on top….it’s a dream.
One of the things I’m most excited about in this series is exploring together how to make cooking a part of our daily lives. On the weeknights, Ben and I have a few go-to recipes that we can whip up with minimal prep and on the cheap. Here are our top five and I’ll see you back here next week for my round-up of to die for desserts.
1. Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato Chips and Copycat Cane’s Sauce
After much trial and error we have settled on the very best veggie burger you can buy and it's the Carrot and Pea Burger from our ever wonderful Trader Joe’s. We like to keep these on hand, alongside some whole wheat sandwich bun thins, and all the fixins’, for burger night.
As we prep the burgers in small skillet, we like to slice up sweet potatoes into thin wedges, toss in a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roast for about thirty minutes on high heat.
For a perfect dipping sauce and sandwich spread, copycat Cane’s sauce is literally always in a mason jar in the fridge. Here’s the recipe:
½ cup mayo
¼ cup ketchup
½ ts garlic powder
¼ ts Worcestershire
1 ts black pepper
Just whisk together and keep in the fridge if you don’t eat it all the night you make it!
2. Fancy Salad
Ben is a big fan of your traditional cubed chicken, ranch dressing, iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese, and croutons thing, but guys...I hate that kind of salad so much. The dairy based dressing feels too heavy to me and iceberg lettuce is just too much like solid water when there is that much of it in my bowl. Instead our go-to salad is created on a bed of spring mix, and has all the textures and flavors you need in a good salad. There are creamy white cheddar blocks of cheese, tart dried cranberries, sweet green apple, and acidic red onion and they all come together like a dream. As an extra plus, I always pick up every single ingredient for this salad at Aldi! The recipe is below!
3. No Recipe Soup
Our friend Kendra, at the Lazy Genius Collective has the best tips for learning to make soup without a recipe. I’ll outline them here while giving you my favorite of her soup recipes.
4. Crockpot Cheeseburger Soup
Every time we host on a weeknight I either make a sheet pan or crockpot dinner so my prep can be done in the blink of an eye. This soup is SUCH a crowd pleaser. I’ve made this at least five times and it's a show-stopper every time. I also ALWAYS serve this with a crusty warm loaf of homemade Italian bread (I promise we’ll chat about that in a few weeks).
The best part is that it can be pulled together first thing in the morning and ready by the time you get home! Click below!
5. Crockpot Tacos
Another of our favorite hosting ideas (especially during football season) is a walking taco bar. Other than chopping up some toppings and setting up the spread the only prep for taco night is the taco meat and this recipe takes even that work basically off your hands. Not only is this recipe easy peasy - this might be the cheapest dinner party you’ll ever throw.
Welcome! I'm a brand new wife, second year music teacher, Jesus follower, and am chronically curious about just about everything. Join me as I kick off this adult life.
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