Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homemade Croutons

I personally don't love croutons, because I'm not a fan of crunchy bread in any form. I remember that during my childhood time in Germany I would poke a hole in my kaiser roll and dig out the soft center, leaving the shell, which was totally not worth eating, in my opinion. Anyway, I do actually like homemade croutons, because I keep them a little chewy. I eat two or three and I'm good for the next six months.

Handsome, of course, loves them and will steal them off the tray or out of the pan! Fortunately, they're easy to make, and it's a method rather than a recipe.

Homemade Croutons

Start with "day-old" bread. That just means you don't want really fresh bread, because it's too soft to cut easily, and it won't crisp up into croutons as well. You can use any kind of bakery whole bread loaves, though I like Italian or French baguettes. Multigrain, wheat, pumpernickel, sourdough or white all work well.

Seasonings - I like a mixture of garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. The amounts will vary according to your taste and how many croutons you're making.

Olive oil - you'll want to moisten the bread, but not soak it.

Cut your bread into bite-size pieces.

If you're making a lot of croutons, line a baking sheet with foil. Spread out the bread cubes and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with seasonings, and continue to toss until evenly coated. Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch them carefully, and remember that they'll firm up a bit while cooling.

If you just need a small batch, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add a small amount of seasonings. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Drizzle in more olive oil and seasonings if needed. Stir occasionally until the croutons are golden brown. This should only take 5-6 minutes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lasagna Rolls

I love lasagna, for the same reason Handsome doesn't - lots of gooey, creamy cheese! The recipe I'm sharing with you today is one that has lots of cheesy goodness, so I naturally don't get to make it very often. Like most recipes, it's adaptable. I tend to make it meat-free, though diced/shredded cooked chicken would be great inside the rolls, or cooked ground beef/Italian sausage can be added to the marinara sauce. Another variation I love that the family doesn't is chopped spinach in the filling. There are a few steps to this, but it comes together quickly.

**Update** You can watch a podcast of me making the dish step-by-step HERE. My mother recorded it as part of a project when she was earning her master's degree.

Lasagna Rolls, fresh from the oven!

Lasagna Rolls

8 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (Try this cool method!)

15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 cups marinara sauce

For the filling: In a bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parsley, egg, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.

To make the bechamel sauce: In a small skillet, melt the butter and stir in garlic. Saute for one minute. Sprinkle in flour, whisking for 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk. When thickened, whisk in Parmesan. Salt and pepper to your liking. Pour the sauce into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Lay the lasagna noodles out a couple at a time on a clean surface. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto each noodle, leaving room at each end. Gently roll them up and place seam-side down in the bechamel sauce.

Top the lasagna rolls with the marinara and the remaining mozzarella. Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Ready for the oven!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

I am always on the lookout for delicious apple and cinnamon recipes since that's Handsome's favorite flavor combination. When I found Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, I knew I had a winner! I adapted quite a bit of the recipe to suit my style of cooking and our tastes (I found the "as-is" recipe good, but a touch bland).

I pulse the ingredients for the crust in the food processor, using cold butter.

I use a touch of maple extract in the filling, and low-fat cream cheese.

I add a touch of maple extract to the apple mixture, too. 

I pulse the streusel ingredients in the same food processor, using old-fashioned oats, cinnamon, and a handful of pecans.

I do NOT line the pan with foil. I did the first time and it was disastrous. I just spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and it works beautifully.

These bars are definitely highly recommended, though! I think the addition of maple and pecans and more cinnamon really kick them into high gear, flavor-wise. Y'all enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Barefoot in the Garden

So my sweetie pie and I decided to try our hands at gardening this year. A few things haven't worked out, but considering I have a brown thumb I think we're doing pretty well! Here's a sneak peek at what I'm making for dinner tonight:

Those babies are going to be delicious mashed potatoes by the time I'm through with them. I dug them up out of the garden this morning.

Here's the fruit of someone else's garden that I received last week:

This baby is going to be 17 loaves of zucchini bread by the time I'm through with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Flavor of Spring

Just as cinnamon and apples make me think of fall weather, there's something about the combination of fruit and citrus that always reminds me of spring. I have several stand-by recipes that I love to use when I get the craving for spring!

Strawberry Scones with Lemon Glaze - These are incredible! The scones are tender and filled with strawberry chunks, and the glaze adds the perfect amount of tartness. I use lemon zest in the glaze, in addition to the juice.

Orange-Blueberry Muffins - The recipe actually calls for lemon, which I'm sure would be great, but I made these with orange zest and juice and they were delicious! The glaze really sets these apart.

Smooth Strawberry Soup - Words cannot express the yumminess of this soup! It's so ... the flavor! ... sigh ... Who knew the combination of lemon, orange, apple and strawberry would be so divine?

Strawberry Limeade Punch - This is my own recipe, inspired by Sonic's Strawberry Limeade. It's the perfect summer punch!

Picking strawberries last spring.