Thursday, December 19, 2013

Easy Eggnog Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce


Around this time each year my family decides that they have had enough eggnog.  After all, I did start buying it around Thanksgiving time with a steady purchase of 1/2 a gallon every week.  I usually don't figure this out until I find myself pouring it down the drain because we have surpassed the expiration date and I need to make room in the refrigerator.

This year I decided to do things differently. I rounded up some ideas of how I could use the left over eggnog that I knew I would find it on the top shelf hiding behind the orange juice and milk.   My thoughts went from fudge, to bread pudding, then to an eggnog applesauce cake or, the best one, eggnog ice cream.  These recipes would pretty much cover any amount that I would find nestled in the very back shelf.   The ice cream is going to require a lot of eggnog, I can only hope I find a full half gallon.

Last night I could not sleep.  I call it Holiday/Christmas/Company anxiety.  My parents are coming into town on Saturday and any company causes me to "wig out" a bit.  The older I get the worse it becomes.  When my guests arrive on my doorstep, the anxiety melts away. It is the anticipation of people coming to stay in my home that riles me up.  

These are some of the random thoughts that swirl around in my head:

"What if I forget to clean something"? Like the microwave, which I have done before.

"What if I make something they don't like?" Again, it has happened.

"What if the activities I have planned don't work out?" This usually doesn't happen, but it could.

"What if I decide to run away and come home when it is all over?" This is one question I ask myself a lot but I have actually never done because, like I mentioned above, I always have a great time and things go according to plan.

I believe I am my own worst enemy and I am sure it stems from my childhood and the need to please everyone, be the peace maker and strive for perfection.
 
So what does this have to do with bread pudding, early mornings and eggnog?

Everything.

The anxiety was my reason for not sleeping, which caused me to clean out the fridge, which then led me to find the eggnog hiding behind the beef broth, that triggered my crazy 4am brain to make bread pudding. Remember that was on my list of things I could make.

I am going to assume that if you are like me, have Celiac or are gluten intolerant , then bread pudding is something that you do not make often (or, if you are like me, never). I don't usually make it because my family says they don't like it and I have never found the right type of gluten free bread to hold the egg/milk mixture (again, that was the case, until today).

A while back I was contacted by Udi's to try some of their products. If you remember I was a bit busy being pregnant and trying to stay afloat with the pregnancy. I turned down a lot of opportunities because I just could not handle one more thing.

After Finnley was born, I reached out to all of the companies that I wanted to work with.  Udi's made the cut.  They graciously sent me a box of goodies to sample and try.  

Let me tell you about this box: it was huge, filled to the rim and contained things that I did not even know they made. Gluten Free Flour tortilla's, pizza crust and bagels were three things I jumped for joy over.  I have to get my exercise in where I can.  {grin}

My family was equally excited at the sight of a box of food being delivered to our doorstep.  I just want to say thank you to Udi's for asking me to create a recipe using their products.



The one thing I find necessary when eating bread pudding is a sauce.  My daughter has been asking for butterscotch everything this year and so it sounded like the perfect addition to this Easy Eggnog Bread Pudding.  I am going to be the first to say, that it was excellent and I will be making it again.

Bread pudding has a tendency to get a little crispy or dry on top with the middle being warm and soggy.  Serving the bread pudding with a sauce will make the top layer soften a bit and add even more gooey-ness to the dish.

Two things I would recommend.  The first is to buy the best eggnog you can find and afford.  The second, don't try to change the bread combination.  You really need the gluten free bagel's texture to hold it all together.

My final comment is that this bread pudding does not have any added sugar.  I am trying to be mindful of the amount of sugar my family consumes.  If I can go without it, I do.  With that being said, this recipe is in no way a low sugar bread pudding because the eggnog has a lot and if you use the butterscotch sauce, well...it is super sweet.

I strongly recommend making the butterscotch sauce.

Strongly.

Let me know what you think. I do love hearing from readers.  Enjoy!

*Disclosure:  The opinions expressed in the above written content are those of the writer, Sherron Watson.  She has not been paid to write a review or create a recipe.  Sherron was given a box of products and asked to participate in a recipe round-up which will appear on Udi's pinterest board.  


Easy Eggnog Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

2 Udi's bagels, cubed
8 slices of Udi's white gluten free bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups eggnog
1/2 cup whole milk
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
Butterscotch Sauce (recipe below)

The night before:

1. Combine the bread, eggnog, milk and eggs.  Using a spatula, mix well. The bread will need to be stirred a few times to ensure that each piece is coated with the wet ingredients.

2. Place bread mixture into a well buttered baking dish.  I use a dish that is an odd size, 8X11 rectangular dish.  My mixture ends up being about 2 inches thick.  I would not go any shallower than this.

3. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.  I would recommend a minimum of 4 hours if you decide to do this on the same day.

Day of:

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove bread pudding from refrigerator. Pull back the foil and give it a good stir to re-coat the top layer. Cover again.

5.  Bake eggnog bread pudding for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for 15-20 more minutes.  You want the tips of the bread cubes to be a golden brown and the egg mixture to be firm.


6.  The last 15 minutes make the butterscotch sauce (recipe below).

7.  Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes and serve with sauce.

8.  Refrigerate all left overs and reheat in the microwave.


Butterscotch Sauce

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons soft butter

1.  In a small saucepan, combine all of the above sauce ingredients.

2.  Set your heat to medium and bring to a boil (5 minutes or so), stirring every once in a while.

3.  Once the sauce boils, turn heat down to a medium low and simmer to thicken the sauce.   Continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.  Sauce will start to darken when it is close to finishing.

4.  Remove from heat and serve warm.  Sauce will thicken more the longer it sits.

Written by Sherron Watson



Friday, December 13, 2013

Chorizo and Rice Casserole




Sometimes my kitchen is similar to the show "Chopped".  The only difference is that I don't keep my food in a basket.  Well, unless it is a bag of cereal and then I have a vintage picnic basket that all of the "last remaining cup of cereal that nobody wants in the bag before they move on and open a new box"is folded up and tossed in to.  When this is full I remove the bags, crush them all together and make some type of magic seven layer cookie bar.  You know the one with sweetened condense milk poured over the top. Thats a good day at my house.

Oh, and I don't wear a chef outfit, nor do I have a row of 3 judges watching my every move. Instead I wear my favorite apron and have four kids, one husband and three really loud cats that give me plenty of feedback.  Have you ever watched the judges eat the food..a tiny bite here, a lick there and then their eyes never leave the chef.  Some days this is what it feels like in my kitchen too.

I used to plan a week long menu and try to stick to it and get upset if someone ate a much needed item out of the fridge.

Yeah, those were the days. Now, I buy what I want and I will often throw things together based on what I have left in the refrigerator. Our nights are hectic with busy schedules and it is not uncommon for me to have "20 minutes on the clock" and to hear myself say "your time starts now".

I run from drawer to cupboard to sink to refrigerator to stove and then repeat.

I am sweating, my hair is frazzled and I am in the zone. A bead of sweat trying to escape my forehead before the back of my hand finds it with a towel.

Are you wondering what I had in my "basket" aka: refrigerator? 

chorizo Sausage, cream cheese, rice and red pepper.

I can work with these ingredients and my mind starts to race.  We have to leave in one hour to get Isabella to gymnastics. 

I start preheating the oven, turn the saute pan on and throw some butter into it.  Dice the onions and bell pepper.  Start another pan and cook the sausage, warm the rice in the microwave to soften it a bit and find my two favorite casserole dishes.  I still don't own a 9X13 pan so I use two small dishes.

My hands are moving from pan to pan, stirring and flipping; all the while working the microwave to soften the cream cheese, open the broth box and add seasonings to a medium size bowl.

I am on fire! <----Cue Alicia Keys song here.

I throw it all together, toss it in the dishes and bake for 20 minutes.  

CRAP--Did I add salt goes through my mind? I don't want my dish to be under-seasoned.

Oh well, my kids and hubby can add their own.  Its not like I am cooking for $10,000 dollars tonight.

I wonder if I will make the cut to the next round?  wink wink

Of course I will.  My family would starve if I did not cook for them each night or they would live strictly on ham sandwiches.  They have done this before while I was away for a girls getaway.

My five judges were unanimous in saying this casserole was very good.  The chorizo is a bit spicy so beware if you have those that don't enjoy spicy AND it needed a bit of salt.

Over all they loved it and want me to make it again.  I can certainly do that because it was quick, simple and hit the spot on these cold, wintery nights.

ENJOY!

Chorizo and Rice Casserole

4 chorizo sausages ( I buy mine from Whole Foods)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon oil for sautéing
3/4 cup chicken broth
3-4 cups prepared rice (white or brown)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 brick of cream cheese, soft
1/2 cup grated fine parmesan cheese

1 cup of Jack Cheese, for the top


Preheat oven to 350.

1.  Heat oil over medium high heat.  I remove sausage from casings and break apart.

2.  Saute sausage, onion, garlic and bell pepper until sausage is browned and onion is clear.

3.  In a large bowl add remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Add the ingredients from step 2.

4.  Add bowl to 9X13 baking dish, top with jack cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

5.  Serve immediately.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cookie Exchange: 10 Tips for a Stress Free Party


Hosting or attending a cookie exchange is always a fun activity to do for the holidays.  I have attended my share of these events and found them to be a fun time full of laughter.  They are a great way to collect delicious recipes, and best of all, eat COOKIES! 

Being invited as a guest is the easy part; we make our cookies and we show up to the party-- but what if you are the hostess? How do you plan and organize a Cookie Exchange, Cookie and Treat Exchange, or a Christmas Goodie Exchange? 

I have prepared 10 suggestions to help you prepare and plan your next goodie party.  Of course, this list can be added to or you can simplify the process.  I have attended some parties that feel as though the hostess spent all year planning the one event and other parties that were very laid back –both parties have their “season” depending on where you are in your life.  That is the great thing about being the hostess.  You get to set the tone, mood, theme, etc… for the party.  You are the cookie boss!

Pick a date and a theme.  Choosing a date early in the month of December is best or switch things up and host a Winter Cookie Exchange in January. A theme is not required but it does allow for your guest to have a direction when choosing their recipes or when buying products to wrap their goodies in.

Decide on a list of friends and send out invitations.  How many friends you invite will determine how many cookies you have each guest bring.  I would recommend 5-7 guests. They should each bring one dozen cookies for each guest in attendance (that is 6-8 dozen cookies).  If your guest list is larger, 8-12 guests, then having each guest bring a half dozen is not so overwhelming.   The extra dozen or half dozen is for trying and tasting at the party.

Ask each guest to RSVP by a certain date. This will allow you to inform all guests of exactly how many cookies to bake plus it allows the hostess to purchase the correct number of utensils, plates, napkins, drinks, etc…


Set the rules for the exchange.  It is important that every guest understands exactly what is expected of him or her at the exchange.  As an example, if you want only homemade cookies then this needs to be stated.  Other examples may include a list of cookies not allowed or a list of treats that are okay to bring.  Keep in mind that if an attendee spends three hours making her cookies she may be a little bit disappointed, if in return, she gets cookies that are store bought or no-bakes.  Everyone should be on the same page in regards to what is being exchanged and expected.

Have tables available.  The amount of table space that is needed will depend on several factors. Are you hosting a large group with lots of cookies to sample?  Will you have a wrapping station so the guest can create there goodie trays in your home?  Will you serve other food and have drinks available? Having answers to these questions will allow you to best situate tables and other surfaces needed for the party.

Party games.  Some hostesses enjoy having games at the cookie exchange.   Some suggestions would be an ugly sweater contest, the best holiday costume, favorite cookie, best decorations or an ornament exchange.  This is definitely just an option and not required for a successful cookie/treat exchange.

How will you display the cookies? Each guest will bring the cookies for the exchange, and they will also bring one dozen cookies to share and test with the group.  I have found that it’s easier and more appealing to have the cookies displayed on cookie trays or tiered dessert dishes.  This allows for a beautiful table and the cookies are a bit easier to sample.

Printed recipes and ingredient lists. This can be handled in two different ways. The hostess may want everyone to email his or her recipe and print a copy for each guest.  These recipes could also be printed into a cute booklet.   The other option is to ask each guest to bring a copy of his or her recipe for each guest.  The ingredient list is a good idea if you have invited guest with known food allergies to wheat, nuts, eggs, dairy, etc…

Wrapping Station.  A wrapping station is an option.  Some guest would like to come and exchange cookies only, while others would enjoy having the chance to exchange and prepare cookie trays for family and friends all in one night.  A wrapping station could include: fancy paper plates, cellophane, plastic wrap, ribbons, tags, bows, dessert boxes or cute tins.  If the hostess would like to share this responsibility, assignments could be made or a monetary contribution could be collected to purchase the products.

Have fun.  The holidays are always a busy and hectic time in our busy lives.  Know your limits, your budget and plan accordingly.  This will insure that you have a great time and that your guest will too.  A cookie exchange is a great tradition to start with family and friends and there will be enough time to have different types of cookie/treat parties in the future.

I hope these 10 suggestions for a successful cookie/treat exchange were helpful.  I have included four homemade cookie recipes and one treat recipe; my neighbors and friends love all of these cookies.

My family would like to wish each of you a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends and, of course, cookies. 



Here are some of our favorite cookies and treats for this time of year:
















Written by Sherron Watson


            

Monday, December 9, 2013

Peppermint Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies


I love a cookie that melts in  your mouth.   These little morsels of tenderness have a wonderful texture that is soft.   The  buttery flavor reminds me of my grandmothers sugar cookies.  The frosting on top adds a little cloud of fluffiness and to top it off, the peppermint candy bits,  add the right amount of color and flair.

The reason I used these Thin Mint Peppermint Bits is because I made Cookies and Cream Popcorn with mini chocolate filled cookies and decided to throw these in the bowl for flavor and color.  It turned out pretty good.  So, don't fret about using the whole bag because you can easily make both items.


I am excited for the Christmas season in our home. We have a new baby and my parents are coming for a visit.  We have not spent a Christmas with them in 9 years.  My big kids were so little and now they are almost out of the house.

We will fill our home with lots of goodies and these cookies will be at the top of the list.

Enjoy!



Peppermint Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies
{adapted from Taste of Home Quick Cooking, 2009}

Makes 30 small cookies

1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 & 1/4 cup flour, sifted (to make gluten free-use an all purpose gluten free flour blend)
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

*Eggs are not used in this recipe

FROSTING

1 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Crushed Candy Canes or Peppermint Thin Mints

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Cream Butter and powdered sugar together in a medium size bowl; add extract and beat well. 

2.  Combine flour and corn starch in a separate bowl. Gradually add to butter/sugar mixture. Mix well. 

3.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a small cookie scoop, space cookie scoops two inches apart.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Do not over bake. 


For Frosting:   

1.  Beat cream cheese until its fluffy.

2.  Add powdered sugar, milk, and peppermint extract until smooth.

3.  Spread over cooled cookies and sprinkle with crushed candies.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Romanesco with Browned Butter




Look at this beauty!

Romanesco is something I have never used before and when I walked in to Graul's (our local market) and saw this my daughter and I both reached for it at the same time.  She knows me so well.

I honestly had no idea what it was, what it tasted like or if we would even like it.  My luck it could have easily been the pretty version of durian.  Thank goodness it was not.    They had it listed in the grocery store as "neon broccoli" so we had a small clue as to what it was.

My friend told me it was a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. My family loves both of them and I knew I could use it at home.

But how?

How would I use it: soup, side dish, raw or cooked. It took me a few days to decide on this recipe.  It is nothing fancy but it preserved the look of this beautiful vegetable and allowed us to experience the flavor profile with few distractions.

I served it with my homemade parmesan ranch dressing, some bacon pieces and of course, the browned butter.



We served it similar to how you would serve a wedge salad.  I steamed the whole head and then quartered it.  We ate it for lunch or I should say we devoured our quarter.   At first I thought maybe the wedge was too big for one person to eat.  Lets just say if anyone tried to take a bite from my plate, I would bite them.  The browned butter was heavenly and I just don't share browned butter (mine, mine, mine).  I am joking--sort of?

I used the left over wedge to make some broccoli and cheddar soup.  I found in the soup, it does have a stronger broccoli flavor than regular broccoli (just keep this in mind if you use it in soup).

Please enjoy this simple side dish or Romanesco salad recipe.




Romanesco with Browned Butter


1 large head of romanesco
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
ranch dressing, for dipping
bacon pieces, garnish

Instructions:

1.  Trim romanesco of all green leaves and wash well.

2.  In a pot large enough to steam the romanesco, add 1 inch of water and place a steaming basket  inside.


3.  Turn your oven to medium high and bring to a boil. Add romanesco and steam for 12 minutes.  I like mine soft enough to put a fork into the dark "tree like" parts.  The stem may need a bit more time or this can be removed before serving to your guest or family.

4.  To make the butter, I melted butter in a non stick egg pan (it was the perfect size).  Turned heat to medium and browned the butter.  It took about 5 minutes.   The butter smells nutty and there is brown residue on the bottom of your pan.  Remove from heat.  Be careful to not burn the butter--it will ruin the flavor.

5.  Remove romanesco from steaming pot and quarter.  On a plate, add a pool of brown butter or drizzle the brown butter over the romanesco.  I did a little of both. I served it with a cup of dressing and sprinkled the bacon pieces over the top.







Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pecan Crescent Cookies



Around election time our friends throw a "bologna party". This was the first year that we were invited. We all brought a few of our favorite things and enjoyed each others company.  The bologna sandwiches were amazing.  Iris also made Chicken Matzo Soup!  That was a real treat.

I brought two salads:  Broccoli  Salad and a family favorite,  Pea Salad.   I also wanted to test this recipe with the gluten free flour conversion. I brought a whole plate of these delicious Pecan Crescent Cookies or also known as Rugelach.

When ever I bring something to a party and I am testing a recipe I am always very honest with my friends.  In return, I need them to be very honest with me in their evaluation of the dish.  I don't get offended.  I expect all types of reviews.   After all, we are all different and like different things.

Everyone had rave things to say, but one friend in particular, ate half the pan.  I am not joking.  He could not get enough of this delicate pastry like cookie-gluten free or not.  I am going to take that as a fantastic review of the product--LOL

The only thing I notice to be a bit different in the dough are the layers.  The batch made with all purpose flour definitely had a more flaky texture, but the gluten free version was not far off in texture.

I also noticed that the gluten free dough was a bit different.  You want the dough pliable-not too dry and not too wet.  Do what you need to do to make sure this is the case by adding a drop or two more water if the dough is too crumbly or adding a bit more white rice flour if the dough is too wet.

Like with most pastry like doughs, handle it gently and not too much.

The recipe below is not gluten free.  To make it gluten free I substituted the 2 cups of flour for this conversion:

1 cup of very fine white rice flour (I purchase this from our local asian store)
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

**Use the white rice flour to dust your surface and rolling pin.  Use a generous amount--I did.

The last thing I would suggest is to roll the cookies as tight as possible.  Any of the dough (for both versions) that was not rolled tight had a tendency to unroll during baking.  Take your time and you will have a successful batch of delicious cookies.

I can tell you that even if they don't turn out perfect, they still taste really, really good.  I had three piles on my plate--the first batch (not pretty), the second batch (getting better) and the the third (beautiful).  It took me a few rounds to make the perfect rolled up crescent cookie.

I hope that my few tips will help you make the first batch flawless.

Enjoy!


Pecan Crescent Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

*Dough needs to be refrigerated for 2 hours before being used

Easy Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour (for gluten free conversion, see above)
1 cup butter
1 cup cottage cheese

Filling

1/2 cup  butter, softened  
1 1/2cups packed brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped small


1.  In medium bowl add flour and butter. Use a pastry blender to blend until crumbly. Stir in cottage cheese. The dough will still be a bit crumbly but it will come together after resting in the refrigerator. Divide dough into thirds; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3.  Remove dough from plastic wrap and knead 4-5 times until dough is well combined. On well-floured surface, roll one part of the dough into 10-12 inch round.

4.  Combine brown sugar and pecans in a small bowl, set aside.

5.  Using a butter knife, spread one third of the butter used for the filling onto rolled out dough. Sprinkle with one-third each of the brown sugar and pecans; lightly press into dough with hands.

6.  Cut each round into quarters. Cut each quarter into 3 wedges. Roll up starting with long end; place, point side down on lined cookie sheets. 

7.  Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. 

8.  Remove immediately from cookie sheets to cooling racks.  The brown sugar will melt onto the cookie sheet but there is still enough filling to make the cookie quite tasty.


Cool completely.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies


Cookies!  We love cookies this time of year and our neighbors do too.

Each year we spend a few days preparing some of our family favorites as well as trying some new recipes.

One thing I miss from my childhood days are the cute Christmas tins that my grandmother would always use for fudge, cookies and treats.  The lids would be difficult to pop off, and as a kid, this was very frustrating, but then again, maybe that was her way of keeping little prying hands out of the "cookie tin".   Once we opened the tin we would fold back the wax paper and find delicate butter cookies or peanut butter fudge.  By the end of the season the tins would be stacked in the basement, the wax paper would be so filled with wrinkles and easily tossed into the trash can with hundred of tiny finger prints layered against the wrinkles of wax.

The older I get the more those memories hold a special place in my heart. I guess because I see my kids in my memory and hope that they will find some traditions that we have established in our family, dear and near to their hearts too.  Cookie tins is a small thing with a large place in my heart.

I love anything with a vintage look and those tins would often have Victorian Christmas scenes.  I think for my grandmother it was a memory of her childhood days of growing up in England.  When she moved to the states she hung on to anything that reminded her of the place she grew up and her ancestry.

This year I want to look for tins to hold our family treats. It won't be a new tradition for my older kids but the little girls may find joy in these tins for their families down the road.

These cookies are easy to make, have a lovely texture -soft on the inside with a crispy, bite on the outside-and the dough can be frozen into uncooked balls to be made at a later date.

Enjoy!


Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies


Makes 15 large cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

*To make these gluten free use your favorite all purpose gluten free flour and gluten free rolled oats.



Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

2.  In a medium bowl, beat together butter, egg and vanilla until fluffy. 

3.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together by hand until well blended. Dough will be a bit            crumbly.

4.  Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets

5.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Remove to cool on wire racks.


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