Italian Bread

I love making bread at home. And, I think the bread that I use most often would have to be Italian bread. It’s my go-to loaf to make garlic bread, and croutons, and breadcrumbs…great in so many applications. So it was only natural that I wanted to learn to make this favorite at home!

It’s a little time consuming, as it requires a “sponge” that needs to be prepared and let to do it’s thing before the bread is put together for it’s rise and bake. But it’s that crucial step that produces a chewy loaf that’s soft on the inside, yet crusty and crunchy on the outside – essential for a good loaf of Italian bread. You can do it the night before, but I’ve also just done the sponge early in the morning, and then continued with the recipe in the afternoon with no issues.

This recipe turns out two gorgeous loaves. We’ll usually have one for dinner the night that I bake it, and then store on in the freezer so there’s always one on hand. Saves me a trip to the store on those last-minute spaghetti nights when all I need is a loaf of bread. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Source: adapted from The Fresh Loaf via Annie’s Eats

Country Fried Pork Chops

Pork chops are one of the things that Jon always gives me gruff that I don’t cook enough. I prefer to cook something like one of my many favorite versions of a pork tenderloin, but once in a while I give in and make him one of his favorite meals of all time – these fried pork chops. It’s one of those manly, stick-to-your-ribs meals that all guys love…

Basically a pork chop is coated with a mixture of egg wash and seasoned flour, much like fried chicken is. Then pan fried. Afterwards, a milk gravy is made from the pan drippings and served over the pork chops. While it’s not the most figure-friendly thing on the planet, it really is delicious and totally worth a splurge every now and again.

I always serve with mashed potatoes, because they are equally as good topped with the gravy. This time around I also served roasted Brussels sprouts on the side, and they were really delicious with them too. If you’ve not had the pleasure of trying these, you should – as it’s “country cooking” to the core!

Banana Crumb Coffee Cake

I love banana bread and all, but sometimes I just feel like my bananas have a higher calling than in the form of a loaf. A calling for something more like…cake, for instance! Now, after making this – I’m not sure that I’ll ever make a loaf of banana bread again. It was that good!

I mean, I guess I should have known. Coffee cakes have never let me down in the past. But the banana added so much flavor and moisture, then to combine it with the cinnamon streusel on top was just the perfect touch. It also has some of the streusel layered in the middle of the cake too, which I thought was a really nice and surprising twist.

It was perfect as breakfast or dessert, and was still fresh and moist after day three. It made plenty, so it’s perfect to make for a get-together, or to share with friends and neighbors. It’s been a few weeks since I baked this, and I’m already looking forward to making it again. It might have to happen this weekend!

We’re looking forward to the annual egg hunt at our local NASA base tomorrow. As well as dying our easter eggs – that’s getting to be so much fun now that the boys are getting a little bit older.! Although, I’ve been making poor Jon dye eggs since before we were married – so I suppose I’ve always had alot of fun with it. I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter holiday!

Source: adapted from Cookies & Cups

Pork Egg Rolls

Homemade egg rolls were one of the first things I learned to make at home, thanks to my mother-in-law. She’d been making egg rolls for her hungry boys for years, and her teaching me the craft was time that we really enjoyed spending together when we were first getting to know each other…long before Jon and I were actually married!

I remember the process being kind of frustrating in the beginning – before I got the feel of rolling them correctly, and my knife skills weren’t really up to par (would take me 2 months to shred a head of cabbage!). But now after making them for a good 10 years, I can make a batch for an easy weeknight dinner with no problem. I usually go for the chicken version - which is the “OG” for us, but sometimes I like to switch it up with other meats…in this case, ground pork. Shrimp is also great!

They can be made and rolled a couple of hours in advance, but I wouldn’t recommend any longer than that – as the wrappers tend to dry out and rip. Also, a great shortcut with the veggies is to use a couple of bags of shredded coleslaw mix instead of shredding your own cabbage and carrots. Saves a little bit of legwork at least!

I like to serve them with some veggie fried rice, and plenty of Chinese hot mustard and sweet chili sauce for dipping. Once you’ve made and enjoyed them at home, every egg roll you’ll get from a Chinese restaurant will always pale in comparison. Just a forewarning! You’ll be making them for years to come.