Lemon & Brown Sugar Baby Bread Pudding

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One of my favorite bread pudding recipes has to be the one I created for my daughter Emma’s kindergarten class’ recipe book and bake sale.  While the title says lemon and brown sugar, so much more goes into this delicious warm and cozy treat.  It makes a perfect dessert with coffee and a generous dollop of whipped cream this Chanukah.

Here is the original recipe but today I am out of coconut flakes, blueberries and white chocolate so I’m doing a little creative substitution with dark chocolate, toffee bits, a teaspoon of cinnamon and cocoa powder.  I also cut the recipe in half and used a Greek Easter loaf (Tsoureki) I had in the freezer for just such an occasion of craving!  I’ll put the alternate recipe underneath the images and post.

So we’ll see if its as good as the first one!

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Challah bread, cut into 2-inch dice
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, for garnish
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish
  • Coconut flakes, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing the casserole.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put bread cubes into large bowl. Mix eggs, cream, brown sugar, zest, coconut, white chocolate chips and vanilla together; pour over bread. Mix well and let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes. Butter a casserole dish and pour the mixture into the casserole. Put into the top half of the oven until the center is slightly firm to the touch, about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove and serve warm, topped with whipped cream, blueberries, and powdered sugar.

Here’s a shot of it just before putting it in the oven.  I’m not sure if you can see that the chocolate chips are mixed into the mixture, whereas I just sprinkled the toffee bits on top.

Lemon & Brown Sugar Baby Bread Pudding

Setting in the oven

So, the pudding has been in the oven for about 15 minutes and I went to the office to check on something.  I was nearly knocked over by the fragrance that had escaped my kitchen and made its way down the hall.  That combination of butter, chocolate, cinnamon and lemon is so satisfying.  I can’t wait to see how this one comes out!

Turns out I cooked this one for 35 minutes exactly and here it is!

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I took my first bite and it did not disappoint.  It may even be my new favorite.  I didn’t bother whipping up any cream.  Its still morning for goodness sake!

I’m not the only one who wanted in on the action.  Our new family member, Graham, tried to sneak a taste too!  No chocolate for doggies, but he did get a corner of the bread and was simply lick-a-licously satisfied!

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Alternate Recipe (halved)

  • 1/2 loaf Tsoureki bread, cut into 2-inch dice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s milk chocolate-toffee bits
  • 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing the casserole.
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A Savory Twist on a classic Scottish shortbread with white cheddar and rosemary.

These little shortbreads were great with all the appetizers at our host’s Thanksgiving feast this year.  Although I may have cooked them a little too long, our host and her guests gobbled them up along side a mix of spicy nuts, cheeses, olives and pigs in a blanket (a shameless request of someone whose name shall go unmentioned).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add cheddar cheese and rosemary and continue to cream. Add 2 1/2 cups flour; mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead for 5 minutes, adding enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  2. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. (I place my dough between two long sheets of Saran Wrap and Roll that way therefore I don’t need the extra flour to keep it from sticking). Cut into circular shapes. Place 1 in. apart on un-greased baking sheets. Prick with toothpick. Bake until cookies are lightly browned, 20-25 minutes. Cool.  Yield: about 2 dozen.

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Post-Holiday Cooking: Here’s a Quick & Easy Sausage & Egg Pie Recipe

wp-1484173950945.jpgFrom stuffing, basting, patting, pricking, roasting and toasting, most of us foodies who refer to the holiday season as the “Olympics of Family Cooking,” have taken a deep sigh of gratitude for the love and joy that was shared amongst our family and friends.

All the gifts have been opened, clothes tried on (and modeled on the living room runway) and Google Home was streaming music at our demand when I noticed that I was starving! But, I was also tired and didn’t have the energy to create breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  But clearly, we all needed to eat.

So, here is a quick go-to recipe I like to use that comes loaded with the right amount of nutrition, salty savoriness, and warmth.  This pie oozes with comfort and cozy post-holiday sit-around-the-house goodness.  I like to think of it as alinner (lunch and dinner) dish or a classic brunch dish too.

– Don’t worry, you’re not required to make your own pie crust, I promise.

Ingredients:

1 Pie Crust (for the inquiring minds, yes, I used the type you buy and roll out).
1 tablespoon of butter
1 good-sized shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 sun-dried tomatoes loosely chopped
8 ounces of Italian sausage or chicken sausage (remove the outer skin and crumble)
1 three-finger pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of oregano or thyme (or both)
3 – 4 handfuls of fresh spinach or kale
2 cups of freshly grated California cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute shallots and garlic until translucent. Add salt, oregano and thyme. Add the crumbled sausage, sundried tomatoes, and cook until browned. Add the spinach or kale and cook until the greens wilt and set aside.

In a pie dish roll out the pie crust and pinch the edges.   Add 1 cup of cheese on the bottom and then add the sausage mixture on top of that.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs and heavy cream and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (you can also use almond milk or any other milk/cream variation).  Season with a pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  I also added a little extra romano in this pie – I mean, can you blame me?  Take a brush and lightly coat the edge of the pie crust with some of your egg mixture for a crispy finish.  (not too much).

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Place your pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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Special thanks to Mele Cotte for the inspiration of this recipe.  I use it in many reincarnations.

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Here is one I made with Kale

More Soup Please!

Tonight’s stormy weather calls for this recipe again.

Food to Fiction

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

What happened to our early summer weather? Just when we New Yorkers were starting to forget about the coldest winter in recent years and beginning to complain about the humidity and heat in crowded elevators, temperatures suddenly drop?  And now we’re pulling out our sweaters again and craving hot bowls of soup?

Okay, fine.  So with my bones a little cold and wishing I’d not worn the linen skirt, I turned for comfort in my kitchen.

In my fridge I grabbed some summer greens, carrots and celery, four or five hot and sweet Italian sausages. Staring into the pantry I grab a can of organic cannelinni beans and a box of organic chicken stock.

Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale, stems (and veins, if desired) removed and leaves washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 scallion, chopped
2…

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Blackberry Summer

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpegNow that it finally feels like summer, I’m feeling nostalgic; I’ve just sent my eldest on a trip to visit her Grandmother in Washington.  While we grew up in California, we’d spend a lot of our summers up there; taking long road trips to finally

get there.  I thinks its where my mom always felt most at home and now she’s made it her home.

Memories of being crammed in a car with my mom, grandmother and my two agitating brothers for the long trip from California to Washiington come to mind.  Playing “eye-spy,” finding the alphabet in the road signs, and fighting -mostly with my older brother’s ever-extending air guitar- only to hear him say (with one finger pointing right in my eye), “I’m not touching you.”

These road trips were obviously some of my mother’s favorite things to do with her mom, but for us kids that excitement ran out just passed the wind mills in Tracy.  Mom and Grandma Lee both smoked Terryton Lights and made sure to light one up anytime our fighting in the backseat got to be more than they could handle.  Cracking the window only enough for the smoke to whiffle out and right back in.  I attribute that one-inch crack in the window to my asthma today moreso than the smoke, because maybe if they’d just rolled the windows all the way down, I wouldn’t have lost my appetite on second hand smoke.

While much of those memories are full of rancor and sarcasm, the truth is they’re also some of my most cherished childhood memories.  Although I desperately needed to know how much longer till we get there, my grandmother’s child-like thrill to show us kids the salmon swimming up stream, or an eagle in the sky or the water falls tucked in between a mountain of large trees just off the roadside was utterly contagious once we unmangled our legs, hair and barf bags from the car.  I still remember her story of Donner’s Pass and the people who had to eat one another to stay alive in the freezing snow.  She’d tell us why California was called the gold coast and talk about the history of gold miners, women in covered wagons, farming, Indian Life and loggers.  Later in life when I saw The Grapes of Wrath, I thought that this must’ve been what it was like for my grandmtoher, always moving, looking for work to survive.  A Norwegian father, Cherokee and Belgian mother, fitting in where they could.

She taught us all the old American folk songs like “Old Suzanna,” and “She’ll Be Coming Around That Mountain.” Sometimes I will see something and it will remind me of a time before I was born, her time, but I’d also feel as though it was intrinsically my time too;  I was sitting in her log cabin with her; an invisible witness.

My foot taps. I begin to sing and now I’m completely transported right back to being seven years old, sitting in my mother’s blue Oldsmobile, and the year is 1976.

My grandmother’s sister Anne lived in Washington.  She had a large forest of blackberries along the side of her house and what she did with those was truly American, truly a taste of summer and any pastry chef today would envy her skills in the kitchen.  She baked blackberry pies for us and served them hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk.

I was a tenacious little kid when it came to sweets and my brothers, not being bashful themselves, would clammor around her kitchen until that pie was ready.  The entire room brightened up with the aroma of butter and crisping dough and a sweet scent of blackberries tickling just under our noses.  She’d pull the pie out, set it on a little counter.  The crust brown and flaky with bubles of purple goop stained around the pie-hole.

“Where’s the ice cream?”

“Get the ice cream!”

“Wait children it has to cool.”

Auntie Anne would have to back us up against a playpen and her dark scratchy sofa where we’d wait to grab a seat at large the table. Sewing patterns, knitting needles, yarn and newspapers we’re swooshed aside.

“Plates! Get the plates and forks!”

“We’ve got the plates and the forks and the ice cream.  Have a seat.”

One bite is all it took, All those hours in the car, the fights with Michael and Danny, the long-winded baseball announcers blaring through the speakers, my mother’s cigarette smoke and grandma’s cracked windows suddenly evaporated.

Silence.

This next recipe is dedicated to the Berg women of Washngton and their ability to love us children unconditionally .  I believe Auntie Anne and Grandma Lee would be proud of this ice cream.  I’d call it Blackberry Pie but there is no crust in the cream.  But feel free to serve it over your own favorite pie.

The sweet-tartness of the berries balances out the richness of the vanilla custard.  We loved it here at home and it’s now one of our absolute favorites.

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Blackberry + Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra (or vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (I saved the egg whites for breakfast)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings (I love the bulk chocolates at Fairway and today I went with one from Spain).

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice as possible.  I do this by pressing the berries firmly into the strainer with a rubber spatula and this takes a good fifteen minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much you can scrape off the underside of the strainer too.  Set aside.

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Heat the half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated and sugar is dissolved.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk and half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer.

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Then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.  Add blackberry juice puree to the custard mixture and stir.

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Chill mixture completely in the refrigerator.

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Pour the mixture into your in an ice cream maker until thick- about 20 – 25 minutes.

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The last few minutes add the chocolate shavings so they get nice and mixed in.

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Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

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Then serve and enjoy with someone you love.  Create some good memories too!

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More Soup Please!

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

What happened to our early summer weather? Just when we New Yorkers were starting to forget about the coldest winter in recent years and beginning to complain about the humidity and heat in crowded elevators, temperatures suddenly drop?  And now we’re pulling out our sweaters again and craving hot bowls of soup?

Okay, fine.  So with my bones a little cold and wishing I’d not worn the linen skirt, I turned for comfort in my kitchen.

In my fridge I grabbed some summer greens, carrots and celery, four or five hot and sweet Italian sausages. Staring into the pantry I grab a can of organic cannelinni beans and a box of organic chicken stock.

Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale, stems (and veins, if desired) removed and leaves washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 scallion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large cellery stalk, chopped
1 cans cannellini beans, (29 ounce), drained and rinsed
4-5 Italian sausage (I used two sweet and three spicy) removed from casing
4 cups water
2 cups chicken stock, or reduced-sodium canned broth
Sea aalt and black pepper
4 thick slices country bread
Grated Parmesan cheese, (optional)

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, scallion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add sausage and cook until brown. Break up into smaller bits with a fork.

Add about half of the beans, and lightly mash with a fork. Add water and stock, and bring to a boil. Stir in kale, remaining beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is tender, about 20 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Grate fresh Parmesan and enjoy.

Baked Ziti a la Comfort Food

Baked Ziti

Ingredients
1 pound dried ziti pasta
Sea salt
3 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.

Baked Ziti

Toss the cooked pasta with the marinara sauce, cubed mozzarella, half the Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Transfer the pasta to an oiled baking dish – again, I used my Le Creuset. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/4 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 1/2 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-ounce can), roughly chopped
Sprig fresh thyme
Sprig fresh basil
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add anchovy paste and dissolve. Add the sausage and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well.  Add the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Baked Ziti