In case you were wondering . . .

Toast + PB + Marshmallows + Chocolate = Heaven.

You say brilliant.  I say breakfast!

One year ago on C&T: Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cupcakes and Polenta with Sausage and Mozzarella

Two years ago on C&T:  Granola and Southwestern Corn and Black Bean Salad

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Quick and Easy Easter

Chocolate Truffle Bunny, from Truffle!

I know, I’m late to the Easter planning party!  Most of you have probably already made all your plans, picked your menus, and dyed your eggs.  I’m always a little behind with holidays like Easter, since the chocolate biz is crazy for a couple weeks before the big day – I never seem to have time to do any of my own stuff in advance!  But, if you are behind the eight ball, like I am, the least I can do is share some links and ideas with you.  Most of these things are right up my alley – as in, not a ton of ingredients, simple to make/do, not a lot of time or prep involved.  That’s how I roll.  Otherwise, I’d never get anything done!  Wait, actually . . . I don’t get much done.  Never mind.

Ideas for eating:

Easter definitely means pastries, don’t you think?  From the Chocolate & Toast archives, I’m eye-ing these babies:

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Caramel Cheesecake Pastries

WELL.  It has been one heck of a year, don’t you think?  I have to say, 2010 really kicked me right in the pants.  In a good way.  In the best way, in fact.  But I’ll come back to that in a minute, because I much prefer to bury the lead (is it lede, really?) when possible.

Ahem.  So, let’s do a few fun facts, shall we?  We shall.  Because I’m sitting in a recliner, wrapped up in a blankie, watching football, and would you believe I have an entire afternoon and evening ahead of me with nary an obligation in sight?  I can’t believe it either. Continue reading

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins with Chocolate Chip Walnut Streusel

Whoa, time warp.  I’m missing two weeks here.  What just happened??  It seems someone clicked the hyperdrive button on my life – and now it’s October.  OCTOBER, people!  As in, the beginning of The Holidays (at least, for my business).  As in, I’m about to take a deep breath and dive headfirst into a multi-month stretch of madness – seven day work weeks, 12 and 14 and 16 hour days, and because of that, the only time of year I can hang out with chocolate all day and still lose weight.  Not even kidding.

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Sour Cream Blueberry Scones

I know I’ve been a broken record about this “weather” thing – but, seriously, I can’t help myself.  I know that a bunch of you all are living in places that are suffering heat waves and record setting temperatures and such . . . but honestly, it’s hard to wrap my brain around, considering that I’m STILL WAITING FOR SUMMER TO START.  I went for a jog the other morning and it might as well have been October, for all the gray skies and the wearing of long sleeves and pants.  And don’t even get me started on my garden.  My poor, sad, garden.

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Ham and Gruyere Bread Pudding

I’m baaaaaaack!  Well, mostly.  I still have what I call *holiday brain* (the inability to think clearly or in a focused way), and I would like to sleep for about three weeks.  But otherwise, I’m back!  Holiday business craziness is officially over again–at least until February.

Now, I know this is too late for anyone to use tomorrow, but trust me–bookmark this for New Year’s Day.  Put it together the day before, slide it in the oven in the morning as you reach for your giant mug of coffee, and I swear you’ll forgive me for abandoning you for the last three weeks.  Four weeks?  Holiday brain.

Also, two important things about this recipe–other than the fact that it is dead easy and a great way to use up those leftover loaves of bread that hang around during the holidays.  First, you really should add some carmelized onions to this.  I meant to, I really did.  Holiday Brain.  Second, feel free to mess around with it all you like–maybe bacon instead of the ham?  Or a veggie version with some spinach and carmelized onions?  Stick with the bread, eggs, and milk, and change up anything else you want.

I’m lucky to have a picture to post for this one–my husband liked it so much that he nearly polished off the entire pan last night.  He left me enough to take a picture with today, and then promptly snatched the plate back from me when I was done with the picture.  Fair enough, seeing as he is cooking the entire menu for today: pork shoulder with figs, garlic and pinot noir; soft polenta with parmesan; creamed spinach; brie en croute with pecans and bourbon; and vanilla bean creme brulee.  (mostly recipes from Sunset Magazine)

Oh yeah, and today is our 8th wedding anniversary.  I sure caught me a good one.  😉

Happy Holidays and good eating to you all!

*UPDATE: You must add a carmelized onion to this, it is THE BEST THING EVER.  Recipe below has been updated.

Ham and Gruyere Bread Pudding

  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 to 6 cups day old (or super stale) rustic bread, cubed (I used 1/2 a French Batard, straight out of the freezer)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence, or spices of your choice
  • 1 cup diced smoked ham
  • 1 cup gruyere, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat 1T butter and 1T olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium high heat until butter is melted.  Add sliced onions, stir well, and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook onions, stirring often, until completely soft and nicely browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Layer about half of the bread in a large baking dish (souffle pans and dutch ovens work great).  Top with half of the ham, half of the cheese, and half of the carmelized onions.  Repeat with remaining bread, ham, cheese and onions.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, and seasonings.  Pour over the bread mixture, making sure to coat each piece of bread as much as possible.  If your bread is very stale, you will want to refrigerate the dish for at least an hour, allowing the bread to soak up some custard.  You can also cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight at this point.  Bring the dish back out of the fridge while the oven is heating, and push down any of the bread pieces that look a little dry on top.  Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the dish feels hot to the very tip when removed.  The total time will depend on how deep your dish is (deeper=longer), so keep an eye on it! Serves about 6 normal people.  Or one very hungry husband, twice.

Bread pudding is even better leftover, if you can hang onto it that long–the custard and bread set up together so that you can cut nice pieces that hold their shape, and the flavors come together even better the next day.

Sourdough, Part 2: Pancakes/Waffles!

Let’s review:  you have already stirred together 2 cups warm water, 2 cups flour, a package of active dry yeast, and let it sit in a warm place at least six hours, or overnight.  You now have a nice bubbly bowl of what we call “sponge”.

Now you have to make a decision – do you want to maintain a living “starter”, to use the next time you want to make pancakes or waffles (or bread, or rolls, we’ll get to those later)?  Or do you want to make a fresh sponge each time?  A living starter will develop a stronger, more “sour-y” taste over time, but you do have to remember to feed it or use it occasionally.  A fresh sponge each time is certainly easier, but will never develop a true sourdough taste.

If you do want a living starter, stir up your sponge a little bit, and then remove approximately 1/4 cup.  Store it in a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid, in the refrigerator.  The next time you make a sponge, you’ll use the starter instead of the packet of yeast.

Then, to the remaining sponge, add the following:

Waffles

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • a tablespoon or two of flour, if you like a thicker batter

Pancakes

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

Mix well, and cook as you would any pancake or waffle–till nicely browned on both sides and ready to drench in butter and syrup!  Makes 5 large (10″ square) waffles, number of pancakes depends on how big you make them, but essentially you can feed four people with one batch of batter.  Although I usually eat two full waffles, no problem.  😉

Sourdough, Part 1: Starter

Little Jar o' Starter

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  I am.  But only because my role is to (1) show up, and (2) eat.  My in-laws always cook a great meal, my husband is in charge of the green bean casserole (gourmet, not gross!) that we are bringing, and he also plays the role of “entertainer” while I kick back and put my feet up.

Yes, I know how lucky I am.

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Leek and Mushroom Tart

leek mushroom tart

This is my go-to recipe when we have overnight guests–you can prep the leeks, mushroom and crust in advance, and then just throw together the liquid ingredients and pop it in the oven in the morning.  By the time you’ve tanked up on caffeine and put out a bowl of fruit, the tart is baked and beautiful and your guests think they’re staying at a B&B.  Which is fabulous . . . as long as they still leave!

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Brown Sugar Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

yogurt cake with blueberriesI may have O.D.’ed on blueberries this weekend.  I ate Blueberry Oatmeal Bars, I ate blueberries with granola and yogurt, I snacked on bowl after bowl of just plain berries, and then I finished it all off with these adorable little mini yogurt loaf cakes.  If blueberries are health food, then I am one of the healthiest people on the planet right now.  Ahem.

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