Friday, December 30, 2011

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

It's that time of year when we all evaluate our lives and make promises to do more, be better and generally strive for self improvement.  Although I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions, this year I am firmly in the camp of wanting to be the best person I can be.  With that said, I like to idea of adding more to the list than the obligatory exercise more, eat better, etc.  I like the idea of improving my mental being as well as my physical being.  For example, just look at this photo!  I wanted to jump off the sofa and make this french toast the minute I saw this image.  While French toast may not fall into the "eat better" category, it got me thinking.  I've been blogging for a couple of years now and while I love cooking and exploring new recipes, I've done a meager job at best at depicting the food.  Borrowed (forgive me all you expert photographers) photos generally grace this blog.  Resolution in the making.  Learn how to use the good camera I insisted we buy and start representing my own food, my own children and my own life more frequently, realistically and beautifully.  I'm up for the challenge as soon as I get off the treadmill, steam some kale and read War & Peace.   

Thankfully this recipe is not challenging and so basic in its goodness - bread, sugar, cream, eggs that it seemed fitting to serve on Christmas morning.  Santa's elves were fat, happy and dreaming of resolutions for 2012. 

1 loaf Crusty French Bread
8 whole Eggs
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Whipping (heavy) Cream
3/4 cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 stick Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
Fresh Fruit (optional)

Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Cut bread into cubes and evenly distribute in the pan.
Mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge several hours or overnight.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add nutmeg if desired. Add butter pieces and but into the dry mixture until mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a Ziploc in the fridge.
When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. (If you're using fruit, sprinkle on before the crumb mixture.) Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture. Bake 1 hour or more for a firmer, less liquid texture.  Serve with butter and drizzle with syrup if desired.
Recipe and photo by The Pioneer Woman

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

I've often gone to Mexican restaurants and seen this meatless option on the menu and wondered who would bother when there was beefy, cheesy sumptious entrees to be had but now I'm converted.  The sweetness of the potato is a nice contrast to the mild spice in this dish and I even had the meat eaters singing the praises of this vegetarian meal.

2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 large or 2 small potatoes), mashed with 1 tablespoon butter
1 can canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided (could use queso fresco or a combo of both cheese)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can creamed corn
1/2 cup sour cream
1 16-ounce jar fire-roasted tomato enchilada sauce (I just used Trader Joe's Enchilada sauce but would be good with the fire roasted if you have it)
8-10 flour tortillas
Cilantro and avocado for garnish, if desired

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together sweet potato, black beans, 1 cup cheese, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.
Whisk together creamed corn and sour cream in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of the mixture to the sweet potato mixture and set the rest aside.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Place about 1/4 cup sweet potato mixture on one side of a tortilla, roll up, and place in baking dish; repeat process with remaining sweet potato mixture and tortillas.

Pour reserved sweet corn sauce on top of the tortillas, then drizzle with the remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve enchiladas with cilantro and avocado, if desired.  You can also make a little extra of the sour cream mixture to drizzle on top as shown above. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bacon-Blue Cheese Dip

So you've been cooking, cleaning, wrapping, entertaining, cooking, cleaning and napping, etc. and now New Year's Eve is creeping upon you and you need a little something different to take to a soiree or two.  Here's a cheesy, bacon-y bowl of addicting goodness.  So easy even my huband can whip this up all by himself! 

7 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened (reduced fat is fine)
1/3 cup half-and-half, heavy cream, or Greek yogurt
1-2 dashes hot sauce
4 - 6 oz crumbled blue cheese (depending on how strong your cheese is)
2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste
crackers, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the bacon in a skillet until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but about 1 tsp fat, and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the bacon (reserve a small amount for garnish), garlic, half-and-half, blue cheese, hot sauce and chives. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a lightly greased serving dish, and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Garnish with reserved bacon and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with crackers.
Adapted from Southern Living, December 2004

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sausage Ravioli Lasagna

Sometimes you need a little Christmas miracle.  My miracle comes in the form of easy dinners that can be tossed together whilst baking Christmas cookies and addressing holiday cards.  This is a riff on a recipe that's been around.  Pasta sauce, cheese and frozen ravioli turns into a mock lasagna but with the addition of the spinach and pesto, the recipe is tastier and more satisfying.  More time for shopping, decorating and the like.  Ho ho ho...

1/2 lb. Italian sausage - hot or mild, your choice
1 - 24 oz. jar of your favorite jarred tomato/basil pasta sauce
6 oz. fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto sauce (like Buitoni Basil Pesto)
1 - 25 oz. pkg. frozen cheese-filled ravioli (do not thaw)
1 cup shredded Italian blend shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook sausage, about 10 minutes, until cooked through and crumbled.  Drain fat and return to pan.  Add pasta sauce.  Chop spinach by hand (do not use Cuisinart/food processor or you'll have green mush) and stir into prepared pesto sauce.  Spoon about 1/3 of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 7x11 baking dish.  Top with 1/2 of spinach/pesto sauce.  Arrange 1/2 of frozen ravioli in a single layer over spinach and repeat layers once and top with remaining tomato sauce. 

Bake for 30 minutes and then sprinkle with cheese and bake another 5-8 minutes more until hot and bubbly. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spicy Lentil Chili

For all the holiday indulging that goes on this time of year, it's nice to be able to serve a hearty but healthy meatless meal.  You could serve this over brown rice, quinoa or even plain with a side of cornbread.  I love the versatiliy of the lowly lentil and in this dish, they shine.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 fresh jalepeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons dried oreagano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock or broth (64 oz)
accompaniments: sour cream, chopped tomato, scallions, cilantro
Cook onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, and pepper in oil in 5 to 6 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together brown sugar, spices, oregeno, thyme, and mustard, then add this mixture to the vegetables and cook, stirring until fragrant, for about 4 minutes.

Add lentils, bay leaf, and stock. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until lentils are very soft, 50 to 60 minutes. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Eggnog Waffles

We've gone a little eggnog crazy in our house but these were a fabulous start to a crisp, sunny Sunday morning!  With a little turkey sausage and fruit and you've got yourself a merry little Christmas morning menu.  We doubled this recipe to make four full rounds (or 16 waffles) in our waffle iron. 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup eggnog (low-fat is fine)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp. rum extract

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet, and stir until just combined.  Allow the batter to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the waffle iron and cook the waffles according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Serve with your favortite toppings!
Recipe and photo from Pink Parsley

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old Fashioned Eggnog Bundt Cake

The holidays are here and my preparations are in full swing.  Tonight we're headed to an annual White Elephant Christmas party with long-time friends and I'm bringing dessert.  I wanted to offer something festive but not fussy and I didn't want to spend a valuable December shopping Saturday stuck in the house.  This cake was the trick.  An easy and moist, holiday-inspired treat.  Since it's a large crowd, I'm also bringing another yummy chocolate bundt cake but adding a tiny splash of peppermint extract into the batter and topping it with crushed peppermint candies.  Happy baking all! 

1 - 18 oz yellow or butter cake mix
4 - tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 -cups eggnog
2 - large eggs
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
1 - tsp rum extract
1/8 - tsp ground nutmeg

Glaze Ingredients:
2 - cups powdered sugar
2 - tablespoons melted butter
3 - tablespoons eggnog
1 - tsp vanilla
dash of nutmeg

In a large bowl, add the cake mix, eggnog, milk, eggs, rum extract, nutmeg and melted butter. Mix together on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan, mini loaf or mini bundt pans or just a regular large loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (large bundt pan) or 20-25 for mini bundt pans. Brush on half of the eggnog glaze . Cool for 5 minutes before removing form the bundt pan. Then remove cakes from pan and cool completely on a baking rack. Mix together the glaze ingredients and drizzle on each of the bundt cakes. Let glaze completely dry and the glaze is set.

Recipe from Mommy's Kitchen Blog; image from Food Librarian