French Toast Casserole

My father gave me a beautiful loaf of New York Challah bread and I decided to try something new -- a bread pudding style breakfast casserole!

French Toast Casserole

5 c Bread Cubes
4 Eggs
1 1/2 c Milk
2 Tbsp White Sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Butter

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly butter an 8x8 baking dish. Thoroughly combine the eggs, milk, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Arrange the bread cubes evenly in the dish and pour the custard mixture over top, dot with butter and let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of cinnamon sugar over the top and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Notes/Substitutions: Serve in any number of ways: simply with maple syrup, add fresh fruit, honey, whipped cream - you name it!

Veggie Cream Cheese

Homemade veggie cream cheese will beat the pants off any store brand!

Veggie Cream Cheese

1 container of Cream Cheese
2 Tbsp each Shredded Carrot
                   Red Onion
                   Bell Pepper
                   Broccoli  - all veggies diced
1 tsp Ranch Dressing mix (from pouch)

Empty the container of cream cheese into a bowl. Mix in finely diced veggies and ranch powder, stirring thoroughly to combine. Replace in the original container and keep refrigerated.

Notes/Substitutions: My biggest tip; get your veggies from the salad bar at the grocery store! That way you can get exactly what you want, pre-cut (though I dice them finely at home, it's really up to your preferred mouthfeel), and in small ammounts. I also use this short-cut on MYO pizza, it saves so much time and money! Neufchatel cheese can be substituted for cream cheese, and the ranch dressing mix can be omitted completely.

Mini Meat Balls

This recipe is reminiscent of my grandmother's famous home-made meatballs (sorry, I won't post THAT recipe here - family secret!). This whips up fast and makes great leftovers.

Mini Meatballs

1 lb Ground Beef
1 large Egg
3/4 c Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 tsp both Onion Powder and Garlic Salt
Black Pepper to Taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix into a thick, oatmeal-like viscosity. I like to add the bread crumbs a bit little at a time to make sure I achieve the right consistency.Meanwhile, pour your choice of cooking oil in a frying pan to about half an inch deep and heat over a medium flame.

Shape the meatball mixture into ping-pong sized balls by rolling it in the palm of your hand. Arrange the meatballs around the frying pan and cook for 3-5 minutes. Flip the meatballs over and cook a further 3-5 minutes (or until you can cut a meatball in half and it is completely cooked inside). Remove the meatballs from the oil and place them on a cookie sheet lined with a paper bag. Add meatballs to any sauce of your choice to heat and serve over any pasta!

Notes/Substitutions: People who don't usually make meatballs from scratch are often put off by their reputation as being a very labor intensive and time consuming recipe. This is true of some of the more traditional recipes, but I think that this one gives you a simple, quick way to make meatballs from scratch! Substitutions are almost endless depending on the flavor you want to get, I like to supplement the bread crumbs with some parmesan cheese.

Creamy Orzo

This recipe makes a ton of food but the leftovers are fantastic!

Creamy Orzo

1 pound Orzo
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 (14.5-ounce) can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/4 cups Whipping Cream
1 Head of Broccoli
 2 cups of Chicken, cooked and pulled
3/4 cup Grated Parmesan
Garlic Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Cook orzo according to the package until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add a turn of oil to a heavy large frying pan and warm over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the broccoli and cut it into florets. Place florets into a bowl with 1/2 inch of water and cover with plastic wrap leaving one corner slightly open to vent. Microwave for 90 seconds. Add cream, broccoli  and orzo to the tomatoes and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan and stir. Season the orzo with garlic salt and pepper, and serve.

Notes/Substitutions:  It may look like there is a lot of liquid left in the bottom of the pan initially, but al dente pasta will absorb most of it. Any remaining liquid helps keep leftovers moist during reheating (you can also drizzle a little whipping cream over cold leftovers before microwaving). Good substitutions for this dish include peas for broccoli, and turkey or shrimp for chicken!

Summer Soft Rolls

Jordan and I love Vietnamese food, and these summer soft rolls are a simple, delicious staple at our house.

Summer Soft Rolls

4 (8 inch) Square Rice Paper Sheets
4 Boston Bibb Lettuce Leaves
2oz Rice Vermicelli, cooked and cooled
1/2 of an English Cucumber, seeded and julienned
Cilantro or Thai Basil
Cooked Meat or Tofu (optional)

Soften the rice paper sheets until pliable - one at a time. I fill a large skillet with cool water and submerge them until they are soft. Lay the sheet out on a damp plate or cutting board (so that it won't stick). Take one leaf of bibb lettuce - vein removed) on top of the rice sheet, and top with vermicelli, cucumber, meat or tofu and herbs. Arrange toppings in the middle of the rice papers sheet in a diagonal line from one corner to the other, leaving about 2" of space at the ends. Pull these corners in on top of the fillings (think like a burrito). Fold one of the remaining open sides the same way and then roll the package over the last open side to seal.

Serve with Nuoc Cham (recipe below), or Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe to come). I like to bring them to work for lunch -- just pack them in wax paper and keep them cool!

Nuoc Cham

1 Clove of Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/4c Hot Water
3 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Rice Vinegar

Notes/Substitutions: I like to make these with fresh cooked shrimp, simple pulled chicken or even leftover bulgogi for extra flavor and substance, but tofu makes a nice vegetarian option. You can also substitute chiffonade-cut romaine lettuce for bibb.

Welcome to Tasty Nugs!

I love food. It is one of my great life passions - cooking, eating, sharing and learning. I recently realized that I spend a lot of time talking about the tasty things I encounter and create, so I decided that I would start a blog so I can share my finds, recipes, trials (and errors!). So welcome, and enjoy!