June 29, 2012

BLT Crostini

During the summertime there is no need to slave over the hot stove when you can make easy light meals without much cooking, if any at all.   I’m sure we all feel the same way about cooking and baking.  It’s a great accomplishment to create a delicious meal or dessert that takes a whole day and sometimes more. 
It is not only a rewarding feeling when the final product is so delectable which makes it worth our hard work, but also it’s nice to see the smile on the faces of those we share our treats with.  However, I’m sure we all agree that once in a while it’s nice to throw something together that is easy and simple without much work.   It frees us of distraction and worry so that we have more time to relax on the patio with an icy beverage while visiting with friends and family.
These bacon, lettuce and tomato bites are a great option for something light when you don’t feel like cooking a big meal.   You can make as little or as much as you need or even make bigger sandwich version.  This recipe made me dream of other things I can throw together in a similar manner with French bread, a spread and a fruit or vegetable.   For examples I think the kids would also love this quick idea: toast the slices of bread, spread on peanut butter and top with a slice of banana and drizzle of honey. 
1 loaf French bread
Bacon Slices, cooked or Bacon Jam (Store-bought or homemade. I used the Bacon Jam made by Skillet Street Food and it was really good.)
1 head green leaf lettuce
1 pkg. cherry tomatoes
Sea Salt
I made these delicious bite-sized morsels as snacks for a brunch I hosted.  I sliced the loaf of French bread about ¼ inch thick.  I placed all the sliced bread on a cookie sheet and drizzled with olive oil and broiled until toasted (about 2-4 minutes).   Then spread about a teaspoon of bacon jam on each toast.  Tear clean lettuce leaves into small pieces that fit on the toasts. Place on top of the jam.   Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place both halves on lettuce leaves.  Sprinkle sea salt over the top. 
**This recipe and article is also featured on SouthlakeMoms.com.  http://www.southlakemoms.com/2012/05/01/blt-crostini/

June 27, 2012

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Chocolate, caramel and salt go so well together. Anytime I see a treat with these ingredients featured, I must taste it. (And yes, I even got the glazed doughnut from 7/11 one day that was topped chocolate glaze, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt. It was so good and so bad for me! I couldn't resist) Forget I told you that. If I see a recipe I must make it. My husband and I both love this flavor combo and have been addicted to a Fleur de sel caramel ice cream we discovered one day at the grocery store. Fleur de sel is a potent and delicious sea salt.

I think the first experience I tried where I actually fell in love with this flavor combination was when my husband made these Espresso Caramel Bars for my birthday one year. His favorite chef is Giada De Laurentiis so most of his dishes are using her recipes. Wow, they were amazingly delectable and addictive. Beware and be prepared when you make them. Your friends and family will request them from you often.

This cake is easier to make in my opinion. If you haven't had the awesome experience to try the chocolate-caramel-salt combo, you're missing out. Take the leap and enjoy!

Chocolate Bundt Cake
1 c brewed coffee
1 c butter, unsalted
1/2 c Guinness Beer
1/2 c cocoa powder, plus some for dusting the pan
1 1/2 c sugar
2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
1/2 heavy cream, warm
2 tbsp butter, unsalted, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coarse sea salt to sprinkle over top of cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Brew 1 cup of coffee. Set aside. Butter the bundt pan and sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and shake around to coat the pan evenly to prevent sticking.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the coffee, Guinness and cocoa powder stirring with a whisk. After the butter is melted, incorporate the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Whisk the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture.

Slowly add the flour to the chocolate mixture and whisk until all ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

When cake is done, let cool for one hour before attempting to remove from pan. Run a rubber spatula around the edges to loosen from pan and gently flip pan over onto a wire rack. It should remove easily.

While cake is cooling, make the caramel sauce. To a medium saucepan, add sugar and water over medium-high heat. Place cream in a separate small saucepan and heat until warm.

Stir the sugar and water until sugar has melted. Let the sugar it without being stirred. The caramel will start to boil and turn a golden brown color. When the coloring happens, remove from the heat. Stir in the warm cream and whisk. Add salt, vanilla and butter and continue to whisk until everything is combined. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. Drizzle caramel sauce over the cake and sprinkle the sea salt. Enjoy!

June 24, 2012

Sausage and Carmelized Onion Bread Pudding

Most bread puddings I've had are sweet. They were either for breakfast or dessert. I was in the mood for something savory and it was lunch time but I still wanted bread pudding for some reason. I can't decipher the reasoning behind my stomach and tastebuds sometimes but I just go with it. So I decided to go for a savory bread pudding.

A friend was coming to visit and I wanted to surprise her with something different. I turned it into a brunch. I went with this Sausage and Carmelized Onion Bread Pudding as it was light, yet filling.

4 oz pork sausage
1/2 c water
1 1/3 c milk
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
8 slices french bread, day old, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and cook for about 10 minutes or until carmelized into a beautiful brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove onions from pan to a small bowl and set aside. Coat pan again with cooking spray. Crumble sausage into pan. Stir and cook until browned. Add onions back to pan and stir to combine. Once combined, pour onto a paper towel covered plate or bowl. This will help soak up any additional grease. Set aside.

Whisk together, milk, salt, eggs and egg white. Add bread and gently toss to coat all pieces.

Stir the sausage and onion mixture into the bread mixture. Spray a 8-9 inch baking dish. Add the combined mixture. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!