10 September 2011

a peace offering, otherwise known as 'bread pudding'

i blame a few things for not allowing me to update this blog.

the first is copious puppy time (you can read more about those at the happy life blog). the second is brokeness due to puppies, and thus eating spaghetti with butter and cheese and lentils for the past month and a half.third, my camera is on the fritz (that's not really a good excuse, but it is one nonetheless). the fourth is a fatal personality flaw i like to call 'laziness'. or whatever it is that means you're behind and too ashamed to talk about it.

anyway. i have come with a peace offering.

that's right.

a peace offering. 

and it is shrouded in buttery goodness and topped with sweet caramel and should never be made on a weekday. or any day that isn't a bank holiday.

it's decadent and delicious and painfully good (painful because you'll eat the whole pan).

it's bread pudding. oh my gosh. it's so good.

i have never known i liked bread pudding, until i gave in to trying to look cool and tried it at famous daves (theirs is amazing by the way). i all but licked the plate after we ate and resolved that i would make it for myself one day. that was about 3 months ago. so here we are. this last pay period was extremely tough for us so i was determined to make things that were delicious and use up ALL our leftovers. this came about after i made lentil soup with cornbread, had homemade biscuits and gravy, made an heirloom tomato summer bruschetta, and got down to the butt-pieces on a loaf of bread.

i know, i know. cornbread in bread pudding. but it's good! it was cornbread from corn meal, so i'm not sure how it would be with the boxed stuff. i'm guessing amazing. the cornbread was a savory-sweet bite and an alternative texture that i couldn't put down!

honestly, you can use ANY bread. even the cheap white bread can't mess this easy recipe up.

i also left out the raisins -- i hate raisins. i hate their texture, their odd super-sweetness, their stickiness..ugh. just couldn't do it. add a handful if you are weird like the rest of the world.

next was the topping -- the recipes i found all used rum (or whiskey.. or amaretto...) in the sauce. i had none of these, so i googled 'bread pudding sauce'. i decided on a salted caramel sauce because, let's be honest, that sounded completely sinful and amazing. i undercooked it once, burned it twice, and finally got it right using the method i'm sharing with you.

go forth and satisfy your sweet tooth. make this when you have 6 people to share it with so you don't eat it all in one sitting (like me). and if you do... don't blame me.

bread pudding with salted caramel sauce

8-10 slices of bread, left out overnight to stale.
(or enough bread to cover the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish)
1/4 c. butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Tear the bread into bite sized, but hearty chunks. Arrange them in a flat layer at the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter.

2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and stir in milk, sugars, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt before pouring over the bread and gently push the bread down with a fork until it's completely covered with liquid.

3. Bake, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes or until the top springs back when light pressure is applied. Scoop with a spoon or use a spatula to serve. Top with desired sauce. Serve warm for dessert or cold for breakfast.

salted caramel sauce

1 c. sugar
6 T. butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. kosher salt, or to taste

1. In a 2- or 3-quart saucepan (you'll want to use one with high sides), melt the sugar over medium or medium high heat. When it starts to melt, begin stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork. It will begin to take on a caramel color shortly after it's melted. Once it's in liquid form, add the butter and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Slowly (and carefully) stir in heavy cream. It will bubble (hence the high sided pot). You may want to add slightly more or less depending on desired consistency. Transfer to a glass mason jar or storage dish and allow to cool slightly before adding salt to taste.

3. You can store the sauce in the fridge for up to two weeks, so have an ice cream sundae and think of me. Reheat for best results.. in the oven or on the stove top if possible.

*** IMPORTANT: Sugar has a MUCH higher boiling temperature than water, so it is HOT. DO NOT taste this on the stove, you'll regret it. Pay attention to the process and do not attempt if you're distracted. It happens pretty fast anyway.

(I halved this recipe, except the butter -- I used 1/4 c. -- and it was buttery amazing-ness.)

25 July 2011

menu monday 7.25

unfortunately, most of this weeks menu is from last week. for some reason, i didn't cook last week very much.

monday. three cheese stuffed shells with meat sauce.. it's from the pioneer woman cooks, but i'll share my "version" as well. before long. i served this with salad.

tuesday. pizza rolls. with salad and mixed veggies.

Source: tidymom.net via aleasa on Pinterest

wednesday. 3-minute steak and arugula hoagies with homemade steak sauce.

 we'll be out of town through the weekend! i'll tell you all about my eating when we get back!

20 July 2011

buttermilk mix

Since I'm in a sharing mood, I thought I'd share my pancake/waffle/muffin/general flour substitute mix with you.

I'm not sure how much a blanket statement this is, but I have found that this is a good substitute for flour in most things I've baked. (Not cupcakes or cakes, though! Jury's out on cookies...) I made some ridiculously delicious muffins with it, so I assume I'll be experimenting more with substituting it. Mostly I just make waffles for quick weekday breakfasts.

Be creative! Be daring! Tell me what you substituted and how it turned out!

buttermilk all purpose mix
from group recipes

4 c. flour
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. dry buttermilk powder
2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a container that has an airtight lid. Shake to mix and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. 

To make pancake batter:
1 c. buttermilk all purpose mix
1 egg
2/3 c. water
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine 1/2 cup of the water and the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix til just combined. Add water if needed to desired consistency (I never measure). Cook pancakes as desired.

For waffles: Add extra melted butter, about 1/2 tablespoon.

Can be used in place of Bisquick in recipes, or substitute for all of half the flour in simple muffin, biscuit, other buttermilk recipes.

(I reuse the same Ziploc container and put the basic pancake recipe on the lid)

simple red sauce

So here's the thing.

I often forget about my "go to" recipes for simple things because I always think no one will be interested. But my nephew pointed out that not everyone has a simple or go-to recipe and it may be helpful for some people to see these. My most simple recipe is for a spaghetti sauce that can be switched up in a hundred million ways. (Slight exaggeration.. but only slight.) Pictured, it's got some italian sausage crumbled in, but I'm going to give you the most plain version of my homemade spaghetti sauce.

Why make my own? Well, I can do it for about what a jar costs, I have control over the taste, and I don't have to worry about any "additives" (the Sarge and I are very conscious of how much sodium we have in our diet, and since we like to eat out, we use very little salt or salted products at home if we can).

Anyway. Use a jar if you want. There are some jarred sauces I rather enjoy, but this is our preference. I won't judge you if I come to your house and you pull a jar of spaghetti sauce out. That being said, you can make this even more fresh than I do, as I typically use canned whole tomatoes. It's easy. Just boil about ten fresh Roma tomatoes, drop them in an ice bath, and puree to add to the recipe in place of the canned variety. (You can also peel and seed them if you feel like it.)

Without further ado, easy homemade tomato sauce you can appreciate.

spaghetti sauce

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c. wine (optional -- any kind is okay as long as it's a kind you'd drink)
1-28 oz. can whole or crushed tomatoes
1-6 oz. can tomato paste (optional)
1/4 tsp. sugar
handfuls of chopped basil, parsley, and/or parmigiano reggiano (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a high-sided skillet or a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly add wine and let simmer until reduced by at least half.

2. Slowly stir in the tomatoes. If you are using whole tomatoes, break them up with your hand while you pour them in. Add the tomato paste, sugar, and basil (if using). Reduce heat to low and cover to simmer at least 10 minutes, or however long you'd like until the flavors meld. Stir occasionally (and carefully).

* NOTE: I break up the tomatoes in the can as I pour them into the pot. You can puree them or break them up with a fork if you're feeling less "hands on".

3. Remove from heat. Stir in parmigiano and parsley, if using.

** This recipe will support about a pound to a pound and a half of meat, like ground beef or Italian sausage. Add a low fat ratio beef or sausage before the garlic and brown before continuing with the recipe. Simple.

18 July 2011

menu monday, 7.18

we all know that menu planning saves money... but sometimes it can be tedious. what if there was a service that did the planning for you......

there is! e-mealz.com will plan weekly meals for $1.25 a week or $5 a month, which is very little considering the time (and money) you'll save. choose from specialty diet menus, family menus, or menus for just 2 or 3. you can even pick from a select number of stores for exact pricing! AND they're giving away a free 3-month subscription. just visit my friend jennifer's give away blog and enter to win today!

AND on that note... here is my meal plan for this week. go link up with orgjunkie.com for (literally) hundreds of other meal plans!

monday: pork chops and bucatini alla amertriciana with a simple salad

tuesday: three cheese stuffed shells with meat sauce

wednesday: 3-minute steak hoagies with homemade steak sauce

thursday: chicken parmesan with tangled pasta

friday: taco night!

saturday: southwest chicken and wild rice soup with cheese bread

sunday: chicken enchiladas

11 July 2011

menu plan monday!

WOW. it's been such a long time since i linked up for menu plan monday! so if you're interested in seeing hundreds of other menus, visit the organization junkie. meanwhile, here's what we're having this week.

monday: homemade hamburger helper with a side of assorted squash
tuesday: we'll both be out!
wednesday: pesto chicken florentine
thursday: twenty minute teriyaki chicken and rice - borrowed from the org. junkie herself!
friday: sloppy joes on king's hawaiian buns with pasta salad
saturday:dinner with friends - chicken parmesan using parmigiano and herb chicken breasts with angel hair pasta pomodoro, cheese toast, and a simple side salad
sunday: chicken enchiladas

10 July 2011

pesto chicken florentine

one of the very first things i cooked for the sarge was this dish, and it has been his favorite every since. i make it at least once a month most months, and sometimes every week. this dish can be as easy as browning up some chicken and tossing it with spinach and jarred alfredo sauce, or as elaborate and fancy as mixing up your own alfredo and pesto. i usually opt for somewhere right in the middle. often, i opt to use jarred sauce (one of the few things i use a jar for) but i have ventured out and used a simple alfredo recipe (which turned out amazing, of course).

this is one of our favorite dishes, and the best part is, it's never the same twice. in fact, it's on such frequent rotation in our home, i didn't think to include it with  my recipes. make this and enjoy it.. can't go wrong.

pesto chicken florentine
serves 4-6

1 lb. penne or other straight, hollow pasta
1 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cubed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 c. fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c. preferred homemade cream sauce or a jar prepared alfredo sauce
1 packet pesto mix, or 1/2 c. prepared pesto
(Optional) 1 roma tomato, chopped well
grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano, for garnish

1. Prepare pasta in salted water and according to package instructions. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, season the cubed chicken as desired. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, then add onions and cook til translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the chicken, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the juices run clear (about 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat once again to medium low and add the spinach, a little at a time, until just wilted and remove from heat.

3. In a saucepan, prepare the cream sauce and stir in the pesto (Or, if using jarred, heat the sauce and the pesto mix)

4. Combine all of the ingredients into the largest pot and mix well to combine. Top with tomato and freshly grated cheese.

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