Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding

Here in Utah we have a local favorite place to eat called Kneaders.  It's kind of a bakery/cafe type that's real homemade.  A few years ago I stopped in to one of the locations and decided to try their German Chocolate Bread Pudding, because I have a hard time resisting things with chocolate and coconut, and I was in heaven!!  It was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.  I have only been back once to have it again and I have sorely missed it. 

When we moved to our current house I decided to give it a try at the one closer to us, but it was not the same.  Needless to say, I was disappointed but I set out, bound and determined, to make my own that was equally delicious.   I searched for a while but was never satisfied with what I found, until one day I was back in to Kneaders for lunch.  I got the girl behind the counter chatting about the bread pudding and she gave away some of the secrets about each of their flavors.  When she mentioned that the chocolate coconut one was made with croissants it was like a light went off in my head.  That was what I needed to finish my recipe that I had started.

So, without further delay, I give you this delicious dessert you are sure to crave as much as I have.

Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding
4-5 large croissants, day old (*I always look for them first on the day-old bakery rack, you'll get them cheaper too!)
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, plus more for drizzling
3/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (can add a drop or two of coconut extract if you want more coconut flavor)
1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
shaved coconut for garnish, if desired

Spray a 9-inch or similar baking dish with cooking spray (I happened to use an 8.5x11-inch baking dish). Cut croissants into chunks and place in prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup shredded coconut over the croissants.  Shake the pan a little so they can distribute a little.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Pour over the top of croissants, pushing them down into the milk mixture a little bit to get them soaking it up.  Let it stand about 10-30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven about 25-30 minutes.  *Optional: While bread pudding is baking, put a handful of shaved coconut in a skillet and toast until lightly golden.  Set aside.

When bread pudding is done cooking, remove from oven and sprinkle a small handful of chocolate chips over the top as well as the toasted coconut. Allow to cool.  Serve warm with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, if desired.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Quite a while back my mom brought me some garden spoils and I have to admit this squash sat in my pantry for longer than I'd like to admit!  I almost never cook spaghetti squash just because I never think about it and I'm pretty sure my girls would stick their noses up at it.  Luckily it's a hard winter squash and lasts just about forever.

As I have been cleaning out my pantry the past couple of months, I decided it was time to use up that squash.  It kept making me feel guilty every time I would open up the pantry door and see it there on the shelf. So I cooked it up with some of my favorite ingredients and it turned out fabulous.  The spaghetti squash seemed to cook a bit quicker than other winter squashes so this dish makes for a quick and healthy dinner that's pretty no-fuss.

Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
serves 2-4

1 medium spaghetti squash
olive oil
about 2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, diced
few slices of red onion
2-3 oz. goat cheese
2 Tbsp. pepitas
4 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
smoked paprika
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Split squash length-wise, scrape out seeds and place, cut side down, on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until squash starts to shred when a fork is scraped across it's flesh.

Flip squash over so cut side is now facing up.  Scrape through most of the squash with a fork creating shreds of squash but leaving it in the peel.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika.  Over each half of squash crumble goat cheese, chopped spinach, tomatoes and some red onion.  Drizzle another  bit of olive oil over the top, sprinkle salt and pepper and more paprika, if desired.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes.

While squash is baking, toast pepitas with a pinch of salt in a small frying pan over medium heat until they start popping and turn golden brown in color. Set aside.

Once squash is done baking, remove from oven and top with fresh basil and toasted pepitas.  Serve warm.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from BS' In The Kitchen

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

I know menu planning is kind of hit and miss here on the blog, but that's how we roll these days.  There are some times I'm super organized early in the week and other times we just fly by the seat of our pants.  Hopefully this will be one of the weeks I'm more rather than less organized.  Everything just runs smoother when mom is organized.

As always, I've got some new recipes and some beloved oldie favorites.  I have to say, I'm really looking forward to Tuesday's dinner: Marsala Chicken and Barley Stew and biscuits.  Mmmm, my mouth is already watering!!  I've actually also made myself a lunch and breakfast menu so I can make sure to use up what I've got this week.  I'll list a few of those at the bottom.

Dinner Menu February 24- March 2
Broccoli in Garlic Sauce over rice
Nappa Cabbage Salad
steamed peas and fresh sweet peppers

Marsala Chicken, Mushroom and Barley Stew
Exploding Biscuits

The Perfect Hamburger
Steak Fries


Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza

Penne Gorgonzola with Roasted Chicken

Artisan Bread

Other things going on:
Orange Ricotta Muffins
Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats
Lemon Raspberry Baked Oatmeal
Strawberry Basil and Goat Cheese Panini
Apple and Smoked Cheddar Quesadillas

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

First of all, I have news!!  I got a new camera.  Well, new to me anyway, and I'm so excited to learn how to use it.  Hopefully you will see an improvement in my shots and my food will look even more appealing!

Now on to this delicious sauce.  I love, love LOVE roasted red peppers.  I like them raw and cooked in stuff like stir-fry too, but I really love them roasted.  They just have this sweet, slightly tangy taste that is just beautiful. Slap them on wraps, sandwiches, burgers, pitas, pizzas, put them in hummus or other dips, or even in soup.

Roasted red peppers are obviously the star of this deliciously velvety pasta sauce.  The flavor is not too bold, a little creamy, a little crunchy with punches of flavor here and there from fresh basil.  If you're not a fan of goat cheese, you can switch it out for feta or even parmesan. 

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
3 red peppers
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped
2-3 oz. goat cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 lb. pasta

Roast red peppers either under the broiler or on your grill until charred, flipping halfway so you get both sides. Place in ziploc bag or container with a lid and allow to cool and sweat.  Peel charred skins off, remove seeds and set aside.

Lightly toast pine nuts in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Place pine nuts and roasted peppers in a blender and blend until smooth.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop pasta.  Cook according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion.  Cook until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add pepper puree, broth and cream.  Stir to combine and salt and pepper to taste.  Crumble in goat cheese and stir to melt.  Remove from heat, add fresh basil, check for seasoning again and adjust as necessary.

Drain pasta and stir into sauce.  Top with more fresh basil, if desired or a couple scratches of parmesan.

SOURCE: Pioneer Woman

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thai Steak Salad

It is very seldom that we eat beef, even less that we eat steak.  I absolutely love this salad though and thought this weekend would be perfect for a little splurge.  I have had the original version of this recipe for probably almost 10 years.  It was in one of my most favorite Cooking Light Cookbooks.  What attracted me at first was the beautiful picture in the cookbook.  The bright purple cabbage and orange carrots contrasted against a bed of lovely greens. 

This salad also has three of my favorite fresh herbs: basil, cilantro and mint.  While I have eaten them and love them separately, they are amazing all together in this salad.  It is a HUGE burst of flavor going on in your mouth! The dressing uses a bit of Thai fish sauce which adds great flavor in small amounts.  If you're not a fan of fish sauce or can't find it, this Ginger Lime Dressing is a good substitute.  It is my all time favorite dressing and use it on my Asian Slaw whenever I make it.

Thai Steak Salad
for the marinade:
1 flank steak (or ribeye or sirloion)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. red cooking wine (can also use sherry or red wine vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil

for the salad:
1 small nappa cabbage, shredded
1/4 small red cabbage, shredded
2-3 cups baby spinach
2 large carrots, peeled and small-diced (julienned or shredded works too)
1/2 (or more) fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup (or more) fresh basil leaves
1/2 (or more) fresh mint leaves

for the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1-2 limes depending on how big and how juicy)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1 Tbsp. Sriracha (sweet chili sauce)

chopped peanuts

Combine marinade ingredients and place in a ziploc bag along with steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Combine salad dressing ingredients and set aside. 

In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients and set aside. 

When you are ready to cook the steak, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large grill pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook steak about 4-5 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness.  Remove from heat and let rest at least 5 minutes.  Slice steak across the grain in thin slices.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with a little bit of the dressing.  Divide salad between plates and top with sliced steak and chopped peanuts.

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooking Light and Pioneer Woman

Friday, February 7, 2014

One Bowl Brownies (AKA: The Baked Brownie)

For years, my go-to treat, when I needed a chocolate fix or even just a sweet fix, was brownies, and not the scratch kind.  I used brownie box mixes forever, mostly because of convenience, but also, I was hard-pressed to find a homemade recipe that was as thick and fudgey and ooey-gooey as the box mix kind. By the way, if you're more of a cake-like brownie lover, this may not be the brownie for you. 

I was SOOOO excited when I found this recipe a few years.  Not only did they fit my high expectations for a homemade brownie, they were so easy and I only had to dirty ONE bowl.  SCORE! If you've never checked out the Baked Cookbook you should.  It has some amazing dessert recipes that are a little off the cuff.  Amazing.

So, if you're in the mood for a quick treat this weekend, whip these up in your favorite mixing bowl and just try and wait until they are cool enough to dig in...I dare ya.

The Baked Brownie
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
5.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped (I like to use Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars)
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
*3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 or 9 inch baking pan and set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place butter and chopped dark chocolate.  Microwave on 50% power, 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

Add sugars, cocoa powder and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Make sure mixture isn't too hot, then add eggs and whisk to combine again.

Sift in flour and salt.  Stir until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake 28-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking time.  Brownies are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out just the tiniest bit sticky.

Place brownies on a wire rack until completely cooled.

*If doubling recipe for a 9x13-inch pan, only use 5 eggs.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Black Bean Soup

This has been a favorite of ours for a few years. I had actually kind of forgotten about it until my 5 year old started asking me about "that bean soup that you crush the tortilla chips in."  It took me a minute to remember which bean soup she was talking about, because I was kind of shocked she was actually asking for bean soup!

I LOVE this soup for a couple of reasons.  First, it comes together so quickly and second, my kids don't fuss about it because there's no chunky things in it they have to fish out haha! (Not because they're not there though, because it's pureed they just can't tell.)  So sneaky, I love it.

The day after I made this soup my 5 year old asked me if there were any leftovers she could have for dinner.  She was ecstatic when I told her there was and then she ate two bowls full.  This is my daughter who LOVES junk food and candy, who will snoop out and find ANY piece of candy in the house if there is one.  This soup is definitely a keeper!

Black Bean Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 3.5-oz can green chilies
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: sour cream, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, diced avocado

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add carrots, celery and onion; saute about 5-6 minutes, or until onions are translucent and soft.  Add garlic and saute another 60 seconds.  Add green chilies, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook about 1-2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.  Add beans, broth and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat. Remove bay leaf from the soup.  Using a stick blender, puree the soup to your liking (you can leave is as chunky or smooth as you'd like).  Alternately you can work in batches pureeing it in a blender.  Squeeze in fresh lime juice and add in salt and pepper to taste.  Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Ladle hot soup into bowls and add toppings as desired.

SOURCE: Our Best Bites
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