Cinnamon Swirl Bread Pudding

Perhaps it was the news about Pascal's Manale, or looking at that drool-worthy photo of BBQ Shrimp, but once again, Amy finds herself hankering for some New Orleans cuisine. A few-days old, untouched loaf of cinnamon swirl bread got us thinking...how about some bread pudding?

We finally broke out a piece of the Temp-tations Traditions baking set Amy's parents bought us for Christmas and set about making this traditional Southern dessert, only we made it for breakfast. Why not? It has eggs, and milk, and cinnamon bread, and well, we don't have to justify ourselves to you, now do we?

First, we have to say, the bakeware did an amazing job. After devouring our pieces, then divvying up the rest to the neighbors, the empty pan looked already washed. A quick rinse and wipe was all it needed. Secondly,  well, yum. It was scrumptious, particularly with a little swirl of our bourbon sauce over the top. It's five o'clock somewhere.

It seems so decadent, but cinnamon has a ton of health benefits also. Here is a great article by Helen Nicols where she extols the virtues of this super-spice!

Go buy a small loaf of good cinnamon bread and ignore it for a few days. Then come back and try out this classic Big Easy recipe. You won't be sorry!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread Pudding


1 small loaf stale cinnamon swirl bread, cut into cubes
2 cups milk
5 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon demerara, turbinado or brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and pour mixture over the bread. Gently fold the bread cubes to ensure all the bread is covered in the egg mixture. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so all bread is well soaked. Spray a 13X9 baking pan with cooking spray and pour bread into the dish. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and dot with butter. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Bourbon Sauce


1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup bourbon

Mix together the sugar, butter and beaten egg in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until well combined, taking care that the egg does not cook. Remove from heat once the sugar is melted. Stir in the bourbon and serve warm over the bread pudding.


Congratulations to Pascal's Manale, New Orleans

Pascal's Manale is such a New Orleans standby that it is on Amy's to-do list each and every time she visits. Located Uptown on Napoleon Avenue, a few blocks between the St. Charles streetcar and the river, this neighborhood joint celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2013. To add to that, a couple of weeks ago, the Louisiana Restaurant Association presented the current fourth-generation owners of Pascal's Manale with their Greater New Orleans Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award. A well-deserved honor, in our opinion. 

The restaurant's signature dish, which also happens to be Amy's favorite food on this big green planet, is the "Original BBQ Shrimp." Whole shrimp (shells and heads and tails and all) swimming in a luscious butter sauce spiked with garlic and black pepper, with a hint of umami (Worcestershire, perhaps?) and a touch of lemon. What is not to love?  Served with a loaf of crackly French bread and the requisite bib, this dish is the epitome of New Orleans.

Congratulations to the DeFelice Family on their award, and many thanks for continuing the Pascal's Manale tradition.  


Moules Marinière for French Fridays With Dorie

We haven't been very good members of French Fridays with Dorie. In fact, the last time we participated was back in October of 2012. Mon Dieu!!! In case you don't know, FFwD is a group of food bloggers and cooks who, every Friday, post their experience making and eating a recipe from the amazing Dorie Greenspan's incredible book Around My French Table. So, with every intention of improving our FFwD participation for 2014, we give you a glimpse into this week's "assignment," mouth-watering Moules Marinière.

Moules Marinière is a classic dish from Normandy that is at the very basic level, mussels in an herby white wine broth. We are big fans of mussels, and recently won a Whole Food Market recipe contest for our Curried Mussels with Lemongrass. But we are also big fans of French cuisine, so we were definitely interested in this particular recipe. First and foremost, it looked so delicious, but also, it seemed very very simple to make. Actually, it only took us about 20 minutes, so it's a perfect weeknight meal, rounded out with a side salad and some bread.We could barely believe how flavorful the broth was, especially with the small number of ingredients and the sheer ease of it all.

Now, we can't give you the recipe, because that's part of FFwD rules. The group wants to encourage people to purchase the book and participate in FFwD along with us. To that end, the recipe for Moules Marinière can be found on page 312 (with a gorgeous accompanying photo on page 313!).

Nonetheless, you can see in our photos all the ingredients ready to go. You might notice that we took a couple of liberties. (When do we not?) First, we were only using two pounds of mussels, so we halved the amount of onions, shallots and garlic, but we kept the same measurements for the herbs and broth so we had plenty of it to dip our crusty bread into. Regarding those herbs, we bought fresh thyme because we will use that for other things, but we are tired of buying and throwing away parsley, so we tried a tablespoon of this parsley paste (which will last much, much longer in the fridge), and we felt it worked just as well. Just keep in mind that the mussels should be clean, that is, de-bearded (our favorite market carries them already cleaned, thankfully), and if they are unopened after cooking, don't eat them but discard them or you will pay the price. 

MMMMMmmmmm...Moules Marinière. Magnifique! 
You will be on our French table again very soon.

And just to prove our recommitment, here's a picture of Dorie and Amy (at Wesleyan U's Foodstock in May, 2012)!


Fritos Dessert Bars for Secret Recipe Club

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day once again. Our group had the month of December off for the holidays but we are back in full force (albeit a little late...our apologies). This month we were assigned a blog filled with fun and creative ideas for families: Making Memories With Your Kids. The blog author is Erin, a single mom with two kids who loves to bake and craft with kids, and it shows. She has tons of wonderful recipes as well as craft and gift ideas, on this great blog.

But we went right for the desserts page and one of the first things we noticed was the Fritos Dessert Bars. Fritos are Amy's favorite snack chip, one of her guilty pleasures, and at first, we couldn't really imagine this recipe. It's a no-bake bar, so it's so easy to make. And when you bite into it, you get everything you could ever ask for in a dessert: crunchy, salty, sweet, and sticky plus a hint of chocolate and peanut butter. Good Lord! We've died and gone to dessert bar heaven.

Speaking of heaven, we brought these to our neighbor's baby's post-Baptism party and they were a huge hit! No one could believe they were made with Fritos or how easy they were, and everyone wanted the recipe. So we just said, "Check out the blog tomorrow morning!!!"

Thanks, Erin, for these magical dessert bars. Chris plans on cutting back the sugar and adding raisins or other dried fruits and making breakfast bars out of them. So good!!!

Fritos Dessert Bars
from Making Memories With Your Kids


1 10.5-ounce bag Fritos corn chips
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Spray a 9X13 baking pan with cooking spray. Empty Fritos into a large bowl. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter; stir until smooth. Pour mixture over Fritos and gently stir to coat. Pour into prepared pan and using wax paper, press down to spread evenly into the pan. Put chocolate chips in a small zip-lock bag. Microwave for 30 second spurts to melt. Cut off a corner of the bag and drizzle over the Fritos bars. Allow to set, then cut into squares.

Update: Alas, whoever was assigned our blog wasn't able to complete their assignment, so we were "orphaned" this month. One of our recipes will show up next Monday during Group D's reveal day. We will update again then!

Here is a link to the blogger who was assigned to us:  http://rebekahrose.blogspot.ca/2014/01/secret-recipe-club-candy-popcorn.html


Honey Lime Curry Chicken Stir Fry

For as long as we've been going to the Coventry Regional Farmers Market on Sundays, we've noticed from afar the stand of Connecticut-Grown artisan hot sauces and condiments known as "Dragon's Blood Elixir." And we can't give you one single good reason that we never tried them other than we have some hot sauce favorites always in our fridge, namely, Cholula and Louisiana, and really, how many hot sauces does one couple need? Nevertheless, we've been ever-so-slightly obsessed with the CT local scene as of late, and Doug, the maker of Dragon's Blood was giving out tastes, and there was no line, so there you have it. We stopped. We tried. We got hooked.

Three bottles and a few days later, we thawed a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and prepped to make a stir fry with Dragon's Blood's Honey Lime Curry sauce, one of Doug's several "special" sauces, made with CT-grown chilis and other local ingredients. At our market tasting, he had suggested mixing the sauce with yogurt to thicken it and make it more of a stir fry sauce, and we did, with plain Greek yogurt. Since we had nearly every flavor profile we might need with our sauce (salty, sweet, sour, bitter), as well as great spice from the curry, all we really needed was crunch, which we added with celery, carrots and green beans. Next time we'll try a squeeze of lime over the top (we didn't have any on hand) to punch up the citrus.

This was a lovely, very easy, pretty healthy and quite delicious weeknight dinner that pleased the palette with its variety of flavors and textures. We served it over rice to balance the heat, and had enough for lunch the next day. This one is definitely doing into the weeknight repertoire. We might have to make it on Game of Thrones nights!!!

Honey Lime Curry Chicken Stir Fry


1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound green beans, cut into thirds
1 celery stalk, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup Honey Lime Curry Sauce
1 single-serve container plain Greek yogurt
cooked rice

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Add chicken  and cook until browned.  Add carrots, green beans and celery and continue to cook, stir-frying, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and curry sauce; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce into wok/skillet and stir-fry until everything is coated and sauce is hot. Serve over or toss with
cooked rice.


K's "Semi-Homemade" Gumbo

We were in New Orleans over the holidays visiting with our friends K and J when it suddenly occurred to Amy to ask K how she makes her gumbo. In the proud fashion only a Southerner could pull off, K explained that she started with Zatarain's Gumbo Base and then "doctored it up." Now, Amy loves Zatarain's products. In fact, she once served Zatarain's Shrimp Creole to a New Orleans native who claimed disbelief that something so delicious could come from a Yankee's kitchen. (Well, with a little help.) And if Zatarain's is good enough for K, it's good enough for us.

Missing NOLA (and K and J!) already, we decided to make K's "Semi-Homemade" Gumbo yesterday and it was perfect. We don't serve ours with rice, just plenty of crusty bread to soak up the thick, gravy-like stew. And while we used boneless, skinless chicken thighs and andouille sausage in ours, any mixture of meat and/or seafood that you like can be thrown into the gumbo pot. This recipe made eight servings, so there was enough for dinner and a couple of Louisiana-style lunches. Laissez les bon temps rouler! We're going to have to make this for Mardi Gras!

And doesn't it look so good in our NOLA "Soup"-er Bowls?!?!?

K's Semi-Homemade Gumbo


1 box Zatarain's Gumbo Base
6 cups water 
1 - 1 1/2 pounds pre-cooked chicken or sausage (or raw seafood), cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided
3 bay leaves
dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, salt and black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery stalks (including leaves), chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
12-16 oz. frozen cut okra
1 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes

In a large pot, combine the gumbo base, water, browned chicken and/or sausage (if using seafood do not add yet), 2 tablespoons oil, bay leaves, and a shake each of dried herbs, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. In the meantime, heat last tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Cook onion, celery and garlic until softened. Add to the pot, then re-season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. As all of that cooks, put frozen cut okra in the vegetable skillet with 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on medium until the okra is soft. Then add the okra and tomatoes to pot. Continue to cook until the 30 minutes are up. (If adding seafood, add after 20 minutes of cooking, return to a boil, then cover and simmer another 10 minutes.) Serve over rice and/or with crusty bread.


Local Food and Drink Takeover of Krust Pizza Bar, Middletown

What a great night! We just got home from a fantastic dinner at Krust Woodfired Pizza and Bourbon Bar in Middletown, CT. But it wasn't just a regular night at the wildly popular pizza joint. Rather, it was a celebration of Connecticut 2014. A virtual who's who of the creators and makers of the hottest products coming out of CT right now: Jason and Brian of Mystic Cheese Company, artisans of the "guest of honor," Melville Cheese; Adam and Pete (and company) of Onyx Moonshine, the local spirit of the evening; JD of Ripe Bar Juice, the best mixer around; Carrie (the creative cupcake lady) from NoRA Cupcake Company; and Winter, the main Market Master of Coventry Regional Farmers Market, there, like us, to enjoy it all. 

Yes, these local movers and shakers took over Krust, and Krust welcomed them with open arms and did them justice, creating pie after luscious pie topped not with plain ole' mozzarella, but Mystic's Melville - a smooth, satiny, blubbery, melty, gorgeous cheese that lately, we can't get enough of. We mingled while we awaited our table, enjoying a few Onyx cocktails and the company of our local food heroes. 

When we finally sat, we were starving. First, the Melville antipasti - a wedge of the soft-ripened cheese with roasted red peppers, olives and croutons topped with just the right amount of olive oil. Next, the meat pizza - chunky San Marzano tomatoes, Melville instead of mozz, pancetta, pepperoni, and salami, touched with a sprinkle of oregano, crushed red pepper and sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil. The blend of tender bits of herbacious pork with the stretchy globs of cheese atop the flaky crisp crackly charred crust? Let's just say, it's a good time to be from the Constitution State.

We split a "Cheese Board" cupcake for dessert, and there's no better way to describe this savory confection. The cake had a light almond flavor with a fig preserve filling, and the "frosting" was Melville cheese topped with a mixture of toasted pecans, peanuts, and almonds. Everything you would want in a cheese board but in the form of a cupcake. Masterful.

What a great celebration of the current CT food scene. We can only hope for similar "takeovers" to come. When they do, we will be there!
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