Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Uncategorized

Banana Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

Our local market usually has a reduced-priced cart of day old bakery goods situated in the back of the store. I always make a point to stop to see what’s available to perhaps make a batch of fresh bread crumbs, garlic bread, or a bread casserole. Most times, I use the bread for a morning breakfast casserole that includes eggs, milk, sausage, vegetables and cheese. But today, I wanted to make something sweet to accompany a bit of vanilla bean ice cream that I had on hand. I also had a few bananas that were beyond their peak of ripeness.

This recipe is a keeper! Served warm with a few small scoops of ice cream, this has become a family favorite!

Banana Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 cups French bread, cubed

2 bananas, sliced (overly ripe, if possible)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7×11″ baking pan. In a large bowl, combine and mix eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in bread, bananas, and chocolate chips, and let sit for 5-7 minutes for bread to soak up the liquid mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until pudding is golden brown and center is set.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Cake, Desserts, Food

Apple Cider Donut Cake

Several weeks ago, a local orchard hosted a day of free apple-picking. Our family took a leisurely ride out to the farm and picked oodles of gorgeous red apples in the late summer sunshine. After it was all said and done, we had picked nearly seventy pounds of apples. Our canvas bags were overflowing as we loaded them into the car and headed to the farmhouse for a hearty lunch. As we waited for our table, I thought about all of the delicious treats I could make with our lot. I would make applesauce in the pressure cooker, several spicy applesauce quick breads, a special Bundt cake that holds an array of wonderful fall flavors, peanut butter and apple slice sandwiches, and lots of other apple flavored items.

This cake is one of our family favorites. I often bring it along to various outdoor parties hosted during the autumn months. It’s a great Thanksgiving dessert. Served up with a piping hot cup of tea or coffee, this one is a winner!

Apple Cider Donut Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

¾ cup apple cider

½ cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup coarsely shredded peeled tart apples (2 medium)

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

3 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°F. Generously spray a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, beat together the first 6 ingredients. Stir in apples. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let stand 20 minutes; loosen Cake and remove from pan to cooling rack or large, round cake platter.

Brush top and sides of cake with 3 tablespoons melted butter. In small bowl, mix sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until blended. Carefully and generously distribute sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top and sides of the cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe found here:

https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/apple-cider-doughnut-cake/7d9dadd5-834d-469e-9485-3356d8f028c4

A beautiful day for a drive…Beautiful red delicious apples…

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Uncategorized

Our Favorite Pound Cake

I’ve had this recipe in my file for many years. This is absolutely a “no fail”, simplistic batter that turns out the perfect pound cake every time. While I usually add almond extract to the recipe, using lemon, anise, or rum extract will all work out great, as well. Actually, any extract will do…. Simply delicious!

Our Favorite Pound Cake

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2/3 cup water

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix

1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Beat in water and sour cream. Carefully, add and beat in the cake mix and flour. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast

Fresh Blueberry and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

Nearly every Saturday, I peer into my over crowded refrigerator to see what left-over ingredients I can pull together to make a few quick weekend meals. This past Saturday, I wanted to make a warm coffee cake for the breakfast table. As I poked around the fridge and rummaged through various containers, I found all the ingredients needed to make this delicious, fruit-filled braid. If you’re looking for a quick baked treat, this is the one for you.

Fresh Blueberry and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

1 package crescent dough sheet

1 pint blueberries

8 ounces package of cream cheese, softened

¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a slightly floured surface, carefully roll out the crescent dough into a thin, rectangular sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the center of the crescent roll sheet. Leaving about an inch and a half of dough on either side of the mixture. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with the tablespoon of flour, lemon zest, and teaspoon of sugar. Carefully spread the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture.

To prepare the dough, make diagonal cuts into the dough from the exterior and cut about 1 ½” into the center on the long ends of the dough. Make roughly 8-10 cuts on each side. Pull the strips of dough over the top the blueberries, alternating sides. Transfer to a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

While it is cooling, whisk together milk, almond extract, and powdered sugar to create a glaze.

When the blueberry braid has slightly cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top and serve.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake

Cinnamon Roll Cake

I just love easy, semi-homemade recipes. Last week, just before the Easter holiday, stores throughout my neighborhood had great deals on baking staples like sugar, flour, eggs, and cake mix. I took advantage of many of the sales buying lots of sugar for our bees and lots of cake mix for easy recipes like the one listed below. This is always one of the first items to go when set along side other items on the breakfast buffet. This cake also travels well so taking it to Easter brunch or a summer holiday party is great. Just slice the cooled cake into 1 ½” squares and serve it right out of an attractive baking dish.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 Baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, vanilla and sour cream. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then raise the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Spread the cake batter evenly into your prepared pan. In a medium bowl whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this evenly on top of your cake.

Using a butter knife gently swirl the cinnamon sugar throughout the cake batter. (Ribbons of sugar and spice.).

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake for 15-20 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and milk. Pour this over the slightly cooled cake.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Crock pot, slow cooking

Slow Cooker Apple & Cinnamon French Toast

A cold snap bringing a dose of freezing rain and light snow showers has made for an icy, Midwest spring morning. Last evening, before heading to bed, I loaded the slow cooker with a mixture of bread, eggs, milk, cinnamon and spices. I had looked at the forecast earlier in the evening and the weather sure didn’t look pretty for the early morning hours. I thought it might be nice to have a warm and toasty slice of French toast casserole ready for the family upon waking. A fresh pot of coffee and a few fruit & yogurt parfaits would round out the meal.

As the “baking” takes place in the crockpot, the house smells heavenly. The aroma alone acts as a warm hug wafting through the house. A tip that works great; cover the slow cooker with a clean, dry towel before placing the lid on the vessel. This helps to reduce excess moisture making the French toast less soggy. If you so desire, add a handful of chopped walnuts before sprinkling the final product with maple syrup and powdered sugar. Delicious.

Slow Cooker Apple & Cinnamon French Toast

15-20 slices of day old bread

10 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoons salt

pinch ground nutmeg

2 small apples, diced

Maple syrup, for serving

Powdered sugar, for serving

Grease a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Slice bread into 1” cubes; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla, salt and nutmeg and beat until well combined. Gently fold bread and diced apples into egg mixture making sure each piece is well coated. Place mixture into prepared slow cooker. Place a clean, dry dish towel over the slow cooker before covering with lid. (This helps to reduce moisture build up and prevents a soggy French toast.)

Cook on low for 2 ½ to 4 hours, until the French toast is warm and cooked through. Carefully lift the entire round out of the slow cooker with a spatula.

Serve warm with chopped walnuts, maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch

Cherry Jubilee Scones

I just love when the kids return home for the weekend. After graduating, they seem to have settled into different parts of the United States. This weekend, our town held their annual spring run making this a great kickoff to one of my favorite seasons.

Friday evening, after a long week of work, I was disappointed in myself as I hadn’t had the opportunity to plan a few meals and gather some groceries. This morning, as my pack of runners was out enjoying the spring race, I jumped into action and scoured the freezer, fridge, and pantry. To my surprise, I actually had the fixings for a great mid-morning breakfast. My pantry was chocked with items that I had unknowingly pushed to the back of the shelf over the course of many weeks. A tall container of old fashioned oats, an unopened package of dried “cherries jubilee” and some turbinado sugar sat on the shelf. I quickly opened my baker’s cabinet and scooped up the flour, sugar, almond extract, and leavenings. I remembered a blueberry scone recipe that I had so I rummaged through my blog of past posts and tweeted the recipe to make it work. To round out the breakfast, I found a bag of frozen hash browns, a pound of bacon, a carton of eggs. Opening the carton, there were only three… Grabbing my phone, I quickly sent a text to the group requesting they stop by a mini-mart to purchase two cartons of eggs. Scurrying around the kitchen, I completed each dish. I would then quickly cook the scrambled eggs as everyone showered after returning home. Laying everything out on the kitchen counter, plates were filled and tummies were satisfied.

What a delight… the scones were a hit… everyone enjoyed the meal as they slathered a good dose of butter on the warm scones and gobbled them up. Before they disappeared, I set aside a few for a Sunday visit with extended family. I’m sure I’ll be making these again.

…Great memories shared as we welcome the first days of spring!

Cherry Jubilee Scones

1 1/2 cups whole oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons butter, cubed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine oatmeal, flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks and cut in the butter with the flour mixture until crumbly and well blended. Stir milk and extract into the flour mixture until just combined. Lightly fold in the pecans and cherries. On a lightly floured surface, collect the dough into a ball and pat into a large circle about 1″ thick. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of turbinado sugar (optional). Cut into 8 wedges, and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, cookies

Hearty Oatmeal Brownies

This recipe takes a (slightly) healthier spin on a traditional bar brownie. A couple cups of old fashioned oats act as a substitute for a hearty helping of cocoa. When munching on these tasty squares, I am often reminded of a few other family favorite recipes. The flavors are a cross between a sweet crunchy oatmeal cookie and the hearty texture of my baked oatmeal. Adding a hearty helping of chopped walnuts adds a bit of crunch to an ooey-gooey oat-filled center. Pair this sweet treat with a tall, cold glass of milk, or a piping hot cup of tea.

Hearty Oatmeal Brownies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease a 13×9” baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until well combined. In a medium bowl, mix salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, flour, rolled oats, and chopped nuts. Mix to combine all ingredients, and spread into the prepared baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Posted in Baking, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cleaning out my freezer proved to be a positive experience this morning. In the far left corner of my freezer compartment, I found a box of puff pastry cups that I had purchased several weeks ago and completely forgot about them (as they slowly made their way to the back of the freezer). I’m sure many can relate to this. As we pack our freezers and pantries with new items, other items are slowly shuffled “out of sight, out of mind”. I’m thrilled that I was able to quickly assemble this easy recipe for a Sunday dessert. Use any fruit flavored filling for this delicious treat.

Puff Pastry Shells with Cherry Crumble

1 package (6) Puff Pastry Cups, prepared according to package directions

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling or your favorite flavor

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cool pastry shells on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove center tops. Do not turn off oven. Keep temperature at 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter until crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over pie filling within each pastry. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the crumb mixture is golden brown and filling begins to bubble. Remove from oven and let the pastries cool for 10 minutes. Return tops to the pastry. Sprinkle with powder sugar when completely cooled, if desired.