Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Croissant Breakfast Pudding

A little late in posting this one, but I made this breakfast casserole for a Chloe birthday/Mother's Day brunch. It was quite good and not difficult to make, though there are a number of steps. I assembled it the night before, which made it easy the next day. Don't want to be slaving in the kitchen too long on Mother's Day!

Croissant Breakfast Pudding
Source: Emeril Lagasse via Food Network

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
6 ounces Canadian bacon, roughly chopped (I used regular bacon)
6 ounces hot sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
8 large eggs (I used Egg Beaters)
3 cups whole milk (I used skim)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Essence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 stale croissants, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
2 cups grated Fontina or Gouda
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes.

In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, cream, salt, Essence, and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the croissants and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the sausage, bacon, onions, Fontina cheese, stir together, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into the prepared dish and bake until almost completely set, 35 to 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if it's browning too much.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and melted butter. Uncover the pudding and evenly cover with the bread crumb mixture. Return to the oven, increase the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until completely set in the center and golden brown on top, about 15 minutes.

Serve hot.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

With my mom out of town for a week, my dad and sister have been eating out every night. So last night we had them over for dinner. The weather was not cooperating to grill out so I logged on to AllRecipes.com and stumbled across this dish, which is amongst the most highly rated recipes on the cooking board I frequent. It was easy to make and very flavorful, therefore a hit in my house. I even managed not to dry out the chicken breasts too badly, which I tend to do.

In an attempt to make sure the bottom of the chicken didn't get too soggy, I put cooling racks on a cookie sheet and baked the chicken on top of that. I don't know that it worked any better than putting the chicken directly on the cookie sheet, but it can't hurt.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

Source: AllRecipes.com

1/2 cup butter (I used olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I used Italian)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used a lite cheese blend)
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, and cook the garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper, and salt. Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter to coat, then press into the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Drizzle with any remaining butter and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. I then added a bit more cheese to the top and broiled the chicken for a few minutes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pink Lady Cake

I had seen this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, several months ago. It's exceedingly rare that I have the occasion to make a layer cake unless I want Michael and myself to eat the whole thing (which wouldn't be an entirely bad thing).

Despite the fact that it is a ginormous cake, what with the three layers, it was not difficult to make. The cream cheese frosting, while not the best frosting to use if you want your cake to look flawless, complemented the flavor of the cake very well. And the cake was delicious. The strawberry flavor was very pronounced. Like the original poster, I used frozen (thawed) strawberries. I also used two colors of food dye - pink and red (Wilton gel) - to make the cake match its name.

The cake is very dense, which was fine unless you're a pig like me and would like a large slice. Between the height of the cake and its denseness, thin slices will go a long way, which is excellent if you're cooking for a crowd.

Pink Lady Cake
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.

In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the atter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorperate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Frost and assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake will protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge. Repeat with the second layer. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving a small amount if you wish to tint it and pipe a decoration on the cake. If not, you can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. Remove the waxed strips to reveal and neat, clean cake board.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken and Noodles

I haven't been cooking nice dinners as much as I used to. I've either gotten lazy or busy. Tonight I told Michael I'd make him a homemade dinner and out of the choices I gave him, he picked Chicken and Noodles. I adapted a recipe from my go-to cook book for savory foods - Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

I've made this before and I recall that it's turned out pretty bland, so this time I made a few substitutions to try to rectify this problem. Where the recipe calls for water I used chicken stock (much tastier than broth). I also added a cup more stock than the recipe calls for, and 1/2 cup more milk than it calls for. In addition, I didn't have any frozen peas on hand, so I used soybean succotash (a mixture of edamame, corn and peppers). Finally, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts in place of chicken legs that the original recipe calls for. The addition of stock rather than water really changed the dish - it's not bland at all. It's actually really delish.

Chicken and Noodles
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, copyright 2003

3 chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onions (3 medium)
2 cups sliced carrots (3-4 medium)
1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
3 cups wide egg noodles (6 oz)
1 cup frozen peas (I used Trader Joe's Soybean Succotash)
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour

In a Dutch oven, combine chicken, stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Add onions, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer covered for 20 - 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Discard the bay leaves. Remove chicken from Dutch oven; cool slightly. Chop chicken and set aside.

Bring stock mixture to boil. Add noodles and cook for five minutes. Stir in peas and two cups of milk. In a screw-top jar with a lid, combine the remaining one cup of milk with the flour. Cover and shake until smooth. Stir into noodle mixture. Cook and stir until thicened and bubbly. Stir in chopped chicken. Cook and stir for one to two minutes more or until mixture is heated through.

As originally written, this is a lite recipe (311 calories, 6 grams fat, 5 grams fiber). I'm not sure what my substitutions would do to the calorie count, etc. but I'd imagine it's pretty close since the stock is fat free and I used white meat rather than the dark it originally calls for.

Start to finish, this dinner took about an hour to make. Not much to look at, but it's a delicious home cooked meal for a cold night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Guiness Cake

For our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner at my parents' house I wanted to make a fun dessert, as it's been a while since I got my bake on. I ran across this cake on one of the food blogs I follow through Google Reader. It was very dense and rather moist. However, while you could smell the beer while it baked, you couldn't taste it at all, which was a bit disappointing. Also, the blog where I found the recipe indicated that she had trouble with cutting into the cake and finding that parts of the cake didn't mix well (as if there were clumps of dry ingredients). So the recipe I followed called for sifting the flour and using superfine sugar, in hopes of solving the problem. Alas, it didn't work. Not that anyone else noticed, but as an overly self-critical chef, I did. The icing was very good with the cake.

Looks-wise I was very pleased with the cake, as frosting just the top truly makes it look like a pint of Ireland's finest.

Chocolate Guiness Cake

Source: Annie's Eats, originally by Nigella Lawson

1 cup Guinness beer

10 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 cups superfine sugar

3/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

8 oz. cream cheese (no need to soften)

5 Tbsp butter, softened

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the sides of a 9-inch round springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, combine the Guinness and butter. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the Guinness mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, remove the sides of the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream on medium-high speed. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl in batches, beating on low until just combined and then on high speed until desired consistency is reached. For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled cake as desired.

Sweet & Salty Frito Candy

I saw this on the linked blog a few months back and thought it looked interesting and delicious - Frito's and chocolate? Not your usual pairing. It's a super easy recipe to make and is a real treat. I can't think of anything appropriate to compare it to - it's not quite like peanut brittle, not quite like toffee. I'll probably add a touch more Frito's and a bit less pretzels next time I make it, as I enjoyed the Frito bites the most. Also, I may reduce the amount of filler ingredients - the pretzels, Fritos, pb cups - a bit because I didn't feel there was quite enough of the butter/brown sugar mixture to go around. Overall, this was a successful and unusual treat!
Sweet Salty Frito Candy

2 cups pretzels
1 cup Fritos
8 mini peanut butter cups
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: Chopped peanuts for the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper or no-stick foil. Crush pretzels. You can use a food processor to chop, or just throw them in a ziploc bag and crush with your hands or a meat tenderizer. Add Fritos to processor/bag and break them up with pretzels. Dump into pan. Chop peanut butter cups into quarters and throw them in the mix. Place butter in a non-stick saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in brown sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute, stirring once or twice. Pour over Frito mixture and bake for 8 minutes.Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy. Return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips. Spread softened chocolate chips over bars. Add chopped nuts if you would like to.Cool at room temperature until you feel the pan is cool enough to be transferred to your refrigerator, then transfer to refrigerator to set the chocolate. When chocolate is set, lift from pan and break the candy up as you would almond toffee. You can eat it cold or let it come back down to room temp.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For breakfast a few weeks ago I decided I wanted crepes. I love crepes. Especially when they're filled with Nutella, and especially when they're fresh from a street vendor in Paris. I've never made them myself, though I purchased a special crepe pan set from WS back when I worked there (briefly). I got out the set but apparently you have to season the pan, much like a regular cast iron, which I had neither the time or inclination to do. So I used a regular non-stick small skillet, and that worked just fine.

It wasn't as hard to make the crepes as I suspected, though I got better the further along I got. I think it's because the pan became hotter and more uniformly hot the longer I worked. I filled the crepes with a cream cheese/powdered sugar mixture topped with frozen blueberries. I also added some whipped cream in a can to a few. Michael found it to be too sweet but I thought it was rather good.

I froze the remaining crepes and they froze beautifully. A few weeks later I took them out of the freezer and once thawed, I filled them with some deli ham and a bit of cheddar. I microwaved to just melt the cheese. This was a heavenly combination - the sweet and savory. I had to stop myself from eating more than two.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt

My additions:
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnemon

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter, flour sugar and salt until smooth. Heat a medium-sized skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. Grease pan with a small amount of butter or oil applied with a brush or paper towel (I used butter-flavored Pam). Using a serving spoon or small ladle, spoon about 3 tablespoons crepe batter into hot pan, tilting the pan so that bottom surface is evenly coated. Cook over medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.