Apple Bread Pudding

October 27, 2009

Chef’s Notes: All I can say is…this is the ultimate autumn comfort food. Trust me, you will not want to share!

apple bread pudding

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding
(Serves 4-6)

4 C. day-old wheat bread cubes
2 C. peeled and sliced apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 3/4 C. milk
1/4 C. unsalted butter
1/2 C. brown sugar, loosely packed
2 T. maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bread cubes and apples in 8-inch glass baking dish (square or round); sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup; heat over low heat until butter melts. Pour milk mixture over bread and apples. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and vanilla; pour into baking dish. Bake 45 minutes. Serve warm.


(Bread pudding is frequently served with a vanilla or rum/brandy/bourbon sauce. I think a sauce makes it too rich, but if you’d like to try it, you can find multiple recipes by googling.)


Paper Chef Winner

October 21, 2009
Paper Chef Winning Entry

Paper Chef Winning Entry

The judge for this month’s Paper Chef challenge, Janie at musingri, has selected my Lentil Naan Filled with Chai-Spiced Tofu and Surna Koot as the winner. (Thanks Janie!)

As the winner, I will be hosting next month’s Paper Chef challenge, which will take place Wednesday November 4 through Tuesday November 10. Make sure to check back then for details and to participate.

Cheesy Potato Crusted Fish Strips with Rémoulade

October 21, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This is a “little bit gourmet” version of frozen minced fish sticks and tartar sauce. Fish fillets are cut into strips, coated with cheese-flavored instant potatoes and lemon basil, then fried. Rémoulade is French tartar sauce that includes capers and whole grain mustard.

Cheesy Potato Crusted Fish Strips

Cheesy Potato Crusted Fish Strips

Cheesy Potato Crusted Fish Strips
Serves 4

3 or 4 orange roughy fish fillets
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 C. flour
2 egg whites
3/4 C. Betty Crocker Four Cheese Instant Potatoes
1 tsp. lemon basil

(Don’t have lemon basil? Use lemon pepper seasoning on the fish, and mix basil with the potato flakes.)

Sprinkle fish with pepper. Cut each fillet into 4 or 5 strips. Put the flour, egg, and potato in 3 separate shallow dishes. Dredge the fish strips in flour. Then dip into the egg white. Then coat with potato flakes mixed with lemon basil.

Watch this video if you’re not familiar with the three-step breading procedure:
Three-Step Breading Procedure

In large skillet, heat enough canola oil so that it will cover the fish about half way. When the oil is hot and bubbly, add fish strips and cook until browned. Turn and cook on other side until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. (Only turn the fish once; turning it frequently will cause the breading to fall off.)

3/4 C. mayonnaise
1 T. dill pickle relish
1 tsp. finely chopped capers (or green olives)
1 T. lemon juice
1 T.whole grain mustard
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
Dash hot sauce, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix thoroughly. Makes about one cup.

You can also buy rémoulade online.

A note about capers. This is one of those foods that I definitely recommend buying in the highest quality you can find and afford. Cheap capers are usually big, taste like fishy vinegar and are quite appalling. Higher end capers (especially nonpareils capers) are smaller, more delicate and taste a bit like lemony olives. For years, I thought I hated capers, until I learned the difference.

Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage Patties

October 20, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This is based on a recipe I found in a Bon Appetit magazine. I eliminated the onion, used basil instead of rosemary, and added the filling. This is very easy to make and quite tasty. It’s a nice way to “fancy up” a breakfast.

Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage

Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage Patties

Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage Patties
Makes 8 patties

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
8 thin, 1-inch square pieces of smoked gouda
1# breakfast sausage
2 tsp. fresh basil, minced
1 T. whole grain mustard

Preheat oven to 450. Combine the sausage, basil, and mustard; mix with your hands until thoroughly mixed. Divide sausage into 8 pieces. Take one piece, flatten into a disk in one hand, fill with about a teaspoon of apples and a slice of cheese. Fold up the edges of the sausage, and form into a ball, tucking the filling inside the sausage. Flatten the ball back out into a disk shape and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sausage and filling. Bake 15 minutes.

Serving Suggestion: Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage Patty and Maple-Balsamic Apples on a Waffle

sausage waffle apple

Maple-Balsamic Apples
(2 servings)
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 C. water
2 T. pure maple syrup
2 T. balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue to boil until the liquid has mostly (but not completely) cooked away.

To assemble, place one Apple & Gouda Stuffed Sausage patty on one prepared whole wheat (or gluten free) waffle and cover with half of the apple mixture.

Sugar & Spice Sweet Rolls with Browned Butter Icing

October 19, 2009

Chef’s Notes: I found a recipe for anise bread in Ladle, Leaf, and Loaf – and I thought it sounded like a wonderful dough for sweet rolls.

A dough rich with anise and orange, with layers of sugary spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardomom, ginger, nutmeg. Oozing with good old-fashioned Betty Crocker browned butter icing. These sweet rolls are decadent!

By the way, if your first reaction to anise is, “I hate black jelly beans!” let me say this: I love watermelon and peaches, but watermelon bubble gum and gummy peach rings make me gag. There’s a difference. Really.

Sugar & Spice Sweet Rolls with Browned Butter Icing

Sugar & Spice Sweet Rolls with Browned Butter Icing

Sugar and Spice Sweet Rolls

The Dough
1 C. milk
1/4 C. fresh squeezed orange juice
2 T. honey
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 large egg
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 T. anise seed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
About 3 2/3 C. all-purpose flour

The Filling
1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C. white sugar
1 C. brown sugar (not packed)
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, orange juice, and honey. Pour into a large mixing bowl and cool to lukewarm, 105 to 115 degrees. Add the yeast, stirring to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat the egg and butter together in a small bowl and add to the yeast mixture. Stir in the anise, salt, orange rind, and cinnamon.

Gradually add 3 cups of the flour, beating after each addition. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining 2/3 cup flour, or more as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a lightly buttered medium bowl. Grease the surface, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until almost doubled.

(My technique for rising: preheat your oven to the lowest possible temperature (mine is 170 degrees) and turn off. Let cool for about 10 minutes. You want it warm, not hot! If you have a oven thermometer, the ideal temperature is 80 – 85 degrees. Fill a large bowl or deep dish with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the bowl with dough inside the bowl with the water. This creates the optimal environment for the bread to proof – warmth, moisture, and no drafts.) To test the dough for doubling in size, press the tips of two fingers lightly and quickly into the dough. If the dent stays, it is double.

First Rise

First Rise

Once the dough has risen once, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough with the palms of your hands and gently stretch and/or roll it into a rectangle.

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a larger rectangle, approximately 12 inches wide by 20 inches long. The dough might be sticky, so flour the work surface and the rolling pin, checking to be sure the dough isn’t stuck to the work surface and adding more flour as necessary.

Spread the 1/4 cup softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip along the long edge of the rectangle furthest away from you completely dry.

In a small bowl, combine the sugars and spices. Generously sprinkle mixture over the butter, spreading the mixture evenly across the whole sheet of dough. Leave the 1-inch border free of sugar.

Start at the left-hand corner of the edge closest to you. Working from left to right, tug the lip of the dough up and over the filling, keeping it tight. Roll up the dough, tightening the log as you go. (Do not roll too tightly, though, or the rolls will pop up in the middle when you bake them.)

When you reach the far edge of the dough, moisten the bare edge with water and pinch to seal the seam. Use length of unwaxed dental floss to cut the dough into even-sized pieces. (A knife will smash and tear the dough, so you want to use dental floss.)

Place the cut rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let them rise until they nearly double in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. (If you’re letting the rolls rise in the oven, take them out before turning it on to preheat!)

When the rolls have doubled in size, put them in the preheated oven.

Second Rise

Second Rise

After approximately 30 minutes, test for doneness. Use a paring knife or fork to pull up the center-most roll; if the dough is still sticky and raw-looking, return the pan to the oven for about ten more minutes. The rolls should be golden to dark brown on top, and fully baked in the center of the coil.

Cool the pan on a rack about 10 to 15 minutes before icing.

Browned Butter Icing
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 T. milk
3 T. butter

In medium bowl, place powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk. In small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until light brown.

Pour browned butter over powdered sugar mixture. With an electric mixture, beat on low speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Gradually add just enough of the remaining 1 tablespoon milk to make frosting creamy and spreadable.

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Vegetable Purée

October 14, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This is a very labor intensive recipe, much more so than most tortilla soup recipes. Roasting the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers give the soup a deep smoky flavor that is simply outstanding. The spicy smoky soup is garnished with sweet roasted corn and salty cheesy tortilla chips. Yum yum yum…this is so worth every second of labor!

I made a rather small batch of this because I had no clue how it was going to turn out. So, the ingredients listed here are exactly as I made it, which only made about 2 servings. It would be very easy to double or triple this recipe, however.

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Vegetable Purée

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Vegetable Purée

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Vegetable Purée
(2 or 3 servings)

Roasted Vegetable Purée
2 medium ripe tomatoes
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili pepper
1 jalapeno pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Core the tomatoes, and score the top of the tomato of each with an X so that it will open just slightly. Place in a glass dish and drizzle with olive oil. Peel a medium size onion and cut in half. Save one half for some other use, and put the other half on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Cut the ends off each clove of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and place on baking sheet with the onion. Pierce the peppers a few times with a fork, and put on the baking sheet. Put all the vegetables in the oven.

Everything is going to take a different amount of time to cook. Tomatoes – 1 hour. Onions – 45 minutes. Garlic – 30 minutes. Peppers – 15 minutes.

The peppers are done when they look slightly charred, the skin is blistered, and they feel soft. Take them out of the oven, put them in a Ziploc baggie, seal it closed, and let them “sweat” for 15 minutes. Next, remove them from the bag, and remove the peel, ribs, and seeds (wear gloves!). Put the pepper flesh in the bowl of your food processor.

The garlic is done when it is very soft. Remove it from the foil, and it should pop right out the skin. Put the garlic in with the peppers.

The onions are done when they are golden brown and very tender. Put the onions in the food processor bowl.

The tomatoes are done when the flesh is charred and the tomatoes are very soft. The peel should slide right off. Put the tomatoes in with the rest of the vegetables.

Purée the vegetables until…it’s puréed. 🙂 Leave the oven on but turn the heat down to 350 degrees.

The Soup
3 C. chicken stock
1 C. water
The Roasted Vegetable Purée
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy Seasoning Blend
1 C. cooked shredded chicken
1 C. canned black beans, drained and rinsed

In a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock, water, the Roasted Vegetable Purée, and the spices. (Adjust the seasoning to your taste! This is going to depend on personal preference, as well as the intensity of the peppers you used in the purée. Also, the soup gets spicier the longer it simmers, so keep that in mind when seasoning.) Add the chicken. Simmer the soup for about 30-45 minutes, then stir in the black beans. (You don’t want to cook the beans into a mushy paste – you just want to heat them through.)

The Garnish
1 C. tortilla chips, broken into smallish pieces
1/2 C. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 C. frozen corn, thawed

Place tortilla chips on a baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese, and place in oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Heat a small cast iron skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the corn. (Don’t add any butter or oil or anything – you want a dry skillet.) Add the corn and cook without stirring for about 10 minutes until it is slightly charred.

Ladle the soup into soup dishes and top with corn and tortilla chips. (The chips can get a bit soggy, so you may prefer to serve them on the side.)

Italian Wedding Soup

October 12, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This is one of my favorite soups. It’s so simple and so flavorful. Not much else to say about it. It’s just good food. 🙂 There are a lot of recipes available for Italian Wedding Soup; this is my personal variation on those recipes.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 4

The Meatballs
1 egg
1 tsp. minced onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T. coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch (1/16 tsp.) of salt
Fresh ground pepper, a turn or two of the pepper mill
Smidgen (1/32 tsp.) of nutmeg
1/2# ground beef
1/4 C. fresh bread crumbs (I toasted one slice of wheat bread and tore it into very tiny pieces)

In medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk egg. Add onion, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Add beef and bread crumbs and combine all the ingredients with your hands. Break off small pieces of meat and form bite-size meatballs (about 20).

The Soup
6 C. crockpot chicken stock
2 C. water
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 oz. spaghetti (about the circumference of a quarter), broken into fourths
The Meatballs
1 egg
1 T. fresh grated Parmesan
4 C. fresh spinach, rinsed and stems removed

Place chicken stock and water in large cookpot and add salt. Heat over high heat until boiling. Remove the pot from the heat and turn the burner down to medium low. Stir spaghetti into the stock, then put meatballs in, one at a time with a spoon. Return pot to burner, cover, and cook for about one hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy; stir in cheese. Very slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the soup and stir gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg. Add the spinach and cook just until the spinach wilts, only a minute or two.

Serve with additional Parmesan for garnish.

Just a side note: I actually have measuring spoons for “pinch,” “dash,” and “smidgen.” I picked them up at Goodwill but they are available for purchase online. How fun. 🙂