PB&J French Toast

January 6, 2008
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Into the mouths of babes? It’s a marriage made in childhood heaven … peanut butter-and-jelly and French Toast! Sometimes the best ideas the simplest. SAM

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup half-and-half
16 slices thin-sliced bread
1/2 cup grape jelly, or your choice
1/2 cup peanut butter
Confectioners’ sugar
Maple syrup, hot

In a shallow mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and half-and-half and pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Make 8 peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and place them in the egg batter, turning twice to coat all sides. Lightly grease a griddle or skillet and heat to medium-high. Fry the sandwiches about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve with confectioners’ sugar and hot syrup.
Makes 8 servings.


Poppy Seed Bread

January 5, 2008
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Poppy Seed Bread is popular at brunches and for good reason. It’s crunchy, beautiful, and totally delicious. This easy version adds the nutty richness of whole wheat and molasses. You can toast it or serve it with butter and/or jam. I even make thin-sliced cream cheese sandwiches out of it. Like so many rich breads, it’s even better the second day. SAM

4 eggs, lightly
1 cup salad oil
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk
6 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and set aside. With an electric mixer on medium speed or a pastry fork, beat together the eggs, oil, molasses, and sugar until smooth. Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and baking soda and add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Add 6 tablespoons poppy seeds and the vanilla extract. Pour into the prepared pans and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons poppy seeds. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 loaves or 24 servings.


Roasted Red Bell Peppers

January 4, 2008
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Sure, you can buy roasted peppers, but make your own and you can flavor them any way you want. SAM

3 large red bell peppers
1 cup olive oil

Place each pepper on a hot grill or over the gas flame of a stovetop. Turn occasionally, allowing the skin to blister and blacken, about 20 to 30 minutes. When each pepper is thoroughly blackened, place it in a glass casserole, cover, and steam for 5 minutes. Rinse away the blackened skin under cold running water. Peppers will be very hot. Slice and seed the peppers, place them in a pint jar, and cover with olive oil. Store in the refrigerator.

For variations, place in the bottom of the jar one or more of the following:
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon dried bouquet garni
Makes 1 pint.


Potato Salad with Green Olives and Pimientos

January 3, 2008
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Potato salad in winter is like a fresh taste of summer. SAM

1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes
1 medium sweet onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 medium center ribs celery, finely sliced (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
Paprika

In a large saucepan cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, cool, peel, and roughly chop. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the onion, celery, olives, parsley, salt, pepper flakes, lemon juice, and oil. Add the hot potatoes and toss gently to blend. Carefully fold in the eggs. Sprinkle with paprika, cover, and chill.
Makes 8 servings.


Olive-Pimiento Spread

January 2, 2008
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This quick, make-at-the-last-minute appetizer is a sure-fire hit with drop-in guests. SAM

PS To make it even easier, substitute commercial onion juice for the grated onion with juice.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed, green olives, drained and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated onion with juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese with a fork and stir in the olives, onion, olive oil, and pepper. Serve on crackers or French bread, or stuff into celery sticks.
Makes 1 cup or 6 servings.