Month: December 2015

My Culinary Debut

While I was poking around looking for Turkey Day recipes, specifically bread pudding recipes, I ran across a tasty-looking corn pudding recipe from Ina Garten. This got my wheels turning, and I was reminded of a recipe for Indian pudding that I made many, many moons ago. 

My memories are vague, but I’m sure my mom will fill in some of the details I’m missing once this posts to Facebook. It was a school project, I believe in middle school, possibly with a paper that accompanied it. I remember making the Indian pudding for my class, then getting invited to “present my project” to the school board. I imagine it may have had something to do with the fact that there was food involved with the project. Kind of like when it’s someone’s birthday at the office and you get free cake.  I do remember getting a thank-you note from the superintendent, mentioning that they were surprised that the pudding didn’t contain any pumpkin, since it had that pumpkin-spice flavor. What do you know? I was doing pumpkin-spice before it was cool! #hipster

Indian pudding is a New England recipe, sort of an Americanized version of the British hasty pudding. This version is from The Heritage Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. I actually remembered that when I text my mom to ask her about the recipe. I can remember that, but I can’t remember why I walked into my living room. Father Time is a cruel SOB.

Sweet Indian Pudding

serves 6


  • 3 C milk
  • 1/3 C molasses
  • 1/3 C yellow cornmeal
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300F. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and molasses, stir in cornmeal. Cook and stir for about 10 mins, until thickened. Remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl, combine egg, sugar, butter, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Gradually stir in hot cornmeal mixture. 
  5. Bake uncovered in a 1 qt casserole at 300 degrees about 1 1/2 hours until pudding is set. 
  6. I find it tastiest when eaten warm, but you can also chill it & top it with some whipped cream. 

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #4 This is My Jam! Jam

Folks would have you believe that making jam is super-hard. It’s not, but you do need the right materials & equipment & good instructions. I whipped up this jam that’s perfect for gifting while my kids were at martial arts class one evening. I even had most of the items on hand. Here’s how:

This is My Jam! Jam

makes 5 12oz jars


  • about 1 1/2 C mixed berries (I used a mix of frozen blackberries, blueberries, and cranberries I had in my fridge from my smoothie-enthusiast days.)
  • 1 bottle of wine (I used a Missouri Chardonel)
  • 5 C granulated sugar
  • 2 packets pectin (I have had best results with Certo brand)


  1. Wash your jars with soapy water & set them out on the counter on a clean towel with lids and rings. For gifts, I like 12 oz or smaller quilted jelly jars.
  2. In a pot larger than you think you will need (gotta leave room for that rolling boil) combine berries with 1 C of the wine.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower to medium-high and simmer for about 15 mins.
  4. After 15 mins, pour entire mixture into blender and puree until the berries are pulverized. Add a little extra wine to facilitate blending if needed.
  5. Pour puréed berries & wine back into same saucepan. Add the rest of the wine, and all of the sugar. Stir to combine.
  6. At this point, I recommend clipping a candy thermometer into the side of your pan, to monitor the temperature of your mixture.
  7. Bring mixture to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute.
  8. Add all the pectin & stir to combine. Continue that rolling boil for 1 minute, or until your mixture reaches about 220F. (Sometimes it will take longer than 1 minute to get there.)
  9. At this point you will start pouring your jam into the jars. I like to pour the mixture into my large, glass measuring cup and pour from there into the jars, but you could use a ladle as well.
  10. Fill your jars to the fill-line and immediately cover tightly. If your jam still looks loose at this point, do not despair, as the jam cools it will firm up for you.
  11. Putting the hot jam into the jars will often pop the seals, but you can also process the jam using a canner for about 5 minutes, if desired.
  12. Allow jars, processed or not, to cool for 6-8 hrs, or overnight.


Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #1: Wine Salt

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #2: Porcini Salt

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #3: Seaweed Salt


Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #3 Seaweed Salt

More of my experiments with finishing salts… I think I may be obsessed. Ask me if I have made any holiday cookies yet. On second thought, don’t. I was very happy with how this came out. After I did the Porcini Salt, I started thinking about other things I could rehydrate & infuse with salt. Seaweed! My weird kid likes to snack on sheets of seaweed like you would roll sushi in- anyone else have a kid who does this? I was pretty sure if I steeped them in water they would rehydrate, which they did, but I was surprised that the water didn’t turn green. Now I get why food manufacturers use artificial colors; this is seaweed, I feel like it should be green. Not green, but definitely captured the essence of the seaweed flavor.

This recipe has been approved by Finnick Odair and the folks in District 4.

Sea-Weed Infused Finishing Salt


  • 4 sheets of dried seaweed (nori)
  • 1-1/2 C Kosher salt
  • 4 C water


  1. Fold your seaweed and place it into a large (1 qt) glass measuring cup.
  2. Boil about 4 C of water (I like to use my electric kettle.)
  3. Steep seaweed sheets in water for about 30 mins.
  4. Remove the seaweed (it will look like cooked spinach at this point) and pour water into a medium saucepan.
  5. Bring to a boil, and simmer and reduce over medium-high heat. There will be about 1/4 C of concentrated seaweed-juice.
  6. When reduced, add 1 C of salt and stir until it absorbs all the liquid. If you still have puddles, you can add up to another 1 C of salt.
  7. Spread salt onto baking sheet and dry in a warm oven for about 2 hours, checking the progress & moving salt around every 30 mins or so.
  8. This salt would make a great compliment to any seafood dish; I think it would also be amazing sprinkled over popcorn.


Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #1: Wine Salt

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #2: Porcini Mushroom Salt

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #2 Porcini Mushroom Finishing Salt

I promise these won’t all be salts, but I’ve been experimenting with infusing salts with different flavors & I’m mostly pleased with the results. The wine salt posed a bit of a challenge, it didn’t dry as well as the others I have done since.

I regularly purchase dried mushrooms to use in various applications: soups, sauces, etc. They are easy to use and keep almost indefinitely since they’re dried. To use them, all you have to do is put them in hot water and soak for about 15 mins. Typically, I will save the soaking water & use it for a greater depth of mushroomy flavor, kind of a stock of sorts.

You can use any type of dried mushroom here. Porcinis, Chanterelles, and Shittakes are all available dried.

Porcini Mushroom Infused Finishing Salt


  • 1 pkg dried mushrooms
  • 1 C kosher salt
  • 4 C water


  1. Remove mushrooms from package and soak in 4C hot water (I use almost-boiling water from my electric kettle). Use a wooden spoon to push the mushroom down into the water as they float to the top. Soak for about 30 mins.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the water & set aside.
  3. Pour the mushroom water into a small saucepan.
  4. Bring to a boil & reduce heat to medium-high.
  5. Summer mushroom water at medium-high heat for about 45 mins. Liquid will reduce to around 1/4 C.
  6. Remove from heat & stir in salt. If there is still liquid that has not been absorbed by the salt, add more salt. You may need 1 1/2-2C.
  7. When liquid has been absorbed by the salt spread salt mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  8. Place in a warm oven for about 2 hrs or until dry, moving the salt around occasionally for even drying.
  9. Place finished salt in an airtight container & use within 6 months.


Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends #1: Wine Salt

Julia’s Brioche

A few weeks ago, when I was making my kids Croque Monsieur for dinner I picked up some store-bought brioche. Delicious, but a touch expensive, but definitely a delicious treat!

I hadn’t made brioche since culinary school many moons ago, so I decided to give it a go. Naturally, I immediately reached for my copy of Baking with Julia.

Julia was apparently one of my early role-models, my mom tells stories of me “cooking” on my grandma’s front steps as a preschooler. I’m going to have to get her to find a photo of that. Julia is the inspiration for the pegboard wall in my kitchen that you may have seen in the background of some of my photos. Hanging in my dining room, is this print, that I received for Christmas last year.

If you are short on time, brioche is definitely not the bread for you to bake. You will need a total of about 12 hours of rising time to make this bread properly. Here’s the recipe I used, adapted from a Julia’s recipe:

Julia’s Brioche

makes 3 loaves

First you will need to make The Sponge. I think of this as a warm-up for the yeast to all the rising it will be doing during this recipe.


  • 1/3 C warm milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 C all-purpose flour


  1. In the bowl of your KitchenAid, combine milk, yeast, egg, and 1 C of the flour.
  2. Mix ingredients with a rubber spatula until combined.
  3. Sprinkle the other 1 C of flour over the mixture, covering it completely.
  4. Set The Sponge aside to rest, uncovered, for about 30 mins.
  5. After a few mins the flour topping will start to crack, that’s how you know thing are going as they should.


Here’s my sponge volcano starting to crack…

Once The Sponge has finished his initial rise, you can start to make him into The Dough. 


  • 1/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp


  1. Add sugar, eggs, and 1 C of the flour to  The Sponge. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until ingredients begin to come together.
  2. Add 1/2 C more flour; when flour is incorporated, increase speed to medium and mix for about 15 mins. Scrape down bowl and dough hook as needed.
  3. During the 15 min mix, dough will come together, wrap around the hook, and begin to “slap” the sides of the bowl. This is what Julia says. I laughed when I read it, but sure enough, about 10 mins in: slap slap slap rhythmically on the bowl!
  4. With the mixer on medium-low, begin to add the butter, a tbsp at a time.
  5. When all the butter has been added, turn speed up to medium and mix for about 5 mins. Scraping bowl and dough hook as needed.
  6. Your finished dough should be cool, soft, and a bit sticky.
  7. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. During this time the dough will double in size.

    before first rise

  8. After 2 hours, deflate the dough by lifting & dropping the sides gently. Cover and refrigerate the dough overnight. It will continue to rise, and may double in size again.

    after refrigeration

  9. After the dough is refrigerated, you can freeze it for later use or shape it into some loaves immediately.

Proofing and Baking:

Fun fact: There are 2 kinds of brioche loaves. One is called a tête (French for head) and is baked in a special pan. The other is called a Nanterre, and is more of a traditional loaf. Since I don’t have a special brioche pan (Santa, are you listening?) I went with a Nanterre. 


  • 1 recipe brioche dough (see above)
  • 1 large egg, beaten with a tbsp of cold water for egg wash


  1. Butter 3 loaf pans, set aside.
  2. Divide the dough into thirds. Each of the thirds will become a loaf of brioche.
  3. Divide each third into 6 equal pieces, and roll into balls.
  4. Place the balls in loaf pan side-by-side in three short rows of 2. Repeat with remaining dough & pans.

    2 regular-sized pans, 1 mini

  5. Cover the pans with plastic  wrap sprayed with cooking spray and allow to rise at room temp for 2 hours or until double in size.

    after the rise

  6. Preheat the oven to 375F
  7. Lightly brush loaves with egg wash.
  8. Using a sharp pairing knife, cut a small cross into the top of each dough ball.
  9. Bake for about 30 mins until browned. If the loaves are browning too fast, you can cover them loosely with aluminum foil.
  10. Carefully remove from pans & cool on a rack.
  11. Put loaves in freezer bags & refrigerate ir freeze until ready for use. Slice as needed, as slices will go stale quickly.
  12. Use for sandwiches, French toast, or bread pudding!

Holiday Gifts for Foodie Friends: #1 Wine Salt

What can you do with leftover wine? Leftover wine? What’s that? I kid, I kid… if you’ve got some leftover red wine hanging around there’s a few things you can do with it, but since it’s the most wonderful time of the year, I would suggest making a red wine finishing salt.

Disclaimer: Please, never, ever cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. When you cook with wine, the flavors get concentrated, that’s the reason you’re cooking with wine in the first place, so bad flavors will definitely not get any better…

This is a finishing salt, it has big flavor, and a little bit goes a long way. Your friends can think of you all year long as they sprinkle salt on their steaks and roasts…

DIY Red Wine Finishing Salt


  • 1 bottle (750ml) red wine (I used a Shiraz for a deeper flavor)
  • about 2 C Kosher salt


  1. Pour entire bottle of wine into a medium saucepan. I used 2/3 of one bottle, and 1/3 of another. Both were leftover from my wine club.
  2. Bring wine to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-high & simmer for about 45 mins. After the first half-hour the wine will reduce by half, watch carefully for the last 10-15 mins as the wine thickens to a syrup.
  3. Pour 1C of salt into the pot. Stir salt until it absorbs the wine-syrup. If there’s still excess wine in the pot, add another 1 C of salt.
  4. Spread the wine salt onto a plate or sheet pan & allow to air dry, tossing occasionally to expedite drying. This may take several hours to a day. I ended up putting it in a warm oven for several hours to speed things along. 
  5. Store in a covered jar, use within 1 year.

For more ideas on adding wine to your recipes, check out my Pinterest board Cooking with Wine.

Croque Monsieur Bread Pudding

This is a great recipe for anyone who has kids who refuse to eat crusts/end pieces of bread. I’ve been saving the butt-ends of loaves of bread in my freezer for several months now, and I have a whole bag full. Originally, my plan was to make a sweet bread pudding for Thanksgiving, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

A simple dinner that my kids enjoy is a Croque Monsieur. Basically, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, on French toast. Some folks like to add in ham or bacon but I find just cheese is just fine.

Imagine my amusement when while watching an episode of American Horror Story: Asylum, Dr Thresden (AKA Zachary Quinto) is making a Croque Monsieur for a “guest” & declares:


You are creepy as hell Quinto, but SPOT ON.

This recipe is the casserole-version of the sandwich.

Croque Monsieur Bread Pudding

Serves 4-6


  • bread crusts, butts, and end pieces (about 1 loaf worth), cubed
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4-1/2C half-and-half
  • 4-6 oz Munster cheese, grated or cut into thin strips
  • 4-6 oz Baby Swiss cheese, grated or cut into thin strips
  • cooking spray
  • nutmeg (of course)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, making sure you get the sides thoroughly. (The type you would make a lasagna in is perfect.)
  3. Spread half the bread cubes evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Layer the cheese over the bread cubes.
  5. Spread the other half of the bread cubes over the cheese.
  6. Beat eggs and cream together. Crack all the eggs, then add cream to 2C. 
  7. Pour egg mixture over bread and cheese. With your hands, push bread and cheese down into egg mixture gently. 
  8. Let soak for 10 mins. Push down again. 
  9. Sprinkle top of pudding with nutmeg.
  10. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, until pudding is set, not runny, and slightly golden on top.
  11. Scoop out and serve, a great rainy-day treat with tomato soup!