Bread Pudding with Rum sauce

bread pudding with rum sauce

Today is our office Thanksgiving potluck.  So here I am up making one of the most asked for dishes at my office, my bread pudding with rum sauce.  I never used to like bread pudding.  It was always too slimy, not very tasty.  I tried it a lot of places but it just never hit the mark.  Then I decided to experiment on my own.  Usually the bread pudding is made up of left overs of various types of bread. I have seen them use left over cinnamon rolls, of course white sandwich bread, French bread, raisin bread and many other types of bread.  I wanted something richer, with more flavor.  I made my first with challah, much better, but not quite what I wanted.  Of course my next choice was brioche, that was much, much better, but could be a little bit better.  I then tried brioche that had raisins added.  That gave it more flavor and cut out one step, covering the raisins with boiling water.  I liked this time saver. I do have to mention here that home made is much better, but if you are not a bread maker, you can buy some from a good bakery.  Next I had to work on the richness of the custard and the flavor.  Tried a lot of combinations of milk and cream until I came up with the one that I like, more cream to milk ratio. And I had to add extra eggs.  Next the spices.  In other bread puddings all I could taste was cinnamon.  I added extra vanilla and nutmeg.  That was the winning combination.  So here is the end result.  Hope you like it.

2 loaves raisin brioche ( will give the recipe for that later), cut into 1 inch cubes

4 cups of milk

6 cups of heavy cream

8 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

2 cups of sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Place the bread in a large bowl.  Beat the eggs till light and then beat in the sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Scald the milk and cream over med heat.  Temper the egg mixture ( pour a little of the hot milk mixture over the eggs, whisking the whole time to war the egg mixture)  Then pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture.  Pour over the bread and allow to sit about 20 minutes.  Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Pour bread mixture into the pan.  Place the baking dish into a roaster and fill the roaster with hot water half way up the baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Serve with rum sauce.

Rum sauce

2 sticks butter

4 large egg yolks

2 cups brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup rum

Place all the ingredients in a heat proof bowl over simmering water.  Cook whisking constantly until a candy thermometer registers about 160 degrees.  Serve warm.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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Chocolate Cream Soda

Chocolate cream soda

This is a very simple dessert.  This is one of Tommy’s and now my, favorite desserts.  It is so simple, but so good.  I would have never thought to put these two ingredients together.  I have to warn you.  These are very addicting.

2 scoops Dutch chocolate ice cream

1 bottle of vanilla cream soda

Place two scoops of ice cream into a frosted mug (as you can see, I use my A&W mugs).  Slowly pour in the bottle of cold, vanilla cream soda.  Lightly stir with a straw and enjoy.  It’s that simple.  You can top with whipped cream and a cherry, but why mess with perfection.

Streusel Topped Sweet Potatoes

Streusel topped sweet potatoes

Thanksgiving is coming up fast.  I have to sit down today and make up my menu for Thanksgiving dinner.  Already have various requests from the family, both immediate and extended, on what they want.  Of course we have the standards, Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, two types of stuffing – both regular and cornbread, cranberry sauce (this is one of the recipes I always get to play with), green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potatoes (another recipe I get to play with (will get back to this in a minute) and the traditional pies, pumpkin and pecan (this year, have to add a buttermilk pie) and one of our family traditions – Apple cranberry crisp.  When I was young, my mother always made the sweet potatoes with brown sugar glaze and topped with Marshmallows.  I am not a big lover of store bought marshmallows.  I went along with that recipe for some time, but eventually began to slip in different recipes for sweet potatoes.  Personally, I like my sweet potatoes baked with butter and nothing else.  This recipe gives the extra sweetness that everyone likes, but is not so overwhelmingly sweet (and makes me happy because I don’t have to scrape off the marshmallows). My apologies to those who love the marshmallow topping.  It is more of a casserole than just chunks of sweet potatoes. I think once you try it, you might never go back.

4 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped pecans

3 tab. flour

Cover potatoes with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook till tender.  Drain and mash.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1/2 cup butter.  Combine potatoes, sugar and melted butter.  Stir in milk, egg and vanilla.  Spoon into a buttered casserole dish.  Combine brown sugar, pecans and flour.  Cut in the 2 tablespoon of butter, till crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.  Place in oven and bake until topping is browned, about 25 minutes.  Serves about 10-12.

Beef Barley Soup

Beef Barley soup

I love soup in the fall and winter.  There is just something wonderful about a bowl of soup and fresh hot bread on a chilly evening.  This is one of my favorite beef soup recipes.  It is so filling and satisfying.  It keeps well so you can have it for dinner and take some for your lunch the next day and it will taste just as good as it did the night before(or two nights before).  It does take some time, but is well worth the effort.

3 1/2 lbs. short ribs

3 carrots, scrubbed

3 ribs of celery with the leaves on

2 onions, whole and studded with 2 cloves

4 cloves of garlic

6 cups of water

4 cups of beef broth (you can use store bought, but homemade is so much better)

4 large springs of parsley

3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1/4 inch slices

3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 cup peas (frozen or fresh)

1 cup green beans (you can use canned or frozen)

1 cup cooked pearl barley

salt and pepper to taste

2 tab. parsley, chopped

Place ribs with whole carrots, whole celery with leaves, onions and garlic into a stock pot.  Add water and 2 cups of broth.  Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 1 hour.  Skim off foam.  Add parsley sprigs and simmer for another hour.  Remove meat and remove bones and fat.  Cut up meat and strain broth.  Discard carrots, celery, onions and garlic cloves.  Chill broth and then skim off fat on top.  Return to pot and add sliced carrots, celery, peas and green beans and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Add the meat, chopped parsley and barley.  Simmer for another 10 minutes, then serve.

Chicken and Pasta with corn in a Garlic Parmesan Sauce

Chicken, pasta and corn in a thyme garlic sauce

We love pasta in our family.  There are so many ways to fix it and so many different types of pasta.  I love to have a variety available at all times and especially love to make fresh pasta as much as I can.  There is just something so satisfying to making the dough, rolling it out, cutting it into the shape you want and making a dish completely from scratch. I could spend hours in the kitchen making food for those I love.  But as we all know, there is never enough time to do everything that we have to do now, so sometimes, I just have to settle for dried pasta.  This is an easy dish.  Very simple to put together.  You can grill the chicken the day before (or use left over chicken if you want).  Using the dried pasta saves a lot of time.  This simple dish is very tasty and easy to make.  I think after you try it, you will go back to it, time and time again.

4 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced thinly

1 pound of dried pasta (your choice – I change it up according to what I have in my pantry)

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

6 garlic cloves, minced (Yes, it’s okay to use some out of those little jars of minced garlic they sell in produce.  Just read the jar to find out how much equals a clove)

1 cup white wine

4 large sprigs thyme

2 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook, stirring often until the pasta is tender but firm.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté garlic and shallots for about 3 minutes.  Add wine and thyme and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Liquid will be reduced by about 3/4th.  Add corn and cream.  Reduce heat and let simmer for a few minutes.  Add pasta and season to taste.  Add parmesan and chicken and stir until parmesan is well incorporated into the sauce.    Serve with additional grated Parmesan over the top. You can also top with fresh chopped parsley, or chives.  (I always have to try new things when cooking to see if I like them better)