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Posts tagged “Bread

Pumpkin Swirl Bread with Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone Spread

My daughter, her friend and I went up to my friend’s lake house this weekend for a “girls” weekend. I wanted to bring along some fun “girly” things to eat, so I made up some chocolate mascarpone spread so we could make chocolate strawberry bruschetta, and while I was at it, I made a pumpkin maple spread too. But then I needed something to put the pumpkin spread on, so, despite the fact that it was a crazy busy day, on a total whim I started up some dough in my bread machine to make pumpkin cinnamon swirl bread. I wasn’t really sure that I would be home long enough on Saturday to bake it before we left, but somehow I managed it. And I was SO glad I did. This bread, with the pumpkin mascarpone spread is pure bliss to eat. You can just close your eyes and lose yourself in the lovely taste of it. My friend said she felt like she could just keep eating it till she exploded. I told her I wasn’t going to share that on my blog, but now here I am sharing it LOL. The young teenage girls loved it too.

We had such a fun weekend. We went for a LONG walk along the lake, then we had tea and hot chocolate and a lovely dinner … I made the salad, my daughter’s friend made cajun chicken pasta, my friend made green beans and we had rotisserie chicken and chicken sausages too, then we listened to funky music and my friend and I had wine and chatted while the girls danced their hearts out in the living room.

My friend who has three boys and has rarely (if ever?) had a girls weekend, wanted to take some of the bread home to her boys. I couldn’t let her have it ALL (my daughter wanted some!), but I did give her the smaller loaf to take home  … so the boys could try it too. I think she loved the girls weekend, but I could also tell she felt a little lost without her boys. I was craving some male energy too. Girls’ weekends are great, but … well, we need our boys, too. However, I do have to tell you my daughter and I were awfully tempted to buy this lakefront house we saw, move to the lake and leave our “city” life behind.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. It is tempting, though …

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone Spread

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour. If you don’t have a bread machine or bread attachment for your mixer, see King Arthur Flour for traditional bread-making instructions.

  • 1 package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup puréed pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • To make the swirl: Cooking spray (or melted butter) + cinnamon sugar

Directions:

  1. Dump all the ingredients except for the “Swirl” ingredients into your bread machine and set it on the dough setting.
  2. When the dough is ready, roll it out into a rectangle, spray with cooking spray, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and roll it up. (I rolled it up lengthwise, and the dough was long enough to make one loaf pan plus a smaller loaf.)
  3. Spray your loaf pans with cooking spray and carefully transfer the dough into them, tucking under the ends to form a nice loaf shape. Spray the loaves with cooking spray, cover with a clean towel and set in a warm place to rise.
  4. When the dough has risen to a big, puffy state (roughly double the size), bake at 375 F. for about 30 minutes or until the loaves are a deep golden brown on top and the loaves sound hollow inside when you thump them.
  5. Let the bread sit for about 5 – 10 minutes, then slice and serve with Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone Cream.

Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone Cream

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3/4 – 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have any on hand, here’s a quick recipe to make your own)
  • 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Let the cream cheese warm up a bit at room temperature, then in a small mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese with the rest of the ingredients until it’s all smooth and very well mixed. You can use a spoon or a mixer does the job quickly and gets the spread all nice and fluffy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Pumpkin Swirl Bread with Pumpkin Maple Mascarpone Spread

This recipe was shared at Scrumptious Sunday, Melt in your Mouth MondayTotally Tasty TuesdayTuesday Talent ShowTasty TuesdayWonderful Food WednesdayNewlyweds Recipe LinkyShow & Share Wednesday, Cast Party Wednesday , Full Plate Thursday and All my Bloggy Friends.


Baked Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast for Mom

Strawberry Rhubarb Baked French Toast with Mascarpone Cheese

My mom loves strawberries. I know this because I remember, as a child, she always wanted one of her kids to go to Dairy Queen with her on Mother’s Day to get her free sundae. And she ALWAYS got a strawberry sundae. So I always ALWAYS think of strawberries on Mother’s Day.

My mom doesn’t live anywhere near a DQ anymore. And my dad happened to mention to me last week that they really needed to stay home and plant the garden this weekend. So my daughter and I decided that we should go surprise them with a visit. After dance rehearsal on Saturday, we hopped in the car and drove up there. We arrived a little after 5:00, walked in the house, and it was empty. Heeeeeellloooo? Mom? Dad? Anybody home? No response …but their dog was there … and the front door was open … so I knew they couldn’t be toooo far!

Mom was down on the dock, checking the fishing lines. That’s my mom, always fishing. Or reading. Or gardening. And dad? He had gone off mushroom hunting. Mom tried to call his phone, but she was having trouble. So I called him.

He made it really easy for me NOT to tell him we were there at his house. He mentioned right away he was on his way home and told me about his mushroom hunt and how I would have to call mom on her phone … he asked what I was doing. “Oh, not much,”  I said. We talked for a while … and I managed not to say anything about us visiting … So he was a little surprised when he drove in … hee hee.

Anyway, I made them some thai curry for dinner last night … and then I made this for mom for breakfast today. Because she loves strawberries …  I think Mom really enjoyed it … And then we planted the garden together. It’s been a long time since I have helped with the planting of the garden.

I love you so much, Mom. There isn’t anything I can give you, let alone anything I can do for you to thank you for all that you’ve done for me. I feel like this is such a feeble attempt at saying thank you … but I just felt like the best thing I could do as a daughter on Mother’s Day was to just BE with you. That’s the best Mother’s Day gift I could think of. I can’t take you to Dairy Queen for your strawberry sundae anymore. But I CAN make you something wonderful with strawberries …

We ate breakfast on the patio in the sunshine, overlooking the lake. I think it was much better than Dairy Queen. I hope my Mom agrees …

Strawberry Rhubarb Baked French Toast with Almonds & Mascarpone Cheese

Baked Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast

Adapted from “From Valerie’s Kitchen

  • About 4 1/2 cups of bread, cubed (I used my dad’s whole wheat yogurt bread)
  • 4 oz. Mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup of chopped strawberries
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • Sliced fresh strawberries

Directions:

  1. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass or ceramic (non-metal) pan with cooking spray. (The acid in the rhubarb will react with metal, so I like to use glass pans when I’m baking with rhubarb.) Make a layer of bread cubes in the bottom of the pan. Top with the rhubarb and the chopped strawberries, and add dabs of the Mascarpone cheese. Add the rest of the bread cubes.
  2. Mix up the “goop” … in a bowl, whisk the eggs, then add milk, vanilla, almond extract, 3 tablespoons sugar and spices. Whisk till smooth. Pour over the bread cubes in the pan, then gently stir to make sure all the cubes get moist. At this point, you can cover the pan and refrigerate for an hour or several or even overnight. I just let it sit for about 15 minutes, and gently stirred around the cubes again to make sure all the bread cubes got a good soaking. It made a little bit of a mess with the mascarpone, but now we’re going to add the topping so that will make it all pretty again.
  3. About an hour before you’re ready to eat, make the topping by melting the butter. Then in a small bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and almonds. Sprinkle this all over your french toast bake, then add fresh sliced strawberries to your heart’s content.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 40 – 45 minutes or until the eggs are set. Let the dish set for about 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven, then serve.
Mom got the first piece.

Strawberry Rhubarb Baked French Toast with Mascarpone and Cinnamon Toasted Almonds for my Mom

This recipe was shared at Mom’s Everyday MealsMealtime Monday,  Trick or Treat TuesdaysTotally Tasty TuesdaysDelicious Dish TuesdayCast Party Wednesdays and This Week’s Cravings: Eggs.


Mini Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Mini Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I’ve been eyeing all the beautiful Caprese sandwiches online for so long, waiting for the day when I had a fresh garden tomato to make one.

So I have a funny story to tell you. Last fall I had a potted tomato plant that wasn’t finished making tomatoes when the frost came. I brought it inside so the tomatoes could keep growing on the vine. It kept growing all winter long and I kept watering it … I mean, why not? It was a beautiful thriving houseplant. And when the days started getting longer, it started blooming. I didn’t have any bees to pollinate the flowers, so I tried hand-pollinating the flowers with my fingers.

The most amazing thing happened. Two tomatoes actually started growing! One of them has already ripened. It was pretty small and ugly and kind of dense and tough … but when I cut it open? Oh my … it put the store-bought tomatoes to shame. It had so much flavor it almost tasted like a sundried tomato.

A fresh tomato from my tomato plant ... in May!

So I decided it was time to give the Caprese Grilled sandwich a try. I had to supplement my little fresh tomato pieces with some store-bought tomato slices, but oh man, these sandwiches are to die for.

I think these little Caprese sammies would go well with either a soup or salad on the side. I had mine with a cup of mixed fruit topped with a few toasted walnuts. (I had SUCH a hard time waiting to eat them …)

Mini Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Mini Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  • French rolls (or french bread), sliced thin
  • Pesto (I used the Basil Lime Pesto I made last summer and froze)
  • Fresh tomato, sliced thin
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced or shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Butter or light butter spread

Directions:

  1. Spread one side of each slice of bread with a very thin layer of pesto.
  2. Add a thin slice of mozzarella or sprinkle on a thin layer of shredded cheese.
  3. Cover the cheese with tomato slices, then basil leaves.
  4. Add another slice of mozzarella or shredded cheese.
  5. Top with a slice of bread (pesto side in).
  6. Butter the outside of the sandwiches lightly.
  7. Preheat a skillet pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat.
  8. Turn the heat down to medium low and carefully place the little sandwiches in the pan. Cover and cook for a few minutes, then check to see if the bottom side is golden brown yet. Carefully flip the sandwiches to toast the other side, then cover and cook until the other side  is golden brown.
  9. Serve immediately and revel in the deliciousness.

Mini Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Can you tell which tomato piece is the home-grown one and which one came from the store?

(And yeah, I know … it’s so definitely time to ditch the purple nail polish.)

This recipe was shared at Sweet & Simple SundaysTastetastic Thursdays, Moosewood Monday and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Raspberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

Raspberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

I make this pudding at least one time every spring when the rhubarb comes in.

So it was Easter weekend, we were up at my mom and dad’s place and my mom’s rhubarb was one of the few things that was already growing. It was still small, but I couldn’t resist picking some of it and making my favorite bread pudding. I made it for breakfast and the pudding didn’t last long … both the kids and adults loved it. I think the pretty color of the berries and the rhubarb  lured everyone in. I didn’t have much time or opportunity to photograph it. They didn’t quite seem to get that I need to take pictures of my food (and that’s funny because it’s not like me taking pictures of food is a NEW thing) … but then, I’m not all that used to having a lot of eager eaters around either.

I split it up into two puddings: one with pecans on top, one without (on the off chance that my daughter who doesn’t like nuts would try it … and she did!), but you can do this all in one casserole dish.

Raspberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

Raspberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

  • 6 cups of bread cubes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups fruit (I used 2 cups rhubarb, 2 cups raspberries this time, but I’ve also done this pudding with all rhubarb or all berries)
  • Chopped pecans & raw sugar, for the top

Directions:

  1. Spray your casserole dish with cooking spray. Put the bread in the casserole dish. Pour the milk over the bread and let the bread cubes bask in their milk bath for about 15 minutes, tossing gently every once in a while to give all the bread a chance to soak.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs till they are a little fluffy, then add the vanilla, sugar, nutmeg and salt and whisk till everything is well blended. Mix the rhubarb and berries into the egg mixture.
  3. Fold the fruit into the soaked bread. Top with pecans and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of raw (turbinado) sugar.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about an hour or until the pudding is set.

Raspberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

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This recipe was also shared at Weekend Potluck, Successful Saturdays, and Meatless Mondays.


Ham & Asparagus Strata with 3 Cheeses

Ham & Asparagus Strata with Havarti, Blue, & Parmesan Cheeses

What do you do when you have a bunch of leftover ham from Easter dinner, some fresh asparagus, and half a loaf of old bread that?

Make Strata. It’s hot, it’s comforting … it’s wonderful. You can make it ahead of time and bake it when you’re ready to eat it, or you can cook it right away. Strata works well for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s a very flexible dish too … toss in more of this and less of that, play with different cheeses or vegetables or meat … pretty much whatever you have on hand that you want to toss in. Strata doesn’t care. Strata will make it all good.

Ham & Asparagus Strata with Havarti, Blue, & Parmesan Cheeses

Ham & Asparagus Strata with Havarti, Blue, and Parmesan Cheeses

  • 5 cups of bread cubes (any kind will do … I used a bit of French bread + some Spinach Peasant Bread)
  • 2 cups of milk (I used 2%, but skim or whole milk works fine too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of chopped asparagus
  • Red Robin (or Red Magic) Seasoning (or salt) & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/4 cup diced ham
  • 4 eggs (to cut the fat/cholesterol, use Egg Beaters or substitute egg whites in place of some – or all – of the yolks)
  • A small bunch of fresh chives, snipped (about 2 Tablespoons?)
  • Several fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 fresh garlic scape, snipped
  • 1 Tablespoon blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup shredded Havarti cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and put the bread  cubes in the pan. Pour the milk over the crumbs and let sit for 15 minutes or so, gently stirring it up every once in a while to make sure all the bread gets a chance to soak up plenty of milk.
  2. Now, while your bread is soaking, put a bit of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, swirl it around, heat to medium high heat, and sautee the onion, garlic, and asparagus briefly or until the onion just begins to look a little cooked. The asparagus should still be crisp. Season lightly with the seasoning (or salt) and pepper, being careful to go light on the salt because we will be adding ham and cheese later …
  3. Add the wine to the pan with the vegies and sautee for just a couple minutes longer or until most of the liquid has evaporated. The asparagus should still be a little crisp, if possible. If not, don’t worry over it too much. Strata doesn’t care.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs well, then toss in some chopped chives, basil leaves, and garlic scapes, then stir in the ham as well.
  5. Fold the egg/ham mixture into the milk-saturated bread in the casserole dish.
  6. Pour the vegies over the casserole too, and fold those in as well.  While you’re doing that, sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles.
  7. Mix the Havarti & Parmesan cheeses and separate in half. Take one half of the cheese and sprinkle that half over the casserole, then fold it into the mixture, making sure that cheese taste gets permeated into the whole dish.
  8. Use the reserved half of the cheese to sprinkle on top. (You can pre-make the strata to this point and keep it in the fridge till you’re ready to bake it.)
  9. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 60 to 80 minutes or until the strata is set (till it springs back when you touch it and isn’t all runny when you cut into it).  If you are starting from a refrigerated strata, you will have to cook it a while longer.
  10. If you want to serve it in wedges, let it set up for about 10 – 15 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve garnished with fresh basil leaves or fresh chives or pretty little wild purple violets. Or scoop out servings with a spoon while it’s steaming hot and don’t bother with the garnish. Either way, it’s yummy. Strata doesn’t care.

Ham & Asparagus Strata with Havarti, Blue Cheese, and Parmesan

This recipe was shared at  Totally Tasty TuesdaysTalent Show Tuesday and Full Plate Thursdays.


Bread and White Bean Salad with Feta & Basil

Bread and White Bean Salad

5,000 likes on facebook! :)Yesterday my little blog reached a new milestone: 5,000 “likes” on my facebook page. I was so excited I took a screenshot! … I have met sooo many wonderful foodie friends through this blog. It has been an incredibly rewarding journey for me. My foodie friends take me on culinary journeys all over the world, but not only that, they lift me up when I am down, they always have a cheery good morning and a good night, a cup of hot coffee, and oh the amazing foods we share. We have parties together, share stories, food, music, drinks … They are my inspiration, but more than that, they are my friends … I want to do something to celebrate and thank all of you but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. One of my friends suggested “5 different things” … we tossed around some ideas for that … at first I was thinking party foods, but I think I will go with 5 favorite foods.

First of Five Favorites: Salad. One of my very favorite foods is salad. I loooove salad! I think I could eat salad every day. Salads are often meals for me. I dress them up with all sorts of things, and I love to make my own salad dressings. And I love sharing my salads with my foodie friends.

For this salad, I wanted to do something like an Italian Bread Salad with my sunflower spinach parmesan bread, but I didn’t follow a recipe. This salad just sort of “happened”, like a lot of recipes in my kitchen do. I just wing it. Most of the time it turns out pretty good. This one was really good, but I’ll warn you it’s super garlicky. Personally I like that. One of the things I want to do before I die is to get to the garlic festival in Gilroy, CA. I already have two garlic cookbooks from there and they are very well used. We drove through Gilroy once. You can smell the amazing garlic from inside the car. For a couple minutes, our car smelled like an Italian kitchen. I bet everyone in Gilroy cooks with a LOT of garlic. I think I’d fit right in …

Bread & White Bean Salad with Feta and Basil

Bread and White Bean Salad with Feta & Basil

Makes 1 “meal-sized” salad or 2-3 side salads. Multiple if you are cooking for more people!

Croutons

Beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked Great Northern, Cannellini or other white beans
  • 2 whole canned tomatoes
  • Granulated garlic
  • Red Robin seasoning (or seasoned salt)
  • Italian seasoning

Salad

  • Mixed greens
  • Red onions, thinly sliced
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sunflower seeds, toasted
  • Lowfat garlic ranch dressing (I used this one) … or I think a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette would be nice on this salad too …

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and granulated garlic. Cut the bread into cubes, and brush lightly with the olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 – 10 minutes or until the bread is toasted and crunchy.
  2. While the croutons are baking, put the beans in a small bowl and crush the tomatoes over them, allowing the juices to drip into the beans, then add the tomatoes. Season to taste with garlic, Red Robin seasoning and Italian seasoning. Heat the beans in the microwave or a small pan till they are hot.
  3. Assemble the salad: in a salad bowl, toss the greens with the onions, beans, and croutons. Sprinkle with feta, basil leaves, and sunflower seeds and drizzle with the dressing.

Bread & White Bean Salad with Feta & Basil

This recipe was shared at Totally Tasty TuesdaysMidweek Fiesta, Cast Party Wednesday, Tastetastic Thursdays, Fit & Fabulous Fridays and Weekend Potluck.

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Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Peasant Bread

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

Is that bread … green? Yes. Yes, it is. I know it might look a little odd, but I wanted to try making a green bread for St. Patrick’s Day. Well, the color of the bread after it’s cooked isn’t quite as bright green as I might like, but it is still green. More importantly, it’s delicious. I ate about half of one of the loaves last night by myself. The slight crunch of the sunflowers with the subtle cheese and spinach taste play together so marvelously in this bread. I think this would be the perfect bread for garlic toast, bruschetta, sandwiches, toasted or just plain (like I was eating it last night). It’s tasty enough to munch on with no butter or anything added at all.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

You could make this bread really fancy pretty by making the spinach-cheese into a swirl in the bread instead of incorporating the spinach right into the dough, like I did with my French Bread with Basil & Gruyere.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Peasant Bread

Inspired by Ally’s Kitchen’s Buttermilk Cranberry Walnut Bread. If you don’t have a bread machine, see Ally’s recipe.

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed, with the extra liquid squeezed out, and then chopped fine … reserve any liquid to use as “water”
  • 1/4 cup water (or spinach juice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 3 cups bread flour (add a little more if needed)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds

Dump all the ingredients except the sunflower seeds into your bread machine and start it on the dough cycle. Check the dough a few minutes after you start it while it’s “processing” to see if the dough is sticking together properly and making a nice ball of dough. If it seems like there is too much flour, add a bit of water. If it seems like the dough is too sticky, add some bread flour.

About 25 minutes into the dough cycle (when it is near to done), throw in the sunflower seeds. I actually tossed mine in after the dough cycle was done and then I had to go back and knead them in myself.  I think it would be easier to toss them in just a bit earlier, so the bread machine doesn’t break them to bits, but incorporates the seeds into the dough.

Cut the dough in two and shape it as you like. I shaped half of the dough into a round loaf and the other half into a long, skinny french-bread-style loaf. They both turned out to be pretty big … I was kind of amazed to get that much bread from just 4 cups of flour.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This only took about 30 – 45 minutes for me.

Bake at 375 for 35 – 50 minutes or until the top is browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting with a good bread knife. I like to spray my loaves with cooking spray to soften the crust and make it all pretty and shiny, but if you want a chewier crust, don’t do that.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

Here’s my big old round loaf. I’m going to freeze it and take it along when I visit my sister this weekend. I think she’s gonna love it.

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This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Layered Spinach, Swiss, Bacon & Basil-Flower “Pie”

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie

This isn’t really a pie. Nor is it a quiche. Perhaps it’s more like a “breakfast bake”, but in a much smaller sort of way. It didn’t happen in a huge pan for a big crowd, like breakfast bakes normally do. It was just a way to use up the end of a loaf of bread and some basil flowers and make a nice lunch for myself in the process. Actually, it wasn’t just a lunch. It was my lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner, all in one bowl. I just kept happily munching on this all afternoon and evening.

Growing basil indoors in the winter is a wonderful experience … you can have fresh herbs all winter long, and pretty little purple flowers will grace your life right there in the middle of all that winter white and gray-ness. The trick to keeping your basil going all winter is to water it well, and cut off the flowers. If you don’t cut the flowers, the basil plant thinks it is “done” and dies off. The super lucky thing about having to cut off basil flowers is they are VERY pretty, and very edible, and very delicious.

Flowers from my basil plant

Layered Spinach, Swiss, Bacon & Basil-Flower Pie

  • Several fresh sprigs of basil, with flowers (if you have flowers. if you don’t have flowers, don’t worry, basil leaves will work just fine … or if you must, you can substitute dried basil)
  • 2 very thin slices of bread
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons of bacon crumbles (bacon, fried till crisp, then drained well on a clean towel and crumbled into bits)
  • About 1/2 cup of shredded swiss cheese
  • About 1/4 cup of freshly shredded parmesan and/or romano cheese (I used a mix of both)
  • About 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, thawed, use a towel to “sponge” out the excess moisture and chop it into pieces
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced, then cooked
  • Chopped green onion
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 3/4 cup of low-fat milk
  • Red robin seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
  • Freshly ground pepper

What I did here was take the last slice of my Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread and cut it into two thin slices. I sprayed an oven-safe bowl with cooking spray, put one of the thin slices in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkled it with bacon and basil flowers.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 1

Then I topped it with about 1/2 of the spinach, some potato and cheese, and some more basil flowers / leaves.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 2

Then I topped it with the other slice of bread and repeat the whole layering process (spinach, potato, cheese, basil flowers) and on the top I added a bit of chopped green onion.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 3

Now in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg white, and milk, then sprinkle liberally with Red Robin Seasoining and lots of freshly ground pepper. Mix it all up well, then pour it carefully into the bowl, pouring sort of around the edge so the bowl fills in with the egg mixture.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or so or until the egg is set. Touch the egg lightly, it should spring back when you touch it.  If there’s any liquid oozing out, let it bake a little longer.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie

I wanted you to see the layers of this delicious and very lovely “pie” …

Layers of the Swiss, Spinach, Bacon, & Basil Flower Pie

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich

on Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Four Cheeses

Every once in a while I get a craving for pepperoni. The thin, thin sliced pepperoni that gets a tad crispy when you put it on top of a pizza? I love that. I don’t like the grease, though, and usually pepperoni pizzas are swimming in grease.

I thought pepperoni would be fantastic on a grilled cheese sandwich and oooh that was a good thought. The first time I made one, I was so hungry that I rushed to take the photos, then gobbled it up. The photos seemed good when I took them, but when I opened them up on my computer, they were all blurry! That just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed good photos to do justice to a sandwich this good. BUT that sandwich was also the last of the loaf of bread I had. So I had to make bread before I could make the sandwich again!

I have tortured my foodie friends for days talking about this sandwich …

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Four Cheeses on Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I know, grilled cheese sandwiches are typically in the “not healthy” category … but I did take a few steps to lighten this one up and cut down the grease factor from the pepperoni.

To make this sandwich you will need:

  • Pepperoni Cheese Bread (recipe is here … or use another really good bread that you love)
  • Light butter
  • 4 kinds of cheeses: Parmesan, Romano, Part-Skim Mozzarella, and Gouda
  • Thinly Sliced Pepperoni (9 slices per sandwich)
  • Finely chopped bell pepper and onion
  • Fresh Basil and Oregano

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ingredients

First, prep your ingredients and shred the cheese. I don’t know exactly what proportions I used. Shred just a little of the parmesan and romano to give it that extra kick of flavor, then go heavier on the gouda and mozzarella for the melt factor. Gouda has a very soft melt, mozzarella is more stringy, so mixing the two makes your grilled cheese just right. Mix all the shredded cheeses together in a bowl.

Heat the pepperoni briefly and then place them on a clean towel (or paper towel if you prefer), cover, and press so that the towel absorbs all the extra grease from the pepperoni.

Now, take your bread and spread a very thin layer of light butter on the outside of the bread. If you’re a purist, you can use real butter, but I prefer the light butter myself.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 1

Flip the bread over and on one side of the bread, add a layer of the shredded cheeses.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 2

Make a layer of pepperoni on top of that:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 3

Now sprinkle lightly with onion and bell pepper:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 4

Place the beautiful herbs on top of that:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 5

And cover it all up with a second layer of shredded cheeses:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 6

Place the other side of the bread on top (buttered side OUT) and now you’re ready to grill your sandwich! Heat up a frying pan on medium low heat, place the sandwich in there and cover. After a few minutes, check the bottom of the sandwich by lifting up the edge with your spatula. When it’s golden brown it’s time to flip it. Cover and let the other side cook till it’s golden brown too and the cheese is all hot and melty.

Then you can cut up your beautilicious sandwich (or leave it whole if you prefer!) … and eat it.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Pepperoni Cheese Bread

I recommend a salad with this to balance out all that bread and cheese and meat. I did a simple salad of mixed organic greens with bell pepper, onion, and a balsamic vinaigrette. And I discovered the vinaigrette on the plate was a nice “dipping sauce” for the crusts of the sandwich that weren’t quite cheese-ified.

I know, cheese-ified probably isn’t really a word. That’s the beauty of being a food blogger; you get to make up fun words like beautilicious and cheese-ified. I think those two words fit this sandwich very well.

This recipe was shared at Weekend PotluckCast Party Wednesday and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

The magic of this bread is it has these teeny tiny little speckles of pepperoni and an underlying hint of cheesiness to it, but the flavors are very subtle, so you have this soft savory bread with just a hint of this extra flavor and (if you don’t tell them ahead of time) people can’t quite identify what it is. It’s a perfect bread for that grilled cheese sandwich … or an egg in a hole … or toasted alongside your favorite soup or pasta dish or a big cheesy omelet. You can use it to make cheesy garlic toast or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

The bread machine does pretty much all of the work here, so it’s a cinch to make too.

Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Adapted from Food.com. (If you don’t have a bread machine, consult the original recipe for instructions. )

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup sliced and finely chopped pepperoni (in about 1/4 inch pieces … the bread machine will “cut” it into speckles for you)
  • ½ cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups water

Directions:

  1. Toss all the ingredients in a bread machine and set it on the dough cycle. You can bake it in the bread machine if you want, but I like the shape of the loaf better when it’s baked in a loaf pan.
  2. When the dough is done, take it out and shape it into an oval shape. Set it in a standard bread pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  4. Bake at 375 for about 35 – 40 minutes or until the top is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.
  5. Remove the bread from the pan, spray it with cooking spray (softens the crust and makes it all pretty and shiny) and place the bread on a rack to rest for 5 to 10 minutes (if you can stand to wait that long). That’s the hardest part … the waiting … when your house is full of that delicious fresh bread aroma and your mouth is watering …

Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

This recipe was shared at Tastetastic ThursdaysThursday’s Treasures, It’s a Keeper Thursdays, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, and Weekend Potluck.


Hoppin’ Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread

Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread

I love the round shape of this bread and the lovely brown color, the heat of the hot pepper, and the oozing cheese … and how quick and simple it was to make.

I really love the idea of adding the cheese in hunks to the bread instead of shredding it because then you hit spots of melted cheese in your bread if you eat it hot out of the oven. Some of the cheese slips out the side a bit while the bread is baking, too, and makes a little cheesey crust at the bottom edge of the bread too that I just loved.

Choose a beer that you like because even with the hot peppers and the cheese, the taste of the beer does shine through.  I chose a Leinenkugel Fireside Nut Brown beer for this bread. I wish they would make this beer year-round because it’s a smooth nutty brown beer that I really love the taste of. You might think this odd, but I like a nut brown ale when I want a lighter beer. I didn’t get to drink any of this beer, though, because the recipe calls for the entire bottle. Good thing it’s early in the morning or I might have had to be sad!

Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread

Hoppin’ Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread

Slightly adapted from The Carolina Sauce Company

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tablespoons to 1/2 cup finely chopped jalapenos or other hot pepper of your choice (I used 1/2 cup but adjust the amount according to what your taste buds can handle)
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1 12-oz bottle beer
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing on top of the bread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the cheese and chopped chiles, then pour in the beer and stir until just combined (the dough will be somewhat stiff and dry-looking).
  4. Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for several turns, then shape the bread into a nice ball shape.
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet and brush the top with the beaten egg.
  6. Bake at 375° F for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test the bread for done-ness with a knife or toothpick … if it comes out clean, it’s ALMOST done. Bake for about 5 minutes longer, then take it out and enjoy! (They say to let it rest a few minutes, but I cut it right away and it was just fine.)

Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread

This recipe was shared at Katherine Martinelli’s Game Day Blog Hop{Fusion Friday}, Weekend PotluckTrick or Treat Tuesdays and Talent Show Tuesdays.


Sweet Hot Habanero Ham & Gruyere Sandwich

Sweet Hot Habanero Mustard, Ham, and Gruyere Melted on French Bread

My friends and family take such good care of me. The other night after yoga, we went out for a glass of wine and my friend says to me “I have something for you.” … I got really excited because she KNOWS me well.

It was a little jar of habanero jelly. Someone had given it to her for Christmas and she and her family just don’t eat hot pepper stuff. She said “I’ll give it to Ann … she’ll know what to do with it.” … I tell you I just about did a happy dance right there in the middle of the restaurant. I love love love hot pepper jelly and there are really so many delicious ways this hot sweet little concoction can enrich your life.

This is one of them.

Sweet Hot Habanero Mustard Ham & Gruyere Sandwich

Sweet Hot Habanero Ham & Gruyere Sandwich

  • French Bread
  • Gruyere cheese slices
  • Lean ham slices
  • Tomato slices
  • Herb salad mix
  • Habanero Mustard Sandwich Spread (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. First, mix up the sandwich spread (recipe below).
  2. Slice off a hunk of your french bread and then slice horizontally. Toast the bottom half lightly.
  3. Warm the ham briefly in a hot frying pan coated with cooking spray, then lay the slices on the bread … top with slices of gruyere cheese. Place it in the toaster oven (or oven) to broil for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
  4. While the cheese is melting, toast the top half of the bread in the hot frying pan.
  5. Remove the cheesy bottom half of the sandwich and top with tomato, lettuce, and the top half of the bread. And enjoy …

Habanero Mustard Sandwich Spread

  • 1 Tablespoon habanero pepper jelly (or other hot pepper jelly)
  • 1 Tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Mix all ingredients well. Use as a spread on sandwiches. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

Hot Sweet Habanero Mustard Ham & Gruyere Sandwich

Nom!

This recipe was shared at Trick or Treat TuesdaysCast Party Wednesdays, It’s a Keeper Thursdays, Full Plate ThursdaysTastetastic Thursdays and Katherine Martinelli’s Pepper Blog Hop.


French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil

French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil

This beautiful part-whole-wheat bread has a soft texture, with a subtle flavor hint of cheese, basil, and sesame.

French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil
Adapted from Taste and Tell who got it from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, who got it from The Sister’s Cafe

Makes 1 beautiful long loaf

Dough ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
For the “filling”:
  • About 1/2 cup finely shredded gruyere cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
For the top of the loaf:
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Sesame seeds and coarse sea salt (for sprinkling on top, optional)

Put all the dough ingredients into a bread machine and set it on the dough setting. Once the dough is ready, roll the dough out on a clean floured surface to a large rectangle roughly about 9 x 13 inches in size. Sprinkle the bread with the cheese and basil. I wanted a very subtle flavor, so I didn’t use much cheese or basil … you could definitely add more cheese and/or herbs if you like.

French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil

Roll the loaf lengthwise and tuck under the ends.

French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil

Arrange the loaf on a long flat pan with the seam side down, spray with cooking spray, then cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or so.

Brush the loaf with egg white and dust with sesame seeds and sea salt (if desired).

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes or until the bread is a rich golden brown color. Spray with cooking spray immediately, then let the bread sit for 5 – 10 minutes after baking before cutting.

French Bread with Gruyere Cheese and Fresh Basil

If you don’t happen to have a bread machine, see Taste and Tell’s blog for traditional instructions. In absence of a mixer, try this:

Use warm water. Dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm (lukewarm, not hot) water. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes until it bubbles. Then add salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well until it is fully mixed. Add in more flour until the dough sticks together well and makes an elastic ball of dough. Turn out on a floured surface and knead the dough by hand for a few minutes.

Cover the dough and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes, then punch it down by kneading it a couple rounds. Allow to rest another 10-20 minutes. Then turn dough onto a floured surface an with a rolling pin, roll into a 9×13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with corn meal or sprayed with cooking spray. Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray. Cover lightly; allow to rise about 45 minutes. Brush entire surface with egg wash (one egg beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse sea salt. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

This recipe was shared on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wonka Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursdays, Tastetastic Thursdays, and Katherine Martinelli’s Bread Bloghop.


Sweet & Savory Stuffed Holiday Wreaths

Holiday Apple and Cranberry Stuffed Bread Wreath

These pretty wreaths of bread were haunting me last night … I just had to make bread wreaths for our lunch today.

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Holiday Wreaths

Dough recipe from Simply Gourmet Photography who found it on allrecipes.com (submitted by Linda Wilson)

Wreath-shaping instructions from Discovering Sourdough

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Fillings: ham and shredded cheese, sweet apple-cranberry stuffing

Directions:

Put all dough ingredients in a bread machine and set on the dough cycle. (If you don’t have a bread machine, Simply Gourmet Photography has instructions for making them by hand.) When the dough is done, cut it in half. Roll each half into a large circle.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath

Slide the dough circle onto a large baking sheet or pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Mark a circle in the center of the circle with a small bowl, but do not cut through the dough.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: mark a circle in the dough

Cut the star-shape in the center of the dough circle like this:

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: cut a "star" in the middle of the dough

Now, put your stuffing in a ring around the dough. For this one, I used a bunch of chopped cooked ham and shredded sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese. I was trying to make a simple filling that my kids would eat … I would have liked to add onion and chopped bell pepper and perhaps even a nice spicy mustard sauce under the ham, but I kept it simple for the kids.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: add the filling

Now, fold in the outer edge over the filling:

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: fold over the edges of the dough over the filling

and then take the points of the “star” and pull them to the edge. Tuck the ends underneath the edge to hold them in place.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: pull the points of the "star" out to the edge and tuck the ends of the dough underneath

My daughter helped with this part:

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath: fold over the edges of the dough over the filling

The other one we stuffed with apple cranberry stuffing and toasted walnuts. I think it would be better with a little caramel sauce under the apple cranberry stuffing.

Apple & cranberry stuffed breath wreath

Let the loaves rise in a warm place for about an hour or until they are good and puffy, then bake at 400F for 20 minutes covered with a piece of aluminum foil. Take the foil off after 20 minutes and then bake another 5 – 10 minutes.

Sweet Apple Cranberry Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • About 2 cups of peeled chopped apples
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed berry  jam
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, halved
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and cook for 5 – 10 minutes over medium high heat until the apples are crisp-tender.

We had the ham-and-cheese stuffed wreath for lunch, with the apple-cranberry one for dessert.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Bread Wreath

This recipe was shared at Melt in your Mouth MondaysWonka Wednesdays and Full Plate Thursdays.


Traditional Cinnamon Rolls from Long, Long Ago

Traditional Cinnamon Rolls from Long, Long Ago

That’s my daughter’s name for these cinnamon rolls. She gets to name them because she made them. She remembers when we used to make cinnamon rolls when we lived in another house, in another place, when she had a purple bedroom with a great big window that looked out on her own little garden that her grandparents built for her. We often made cinnamon rolls in that house and sometimes they would raise up over the edges of the pan and make some really funky shapes. They looked a little crazy, but they were so good.

It was only a few years ago really, but it seems like a long time ago. We had a different life back then. Different schools, different people, different house, different town, and her daddy. We lived in the country and had lots of space around us and a creek running through our back yard. There was a big hill that was great for sledding, lots of tulips, marigolds, petunias, daisies, and lilies. Her best friend lived just down the road and they would walk over to each others’ houses all the time.

I think these cinnamon rolls remind her of that time. I’m glad she has those fond memories in her heart.

Traditional Cinnamon Rolls from Long, Long Ago

Traditional Cinnamon Rolls

My daughter made these cinnamon rolls and she took the photos herself too. All I did was put the ingredients in the bread machine and press the dough button. She did the rest.

  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 4 t. yeast (or about 2 packets)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. vanilla

Directions:

For step by step photos showing how to roll up and cut these rolls, see my caramel apple sweet rolls post.
  1. Put all the ingredients in  the bread machine and start it up on the dough setting.
  2. When the dough is done, roll it out flat, spray with cooking spray, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  3. Roll it up lengthwise, and slice it into rolls with dental floss.
  4. Set the rolls in a baking pan sprayed with cooking spray, leaving space around each roll to give it room to rise.
  5. Spray the rolls with cooking spray, cover and let rise in a warm place till they are about double in size. I usually allow an hour for this, but it depends on how warm your warm place is.
  6. Bake at 325 for about 40 – 50 minutes or until they look done in the middle. I often cover them with foil for part of the baking time to keep them from getting too brown on top before they are done in the middle.

Traditional Cinnamon Rolls from Long, Long Ago


Amaretto Pumpkin Bread Pudding

with Maple Amaretto Whipped Cream

Amaretto Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I love bread pudding, partly because my mother used to make it for us when we were kids but also because it is transformational.

It transforms old crusty unwanted bread into a warm, elegant, soft and comforting dessert or breakfast.

So appropriate for fall when the world is in a state of transformation. Summer is retreating and winter is on her way. The trees are transforming from their summer selves into their winter state of sleep. My son says the display of color on the trees is their way of saying goodnight. I like that thought.

Autumn leaves: the trees are saying goodnight

It all parallels the transformations occurring in our lives. My daughter is transforming from a girl to a young lady, my son is beginning his transformation from teenage life to adult-hood, and me? I am in the process of discovering myself. I got divorced a couple years ago, and it was very painful, but it didn’t take me long to realize that it was the right thing for all of us. I mourned the death of that relationship, then I rejoiced as I re-discovered pieces of myself I had locked away. And I began my transformation. Sometimes I feel like I just want to settle into a relationship again. I get frustrated that I can’t seem to find someone to love, but I noticed that with each new man I date, I learn something new about myself. I feel a bit like a butterfly trying out my new wings.

Pumpkin Amaretto Bread Pudding

Pumpkin Amaretto Bread Pudding

Amaretto: An Italian amber-colored liqueur with an almondlike flavor, although it is actually flavored with apricot kernels; it was originally made in Saronno and called Amaretto di Saronno. (A little info I got from my friend at Delicacies by Dan)

Inspired by: Eat Drink and Be Merry’s Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

  • Crusty or old Bread, cubed and toasted (about 4 cups of bread cubes)
Pumpkin mixture:
  • 1 c. fat free half and half
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1/8 c. amaretto
  • 1 t. pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. pumpkin (canned or cooked)
  • 1 t. vanilla
Topping:
  • 1/4 c. toasted pecans
  • 1/8 c. maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and place on a baking sheet to toast lightly, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Spray a small casserole dish with cooking spray and place the toasted bread cubes in the casserole dish.
  3. Whisk the wet ingredients (half and half through vanilla) in a bowl until fully mixed.
  4. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the bread in the casserole and fold gently to coat the bread. Let sit for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Sprinkle the top of the pudding with toasted pecans and drizzle with the maple syrup.
  6. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the pudding is set. It should spring back when you press lightly into the top.  Let cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve warm. Drizzle with maple syrup and top with homemade whipped cream (see below)

Maple Amaretto Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 pint of whipping cream
  • 1/8 c. maple syrup
  • 1/8 t. pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 2 t. amaretto
In a bowl, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the maple syrup, pumpkin pie seasoning and amaretto and whip a little more. I don’t like my whipped cream too sweet, so if you want more flavor or sweetness, add a little more syrup, amaretto, and/or seasoning.
Amaretto Pumpkin Bread Pudding
This recipe was featured on Deelicious Sweets Pumpkin Blog Hop Week 3.

Lovely Italian Bread Soup

Italian Bread Soup

This is day 5 of my challenge to blog every day in October about connections through food. Starting a food blog was simply a way to share my cooking creativity … and when I started I had no idea what wonderful places and fantastic friends this blog would open up to me. Now the friends I’ve made mean more than the food. I look forward to talking to them every morning, and often we say goodnight to each other before we go to bed. Some I talk to every day, some only once in a while, but I really really love them all.

They are an endless source of inspiration, support and love. Some of them, I don’t even know their real names. But it doesn’t matter. We party together in cyberspace and share stories, struggles, encouragement and food.

This recipe is from one of my favorite foodie friends: A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll. She serves it with a remembering of her visit to Italy, which brings up memories for me of my trip to Italy over 20 years ago.

She says of this soup:  “As stunning and memorable as those places were, I’ll never forget the soup my father ordered at an outdoor cafe almost nineteen years ago:  Bread Soup.”

I had to make it.

Italian Bread Soup

This is her recipe, copied verbatim. When I made it, I altered it a little, made about half the amount, didn’t soak the beans overnight (actually I used my sister’s trick for cooking beans), used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, and couldn’t locate my red pepper flakes.  I had no leek , and I used frozen spinach and my mom’s canned tomatoes.

Italian Bread Soup

From A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll

1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans that have been soaked overnight

6 cups organic, low sodium vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
2 medium onions, diced (divided)
1/2 teaspoon thyme

1-2 diced carrots
1 leek, sliced and rinsed well
1-2 medium red potatoes, diced

3-4 cups (or more) roughly chopped fresh baby spinach
1 (28 oz.) unsalted, whole canned tomatoes (including juice, break the tomatoes with your hands)
handful of fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste
day old italian bread

Drain soaked beans.  Add to a large stock pot along with 1 diced onion, thyme, and the 6 cups broth. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.

Saute leek and onion in the olive oil until the onions become slightly translucent. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, carrots, potato, and can of tomatoes.  Add to the cooked beans.  (Add more water to cover the veggies, if needed.)

Continue simmering until the carrots and potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, chop the stale bread into cubes, coat in olive oil and toast in a skillet.

When the potatoes or tender, add the chopped spinach, bread cubes, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Allow the bread to soak in the soup until it breaks down.

Keep some in the fridge so you have a lovely, healthy tasty meal when you are in a rush.

Italian Bread Soup

This recipe was shared at It’s a Keeper Thursdays.


Eggplant, Mushroom, Ricotta & Asiago Bruschetta

Eggplant Mushroom Bruschetta

My dear, dear friend brought me some of her precious rustic rosemary pepper bread … and I was SO delighted! I had seen this recipe for Eggplant Bruschetta and already had dreams of eggplant and bruschetta dancing in my mind … I just needed some rustic bread to make it happen … some days, if you make little wishes, the rustic bread of your dreams may just appear on your doorstep …

(I’m still waiting for the handsome prince wish to come true … he stopped by a few weeks ago, and we had a lovely dinner together … but then he disappeared … sigh … perhaps this is just an issue of patience. Or perhaps he’s not my prince. I haven’t figured that puzzle out yet …)

BUT I did figure out the eggplant bruschetta puzzle … I kind of made up my own eggplant bruschetta recipe … and oh my this turned out good … I think I will just revel in this bruschetta dream for a bit longer. The prince can wait.

Eggplant Mushroom Ricotta Bruschetta

Eggplant, Mushroom, Ricotta & Asiago Bruschetta

  • 3 baby lavender eggplants, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • 4 – 6 fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • Basil vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Rustic crusty bread, sliced … I think if your bread is not rosemary pepper bread, you might want to add some finely chopped rosemary and extra fresh ground pepper to the eggplant mixture
  • Pesto
  • Lowfat ricotta cheese
  • Shredded Asiago cheese
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes from the garden
  • Basil leaves for garnish

Roast the eggplant by spreading in a thin layer on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with salt, then bake in a 350 degree oven about 5 minutes. Stir the eggplant and bake a few more minutes or until soft.

Coat a frying pan with cooking spray, then add the olive oil. Sautee the eggplant, onion, garlic, and mushroom briefly until the mushrooms and onion are soft. Toss with 1 – 2 T. basil vinaigrette (recipe below).

Meanwhile, lightly toast several slices of the rustic bread. Spread each slice with a thin layer of pesto, then the ricotta, then sprinkle on some shredded asiago cheese onto each round of bread. Put the bruschetta on a baking tray and bake at 400 degrees F. for about 5-10 minutes or until the asiago is melted and bubbly.

Top with the eggplant/mushroom mixture and some freshly chopped tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Eggplant Mushroom Asiago Bruschetta

Basil Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

This dressing is so versatile … it’s great on a salad, of course, but also makes for a very quick tasty bruschetta!

I found this recipe on Farm Fresh Living when I was looking for a way to use up some of my plentiful basil (besides pesto!). I used a LOT more basil than the recipe called for. And I adjusted it quite a bit … like I always do …

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tablespoons Garlic peppercorn mustard (or Dijon)
  • 1/8 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Juice from 1/2 orange
  • 1 small tomato diced
  • Several BIG handfuls of basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra- virgin organic olive oil

Toss all the ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.

Use a little to make your lovely bruschetta, then store the rest in the fridge for your next fantastic basilicious creation.

This recipe was shared at Katherine Martinelli’s Eggplant Bloghop.


Kardemummakrans (Swedish Braided Bread)

Kardemummakrans: Swedish Braided Bread

This is a traditional Swedish Christmas bread that is well loved at our house. I made it over Christmas one time at my parents’ place and my brother-in-law liked this bread SO much he asked me for the recipe so he could make it … and he doesn’t even cook normally! My sister tells me he did actually make this bread.

This is a great bread to bring to potlucks or family gatherings. Everyone will love you if you bring this. It also makes good neighbor gifts in the middle of the winter when  your neighbor clears off all the snow from your driveway and you want to give them something to say “thank you!”

My daughter loves doing the braiding and specially requested this bread this morning. So yes, this is all her handiwork. All I did was the measuring and the baking.

It has such a fun name, doesn’t it? I love saying Kardemummakrans.

Kardemummakrans

Adapted from Sunset Gifts from Your Kitchen

You can substitute part whole wheat flour if you like … I do that sometimes, but today I was suspicious that my yeast wasn’t happy, so I used all white flour.

Ingredients:

  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 c. lowfat milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 1/4 t. yeast (or one package active dry yeast)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 t. ground cardamom
  • 4 c. bread flour + more as needed
  • Candied cherries (optional)
  • Lemon glaze (recipe below)

Directions:

Melt the butter, then stir in a bit of the cold milk to cool it down. Let it cool a while to make sure it’s cooled completely. Put it in the bread machine along with the rest of the ingredients and turn it onto the “dough” setting.

When the dough is ready, dump it out onto a clean flat floured surface and cut into three equal pieces. (If you want smaller loaves, you can cut into 6 equal parts instead and make two bread wreaths instead of one big one.)

Kardemummakrans: Swedish Braided Bread - Cut the dough in 3 pieces

Pull gently to lengthen each piece …

Kardemummakrans: Swedish Braided Bread making ropes of dough

… until it becomes a nice long rope …

Pulling the dough into a long rope

Repeat for all three dough pieces. Try to get the three ropes about the same length. Dab the ends of the ropes with milk to seal them together at one end.

Braiding the Bread

Loosely braid the three ropes …

Braiding the Bread

Continue braiding …

Braiding the Bread

Until you’ve got a beautiful long bread braid!

The bread is braided!

Spray a large baking sheet or platter with cooking spray, then gently lift the braid onto the baking sheet. Form the braid into a ring, pinching the ends together.

Braided Bread made into a Ring

Spray with cooking spray and and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until big and poufy or doubled in size (30 minutes – 1 hour).

The bread has risen!

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for about 30 minutes or until loaf is medium brown. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Let cool a bit before glazing.

Prepare the glaze and drizzle over the bread. Decorate with cherries if you like.

Drizzle the Glaze over the Bread

Lemon glaze:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon

Mix the powdered sugar and the lemon juice together till smooth. The glaze should be thin so it can be lightly drizzled over the bread.

This bread was submitted to YeastSpotting and EveryDay Mom’s Meals.


Eggplant & Tomato Sandwiches on Toasted Ciabatta

Eggplant & Tomato Sandwich on Toasted Ciabatta

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction. ~ E. F. Schumacker

As school starts and we find ourselves rushing about to meet all the crazy kid schedules, I look back at the lazy simplicity of summer and wish for just a few more moments of rest. Just managing the schedule for all the activities makes me tired: the dance practices, band rehearsals, TaeKwonDo classes, choir rehearsals.

And yet I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I rush from work to activity to activity … sometimes several in one night. Every night we are running to something different. By the time we get home at night it’s usually 9:00 and we haven’t even eaten yet.  And I’m too tired to cook.

That’s when I need something simple. Frozen pizza crusts come in really handy. And I confess, I do buy chicken nuggets and frozen ravioli and things like that for the kids. But mom wants something more grown up.

This is simple. And it’s grown up. It’s beautiful and satisfying and healthy. I could immerse myself in the glory of this lovely sandwich while my daughter dips her ciabatta in olive oil and eats cucumber slices (two of her favorite foods) and my son eats his frozen pizza in the basement in front of the computer.

This recipe comes from Chef in Disguise, one of my favorite food bloggers. Go look at her mini eggplant sandwiches. She will tell you how to make these little marvels of simplicity.

Really it’s so simple. All you do is put broiled eggplant on toasted ciabatta bread. I added some onion.

Broiled eggplant on toast with onions

Then put on the cheese and broil it till the cheese melts.

Top the eggplant toasts with cheese

And once the cheese is good and melty, top with sliced tomato and oregano. I used fresh oregano. She used dried. Then she added mint … mine didn’t have any mint … Her sandwiches had a top. Mine didn’t. But I think they were just fine just as they are … or rather, were.

The pictures are all that is left now …

Eggplant & Tomato Sandwiches on Toasted Ciabatta

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Thank you, Sawsan, for sharing your beautiful recipe for simplicity.

This recipe was submitted to Cast Party Wednesday.

This is a Family Fresh Cooking Happy Post.


Hot Homemade Ciabatta Bread

Hot Homemade Ciabatta Bread (made with bread machine)

(… made with a little help from the Bread Machine)

Ciabatta is that beautiful Italian bread that everyone is using for sandwiches now … it has just the right chewy texture to hold up to a hearty sandwich filling. It’s a sort of flat shaped bread, so if you cut it horizontally, you can get a nice sturdy base for your sandwich. It’s also great with soups or just for dunking in olive oil with dinner.

If you’ve never made it before, I have to warn you, it takes 2 days to make. It doesn’t take much effort … just a lot of waiting. But it’s SO worth it! This is my third attempt at ciabatta and I think I’ve finally mastered it. I’m sure somebody will say I didn’t do it the right way, but the result in my opinion was perfect, so that is all that matters. Well, that and my daughter’s take on it. I’m waiting to hear her verdict. She fell asleep early tonight … first day of school was tough on her!

Yeast bread can be a little testy sometimes and it varies a bit with the weather, so the same recipe you use today might not work quite right tomorrow. Don’t worry about it too much. It’s ok if it doesn’t turn out perfect. It’s probably still pretty dang yummy.

I started with a recipe from Allrecipes … but had to revise it a bit. I found the directions kind of confusing and needed to simplify it a LOT to be able to fit it in with work and back to school and, well, all the busy family things we have going on. If you don’t have a bread machine, you can do this the old-fashioned way.

Ciabatta Bread with some help from the Bread Machine

Ingredients

For the Sponge:

  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
For the Bread:
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon gluten (optional … depends on how the gluten is in your whole wheat flour … don’t use it if you’re not doing whole wheat flour!)
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. First, make the sponge: In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. What does creamy mean? I’m not really sure, but I guess it looks kind of white-ish and milky after you let it sit a bit … don’t worry about it too much. I really over-worried this step on my first two times, but I really don’t think I needed to bother.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of the water, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. You can use bread flour here if you prefer an all-white ciabatta, but I encourage you to try the white whole wheat.
  3. Stir it a while till it’s mixed, then cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 12 hours and up to a day. I didn’t use plastic wrap–I think that’s a waste and bad for the environment. Just set a plate over it that covers the bowl tightly. That works just as well and you can wash the plate afterwards if the sponge happens to rise high enough to touch the plate. (Mine did, surprisingly!)
  4. Toss the sponge into your bread machine along with the rest of the ingredients and put it on the “dough” setting and set your bread machine to take care of the hard part. (Start with 1/2 cup of water and add a little more if the dough isn’t turning into a nice ball of dough like it should.)
  5. When the dough is done, dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and cut it in half. Shape each half into an irregular oblong oval shape about 9-11 inches long.
  6. Spray the loaves with cooking spray, cover with a towel, and let the loaves rise for a couple hours.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees, preferably on a cooking stone, for about 20 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Probably is best to bake them one at a time.
  8. Now here is the controversial step: I like to spray the loaves with cooking spray right away when they come out of the oven. It makes the loaf look more brown and shiny and tenderizes the crust a little. If you want a chewier crust, skip this step!
  9. And now you finally get to enjoy your ciabatta.  My daughter’s favorite way to eat this is just to dip it in olive oil, but I love to make a good sandwich with it.

Hot Homemade Ciabatta Bread

What’s your favorite use for ciabatta?

Please leave me a comment and let me know. I’m on the lookout for some creative sandwich recipes!

So far I’ve found this lovely Eggplant Sandwich Recipe from Chef in Disguise.


Decadent Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Decadent Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I need to tell you right now: if you don’t seriously love chocolate, skip this post. This recipe is strictly for chocolate lovers. It’s best if you are a dark chocolate lover although I think you could possibly mellow it out if you cut some of the chocolate and used milk chocolate chips. But I wouldn’t. Really, this is so good and dark and rich. And yes, it’s healthy too. All that dark chocolate is full of antioxidants–and hey it’s got zucchini in it so you are sneaking vegies into your pleasure zone. It’s low in fat, full of whole grains and if you wanted to cut the fat further, you could skip one of the eggs and use 2 more egg whites. This is not like any zucchini bread you’ve ever tasted. Did I mention it’s chocolate?

The recipe makes 2 loaves so you could eat one, and share one with one of your chocolate-loving friends. Or eat one, and freeze the other for chocolate emergencies. I’m having it for breakfast … all … week … long. Mmmmm. Chocolate.

Decadent Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 1-oz. baking chocolate squares, melted
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract. I like to use Mexican vanilla.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup flaxmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips. Use really good quality chips like Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips–you won’t be sorry.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread -- see, it starts out green!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine chocolate, cocoa, eggs, egg whites, sugar, oil, yogurt, zucchini, and vanilla. Beat well.
  4. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with raw sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

I chopped up the chips a bit to distribute the chocolate taste …

I chopped up the chips a bit to distribute the chocolate flavor more ...

Done! I had to cut it right away …

The finished chocolate zucchini bread

Nutrition Information:

1 serving = 1/10 of 1 loaf

Nutrition information for Decadent Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Recipe analysis from http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/account/flog_add.php?tab=new_recipe

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Exchange sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

This recipe was shared at Best Bread Recipes of 2011.


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