Yummy Fixins: Delicious bread pudding (recipe)

Bread pudding is a staple dessert in my home state of Louisiana and one of my favorite treats. I have many memories enjoying bread pudding while growing up.

I love cooking personal dishes for my clients and friends, it's a great way to share a taste of the south.

This recipe is very simple and very versatile, so feel free to get creative.

You can add pecans, raisins or peaches to the bread mixture, and even a little bourbon or rum to the sauce. In addition to the caramel sauce, you can sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Most importantly, use stale bread for the recipe. You can use any type of stale bread you'd like: croissants, ciabatta, Hawaiian rolls or even hot dog buns.

Salted Caramel Bread Pudding

1 large French loaf, about 6-7 cups

6 eggs

1 ½ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 cups half and half (plus more if needed)

Caramel Sauce

½ cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes, allow to stale overnight or bake in the oven at 275 degrees for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt, half and half in a large bowl to combine.

Add the bread cubes and toss gently to coat all the bread in the custard.

Pour the mixture into an oiled casserole dish.

Let it soak for at least 30 minutes. If there isn't a little liquid left after it soaks, add an additional cup of half and half, you want the bread to be soggy.

Toss the mixture before baking.

Cover with aluminum foil, sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake for 45 minutes, covered.

Uncover and bake until set and light brown, another 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

While the bread pudding is cooling make the caramel sauce; melt butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, mix well.

Stir in heavy cream and sea salt, whisk until smooth.

Bring to a light boil then simmer to thicken.

Cut bread pudding into squares, place on serving platter or individual plates.

Pour warm salted caramel over each square.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins and Personal Chef Services. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.

Yummy Fixins: Carrot cauliflower Thai curry bisque (recipe)

This plant-based bisque is easy, healthy and delicious.

Cauliflower is an anti-inflammatory vegetable loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and carrots are not only high in fiber, but they also contain antioxidants that can help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you'd like to spice it up, add more curry paste or garnish the bisque with Sriracha sauce.

Carrot Cauliflower Thai Curry Bisque

Makes four servings

2 tablespoons coconut oil

3 ½ cups fresh cauliflower crumbles or riced cauliflower*

2 cups carrots, peeled & chopped

½ onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste

1 cup broth, vegetable

1 can full fat coconut milk

Chopped cashews or almonds for garnish

* Substitute 2 cups of cauliflower florets, chopped

In a medium stock pot heat coconut oil over medium-high heat.

Add cauliflower, carrots, onion and garlic.

Stir in the curry paste and salt; sauté for about five minutes.

Once onions are translucent pour in broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

When the carrots are tender pour in the coconut milk.

Use an immersion blender (or a blender) to purée until smooth.

Simmer gently over low heat for 10 minutes.

Taste for salt and heat, adjust seasonings as desired.

Pour bisque into bowls, garnish with chopped cashews or almonds and enjoy!

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins and Personal Chef Services. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.

Yummy Fixins: Sun dried tomato and chicken pasta (recipe)

I came across the most amazing sun-dried cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe's. When I saw these lovely tomatoes the first thing that popped into my head was a creamy pasta sauce.

It's not the healthiest meal but it sure is yummy. These Trader Joe's cherry tomatoes are considered semi-dried tomatoes, marketed for an antipasto platter, but they work amazingly for pasta.

If you can't find these specific tomatoes you can use sun-dried tomatoes in oil, just make sure to drain most of the oil before using.

For this recipe I used chicken thighs but you can use chicken breast if that is your preference. I also prepared pasta from scratch, however, you can use just about any pasta you like.

I hope you enjoy.

Sun Dried Tomato & Chicken Pasta

Makes four servings

8 ounce pasta; fettuccine, pappardelle or penne

3 tablespoons olive oil, separated

1½ to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup sun-dried tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

1 cup chicken broth

2 cups heavy cream

Shaved parmesan, for garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet.

Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for five minutes on one side. Flip the chicken thighs to the other side and cook for five more minutes, or until cooked through.

Place chicken on a cutting board to rest for five minutes. Slice chicken and set aside.

Use the same skillet to sauté the tomatoes and garlic for two to three minutes.

Make a béchamel by adding butter and flour to the sun-dried tomatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for two to three minutes.

Pour in the broth and cream, whisk until smooth.

Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper as needed.

Bring to a light boil, and continue to stir periodically until the sauce has thickened, about five to seven minutes.

Return chicken to the sauce and mix well.

Reduce heat to low and cook the pasta according to instructions.

Drain pasta and place individual servings onto plates or one large serving bowl.

Top with sauce and garnish with shaved parmesan.

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins and Personal Chef Services. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.

Yummy Fixins: Teriyaki chicken rice bowl (recipe)

I've been looking for some new weeknight recipes to add to my repertoire. Specifically something on the healthy side and easy to throw together.

There are a few steps in this recipe but it is easy peasy! You can skip the teriyaki recipe and just purchase your favorite brand. You can even buy frozen mixed veggies, but fresh are way better.

For this recipe I used white rice but brown rice or quinoa would work well, too.

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl

Makes three – four servings

Ingredients

1 cup teriyaki sauce

2 pound chicken breasts

2 carrots, julienned

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 cup shelled edamame

2 cups broccoli florets

1 ½ cups rice

½ tablespoons sesame seeds, for garnish

For the teriyaki sauce:

3/4 cup soy sauce

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoons diced ginger

1 tablespoons diced garlic

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Place teriyaki sauce ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste for flavor, add more sugar or ginger is desired. Set aside ½ cup of sauce for the chicken marinade. Marinate chicken breasts in ½ cup of teriyaki sauce for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Pour remaining sauce into a small pot and heat until slightly thickened. If you like a thicker sauce add ½ tablespoon of cornstarch and mix well.

Cook rice according to instructions. For the vegetables, fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Arrange the carrots, red bell pepper, edamame and broccoli in a metal steamer basket*; place in the pot.

Cover and steam the vegetables to desired tenderness, about 4 to 6 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Heat grill to 500 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes per side. Let rest 3-5 minutes before slicing.

To serve place a scoop of rice into a large bowl. Top with steamed vegetables, sliced chicken, sesame seeds and a drizzle of reserved teriyaki sauce.

*If you don't have a steam basket just place a little water in a large pan with the vegetables cover and steam.

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins and Personal Chef Services. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.

Yummy Fixins: Whipped goat cheese phyllo bites (recipe)

I love using Athens mini phyllo shells for appetizers and mini desserts.

These shells are so versatile, you can fill them with savory fillings like spinach and artichoke dip or sweet fillings chocolate mousse. For this recipe I bake the shells first and fill with a whipped goat cheese for a cold appetizer.

You can also bake the shells with filling for a warm appetizer.

Whipped Goat Cheese Phyllo Bites

Ingredients

Makes 6-10 appetizer servings.

2 packs Athens mini phyllo shells

1 cup red grapes, halved

2 tablespoons honey, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon thyme

12 ounces goat cheese

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, plus more if needed

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss grapes with thyme and honey, set aside. Place goat cheese, heavy cream, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Add more heavy cream if needed, just make sure the mixture is thick not runny.

Remove the Athens phyllo shells from packaging, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for five minutes, until browned and crisp.

Once the shells have cooled fill with whipped goat cheese and top with honey thyme grapes.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins and Personal Chef Services. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.