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June 20, 2010

Father's Day Figgy Bread Pudding

My dad is one of those guys who never needs anything. If he wants something, he goes out and gets it for himself. Often he simply goes without, as whatever it is is not actually a "need." That makes him a candidate for the Hardest To Buy Gifts For award. So I was thrilled to find a great Father's Day present for my wonderful dad this year: he loves bread pudding, and I found a cookbook with sixty recipes for just that! I presented him with his gift a little early this year, so he could pick out one recipe that I could make for him on his day. I couldn't have found anything that fit him better.


The recipe my dad chose was a Figgy Bread Pudding with Brandy Hard Sauce.


New-Fangled, Old Fashioned Bread Puddings was written by Linda Hegeman & Barbara Hayford. It's not as outdated as I had expected, being copyright in 1994.




While this bread pudding was not a complicated recipe for a beginner cook, there was a lot of prep work to be done. All in all, it probably took me about four hours including cooking time--a major feat, for me.


For Figgy Pudding: Toast the bread loaf to make it stale. I put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about seven minutes, at the same time as I toasted the nuts.


Chop and toast 3/4 c. walnuts by putting in a 350 degree oven for seven minutes.


Choose a 2 1/2 quart dish and butter it.


Chop approx. 8 oz. figs. The recipe calls for Mission figs, but I used the Turkish figs I had on hand from a Trader Joe's splurge for car snacks on the drive to my folks' house.


Cut the bread into 1 inch strips and butter both sides with approx 12 Tablespoons melted butter. Layer bottom layer of baking dish, reserving rest for upper layers.


Simmer figs with 1 1/3 cups milk & 1 1/3 cups heavy cream. Over medium heat, bring mixture almost to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.


Beat 3 large eggs, 3 large egg yolks, and 2/3 cup packed brown sugar until smooth.


Combine fig/cream mixture into eggs. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/3 cup brandy. Beat until well mixed.


Layer buttered bread, custard mixture, and walnuts into baking dish.


I used two layers in the dish.



Cover with plastic wrap and press down with your hands or back of a spoon so that the bread absorbs the liquid. Let stand for 30 minutes.


Set baking dish in a water bath in a larger ovenproof pan. Remove plastic wrap and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until custard is set (knife inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean), pudding is puffed, and top is browned. Serve warm with Brandy Hard Sauce, 2 Tablespoons per each serving.


For Brandy Hard Sauce: On medium speed, beat 12 Tablespoons softened butter until light and fluffy.


Reduce mixer speed to medium low. Gradually add 2 1/4 cups powdered confectioners' sugar, 3 Tablespoons brandy, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, beating until creamy. Refrigerate sauce until ready to use. Serve at room temperature.


Per the recipe, the Fig Pudding yields 10, and the Brandy Hard Sauce yields a scant 1 1/2 cups.

We all enjoyed the dessert--my dad especially. But the brandy sauce had the consistency of icing and tasted of pure sugar. We found it a little overwhelming to the dish. My dad liked just a bit of the sauce, but I prefer to go without. The dish as a whole is definitely one that improves on the second round. The fig flavor really came out in the leftovers.

Would this be the dessert of your dreams? What is it that you request on special occasions? Please leave me a comment on the blog if you try out this recipe.

Marinated Blue Cheese Portobello Mushrooms


I marinated the Portobello mushroom caps in balsamic vinegar and lemon infused olive oil for about three hours. The whole crown was topped with a generous helping of a very mild Champignon Blue Cheese, minus the rind. To cook, I started it out like this, sauteeing in a covered pan.


When it looked like this, I transferred the portobellos to a casserole dish and finished with a few minutes in the oven to brown the cheese on top.


The cooking juices were so good that after we ate I bottled them to use in a salad dressing. Portobello-Blue dressing over spinach will make a great second course!


June 19, 2010

Floral Covered Writing Pens


I'm on the lookout for easy crafts for the kids at camp. These beautiful pens may be on our list for next year! Some simple, small fake florals, green florists' tape, and cheap pens are all that is required. A fast project, they'll give an elegant touch to daily activities--just the type of craft I enjoy.


Do you have any easy craft suggestions for my camp kids? Please leave me a comment on the blog.

June 18, 2010

Monster Cookies


Monster Cookies were a staple of our family camping and road trips as I grew up. They combine my favorites: peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Usually bigger than my open hand, I also love to package these indiviually and freeze them to take out for breakfast on the run. I'm sharing a long-held family secret in disclosing the recipe. Click on the image below to enlarge it to a readable size, or follow along with my step-by-step pictures as I made an altered cherry-cashew version this week.



The margarine, granulated sugar, and brown sugars are creamed together above.


Eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter are added to the mix. I added the baking soda to the wet ingredients and mixed it in well.


The dry oats, chocolate chips, and nuts are mixed together and standing by. Utilizing what I had on hand in my pantry, I substituted cashews for the nuts, and doubled the chocolate chips in place of m&ms, and added 1/2 cup of dried cherries as a treat.


The wet and dry ingredients are mixed together in a large tupperware bowl.


An ice cream scoop makes a great measuring device to keep the cookies evenly sized. A wide-bottomed milk glass dipped in sugar is a useful tool to smash each ball flat, to about a 1/4 inch height.


Baked at 350 degrees, left to cool for about ten minutes, then transferred to wax paper to set, the cookies didn't last long enough to photograph more than one!


What's your favorite kind of cookies to bake? Who do you make them for, or where do you take them? Please leave me a comment on the blog, with your own recipe!

Days of Yore Cup"Cake"


This weekend is the annual festival at my parent's church. I'm contributing to the bake sale with an oversize cupcake! It's nothing terribly original--the design is all in the NordicWare pan. But it turned out so cute I had to share. It's a chocolate boxed mix with chocolate frosting on the base, and white cream cheese frosting on the top, and plenty of sprinkles to make it look like a dream cupcake for more than its size.

What's the best decorated cake you've ever made, and what was the occasion? Please leave your story on the blog, and send me a picture too!

June 13, 2010

Craft Day of Card Making


I'm currently on staycation. And I'm preparing to be a counselor at a weeklong summer camp at the end of the month, helping out 4-Hers by running the arts & crafts barn. So I'm cleaning out the stash of blog post ideas by sharing these beautiful cards my mom and I designed during a marathon paper-crafting weekend last December, when we were forced to miss a family funeral we dearly wished to attend. The crafting was a great diversion for our aching hearts. And I've had handmade gifts for the entire year, avoiding chain stores like Hallmark completely. This card was blank inside. We duplicated this pattern for a couple dozen cards, and I've used it for all occasions.




I learned several new techniques this weekend, like using a press to give the paper texture, sponging around the edge for softness, and melting a special powder to add an embossed shine to stamps. The picture below shows off the embossed sheen.


My mom made a couple of the card below just to send to her sisters. I know they got a great laugh out of them!



Do you find you save handmade cards more often than store-bought ones? Are there certain holidays where you try to be more genuine than generic? Please leave a comment on the blog.

June 10, 2010

No Cookie Left Behind Charity Bake Sale


The annual No Cookie Left Behind Bake Sale is a community event that brings together cupcakes, quiches, and cookies, and the people who love them, to enjoy a summer day at Scoops and raise money towards eradicating childhood hunger in the US. Over the the last 4 years, they’ve raised over $10,000 for Share Our Strength and Doctors Without Borders. In addition to the baked goods, the Frysmith Truck will be on hand offering gourmet french fry concoctions. See the poster above for details on the June 13th event--that's this coming Sunday!

Have you attended this event or the Cookies Without Borders benefit the same folks did for Haitian relief? Please let me know how it has gone in the past by leaving a comment on the blog.

Vegan Products from WorldFest: revitaPOPs and Cool Cups



There are a couple of new (to me) products I've been wanting to review that I discovered back at WorldFest about a month ago.


The first is revitaPOP, the vitamin B12 lollipop. What a great way for a vegetarian like myself to get a needed supplement! While I don't normally suck on pure sugar like lollipops either for dental reasons, this is a great vehicle for someone who refuses or forgets to take pills. I also like them as a company because revitaPOP provides employment to individuals with developmental disabilities, brain injury, autism and other special needs. Each bag of revitaPOPs is packed, sorted and shipped by individuals with special needs. You can get more information about their product from their website or friend them on Facebook.


The other product that I sampled and really enjoyed were the Cool Cups snacks. They're a gelatin free jello-ish product, totally vegan, and less than 95 calories. I tried the Peach Mango and the Cherry flavors, and both were yummy! I know the product is currently available in health food markets, and I'm hoping it spreads to mainstream.

Are there any vegan or vegetarian products that you enjoy? Let me know in a comment on the blog.

June 9, 2010

LA Street Food Festival Revamped


The LA Street Food Festival is back, revamped! Remember my posting from last year? I went down but couldn't even get into the event.

After last year's terrible crowds and long lines, needed changes have been made. The improved event is now at the Rose Bowl, with free parking, and all you can eat included in the *more expensive* ticket prices.

No tickets will be available at the door, so buy online through their website. Or fan them on Facebook for more updates. The event is a benefit for St. Vincents Meals on Wheels and the Woolly School Gardens.

Are you going? Did you attend last year? Leave a comment on the blog after the event to let me know what you think of the changes.
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