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
- 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
- Dump all the ingredients except for the “Swirl” ingredients into your bread machine and set it on the dough setting.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
This recipe was shared at Scrumptious Sunday, Melt in your Mouth Monday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday Talent Show, Tasty Tuesday, Wonderful Food Wednesday, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Show & Share Wednesday, Cast Party Wednesday , Full Plate Thursday and All my Bloggy Friends.
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 …
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
- Spread one side of each slice of bread with a very thin layer of pesto.
- Add a thin slice of mozzarella or sprinkle on a thin layer of shredded cheese.
- Cover the cheese with tomato slices, then basil leaves.
- Add another slice of mozzarella or shredded cheese.
- Top with a slice of bread (pesto side in).
- Butter the outside of the sandwiches lightly.
- Preheat a skillet pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat.
- 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.
- Serve immediately and revel in the deliciousness.
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.)
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Fold the fruit into the soaked bread. Top with pecans and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of raw (turbinado) sugar.
- Bake at 350 degrees F. for about an hour or until the pudding is set.
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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, 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
- 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.
- 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 …
- 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.
- 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.
- Fold the egg/ham mixture into the milk-saturated bread in the casserole dish.
- Pour the vegies over the casserole too, and fold those in as well. While you’re doing that, sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
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 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!
- 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 slices of french bread or Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread
- 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
- 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 …
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.
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.
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.