Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

I love croutons on salads and soups, and up until recently it had never occurred to me to make my own. Then one night while my kitchen was in the throngs of the remodel, a friend, who is a wonderful cook, brought me dinner  (I know, I have nice friends, don’t I?). Besides the other yumminess, she brought a caesar salad with these homemade croutons on top. Oh, to die for!!! Croutons are so easy to make and taste so much better than even the best store bought. Once you make these, you’ll never go back!  I now keep these on hand at all times.

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

  • 1 loaf good ciabatta bread (I prefer Semi Freddies)*
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the Ciabatta loaf into bite sized pieces, then place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil and toss.  Then drizzle another Tablespoon oil and toss again.  Repeat a third time until all the bread is coated.  Sprinkle with the garlic salt and toss again to disperse evenly.

Spread the bread cubes onto a jelly roll pan in a single layer.

Bake at 350 degress for 15 minutes, or until croutons are crisp and golden brown.

Remove and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

*Note: You could substitute any good crusty bread to make the croutons.  I’ve used french baguettes, sourdough, pugilese, rustic italian.

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Ultimate German Chocolate Cake

Did you all have a nice Mother’s Day?  Mine was pretty good.  I got to spend all day in my kitchen, cooking up a storm, and then my kids all cleaned it up for me at the end of the day.  For me, that’s perfect.  I love to cook, but I hate to clean, so it was a real treat to know that I could just run wild and not have to worry about the mess!

One of my favorite treats is a yummy German Chocolate Cake, so what else would I make on Mother’s Day?  Now if there are any of you out there who don’t like German Chocolate cake, I have to say it’s only because you haven’t tried this one.  The grocery store and even the bakery versions are not the same.  In fact, they are so different that I would NEVER buy one.  Not worth it, in any way shape or form.  The homemade German Chocolate Cake is a whole different delicious animal!

In fact, by the time it was completed and ready to serve, I was so anxious to dive in for a piece that I forgot to take a picture of the entire cake, so you’ll have to settle for this one of just a slice.

I will preface this recipe by saying… as you can probably tell by the ingredients and instructions, the baking of this cake is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a while, and there are a lot of steps, but it is well worth it!  (And it helps if you have a few kids cleaning up your mess behind you, like I did)

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Cake:

  • 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (it’s easier to separate the eggs when they are cold, so do that and then let them come to room temp)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Coconut Pecan Filling:

  • 1 ½ cans (18 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 3, 9 inch cake pans.  Then line with parchment paper.

For the Cake:

In a small microwave safe bowl, place the chocolate chips and water.  Heat for 1 minute.  Stir to combine the water and chocolate.  If the chocolate isn’t melted, heat for another 30 seconds, and stir again.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add the egg yolks and mix to combine.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix to combine.  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, in 3 parts.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold into batter.

Divide batter among the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling racks.

For the coconut pecan filling:

In a large saucepan, beat together the milk and egg yolks.  Stir in the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Turn heat on to medium and cook 15-18 or until thick, bubbly and golden.  Remove from heat.  Add coconut and pecans.  Cool to room temperature.  (About 2 hours.  Frosting will thicken as it cools)

For the Chocolate fudge frosting:

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and the chocolate, stirring to combine.  Remove from heat add powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, and beat until smooth.

When cake and frosting have cooled, spread coconut pecan filling between layers of cake.  Then using the chocolate fudge frosting, seal the sides of the cake.  Then finish with the coconut pecan filling on top.

Honey Spiced Chicken with Sweet Potato Hash

Sometimes when I am in a hurry to make dinner, the health factor just goes out the window. I scramble to have something on the table so that my kids and hubby don’t starve. Not thinking that the calories we are about to consume means we shouldn’t be eating for the rest of the week. This recipe answers both speed and health!

I never had an affinity for sweet potatoes, but for some reason after having babies, my taste buds have changed. I am loving sweet potatoes! The sweet potatoes and chicken in this dish will have you tasting earthy, savory, rich flavors without consuming a thousand calories.

HONEY SPICED CHICKEN WITH SWEET POTATO HASH

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounce diced green chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, place diced sweet potatoes.

In a small mixing bowl combine 2 Tablespoons olive oil, chiles, garlic, honey, vinegar, salt, cumin, and cinnamon.

In a separate small mixing bowl combine 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 2 teaspoon of the chile/honey mixture. Toss in with sweet potatoes until covered.

Scatter the potatoes on the bottom of a roasting pan and bake for 15 minutes. Take potatoes out of oven and stir. Then place chicken breasts on top of potatoes and smother the remaining honey/garlic mixture on chicken. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies. Yes, I know, not very original or daring, but I have always loved them more than anything! I have tried all sorts of chocolate chip cookie recipes and even made up a few of my own. So now it’s time to try the brown butter approach. These cookies are fantastic! And browning the butter is so easy! The smell of the butter will have you salivating before you’ve even made the batter. Yum! My one tip is to make sure not to burn the butter! It should be a nice amber color:

To brown the butter, simply put butter in a saucepan on a medium heat and stir with a wire whisk. After about 4 minutes it should look like the above picture.

BROWN BUTTER OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

  • 
1 cup butter, melted and browned
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wire whisk often to make sure the butters solids will brown evenly as they drop to the bottom of the pan. Once browned, set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a stand up mixer, add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and browned butter together. Mix together for two minutes. The mixture will be grainy. (Can you smell that Browned butter?!?!) Add the egg and egg yolk and mix well. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Use a spatula to fold in the oatmeal and chocolate chips.  The dough will be dense compared to chocolate chip cookies recipes that use the step of creaming butter with the sugar. Use a cookie scoop and place dough on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Super Fast Salsa

So I missed posting this for Cinco de Mayo by 2 days! But better late then never. This salsa is so easy to make and always great to have on hand. I don’t know about you and yours, but our family literally goes through gallons of salsa! So grab your blender or food processor and let’s get going!

SUPER FAST SALSA

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½  white onion, chopped
  • 2 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, with some tender stems
  • juice of 2 limes (or lemons will work too)
  • salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor in the order listed. Puree until smooth, or leave a little chunky, if desired. Save any unused salsa in an air-tight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Warm Caprese Sandwich

 

Have I mentioned how much I love lunch?  Here’s another one of my favorites.  There is something about fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil that is simply delicious.  Those Italians know what they are doing, even with the simplest of ingredients.  Yummy!

Warm Caprese Sandwich

  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced horizontally through the middle and the cut into sandwich sized sections
  • 8 tomatoes, sliced in thick slices
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • fresh basil, julienned, to taste
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • garlic salt, to taste

Set the oven broiler to high.

Divide each sandwich side section of your loaf so that you have 2 open-faced pieces, like the picture above (only don’t put all the stuff on yet).  Drizzle each piece with olive oil, and then line one half of each sandwich with slices of mozzarella cheese.

Put the slices, open-faced, under the broiler on a rack set in the middle of the oven (not to close to the element or the cheese will burn), and broil until the cheese is melty and the other side is toasted light brown.

Remove from oven and stack the tomato slices on top of the cheese.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and finish with slices of basil.  Put the two side together, and cut down the middle to serve.

This recipe makes 4 good sized sandwiches.

You can obviously decrease or increase the portion size, according to how many people you are feeding.  When I make this just for myself, I use the toaster oven instead of the big oven, and use the both the top and bottom elements. It makes a nice toasty sandwich.

You can also add a smear of prepared pesto sauce under the cheese layer, if you like.

 

Garden Fresh Pinwheel Sandwiches

At LJB we love a good healthy lunch.  As I’ve said before, I usually eat a small breakfast and a small dinner, but lunch… lunch is my main meal of the day, so it better be a good one.  This is one of my favorite things to have for lunch.  So many yummy veggies, a good dose of protein, and of course the cute packaging just makes me happy when I’m eating it.

GARDEN FRESH PINWHEEL SANDWICHES

  • 2 slices Lavash Bread (can be found at most super markets, I got mine at Trader Joes)
  • 1/2 cup shredded or juilenned carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced avocado
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons greek seasoning
  • 6 slices deli style turkey breast meat
To assemble the sandwiches, lay out your lavash bread on a clean work surface.  Spread each slice with 1/4 cup cream cheese.  Be sure to spread the cream chesese as cloae to the top and bottom edge as you can get it.  It is the binding ingredient that seals the sandwich.  Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon greek seasoning.

Add 3 turkey slices to each bread slice about 1 inch from the top.  Then add a sprinkling of each of the veggies below the turkey.

Then start rolling.  Start at the top and roll as tightly as the ingredients will allow.  The ingredients may slip around a little as you roll, which is ok, as long as you have enough empty space to seal the ends. Finish the rolling, and poke 4 toothpicks into equal sections of the sandwich.  Cut between the toothpicks, creating 4 smaller pinwheel sandwiches.

Serves 2.