Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

My bucket list of food has had some pretty fun things on it and just when I think it’s almost complete, I see something different that I have to try out. I love the adventure that comes with experimenting and learning something new!

About five years ago I tackled my fear of yeast breads making everything from bagels to pretzels to ciabatta, not to mention basic French bread. But the one thing I have yet to try are croissants from scratch. It’s a long process of rolling and refrigerating and incorporating butter with the dough. To be honest, I just don’t have the patience. I know I’ll get to it eventually, but for now it’s still on my bucket list to make.

Lucky for me that my local grocery store occasionally has a tremendous deal on these buttery and delicious beauties. Not only are they wonderful for breakfast, but they make amazing sandwiches (my personal favorites- tuna salad of chicken salad). Or you can just eat them plain because they are that good.

Today is National Croissant Day and I wanted to make something special but not overly complicated with them. I refer back to my lack of patience. So I made a sweet dessert that’s fairly simple but oh so decadent! Bread pudding is classic comfort food, but the addition of croissants and chocolate chips take it to the next level of incredible. I’ve kept the recipe simple here, but feel free to add in your favorite flavors. Nuts, dried fruits, extracts, or spices, tweak it to your tastes. Have fun and enjoy ♥️

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

6 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 large croissants, torn in pieces

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9×9 square pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine first 6 ingredients. Whisk until fully blended. Add croissant pieces and mix well, pushing down so the liquid saturates them. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Bake 45-55 minutes or until the center is set and the top is lightly browned. If the top is browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil. Remove from oven to cool in pan.

Make Breakfast Great Again

It’s Monday. Again. And the week looms ahead. I think it’s the hardest day of the week. And trying to find my motivation in the morning is no easy task. Which brings me to my topic – breakfast. Ugh.

I know everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’m sure it’s probably true, but honestly I’m terrible about eating breakfast. I mean, who can make an informed decision about what to eat that early? I’m still trying to figure what color of socks to wear and wondering why my hair looks so weird. But it’s a new year so I’m going to try to get better at this.

I think one way to beat the breakfast blahs is to plan and prepare ahead. If you take the decision making process out by having ready made healthy choices, it becomes a whole lot easier. Grab and go food doesn’t have to mean the drive thru line either or a boring piece of toast or fruit.

Make ahead muffins, mini breakfast bites( like these https://therecipecritic.com/2017/03/denver-omelet-breakfast-muffins/), or refrigerator overnight oatmeal (here’s a basic recipe https://infogram.com/overnight-oats-101) are just a few really good and ready to go ideas. You can make enough for a week or only for the next day. And with a basic recipe, jazz it up to your particular tastes. Experiment and get creative!

I love bran muffins and this recipe is easy to mix up. One bowl easy. Add any combo of dried fruit or nuts or none at all. Totally up to you. And the buttermilk is key to keeping it moist. Also the batter is good for 6 weeks in the fridge so there’s no rush to bake it all at once. ❤️

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st Bran Muffins

3 cups whole bran wheat cereal

1 cup boiling water

1/2 vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins or chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners or coat lightly with cooking spray. In large bowl combine cereal and boiling water. Allow to absorb and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in oil and eggs. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups filling 3/4 full. Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan. Remaining batter may be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Let Them Eat Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake

“People in LA are deathly afraid of gluten. I swear to God, you could rob a liquor store in this city with a bagel. ” – Ryan Reynolds

I’m not trying to make light of people who are genuinely affected with gluten intolerance or sensitivity, but you have to see the humor in that quote. I think the wave of EVERYONE being gluten free has finally peaked. Thankfully.

If you are really affected by gluten, I know how difficult life can be. It hits you in ways you never imagined. Food choices become a tedious process. Going out to eat or attending parties are draining and zap the fun out. Joint pain, mental fog, intestinal issues are just a few of the horrible symptoms you deal with daily.

Today is National Chocolate Cake Day! I love cake, chocolate cake to be more specific. And of course flour is a common ingredient in most cakes. There are gluten free flours out there, however they are typically very expensive and the baking results can be varied.

After researching several different types of gluten free chocolate cakes, I found one that is now my go-to recipe. It’s perfect because it is flourless so you can avoid the whole gluten free flour dilemma. The texture is dense, moist, and insanely decadent. It’s as if chocolate cake and cheesecake had a baby, a very rich baby. Like a Bill Gates baby. Know what I mean?

A few things about this cake to note. You could get away with using chocolate chips for melting, but I find the baking bars (usually 4 oz bars) work best. 3 bars and you’ve got your 12 oz. Also, do not attempt this with white chocolate. It does not work. I tried it out of curiosity and it was an epic fail. Milk chocolate, semisweet, or dark chocolate all work fine. Lastly, do not overbake this cake. Trust me on this. Remove from the oven when the center is still gooey with small clumps of batter.

The glaze is optional or you could top with a berry sauce or a different flavor. Get creative!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

For the cake:

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

3/4 cup butter, cut in pieces

5 eggs, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp water

1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pan

For the glaze:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

3 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9” round pan with cooking spray and line with a round of parchment paper. Then lightly coat the parchment paper and sides with cooking spray and a light dusting of cocoa powder. Set aside.

Melt bittersweet chocolate and butter in microwave and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with whisk attachment, combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Whisk on medium high speed about two minutes until almost doubled in volume. Reduce mixer to low speed and add chocolate/butter mixture. Increase speed to medium high and fully mix together about 30 seconds. Add cocoa powder and mix on medium low speed until just blended in about 30 seconds. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake 40-45 minutes or until center test comes out slightly wet with small clumps. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool in pan 30 minutes on a rack. Run a small warm knife around inner edge of pan to loosen sides of cake. Invert on baking rack and cool completely. Remove parchment paper and transfer to a cake plate. Cover cake and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the glaze (optional):

Melt chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Spread over top of chilled cake with an offset spatula. Return to refrigerator at least 30 minutes for glaze to set.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature about 20-30 minutes. Use a knife dipped in hot water to easily slice and serve cake.

Chocolate Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle makes me think of Christmas. I can’t really associate it with any other time of year, which is ridiculous because there’s nothing particularly Christmas-y about it. I think it’s just an ingrained marketing ploy. Years of advertising and conditioning maybe.

You’re probably asking yourself why this matters. Well, today is National Peanut Brittle day. January 26th. I have no idea why anyone would choose this day to celebrate it, but here we are. It seems strange to me, but I’m not one to pass up an excuse to make candy.

I love good old fashioned peanut brittle, but this year I came across a recipe for it that stopped me in my tracks. Chocolate peanut brittle. Whoa. What??? Yep, you read that right. I had to make it just to try it out. My curiosity was killing me. And then I made it again (several times to be honest) because it was so good!

I used dark chocolate baking cocoa because I’m an absolute fanatic about dark chocolate but regular baking cocoa works just as well. The ingredients are pretty simple, and start to finish it’s about 30 minutes to make. I’m thinking about experimenting with other flavors and add ins but for now here is the basic recipe. Hope you enjoy ♥️

Chocolate Peanut Brittle

1 1/4 cups dry roasted peanuts

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 heavy cream

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa and baking soda. Set aside. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan making sure it doesn’t touch bottom of the pan. Stir frequently. Add peanuts when thermometer reaches 265 degrees. Continue cooking and stirring until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees. Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter and cocoa/ baking soda mixture. Once it’s fully incorporated, pour onto prepared pan. Spread out with a buttered offset spatula. Cool completely. Peel off parchment paper and break into pieces. Store at room temperature. Makes approximately 1 lb of candy.

Banana Coconut Rice Pudding

Mid January always gives me the doldrums. The holidays are over and the weather is so blah. I dream of sunshine and tropical beaches. Insert heavy sigh here! So this time of year, I have to make my own tropical getaway.

A little inspiration came to me via leftovers. I love it when that happens. Am I the only one who is incapable of making the right amount of cooked rice? I’m a single person and yet I make way too much every single time.

So, I was staring down a large pot of cooked rice wondering what to do with it when a lightbulb came on and I thought of rice pudding. Ultimate winter comfort food, am I right? I was looking for a good recipe, but I wanted a little twist on the basic idea. Suddenly, the combination of bananas and coconuts with the rice pudding hit me! Perfect use of the leftover rice and a quick fix for my tropical longings.

It is so delicious, you’ll be licking your plate clean. Hot or cold- it’s great either way. I added some toasted coconut and whipped cream for garnish. Hope you enjoy!

Banana Coconut Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked white rice

3 cups coconut milk

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup sugar

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 medium bananas, sliced in coins

1/2 tsp coconut extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine rice and sugar, mixing well and breaking up any clumps of rice. In a medium bowl whisk coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, and spices to combine. Add coconut milk mixture to rice and sugar. Mix well. Stir in shredded coconut and banana slices. Pour into prepared baking dish. Set baking dish in a large roasting pan and add just enough water to come up 1 inch along outside baking dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until center is just set.

5 Simply Delicious Ways To Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day

Today’s post comes with a warning label. Read on, if you dare….. This is not for the faint of heart, seriously.

Happy National Peanut Butter Day! If you’re allergic to peanuts (which incidentally affects 1% of our population), take cover because today is not your day. Sorry. The United States leads the world in peanut butter production and consumption. It’s an $800 million a year industry.

I think most of us associate it with the lunchbox staple- the old PBJ. My favorite was sans jelly, with banana instead. I know, I was a weird kid. I remember reading somewhere that Elvis Presley also had an affinity for peanut butter/banana sandwiches. I read a little bit more and learned there is actually a sandwich called The Elvis. Basically, it’s a fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich. Heart attack in a plate. Does that sound healthy? No it does not. Is it delicious? Yes it is. I had this for dinner tonight so I can attest to it. I probably won’t be eating anything but salad for the rest of the week to atone for this delicious sin. But it was worth it. Here’s the recipe, if you really need one http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/05/elvis-sandwich-grilled-peanut-butter-ba.html .

In an attempt to balance out such an unhealthy recipe and redeem myself to you, here are 4 other easy peanut butter ideas.

1. Peanut butter energy bites. These are a snap to make and make fantastic on-the-go snacks anytime of day. https://chefsavvy.com/5-ingredient-peanut-butter-energy-bites/

2. Peanut butter dip. Three ingredients you probably already have and you’ve got a delicious dip that works well with apple slices, dried fruits, cookies or pretzels. https://www.cookingclassy.com/peanut-butter-fruit-dip/

3. Peanut Butter mug cake. This mug cake is perfect when you have a dessert craving but don’t want lots of extra dessert hanging around. It’s eggless and could easily be switched to gf by subbing almond meal for the flour. https://kirbiecravings.com/2014/04/peanut-butter-mug-cake-eggless.html

4. Thai Peanut Sauce. Who doesn’t love sweet and savory? And it’s great with so many things – meats, rice, noodles, and raw veggies. http://uprootkitchen.com/2015/08/12/peanut-sauce/

Hope you enjoy these and give them a try soon 😋♥️😉

Easy As Pie!

Today is National Pie Day. Not to be confused with National Pi Day, March 14th (3/14, it’s a math thing). I’m not a huge pie fan. Give me a choice between pie or cake, and cake wins hands down every time.

My grandmother was a fantastic pie baker. Holidays were loaded with every kind you could imagine. Her sour cream raisin pie was absolutely the best! My mom, on the other hand, did not inherit the pie making gene, if there is such a thing. I think I must have convinced myself that it was a difficult process that only a highly skilled person could do. And to be fair, as a teenager I wasn’t the least bit interested in cooking.

When I was 20 years old, I was alone on Christmas for the first time and had to make dinner for myself. I pulled out a cookbook that belonged to my roommate and managed to make a very scaled down version of a traditional Christmas dinner completely from scratch. No boxes, no mixes, and no microwaved dishes. It was one of the best meals of my life, probably because it was such a huge accomplishment. The thing I remember most was the apple pie I made. It didn’t look restaurant perfect but pretty good for a my first try. And it was delicious!

I still prefer cakes over pies, but I learned that pie making isn’t the scary task I thought it was. One of my favorite quotes by Julia Child is “If you can read, you can cook.” Just read the recipe, relax, take your time in making it, and most importantly, have fun! It’s easy as pie 😉

Here are 2 of my favorite pies. Key Lime Pie and Pecan Pie. There are plenty of variations out there but these are my go-to recipes. Hope you enjoy them. Happy National Pie Day!

Key Lime Pie

1 – 9 inch graham cracker pie crust

4 eggs, room temperature, separated

1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup key lime juice

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set aside egg whites for later use in meringue. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lime juice. Pour into pie shell and bake for 10 minutes. While pie is baking, prepare the meringue. On high speed, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. While still whisking, gradually add sugar one tablespoon at a time until all sugar is incorporated and stiff peaks have developed. Remove pie from oven after baking 10 minutes and very carefully spread meringue over the top being sure to cover the entire surface to the crust. This will prevent it from weeping after it has cooled. Bake 10 more minutes or until meringue has a lightly toasted appearance. Remove from oven and cool completely before refrigerating.

Traditional Pecan Pie

1 – 9 inch unbaked pastry shell

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 Tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups pecans (6oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla together. Once blended, stir in pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake 60-70 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Blondies Vs Brownies

It makes me crazy when I read things that don’t make sense. For example, when I see recipes that try to pass themselves off as something they clearly are not, my brain screams! I know it’s a silly thing, but that’s just part of what makes me delightfully quirky.

So here we are face to face with the blondie vs. brownie debate. For the record, chocolate is what makes a brownie a brownie. If it doesn’t have chocolate it is not a brownie. It’s a blondie. Everyone clear on this? Good.

And the difference between blondies/brownies as opposed to cookies and cakes is that cookies are made from a dough and cakes are made from batters. And blondies and brownies are made from something kind of in between a dough and a batter. Everyone still following along? Perfect.

Since today is National Blonde Brownie Day, I’m taking issue with the name and declaring it incorrect! It’s just confusing. So to be very clear, I am sharing my recipe for Peanut Butter Chip Blondies. Not brownies. These are super easy to make. Feel free to swap out the peanut butter chips and peanuts if you are not a fan. No matter how you dress them up – they are delicious!

Peanut Butter Chip Blondies

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 – 10 oz package peanut butter chips

1 cup peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. Combine melted butter with sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Then add flour and salt and thoroughly mix. Stir in peanut butter chips. Spread batter in prepared pan and sprinkle with peanuts, lightly pressing them on top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out slightly gooey. Do not overbake. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting aluminum foil. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container.

Hugs For Everyone!

Happy National Hugging Day! Princess Diana once said “Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children.” I’ll take that a step further. In the world today, I think we could all benefit from hugs more than ever. The world needs a group hug!

The simple act of hugging or embracing is one one of those rare things that transcend words. It has a type of language on its own – body language, conveying hundreds of words and emotions. It’s also really good for us. Hugging actually causes the body to release oxytocin which stimulate feel good hormones like serotonin and dopamine that relieves anxiety and lowers stress.

It’s how we often greet one another to let a person know we are happy to see them or sad to see them leave. Airports are the perfect example. The first thing people do at an arrival gate is look for a familiar face and immediately hug them. And the last thing people do at departing gates is cling as tightly as possible to the very last minute with their loved ones.

We hug to show our happiness and support for each other. When your child graduates or your best friend gets that promotion, a hug screams “I’m so happy for you!” Sometimes it validates our achievements or builds our self esteem. And that is a truly awesome thing.

But hugs also help us express the feelings we just don’t have words for. Grieving, sadness, and disappointment are ultimately inescapable for all of us. And, if you’re like me, they are the most difficult times to say the right words that are comforting or encouraging. But a hug… well it doesn’t need the right words. In fact, it doesn’t need words at all to say “I’m so sorry for your loss or your disappointment.” A hug says “I love you. I am here for you. And you matter.”

I know there are plenty of people who just don’t hug. And there are probably some very valid reasons why it’s difficult for them. I just hope we all have at least one person in our life to hug the stuffing out of in good times and bad times. So today in honor of National Hugging Day, pass a hug on to someone who needs one. Our world will be a better place, even it’s just for one day!

Buttercrunch Candy AKA English Toffee

Language is a funny thing. Especially here in the USA. For example, what we call English toffee is actually called Buttercrunch in England. True English toffee is slightly different there. The main difference is that they use brown sugar or molasses where we typically use white granulated sugar to make it. And their recipe is pretty straightforward, no nuts, chocolate, or additional flavors. They think we overcomplicate it. I think we just get creative.

One thing we definitely agree on is that quality butter is key. Don’t try to substitute anything else or you’ll be very disappointed. Remember – penny wise, pound foolish. This is one of those times where spending the extra money for high quality butter matters. Other than that, the type of nuts and chocolate chips is totally up to you. I used pecans and dark chocolate chips, but feel free to use whatever you prefer.

Today is National Buttercrunch Day so I’m sharing my recipe with lots of pictures to walk you through the process, even though it’s super easy. Candy making can feel like a daunting task but it’s really not. There are some important things to keep in mind, but the ingredients and time involved are pretty minimal.

First, have all your ingredients measured out and pan prepped before you start. Once you start cooking it will go fairly quick. Second, don’t walk away from your pan as it’s cooking. It is like a toddler. It needs constant supervision. Third, be very careful because it is extremely hot. Last, after you pour the candy into your prepared pan, set the empty pan in your sink and fill with very hot water. I have found the clean up is easy if you do this right away. The longer you let the pan and utensils sit with hardened candy, the harder it will be to clean it later. Just a little experience talking here.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Butter Crunch Candy

2 cups pecans, roughly chopped

2 cups dark chocolate chips (1 bag 10 oz)

2 cups butter

2 cups granulated white sugar

2 Tbsp light corn syrup

1/4 tsp sea salt

Line a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and lightly coat with non stick spray. Sprinkle 1 cup of pecans in the pan and set aside. Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and salt in large heavy bottom saucepan. Over medium heat, stir constantly as ingredients melt together. Clip a candy thermometer to side of the pan being careful to not let it touch bottom of the pan. Continue to cook, stirring often, until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees. This should take 10-15 minutes. Immediately remove saucepan from heat and pour candy into prepared pan over nuts. Spread the candy and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Be careful as the candy is still extremely hot. Very gently tap the pan a few times to release any air bubbles. Allow it to cool two minutes. Then sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and allow to cool 3 more minutes. Spread the melted chocolate chips evenly with an offset spatula and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of nuts. Finish cooling at room temperature, about an hour. Refrigerate for another hour to fully harden chocolate. Remove from pan and peel off parchment paper or foil. Break into pieces and store in airtight container in refrigerator up to three months. Makes approximately 2 lbs of candy.