Bourbon Bread Pudding

With the summer in full swing you might have enjoyed a hamburger or hot dog by now. And with those summer BBQ staples comes one dilemma I’m sure most have you have faced… left-over hamburger and hot dog buns. If you haven’t, you’re lucky. I was facing this very dilemma after my July 4th BBQ. I bought extra buns just in case, and while most of it went I still had some left that I just wouldn’t be able to finish on my own. So, I started thinking what I could make with them. A Bourbon Bread Pudding sounded like a good option.

To start, I soaked a cup of raisins in a quarter cup of Jim Beam Bourbon. I let them sit for about 2 hours until most of the bourbon had been soaked up by the raisins. You can actually do this step a day or two before you plan on making your bread pudding.

Since the hot dog buns were still fresh, I had to make them “stale” so that they wouldn’t fall apart too much when I added the liquid. To do so I toasted the bread. I began by slicing 8 hot dogs buns into cubes. Without splitting the buns in half, I sliced them in half lengthwise and then sliced them again into cubes. I placed them on a baking sheet and toasted them a 350 F preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Until the cubes were toasted, but not burnt.

Once the bread had cooled I transferred it to a large bowl and added in a quart of whole milk. Using my hands I pressed the bread into the milk until all of it was absorbed.

In a medium bowl I whisked together eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, allspice and cinnamon.

Once the egg mixture was well combined I poured it over the bread mixture and then gently folded everything together. Finally I folded in the bourbon soaked raisins, adding in any bourbon that hadn’t been soaked up by the raisins as well.

I poured the mixture into 9×13 baking dish that I brushed with melted butter and baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes.

When done, the edges of the bread pudding were brown and pulling away from the baking dish. And while the center was still a little wet, I knew that it would firm up as it cooled.

And while it cooled I made a bourbon sauce to drizzle over the bread pudding. In a medium saucepan I melted a stick of unsalted butter over low heat. I then added in sugar and an egg and whisked everything to combine. As the mixture continued to cook over low heat I constantly stirred it until it began to thicken. At this point I removed it from the heat and whisked in bourbon.

The sauce was the perfect topping to a slice of the bread pudding, all that was missing was a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

 

Bourbon Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

Bread Pudding:

1 cup raisins

1/4 cup whiskey bourbon

8 hot dog buns, cut into cubes

1 quart whole milk

3 large eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

Bourbon Sauce:

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup bourbon whiskey

 

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the raisins and 1/4 cup of bourbon whiskey, cover and let sit until the raisins soak up most of the liquid. At least one to two hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the cubes of bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crispy, about 12 – 15 minutes. If you find the bread still soft on the bottom, flip and bake for a few more minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a large bowl. Add the milk and using your hands press the bread into the milk until it’s absorbed.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs together and then whisk in the sugar, vanilla extract, allspice and cinnamon. Pour this over the bread mixture.

Fold the two mixtures together until well incorporated and then gently stir in the bourbon soaked raisins, adding in any bourbon that wasn’t soaked up by the raisins.

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of 9×13 baking dish and using a pastry brush (or napkin) coat the bottom and sides of the dish with the butter. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the dish and bake in the oven for 40 – 50 minutes.

The bread pudding is ready when the edges begin to brown and pull away from the sides of the baking dish.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the bread pudding is cooling you can make the bourbon sauce.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar and egg and whisk to blend it. Continue cooking the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened. It should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the bourbon.

Serve the bread pudding with the bourbon sauce drizzled over it.

Recipe modified from Simply Recipies

Sheet Pan Cauliflower Gnocchi & Roasted Vegetables

It’s safe to say that I may be hooked on sheet pan dinners after successfully making three of them. I finally made the gnocchi one I mentioned in the teriyaki chicken post from a few months ago and it was just as good as that one and as the rice and beans one. While the other two I made on a Sunday afternoon for lunch/dinner for the week, this one I made in under an hour after getting home from work one day. Being able to make dinner during the week that quick is always a good thing!

On a large sheet pan covered with aluminum foil and coated with non-stick cooking spray I combined a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen Cauliflower Gnocchi (I broke apart any large clumps and removed any ice and/or freezer burn from the gnocchi), a chopped red and orange pepper, chopped onion, and a pint of grape tomatoes. I then drizzled it with olive oil and sprinkled it garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh pepper. While the recipe had specific amounts of each spice I opted to sprinkle everything evenly with each and then gave it a good toss and placed the pan it in a 425 F preheated oven.

And after about 30 minutes dinner was ready.

I am not going to lie, I was shocked by how good this tasted. I had my doubts about the frozen gnocchi but all of that faded after the first bite. And the caramelized peppers added just the right amount of sweetness to the dish as well. All of the spices and ingredients worked so well together. This is one recipe that will be on repeat.

 

Sheet Pan Cauliflower Gnocchi & Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 12oz. bag of Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi*

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange pepper, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder**

1/2 teaspoon salt**

1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper**

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano**

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 pinch crushed red pepper

 

*Instead of frozen cauliflower gnocchi you could also use a 16oz. package of uncooked potato gnocchi. If using unfrozen gnocchi, roasting time is reduced to 20 to 25 minutes. If using frozen gnocchi, there is no need to thaw it before using. Just make sure the gnocchi is not clumped together and remove any large pieces of ice and/or freezer burn.

**As I mentioned, I didn’t measure out my spices, I sprinkled the gnocchi and vegetables evenly with each.

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

Spread the gnocchi, tomatoes, peppers and onions on the sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the seasonings over everything and toss together.

Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are bursting and the peppers are soft and caramelized.

Serve immediately.

Recipe slightly modified from How Sweet Eats

Slow Cooker Sunday: Baked Beans

I usually don’t pull my slow cooker out during the summer months. Which is kind of backwards if you think about it. Summer would be the perfect time to use it since it would mean I don’t have to turn my oven or stove on and inevitably add more heat to my already warm (or sometimes hot) house. I think my avoidance has to do with the type of meals I think of when it comes to slow-cooking… Hearty ones perfect for colder months. But, I decided to use it earlier this month to make Baked Beans. I attempted to make them last summer, but, even after soaking my beans overnight and cooking them in my slow cooker for nearly 10 hours my beans didn’t soften. This year I tried a new recipe and a short-cut to soaking my beans and the finished product was one just as delicious as some of the famous canned ones available at your local supermarket.

To save time, I diced the bacon and onion needed for the recipe the night before. To easily dice the bacon I placed it in the freezer for about an hour so it could firm up.

While most slow-cooker recipes for baked beans call for you to soften your beans by soaking them in water for 10 to 12 hours prior to cooking, I opted to take a short-cut. Instead, I rinsed them and placed them in a covered pot with water and brought them to a boil over medium-high heat. After letting the beans boil for 15 minutes, I removed the pot from the heat and let the beans soak in the water for about an hour. After an hour I drained the beans.

Once the beans were ready I layered the ingredients in the slow cooker. I spread the bacon on the bottom of my slow cooker, I then placed the beans over the bacon and finally I sprinkled the onions over the beans. I turned my slow cooker on to the low setting and covered it while I made the sauce.

To make the sauce, I whisked together water, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard in a large bowl until smooth. I poured the sauce over my ingredients in the slow cooker and covered it again and let it cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. You do not need to stir your ingredients together for this recipe. As the beans cook the flavors will develop and once the beans are ready you will give everything a good stir then.

At the 6 hour point I tasted the beans to check on the flavor and the doneness. I thought the flavor and tenderness of the beans was perfect. Unfortunately since I made these for my 4th of July BBQ I was crazed with getting things ready so I completely forgot to take a picture of the beans when they were done. But, trust me, they looked and tasted delicious!

 

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Ingredients:

1 pound dried navy, pinto or great northern beans*

1 pound thick-cut bacon, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 cups water

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

 

*I used pinto beans

 

Directions:

Go through the beans and pick out any debris or broken beans. Transfer the remaining beans to a colander and rinse with cool water. Transfer the beans to a pot and fill with water (a few inches above the beans) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the beans boil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let them sit covered for an hour and then drain.

Spread the diced bacon in a single layer in the insert of a slow cooker. Add the drained beans on top of the bacon and then the onions on top of the beans. Cover the slow cooker and set it to low. Do not stir the ingredients.

In a medium bowl combine the water, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard and whisk together until smooth. Pour the sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

At the 6 hour mark check the beans for flavor and doneness. If need be add salt and pepper to taste.

Beans are ready when they are creamy and tender.

Once ready stir all of the ingredients together and enjoy!

Recipe slightly modified from The Kitchn

Strawberry Trifle with Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th! Unfortunately the holiday weekend is now over and it’s back to the daily grind of work, but, on the bright side there is still more summer to enjoy. I had my annual BBQ on the 4th and it was a great time… You can never go wrong with great friends, delicious food and yummy desserts.

This year, one of my friends and his mother-in-law decided to have a rib throw-down. Everyone was a winner in this throw-down. One of them was declared as having the best ribs and the rest of us got to enjoy them. In all honesty both were equally delicious in my book… One had a bit of a kick and the other one had a nice amount of homemade BBQ sauce on it.

I made a few salads (macaroni, potato, black and a Greek chickpea salad), macaroni and cheese, slow cooker baked beans and of course dessert.

I made this very patriotic funfetti cake…

A Strawberry Blueberry Icebox Cake (this is actually a dessert I make every year for the 4th)…

And for the first time ever I made a trifle. It had layers of Angel Food Cake, Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Mint Macerated Strawberries. I took a major time-saving shortcut and used a store-bought Angel Food Cake as opposed to baking one from scratch. If you’re not keen on Angel Food Cake, a Pound Cake would be a nice substitute. And, if you don’t have a trifle bowl you could use a large flat-bottomed glass bowl.

 

Strawberry Trifle with Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

Store-bought or Homemade Angel Food Cake or Pound Cake, cut into cubes

For the macerated strawberries:

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and quartered

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

For the mascarpone whipped cream:

1 1/3 cups mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

For the Mascarpone Whipped Cream:

Using a handheld mixer on medium speed beat the mascarpone cheese and sugar until combined. Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

For the strawberries:

In a large bowl stir together the strawberries, sugar and mint. Let stand at room temperature until the strawberries begin to release their juices, about 15 minutes.

To assemble the trifle:

Place a single layer of cake in the bottom of the bowl. Spoon a third of the macerated strawberries over the cake and then spread a third of the mascarpone whipped cream over the strawberries. Repeat these layers two more times ending with a layer of mascarpone whipped cream. Place a few strawberries in the center of the whipped cream for decoration. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Recipe slightly modified from Williams-Sonoma

No Churn Passion Fruit Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM! Happy 1st (official) day of summer. I say official, because I am sure there are plenty of people who feel that Memorial Day is the kick-off to summer. Which, I don’t completely disagree with, but, the weather in my neck of the woods has been saying otherwise. There have been some warm days, but, quite a few days have felt like we are back in April with the rain, wind and chill in the air. As you know, April showers bring May flowers, well, we are well into June now Mother Nature so we don’t need so much of the rain. Hopefully she’ll listen. So, what better way to kick off summer than with some homemade ice cream. Last year I shared with you a No Churn Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream to kick off the summer and this year I am sharing with you a No Churn Passion Fruit Ice Cream. YUM! Passion Fruit happens to be my favorite Chobani Yogurt flavor. That’s where the idea for this ice cream flavor came about. I figured if it tasted good as a yogurt it ought to taste just as good as ice cream (and I was right.)

While I came across quite a few different recipes for this ice cream, I opted to go with one that required only 3 ingredients and less than 15 minutes of prep time. I purchased frozen passion fruit pulp from my local supermarket. To defrost it, I placed it in my refrigerator for about a day. Once it was defrosted I combined it with a can of sweetened condensed milk, whisking the two together until they were well combined. In another bowl, using my hand mixer, I whipped extra cold (I placed it in the freezer for 10 minutes) heavy cream until stiff peaks formed. I then added in the passion fruit mixture and beat everything together until just combined. I transferred the mixture to a loaf pan and placed a piece of wax paper directly on the surface before covering the pan with aluminum foil and then placing it in the freezer. And of course, I snuck a taste of it beforehand and it tasted just like my favorite Chobani yogurt, without the pesky little black seeds

After letting the ice cream set in the freezer for a few days (I am sure it was ready after a few hours, but, I happen to make this in the middle of week and was busy some doing baking and other things and totally forgot it was in freezer) I scooped myself a scoop or two and enjoyed it.

Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 14 oz. package of Passion Fruit Pulp, defrosted

1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream

Directions:

Place the heavy cream in the freezer for 10 -15 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the defrosted passion fruit pulp and sweetened condensed milk.

In another medium bowl beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Add the passion fruit mixture and continue beating until the two mixtures are combined.

Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan and place a piece of wax paper directly on the surface and the cover with a piece of aluminum foil before placing in the freezer. Free for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks.

Recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine

Sheet Pan Cuban Rice and Beans

I just might be on a sheet pan cooking kick. I recently shared a recipe for a Teriyaki Barbecue Pineapple Chicken dish and today I am sharing with you a rice and beans dish. I would have never thought I would make rice and beans in the oven on a sheet pan, but, after coming across the recipe and figuring it was worth trying I may try making some other rice dishes this way. I usually make rice the “normal” way, in a pot with water. And while it’s always edible there are times that I miss the moment when I should lower the heat and cover the pot and my rice comes out a little crispy on the bottom, or vice versa, I cover and lower it too soon and I end up with rice that has one too many clumps. I wouldn’t say it’s mushy by any means though. But, my first time using this method turn out rice that was pretty perfect.

I began by combining two sliced bell peppers (red and green), a sliced yellow onion, and 3 sliced garlic cloves with olive oil and salt in medium bowl. After tossing everything together I transferred the vegetables to a sheet pan I sprayed with cooking spray. I roasted the vegetables in a 400 F preheated oven for about 12-13 minutes.

While the vegetables were in the oven I combined rice, 2 cans of rinsed black beans, cumin, oregano, coriander, salt and 2 1/2 cups of water in a medium bowl. Don’t worry, it’s not a lot of water and if you use a large enough sheet pan it will not spill over.

After removing the pan from the oven, I stirred the vegetables and then carefully poured the rice mixture to the pan. I gave everything a few good stirs using a spoon and tongs. I covered the pan with aluminum foil and returned it to the oven for 30 minutes.

I let the pan stand for five minutes after removing it from the oven and then removed the aluminum foil and fluffed the rice with a fork. This was definitely one of the easiest and foolproof ways that I have made rice and beans. The end result was flavorful and the rice was the perfect texture and consistency.

Sheet Pan Cuban Rice and Beans

Ingredients:

2 bell peppers, any colors cut into thin strips

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine the peppers, onion and garlic in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 13 – 15 minutes, until softened. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the vegetables.

In another medium bowl combine the rice, beans, cumin, oregano, coriander, remaining salt and 2 1/2 cups of water. Pour the mixture onto the pan with the vegetables and stir to combine. Cover with foil and return the pan to the oven for 28-30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before removing the aluminum foil.

Remove the foil and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Recipe slightly modified from Epicurious

L.O.L Surprise! Themed Cake

This year for my youngest niece’s birthday she requested an L.O.L Surprise! themed birthday cake. And just in case you don’t know, L.O.L Surprise! are mini dolls that come in a toy ball. You have to peel away the layers of the ball to get to the doll. The layers include stickers, the dolls clothes and accessories and finally the doll. The surprise is not knowing what doll is in the ball. Oh and a little FYI the L.O.L stands for Lil Outrageous Littles. Granted, they have evolved into more than just a mini doll in a ball. They now come in different sized balls, big surprise balls, pets, and so forth. These toy makers have to strike while the iron is hot on any toy. The first themed cake I ever saw for the toy was a round ball similar to the ball the dolls come in. I wasn’t going to attempt something that extreme. I opted to go for something a bit simpler, but, still echoing the whimsical and fun nature of the dolls.

Initially I was planning on decorating the cake with fondant lollipops. I pretty much knew how to create them but I watched a few tutorials on YouTube just to be sure. I bought fondant in different colors, not my usual Wilton brand fondant, but one that I had used before, but, when I started making them it turned into a bit of a disaster (Insert the emoji of the girl with her hand to her head… LOL!). I am not sure if it was because it was warm that day or the fondant was just too soft, or a combination of both, but, my fondant kept thinning out when I tried to twist the fondant together as I created the lollipop. So much so that it would break before I was done winding the lollipop. I ended up with a few decent ones, but, I wasn’t happy enough with them to use them for the cake. Also, even after leaving them out for a few days the fondant never hardened.

My back-up plan was to buy lollipops I saw at my local party store if all else failed, but, I decided to try one more thing… Meringue Lollipops. To make the meringue I whisked together room temperature egg whites and sugar in the bowl of my stand mixer over boiling water. Once the sugar had completely dissolved I placed the bowl on my mixer and added in vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Using the whisk attachment and setting the mixer to high I whisked the mixture until stiff peaks formed. Next, I divided the meringue into three bowls and tinted each one using gel food colors, gently folding the colors into the meringue. I spooned the three colors side-by-side on a piece of plastic wrap, folded the plastic wrap in half and then rolled the entire thing to create a cylinder shape, making sure to tightly wound the ends of the plastic wrap. I snipped one of the ends off and then dropped it into a piping bag I had fitted with a Wilton 1M tip. I then piped 1M swirls on a parchment lined baking sheet to create the lollipops and then gently inserted a lollipop stick into each. I baked them in a 200 F preheated oven for about 2.5 hours. The meringue has to be baked at a low temperature for a long period of time so it can properly dry out. I let them cool inside of the oven with the door slightly open and ended up with perfect (and edible) lollipops to decorate the cake with. I kept these stored in an airtight container until I was ready to use them.

Now, for the cake. I had every intention of baking the cake from scratch, but, box cake was on sale the week before and when you are planning on decorating a cake the same weekend you have a long list of other things to get done around the house the easy road is the way to go. I wanted the cake to have some height so I baked four 9-inch cakes using two boxes of Devil’s Food cake mix. I opted to use three of them and kept the fourth one to snack on. I made the cakes the night before and then wrapped them in plastic wrap and stored them in the refrigerator.

The next day I made two batches of my go to Fluffy Vanilla Frosting and an easy and quick chocolate mousse for the filling (I beat 1 cup each of whole milk and heavy cream along with a packet of Jell-O Instant pudding until creamy). I then torted the cake, filled it, and crumb coated it. I placed it in the refrigerator for a half hour while I tinted the remaining frosting.

 

I fitted three piping bags with different sized round tips and filled each with the tinted frosting.

Once the cake was ready I piped the frosting around and on top of the cake, smoothed it and then sprinkled some sprinkles on it. At this point I placed it back in the refrigerator so I could finish decorating it the following day.

 

The next day it was time to decorate. I had searched online for L.O.L Surprise! cut-outs and while I did find some that cost about $10, I also found a website with free clip-art. So, I decided to save my $10 and printed the clip-art out on cardstock and then cut out the dolls myself. Here’s a pic of my very technical way of getting the L.O.L Surprise! paper dolls on the cake. I place a piece of double-sided tape on the back of them, placed a lollipop stick on it and then used regular tape to hold it all together… it worked! I also placed a few of the cut outs on the front of the cake. For those pieces I taped a piece of wax paper behind them before adhering them to the cake with left-over frosting.

After a little positioning I got everything on the cake and was very happy with the final outcome.

   

For transporting purposes I had to remove all of the decorations…

But, I am happy to say that everything went back on just fine once it reached its destination. The Birthday Girl was very happy with it. What will the next themed cake be???