Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Sauce

It really is that good. 

This was my husband's Father's Day treat.  He's a lucky beast.

This dessert is now in our top 1% of all-time faves.  We originally got hooked on bread pudding at our favorite BBQ joint, Famous Dave's.  I'm sure you've heard of them.  I did NOT think that "bread pudding" sounded very appetizing until I tried it…and then couldn't imagine my life without it!!!  

My  husband and I agree--if we could pick ONE DESSERT favorite ever, we would pick this one.  {crazy, I know…being that I'm a worshiper of chocolate…}

From then on, I've been on the hunt for a good bread pudding recipe that is perfect, you know, for those occasions when I desperately need unhealthy amounts of carbs and can't get to Famous Dave's.

original recipe found at Deals to Meals

For the bread, I used my BFF Kadie's No-Fail French Bread.  I always have some on hand.  Otherwise, any loaf of French bread or white bread like Texas toast will work.

**ALSO** this recipe is even better the 2nd day, so you could make this a day ahead and reheat and serve.

1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1" cubes (about 1 ½ lbs.)
⅔ c. golden raisins (I don't add the raisins…but most people like them.)
1 ½ c. sugar
4 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
⅛ c. vanilla
⅛ c. rum
(little secret:  I keep a bottle of half vanilla/half rum to use for occasions like this.  Vanilla and rum are basically the same thing, complementing each other.)
8 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Whipped cream for garnish (not in photo)
French Vanilla Bean ice cream.  (not optional - a MUST)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat bottom and sides of 13 x 9" baking pan heavily with butter.  Mix bread & raisins together, spread evenly in the pan.  Make sure crusts are turned over so they don't brown too quickly.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, milk, cream, vanilla, rum, eggs, and cinnamon until well blended.  Pour evenly over bread mixture.  Press down & make sure all of the bread is soaked.  Lay a piece of foil over the top of the mixture, pressing down.  Bake for about 1 hour, possibly longer,  until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove foil for the last15-20 minutes so the top can brown up a little.  Allow to cool for a little bit.

Serve with warm Pecan Praline Sauce, a scoop of ice cream, and whipped cream. (not pictured)

PRALINE SAUCE:  (makes about 4 cups)
1 c. butter, cut into pieces
¾ c. chopped nuts
3 ¼ c. brown sugar
¾ c. heavy cream
½ t. cinnamon
1 ¼ c. sour cream (and don't get the light stuff…you're going all-out here)
1 t. vanilla

In a large saucepan, heat ½ c. of the butter until melted.  Add pecans and mix well.  Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, until pecans begin to brown slightly and become fragrant.  Remove from heat and add remaining ½ c. butter and mix well.  Add brown sugar, heavy cream, and cinnamon to the pan; mix well.  Cook over medium-high heat until blended, stirring constantly.  When mixture starts to boil vigorously, turn the heat down a little and boil rapidly for 2 minutes - keep stirring.  Remove from heat and add sour cream and vanilla.
**{Seriously…the sour cream MAKES this sauce!!}**

Enjoy yourself a little piece of heaven!!  ahhhhhh….

Bye for now!


Cooking 101 - German Chocolate Cake from Scratch

It's BIRTHDAY WEEK!  Woohoo!  
My oldest boy is the 4th, my younger boy is the 6th, and I am the 8th.  We celebrate "Birthday Week" and usually nosh on the same cake all week long!  Parrrtay.

**Nostalgic Back Story** 
{cue the beautiful orchestra music}
Ever since I was a kid, I absolutely HAD to have German Chocolate cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting.  I would look forward to it as much as, if not more so, than birthday gifts!  { my foodie nerdiness started early!}  My mom would ask what kind of cake I would want each year, knowing what the answer would be, but she would ask just in case.  And for whatever reason, she would only make this cake one time per year - ONLY on my birthday - and I literally tried to savor every. bite. of my birthday cake.  I would wonder with amazement how something so delicious could be made with human hands.  (My mom wasn't human, though, she was an angelic SuperMom!)

And then my amazing BFF Kadie improved upon the German Chocolate Cake.  {gasp!!}  I know…I know what you're thinking…."you can't mess with the purity and perfection of the German Chocolate Cake thing"…however, with her love and reverence for all things dessert, she did it and it's now the ultimate beloved favorite in my house.  

The secret?  Kadie's chocolate buttercream frosting (recipe below or link to her blog).  It ups the richness factor and adds some serious depth to this already-perfect pairing.  You absolutely HAVE to try it!   {{Thanks, Kadie!!!}}

{aren't they GORGEOUS?!}


{that, my friend, is a mouthful…and so is the cake…}

1 pkg. (4 oz) Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
½ c. water
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease & cover bottoms of two  8" or  9" cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter the sides of the pans, as well.  Microwave chocolate and water in large microwavable bowl until melted, stirring every 30 seconds or so.

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, one-at-a-time, beating well after each one.  Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla.  Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go along.  

Beat egg whites in a small bowl until stiff peaks form; gently fold into cake mixture.  Pour evenly into cake pans.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Immediately run small metal spatula around cake.  Let cool for a few minutes and remove cake from pans and let cool on a wire rack until completely cooled off before frosting.

1 stick (1/ 2 c.) butter
3 c. powdered sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla
pinch of salt
3-4 T. of milk or heavy cream

Melt chocolate chips in microwave or in a double-broiler on the stove until melted.  If using a microwave, stir every 15-30 seconds to avoid scorching.  Let completely cool.

Beat together all ingredients until frosting is smooth and whipped.  Start with the least amount of milk/cream and add more as needed to desired consistancy. (I usually use milk, but sometimes heavy cream adds more richness)

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
3 egg yolks
1 stick (½ c.) butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ⅓ c. shredded, sweetened coconut flakes
1 c. (or more) chopped pecans

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sugar, yolks, butter, and vanilla.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.  DO NOT BOIL.  It should coat the back of a spoon.  Set aside; add coconut and pecans and let cool for about 20-30 minutes.


First, scoop out some chocolate buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with whatever frosting tip you want.   You only need about ½ c. - ¾ c. of frosting in your bag, depending on how much buttercream you want to pipe onto the cake.  

Place one layer of cake on your cake plate and spread a layer of chocolate buttercream on top, make sure it's not too thick. Then carefully spread a thick layer of coconut pecan frosting on top of that.  Place 2nd layer on top of cake; repeat with a layer of buttercream and coconut pecan frosting, coating the cake all the way around the sides, as well.  

Pipe your buttercream frosting designs around the cake - have fun with it! And enjoy.  I am positive that you are going to LOVE this.

Pure.  Heaven.  

Bye for now!!


Arizona Desert Drive

My Love Nugget likes to have adventures out in the hills whenever we get a chance, so we decided to take a 6-hour drive through some rugged terrain and breathtaking desert!  We love "the roads less traveled" and always end up having so much fun together.

You can't tell, but we're way up high looking down onto some huge canyon walls in the picture above. Spectacular!

We love this old abandoned house 

We came upon a herd of wild mustangs!  What a rush - I didn't know we had wild horses anymore!  

The magestic saguaro cactus.  They were blooming a couple of weeks ago - they only bloom for a short time and that's it until next year.

Almost all of the cactus plants were in bloom - all over the place!  Beauty amongst the thorns…what a great juxtaposition.  (and I love that word….juxtaposition…)

The Santa Catalinas - overlooking Tucson like a steady, old friend.  

The agave plant - I love it that the lines and color "stripes" created in the agave are from the older leaves offering support to the new, growing leaves.  I love the comparison to my own life, with my older generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) having been my support system.  Nature is funny that way, huh?!  Often teaching us something about ourselves! 

 AND…how lucky…we saw some mule deer.  These two (ladies, I think) were just as curious about us as we were about them!  Look how well their colors blend in with the desert.  

 More saguaro blooms---Oh, how I love them!!  It was way too bright outside to get a good picture of these and I'm pretty bummed about that because now I have to wait until next year to try again!!  

My kind of road!!  I loved this sign!

Well - it's off to more adventures - I hope you all have some fun, exciting summer plans!!  
Bye for now!!


Belize - Part 1

SO much has been going on…and I'm giddy to share some of it with you!!  :)  
As you know, I have this life-sustaining need to see my BFF at least once a year, although I would prefer it to be more than that - like, every day.  {remember this post?  Yeah, I get pretty desperate.} Anyhoo…we decided that Belize would be a cool place to meet up, so we did it!  And it was AMAZING!!!  
(Cue the music: "Reunited and it feels so good…")

Here is just a {small} sampling of photos…you can imagine how many pictures I have.  Somewhere in the 1,200 range…but who's counting?!

Snorkeling on the world's 2nd largest barrier reef…INCREDIBLE!!  

A Belizian Wal-Mart

Monday was laundry day - ALL OVER the country!  I loved it!

I asked this beautiful woman if I could take her picture and after giggling and blushing, she told me I could!  These people are so good - probably my favorite part about Belize.

Kadie and I couldn't resist this cute mama chicken and her chicks!

A croc along Monkey River.  Yikes!  Cool and creepy at the same time...

Even the dogs are laid-back here!!!

Another thing I loved was that the people in Belize are very humble - they don't have much of anything, but they all make the best of what they have.  This is such a great example of making what you have into something beautiful.  :)

A Howler Monkey, but they didn't howl for us.  This little guy took a leak in those leaves, though!

um…eww.  Good thing this little spider friend was up high - if I accidentally walked through this web, I don't think I would have ever recovered.  

We loved the beautiful mango trees everywhere!!

Mayan ruins - so beautiful!!

If only we could have turned back time just for a moment to see how the Mayans utilized these buildings, passageways, and courtyards.  Of course, historians have put together models and samples of how they used these structures, but to actually SEE them would be super fun!  And maybe disturbing.

My Love Nugget and I.  He's pretty amazing.

Of course, I had to bring a bunch home - they're SO beautiful!!!

It was SO much fun seeing dozens of these little hermit crabs scuttling around!!!  I'm a little embarassed at how enamored I was with them….I think it bothered them.

We hiked down into a creek with a raging waterfall.  We didn't know that the rainforest in Belize had pine trees.  {hmmm}  

Jungle tour & cave tubing - SO much fun!!  We loved our guide -

 Mayan face painting using river rocks

 Delicious termites!!!  NO, really - we ate them.  Our guide told us they tasted like "meenty cadot" (minty carrot) - and they DID, INDEED, taste like minty carrots.  Who knew?!  

ahhh….breakfast on the beach.  Amazing.

I could go on, and on, and on - it was truly one of the most magical weeks of my life.  
And who better to spend it with?!  My Love Nugget and BFF!!!  Honestly…talk about BEST-case scenario!!!

More to come later….I've got a whole set of Belizian botanicals!  
Bye for now!!