Thursday, March 30, 2017

Herb Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta

This morning, I was thinking forward to the weekend, anticipating spending time with friends and family. I like to be prepared with delicious bites whenever I am entertaining.  This bruschetta recipe is just in time for the weekend.  You'll be wanting one or two of these tasty bites as you unwind at the end of the week, kicking back with a glass of wine in hand.  While this Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta appetizer is perfect for tomato season when fresh, locally grown tomatoes are available in abundance, it is also yummy made with the cherry tomatoes you can purchase just about any time of year in your grocery store.  There is no need to wait for tomato season.

A Favorite Appetizer-Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta

Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruscheta
Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta

Yes, you can make this recipe any time of year with whatever tomatoes you can find that look ripe and delicious.  I wouldn't wait if I were you.    While I made my roasted tomatoes with cherry tomatoes, feel free to substitute with whatever fresh tomatoes you have available.  If fresh rosemary is not your herb of choice, go ahead and substitute some fresh thyme, or even basil.  I just think the fresh rosemary makes the flavor pop.
Herb Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta

The seasonings I used for the roasted tomatoes may taste excessive on their own, but I think you'll agree the amounts used are necessary to make this appetizer a wow in your mouth.  Feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your palate, but I suggest you try this recipe as written before making adjustments.  We loved these appetizers at my house!

Simple Ingredients for Tasty Bruschetta
Bruschetta Ingredients

Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 12
  • 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 slices of French bread, 1/2 inch thick
  • extra virgin olive oil, to brush on the bread
  • 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 12 slices
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix the tomatoes, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.

Seasoned Cherry Tomatoes
The Seasoned Tomatoes

Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and place the sheet on the center rack of your oven.  Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and the mixture is fragrant.  Remove from the oven to cool to room temperature.

Roasted Tomatoes
The Roasted Tomatoes

Preheat the broiler of your oven.  Brush one side of each French bread slice with extra virgin olive oil.  Place the sliced bread, oiled side up, onto a baking sheet.  Place under the broiler and toast the bread until the edges are browned and crisp, but the center is still soft.  The crunchy edges of the toasts are one of the keys to a delicious bruschetta, so don't answer the phone while the bread is toasting.  My oven took about 6 minutes to get toasted perfection.

Toasted Bread rounds for Bruschetta
Toasted Perfection
Remove the toasts from the oven and immediately top with a slice of the Brie and a small scoop of the roasted tomato mixture.   Serve immediately and enjoy with your favorite glass of wine.

Mouth Watering Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta
Roasted Tomato and Brie Bruschetta
Oh, how I love these little bites and I know you will too!

Don't forget a pretty serving tray or platter for these yummy bruschetta bites. (Affiliate links below.  Thanks for shopping!)

I especially like a plain white platter for its versatility.  Add some sprigs of rosemary and your platter will look amazing!

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This olive tray sure would be a fun addition to your appetizers presentation!  Don't you love it?

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins with Walnuts

What do you do with bananas that get overripe before they get eaten?  For far too long, I threw those overripe bananas in the trash.  I'm one of those people who likes to eat bananas that are firm and barely ripe.  Any brown spots signal that the bananas are getting too ripe for me.  A while ago, I learned that bananas could easily be frozen and used in a multitude of recipes.  Just remove the skin and wrap each banana individually in plastic wrap.  Freeze them together in a plastic zip top bag.  So now when bananas start to brown they go into the freezer and wait for me to use them.  No more wasted bananas and you'll always have bananas for the yummy muffins on hand.

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins-Yum!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins
Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
This recipe for chocolate chip banana muffins is one yummy way to use those frozen bananas.  It starts with my family's favorite banana bread recipe, with the addition of chocolate chips and walnuts. Make them for a weekend breakfast treat and the leftovers can be wrapped individually and frozen for a quick grab-and-go breakfast during the week.
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Muffin Ingredients
Muffin Ingredients with Frozen Bananas

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins with Walnuts

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 15 muffins

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature 
  • 3 small, or 2 large ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 cup hot water 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffins tins with paper liners. Mix together the flour and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Mash the bananas with the back of a fork and add to the egg mixture.
Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add to the batter. Add the flour mixture and the vanilla. Stir to combine. The batter will be lumpy. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin using an ice cream scoop.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins
Banana Muffins
These muffins will freeze well, too.  Wrap them individually in plastic wrap for a grab-and-go breakfast or afternoon snack.

Don't forget theses essentials for your kitchen.  (Affiliate links.  Thanks for shopping.)

You need a really good muffin pan.

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Cupcake liners make these into grab-and-go-treats.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pesto Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

Do you have a special occasion on the horizon?  Are you planning a celebratory dinner, but don't want to spend all day in preparation?  This recipe for pesto encrusted beef tenderloin may be a perfect solution.  We had this dinner for one of our recent family birthday dinners.  It was delicious and relatively easy to make.

Pesto Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

Beef tenderloin is an excellent choice for a special dinner because it is elegant, tasty, and doesn't require constant supervision while cooking.  You can brown the beef, get it prepared with the pesto coating, and set it aside until ready to cook.  The cook time is relatively short as well.  Don't worry if the beef is ready before you are ready to serve it.  The beef tastes just as delicious served at room temperature.  
Pesto Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

Pesto Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

Printer Friendly Recipe
  • 1 2-3 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied.
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1 cup panko

Purchase a two-three pound trimmed and tied beef tenderloin.  Pat the roast dry with a paper towel and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.  Don't skimp on the salt and pepper.  You want it to really cover all sides of the beef.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet on medium high heat.  I like to use my cast Iron frying pan.  When the pan is smoking hot, add the beef to the pan.  Leave it for a minute or two and then turn the beef.  Continue until all sides of your beef are browned.

Remove the tenderloin to a platter to cool.  Meanwhile, mix together 1/3 cup basil pesto with 1 cup of panko bread crumbs.  Mix it well so that the basil coats the panko crumbs really well. Spoon the crumb mixture onto the beef, using your hands to press the crumbs to make a crust.

The Pesto Panko Crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cook the beef for 20-30 minutes, until a thermometer registers your desired internal temperature.  I like to remove my beef at 125 degrees F.  Cover the beef with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with your favorite side dishes.

Pesto Encrusted Beef Tenderloin Dinner

Try pairing the beef tenderloin with asiago potatoes and fresh green beans.  The asiago potatoes are packed with flavor and oh, so yummy.  They are made with pesto, as well, so the flavor profile complements the beef.  Fresh green beans are crisp, sweet, and look pretty on the plate.

Printable recipes for the pesto and asiago pesto potatoes are available by clicking their respective links.

Don't forget a good meat thermometer.  It means the difference between a yummy dinner and disaster!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Spring has been a little reluctant to join us this year, but the calendar says it's time for warmer days. Spring always makes me think of lemon.  Perhaps it is the sunny color of lemons that makes me favor all things lemon this time of year.  Truth be told, lemon has always been a favorite flavor and these Lemon Pudding Cakes have become a favorite way for me to indulge my love of all things lemon.

Individual Lemon Pudding Cakes

Individual Lemon Pudding Cake
Lemon Pudding Cake

Originally, I found this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma recipe site.  Their recipe for individual lemon pudding cakes reminded me of how much I like little individual cakes, whether cupcakes or chocolate lava cakes.  It's fun to make a special cake for each person and I'm always a fan of the forced portion control that results as well.  This is a straightforward recipe.  The ingredients are simple, and like me, you may already have them in your kitchen.  Flour, salt, egg, lemon, milk, and sugar.  Don't you love it when you don't need to run to the grocery store to make something yummy?
Lemon Pudding Cakes

Lemon Pudding Cake Ingredients
Lemon Pudding Cake Ingredients

I always like to read the reviews of recipes online because sometimes there are tips and other times the comments are just plain entertaining.  The first reviewer gave this recipe five out of five stars saying it was perfect.  That was followed by the second reviewer who gave it one star, saying it was "an absolute waste of time and ingredients".  Well, those conflicting reviews made me definitely want to try this recipe to see which it was, a five out of five keeper recipe or a complete bomb.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Donna's Test Kitchen:  Making Lemon Pudding Cakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place eight half-cup ramekins in a 13x9-inch baking dish filled with four cups of water.  The water level will be halfway up the outside of the ramekins.

Ramekins for Baking Lemon Pudding Cakes
Ramekins Set in a Water Bath

Next, beat together the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, beating for 3 minutes with your electric mixer until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.  It will look delightful.

Beating the Eggs
Beat the Egg Yolks and Sugar until Light in Color

While the eggs are beating, mix together the 1/2 cup of flour and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and set that mixture aside. Zest one lemon and squeeze 1/3 cup of lemon juice from two lemons.  Stir the flour mixture into the eggs and sugar, making a very thick batter.  Beat the batter on medium speed for two minutes.  The batter will be very thick and lumpy.  Add the lemon zest, milk and lemon juice, stirring gently.  Using a silicone spatula to do the stirring will help you loosen the thick, lumpy batter from the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

Next, in a separate glass bowl, beat the egg whites until thick and foamy and add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Continue beating until the whites form soft peaks.

Soft Peaks of Egg Whites
Soft Peaks
Next, fold the whites into the egg and lemon batter.  Using a silicone spatula, fold about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to distribute the batter and lighten it a bit.  Then fold in the rest of the egg whites, gently, but completely.  Use a scoop to distribute the batter into the eight ramekins evenly.  Then place your pan on the center rack of the oven to bake for approximately 40 minutes.

Distribute Batter with an Ice Cream Scoop
Use a Scoop to Distribute the Batter

You'll know the pudding cakes are completely cooked when they are browned, puffed up high above the rim of the ramekins and some may be cracked.  Using different types of ramekins may result in the cakes cooking differently.

Puffed Cakes
Can You See the Different Results with Different Ramekins?

You'll be impatient to taste them because they look delicious and smell even better, but you'll want to cool them in the water bath for 15 to 20 minutes.  You'll see that they will settle as they cool.

Cooled Lemon Pudding Cakes
The Cooled Lemon Pudding Cakes

I love to dig into these cakes while still warm and the consistency is light and delicate.  The flavor is sweet and lemony, just what I like is a spring dessert.  In my humble opinion, this recipe is a delicious way to showcase the flavor of lemons.  These lemon pudding cakes are easy to make and are a tasty treat.  For all of us lemon lovers, this recipe deserves a five out of five stars.  I call it a keeper.

Eating a Lemon Pudding Cake
Digging In
After you let the lemon pudding cakes cool to room temperature you'll be able to turn them out onto a plate after running a knife around the edge of the cake and carefully coaxing it loose.  This results in a prettier presentation with the pudding covering the top of the cake.  You can either serve them straight from the ramekin or turned out onto a pretty plate.

A Lemon Pudding Cake
Lemon Pudding Cake
You can get the original lemon pudding cake recipe by following the Williams-Sonoma link.  Get other recipes for lemon lovers from my Pinterest board.

Essential Tools 

(This list contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.)
Silicone Spatulas
Set of Eight Ramekins
Kitchen Aid Seven Speed Mixer
Kitchen Aid Nine Speed Mixer
Ice Cream Scoop

Shared on Meal Plan Monday and Metamorphosis Monday.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Grow Healthy, Happy Orchids in Your Home

Winter came through my neck of the woods with a blast this week, in spite of it being just a week until spring officially begins.  With frigid temperatures and snow piling up outside my window, I was happy to look around and see my orchids in bloom.  I love that orchids bring a bit of the tropics to my home during the height of the winter season.  That helps to chase the winter blues away.

Seven Tips for How to Care for Orchids in Your Home

In my opinion, orchids are one of the best values available in flowers and household plants.  You can buy a beautiful orchid full of buds and blooms for less than $20 at grocery stores and garden centers across the United States.  Those flowers will last for about three months of colorful beauty in your home and require minimal care.

When purchasing your orchid, choose a plant with just a couple of open bloom and many closed buds. This orchid will give you many months of lovely flowers.  Pass up any orchid that has wilting blossoms or signs that flowers have dropped off the plant.
How to Grow Orchids

When the blooms fade, don't throw your orchid plant out.  Save the stake that was included, too.
You'll be needing the stake again when the orchid reblooms.  With proper care, your orchid will bloom again.  The orchids you see pictured in this post are all plants that are reblooming in my home.

I want to reassure that I am not an attentive home gardener.  For a plant to be welcome in my home it must require minimal ongoing care.  Orchids give back much more than the effort it takes for weekly watering and occasional grooming.  Surrounding myself with these beautiful flowers gives me joy.  I get very excited when I see the buds starting to form in the late fall of the year.  I know that in the dark and gray days of January and February, my orchids will reward me with their beautiful flowers. Orchids boost my mood in addition to being a delightful addition to my decor.

Seven Tips for Growing Healthy Orchids Indoors

Orchids thrive in bright, indirect light.  My orchids do best in my family room where they get bright, southern exposure.  Sunlight doesn't beat on them directly, but the room is bright and sunny throughout the year.

Choose orchids that will thrive in home temperatures.  I choose dendrobium and phalaenopsis orchids because they do well in the 65-75 degrees F temperatures that are most often found in my home.  These types of orchids are readily available locally.

Water weekly.  Orchids do not like to be wet.  Most of the time I use the ice cube watering method by placing 3-4 ice cubes in each plant once a week.  I supplement this method by occasionally taking each plant to my sink to give it a full dose of water that I let drain completely.  

Use an orchid potting medium.  You'll notice that your orchids are not planted in soil.  Most orchid potting mediums are primarily bark.  Orchids need air around their roots in order to thrive.  When you need to repot your orchids, be sure to use a potting medium appropriate for your type of orchid.

Fertilize occasionally.  Beginning in November, I spritz my orchids with a liquid fertilizer for orchids once a week when I water them.  This continues each week until the buds open.  After that, I give them a little spritz once a month.  This routine seems to work really well.

Groom as needed.  Your orchids will need very little grooming.  Once the blooms begin to fade, you can clip the spike to keep it neat.  When all of the flowers have faded, cut the spike to about an inch from the bottom.  Occasionally, a leaf will wither and needs to be removed.  Roots will grow out of the pot and that is a good thing.  You can see roots growing out of the pot in the picture of the white orchid above.  That is usual and a sign of a healthy plant.  If the roots get dry and brown, you can clip them.

Repot when needed.  Your orchids will need to be repotted every one to two years.  The potting medium will begin to break down.  When that happens, too much moisture will be retained around the roots.  Your plant's leaves will begin to lose their glossy shine and look unhealthy.  If roots get intertwined and compact, your plants need repotting as well.  Orchid roots like room to breathe.

You'll notice that your orchid is most likely planted in double pots, a clear plastic inner pot with a decorative outer pot.  When repotting, choose an inner pot approximately one inch larger than the prior pot, with good drainage.  Any decorative outer pot that fits the plant is appropriate.

You may need to cut the old plastic pot from the plant.  I find that the roots will grow through the holes in the plastic pot, making it difficult to remove the old pot when replanting.  Fit the plant into the new pot and fill with the new potting medium.  Don't pack it down.  You will be using the medium to stabilize the plant in the pot.  Water the repotted plant, making sure you let the water drain completely.  I usually add the stake back to the pot after repotting, so I don't misplace it.

When your orchid sends out a new stalk you'll want to train it to the stake.  When I bought them, some of my orchids were trained with clips that I reuse.  At other times, I will use a pretty ribbon and tie a small bow that will create some interest while the orchid sets its buds.  Occasionally, I replace the stake with an interesting branch from my yard.  Pussy willow branches are especially nice to use.

Do yourself a favor and buy yourself an orchid or two.  Not only is the original bloom a good value for your money, but as your orchids rebloom year after year, they will bring you additional satisfaction and joy.

Did you know orchids are an edible flower?  Add a blossom to a favorite cocktail and you'll feel like you have been transported to a tropical island.

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