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Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

I was well into adulthood before I tasted bread pudding for the first time. Quite honestly, I didn’t really understand what it was and the thought of it was completely unappealing to me. Soggy bread in some sort of puddingy mix? Eww. I certainly wasn’t about to choose the bread pudding option over the 15-layer chocolate ecstasy cake on any restaurant dessert menu!

It wasn’t until I attended a Sunday brunch, at a restaurant which was local to me during my DC days, that I finally had the opportunity to try bread pudding. There, amongst the dessert table of fruity pastries, chocolate croissants, and elegant petit fours, was a large dish of warm bread pudding. This, my friends, is exactly why buffet-style dining delights my heart. I could take a risk-free scoop of that bread pudding without chancing disappointment and without the opportunity cost of my chocolate selection.

Imagine my shock upon taking my first bite of that bread pudding! That bread pudding schooled me, for sure. It was not the soggy, unappealing concoction I’d imagined it would be, but rather a sweet, luscious treat for my palate. Think french toast, but sweeter and richer. I was reformed that day. I’d even consider passing up a heavenly slice of chocolate cake for a scoop of warm, homemade bread pudding. Now, that’s saying something!

Here is my spicy, fruity take on a bread pudding; chunks of day-old French bread, topped with a spiced mixture of dried apples, apricots, and raisins, then baked to perfection in a sweet custard. Served warm, with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon, this treat would make a fantastic dessert or decadent brunch treat for any occasion or no occasion at all!

And if you’re ever in the DC/Silver Spring, MD area on a Sunday morning, check out the brunch at Mrs. K’s Toll House! Have a mimosa and a scoop of bread pudding for me while you’re there!

Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried fruits, chopped (apricots, apples, raisins…)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 cups stale French bread, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream and cinnamon, for garnish

Directions

Place chopped fruits in a bowl. Stir together the apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the fruits and allow to sit for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the melted butter into a large (about 2-quart) baking dish and swirl to coat the bottom and edges. Arrange the chunks of bread in an even layer in the baking dish.

Scatter the soaked fruits in an even layer over the bread. Drizzle any remaining liquid over the bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Pour the mixture over the bread and fruit. Press down on the bread to ensure that all pieces have been moistened. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the fridge and press down on the top again. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm, topped with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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The Kids Cook Monday – White Garlic Shrimp Pizza

Don’t get me wrong…I love a traditional slice of saucy, cheesy pizza as much as the next person (preferably dipped in a bit of bleu cheese dressing). But there’s something about a slice of white garlic pizza which makes my taste buds do a little happy dance. And last week, my happy-dancing taste buds decided that a homemade white garlic pizza, with a generous topping of tiny shrimp, was exactly what we needed.
Truth be told, I made this pizza twice last week. I had initially planned to post the recipe on Friday, but my first take on the pizza was less than ideal. It was garlicky and delicious, but the proportions of sauce and cheese to the dough were off kilter. On top of being too heavily sauced, the ricotta layer cooked up into a bit of a mess. I figured that all it needed was a little reduction on the toppings and a touch of egg white to bind the ricotta. I was about to post the recipe with my theorized improvements, but made a last minute decision to run another test. There were no complaints in our household about having this pizza twice in the same week! The second run-through was a definite winner!
As part of our Kids Cook Monday series, I invited my little helpers into the kitchen. Pizza making is ripe with opportunities for young children to get involved. Stretching dough, spreading sauces, arranging toppings, and scattering cheese are ideal tasks for little hands. Kids benefit in a number of ways while cooking. They develop math skills while measuring, fine motor skills while spreading and arranging pizza toppings, health and safety skills while washing up before cooking, and language skills while following directions. But, in my opinion, there’s no bigger reward than the proud smiles on their little faces as our family sits down to enjoy the meal they had a hand in creating.
White Garlic Shrimp Pizza
Ingredients
  • 1 large pizza shell or pizza dough, prepared or homemade*
  • 2 cups salad shrimp, cooked
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

For the Ricotta Layer

  • 3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Garlic Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper

*Click here to see my post on making homemade pizza dough.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using pizza dough, stretch the dough into a large round and arrange on a pizza stone or large baking sheet, lightly greased with olive oil.

Prepare the ricotta by combining the ricotta, egg white, garlic, parsley, and salt.

Prepare the garlic sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic to the butter. Cook for about two minutes. Add the flour to the mixture and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, until the milk begins to thicken. Turn down the heat. Add the cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

To assemble the pizza, spread a thin, even layer of the ricotta mixture over the pizza dough. Then, spread a thin, even layer of the garlic sauce over the ricotta. Scatter the salad shrimp over the sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and parsley. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Heavenly Beef and Peas

This idea was inspired by a slow-cooker recipe I’ve been told of, called Butter Beef. Butter Beef is apparently no more than stew beef combined with a stick of butter and a packet of onion soup mix, slow-cooked until fall-apart tender. I’ve yet to try this Butter Beef idea, but it’s the sort of simple dish you can practically taste just by thinking of. Slow-cooked beef in butter? Seriously tempting.

So, I began with visions of beef and butter in mind. Hey, I never claimed this was a low-fat, diet-friendly recipe blog! A fresh, chopped onion for flavor, along with a touch of tomato sauce and luscious cream blend together to form a rich, heavenly sauce which perfectly envelops the tender chunks of slow-cooked beef.

Slow-cooked, creamy, comforting, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Heavenly Beef.

Heavenly Beef and Peas

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Stew Beef
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter, divided
  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup Light Cream
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large dutch oven or oven-safe pan with a tight fitting lid, melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Season the beef with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned on all sides. Add the remaining butter and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Cover and place on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the cover and stir in the peas and cream. Turn the heat up to 375 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes uncovered, until the peas are cooked and the sauce has slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. About 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of salt should do the trick.

Serve over rice or hot, buttered noodles.

‘Thunder Bowl’ Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

Just when you thought I’d covered every possible incarnation of Buffalo chicken themed food, I’ve got another one for you! We’ve already enjoyed luscious Chicken Wing Dip, a decadent Buffalo Chicken Pizza, a tasty Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, and mouthwatering Chicken Wing Lasagna. And today, we’ve got Mini Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins; the perfect bite-sized way to enjoy all the flavor of Buffalo chicken wings, without the bones!

This recipe is inspired by a recipe I ran across on another food blog, Sprinkles of Parsley. I’d originally intended to make them as part of our Super Bowl party menu. But at the last minute, our planned party turned into a quiet night on the couch.

News of the party cancellation was easily the most distressing to our three year old, who’d spent weeks telling everyone he encountered about our planned ‘Thunder Bowl’ party. We’re still not quite sure how he dreamed up this ‘Thunder Bowl’ idea or what exactly he expected to happen during this grand event…Two men enter, one man leaves. Perhaps he’d imagined that we’d harness his little brother to his shoulders in Master-Blaster style and engage in some sort of rough and tumble mischief.

Whatever he’d been thinking, he was devastated to learn of the cancellation. He couldn’t be consoled without the promise of special Thunder Bowl treats. Bust the deal, face the wheel, Mommy!! And so, Super (or Thunder) Bowl party aside, I still had to try my hand at these tempting little appetizers!

I wonder what other ways we can come up with to get our chicken wing fix…perhaps Buffalo chicken eggrolls, ravioli, or maybe even quesadillas?

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds Baby Red Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
  • 2 cups Chicken, cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 Green Onions, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until fork-tender, but firm. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut each potato in half and scoop out most of the insides using a spoon or melon baller. (You can reserve the scooped potato insides for another purpose.) Brush both sides of the potato skins with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and bake for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the melted butter and hot sauce. Toss the chicken in the sauce until well coated. When the potato skins have finished baking, fill each skin with the sauced chicken. Top each potato skin with a sprinkle of gorgonzola, cheddar and green onions. Bake for 5 minutes, until hot and melty.

Game Day Menu Ideas

Growing up, my family never watched football. We were more of a hockey and baseball kind of clan. But every year we had a big ole Super Bowl Sunday party. I was infinitely envious of my younger sister, whose birthday happens to fall right around the Super Bowl, for she had a guaranteed birthday party each year, long after the rest of us had been weaned off of annual birthday celebrations.

In college, I briefly and half-heartedly tried to get into the whole football thing. I watched games on TV with my new college friends and looked to them to explain the ins and outs of the activity I was so hopelessly clueless about. But, my interest in football was short-lived. Not long after that, I met my husband, who’s more of a guitar and drum kind of guy than a sports fan. So, football remains largely absent from my life.

But in true, inherited non-football-fan fashion, my husband and I are throwing a Super Bowl party this year. Our game day menu is still under construction, but will almost certainly include some adaptation of these Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and a decadent German Chocolate Cake in honor of my sister’s birthday. (Those recipes to follow after the Superbowl!)

In the meantime, if you’re in search of a few new ideas for your game day celebrations, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Spicy Beef Chili

White Chicken Chili

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Jalapeno Poppers

Spinach Dip and Fried Wonton Chips

Chicken Wing Dip

Homemade Pizza Dough

Blue Cows in a Blanket

Creole Deviled Eggs

Fresh Tomato or Corn and Chipotle Salsa

Steak Bordelaise Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

It’s been a week since my last post and life hasn’t slowed down for even a moment since. My family is still in recovery from a series of vicious little winter viruses, our dog is still sick with a mysterious ailment, my laptop made a sudden decision to take a permanent vacation and we currently have a houseful of visiting family, brought together by the loss of a loved one.

These are the days which scream for comfort food. And does it get any more comforting than a big dish of spaghetti and meatballs with a crusty piece of buttery garlic bread? I’d like to argue that it does…if you stuff your meatballs with a nice chunk of melty mozzarella cheese!

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Ground Beef
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley
  • Crushed Red Pepper, as desired
  • 1 (8 ounce) ball Fresh Mozzarella, cut into 24 chunks
  • Olive Oil for baking dish

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the mozzarella and olive oil. Knead together until well combined. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in two large baking dishes or baking sheets. Roll the meat into balls of about about 1 1/2 – 2 inches diameter. Create a pocket in the center of each ball, insert a chunk of the mozzarella cheese and wrap the meat closed around it. Place the meatballs in the baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes.

Serve over spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce. Click here for my recipe for a basic homemade tomato sauce.

Makes 24 Meatballs

Super Simple Side Dish – Mediterranean CousCous

Life has left little time for blogging these past few days. Between normal day-to-day business, specialist visits for our ill dog, normal prenatal exams, and a fierce stomach bug which put myself and my family under siege, we’ve been scrambling just to keep up with the basics around here.

I’ve got a few new recipes lined up to post once things settle down for a moment, but for today we’re keeping it extra simple. I’ve got a super quick side dish, with a great amount of flavor and appeal. We decided to roast a few sausages for dinner last night. Is it weird that after a day of consuming nothing but peanut butter toast and ginger tea, all I was craving was spicy Italian sausage?? Perhaps not the wisest first dinner post-stomach bug, but the pregnancy brain is stubborn. I needed a quick, easy side dish to go along with the sausage. Pulling a few items out of the pantry and fridge, I came up with this Mediterranean-inspired couscous. Simple, delicious, and ready-to-eat in under 10 minutes.

Mediterranean Couscous

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Plain Couscous, prepared according to package directions in lightly salted water
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic or White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Greek Olives, Kalamata or oil-cured
  • 1/8 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the cooked couscous. Stir until well combined. Stir in the feta cheese crumbles, olives, tomatoes, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

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