Apple, Bacon, and Leek Bread Pudding

This year I have finally been trying to whittle down my recipe collection. I have quite a few cookbooks and magazines recipes that I have saved that had yet to get tested to see if they are a family favorite.  So far we have found quite a few new go-to recipes.  One that I tried the other week I tinkered with quite a bit, changing ingredient proportions, swapping out cheese kinds, and omitting an ingredient I thought wouldn’t compliment the dish.  The end result was an Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding that is sure to be a part of our Thanksgiving gathering this year.

When you try this recipe (or the original found here on bhg.com) don’t forget to read all the instructions ahead of time, as it does require a rest step in the refrigerator to let the bread soak up the pudding base.

If you have any other favorite stuffing or bread pudding that can rival this Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding in terms of best holiday side dish I would love to hear about it!


Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding

  • 12 oz crusty country bread (or Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread if gluten free), ripped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces of bacon
  • 2 large leeks, white and tender green parts cut into half moon slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 granny smith apples, cored and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Place bread on a full baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minute or until crisp, stirring once. Set aside.  At the same time, place the bacon on a full backing sheet and bake until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the baking sheet and drain on a paper towel, reserve 3 tablespoons of the drippings. Crumble the bacon and add to a large bowl.

Add the reserved drippings to a large skillet. Heat the large skillet over medium-high heat and add the leeks.  Cook until just tender and then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.  Add the apples and cook for another 2 minutes or until the apples begin to soften.  Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the bacon and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together the eggs, whipping cream, water, salt, and pepper until well mixed.  Add the bread chunks and the cheese to the leek mixture, then pour the liquid over the bread-leek mixture and stir to coat.  Pour into a greased 13 inch X 9 inch casserole dish.  Cover and chill for 2 1/2 hours to overnight. 

Remove from the refrigerator and let stand while the oven preheats to 400ºF.  Bake, covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 170ºF.  Serve.

(1)

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

When we lived in Colorado, I had given up on trying to garden.  The harsh, dry summer and my lack of farming skills was not a good combination.  Now that we are in Kansas, I thought I’d give it a try again.

While this gardening season is not perfect, I have had one abounding success – cucumbers.  In fact, I underestimated the spacing and cucumbers are quickly taking charge of my plot. It is a good thing I like pickles and that my son loves eating cucumber slices. 

I have two varieties of cucumbers growing in my garden.  The one I used for my recipe was pick-a-bushel which is better for pickles but was just as tasty in this cucumber salad. What is your favorite way to use up your cucumber bounty?

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
  • 3 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced (about 5 cups)
  • ½ cup French fried onions

In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, and dill until well combined. Add in the cucumbers and stir to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in the french fried onions.

(12)

Pear Vinaigrette

A few months back, my husband challenged me to create a great tasting yet low-fat salad dressing.  Of course, I accepted the challenge and came up with this Pear Vinaigrette.  For my attempt I wanted to try to avoid the typical thickeners of xanthan gum or guar gum.  What I turned to instead was . . . . baby food!  My thought was that the smooth puree would make a great base for a vinaigrette that would hopefully avoid separation.

I paired this Pear Vinaigrette with a semi-sweet salad made with pecans and apples or berries. We enjoyed the results, though the real question is – will I be brave enough to try a different puree? I think it will be more challenging to create a dressing with a savory puree.  Perhaps that will be the real test – in this quarantine time, what unique, outside of the box dish will come out of our kitchens next?

In the meantime, if you are looking for other great dressings you can try some of my other recipes:

Bacon-Avocado Dressing

Blueberry Vinaigrette

Ponzu Dressing


Pear Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces pear pureed baby food
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together until well mixed. Store in sealed container in refrigerator when not using.

(18)

Rocky Road Bar

Rocky Road Bars

I don’t know why I didn’t try these bar cookies sooner. The recipe has been sitting in my saved recipes to try for eons and is super easy. In addition, it is truly a crowd pleaser.  Perhaps I always passed it by, since it was published in a December magazine addition and it never won out against all the other “have-to-make” cookies at Christmas time.  Thanks to this quarantine I don’t have all the ingredients to try a new cake, nor do I want to use too many eggs on one recipe as my stash is running low. These Rocky Road Bars came to the rescue.

Now these bars will be an anytime cookie. Take for instance, this first batch.  I gave them a festive, Easter look with some leftover sprinkles, but I can see them being a staple on a camping trip or used to celebrate any other holiday with color coordinated decoration.

The recipe as it was originally found in Family Circle (did you realize that Family Circle stopped production at the end of 2019? I didn’t until I went to search for a link to the recipe) made a LARGE batch; I cut it down to a third and added extra chocolate to account for the fact that I only had plain graham crackers.  My modified recipe is what is written below.


Rocky Road Bars

  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 2 whole graham crackers, broken into bite-size pieces

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Gently melt the chocolate, then stir in the marshmallows, peanuts, and graham cracker pieces to coat.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Place the pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or unto the bars are completely cooled.  Remove the foil from the pan, peel off the foil and cut into 9 bars.

(35)

muffaletta spoon bread

Muffaletta Spoon Bread

The pictures and recipes for muffaletta always look so good to me.  I love all things with olives, so a recipe that is basically devoted to showcasing olive tapenade is right up my alley.  Over the last few months I have been wondering if I could create a recipe that had all the same flavors of a muffaletta, with an easier delivery than a sandwich stacked inches high.  Thus, my Muffaletta Spoon Bread was born.

Spoon bread  can be described as polenta that has been elevated to a soufflé. It isn’t really bread at all, since it is rich and custardy, requiring a spoon (or fork) to eat it.  For my Muffaletta Spoon Bread I have folded in my olive tapenade, which I made by marrying together the olive salad recipes from Damaris Phillips and Women’s Day Magazine, and a bit of hard salami and provolone. I reviewed a variety of spoon bread recipes before I started, and most seemed to follow three parts liquid to 1 part cornmeal, 1-2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 2-3 eggs. For this recipe I went with the ratios as found in the spoon bread dressing recipe in Carla Hall’s Soul Food.

My husband and I deemed the recipe delicious.  It is just as decadent as it’s namesake sandwich, but in my opinion is an easier way to serve a crowd!

muffaletta spoon bread

Muffaletta Spoonbread

  • ¾ cup pitted castelvetrano olives, drained
  • ½ cup pitted black olives, drained
  • ½ cup giardiniera, drained
  • ½ canned roasted red pepper, drained
  • 1 celery stalk, leaves removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons non-pariel capers
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3 ounces provolone cheese, chopped
  • 3 ounces hard salami, chopped
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  3 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 º F. Grease a 3 quart baking dish (9-inchs x 13 inch pan).

To make the olive tapenade, place the first eleven ingredients (olives through Italian seasoning) in a food processor and chop until fine; set aside.

Add the half and half, water, and sugar to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Gradually add the cornmeal, whisking constantly.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly (about 10-20 minutes). Stir in the tapenade, cheese, salami, and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs with a mixer on high until light yellow and foamy (I used a tall glass and my immersion blender). Gently fold egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture until incorporated.  Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and top springs back when lightly touched. Serve.

(46)

Power Lunch Muffin

Power Lunch Muffins

I have been on the hunt for fun ways to get my daughter to eat more protein in her lunch. 

One of the cookbooks I have been using in my experiments is the “Muffin Tin Chef” by Matt Kadey.  What I love about this cooking method is the mini servings, which are great for the short amount of time that elementary school kids have for lunch.

One of the recipes that struct my eye was the Microwave Quinoa Cakes – I had no idea that you could bake in the microwave using silicone! 2 ½ minutes to muffins? Yes please!  While I haven’t found the perfect recipe to get my daughter to eat quinoa, I was able to adapt the cooking method to my own high protein Power Lunch Muffins. The trick was trying to find a taste good option with out a nut since their school is nut sensitive.

The dates and maple syrup add just enough sweetness to the Power Lunch Muffins, and the cinnamon and allspice keep them being bland. I’m happy that this quick recipe is a winner with the kids, and that their lunch bags come home empty.

Power Lunch Muffin

Power Lunch Muffins

  • 1 medium, ripe banana
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons diced, dried dates
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract

In a large bowl, mash the banana.  Stir in the flour, eggs, dates, maple syrup, spices, baking powder, and extract. Divide the batter between 6 regular size silicone muffin cups.  Microwave on high power until set, about 2 ½ minutes (rotating throughout).  Let cool, then serve.

(37)

German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad

I am most used to American potato salad that has a mayonnaise based dressing (such as my Jackie’s Potato Salad), so when I had the opportunity to try some authentic German potato salad I found it a refreshing version.  I was tempted to recreate the salad, so after browsing and splicing together some other recipes (such as the salads from Marth Stewart and The Daring Gourmet), below is what I created. None of the recipes I surveyed used green onions, but I thought they were a great addition in the version I tried so I have swapped parsley for green onions.

What I was most surprised with in the creation of this recipe was the ease of boiling the potatoes whole and then slicing them.  Make sure to not overcook the potatoes as the time limit makes sure that the outside edge is not too crumbly.

For my German Potato Salad I simplified the bacon addition by using pre-crumbled bacon rather than cooking the bacon myself.  While this eliminated the possibility to use some of the bacon grease to saute the onions, I think it is a worthwhile time saving step if you are trying to get the dish on the table in short order.

German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad

3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes,~ 2 1/2 inch diameter
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups beef bullion
½ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons beer mustard or Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup crumbled bacon bits
Diced green onions, if desired

Peel potatoes and place in large pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Remove from water and slice into ¼ inch slices and place in a large ceramic bowl.

Melt butter in in medium sized pan and add onions.  Brown for 10 minutes, then add sugar, stock, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over potatoes; Add bacon bits and gently stir to combine. Serve, with sliced green onion if desired.

Note: Some German potato salad recipes mention that the potatoes should be allowed to steep for at least an hour, or overnight.  I do feel that the flavor is even better the second day.  Just reheat before serving.

(39)

Cider Oats

Cider Steel Cut Oats

I know it has been a while since my last post, though I hope you can forgive me.  The process of starting a new job and getting settled in a new home is quite the undertaking!  I am hoping that in the coming months I can get back to more regular blogging.

As we ease into the last few weeks of October, the weather is finally starting to feel like fall here in Kansas.  While many gravitate to all things pumpkin spice latte when there is a hint of cool air, I think of apple cider.  I love the smell and taste of the rich juice.  Since cider is so sweet already, it makes a simple breakfast of Cider Steel Cut Oats really easy.

I have added allspice to my cider and oats, but that is it.  A few minutes on the stove is all it takes to create the creamy breakfast cereal. I have garnished mine with golden raisins, dried cranberries, and pistachios, though I can see a variety of toppings being just as good.  A bit of candied pecans and crème fraiche perhaps?  I do love to experiment with different mix-ins for oats, as you may recall from my posts Oatmeal with Goat Cheese & Dates and Lemon and Blueberry Oatmeal.  What topping do you think I should try the next time I make Cider Steel Cut Oats?

_______________________________________________________________________________

Cider Steel Cut Oats

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup quick cook steel cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Golden raisins, dried cranberries, and pistachios for garnish

Place the apple cider, oats, and allspice in a medium sized pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 7 minutes or until the oats are tender but still chewy, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let sit 2 minutes, then plate and garnish with raisins and nuts. Serve.

(40)

Parsley & Turmeric Chicken

In the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens there was a method of cooking chicken that intrigued me – baking chicken starting from a cold oven.  The magazine article was adamant that the result was perfectly cooked, tender chicken.  Since I am currently living in an apartment without a grill, I thought I would give it a try.

turmeric

  Rather than try one of the seasoning blends discussed in the magazine, I concocted my own blend.  A few weeks earlier I had bought jarred turmeric in a local store on an impulse and have been waiting to use it.  One of my favorite recipes for chicken involves turmeric ( from Steve Raichlen’s book Planet Barbecue,  Chicken Brochette in the Style of Fez), so it was a natural starting point for  my seasoning.  For my Parsley & Turmeric Chicken, I added a bit of Mrs. Dash Table Blend, salt, pepper, and cream to make my coating. A quick dunk in the coating and my chicken was ready for the cold-oven test.

Sure enough, my chicken was ready in 30 minutes and was amazingly tender (though I do recommend testing based on final temperature since ovens vary).  I will most certainly use this baking method again.  I highly recommend that you give it a try!


Parsley & Turmeric Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons turmeric paste
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Table Blend
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon half and half
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken

In a large glass bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients.   Coat a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, then coat the chicken with the turmeric sauce and place in the baking dish.  Place the baking dish in a cold oven. Heat the oven to 450 °F and bake the chicken for 30 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F.

Note: Turmeric stains (it is what makes mustard yellow!).  This includes metal baking sheets, so a glass baking dish is recommended.

(58)

Coconut Syrup

Sometimes my recipe tinkering comes about because I am trying to create a copycat version of a dish we had at a restaurant.  Today’s recipe is one such occasion. For our honeymoon, my husband and I went to Hawaii.  One of our favorite things on that trip was the coconut syrup that was served with waffles at many of our breakfasts. My husband insisted I learn how to recreate the syrup, I’m sure so that he could envision he was sitting under palm trees whenever he ate breakfast. When we returned, I did research and recreate the syrup using coconut extract and corn syrup.

Now that I am a more seasoned cook, I wanted to update my recipe so that I could eliminate the corn syrup.  I don’t know why I didn’t do so years ago, but starting from coconut milk is just as easy.  With just three ingredients – coconut milk, brown sugar, and corn starch – you can create a vacation worthy topping for your waffles or pancakes.  My husband loved this version of coconut syrup just as much as the first time we tried it.  I guess I will be making it more often!


Coconut Syrup

  • 14 ounce can of coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch

Add the ingredients to a medium sized sauce pan and blend together the ingredients until there are no corn starch clumps. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce to thickens (it should coat the back of a spoon). Cool before serving; store left overs in refrigerator.

(73)

Easy Chili

Easy Chili

To make school lunches easier on our family this year, we stocked up on various rice bag meals and lentil meals. They have been a great, easy way to have a healthy meal without much effort.  One of these meals, the Madras Lentils by Tasty Bite, has worked its way into my chili. 


Not only does it add protein with the mix of lentils and beans, but it serves as a good spice base of cumin and ginger.  I have also swapped out regular diced tomatoes for fire roasted salsa style diced tomatoes, which add the kick of peppers and garlic.  In fact, the built in spices from these two ingredients means I haven’t had to add any other spices – win! One of the other staples of my chili is the butter bean. Using butter beans (which is a mature lima bean) instead of kidney beans adds the right texture and a mild flavor. With the prep time minimal for my chili, I can quickly pull this together for a weekday wintery super or for a game time gathering.


Easy Chili

2 pounds ground beef

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups chopped red onions

Two, 10 ounce bags Tasty Bite Madras Lentils

Two, 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted salsa style diced tomatoes

Two, 15.5 ounce cans butter beans, drained

In a large pot, brown the ground beef over high heat.  Once cooked through, add the celery and onions and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Lower the heat to medium and add the madras lentils, diced tomatoes, and butter beans, stirring to combine.  Simmer over the medium heat for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.


(107)

Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

At a gathering just before Thanksgiving, we were discussing everyone’s favorite pie.  My husband brought up his love of cheesecake and cannoli, rather than the typical turkey day offerings.  The table threw down a challenge that I readily accepted – create a cannoli cheesecake.

While a quick search on the internet brings up a few recipes, most include cream cheese. My goal was to create a ricotta cheese only cheesecake, to keep it as close to tasting like a cannoli as possible. I decided to start with a recipe from Buddy Valastro for a traditional ricotta cheesecake.  I modified the recipe to include chocolate chips and a crust made of pistachios and Biscoff cookies.

Using only ricotta results in a lighter texture, which was a nice change from a New York style cheesecake.  While the cake isn’t as sweet as cannoli filling, it was still a hit!

If a large cheesecake is too much of a commitment, you can always try my Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups instead – either will  make for happy guests.

Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

Butter or non-stick spray for greasing pan
24 Biscoff cookies (~1.5 cups once crushed)
½ cup shelled pistachios
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds whole-milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400ºF. Butter a 9-inch spring form panand place on a baking sheet.

Crush the cookies and the pistachios until fine, then mix with the melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

In a stand mixer fit with the paddle, beat the ricotta cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, and vanilla until very smooth.

Put the egg whites in a separate mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold the whites by thirds into the cheese mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour mixture into the pan over the crust and level it.

Put the cake in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350ºF. Bake until the cake has risen higher on the sides than in the middle and is set but jiggling in the center, 1 hour, 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open (using a prop such as a wine cork or large wooden clothes pin; Be careful not to let it fall into the oven). Let the cake cool completely in the oven for 1 hour, then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or overnight before removing the spring form sides. Slice and serve.

(238)