If you missed my love story about focaccia, you can read it here. The love is real. So real, in fact, that my recipe makes 2 whole loaves of the magical bread. That’s stupendous if you are having guests for dinner. It might even be stupendous if you are super duper hungry and plan to eat an entire loaf in one sitting. Don’t judge, please. I can neither confirm nor deny that this may or may not have happened.
However, since it’s currently just Travis and I typically eating the focaccia recipe at our house, we usually have plenty of leftovers. Perfect for creative leftover recipes like this focaccia grilled chicken sandwich! I’d like to say that this is a totally Italian take on a chicken sandwich…But then I threw some guacamole in there and made it a bit of a mutt of a recipe. Sorry I’m not sorry about that. It’s too delicious to be sorry.
Why is this focaccia chicken sandwich a winner? The bread is salty and rich, the cheese and guac are creamy, and the chicken and veggies are fresh and delicious. Oh, and then throw some herbs/spices on there and BOOM! You have a taste explosion. In your mouth.
So, first make the focaccia and enjoy it for all it’s worth with some pasta or whatever you may desire. Then, take what’s left and make yourself a sandwich that will leave you asking for more.
Focaccia Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Chicken sandwich with an Italian twist...focaccia bread, mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs
Slice the focaccia loaf into quarters. Slice each quarter in half so there is a top and bottom half.
On a parchment lined baking sheet, place the bottom halves of the focaccia topped with the grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, oregano/Italian herb blend, and red pepper flakes. Put the top halves of bread on the baking sheet next to the bottoms halves, cut side up (so they can toast).
Broil on high until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes.
I’ve had a handful of meals that I would consider particularly memorable in my life. The meal after Travis and I got married in Savannah, Georgia immediately comes to mind as well as the meal Travis and I ate in a revolving dining room overlooking Niagara Falls. Then there’s the meal I shared with my family at Pinocchio’s restaurant at Disney World overlooking the It’s a Small World ride. Hey, just because I was probably 8 and eating chicken fingers doesn’t mean it wasn’t life changing.
I’d have to say that definitely in the top 5 most memorable meals in my life so far was the meal Travis and I shared in Rome in a little plaza overlooking the Pantheon. There are things that just don’t fade in your mind such as the red gingham tablecloth, the fact that it was probably 45 degrees but the heat lamp next to us kept us warm, the view (of course), and the FOOD. Focaccia was served along with my entree of Fettuccine Alfredo in a Parmesan cheese bowl. Yes, best day ever.
prepared biga (I could have used a larger bowl)
Let’s think about this a little longer to let it sink in. There was a basket of focaccia served to us, perfectly crisp from being smothered in olive oil before baking. There was Fettuccine Alfredo, possibly one of my most favorite dishes. There was a BOWL made out of Parmesan cheese. A BOWL, people. It was wonderful and I loved it. I ate it all. You don’t let focaccia and Parmesan bowls go to waste when you’re in Italy. You just don’t.
I won’t pretend that this focaccia can come close to the memory that I have of that meal. I have to face the fact that I do not live in a plaza next to the Pantheon so it’s a bit hard to recreate the mood. BUT, I will say that the time that goes into this bread is worth every last mouth-watering bite. You will not be disappointed. The ingredients are so simple but scrumptious when combined the right way. The bread isn’t greasy from the olive oil. It’s rich and crisp and wonderful. I have nothing more to say than go now. Go now, and make this bread. Now. Please.
Prepare the biga the night before baking the focaccia - combine 3/4 cups of lukewarm water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot for at least 8 hours.The biga should be light and airy when it's ready.
Combine the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons of yeast and 1/4 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the biga, 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix for about 2 minutes on low, add 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, and mix for another 3 minutes on low. If the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in small increments until it is no longer sticky.
Place the dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
Let it rise is a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Knock down the dough and fold it over a few times before covering again and letting it rise another 45 minutes.
Coat two 9" metal* cake pans with olive oil (about 1/2 tablespoon each). Split the dough in 2 and place half in each of the cake pans. Spread the dough out until it reaches the edges. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your fingers to poke indentations in the dough. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each focaccia (this will pool in some of the indentations). Sprinkle the rosemary and sea salt (I used pink sea salt but regular sea salt is good too) over the focaccia and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on wire racks before serving.
Make sure to start the biga for this recipe the night (or at least 8 hours) before trying to make the bread. It's a long process, but worth it!
Pretty much everything in this recipe is divided! Please note the amounts needed for the biga and for the bread-making process in the directions.
*I tried this recipe in a glass baking dish and it did not come out as crispy as when I used the metal pans. However, you could use an 8x8" or 9x9" metal baking dish if you do not have round cake pans.
Oh. Man. I CANNOT wait to tell you about these Christmas morning cinnamon rolls! I am so excited that we will, in fact, be having these Christmas morning! It’s like a present to me. I’ll have to remember to write myself a thank you card…
This is our first Christmas as a family of 3 and Travis and I decided this year we needed to start some traditions of our own. First of all, we are traveling A LOT over the holidays. Or at least it feels like that. I’m pretty sure it just seems like we’re traveling more than we are because we need to pack a truckload of stuff with us now that we have a little one. Either way, we made it a point to actually be at HOME for Christmas day. I don’t think we’ve ever actually been home for Christmas day as a couple so this will be fun!
Another new tradition is apparently shopping online because we have no time to shop anymore. I’m starting to feel old because I know I’m totally late to this online shopping thing. BUT, with a baby, online shopping is the best thing since sliced bread.
However, as Travis and I discussed traditions we pretty much focused most of our attention on food. Doesn’t it always go that direction?? Isn’t it wonderful?? As I thought about past family holidays, I remember the decorations and presents and snow and fun that we had. None of that was lost to me, but what I remember most is gathering around the table with family and enjoying a meal full of love and traditions. So this was like a BIG deal to come up with our own family traditions.
Some of my most cherished holiday memories come back to baking with my grandmas, mom, and sister. Luckily, my family will be doing a little baking when we visit them so that tradition lives on! I still needed to do a little baking of my own though! That’s where these rolls come in. These cinnamon rolls are actually my grandma’s yeast dough recipe (passed down to her from her mom) that we usually would use to make bobalki (another amazing concoction for another day) and poppy seed rolls (like cinnamon rolls, but with poppy seed filling).
All you Slovak or Polish folks know what I’m talking about when I refer to poppy seed in terms of sweet treats. Most people think of the gross dry poppy seeds they find on bagels. No. Just no. This poppy seed filling I refer to is sticky and sweet and delicious. I think they take the poppy seed and engulf it in a tub of sugar and corn syrup and it comes out magical. So when you make these cinnamon rolls, I dare you to replace the filling with just a can of Solo poppy seed filling. I’m salivating thinking about it. *Warning, it may take some time to fully enjoy the amazing goodness of poppy seed filling if you haven’t grown up with it. Travis is not quite there yet…My brother-in-law is finally in love with it, but he has a few years on Travis in the poppy seed tradition.
Travis agreed that we can make poppy seed rolls as part of our usual tradition on Christmas. However, since we were just figuring things out we landed on the cinnamon roll version for this year. And it’s hard to complain when you land on something so delicious. So I’ll share some of my poppy seed creations later. But for now, enjoy these cinnamon rolls! They will surely help make my Christmas morning so, so wonderful!
Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls
Gooey and sweet cinnamon roll treat perfect for special occasions!
Scald the milk in a sauce pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the vegetable shortening until melted. Stir in the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 10 minutes).
While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a large bowl. Let the yeast sit about 5-10 minutes (until the milk mixture is cooled).
Add the milk mixture and eggs to the yeast mixture. Add in 3 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and knead until the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.
Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.
Grease two 9" round cake pans.
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling.
Divide the dough into 2 and roll one of the halves out on a well floured surface until it is 12x18 inches. Brush a thin layer of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle on half of the filling.
Roll the dough, so you end up with a log 18 inches long. Cut into 12 pieces. Place pieces in cake pan, with a little space around each roll so it can rise again.
Repeat with the second batch.
Let the rolls rise about another hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Combine icing ingredients. Once the rolls are slightly cooled (about 15 minutes), you can drizzle the icing on the rolls.
To help the dough rise (especially when it's cold), I turn my oven on to the lowest temperature for about 5 minutes then turn the oven off. Then I put my dough in the oven to rise. Make sure to take it out before you preheat the oven to bake!!
You can freeze the rolls once they are cooled but before you put the icing on. To do this, remove the rolls from the pan after they are cooled and wrap in plastic wrap (I also wrap with aluminum foil after the plastic). To serve, defrost in the refrigerator and top with icing. If you want them warm, you can reheat them in the microwave or in the oven prior to topping with icing.
Rolls are best eaten fresh, but can last a couple of days (but they really won't make it that long!).
By Flavor From Scratch
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/
Let’s start with the good stuff. I was able to make this delicious rosemary cheddar squash bread recently which was AMAZING! I’m so used to seeing zucchini or squash in sweet cakes or breads. This recipe was quite the welcome change and totally worth it! When my in-laws came to visit recently my mother-in-law brought me some gorgeous squash from VanScoy Farms in Ohio so of course I immediately started thinking of options. After eating some of it plain because, yum, I used about half of a yellow squash to make this bread. Also, yum.
The rosemary adds that lovely earthy flavor that I adore. I am obsessed with the fact that our rosemary is finally growing in our back yard so I was super excited to put it to good use. You can certainly mix up the herbs in this recipe to fit your taste or use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh (but try the fresh if you can!). Chives seem to always be in abundance in our yard and it’s a perfect pair for this savory bread. Also, let’s at least mention how the olive oil is SPOT ON in this recipe and adds more earthy, savory flavor that can’t be replicated without it. Scrumptious!
Now to the not so good stuff of the week…the worst thing that could possibly EVER happen to a food lover happened this week. Yes, my oven broke. Dun dun duuun. I was making Travis his birthday dinner (steak and mac and cheese, of course) when all of a sudden my oven popped and sparked and then it started beeping and beeping more and beeping louder and LOUDER and then the dreaded “error” suddenly appeared on the little screen. *Sigh* Keep in mind, the beeping kept going. And of course this entire time I was panicked from the loud pop and spark and was absolutely CERTAIN the oven was about to explode. I can be a little overdramatic at times. But hey, an oven freak out is not something that happens everyday.
After I got my head a little more together, which was hard with the beeping from the oven that would not go away, I decided the best route of action was to turn off the electrical fuse. Travis was running an errand so I was pretty proud of myself to think of this…even if it’s fairly obvious. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the right fuse so I was becoming more and more panicked as everything else seemed to turn off EXCEPT the oven. And the beeping. just. would. not. go. away!! Luckily as I started to reach maximum panic, Travis showed up and took over the situation. Thank goodness for handy husbands that can read panic on their wives faces.
I am happy to say that dinner was mostly done at this point, so we were still able to eat an unfortunately somewhat average birthday dinner due to all the issues. Nonetheless, it was food and it was cooked. Also, in other good news, my handy husband was able to order a new electronic panel (which apparently is what shorted and popped and sparked) that showed up magically fast and the oven is working very nicely again. No explosions did occur in this situation despite my panic and all is well in my kitchen again. We only ended up with a few days thrown together leftover meals until the oven part came, so I really can’t complain that much. Let’s just say, I love my oven when it works. Especially to make things like this squash bread!
I have a confession. I do believe that when I made and ate this naan, it was the first naan I ever ate. EVER! Can you even believe that?? I am so ashamed. I feel like I’ve been living under a rock. If you’ve never eaten fresh naan before, I think it’s safe to say you’re living under a rock too. A very sad rock…with no naan. Don’t worry though, I was right with you there until recently.
Whether you’ve had naan many, many times or whether this is your first time, you won’t be disappointed. These little guys are fluffy and light and chewy. Oh, and the garlic butter. Yeah. Enough said. I actually forgot to put the garlic butter on my first few naan because I didn’t know any better. Add the garlic butter. It’s wonderful either way…But trust me, add the butter.
Naan is the perfect pair for many dishes! Try it with chicken tikka masala. Hello wonderful Indian food. I made mine with some lentil dhal (dahl? I’m still figuring that one out. HELP!). However you spell it…it was AMAZING! I think I even ate some leftovers with some hummus. Yum yum.
I’ll be honest, the naan is best within the first day or two but you can store it a couple of days in a plastic bag or wrapped in foil. Just make sure to wrap it up tight. If it starts to get a little hard, microwave for a few seconds and it should soften up a bit!
Delicious homemade naan that will leave your mouth watering!
Stir warm water and honey in your stand mixer bowl until the honey dissolves. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir with a fork. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture becomes foamy.
Using a dough hook on your stand mixer, put mixer on low speed and gradually add the yogurt, salt, baking powder, egg, and flour.
Mix on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky but smooth.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased (with cooking spray or olive oil) bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, melt the butter in a small saute pan. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Strain out the garlic and set the butter aside.
Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface and separate into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then use a rolling pin to roll into a circle about 1/4" thick.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or sauce pan over medium-high heat. Butter one side of the rolled out naan dough and place buttered side down in the heated pan. Once in the pan, butter the other side. Let cook for about 1 minute on the first side, flip, and cook for another 30-60 seconds.
Keep naan covered with a kitchen towel until ready to serve. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve, optional.
You will know that the naan is getting ready to flip when large bubbles start to form.