Author Archives: Jessie

French Toast Bread Pudding

BRINNER!!! One of my favorite go-tos when I’m menu-planning.

Breakfast for Dinner! Yes. Such a simple meal. No brainer!

But my husband makes pancakes with the kids every weekend so I wanted something different. Sausage patties, dippy eggs (I’m from South-Central Pennsylvania. Dippy eggs = over-easy eggs. I’m tired of pretending I’m sophisticated. I’m calling them dippy eggs.)

But what can I do instead of pancakes?

I have a loaf of French bread that I got at the grocery store in the bakery for NOTHING. Literally. It was on sale for $ .97 and it had a one dollar off coupon on it because it was baked yesterday. So I got it for NOTHING. Yeay me!

My mind starts racing. French toast? Ehh, that takes a lot of focus and attention. Baked French toast? Hmm… maybe. Bread pudding? Hmm…. maybe. Both? Hmm…. absolutely.

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

Requires 4 hours to overnight to soak so plan accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups torn pieces of French bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (you may use any syrup you have but I highly recommend some HIGH QUALITY maple syrup.)
  • 1 C milk – I used vanilla almond milk which is sweetened so if you use whole milk, you might want to add a tablespoon of sugar to the milk.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C chopped apple – I used Gala just because I had it. It was approximately half the apple. You can add more apple if you want. Or use another fruit. Blueberries would be good.
  • 2 ounces cold cream cheese
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

Directions:

Crack and whisk 4 eggs in large bowl. Pour in the maple syrup, milk, vanilla and pinch of salt. Stir well to combine. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying it with non-stick spray or slather it up with butter. I won’t tell. Now place chopped apple (or whatever fruit you choose) in the bottom of the pan. Top the fruit with the torn bread and then pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread. Press the bread down into the egg/milk mixture. Now take the two ounces of cold cream cheese and just tear it apart with your fingers and dollop it over the top of the bread and egg/milk mixture. Sprinkle it all with cinnamon. Place foil on the pan and place in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to bake it, bring it out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350F. Bake 30 minutes with the foil on and then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes. Allow it to rest 15 minutes before serving.

We loved this. I especially love the different textures of a good bread pudding. I like the crunchy top layer but LOOOOVE the custard layer on the bottom. And the apples added a nice tart, flavorful, juicy bite. I was so excited about it that we sat there at the table and kept nibbling at it and then I was like, “Oh crudballs! I forgot to take a picture of it!” So this is all you get.

Oops. I ate all of it.

Oops. I ate all of it.

I hope you try it. It was such a great addition to BRINNER!

Chicken meatloaf – stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes

look at this! Look at that provolone cheese and those chunks of sun-dried tomatoes. I already ate this once today and I'm daydreaming about leftovers for tomorrow.

look at this! Look at that provolone cheese and those chunks of sun-dried tomatoes. I already ate this once today and I’m daydreaming about leftovers for tomorrow.

This meatloaf was born after many hours of banging my  head on the table, searching Pinterest for ground chicken recipes, wondering what to do with the two pounds of ground chicken I had thawed in the fridge. I had some bread to use. I had green beans thawed. Sliders? Meatballs? Chicken chili? Ugh. What can I do with this meat?

MEATLOAF!

But a different kind of meatloaf. What can I do that’s different from my ground beef meatloaf recipe?

Italian flavors! Oregano, basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes… CHEESE!… Pizza sauce on top! Yes! It’s all coming together now.

So here it is. You’re welcome.

Chicken Meatloaf – stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes

  •  1 egg
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce (always shake the bottle – did you know that you are supposed to do that?)
  • 2 T chopped sun-dried tomatoes

    Sun-dried tomatoes. And see that jar and that glistening oil in there? It will come in handy later. Keep the jar close.

    Sun-dried tomatoes. And see that jar and that glistening oil in there? It will come in handy later. Keep the jar close.

  • 1 scant T crushed hot cherry peppers (the kind of crushed hots ‘relish’ you can get at sub shops) -  This is OPTIONAL. I like the spice it gives to the meatloaf.

    One of my favorite condiments. Crushed hot pepper relish. It is optional.

    One of my favorite condiments. Crushed hot pepper relish. It is optional.

  • 1 large clove of garlic – crushed
  • 1/4 C Parmesan cheese – grated
  • 5 cranks of cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, I used sea salt but you can use table salt
  • 1 tsp thyme or rosemary – dried – whichever you like better
  • 1 tsp basil – dried
  • 1 tsp oregano – dried

MIX THE ABOVE ITEMS IN A LARGE MIXING BOWL. TAKE A BIG WHIFF OF IT. YEP. YOU’RE GONNA’ LOVE THIS MEATLOAF.

Mix all the spices and egg together

Okay, now add the following:

  • add 2 pounds ground chicken to the mixture in the bowl
  • add 2 tsp sun-dried tomato OIL – yes, use the oil from the bottle the sun-dried tomatoes come in. YUM! (If you don’t have this oil, just add two tsp olive oil. You need some oil because the chicken has no fat!)
  • add 1/2 Cup Italian style breadcrumbs

At this point pre-heat the oven to 375F and prepare a half sheet pan* with a sheet of parchment paper. I know… this is weird because you always make meatloaf in a loaf pan. Just trust me. (*Make sure it has a lip the whole way around to catch the juices from the meatloaf as it cooks.)

Gently combine the chicken, bread crumbs and oil with the spice mixture until JUST combined. Don’t overmix or the chicken will get tough.

add chicken to herb mix and mix gently just till combined

add chicken to herb mix and mix gently just till combined

Score the mixture down the middle creating two equal portions.

Place half the mixture on the parchment paper-lined sheet pan and smoosh it down a bit. (Smoosh is a technical culinary term.)

score mixture down the middle and slap half the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan

score mixture down the middle and slap half the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan

Line three slices of provolone on the meat mixture.

it's blurry but you get the idea. Add the cheese!

it’s blurry but you get the idea. Add the cheese!

Now take the other half and dollop it on top of the cheese

dollop the other half of chicken mixture on top of the cheese

dollop the other half of chicken mixture on top of the cheese

and then with clean hands pull the chicken mixture from the bottom and smoosh the top chicken mixture down to meet each other and press it together.

Keep the chicken pinched together to keep the cheese from oozing out.

Keep the chicken pinched together to keep the cheese from oozing out.

Your goal is to keep the cheese from melting out. So squish and pinch the meat together until it looks like a big chicken meat football. Or Easter egg.

Top with 1/2 C of pizza sauce.

pour the pizza sauce over the top

pour the pizza sauce over the top

I have this very special technique to spread the sauce over the meatloaf. Check it out.

Using the bottom of the measuring cup spread it out. I know. Impressive.

Using the bottom of the measuring cup spread it out. I know. Impressive.

Bake for 20 minutes and turn the pan just in case the back of your oven is too hot. Bake another 20 minutes and check the temperature. You want the center of a CHICKEN meatloaf to be 155F at least and then you can let it rest under a foil tent until it reaches 160F

look at the sun shining on this beauteous loaf of meat.

look at the sun shining on this beauteous loaf of meat.

and then make your sides. If you aren’t making any sides, wait at least ten minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.

slice and serve to your loved ones. Imagine the leftovers! Mmm... sandwiches.

slice and serve to your loved ones. Imagine the leftovers! Mmm… sandwiches.

ENJOY! Again. You’re welcome.

 

 

Ramen – My Interpretation

My version of easy home-cooked "Ramen" using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

My version of easy home-cooked “Ramen” using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

Most evenings I have a plan. But this one evening I did not. I ate leftovers for a very late lunch so by the time dinner rolled around I had no desire to cook nor did I have ANY clue what to make. Usually on nights like this the kids eat cereal and I make something special later after the kids are in bed for daddy and mommy. But this evening Josie asked for Ramen noodles. So I got out two packages. I had an idea!

My version of Ramen was born. Now, I am fully aware this is not a traditional Ramen noodle dish that you would eat in an authentic Asian restaurant. The broth and noodles are homemade in a true Ramen dish. This is simply MY version. Frugal, quick, and tasty.

Ramen – Jessie’s Asian Noodle Experience

MAKES TWO SERVINGS

Check your fridge for yummy goodies to add to the soup. I used sliced leftover baked sweet potato, which I reheated a bit. Very thinly sliced beef barely cooked in a bit of olive oil with a splash of  low-sodium soy sauce. (If you check the butcher case you can find thinly sliced ‘steak sub’ quality steak. That will be perfect for this dish.)

Bean sprouts would be good. Sliced mushrooms would be good. Slivers of carrot would be good. Finely diced jalapeno pepper or pickled banana peppers would be good.

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan that has a lid.
  • Add 2 packs of Ramen, BUT ONLY ONE packet of flavoring.
  • Turn the heat to low and sprinkle in a handful of baby spinach and submerge the spinach so it wilts.
  • Add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice OR rice wine vinegar to the pot and place a lid on it.
  • Meanwhile, get two big bowls ready because this comes together quickly.
  • Poach or pan fry 2 eggs. You want that yolk to spill out into the broth.
  • Place the broth and noodles in the bowls. Top with the sliced sweet potatoes (or whatever veggies you have), the steak, and the egg.
  • Drizzle the whole dish with toasted sesame oil, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, and some prepared teriyaki wok sauce/marinade. (I have a bottle of prepared stuff. The prepared stuff is thicker than straight teriyaki and is often blended with other flavors like sesame or sweet chili or mandarin orange.)

This isn’t really as much of a recipe as it is a suggestion.

The end result is bursting with flavor and makes you think you are eating a fancy restaurant quality meal. Don’t forget to eat it with chopsticks! It’s Umami at it’s finest. That ‘fifth taste’ that is hard to describe. It’s rich, savory, deep, mmm…. so delicious.

ENJOY!

 

 

 

Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna

A few weeks ago my brother called me from the grocery store to ask me some questions about ingredients in my lasagna recipe. I thought he was referring to my sauteed mushroom and onion lasagna but no… he called it Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna and said he makes it all the time. I don’t have a very good memory (I know. My husband is very lucky) so I didn’t know what he was referring to. Long story short, I got the recipe from him and he told me to post it here. He said it is a go-to of his when he is looking for that comforting, warm, cheesy, creamy indulgent meal. So here it is. I have no idea when I came up with this. I’m guessing at least 6 or 7 years ago. Maybe longer.

I hope it’s as awesome as my big brother says it is! I can’t wait to try it. Because apparently I can’t remember it from the first time around.

***update***

I made it!! It started to come back to me as I was whisking the milk into the soups and adding the herbs. It was great. It was creamy and decadent. The fruit salad was a great side-dish because it helped cut the richness of the lasagna. Josie even ate a few bites after I explained to her that the lasagna tasted like cheese crackers and chicken nuggets. Thanks big brother for bringing this one back!

creamy chicken lasagna with a little bowl of fresh fruit salad. The fruit salad is great because it cuts the richness of the lasagna.

creamy chicken lasagna with a little bowl of fresh fruit salad. The fruit salad is great because it cuts the richness of the lasagna.

Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. container small curd low fat cottage cheese (cottage cheese melts and blends right in but it’s MUCH cheaper than ricotta. Try it. You’ll thank me for saving you the bucks AND still giving you the smooth, mellow, cheesy, creaminess you need.
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken – a rotisserie chicken is a great choice for this if you are in a hurry. Just pick it up at the grocery store along with the rest of the ingredients.
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • hot pepper chili flakes to taste if you like that touch of heat.

Preheat oven to 350F

Stir the soups, milk, and herbs, s&p and chili flakes in a large bowl.

Spray bottom and sides of 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Assembly instructions:

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with a big spoonful or two of the soup mixture. Place noodles on top of the soup mixture. Top with about 1 cup of soup mixture, half of the cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups of chicken, 2/3 cup Mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup cheddar cheese. Repeat layers once. Place another layer of noodles on top and cover with remaining soup mixture, Mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese.

Cover with foil (spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the cheese from ripping off the top of the lasagna when you remove the foil) and bake for 45 minutes. Then remove foil and bake until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy the simplicity of this lasagna! It freezes well and it is great to give to friends or family or neighbors that need a hearty meal.

Blackberry, Apple, Coconut Cake

Blackberry Apple Coconut Cake

Blackberry Apple Coconut Cake

I will mention again that I love to cook. I like to invent new things and create my own recipes. Add a little of this, a little of that… but baking? I’m a mess. I cannot make up my own recipe. I’m not sure how much baking powder or baking soda to use, nor do I understand the difference. And if I use cake flour? Ugh. Then what? What’s in cake flour that’s not in all-purpose flour?

So, my desserts will either be NON-BAKING ones, that I can play around with, like chocolate drizzled over popcorn or graham cracker peanut butter sandwiches dipped in chocolate. That’s what I can make up. The following recipe is not something I can make up. It’s divine though so I thought I’d share it. It’s a great dish to take to a brunch, or give as a gift to a friend that had a baby. If that’s your thing.

While this was baking Adrian, my five-year-old, ran to the kitchen to see if it was ready to eat. I can hope he discovers a new love for blackberries or I can hope he doesn’t like it and I can eat what is left on his plate.

Just kidding.

Not really.

Blackberry, Apple, Coconut Cake

From: http://www.nourishmagazine.co.nz/29/apple-blackberry-coconut-pudding/

(measurements are a bit odd because it’s translated from metric – just go with it.)

  • 2-3 apples, peeled and sliced – I usually make recipes like this when my apples need to be eaten. So I don’t have a recommendation on what kind of apple to use. Just use what you have. A tart apple like Granny Smith would be great but really, whatever you have will work.
  • 1 cup blackberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 & 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 & ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup coconut (I used sweetened)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick, plus 2 Tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1 & 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grease an 8×8 baking dish and spread the sliced apples and blackberries over the base. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together before adding the butter, lightly beaten eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir till well combined and then pour over the fruit.

Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream or yogurt. Or in a bowl with milk, which is how I always eat my cakes and bread puddings.

Just to follow up, Adrian poked at it, said it was too hot & then ran away. Later he came back to try it and declared he didn’t like the “stained bread”. I told him he didn’t have to eat the blackberry but the apples and coconut and the rest of it was really yummy. Oh well. I ate it. My wish came true.

Adrian's Empty Plate

Adrian’s Empty Plate.

Leftovers should be refrigerated. Not that you will have any. And if you want to double it and freeze a pan, you can do that, too. It’s a very freezer-friendly cake.