November 21: Doughnut Bread Pudding

As my pictures hopefully arrive uncorrupted in my email, I must tell you about the most delicious bread pudding ever! Pardon my hyperbole, but my first bread pudding has been well received by my co-workers today. First, what is bread pudding? A delicacy in the Deep South, bread pudding is a dessert made of stale (but not moldy) bread that’s been soaked in a cinnamon-egg-milk mixture like French toast. For the truly adventurous, dark rum is added to the mixture or once the bread has baked. Once cooked, the bread is either soaked in a sauce or glazed, typically with a mixture of melted butter and dissolved powdered sugar. The reason the dish is a “pudding” is because you serve it by the heaping spoonful rather than slicing it like a bread. To add variety, people add fruit (raisins are popular) and/or nuts.

I love bread pudding. It’s hard to find good bread pudding though, and you have to be really careful as it super easy to undercook the pudding. I actually had a very bad experience with an over-priced bread pudding and had the great fortune to be flying non-stop cross-country. Raised in Georgia, my mother, who’s from South Carolina, regularly made bread pudding. I have been wanting to make bread pudding since my mom returned from a trip to New Orleans where she tasted a bread pudding that she couldn’t stop talking about. For her, it wasn’t so much the bread pudding (because it’s a pretty basic recipe) as it was the sauce. They used a rum sauce, so the bread was essentially soaked in rum.

Last night was my opportunity. Kroger had a dozen glazed plain doughnuts on discount for 1.79 since they were sell/use/eat by the next day. I’m highly partial to Krispy Kreme plain doughnuts, so I’m not sure if Kroger plain doughnuts just aren’t good or if the fact they were nearing their expiration. At any rate, they made perfect bread. My mom’s, and most bread pudding recipes I knew of before Googling doughnut bread pudding, are made from regular baked bread that you use to make sandwiches. The nice thing about using doughnuts is you don’t have to add sugar or compensate by adding a sugar glaze.

I found a recipe on Foodnetwork.com from Paula Deen, because who does decadent southern fare like her? Plus it had a rum sauce recipe. I modified the recipe somewhat because whoever adds fruit cocktail to bread pudding should be shot and i don’t like cooked raisins.

Pudding recipe

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Tear 12 doughnuts into 1/2 – 1 inch cubes (great task for kids).

Whisk 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 2 large eggs, one 14 oz can of condensed milk, and 3 cups of cold milk. Add rum or extract to taste, though before adding in the eggs to avoid risk of salmonella.

Stir doughnuts in the milk mixture and soak until liquid is absorbed.

Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish, top with more cinnamon, and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Rum sauce recipe

Bubbling rum sauce

When the pudding has about 5-10 minutes to cook, melt one stick of   butter over medium heat. Add the powdered sugar in increments until the glaze coats the whisk. For me, this was about 1.5 cups. Do not add 1 pound of powdered sugar unless you want to have a diabetic coma. You can certainly taste for sweetness. Finally slowly add the rum until the mixture gently bubbles. I didn’t really measure, but I estimate I added 0.25 cup.

Cooked, hot, bread pudding with punctures made with fork tines

Once the bread pudding is finished, remove from the oven and poke holes in it with a fork. Pour the sauce over the pudding and allow the sauce to soak the bread pudding.

It’s a super easy recipe. As I waited, I enjoyed spiked Silk Nog. I was a little heavy handed with the rum, so between that and the sugar coma, I went to bed as soon as the bread pudding was cooled enough to cover and stick in the refrigerator.

Okie, so my impressions. One, I should have known better than to blindly follow a Paula Deen recipe. I am a sugar addict, but this was over the top, especially when warm. Think hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts compared to room temperature ones. This morning the cold bread pudding was much more toned down. But I like warm bread pudding. If it weren’t 40F outside, I’d have bought some ice cream. Anyway, I digress. I will not use the rum sauce recipe with powdered sugar again when I make the bread pudding. It really is just too much sugar. I’ll tweak (or find) a butter rum sauce recipe for my glaze. In fact, I’m going to make a chocolate rum sauce or use chocolate doughnuts next time. Oh, I bet a red velvet bread pudding would be great for Christmas. Wal-mart makes red velvet doughnuts. Hmmm….

Anywhoo, the bread pudding is extremely moist but not soupy, which is an important distinction. Steer clear of soupy bread pudding; that’s how I got in trouble in California. I’m not sure what the consistency of the plain pudding would have been as I immediately soaked it in sauce right from the oven. Which brings up an important point: when you transfer the soaked doughnut mixture, make sure it’s soggy but not soupy. I have pictures, and I will post them so you can see what I mean.

Bottom line: Doughnut Bread Pudding is a decadent, sumptuous, sinful dessert perfect for the holidays. I recommend serving with spiked (egg) nog! Try different types of doughnuts or bread and make delicious combinations. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

More pictures are below:

The minimum desired consistency for the rum sauce

Mixture of ingredients to soak the doughnuts in prior to baking

Soaked but not soggy bread pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Ready for baking!

Torn doughnuts

November 13: “Gourmet” Grilled Cheese (Gruyere/Havarti and Granny Smith Apple)

Okie last post of the day. I’ve been behind with updating since I started interviewing for jobs I applied to October (hence the limited blogging in October). Anywhoo, I actually prepared my first gourmet grilled cheese about two weeks ago when I made some chocolate chili with apples. As an aside, it’s an amazing chili. Don’t be turned off by the chocolate, as I think that’s just a gotcha recipe name. You add maybe 2T of  cocoa to the multi-quart recipe, which provides a smooth texture to the chili. Also as an aside, I hate kidney beans, and if you do, too, I recommend red bean and great northern white beans. Back on task: what goes better with chili than grilled cheese sandwiches? Years ago I read about gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches on some recipe website long forgotten. I do, however, remember the brie and granny smith apple grilled cheese. I discovered that I don’t care for brie all that much, so I returned to my Kraft American singles grilled cheeses. Until recently.

I was in Wal-Mart and decided on the spot I’d make chili for dinner that week. I remembered most of the ingredients from the recipe, which is not the original one I used but close enough. I stopped by the deli section on the way to check out and picked up some Gruyere cheese. I know very little about cheeses, so I read labels to find one that melts well and that didn’t cost too much money for my experimentation. Since I needed a granny smith apple for my chili, I figured if my gourmet grilled cheese went bust, I could just add the extra apple to the chili.

Well, Gruyere and granny smith is a winning combination! I used whole wheat bread, canola cooking spray, and a skillet. I remember thinking a panini press might have worked better, but hey good old fashioned elbow grease worked just fine. I thinly sliced the cheese and apple before layering them on the bread. For my first sandwich, the heat was too high so I had an extra crispy one lol. I suggest using medium-lo heat. It takes longer to grill, but the cheese melts and the bread is nicely toasted. The apple was more sweet than tart and the flavor complemented the mild, salty flavored cheese.

I thought I was doing well until I bought Havarti cheese last week. Havarti melts much better than Gruyere for grilled cheese purposes, and in my opinion, havarti goes much better with granny smith apples. It’s my own special treat. I was craving something salty this week, which usually means it’s time to hit up McDonald’s, but I made a gourmet grilled cheese instead. The only downside to using Havarti cheese is that I enjoy it on its own much more than I do Gruyere, so I will end up buying a block more often.

Gourmet grilled cheese is not for the budget conscious. I probably spent $6 on cheese to make 6 grilled cheese sandwiches. And each apple was about $0.75, which is a crime. But I did enjoy every last bite of my sandwiches *smile*. And hey, isn’t that what gourmet food is for? I highly recommend Havarti and Apple grilled cheese. It’s great for an every day meal and for special occasions like dinner parties and picnics with someone special.

Turkey chili with granny smith apples, cocoa, white beans, ground turkey, and spices

One, large, thinly sliced granny smith apple

Gourmet grilled cheese: Havarti with granny smith apples on lightly buttered wheat bread

Gourmet grilled cheese with a bowl of turkey chili

November 9: The Tabata Method

I was blog hopping a few weeks ago when I came across You As A Machine: Daily Body Maintenance. The blog is such a great resource for high intensity interval training. I spent some time on the website learning about proper body alignment, how to pay more attention to my body, and basic anatomy and physiology. What I was most intrigued about on You As A Machine was the Tabata method, the most intense 4 minute workout you will likely experience. The Cliff notes about the Tabata method is that it was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata and colleagues in Japan. The workout consists of 7-8 30 second intervals where 10 seconds is spent “resting” and 20 seconds is spent doing a cardiovascular or strength move at high intensity for 20 seconds. Total time for Tabatas is 4 minutes! Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

I did a cursory internet search about Tabatas to learn more about this form of exercise. One blog I visited proclaimed that Tabatas are the “greatest fat burning workout“.  Someone responsible for content at Rosstraining.com was thoughtful enough to find the abstract for a scientific paper in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which is on PubMed here. The abstract is a bunch of science-y jargon, but in short, the volume of oxygen of an individual intakes in a given time increased significantly after 6 weeks of Tabata training. (The VO2 max increase was 14% for elite athletes in the Tabata et al. study). I don’t have access to the paper but I assume that the only physical activity participants engaged in during the 6 week period was 4 minutes of high intensity exercise.

Besides being a quick workout (4 minutes remember!), as an interval workout, the post-workout effects of Tabatas are reportedly greater than for low-intensity, endurance cardiovascular workouts. Dave, at Not Your Average Fitness Tips asserted that fatty acids are released more quickly into the blood stream than with lower intensity endurance cardiovascular workouts. I’m not a biochemist or an exercise physiologist, so I cannot speak to the veracity of what chemicals are released during exercise. But if we accept that a biochemical process that occurs during cardio workouts happens faster with high intensity training than with low intensity training, it is easy to see the benefit of achieving the same effect in less time.

Okie, so enough background. What are Tabatas actually like. I have done them three times now, on alternate days. It was easy to psyche myself up on Day 1 because well, it’s four minutes. I spend more time doing my hair in the mornings. Since it was my first time, I took the advice on You As A Machine to alternate cardio exercises for each interval. I chose jump squats for Intervals 1 & 5, high knees with arm swings for Intervals 2 & 6, speed skaters for Intervals 3 & 7, and alternating jabs for Intervals 4 & 8. I strategically chose to do exercises that incorporated arms, core, and legs. I also opted to not move from standing to floor exercises in large part because of my blood pressure.

I used the stopwatch feature on my Android phone to keep time. I started with a 3 minute warm up to loosen my muscles since I worked out first thing in the morning. After the first 10 second rest period, I exploded into jump squats. I was conscientious about maintaining proper form (squatting into my heels, landing gently) while being as quick as possible. Breathing is another key focus. Thank goodness for Pilates because I controlled my breathing very well during the high intensity segments. After the first interval, I was super confident. By the 4th interval, I kept telling myself “It’s only 20 seconds”, “You’re halfway finished”, “BREATHE!” During the second set of exercises, that 10 second rest period became more and more negligible. After 4 minutes, I walked around and guzzled water for about 2 minutes while my heart rate lowered. My legs felt like I had run 3 or 4 miles. It was unbelievable that such a short workout could produce such a dramatic physiological effect. I followed my workout with 10 minutes of Pilates abs, stretched really well, and went about my day.

On Day 2 and Day 3, it was much more difficult to convince myself of doing Tabatas because I was no longer ignorant lol. Psychologically, it is somewhat refreshing — if I can even use that term — to know that in four minutes it will be all over. And I don’t mean so sound like it’s a chore to workout at my highest possible level of capacity. The high from the intensity of the workout and knowing that I finished and gave 110% for every 20 second interval is tremendously motivating. I workout in front of a full length mirror so I can watch my form. I give myself pep talks to jump higher or to lift my knees higher.

On Day 3, I took Dave’s advice and spent 20 minutes doing steady state cardio to maximize the effects of Tabata workouts. It was an unseasonably mild morning, so I went running. I’m not sure if the lingering effects of Sunday’s step and sculpt group fitness class or the effects of that morning’s Tabatas made it the longest 20 minute run ever. Cardio wise, I felt fine. My lungs and hearts were enjoying the run. My legs, however, felt differently about the situation lol. I made it home and enjoyed 20 minutes of stretching.

Tomorrow will be Day 4 of Tabatas. I really enjoy them and look forward to alternating two exercises instead of four. In terms of the physical effects, my heart rate recovers a little faster each time, my lower belly pooch is half the size it was a week ago, and I lost an inch from my natural waist. I feel much more energetic. It is tempting to do Tabatas every day, but this is not advisable. The amount of stress placed on the body is tremendous, and repeated stress like that can lead to injuries. So on days I do Tabatas, if I attend group fitness it’s for a low impact workout. I am ever more mindful of stretching as well. I’ll stick with the Tabata Method until Winter break when I will have more time for endurance workouts, which also has a place in a well rounded fitness program.

 

November 7: Bear Naked maple pecan granola

Perfectly sweet and crunchy!

Not much to say about Bear Naked maple pecan granola because it’s pretty much awesome! As you might expect, the maple pecan tastes much sweeter than Bear Naked protein. What I love most about the maple pecan is the praline pecans! The crunchy sweetness really adds to my Fage Greek yogurt faux-faits (I don’t layer the yogurt and granola as in a traditional parfait). The cost per ounce of maple pecan is a little less than than protein simply because maple pecan is cheaper; both flavors come in a 12 oz bag.

Something else I’ve begun to add to my faux-faits is dried dates. Between the sweetness of the granola and the sugared dates, I no longer need to add honey to sweeten the Greek yogurt. I still add honey because I’m a sugar addict, but it’s nice to know I can “wean” myself off the honey when I’m ready to face my addiction. One thing I cannot do is return to regular yogurt. Compared to Greek yogurt, even considering all the sugary stuff I add to mine, regular yogurt tastes TOO sweet. Plus, I don’t like the texture anymore. It’s so soupy in contrast to creamy Greek yogurt. Even organic Stonyfield strawberry yogurt just didn’t do it for me.

I plan to try many more Beak Naked flavors in the coming weeks. I saw they have a Heavenly Chocolate granola *gasp* That I didn’t buy it on the spot is a testament to my willpower lol. Kroger appears to have the entire collection of Bear Naked, while Wal-Mart has 6 flavors at the most, and certainly not the chocolate granola because that would have been the first granola I tried *smile*

I’ve expressed concern about the cost of my Fage Greek yogurt obsession. And less sugary and fatty granola is also more expensive than say Kellogg’s. At the end of the day, I can afford quality food. Interestingly enough, my food bill has actually decreased. Greek yogurt faux-faits satiate my appetite and satisfy my sweet tooth. I spend less on baked goods and candy, so faux-faits more than pay for themselves. It also doesn’t hurt that Kroger actually puts Fage on sale every six weeks.

November 5: Silk Pumpkin Spice (and Silk Mint Chocolate)

Happy Monday! I actually tried two new things this weekend, one of which was Silk Pumpkin Spice. I needed more soy milk, so while I was in the natural food section’s dairy case, I noticed products were not in their usual places. As I took in the new layout, I observed that Silk’s holiday flavors were in stock! I love egg nog, but find it so hard to drink by myself since it’s so thick and creamy. I mean, looking at a quart of egg nog makes my thighs bigger lol. Anywhoo, last Christmas when I went home to visit my mom, she had a quart of Silk nog in her refrigerator. I pretty much consumed the entire carton by myself and was consequently scolded *smile* Silk nog tasted like a less creamy version of egg nog. To me, it did not take like it was made with soy milk, but I had also spent the previous 3.5 months drinking soy milk rather than cow’s milk.

Needless to say, I was excited to try the other flavors, pumpkin spice and mint chocolate. I purchased only the pumpkin spice on Saturday because I had to walk home with my groceries and didn’t want a bag to break! I must say that I do enjoy pumpkin spice. It’s a smooth texture, though somewhat thicker than soy milk. The spice flavor was quite appealing. I did not warm the milk, but I suspect that pumpkin spice would be much better warm rather than cold. Given a choice between nog and pumpkin spice, I’m going to have to go with nog hands down. For personal consumption, pumpkin spice would be much better as an additive to hot chocolate or coffee rather than a drink to enjoy on its own.

Update: I recently warmed the pumpkin spice soy milk and used it for hot cocoa! Winner! The extra spice was pretty much amazing. That being said, I don’t recommend buying pumpkin spice milk just to make delicious hot cocoa. Simply add some cloves and cinnamon to plain or vanilla soy milk as it simmers on the stove. It’s definitely more cost effective to DIY. I also bought the Mint Chocolate seasonal flavor. Leave it on the shelf unless you like cough syrup tasting chocolate milk. Through four cups (it was a quart of milk), I never settled on whether the taste was cherry Nyquil infused or Peppermint Schnapps. Obviously the ingredients list mentions neither additive, but I was very disappointed that Silk messed up perfectly good chocolate milk making Mint Chocolate.

Bottom line: Buy Silk Nog, lots of it! You can’t go wrong with Pumpkin Spice, though Egg Nog is way better. But do not spend your money on the Mint Chocolate, unless you like the taste of alcohol with your chocolate milk *smile*

October 30: Parsnips

Parsnips (Image from Food.com)

As I alluded to in my previous post about Inca red quinoa, I have been celebrating the return of fall weather by roasting root vegetables. I mean, what says fall better than root vegetables? Last weekend while grocery shopping, I decided I would try parsnips. The white, carrot-looking vegetable was located in the bin adjacent to bulk carrots. I chose 3 healthy looking stems of parsnips and a bunch of organic carrots. To accompany the vegetables, I also purchased a bag of small (think golf ball size) Yukon Gold potatoes.

I stored the parsnips and carrots in the refrigerator on a plate. A big no no apparently. You have to place them in a container so they do not soften over time. But one day soaking up refrigerated air was not enough to damage the root vegetables. I gently scrubbed the parsnips, carrots, and potatoes under water. I peeled the parsnips and carrots before cutting them into even sized pieces. In a large Pyrex glass bowl, I seasoned the vegetables with dried herbs and coated them with virgin olive oil. The aluminum foil lined pan went into a preheated 400 F oven for 45-50 minutes or until fork tender. I stirred the vegetables about half way through since they browned on the areas interfacing with the foil.

I loved the roasted vegetables so much that I went and bought more to prepare again last night. The flavors of the parsnips, potatoes, and carrots really complemented each other. I found the nutty bite of the parsnips appealing. They were tender without being mushy, even when I reheated the veggie mix in the microwave. The texture  reminded me of boiled cassava. I Googled to learn more about the nutritional value of this white vegetable. It’s really an excellent source of nutrients, particularly potassium (498 mg for 1 cup of sliced parsnips), while being low in calories (99) and fat (0.4g), sodium (13mg) and cholesterol (0mg). One cup of sliced parsnips even has 1.6 g of protein.

Parsnips is totally my new favorite vegetable. It’s a great alternative to mushrooms and potatoes as my go-to white vegetable. I think next time I buy carrots, parsnips, and potatoes I will try to make this soup. It’s nothing better than soup and grilled cheese on a snowy winter day! As I try new recipes with parsnips, I will let you know how they turn out.