Flavor Play: Bread Pudding

Photo: esimpraim The Wikipedia page for Bread Pudding will tell you that this widespread, traditional dish is a dessert, but that's not true anymore. Without all of the sugar, a bread pudding is just as good--still eggy, still soft, still rich, but better for dinner or any other time for that matter.

Need some ideas? Here are some tips:

  • Start with the basics - There's no perfect ratio for every type of bread, pan and ingredients, but there's a lot of wiggle room, too. More liquid to bread means a more custardy texture, which I personally prefer. Start with 3 eggs and 2 cups whole milk to 4 cups of cubed bread, and adjust to your liking.
  • Waste not, want not - Like making bread crumbs or croutons, making bread pudding with stale bread works better than with fresh. So whatever you've got on hand, use it. Croissants, cornbread, fruit cake, donuts, challah, sourdough, baguette, wholegrain, etc. (If you have fresh bread, toast the cubes lightly before assembling. It helps to keep the shape and not-too-soggy texture of the pudding.) For denser, drier breads like baguette or wholegrain, let them soak in the egg mixture longer before baking. And, not all breads can go in both the sweet and savory directions-- fruit cake and donuts for example aren't interchangeable
  • Savory - This is the easy part. Like what we did with waffles last week, add in whatever savory flavor-combinations you want. Tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, or prosciutto, leeks, and parmesan. Because the mixture will cook in the oven, you can add in chopped raw onion, and heavy greens (mustard, collard, kale). Make sure to add salt and pepper, and any other spices. (In a lot of ways, a bread pudding is like a quiche or an omelette, so look to your favorites for inspiration.) Try this Leek Bread Pudding.
  • Sweet - The first step in a sweet bread pudding is adding sugar to the mix. At least half a cup, of white or brown, for the above amounts but more doesn't hurt. Some recipes even call for two and a half cups. And then, the add-ins! Consider fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, spices, liquor, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, pumpkin and ginger, caramel, citrus curd, citrus zest, and anything else you think of! Try this Louisiana-style White Chocolate Bread Pudding to start.

bread pudding

Bake at 350 until the custard is set and top is browned. But don't feel confined to using a standard baking dish. The custard will set in ramekins and a muffin pan too, for individual servings.

For more ways to play with flavors, click here.

No Cook Recipe: Chilled Soups

gazpacho We think of soup as a comforting, heartwarming, cold-weather food, but in the hottest days of summer, chilled soups are flavorful and (thank goodness) hydrating. That's not the only reason to make one, though. Some others: 1) Use up seasonal produce, 2) Impress guests with the brightly-colored flavorful concoctions, 3) Make dinner in ten minutes, and again, 4) Keep cool. Don't be overwhelmed by your choices--if you've ever made a smoothie before, you can make a puréed soup. The oil, texture, vegetables, and spices can separate this from anything you could pick up at a juice bar and enjoy with a spoon.

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

Use the ideas below and create your own flavor profile. The suggested fruits and vegetables are ones that work best as a puréed product.

  • Vegetables - Beets, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, white onions, bell peppers, green onions, celery, ginger, corn, avocado, scallions
  • Greens - Spinach, arugula, basil, watercress
  • Fruits - Mango, watermelon, peaches, cherries, strawberries, apples, papaya, cantaloupe
  • Creaminess - Try adding almonds, silken tofu, or plain yogurt to the puree. Alternatively, use regular/vegan milk, or buttermilk, to add a richness to it.
  • Thickness - Bread crumbs, nuts, and dried fruits (including sun-dried tomato) can help to thicken a very thin soup.
  • Brightness (read: acidity) - Add fresh citrus juice or a dash of vinegar for a better, more complex flavor.
  • Richness - Don't be afraid to add fats, from a drizzle of avocado oil to a cupful of olive oil. (Although go slowly and taste as you add, as you can't undo it.) Avoid coconut oil, which will harden if cold.
  • A kick - Cayenne, minced jalapeños, garlic cloves, chili oil, harissa, sriracha, Tabasco, and paprika are all good options.
  • Texture - Don't puree all of what you've got. Save half a vegetable and add it in at the end, pureeing just until it remains chunky, or serve with chopped hard-boiled egg, or pieces of crispy prosciutto, or more toasted nuts. Or croutons. Or grated cheese. Or fresh corn kernels.

sorrel soup

That's a lot of information, but here are three recipes to help you get started:

5-minute Tomato Basil Soup

Strawberry Gazpacho

Yellow Tomato and Papaya Gazpacho

Want to Eat Better? Here's How to Start

Photo: cleber

With all of the amazing chefs, restaurants, food carts, and everything delicious in between, it's hard to keep a complete healthy diet. Everyday, a new chef is born, a new meal is created, and a new dining option is widely available. It gets to be a bit much sometimes, keeping up with not only the Joneses, but also keeping up with everything the food world has to offer. Now more than ever, it's important to not only know where our food source is coming from but to also know key factors when it comes to feeding ourselves and our families.  You always hear words like "grassfeed"  and "sustainability" but do we really know what any of these words mean? Here are a few key definitions to help you eat better.

Organic: Refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Soil and land is minimally processed with out any artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation. Foods cannot be irradiated, genetically modified or grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge. Organic meat and poultry cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics, and organic meat animals must have access to the outdoors.

Locavore: Someone who exclusively or at least primarily eats foods from their local or regional food shed, or a determined radius from there home. Commonly 100-250 miles in radius from where they live depending on the location of where they live.

Free Range: A method in farming, where animals are allowed to roam freely instead of being detained in any matter.

Grass Feed: Animals who eat  a diet of natural grass and other forage in there natural environment instead of cheap feed.

Cheap Feed: Food for animal consumption condensed of meat from other animals or the same species of animal (meat from diseased animals;feathers; hair; skin; hooves; blood; animal waste; plastic; antibiotics)

Sustainable Agriculture: Food production methods that are healthy, don't harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fare wages to farm workers and support farming communities. This can pertain to produce, meat, seafood, etc.

Cage Free: Refers to hens that are not raised in cages. There is no standard definition for "cage free" and cage free also means that animals aren't in cages but may also not be outdoors either.

Hormone Free: Animals that are and were never given hormone treatments

Natural: Nothing is grown with artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. If processed, it must not fundamentally alter the the product. If the product is labeled, the label must include a specific explanation.

Pasture Raised: Animals that are naturally raised in a pasture that can roam freely in their natural environment. They are able to eat nutritious grasses and other plants that their bodies are adapted to digest.

For more How To stories, CLICK HERE.

How To Make Popsicles at Home

Experiment with flavors and add-ins to make your popsicles personal to your whims. (Photo: roboppy) In the heat, there are only a few things that can make the heat enjoyable. A view of the ocean, an ice cold drink, and a flavorful popsicle, just to name a few. When the temperature is over 90 degrees, a popsicle is the perfect way to cool your body down and also sneak in a tasty treat. Popsicles are an all-time favorite, but a sugary box with grape, orange, and cherry flavors just aren't cutting it anymore. Different flavors, teas, spices, and sweeteners can all be added  to your popsicle of choice when you make them at home. Making these warm weather favorites are quick and easy. Here are some tips on making popsicles at home. 

With or Without: 

Homemade popsicles are easy to make no matter what time of day. A few ingredients and a few options will have your freezer stocked with popsicles for the entire summer. The primary tool for making popsicles, naturally, is a popsicle maker. Truthfully, popsicles can be made in anything ranging from an actually popsicle maker of any shape, size and mold, a small narrow cup, or even ice cube trays that you already have in your freezer. If you are using cups versus a traditional popsicle mold, it will be great help to have some plastic wrap on hand as well. A layer of plastic wrap over the molds, then inserting the popsicle sticks through the plastic will help the sticks stay in place when freezing. Another option for making popsicles without molds are, partially freeze your filling in the molds for about 30 minutes, and then add the popsicle stick. This will help the stick stay in place and not lean to one side. When filling the molds or cups with your desired flavors, pour filling from a pitcher or something with a spout that will allow you to pour directly in the mold. This helps control your pour and helps with the ease of clean up.

Flavors: 

The great thing about making popsicles at home is the flavors you can create. Whether fruit based or dairy based, these decisions can be mixed and matched to how you like them. Fruit, Dairy, and Sweeteners are the 3 main things that can compose a great popsicle. A water based popsicle has no dairy, and fruit is the main component, where as a dairy-based popsicle can be rich and creamy with the help of milk, yogurt, or even Greek yogurt. Sugar, agave nectar, and honey can be added in to combat the sugary sweetness of conventional store-bought popsicles.

An Ice Cold Treat: 

Now that you are a popsicle flavor master, it's time to eat them. When completely frozen solid, run the mold or cup under warm water for just a few minutes. This helps release the popsicle from the mold so you can pull them out easier. Popsicles will last in the freezer for a few weeks or you can unmold them and wrap them individually and freeze them.

For an extra kick, make adult-only poptails-- cocktails in popsicle form.

No-Cook Recipe: Poptails

popsicles, frozen drinks, alcohol, poptails, cocktail It's hot outside, and it's hot inside. Not the easiest time to host guests, especially if like my own, your air conditioning can't handle a lot of bodies in one room. Drinking alcohol doesn't help either, as it raises body temperature and leaves everyone feeling flushed.

I realized a couple of summers what to do to your cocktails to keep your friends around for a few more hours: Freeze them.

Poptails - cocktails in popsicle form - help to beat the heat.

The key to adding alcohol to popsicles is in the ratio. Because alcohols freeze at lower temperatures than water or juice, you need to dilute them. Depending on the proof of your alcohol and consistency of the other ingredients, you want to use about 1 part alcohol to 4 parts mixer, although less mixer for beer, wine, or Champagne.

It's fun (and really cute) to take a signature cocktail and adapt it for frozen form. The fruitier and more diluted the drink, the easier it is. Fruity isn't the only route, however. What about coffee with milk, sugar, and a little bit of a cream liquor?

Be creative, and have fun... just as if you were making liquid cocktails.

Here are three I've made (and much enjoyed):

  • Greyhound - Freshly-squeezed pink grapefruit juice, sugar, and vodka.
  • Apple and Bourbon - Apple juice is sugary enough on its own, so cut the sweetness with a bit of lemon juice--and a shot of bourbon.
  • Tom Collins - Instead of sparkling water and lemon juice, just use lemonade in this remake of the classic cocktail. Add gin and an herb (mint, tarragon, or basil) for a sophisticated touch.

For the most successful, most-intact pops, get all of the details on how to make them.