Bread pudding is one of my favorite throw-together, quick and easy recipes. If you have at least these three items on hand, you can make the base pudding: bread (preferably day old and dry), eggs, and milk or heavy cream. It’s also a great go-to because it works for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. It just depends on the extra ingredients you throw in: sweet for breakfast or dessert, savory for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus, prep time is ten minutes or less. How great and versatile is that? (more…)

Trifle 4_smWhen you think about Valentine’s Day, what first comes to mind? For most people, it evokes images of roses, Champagne, and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. But for some, the first thing that comes to mind is a decadent dessert. (Well, for me at least.)

I know this is hard to believe, but there are many people out there who don’t like chocolate. When brainstorming up a Valentine’s Day dessert recipe, I wanted something simple to prepare but still classy-looking like a dessert you might see at a restaurant, not to mention something that could please almost anyone’s palate (chocolate haters included).

Tiramisu seems to be a favorite confection for many, but making it can be somewhat complicated and time consuming in the preparation — and not all of us are skilled pastry chefs here. I did want to utilize the ladyfingers, mascarpone cream and liquor-infused elements of the dish, though. And then it hit me — trifle! One of the easiest, throw-together desserts man (and woman) has ever created. Trifle is also a great quick-fix for a make-ahead or last-minute treat as the the components are simply layered atop one another, traditionally in a clear glass container to give it a nice presentation.

This Hallmark holiday is a great excuse to indulge your sweet tooth, and with this easy and elegant recipe (below) you’ll be able to impress your special guest(s) with a swanky-looking final course that you spent practically no time preparing — and they’ll be none the wiser. The ingredients are also pretty inexpensive, and because it’s strawberry season here in Florida, you can pick up a pint of them for a few bucks.
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Bread pudding duo sm

Broccoli, ham and cheddar (top) and pear-cranberry bread (bottom) puddings

Who doesn’t love bread pudding? It is warm, comforting, inexpensive and incredibly easy to prepare. It also makes for a great last-minute or make-ahead brunch or dessert dish, as you can have the ingredients prepped in no time and either throw it together and pop it right into the oven, or let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and bake it off in the morning.

With the following basic base recipe for bread pudding, you’re free to experiment with all sorts of sweet and/or savory combinations. I’ve also listed recipes for both a sweet and a savory bread pudding using the base recipe. I usually use French or Cuban bread, but if you’re feeling extra naughty (and not counting calories) challah bread and croissants make a great substitute. Heck, I’ve seen Paula Deen use a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in her bread pudding!

The base recipe for bread pudding is all about the ratio and simple math. For a basic custard base, you’ll want to use a 2 to 1, milk to egg ratio. A large egg is about 2 ounces, so for every egg you use, you’ll need 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of milk. (And the ratio is the exact opposite if you’re ever making a quiche.) Instead of using just milk, sometimes I’ll do half milk and half heavy cream for a richer custard base. But if all of this math is too much for you, just follow my recipe below.
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BlackberryFroYo1

If you’re one of those people who have, thus far, stuck to your New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating (or are trying to get back on the bandwagon), here’s a quick, easy and scrumptious dessert recipe that won’t leave you with extra calories to burn off or the guilt of cheating on your diet. It’s also a good way to get a serving or two of fruit into your daily diet.

What’s great about this recipe for frozen yogurt is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to put it together. The only equipment you’ll need is something many people already have stowed away in their kitchen cupboards — a blender or food processor. If you don’t have either, I’d highly suggest investing in one, as their blending and chopping possibilities are practically endless. Purchase an inexpensive one at Target, Wal-Mart or online (and you don’t need anything fancy, just one that performs the basic functions).

The original recipe I adapted this from uses a half cup of sugar which I’ve replaced with a quarter cup of light agave nectar. Agave nectar (or agave syrup) comes from the sap of the agave plant. Yep, the same plant that tequila is made from. But don’t worry, you’re not going to get buzzed from this sweet nectar, it’s just a healthier substitute for refined sugar. It’s lower in calories than sugar and also has a much lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t give you a spike in your blood sugar and can be used by those on low-carb diets and those with blood sugar issues.

As for the base, I like to use natural, low-fat Greek-style yogurt that’s free of preservatives, as it has more protein and is bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt. It’s thick texture also makes for a creamier frozen yogurt. If you’re going the vegan route, then use a soy-based yogurt instead.
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Here’s an oldie but a goodie from my recipe arsenal that I created a few years ago (and please excuse the bad pic, as it was before I knew anything about food photography). These bacon-dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting are one of my most requested recipes, so here it is. It’s also one of the recipes I made during one of my regular cooking spots on Studio 10 (watch the video here titled “A Birthday Treat with a Twist”).

I will confess that I cheated a bit on this one — I used cake mix from a box. (Gasp!) Baking cakes and pastries completely from scratch has not always been my forte (actually, my worst subject in school). They’re so fussy to make and easy to screw up, and I hate measuring out ingredients. I take the Rachael Ray approach to cooking: a palmful of this, a pinch of that, etc. Bottom line: you can’t mess up with cake mix and I had my reputation relying on these — no room for error. At least I made the peanut butter frosting from scratch, thus redeeming my honor.

The rich chocolate and smoky bacon marry beautifully and are enhanced even more by the sweet and salty peanut butter frosting. This is definitely a ‘must try’, whether it be in cupcake, cookie, or bar form. And if you don’t eat bacon, your loss.
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If you have been paying attention to all of the ads and the commercials on Bravo, you’ll already know that the Top Chef series is back (and we’re hoping you’ve watched). This time, there’s a twist: 24 well-known, seasoned chefs go head-to-head and compete in challenges just like they’ve put the contestants from past seasons through, all to win money for their charity of choice.

Top Chef Masters is a bit different than the original show, though. Instead of sticking all 24 of the “masters” in an apartment and make them eat, sleep, booze, and live together, four of them at a time compete in an episode. I was thoroughly surprised when I saw this – they didn’t mention that in the previews, but I can understand why this was done. (Do you really think these chefs are going to give up the reins of their uber popular restaurants and two months of their lives just for a TV show? Though I would liked to have seen a Hosea-Leah hookup scenario between, say, Roy Yamaguchi and Cindy Pawlcyn.)
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redheads

Move over brownies and blondies- here comes their more fabulous and feisty cousin, the Redhead! It’s my personal take on a blondie/brownie — a little sweet, a bit nutty, with a spicy little kick at the end! If I were a baked good, I’d definitely be this one (and I’m a redhead too, coincidence?).

I complain about not really being much of a baker, but these one-bowl delights are so easy to prepare and definitely worth the (minimal) effort. I suggest serving them topped with ice cream or whipped cream and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and cayenne, and some Red Hots candies.

Want to bake up something to ignite the flames of passion (or your tongue) this Valentines Day? Then these will be a sure fire hit, because everyone knows: redheads do to it best.
Recipe after the break: (more…)

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