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Monday, September 30, 2013

Savory Muffin Tin Bread Puddings and Eggplant with Feta and Honey

Connie likes tomatoes.  I LOVE tomatoes.  Therefore, at this time of year I'm just kind of getting tired of them.  He's ready to move on.  His least favorite foods, soup and fruit would be fine alternatives.  Just please turn down the level of the tomatoes.  Well, except for the BLT's.  Those have bacon you know.  That makes up for a LOT of food problems.  I suppose if I wrapped these beautiful Indiana peaches in bacon he'd be happier.  Or, maybe I could put a bit of bacon in the gazpacho?  Whatever.  It was time for a break from the tomatoes.  I'd seen a recipe for savory bread pudding with sausage in it.  I'd bought the sausage and sour dough bread.  All was good except for the fact that I couldn't find the recipe.  I went back through all the magazines in the car.  Nada.  Checked all the cookbooks I'd been reading in the car, family room and on my bedside table.  Nada.  Well, I didn't check ALL the cookbooks.  I omitted the cocktail one.  Then, I realized the cover said Cocktails and Appetizers.  Ah hah!  There it was. 

Connie'd cut out a recipe for eggplant, feta, honey and thyme.  That'd be perfect with this.  And, no tomatoes.  I read the recipe thru and just had to add some grated gruyere.  About 1/2 - 3/4 c of grated cheese.  Because the bread puddings cooked at 325 and the eggplant was supposed to roast at 400, the eggplant went on the grill.  It was probably more brown that it was supposed to be but still tasted fabulous.  The bread puddings?  Five out of five.  I'm not a huge fan of those bread stratas.  The kind the family serves every Christmas morning.  I find them gummy and tasteless and try and grab a corner so there's at least something I'm semi happy to eat.  These are cooked in muffin tins with nice crusty bread.  Read, chewy.  Yummy and chewy.  With sausage and cheese.  Yup, these were a five.  And, one of the best parts is that the leftovers are in the freezer.  They can be nuked one or two at a time and will be perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Savory Muffin Tin Bread Puddings


8 oz sweet Italian sausage
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
1 T canola oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 c milk
4 eggs
1 c grated gruyere cheese
1 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1" cubes


Preheat your oven to 325.  Crumble the sausage.  Brown and drain the sausage, mushrooms and garlic.  Beat the eggs and mix in the milk.  In a large bowl combine the sausage mixture, egg mixture, grated cheese, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Use 2 1/2" muffin cups.  Coat 12 with butter.  Ladle the bread pudding in. 

Bake for about 40 minutes.  The tops will be a bit puffy and brown when they're ready.  We froze the leftovers and have found that they reheat perfectly well in a toaster oven.


adapted from Cocktail Time by Sandra Lee

Eggplant with Honey, Feta and Thyme

I have no idea where I got this recipe...  It's so easy.  You can either peel the eggplant ahead of time or leave the peels on and nibble around them.  Either way, slice the eggplants into 1/4" - 3/8" rounds.  Drizzle them with olive oil.  Grill both sides until they're nice and brown.  Turn off the heat to the grill, sprinkle the eggplant rounds with crumbled feta cheese and close the grill lid.  Let the cheese get happy for a few minutes.  Serve drizzled with honey and fresh thyme.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Le Colonial and Other Dining Adventures

Le Colonial.  One of the best meals we've had in a while.  A vacation day in Chicago.  A VERY needed vacation day.  Two months ago I started the transition back to the broker/dealer I'd been with since 2003 and left in 2012.  Never should've left.  Should've listened to Connie.  But, I didn't.  But, you know the drill.  Things work out the way they are supposed to.  There are a couple of great things that happened because of the change and change back.  If I went into them I'd have to get everything I said approved by the wonderful folks in advertising review.  I'd rather talk about fun than work so let's just focus on that, ok? 

We've spent the better part of two months pushing paper and more paper.  We had NO business taking a day off.  But, we did it anyway.  A day trip to Chicago to see Mastering the Art.  And, lunch at Le Colonial.  The trip had an optional lunch included.  We, however, knew where we wanted to be for lunch.  Many years ago we'd been at a conference and stayed at the Sofitel.  They'd sent us down the street to Le Colonial.  We'd talked about that fabulous meal since then...  Every time we were in Chicago we were on business and someone else chose the restaurant.  Normally a steak place because the group was mostly guys and they wanted steak places.  Fine.  But, kinda boring don't you think?

They opened at 11:30.  It was 10:45.  We decided to kill a bit of time by wandering through Fourth Presbyterian Church.  Beautiful.  I'm so glad we had that 15 minute interlude.  Here are a couple of photos:

Then, off to Le Colonial.  Now, if you're there for dinner, please try dining on the balcony.  It's fun.  You get to enjoy Rush Street AND fabulous food.  But, for lunch we had a choice of a window table or a booth.  Window table please.  Yup, you got it.  Better light for photos :-)  Let's talk about the food first.  Amazing.  Vegetable spring rolls.  Oxtail pho.  Clay Pot chicken.  Barbecued Pork.  Just amazing.  Our favorite?  The clay pot chicken.  Hands down.  Chunks of perfectly cooked chicken with snow peas and rice in a perfectly balance sauce.  I wanted to lick the bowl it came in!  The barbecued pork was nuggets of grill-charred pork with loads of veggies on the side.  It was also VERY good.

And, the service?  I can't tell you how many times my water glass was topped off.  And the wine was perfect with our lunch.  I know.  We were on vacation.  Wine for lunch.  Whoooweee!  I didn't get any photos of anyone other than the two servers who took care of us but there were plenty of folks who so unobtrusively took care of us...  And, of course, you'd like to see what the place looks like.

Before I leave Chicago, let me say that Mastering the Art was SUCH a good play.  It centered around Julia's early days in France then their move to Cambridge where she finally found out (at age 48) that she was going to be a published author.  I'd go see it again right now. 

Now, we've been plenty of other places recently.

The normal "crew" at Chef Joseph's for his monthly wine tasting.

18 on the Square to meet our friends Chris and Mark.

Girls Night Out at Sangiovese.  Where, coincidentally, Connie and I had our first date. 


One wasn't quite as successful.  A new sandwich joint down the street from my Greenwood office.  I shall not use the name.  Let me just tell you how they make their mac and cheese.  They make a cheese sauce.  Not terribly thick and/or cheesy.  But, a sauce nonetheless.  Then, when the order is placed they boil the macaroni.  They drain it (kind of) then toss it with some of the cheese sauce.  Yeah, you're going ewwww too aren't you?  I'll not be back even though the hot dog was ok.

Out in Phoenix for my broker/dealer's women's conference.  Saw SO many good friends and had a fabulous time.  From my room I had a gorgeous view - including the mall where my friend, Melissa, and I went for a lovely lunch at Zin Burger.  Look at that yummy local brew!

AND, got to eat twice at a Tex-Mex place down the way called Fuego Taco.  The first night I had the pork tacos and a shrimp chowder.  The restaurant is in the midst of reinventing itself so the chef was trying out new things.  Evidently I was the only brave soul to try the soup.  It was more a broth than a cream soup.  Corn, shrimp, potatoes, cilantro.  All the flavors just danced together.  The second I had beef tacos.  But, that time I took photos of my friends instead of the food.

Our friends Gerry and Edna were traveling across the US from their Ithaca, NY home to their Yucca Valley, CA home.  Actually, they were finally making the big move to call Yucca Valley home.  They stopped in Indy and we went to dinner at Rick's Dockside.

Last, but certainly not least, our Kiwanis club did a fund raiser at Chef JJ's Backyard.  Now for those of you who read this regularly, you know that JJ does ALL his cooking on Big Green Eggs.  Amazing cooking it is, too.  We had pulled pork with pickled onions on grilled naan, crispy polenta with a spicy sauce, ginger fruit and a cookie.  Perfection on a plate!  That's JJ serving some lunches :-)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tequila Glazed Chicken

Secret Recipe Club.  One of my favorite times of the month.  I get to explore a new blog and find a new recipe.  When I get a blog by a cook who's relatively new to cooking, I'm typically amazed by how far they've come in a short period of time.  These gals typically have been on a MUCH quicker learning curve than I was!  My blog this time is Cinnamon Freud.  It's written by a counseling psychology doctoral candidate by the name of Karen.  Karen started cooking about three years ago and has amassed an impressive collection of recipes!

What to choose?  We're still dieting so sweets were out.  The pears stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey sounded fabulous.  I had peaches I could use.  And, the SOS brought back a lot of great memories from childhood.  I do indeed have a jar of dried beef in the pantry.  But, no, the sodium's too high.  How about the balsamic black bean salsa?  We've got sweet corn and black beans but our only picante sauce is mongo jars and I don't want to open one and have to plan a week's worth of menus around that. 

Then, we joined our fellow Kiwanians at lunch at Chef JJ's Backyard.  It's one of our favorite places.  And, we found out that our names had come up on the list to buy a Big Green Egg that'd been used as a demo.  We've been saving our credit card cash back for a few years specifically to purchase a Big Green Egg.  Now was our time!

That meant back to visit Karen since I'm spent most of the week prior to reveal day at a conference in Phoenix.  No chance there to cook!  Now, my mission was to find something to grill that didn't require a lot of preparation time.  Tequila Glazed Chicken.  Perfect.  I had sweet corn from the farmers market.  Some sliced tomatoes.  And, we'd be in business.

What did we think?  Connie said it may have been the best chicken we'd ever grilled.  He said he wasn't sure if it was the glaze or the Big Green Egg but whatever it was, I can fix it again - tomorrow!  The leftovers went into a fabulous salad with beans and corn and tomatoes and all kinds of great goodies.  Then, the last half breast got diced up and put in wraps - with the rest of the beans and corn and some melted cheese.  YUM!

Tequila Glazed Chicken


1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
2 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1/4 t kosher salt
3/4 c pineapple juice
1/3 c tequila
1/4 c honey
2 t cornstarch
2 t water.
2 t lime zest (about 1 lime)
3 T fresh lime juice
1/4-1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes


Heat your grill.  Karen's directions called for pounding the chicken.  I find that to be a step I try at all costs to skip...  So, I skipped it and instead butterflied each breast half.  Then, you mix the cumin, chili powder and salt

and rub the mix into the chicken. 

Mix the tequila, pineapple juice and honey and cook it over medium heat until it's reduced.  I reduced it by about a third.  Karen's recipe didn't specify so that was my guess :-)  Once it's reduced, stir in a slurry made of the cornstarch and water.  Stir until it's thickened then off the heat add in the lime zest, lime juice and crushed red pepper flakes.  Reserve half of the sauce for serving.  Use the other half to glaze the chicken as it cooks. 

With the grill at 350 and the butterflied chicken, we cooked it for four minutes a side and it was perfect.

adapted from Cinnamon Freud