The only way to finish off a great meal is with an even better dessert!

My famous bread pudding is the one dish I simply can’t pass up. I always look for creative combinations of flavors, there are so many possibilities. You can combine caramel and apple, blueberry and white chocolate, pecan pie, or cinnamon raisin, just to mention a few. And I love them all! Who doesn’t? It is the most decadent dessert around.

Since this was my first attempt at making bread pudding (why has it taken me so long?), this recipe is rather old-fashioned. It includes mostly basic ingredients, like vanilla and raisins, which are reminiscent of “grandma’s cooking”. Not to mention, I had all these ingredients in my pantry, which made the process even easier.

I looked at many different recipes for this basic bread pudding, and using all the ingredients I love, designed this recipe. I used plenty of vanilla in mine, but feel free to cut down the amount depending on your palette. I also used challah bread because I really believe it is the best choice. It is thick, moist and absorbs the liquid and sauce beautifully. 

I don’t know how many people this will serve, but the lucky ones who get to taste it are going to want to kiss the cook!

Ingredients for Bread Pudding

5 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 challah bread, cut into cubes and toasted
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 tsp. vanilla

For the Vanilla Sauce

3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 egg
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Grease a 2 quart baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, whisk 5 eggs, white sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and milk.

Gently stir in toasted bread cubes and raisins. 

Pour mixture into baking dish.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

Cover with tin foil and continue to bake another 20-25 minutes.

For the vanilla sauce:

In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, whisk the light brown sugar, egg, cinnamon, flour, butter, milk, and salt together.

Whisk constantly and until smooth and sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

Stir in vanilla extract.

Pour sauce over warm bread pudding.

It’s that simple!

It is so cold here; I really could spend all of my time indoors just cooking. But there are errands to run, people to see and things to do. So, each day I’ve gone out and the thought of spring coming soon has carried me through.

It’s not that I hate winter, I actually love snow, but this kind of cold is not for me. One of my new obsessions is hot sauce. Not only does it go great on eggs, chicken, vegetables and seafood, a little spice also helps me warm up on days like these.

So, I decided to make a sauce that I could use to coat cauliflower and bake in the oven.

I didn’t want to make the sauce too hot, as my other family members have a low threshold when it comes to spiciness. By combining a red chili sauce with a sweet chili sauce, I made a new flavoring that is delicious and can be enjoyed with any vegetable. What’s really great about this recipe is you can use as much hot sauce as you would like!

By dipping the cauliflower in panko crumbs first, you will have a dish that is crunchy, spicy and sweet, all at the same time. It should be roasted in the oven at a high temperature for 25-30 minutes, ensuring a thoroughly crispy outcome. The result will be an oven-baked, healthy side dish, perfectly flavored with a delicate, yet savory sauce. These tasty, crispy morsels of goodness are impossible to resist. 

This recipe will serve 4-6 people who may become serious hot sauce lovers.

Ingredients for Hot and Sweet Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 large eggs, whisked
2 tsp. sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp. sriracha sauce
1 tbsp. honey
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. lime zest
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 450F.

Dip the cauliflower pieces in the egg.

Roll cauliflower pieces in the panko.

Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce, sriracha sauce, honey, garlic, lime zest and juice. (Depending on how much cauliflower you have and how much sauce you want, you may want to double the measurements)

Twirl the cauliflower pieces in the sauce, making sure to evenly coat them.

Season with salt and pepper.

Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet.

Place sheet in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

It’s that simple!

Let’s talk food for Super Bowl Sunday!

The final game of football season should be enjoyable for everyone. While I am not a big fan of the sport, I do love having all my friends and family over. I simply prefer to be in the kitchen cooking and chatting while my guests watch the game. 

When creating their menu, most people think: pizza, sloppy joes, chili, chicken wings or hoagies. This may not be a “traditional” recipe for the big game, but if you like to serve something healthy you’re going to want to add this to your selection.

I will definitely be preparing the basics as well this year, but it is nice to have a couple of healthy alternatives, especially for friends who are vegetarians.

I know there are also a lot of vegan eaters out there, so this recipe is perfect for you, too! Veggie balls are a great appetizer you can use for any occasion that everyone will happily indulge in. When I first started making them, my family would never have thought to choose them over chips and dip or pigs in a blanket. However, after making them for many different occasions these have become a fam-favorite!

Do not let the amount of ingredients intimidate you. Do your prep (mise-en-place) and these veggies balls will come together in no time at all. What’s even better: you can make them ahead of time and they freeze beautifully.

Go ahead and make these, they are so uniquely delicious your guests will be talking about for many Super Bowls to come!

Just a note: The pictures show more amounts than the recipe calls for – I was making them for Thanksgiving and I had to make 100!

This recipe is courtesy of “The Meatball Shop” cookbook by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow. It will make 24 servings for your family and friends who will be sure to become veggie ball lovers.

Ingredients for Veggie Balls

2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. salt 
3 tbsp. tomato paste
8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh walnuts

Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft, (but not falling apart), about 25 minutes.

Drain the lentils and allow to cool.

Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown.

Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. 

When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.

Add the eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts to the cooled vegetable mixture and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface.

Set aside.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball size “meatballs” (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mix firmly.

Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4-inch of space between the balls and place them in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.

Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

It’s that simple!

Farro is an ancient whole grain, similar to barley and quinoa that has been eaten for many generations. Commonly found in Mediterranean, Ethiopian and Middle Eastern cuisines, farro has recently gained popularity as a great source of nutrition because it is fat-free, cholesterol-free, but not gluten-free. It is also a great source of iron and high in fiber and protein. Similar to barley, farro has a mild taste and chewy texture and is just plain delicious. Have I convinced you to try it yet?

Like other whole grains, farro is easy to cook. You may want to soak it overnight to shorten the cooking time, but you really don’t need to. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes if you soak it, and 25 to 30 minutes if you don’t.

I loved this particular recipe because of the different textures that were combined. The lemon zest added a tangy flavor and the crushed red pepper further enhanced the flavor with just the perfect amount of heat. You could also add some grated cheese or toasted pine nuts. Any way you make this recipe it will be wonderful! I am now a farro-lover and I think you will be too.

This recipe is courtesy of Michael’s Genuine Food. It will serve 4 people who may indeed, become farro lovers too!

Ingredients for Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Farro, Crushed Red Pepper, and Lemon

1/2 cup farro
2 pounds broccoli rabe, ends trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves. minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon 

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the farro, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover.

Simmer until the farro is tender and the grains have split open, about 30 minutes.

Keeping the cooking water in the pot, remove the farro from the pot with a spider strainer or mesh sieve, put it in a colander, and rinse with cool water.

Set aside.

Bring the cooking liquid back up to a boil and season again with salt.

The farro will have soaked up much of the original seasoning.

Boil the broccoli rabe until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Drain in a colander.

Set a large skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil.

When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute to soften.

Add the broccoli rabe and red pepper; season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

Toss the rabe to coat with the oil and cook until tender, roughly 5 minutes.

Add the drained farro, tossing to combine, and sauté for another minute until heated through.

To serve, place the broccoli rabe and farro on a nice platter.

Finely grate lemon zest over the top, preferably with a Microplane.

It’s that simple!

While dining at one of our favorite restaurants, I was looking at all the desserts I knew their pastry chef had created. There seemed to be so many wonderful choices. Which one should I have? I decided to ask our waiter, and he suggested the butter cake. With all the other exciting options, I hesitated. Then, I decided to trust him and I ordered it. 

Wow! The cake was absolutely divine. I always try to take only one or two bites of dessert, but I just couldn’t control myself, it was just that sensational.

I thought, “how hard can it be to prepare this cake?” I did my research, and found this butter cake recipe. The author said she found it in an old recipe book and the page was very worn and yellowed. She had a feeling this was once a favorite cake of the owner of the book. As it turns out, she was right. 

One bitter cold afternoon, I attempted to make this butter cake. This is one of the easiest cakes I have ever prepared. And one of the most delicious as well as beautiful.  The cake is light and fluffy, despite the heavy ingredients. I was worried about poking holes in the cake, but if you use a very flat knife, (like a steak knife) and insert it into the cake, you will not notice it. You will definitely need a round cake pan or bundt pan, as there is a lot of batter. So much so that mine overflowed while it was baking. Be sure to place an aluminum pan or foil under the cake in case this happens to you. If it does, just cut off the bottom of the cake so it sits straight.

I will be making this heavenly cake again and again. It is perfect to bring to a holiday or family dinner, because it looks like you put a lot more effort into it then you really did. It is a crowd pleaser for sure! A “must try”.

This recipe is courtesy of Taste of Home and will serve 16 (yes it is that big), happy butter cake lovers and may create some new ones too!

Ingredients for Butter Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk

For the Butter Sauce:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour a round cake pan or bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack over waxed paper.

For the sauce:

Combine the sugar, butter and water in a small saucepan.

Cook over medium heat just until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat.

Stir in extracts.

Poke holes in the cake using a sharp knife.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce over cake.

Let stand until it is absorbed.

Repeat twice. 

Poke holes into the sides of the cake. 

Brush with remaining sauce. 

Let cool completely.

It’s that simple!