Two Delicious Quick Breads - Strawberry-Blackberry and Bacon Cheddar

As I mentioned last week, I baked for the St. Louis Food Bloggers' Share Our Strength Bake Sales put together by Kimberly at Rhubarb and Honey, Stefani of Cupcake Project, Andrew of Andrew Mark Veety. I deliberated what to bake. Cookies are not my gig, and I’m not comfortable enough with my pie crust making skills, so both of those were out of the question. I typically have success with quick breads, maybe because they are pretty forgiving, and if I tweak the recipe, the end product is not in jeopardy of complete ruin. And I like that they’re easy to put together – quick. I tested two new recipes, and both were deemed bake sale worthy. I never thought I liked strawberries baked, a texture thing, but I’ve changed my mind. Based on an old Weight Watchers recipe, the strawberry fruit bread is pretty healthy, but next time I may reduce the sugar a bit. It’s extremely moist with a soft crumb and bursts with strawberry fruit flavor. It started out as strawberry bread but morphed into“fruit” bread because when I baked the loaves for the sale, I realized I only had one cup of frozen strawberries left that we picked last summer, so I defrosted a cup of blackberries we also picked/froze. These breads look gorgeous, too, important when trying to get someone to buy a loaf.

When I told my guys that I was making bacon cheddar breads for my other loaves, they both gave me the “Really?” look. Why not? Who said quick breads need to be sweet? Savory breads are wonderful with soups, chili, salads, and at breakfast. Bacon continues to be THE ingredient and with good reason. It just makes everything taste better. If the aroma of this bread coming out of the oven isn’t reason enough to bake it, taking one bite challenges you not to eat the whole loaf. While it has a tighter crumb than the fruit bread, the contrasting tang from the cheddar balances the salty bacon crumbles. It really works. When you read the list of ingredients, it is not for someone watching calories or fat, but once in a while, a scrumptious splurge is worth it. And I got to use some of the leaf lard that came with our new half hog purchase last month. I also discovered these attractive disposable pans, much better presentation than foil, at The Kitchen Conservatory. No need to grease them and there’s a tab you pull to “unwrap” the bread. Pretty exciting all around.

Strawberry Bread
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 C thawed frozen strawberries or a mix of frozen berries
1/4 C canola oil
1 t vanilla
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 ounce coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Spray either a 9 x 5 loaf pans or three small loaf pans with cooking spray. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and add strawberries, oil, egg white and walnuts to well. Mix just until well combined. Spoon batter into pan/s. Bake 45 minutes for large pan and 30 minutes for small or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove and cool completely on a rack.

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Bread
1/2 pound bacon
1/2 large onion, diced
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
Few dashes nutmeg
Couple grinds black peppercorns
2 T brown sugar
1/4 C lard
1 C coarse grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 C milk buttermilk
1 t Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oven to 350 F and spray a 10″ loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels then chop into small pieces. Set aside. Remove all but a tablespoon of the rendered fat, and cook the onion until golden.

In a large bowl combine the flours, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, and spices. Add the lard and, with your hands, mix it into the four until it looks like coarse sand. Add the cheese and toss to combine.

In another bowl mix the eggs, buttermilk, and Worcestershire sauce. 

Pour the wet over the dry and mix until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated.  Add the bacon and onions and fold in, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top of the bread is lightly brown and a thin knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Photo Courtesy - J. Pollack Photography

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

You just can’t have too many pizza recipes, too many meatloaf recipes, or Buffalo Chicken recipes. Last night we had a dish that combines the best of the two – Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf! I don’t eat Buffalo chicken wings (too much fat and way too messy), but I do love the flavor of the hot sauce and love love love blue cheese. This meatloaf is loaded with veggies and the ground chicken breast makes it fulfilling with much less fat (and fuss) than wings. Baked between the layers of meat mixture, you get an explosion of creamy blue cheese in every bite.
But Connor called it meatloaf goo as seen in the photo below, and I take full responsibility for the cook’s error. Instead of following the baking directions as specified in the original recipe, which was printed recently in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, I decided to bake it in a loaf pan as I do with other meatloaf recipes. Big mistake. The texture is quite soft, and it fell completely apart when I took it out of the pan. I also thought it seemed a bit dry after I added the bread crumbs so I added more hot sauce, which also contributed to it crumbling. I will make this again, but next time I’ll actually prepare it as written.

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf
Original recipe from The St. Louis Post Dispatch
Serves 6

1 t olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken breast
1 C buffalo wing sauce, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 C plain bread crumbs, preferably homemade*
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 C crumbled blue cheese
2 T honey
Sliced green onions, for optional garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place a large skillet over medium high-heat. When hot, add olive oil, then add onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, 1/2 cup wing sauce, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add vegetables. Mix gently but well.
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place half of the chicken mixture on the baking sheet, patting the meat into a rectangle. Top evenly with cheese. Add the rest of the meat, covering all the cheese and forming a loaf.

Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup wing sauce and honey. Spread over the meatloaf.

Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through. Let cool slightly before slicing. If desired, sprinkle with green onions.

** A note on homemade bread crumbs…. Easy, cheap, much tastier, and no waste than buying store bread crumbs! I always save the end pieces of bread in a freezer ziplock (in the freezer) until I have enough to fill the bowl of the food processor. Don’t use stale bread and the bread must be dry. If the bread is too fresh, it won’t crumble. But it’s easily dried by placing it in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once to ensure even drying. Remove from the oven and let cool. Tear the bread, place in the food processor, and whirl until it is the desired coarseness. Place in a freezer ziplock, and store in the freezer. I like to keep a bag of plain and a bag I’ve already mixed with Italian seasoning. Voila!

Strawberry Balsamic Salsa with Grilled Sea Bass

Last night Connor and I cooked together for Mother’s Day, which was a glorious mother’s day present in and of itself. We planned a very simple meal of grilled sea bass, creamy polenta, and grilled asparagus. It really resonated with me that simple is something I don’t do often enough, where the fresh and fabulous flavors of the ingredients shine. Easy clean up, too. 

The gorgeous, sustainable sea bass was from Whole Foods, and we had strawberries that needed to be used. I have fallen in love with macerated strawberries and balsamic vinegar this spring, so we made a balsamic strawberry salsa to serve with the fish. Strawberries and balsamic together are sophisticated and an Italian classic. It may sound strange, but they pair beautifully. The balsamic brings out the sweetness of the berries yet adds a tart bite. Be sure to use your very best aged balsamic. One that I love is from the Mountain Town Olive Oil Company in Park City, Utah, a traditional 18 year Modena balsamic. The other salsa ingredients add a touch of heat and crunch. WOWOWOWOW. After preparing and tasting it, we immediately made another batch because we knew it would not be enough. The salsa and soft goat cheese would also make an easy bruschetta.

A perfect meal for a lovely spring day.

Strawberry Balsamic Salsa with Grilled Sea Bass
1 small lime, zested
1/4 C finely chopped seeded jalapeno
2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 C finely chopped strawberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime zest, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, and spices. Add the strawberries and combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the sea bass, we combined 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and thinly sliced two cloves of garlic in a pie pan and added the fish to coat and marinated in the refrigerator for about an hour. Just before grilling it, we sprinkled with salt and pepper and Connor grilled it to perfection, and 3 minutes per side.

Join the Fight to End Childhood Hunger and Enjoy Awesome Baked Goods by STL Food Bloggers - Satuday, May 14th

Childhood hunger should not exist any where in our world, and certainly not in this country, the richest nation on the planet. Consider the FACTS:
  • In the US, 1 in 4 kids - 17 MILLION KIDS! - don't know when or where their next meal will come from
  • Only 1 in 6 eligible kids in the US get free summer meals.
  • Less than half of the eligible kids get free or reduce-priced school breakfasts.
  • Hunger has serious, long-term effects on kid's health. They're sick more often, recover slower, and at statistically far greater risk for obesity and diabetes.
  • Hunger significantly impedes kid's ability to learn and predisposes them to consequential emotional and behavioral issues.
Food Blogger Bake Sale at the Sappington Farmers' Market from 10AM to 2PM. Sappington Farmers' Markets is also donating a portion of their day's proceeds to Share Our Strength. 
Share Our Strength is an organization whose goal is to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. While a bold undertaking, Craig and I have faith it is achievable. Cooking Matters, the program I volunteer as a chef, is a vital component in winning this fight. We teach participants - kids, teen moms, adults, seniors - how to plan and prepare nutritious, delicious, and affordable foods at home. As food bloggers, this is something we do effortlessly. Not so for the 50 MILLION Americans who are food insecure.

As warriors, next weekend Kimberly at Rhubarb and Honey and a few other St. Louis food bloggers have organized the St. Louis

If you are interested in joining the fight to end childhood hungers, join us! 
  • Bake with us! Any from-scratch baked goods (cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, breads, cupcakes, candy) are welcome at the sale. If you want to bake, please drop Kimberly an email at
  • Not a baker but love to EAT? Then come and BUY the goodies for sale. They're guaranteed to be delicious, and you'll supporting a tremendous cause.
  • This is a nationwide effort, so check out the Food Blogger Bake Sales by state to get involved in a bake sale near you.
I'm test-driving my recipe this weekend and will post it - bacon cheddar quick bread. I'm volunteering in the morning. Come see me!

A Very Yummy Burger – Asian Tuna Burger with Wasabi Mayo

When Craig travels for work, Connor and I eat things not on his favs list like spinach-feta scrambled eggs, glazed carrots, and we “test drove” a tuna burger that turned out delicious. So much so that we repeated it the next week when he was home. It satisfies a burger craving but very healthy with nutritious-dense, fresh tuna.

Since yellow fin tuna is so pricey, I knew these had to be really special, and they did not disappoint. Besides being easy and quick to prepare, they were super-fresh tasting, and Connor seared them perfectly so they had a crispy outside but meltingly soft, tender, and moist inside. And they were very pretty with perfect grill lines too! While the original recipe did not call for it, I added a few finely minced chipotle peppers and some adobe sauce, which gave them a subtle but slightly smoky kick. Be sure that they are well-packed and allow time for them to refrigerate after you form the patties so they don't fall apart on the grill. Wasabi mayo is the perfect condiment and adds spice and creamy goodness. We served them with baked oven fries and steamed carrots that I finished in a little butter with garlic, fresh ginger, lime juice, and cilantro.

Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise
Source:  Family Style Food (almost no changes!)
Makes 6 burgers
2 pounds very cold, skinless yellowfin tuna, cut into chunks (I chill the tuna in the freezer for 10 minutes before starting – it’s a lot easier to chop and handle)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup panko crumbs
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
A few finely minced chipotle peppers and adobe sauce to your liking

A few handfuls mixed salad greens
6 hamburger buns, split and toasted
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
Fresh chives

Wasabi Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 minced green onions
2 teaspoons wasabi powder – I used wasabi paste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until the mixture is roughly chopped.

Add the panko, onions, ginger, soy sauce, pepper, and chipotle and adobe; pulse again to combine. Form into 6 patties and place on a baking sheet or shallow baking dish. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Mix together all ingredients for the Wasabi Mayonnaise, cover and chill until serving time.

Grill the burgers over medium-high heat about 3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook; these are best removed from the grill rare and left loosely covered for a few minutes to finish cooking to medium-rare. Overcooked tuna will be dry.

Serve the burgers on lettuce lined buns and topped with the wasabi mayonnaise, avocado slices and chives.

Passover Kugel (I'm a bit behind in blogging)

The Passover Seder has become a holiday to share with non-Jewish friends, and we were thrilled and delighted when our good friends, Rob and Justin, invited us to partake in their celebration. Their other Jewish guests warmly shared their collective perspectives not just on Passover, but the religion as well, making for a faith-filled, joyful evening.

While the Passover meal is quite the culinary feast, it’s truly a religious service, ceremony, and experience. I’ve always been fascinated with the culture and traditions of Judaism, which are well quite alive during the Seder. The Haggadah that was used, written by a female rabbi, was contemporary and welcoming of diversity. The meal followed all the traditions of a Seder, comprised of 15 sections, with four glasses of wine consumed during the Seder, hand washing, prayers, breaking and eating matzah, the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, songs, afikomen (hiding the matzah), and praises. 

Now for the food. The tremendous meal was based on the culinary tradition of Ashkenazi (or Germanic) Jews, and we were assigned the kugel, similar to a pudding or noodle dish. The only guidelines were no dairy since the entrée was (perfectly roasted) lamb - dietary laws prohibit mixing meat and dairy at the same meal - and it had to use matzah. Justin provided a cauliflower leek kugel from Epicurious that sounded interesting, with tweaking, of course. Everyone swooned over Rob's amazing soup, a rich broth and the lightest, fluffiest matzah balls that would make any Jewish grandmother proud. By the time dessert was served, my tummy was saying no more (we had had the fabulous Easter Brunch at the Chase Park Plaza Cafe Eau only hours earlier), but I couldn't pass up a few bites of the decadent almond-apricot cake and the dessert matzahs (chocolate, nut, and dried fruit from Martha Stewart) and chocolate toffee).

This is what we ended up making for the kugel. Rob, always so kind, commented that I could have been Jewish my entire life as tasty as it turned out and lighter than many conventional Seder dishes. Be forewarned, however, you need to like dill. A lot. Its flavor is quite pronounced. Even if you are not serving for a Seder, it makes a lovely, low-carb side dish, and substituting panko would work in lieu of matzah meal.
Cauliflower-Leek Kugel with Herb and Pine Nut Crust
8 Servings

8 C cauliflower florets (from 2 medium heads of cauliflower)
6 T olive oil, divided
2 C coarsely chopped leeks (white and pale green parts)
2 C coarsely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 T unsalted matzo meal
4 large eggs
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/2 C chopped fresh dill, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted, chopped

Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to large bowl and mash coarsely with potato masher or a stick blender. Mine were the consistency of coarsely mashed potatoes.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, onions, and garlic, and sauté until tender and just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add leek mixture to cauliflower. Mix in matzo meal. Beat eggs, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon dill, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend; stir into cauliflower mixture.

Brush 11x7-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil. Spread cauliflower mixture evenly in prepared dish. Mix pine nuts, remaining 7 tablespoons parsley, 7 tablespoons dill, and 2 tablespoons oil in medium bowl to blend. Sprinkle evenly over kugel. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.) 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake kugel uncovered until set in center and beginning to brown on top, about 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.


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