Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin and Veggies

It’s been a few years now since my husband and I last traveled abroad, but the memories and flavors of our favorite places along the Mediterranean Sea have stayed with us.

The colors, sights, sounds and tastes of the islands of Greece and specifically Crete, the farms and farmer’s markets in the south of France with their beautiful fresh-picked produce and the many small food purveyors tucked into the hillsides of Monaco, have informed my palette and influenced my cooking. The simple and inventive use of fresh herbs combined with lean proteins and colorful vegetables make Mediterranean flavors easy to replicate and always delicious to eat. A bonus is that eating a Mediterranean style diet is also very healthful.

With summer upon us, we fire up the grill more regularly, even during a busy work week. This is one of those “recipes” that is easy to pull together and is perfect for a busy week night. Just coarsely chop your herbs and mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic for the marinade, slice and chunk your veg, pop the pork tenderloin in one plastic freezer bag and the veg in another and divide your marinade between the two. Seal each bag and massage the marinade into the ingredients, then pop the bags into the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours. Grill and eat.

Simple. Delicious. Summer.

Right off the grill. Look at that bark!

The herb-centric marinade creates a fantastically herby bark on the pork tenderloin and adds loads of complimentary flavor to the veggies. Leftovers are wonderful, too. The pork makes great sandwiches and pairs well with cheeses of any type. Thin slices of pork topping a light spread of goat cheese and a touch of fig or onion jam on crostini make a quick and lovely appetizer. Extra veggies and pork can be served over greens with a light vinaigrette to make a savory salad. And the list goes on…

On your next busy night, try making this Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies, pour yourself a glass of Provençal rosé or a Greek Retsina, sit back on your deck or porch with the stars and enjoy.

Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies
Serves 4-6 (with leftovers at our house)

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. whole pork tenderloins
2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and left whole
2 large zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (you can use a mixture of yellow squash and zucchini)
8-10 mixed sweet mini peppers, washed seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (these usually come in a package but you can sub 2-3 multi-colored bell peppers)
1 orange or red bell pepper, washed, seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
1 red onion, peeled, trimmed, halved and those halves quartered
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
3 large cloves of garlic, minced, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-gallon sized zip lock food bags
Grill basket or aluminum foil for the veggies

Place the grape tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onion in one ziplock bag. Place the pork tenderloins into a second, separate ziplock bag from the veggies.

Place one half of the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil into each of the two bags containing the veggies and the pork. Seal each one and then gently toss and massage in the herbs, oil and seasonings with the contents of each bag until well coated. Place the bags into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours prior to grilling.

Heat the grill to medium high. Remove the veggies from the ziplock bag and place into a grill basket, evenly spaced, and securing the top part of the basket (if it has one) tightly so that the veg will stay secure when flipped. If your basket is an open veggie grill basket, then just place the veggies in the basket, or you can make a tray out of aluminum foil to grill the veggies in. (If using aluminum foil, make sure you use heavy duty and use two layers so that the tray can be lifted off the grill. Poke about 10 small holes into the bottom of your foil tray to allow extra moisture to drip off, otherwise your veggies will stew in their own juices instead of grilling). Place the veggies on the grill and cook until tender and slightly charred. Cooking times will vary, but it takes about 30-35 minutes on our charcoal grill alternating covered and open, and flipping the veggies once at the halfway point. If you use an open basket or a foil tray, stir the veggies frequently to help them release moisture through the holes and cook evenly until done.

Just before the halfway point of cooking your veggies, remove the pork tenderloins from the ziplock bag and place them on the grill. Grill the tenderloins until desired degree of doneness, turning occasionally, about 16-20 minutes. When done, remove the tenderloins from the grill and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing. Slice the pork into 1/4″ medallions and serve with the veggies.

 

 

 

 

Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer by the minute, the temperatures are warming up and thoughts turn to outdoor living and entertaining. It’s already quite hot here in the South—just in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday and the unofficial start of summer. All the more reason to whip up something delicious that won’t heat up your kitchen in the process. This Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad is chocked full of fresh ingredients, making it the perfect side dish for a large gathering, a pot luck or just served by itself for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner.

If you’re familiar with a BLT sandwich, you expect a salad by the same name to include Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, right? But in this case, bright green baby spinach leaves are substituted for lettuce, and fresh basil and chopped spring scallions are added for an extra depth of flavor. By replacing water-filled lettuce with healthy and tasty raw spinach, the pasta is less likely to get soggy and the salad will have a longer shelf life. Most importantly, though, changing the “L” to an “S” in this salad and making some fresh additions doesn’t change the wonderful taste profile of a classic BLT. In fact, it improves it.

Once the cooked pasta and other ingredients are assembled, the salad is tossed with just enough creamy ranch dressing to bind it together and finished with a little salt and pepper, to taste. The end result is an enticing and colorfully familiar dish that’s a real crowd-pleaser for any occasion. I tested this salad at a pot luck last week and the serving bowl was scraped clean—a very good sign. Try this easy recipe for your next event and I have a feeling you’ll come home with a clean bowl, too.

I hope you have a lovely week and for those who observe it, enjoy a thoughtful, fun and safe Memorial Day holiday. Cheers and bon appétit!

Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad
Makes about 16 servings

Notes: As written, this recipe makes enough pasta salad to feed a crowd, but it can easily be halved—or cut to a third. In this instance, I’ve used a seasoning packet to make my ranch dressing because I have yet to come up with a recipe from scratch that tastes the same, but make your ranch dressing from scratch if you prefer. Any extra salad that hasn’t been exposed to warm temps (such as sitting outside at a party for a while) will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

1 1/2 lbs. (24 ounces) dry Farfalle or bowtie pasta
1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and quartered
3 oz. fresh basil leaves, washed and cut into thin strips (chiffonade), about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green spring onion), white and light green parts only
5 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and coarsely chopped
12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk ranch dressing prepared from a mix packet (I use Hidden Valley Original Buttermilk Ranch Dressing mix, 1 cup mayo and 1 cup buttermilk mixed together as per the instructions on the package. You’ll have 1/2 cup dressing left after using it for this recipe.) Or, use an equal amount of your own homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. Do not use bottled dressing!
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and set it aside to cool. When the pasta is cool, place it into an extremely large mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, scallions, spinach and bacon, and mix to combine. Pour over the 1 1/2 cups of ranch dressing and mix to combine thoroughly. Taste and then season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a pinch of kosher salt, stir well and taste again, adding more salt and pepper if needed. The dressing and the bacon have salt in them, so go slowly with additional salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Part Three: Chilis, Chowders and Some Extra Ideas for Enjoying Them.

Hi there and Happy Friday! Here’s the final post of my series on Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders, featuring two chowders, three versions of chili, and some fun and festive ideas for making other dishes out of chili…just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

I make soups, chowder and chili year round and freeze any leftovers, as they freeze beautifully. There’s nothing like a nice bowl full of homemade chili or chowder on a rainy day, or any day. One of my most favorite things about having some extra chili on hand is being able to use it to make something different and equally delicious. Try using any one of the chilis below to make:

Homemade Nachos, decadent…yes I know, and here’s how: 1) Heat up some of any one of these three leftover chilis on your stovetop and set aside. I just eyeball the amount, but you’ll want it to be proportionate to the amount of nachos you’re making, keeping in mind that you don’t want so much chili that your nachos get soggy, but enough to get some chili in every bite. 2) Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then make an even and single layer of your favorite tortilla chips on top of the foil. Sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheddar, jack, or a Mexican blend of cheese. 3) Pop the pan under a preheated broiler and watch it VERY carefully until the cheese just starts to melt, then pull it out before your chips start to turn brown. 4) Make another single layer of chips on top of the first layer, then distribute your chili evenly on top of the chips, using a slotted spoon to drain off any extra moisture before you put the chili on the chips. 5) Sprinkle some more cheese on top of the chili and then pop the pan back under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to just turn golden brown, watching the whole time and removing the pan before the chips burn. 6) Customize the nachos with your favorite toppings like shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and finely chopped red onion, and you have amazing homemade nachos—way better than you can purchase in a restaurant. In addition to using blue corn or regular tortilla chips for this, I’ve used sweet potato tortilla chips with the Turkey chili…yum!

Another quick and easy way to repurpose chili is to make Chili Sloppy Joes. Just heat your chili and toast your favorite burger bun, onion roll, potato roll or split English muffin. Place both toasted halves side by side on your plate and top with chili. Easy-peasy! This knife and fork open-faced sandwich is great as is, or with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Lastly, you can use your homemade chili to spice up a dip…a cheese dip, that is! Make plain cheese dip into a festive and lively Spicy Chili Cheese Dip by swirling hot, homemade chili into your favorite homemade or purchased queso dip. I suggest putting your chili on top of the warmed cheese dip in your serving bowl just before serving, and then use a table knife to swirl the chili through it decoratively…much like marbling a cake batter. You want to still be able to see streaks of the chili in between large areas of the cheese and ensure that you get both cheese and chili in every bite. Serve hot with tortilla chips for dipping. Gooey goodness gracious, just hand me a margarita and Cinco de Mayo here I come!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this recap series and most of all, I hope it’s inspired you to make one of these delicious soups, stews, a chili or a chowder for you and yours. Just click on the name link of the dish below each image to get its recipe and happy eating.

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili may be my best chili recipe to date, though I love them all. Spicy, hearty and oh-so-flavorful, it’s the most traditional of my three chili recipes. If you want to swirl a chili into cheese dip to make the spicy chili cheese dip suggested above, this one is perfect for that. This recipe has the added bonus of feeding a crowd and can be doubled to feed an even bigger crowd, which makes it a terrific party recipe.

A bowl full of chili love.

Vegetarian/Vegan Black Bean Chili is a thick, rich chili that harnesses lots of black bean goodness. Yes, it’s vegetarian, and it’s vegan before you add the toppings, but it sure eats like a meaty bowl and it easily holds its own against any meat-based chili.

Serve with grated extra sharp cheddar, avocado and creme fraiche to make it more decadent.

Betsy’s Holy Mole Turkey Chili is my first original chili recipe and I still love it so much. This tried and true chili which features ground turkey breast is a bit healthier than other meat-based chilis and its dark, luxurious flavor is reminiscent of a Mexican mole. Here’s a little secret about this chili: If you don’t tell anyone it’s turkey, they’ll never guess!

Ham, Potato and Cabbage Chowder makes one of the most flavorful chowders I’ve ever tasted. The marriage of the sweet and salty ham with the cabbage and potato is amplified by a good measure of fresh thyme and a splash…well okay, a good bit of cream. How could you go wrong with this one? All this chowder needs is a little crispy flatbread on the side and you have a marvelous lunch or dinner.

I could eat this every day.

Rustic Roasted Potato, Broccoli and Corn “Chowda” is my take on a classic corn chowder. Roasting the veggies first adds a boat-load of flavor to this chowder, which features the unique addition of broccoli. This meal in a bowl can only get better with a little optional crumbled bacon on top. Cheers!

*****

Next time: Some new and seasonal, quick and easy, and light and healthy recipes full of flavor are on their way, so stay tuned.

Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders Part Two: The Chunky

Today I’ll continue my recap of previous posts featuring some of my favorite soups, stews, chilis and chowders. There’s nothing like a nice bowl of comforting soup to take the chill off of your day and put a smile on your face! This particular group of hot soups—the chunky—seems quite timely as our winter temperatures are feeling a bit more seasonal this weekend. I hope you’ll find a bowl of goodness here that you’d like to try. Be sure to click on the name of the soup for a link to its recipe.

bowlofsoup2Moving on from the puréed world, this first soup is creamy, hearty comfort in a bowl. Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup has a touch of comforting cream in it and really is just what the doctor ordered along with this next soup below…

Home-styled comfort from the cold...or a cold!

Home-styled comfort from the cold…or a cold!

The classic, clear broth Betsy’s Cure-All Chicken Noodle Soup is exactly what you’re looking for when you need a lift of spirit or body. If you want a great chicken noodle soup with restorative power, you can’t get much better than this one.

soup2This Black Eyed Pea and Collards Soup was created as my way to combine two of my favorite New Year’s food traditions into one dish. But don’t wait until New Year’s Day to try this one. It’s a healthy bowl that fits the bill any time, and especially when collards are at their peak.

Veddy Veggie Soup is a rustic winter vegetable soup full of fresh herbs and a warming secret spice. This is one I developed over many years and it is a perennial favorite. You can use rich, homemade chicken stock, or a vegetable stock for a pure vegetarian/vegan soup. Either way, it’s a winner that freezes beautifully, too.

Add your liquid to the veg, bring to a boil, add the pasta, the finish with meatballs and greens. Absolutely delicious and fit for a wedding of any kind!

In this slightly different take on Ina Garten’s version of this soup by the same name, Italian Wedding Soup is made with wonderfully flavorful chicken sausage meatballs, vegetables, and orzo pasta, is finished with arugula stirred in and then topped with more parmesan cheese. I made this with a dear friend while visiting her in Virginia, and I now think of it as  “Virginia Friend’s Soup.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a special soup worthy of any special occasion.

An awaiting bowl of warm happiness on a cold winter’s night.

Speaking of old friends, this soup was inspired by one. Betsy’s Split Pea Soup with Ham has a story behind it and is an interesting twist on an old favorite. If you like split pea soup, you’ll love this one! And don’t skip the crouton, which adds a lovely texture as well as taste to this rich soup.

Mmmmm. Is there anything chicken stew can’t do?

Chicken and Black Bean Stew. This is the one I make year after year and I never get tired of it. It comes together quickly so it’s perfect to make on a weeknight, it freezes beautifully and it is oh-so-satisfying. I have some in the freezer right now!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet a curry I didn’t like. Curries are so exotic, so transformative and so mysterious with their deep spice and depth of flavor. This Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew is my “ode” to curry. It’s a warming stew that contains a lot of my favorite ingredients from curry dishes including lentils, potatoes, tomato and spinach, and it has just a little kick of fresh ginger, too. This stew is the spice of life, I’m telling you!

 

Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders: Part One, The Puréed.

I find that when I’m very busy, what comes to mind most readily to cook and have on hand for quick weeknight dinners is a good bowl of soup or a stew, some chili or a chowder. Not only are these bowls truly the epitome of comfort food year round, but they’re the meal that keeps on giving by virtue of leftovers. And since most soups and their kind tend to taste even better the day after you make them, they’re a great dish to prepare ahead for company or freeze portions for later use.

Though I haven’t had time to develop any new soups, stews, chilis or chowders in these last few months, I have made several of my previously posted favorites quite recently and I’m looking forward to revisiting even more of them. All are tried and true recipes that I basically know by heart, and I think you’ll find with this and the next two posts that there’s something here for everyone, starting with puréed soups.

My complete line up features puréed, chunky and hearty varieties of in the bowl goodness. A few of these are cooled or creamed by way of dairy or coconut milk, some feature a clear broth and are mild, while others are highly spiced or curried. Several are vegetarian, some are vegan and others are strictly for the carnivores.

I hope you’ll try some of the recipes featured throughout this 3-part recap series and that one or more will be added to your list of favorites, too. Click on the link in the text below each photo to find the recipe or post for the following puréed soups. Many of these are best served hot, but several are equally good cold, where noted. Pair any one with a simple green salad and you’ll have a delightful meal.

soup3Curry, coconut milk, apple and Asian spices bring some delightful flavor to butternut squash in this elegant and Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

Soup1This light, delicate and interestingly flavored soup happens to be vegan and is perfect as is, but Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup can be embellished with a touch of dairy or made with chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, if you so desire.

There's just something about a bowl of soup and some good bread that says

There’s just something about a bowl of soup and some good bread that says “come hither” to me.

Easy Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup just might be my most favorite vegetable soup. The roasting of the veggies caramelizes and intensifies the flavors…making this heavenly soup become so much more than its individual parts. Definitely on my “next to make again” list.

soup4Creamy Avocado Cucumber Soup is super easy to make and just the ticket for a hot summer day. It’s creamy and cooling, but has a slight kick to it as well. Just throw everything into a blender, give it a good whirr and it’s ready to slurp.

soup3BThe flavors of my favorite gratin were the inspiration for this Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup. I made this again last week and we never get tired of it…whether served hot with a parmesan crouton or served cold right out of a mug. Great stuff!

soup2Until I tried this recipe, I never would have thought I’d enjoy the pairing of sweet potatoes, red bell pepper and peanut butter so much. This slightly adapted version of Ellie Krieger’s African-inspired Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup is a real winner.

The beautiful green color of this soup just makes me happy.

The beautiful green color of this soup just makes me happy.

Lean, Mean and Green Broccoli Spinach Soup is exactly what it looks like…very healthy. But it’s also very delicious and in fact, this one is at the top of my list to make again soon.

Money Tartlets

tarts1Happy 2017! Yes, here we are barreling forward into the new year and I’d planned to post this at the beginning of it…then mid-January, and now it will be just in time for the Super Bowl Sunday festivities this coming weekend. That’s okay because really, these little tartlets are wonderful for any day, any occasion, or no occasion at all.

Why are these called “Money” tartlets, you may ask? Well there’s a tradition here in the southern U.S. to eat your “greens” on New Year’s Day to guarantee wealth in the coming months (as well as eating black-eyed peas for good luck), and since New Year’s Day was the first time I made these, it only made sense to call them “money” tarts. Plus once they are baked, these really are the color of (U.S.) dollars. So there you go.

No matter what you call them, they are delightful to eat and a lovely way to enjoy your greens. These savory morsels sport a filling that is much like the Greek greens pie spanakopita, but with a few tasty twists including a touch of toasted almonds and a bit of parmesan cheese to finish. Since they are small and made with phyllo dough instead of a traditional pastry crust, I like to think that they’re a bit healthier than your average tart, too…or three…or four!

Money Tartlets make a perfect small bite for an appetizer with a cocktail or a welcome addition to any pot luck event. As an added bonus, using purchased phyllo tartlet shells from your grocer’s freezer helps these tartlets to come together quickly. Of course if you have the time and the desire, feel free to make your own phyllo pastry. I sure won’t hold it against you.

Make these tartlets for the game, place your bets and enjoy! (Go Atlanta Falcons.)

tarts2sm

Money Tartlets
Makes 30

1/2 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clove of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1 – 10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of as much liquid as possible
1 large egg, whisked to combine
1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Panko breadcrumbs
Additional 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and a few more grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
30 frozen phyllo mini-tart shells

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, stirring until the onion is softened and transparent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to the onion and garlic, and cook a minute or two longer, stirring to combine and until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, feta, cottage cheese, almonds, Panko bread crumbs, 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt, a few more grinds of black pepper and the spinach mixture, then stir until well mixed.

Place the 30 phyllo tartlet shells onto a rimmed baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Fill each shell with about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture, dividing the entire mixture evenly between all of the shells. Sprinkle each tartlet with some grated Parmesan cheese. Bake the tartlets for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until the cheese is starting to lightly brown, the centers are firm and the shells have a little bit of color around the edges. Remove from the oven and gently place the tartlets on a rack to cool to room temperature. Serve and enjoy.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

From our house to yours, we wish you a lovely holiday season!

I’ll be back with new posts, new dishes and new adventures in 2017.

Cheers to a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year!

wpid-IMG_20111225_083829.jpg

Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

cookies2

Freshly baked cookies are part of the season, don’t you know?

Each holiday season, I post some greatest hits from this blog as inspiration for food and beverage holiday gifts. Since I seem to be lagging in my posting lately and am about to start making some of these very items today, it seemed like the perfect time to re-post this line up from 2014. It’s raining here today…a perfect day to stay indoors and bake some drop sugar cookies! I hope you’ll find something on this list that inspires you to get in the kitchen and make something wonderful for the people you care about. Happy December and happy cooking!

I have some new recipes, really I do! And some travels and adventures to share as well. And I have pictures, too. But as I am still in high gear work mode right now with some deadlines looming befo…

Source: Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

Homemade Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread

cutloaf2Homemade muesli has become a staple in our house year round. I love to keep quart-sized mason jars full of it in the fridge to have handy for a cold cereal breakfast or to sprinkle over yogurt. It’s so easy to make and so much tastier and healthier than commercially made muesli or cold cereals with additives. But what exactly is muesli, you may ask?

Muesli has Swiss and German roots, hence the decidedly non-english name. It is simply a dish based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients including grains, fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts, and is usually eaten for breakfast, but sometimes eaten as a light evening dish in Germany and Switzerland.

In the year 1900, a Swiss physician named Max Bircher-Benner first introduced muesli to patients in his hospital as part of a rich fresh fruit and vegetable diet that was an essential component of therapy. Evidently, he was inspired by a similar “strange” dish he encountered in the Swiss Alps while he and his wife were hiking. The original Bircher-Benner “fresh” muesli recipe consisted of all parts of a fresh apple including the seeds, pips and core, rolled oats soaked in water for 12 hours, nuts, lemon juice and milk or cream and honey mixed together and served immediately before the apple could turn brown. Today’s more commonly known convenient version of a dry or packaged muesli can be stored for months and served quickly with milk, nut milk or soy milk, or it can be soaked overnight and served with fresh fruit. Muesli first became popular in the United States during the 1960’s as part of the wave of interest in health foods and vegetarianism associated with the hippie movement and beyond.

An interesting history, but the bottom line is does it taste good? Why yes it does. And guess what? It tastes even better when you go a step further and make some of it into a streusel for this wonderfully moist and delicious Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread that I’m going to tell you about.

You see I had this idea while I was eating my muesli for breakfast one morning. I love cooking with oats and I love incorporating some of the ground oats as a substitution for flour in quick breads to add both flavor and texture, as well as a healthful aspect. So what if I created a bread like that and added a delicious ribbon of streusel made from muesli with all of its dried fruits and nuts…how could you go wrong? I decided to give it a whirl and here’s the result: A fragrant and delectable loaf of quick bread with a very moist crumb and a satisfyingly crunchy topping. It’s a great way to start off your day right or a lovely way to end it with a not too sweet dessert. The orange zest in the batter is key and provides a tiny hit of citrus essence to the bread, enhancing the fruit and nuts in the streusel.

Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread certainly is perfect for the fall season, but much like muesli, it’s also great for any time of the year. I’ll be making this bread over and over again and may even try adding some fresh grated apple to the batter (but not the core, seeds and pips) as an homage to the father of muesli. Thanks, Dr. Bircher-Benner!

This is a two-for-one recipe. Try the muesli on its own and experiment with your favorite ingredients, then make this bread and enjoy.


Homemade Muesli
Makes about 10 cups, can be halved

(A variation on Mark Bittman’s recipe, you can use your own personal mix of dried fruit and seeds or nuts. This is what I used to make the muesli in this bread recipe.)

7 generous cups dry, raw rolled oats (not quick cooking or steel cut)
1 cup total mixed raw nuts and seeds (I used sliced, skin-on almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin (pepita) seeds and golden flax seed
1 1/4 cup mixed dried fruit (I use cherries, cranberries and currants)
1/2 cup unsweetened, dry grated coconut
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in airtight containers in fridge for up to 2-3 months. To serve, put 1/2 cup in a bowl and top with 1/4 cup milk, nut milk or soy milk. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before eating and the oats will soften and absorb the sweetness of the fruit.

Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread
Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf

For the streusel:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup homemade muesli (see above)
2 tablespoons of chopped pecans
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

For the bread:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats, processed to a fine flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups of granulated sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon high quality pure vanilla extract (I use Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
zest of one orange
1/2 cup 2% or whole plain Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup low fat milk whisked to combine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan by greasing it with butter and set aside.

Prepare the streusel by combining the brown sugar, muesli, pecans, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Set aside.

For the bread, combine the flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk. Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat the 5 tablespoons of butter and the granulated sugar on medium high speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended. Add the vanilla and orange zest and beat on low speed until well blended. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture and yogurt-milk mixture alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the streusel mixture. Spread the remaining batter over the streusel. Swirl the batter and streusel mixture with a knife or spoon and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining streusel over the top of the batter.

Bake at 350 F. degrees for about 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on top of a wire rack. Gently run the edge of a table knife around the edges of the loaf and carefully remove the loaf from the pan by slightly inverting it, trying to avoid losing any of the streusel topping. Cool completely on the rack, streusel side up. Cut into slices and enjoy. As a whole loaf or cut into individual slices and carefully wrapped, this bread freezes beautifully.

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What’s up next? My take on a sausage, pepper and onion favorite. Stay tuned…

 

Southern Comfort Food: Pimento and Cheese Squash Casserole

readytoeatHere’s a dish I think you’ll really love as much as we do and it’s a staple of the Southern food culture. A squash casserole full of fresh yellow squash and onions, enhanced with the flavors of homemade pimento cheese…what’s not to love?

I’ve been making squash casserole for years. My version has always included squash, onion, bell pepper, an egg, a knob of butter, extra sharp cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs on top sprinkled with sweet or smoky paprika. My only variations have been in changing the color of my peppers and varieties of cheese. Delicious, and not the stereotypical southern casserole that involves cream soup, sour cream or mayonnaise, which suits me just fine.

However. Sometimes a little decadence can go a long way and change can be good. Really good, in this case.

Pimento cheese seems to have enjoyed a renaissance lately. My mom makes the very best pimento cheese in the world and perhaps I will share that recipe at a later date. It was she who first mentioned adding pimentos to her squash casserole and that gave me the idea to do my own version with a “pimento cheese” spin. When I tasted it, it was transformative! Who knew that those little pimentos could make such a difference in the flavor of this casserole?

Although to be fair, the mayonnaise is really the game changing element from a textural point of view. I use mayonnaise regularly in some things as needed, but generally use a very light hand with it. In this case, the mayonnaise makes this casserole so wonderfully flavorful and comforting, while complimenting the taste of the squash and other ingredients. It adds just the perfect amount of creaminess to the dish without being sloppy or gooey. It’s so good and easy to prepare, you might be tempted to make a meal off of the casserole alone, but it’s even better as an accompaniment to your favorite entree.

I chose squash that was seasonally available to make this casserole, and in this case it was a yellow summer squash with a pale green end. The result was this beautiful “confetti casserole” appearance. Any yellow summer squash will work just as well and taste great.

Pimento and Cheese Squash Casserole
Serves 6

1 lb. of yellow summer squash, crookneck or other, trimmed and sliced into 1/4″ slices
1-4 oz. jar of chopped pimentos, drained
1/2 sweet red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray or just coat it lightly with olive oil.

Place the sliced squash into a medium sized pot, cover it with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and partially cover the pot with a lid. Allow the squash to cook until it is just tender when pricked with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain off all of the water, leaving the squash in the pot. Mash the squash with a potato masher until it is well broken up, but not pulverized. Place the pot lid back over the top of the pot and drain the water one more time. Add the butter to the hot squash and stir until it melts. Add the pimentos and red onion and stir. Add the egg and stir well. Then add the mayonnaise, 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese, the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the casserole into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the casserole is set and bubbling and the top is very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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What am I cooking up next? A breakfast bread of champions. Stay tuned and Happy Fall…

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