Friday, June 7, 2019

Grandma's Apple Butter Bread Pudding

Instead of chucking your loaf of day or two old French Bread, transform it into an old fashioned classic, bread pudding.
Bread pudding dates back, way back, and made its debut here in the Americas, by way of immigrants that settled in Louisiana.
Bread Pudding started as a way to utilize stale bread and stretch a buck. Over the years, it has evolved and made its way to even the Michelin starred tables.
A rainy day like today is a perfect day for the warm and inviting smells and satisfaction of a freshly baked bread pudding.  I successfully canned my first batches of Apple Butter this past summer and used some to execute this warm and cozy recipe.  Prep is relatively a cinch and the results can rival any actual Grandma's recipe, because it's made with the same heart and soul.  Of course recipes will vary, depending on your finished apple butter product, but delicious will still be in the description when it's all said and done.
1 lb. day or 2 old Fench Bread, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 c. milk, I used 2%
1/2 c. heavy cream, optional, you can use more milk if desired
1 8 oz. jar Apple Butter, preferably Grandma's homemade
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 tbsp. butter, unsalted, cut into small chunks
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. good quality Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt or to taste
Raw Honey to Garnish, optional
Vanilla or your favorite icecream for an extra special experience
Whipped Cream, optional
Combine wet ingredients, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt until well incorporated.
Spray or grease baking vessel with cooking spray or butter.
Place half of the butter cubes along bottom of vessel.
Arrange bread cubes evenly across baking dish.
Pour liquid over bread slowly, giving bread time to absorb. 
Dot with rest of butter pieces.
Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 
Remove plastic wrap, but not foil . You will be baking this covered for the first 30 minutes or more, allowing the custard to rise and set.
Bake in a 350* oven for about 35 minutes, then remove foil for last 15. 
Bake time depends on depth of vessel. 
Bake until golden, also until toothpick inserted towards center, comes out clean.
 I used individual serving cast iron pans and cut the time more than in half. 
Serve Warm or room temperature not Hot for best results.

Looking for a good homemade Apple Butter recipe, I will be posting mine soon.  Be sure to follow up for the recipe!;)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

From Spare Ribs to DAO Ribs: From Coach to a Private Jet

Spare ribs aren't an item you'll find on the menu at your favorite bistro or rib joint, but let me tell you, they should be.  They are the least expensive of the rib variety, partly because of the bone/meat ratio, but also because of the rat/lean ratio.  As consumers, we eat with our eyes first and have unfairly decided that less bone means better, and we pay accordingly.  
I am a supporter of spare ribs, and I prefer them over the more sought after baby back and St.Louis style, even though for the St. Louis, it's just a matter of where you cut the slab.  Like a T bone steak, it has the New York strip and the filet on the same bone. Likewise, A spare rib has the St. Louis style included, it simply must be trimmed to achieve a more uniform and easier to manage protein.

I like the fact that the spare rib is looked over sometimes, that keeps its reasonably priced, because some don't want to put in the minimal effort it takes to break down the protein.   If you are entertaining and want to present well to your guests, odds are, you probably won't pick spare ribs.  I like that it is versatile and will stand up to the demands of a recipe, albeit braised with potatoes, simmered in tomato sauce, gravied or pressure cooked, smoke kissed and slathered with homemade SAUCE! Gotta Have Some Sauce! 
You can dress them up or down and not be judged.  Spare ribs can be elevated, and once they are, it can be phenomenal. The bones and fat have them loaded with much more flavor and body.
Heck, we pay upwards of 40+ dollars basically for the bone that makes a Tomahawk Steak so appealing.  I feel the premise is the same for the spare rib!  I'm just glad enough people don't realize this and drive the cost of these guys through the roof! lol Ribs... I think I'll call it the DAO RIB. The Dao is an ancient Chinese weapon, one of the most common and widely used weapons of it's time.
Yeah, I like that.  It's loosely shaped like a DAO, so I'll go with it. I hope it catches on!
Eating ribs require that you understand that there is a certain amount of getting your 'hands dirty' involved, some excessive wiping, and some finger licking, YES, it is allowed.  I love having fresh aromatics like sage and rosemary on hand to pair beautifully with my pork and other proteins for the  preparatory process.  I love knowing where my herbs come from too; my garden. 
Perhaps my love of the lowly 'spare rib' comes from a more humble place.  A time when families
 were lucky to have meat at all for most meals, much less a cut from an animal being sold in the markets. It took some social classes many generations to eat "high on the hog".   Not too long ago and maybe now, some families ate only what they could capture or kill;  if rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums and groundhogs were what they obtained, from hunting on their land or someone else's, then wildlife it was.
Deer were also an option and offered much more variety, but also sweat equity.
The good ole pig came first to Cuba, thanks to Queen Isabella of Spain via Christopher Columbus circa 1493.
Hernando De Soto came with 13 pigs to the Americas in 1539, which reached the 700's in a mere 3 years and the rest is delicious history.
Alas, that is a story for another day.
1.  I pressure cooked these spice rubbed ribs 45 minutes in my Ninja Foodi, which I LOVE, I know my oven is so jealous haha!  If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can par boil them for about 1 1/2 hours in a seasoned broth, flavored chicken stock, onion, garlic and celery.
2.  Next, I put them on the grill using charcoal and indirect heat, while I mowed the lawn, (about 1 1/2 hours) imparting another layer to its flavor profile.
3. After the heat died down to low, I brushed the DAO ribs with homemade BBQ sauce, and placed them over the warm coals. After about 30 minutes, I removed them from the grill.  I finished them off by dousing them with another round of sauce. BANANAS!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DIY Serving Boards 2: Serving Up A Message

I had some more fun customizing my bamboo cutting boards.  I am happy with these results as well.  If you may recall from my first installment Hearts and Crafts: DIY Serving Boards, I created the design using a six pack ring.  This was a wonderful project to share with my youngest, Bronwyn.  I was actually having so much fun with it, It didn't feel like work at all.  Completion took about 1/2 hour, give or take and I was sad to reach the end.  I was satisfied with the overall design, which I made up as I went along, but most of all, the message.  Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
There is a little something we all can do to reduce our imprint on the Earth, from reusing sour cream or other plastic containers as disposable storage vessels, to refilling your used water bottles with suitable drinking from the store bought gallon or water from home.  We have well water that extends down about 330 feet underground and I think it's better than any bottled water I've had to date! There's nothing wrong with picking up trash that isn't your own along the roadside, it makes your area more beautiful.  Separating plastics and metals etc. at home is awesome.  Composting, if you have the space and/or a garden, is great too.  Remember every bit counts.  The next time you serve up some delicious sandwiches, cheese and crackers or charcuterie, serve it with a message; one of hope, preserving our future and extending our relationship with Mother Earth, Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Wholesome Banana Sour Cream Loaves

 Looking for a delicious and nutrient dense recipe including one of the most popular and abundant fruits around, these loaves are sure to please. This moist and handy loaf/loaves can be served for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.
Packed with protein and bursting with banana flavor, your family from toddlers to tweens and adults can enjoy homemade goodness on the go.  I gave individually wrapped loaves to my a couple of my sisters/spouses for an objective critique of my recipe, and they approved.

There is flax meal and organic coconut flour used in place of an abundance of AP flour.  Pure cane sugar is also used instead of regular granulated sugar.  Since writing this recipe, I have switched completely to pure cane sugar for all my baking needs, with no disappointments! 
The key to this recipe is having bananas that are SUPER ripe!  I had a surplus of bananas on hand that I'd frozen, so once thawed, they were at a banana-y peak! Yeah, I made that word up lol.  In summary, the more ripe, the better flavor, for the best loaves! This a great recipe for bake ahead and freezing.
1 1/2 c. unbleached AP flour
1 c. organic flax meal
1/2 c. organic coconut flour
5 tsp. double acting baking powder
1 1/2 c. very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 c. pure cane sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. evaporated milk 
1/3 c. canola oil
3 eggs, slightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl.
Gradually add dry mix into wet ingredients, stirring just until each round is moist.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure it's well incorporated.
Divide evenly among pans, filling about 1/2 inch from the top.
Bake until golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes for individual sized loaf pans, closer to 40 minutes for regular sized loaf pans, depending on oven.

Monday, June 3, 2019

No Bake Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake and My Twilight Muse

This year, I thought it was time to physically revamp my herb garden and revamp I did.  I initially wanted a spiral garden, like the one I saw in a magazine 2 summers ago, but lost track of the article!  Needless to say, better late than never!  I built my new garden around my gorgeous rosemary bush, which stands about 3 feet tall and looks amazing.  Rosemary has elevated many a meal from beef to chicken and pork, even squirrel ( I prefer the French word Ecureuil) Ecureuil in Confit I have the same bush as when I wrote that recipe.  She is an Allstar!
This time around, Sage is doing so well.  In the beginning, I had a surplus of oregano and parsley, that returned happily year after year.  The parsley had run it's course and the oregano had bid adieu.  I was gifted some oregano from a portion I'd gifted to my sister Gayle, but I had to buy new parsley seeds, no problem.  I also have more chives, basil, cilantro, Chocolate and regular Mint.  I once had a bright and beautiful Borage plant, with its vibrant purple, white and pink edible flowers, she flew the coop years ago as well.  I'm growing some micro greens and sweet salad greens in the back garden spot, along with some colorful carrots.  I have yet to plant my Rainbow Chard, gotta get on the ball!
I replaced Borage with other edible flowers this time like Marigolds and Nasturtiums, also some "Cheese and Wine" Verbenas. I threw in some Red Russian Kale for adornment and fast greens for salads and sautes and a couple of plants from my compost garden.
I love those (now big) little guys because they grew from what we could not use of veggies past.  Now, they are thriving alongside the other garden goodies and will provide us with its fruits of labor once again.  These plants have come full circle, that's an example of the perfect produce scenario. I am tickled.  I placed some heirloom tomatoes (Purple Cherokee and Giant Pink Belgian ) along the outer wall of my herb garden and also a cucumber plant for dexterity and ready to go salad ingredients.
We have a larger garden where all our other produce is growing, providing some exercise and much  needed therapy in an ever increasingly stressful world.
 My herb garden has become my new Sanctuary, my serenity, my rock of solace.  I embellished her with solar lights, as I may see her when I am seeking refuge in the twilight hours.  She is like a lighthouse beacon, showing me the way, beckoning me to come close, smell the fragrant bounty, entertain her with accolades of how lush and fertile she is.

I have renewed vigor with my latest herb garden design, and not a moment too soon.  Summer for my tween and teen is here, cousins will follow....the "there's nothing to do" and "It's Hot" and "I hate Mosquitoes" will become the summer anthem.  "I'm hungry" will be their calling card, but I wouldn't  trade it for the world.  They are my little herbs too, only not so little anymore...   I have fairy figurines representing my little gems among the greenery.  My fairies even have a wishing well, a bird bath with bedazzled 'water' and a flower laden Trellis for their enjoyment.  I will probably come confessing to my twilight muse, that is this new exciting place, more often than not.
Hello Summer Break, Let the games begin!

2 pkg. Softened Cream Cheese
1 c. Confectioner's sugar or to taste
4 oz. Sour cream
8 oz. whipped topping or whipped cream
1 tbs. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1- 9 inch Graham Cracker Crust
Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, lemon,  zest and spices in stand mixer, whipping until light and fluffy.
Add whipped topping and continue whipping until incorporated.
Pour into crust and smooth evenly.
 Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Serves 8.
Serve with cherry or favorite topping.
Feel free to make lighter substitutions/combinations as desired.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Go Nuts for Bronuts: Easiest Cinnamon Maple Bacon Pull Apart Donuts

This recipe idea came to me one evening while watching a television show, that I admittedly skipped while flipping channels at one time, but grew to love once I gave it a shot, Two Broke Girls. Once the idea hit, I set out with my trusty assistant and youngest, Bronwyn and we hit the lab!
This is a quick and easy recipe with major gratitude and flavor points.  The kids and I loved them and they are sure to be a requested favorite with your brood too.  These are donuts you can make and eat with your homies...Bronuts!
My favorite part about these puppies is that we used jumbo refrigerator biscuits and other on hand ingredients to achieve what's pictured above. There are several steps that can be spread amongst your help, so everyone can feel included, thus making this treat extra special and even more delicious!
I make slits to the center around the circumference of each biscuit, creating a pull apart donut effect, which was another perk to this simply fantastic sweet and savory treat!
I used a donut machine to bake these donuts, but you can make a hole and deep fry or bake them, the choice is yours.

1 can Jumbo Butter Biscuits, 8
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. Cinnamon infused Maple Syrup
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 oz. cooked bacon crumbles
Cook/Bake donuts according to desired cooking medium.  I used my fingers to make a small hole to fit onto donut machine. If you fry them, be sure to drain well on paper towels before attempting to glaze.
Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, milk, brown sugar and Maple syrup in a small bowl, until the cream cheese is the consistency of a nice thick, but spreadable glaze.
Dip donuts into glaze and garnish each donut with bacon crumbles, optional.
Makes 8 delicious biscuit donuts!

"BETTERTHANEVERIANS" Whole Roasted Cauliflower

 Bettertarians Movement 

Finally a 'label' that truly fits more of us than not; a chance to get the credit you deserve for the little things, that over time, can have big and lasting benefits.  Some examples include sometimes choosing wheat over white, organic over gmo, nut milks over animal milks, baked over fried, reading the labels instead of ignoring them, choosing an ingredient with no added sugars, being aware of sodium content, water over regular soda, a petite cut of steak over a monstrosity, a blended burger instead of a full meat burger, green tea instead of coffee...the list goes on and on.  
Other times it can be as simple as adding a "superfood" like matcha powder, maca powder, spirulina, acai, acacia, turmeric, flax and chia seeds, tree nuts, ancient grains, raw honey, quinoa, mushrooms, flax meal with your dishes to give it an extra burst of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants our body human needs.  
Further still, bettertarianism includes taking time to meditate or silently reflect, stretching, incorporating weights into workouts, choosing red wine over beer, one less alcohol drink at a social gathering, drinking more water, one less slice of pizza, researching alternatives to smoking, getting a little more needed rest at night.  All of these are examples of being a Bettertarian.  Singularly, they may seem miniscule, but baby steps are steps, nonetheless! You can be proud. I see you!
Educating ourselves about the foods we consume is partly our responsibility as consumers, to look beyond what we are told about products to reach our own legitimate conclusions.
We all have the capacity to improve ourselves, but no two methods are the same.
Once we have decided to "do better", we have taken the biggest step.
Believe in yourself.  Believe in Better. 
Good Choices, Better Living, Best Health.
Bettertarians become "Betterthaneverians"!

1 whole head cauliflower, excess leaves removed
Tuscan Herb Seasoning
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seasoned Rice Vinegar, Optional
Shaved Parmesan Cheese
SPST(Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Preheat oven to 400*F.
Par Boil whole cauliflower in salted water for 15 minutes.
Remove from water and Drain.
Place in oven safe cooking vessel and drizzle liberally with Olive Oil.
Add herb blend as desired and SPST.
Open Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender throughout.
Add Shaved Parmesan during the last 5 minutes of roasting.