Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur | Pinky's Pantry
I found out that today is National Sandwich Day. Who knew we had a day dedicated to sandwiches? I love sandwiches. They’re the easiest thing to pack for lunch, they’re adorable cut into dainty little shapes for tea, and our family road trips just wouldn’t be the same without a cooler of sandwiches and drinks in the trunk of the car.

It’s commonly believed that the sandwich was the invention of John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England. I can’t vouch for the truth of that, but the story goes that Lord Sandwich was a notorious gambler. They say he spent long hours at the gaming tables and rather than get up to eat, he would ask the servants to bring him some sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could hold the food in one hand and keep his cards in the other. His friends embraced the custom and when they got hungry, they would ask for “the same as Sandwich” and that’s how the sandwich got its auspicious beginnings.

Anyway, in deference to National Sandwich Day, I decided to make Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight. Croque Monsieur is typical French bistro fare. Fancy as its name is, it’s basically just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce and more cheese. It’s delicious served all hot and melty with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. If you top a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg, you’ll have what’s called a Croque Madame. But that’s for another post.

CROQUE MONSIEUR
(Makes 6 sandwiches)

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 12 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • room temperature butter for spreading on the bread slices
  • 1 jar dijon mustard
  • 6 ozs. thinly sliced Black Forest ham or Virginia ham
  • 8-10 ozs. Gruyère cheese (can substitute Emmental, Comté, or Swiss cheese)
  1. Slice enough Gruyere to make 6 sandwiches (6 or 7 ozs.) and grate the rest to use for topping. Set cheese aside.
  2. Make béchamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  3. Add flour, whisking until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk in milk, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Set béchamel aside and preheat broiler to high. You’ll broil the sandwiches later.
  8. Butter one side of all 12 slices of bread.
  9. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove.
  10. Place 3 of the bread slices, butter side down, in the skillet.
  11. Brush some mustard on top of each slice of bread in the skillet.
  12. Top each with a slice of ham and a slice of Gruyère.
  13. Cover sandwiches with 3 slices of bread, butter side up.
  14. Cook until deep golden brown, then carefully flip over and cook other side.
  15. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining bread.
  16. Spoon béchamel sauce over each sandwich.
  17. Sprinkle a little grated Gruyère over béchamel.
  18. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and light brown.
  19. Serve hot.
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Waffled Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy | Pinky's Pantry
My sister-in-law, Anna, loves Biscuits and Gravy. It’s one of her favorite American breakfasts. Whenever she comes to visit, we always make sure to go out for breakfast and invariably, that’s what she orders. Biscuits and Gravy is an old American favorite, especially down south. It’s literally a biscuit topped with sausage gravy, sometimes also called Sawmill Gravy.
Biscuit Waffle | Pinky's Pantry
For this recipe, instead of just baking my biscuits in the oven, I cooked them in a waffle iron. The little wells made by the waffle iron made perfect little pockets to catch more of the savory gravy. Yum! Added to that, they looked so darn cute! If you don’t have a waffle iron or you’re feeling lazy to pull it out, just bake your biscuits in the oven like normal.

WAFFLED BISCUITS AND GRAVY

  • 1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage, optional
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 8 biscuits, homemade or purchased refrigerated biscuit dough (like Pillsbury)
  • butter for greasing the waffle iron
  1. Brown sausage in a medium pot, breaking up with a spoon, until completely cooked.
  2. Sprinkle in the flour and stir till flour is all absorbed.
  3. Pour in the milk, stirring well.
  4. Add green onions, sage, pepper, and salt. If using refrigerated biscuits, you may want to omit the salt because store-bought biscuits are pretty darn salty.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring until thickened.
  6. Cover and keep warm over low heat.
  7. Preheat waffle iron on medium-high heat. Brush center lightly with melted butter.
  8. Place 1 biscuit round into waffle iron and gently close without pushing down.
  9. Cook halfway, then close lid completely and continue cooking until biscuits are golden and cooked through.
  10. Repeat with remaining biscuits.
  11. To serve, place a biscuit on a plate and top with sausage gravy.

Sausage Apple Stuffing

Sausage Apple Stuffing | Pinky's Pantry
Every year, when Thanksgiving would roll around, I would try a new stuffing recipe to serve with our turkey. I tried making chestnut stuffing, cornbread stuffing, caramelized onion stuffing, ciabatta stuffing, cranberry nut stuffing, sundried tomato stuffing, you name it. The kids never liked any of them! Then came the year when I finally gave up and said, “I’m not making stuffing this year.” Strangely enough, everyone went up in arms when they heard that. So at the last minute, I sent Old Goat to the grocery to buy some Stove Top “instant” stuffing. Well wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in years, there wasn’t a lick of leftover stuffing in the bowl!

Well I’m nothing if not a quick learner. Stove Top was the key! Since then, I’ve made Stove Top stuffing every year. I just doctor it up with a few ingredients to make it fancier and no one ever guesses that the stuffing wasn’t made from scratch. The empty bowl each Thanksgiving is a testament to how yummy this stuffing is. And my big smile is the testament to how easy it was to actually make.

The amount of stuffing you make depends on how many people you’re having over for dinner. I usually make 6 boxes for our family shindig, but we have a large family. I’ll post the ingredients for one box of stuffing and you can just multiply it as you need to.

EASY SAUSAGE APPLE STUFFING

  • 1 box (6 oz.) Stove Top stuffing
  • ½ lb. bulk sausage
  • ¼ medium onion, diced
  • ½ stalk celery, sliced
  • ½ – 1 apple, peeled and cut in cubes
  1. Prepare stuffing according to package directions in a large pot.
  2. In a skillet, brown sausage with onion and celery.
  3. Stir in the apple and continue to cook until apple is beginning to soften but isn’t mushy. You can use a half to a whole apple, depending on how much you want.
  4. Drain and discard any grease rendered by the sausage.
  5. Pour sausage mixture into the pot with the prepared stuffing.
  6. Stir to combine well.

Three-Cheese Garlic Bread

Three Cheese Garlic Bread | Pinky's Pantry
When you’re looking for a nice accompaniment to a bowl of hot soup or a refreshing salad, you need look no further than this cheesy garlic bread. I even just eat it by itself for a light meal. It’s so yummy and addictive. It’s hard to stop at one slice.

If you want, you could also slice your loaf in half horizontally, then spread the filling on each bread half and bake them till the topping is hot and bubbly. When done, cut the bread into one-inch slices and serve warm. M-m-m!

THREE-CHEESE GARLIC BREAD

  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread (not sourdough)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, butter, garlic, and green onions.
  3. Slice bread into ½-inch thick slices.
  4. Spread cheese mixture on each slice of bread and arrange on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
  6. Serve warm.

Cheese Crostini

Cheese Crostini | Pinky's Pantry
This recipe for cheese crostini is so simple to make and takes hardly any time. If you’re looking for a nice accompaniment to a crisp salad or a hearty bowl of soup, you need look no further than this recipe.

These crostinis are great served warm from the oven. But let them cool down for a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth. When I pull these out of the oven, the family can hardly wait for them to get to the table. I have to slap away the hands trying to sneak one off the baking sheet!

CHEESE CROSTINI

  • 1 loaf (1 lb.) Italian or french bread, sliced
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 packet (.7 ozs.) Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella (or other white cheese like monterey jack)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing mix and cheese together in a medium bowl.
  3. Spread over bread slices.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops begin to brown

NOTE:  I like Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, but you really could use any brand you like.

Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding | Pinky's Pantry

This bread pudding was made without the raisins.

My Mom used to make bread pudding for us all the time when we were growing up. It was a good way to make use of stale bread or left-over crusts that she had removed from sandwiches for a party. She would coat her pan in caramelized sugar which would turn into a sort of self-basting syrup for the bread pudding so there was no need to make any kind of sauce to serve with it. We loved it!

The raisins are traditional. I always liked them in my bread pudding but I remember my little sister didn’t so she used to pick them out. It’s totally fine to leave them out if you prefer a bread pudding without raisins. The recipe still turns out delicious even without them!

Rum-raisin is a common and well-loved flavor combination, but sometimes, just for a change, I replace the rum with cinnamon. I mean, who doesn’t love a slice of buttered cinnamon-raisin bread? Right? And that’s what it tastes like.

OLD-FASHIONED BREAD PUDDING

  • 4 cups bread cubes (cut with a knife or tear into pieces by hand)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 4 cups evaporated milk
  • 6 whole eggs
  • ½ cup butter or margarine, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. rum, optional (or could substitute 2 tsp. cinnamon)
  1. Toss bread cubes and raisins together in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, whisk all the remaining ingredients together with a wire whisk until well combined.
  3. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes and stir together well.
  4. Let soak as long as possible, preferably overnight.

To Cook Bread Pudding:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place sugar and water into a 2½ – 3 quart metal bowl.
  3. Heat bowl over low heat on stove top until sugar is completely melted and begins to turn caramel-colored, swirling bowl quickly to coat bottom and sides with caramel. Make sure to use oven mitts because the bowl will get hot!
  4. Set bowl aside to let caramel coating cool and harden, about 5 minutes or so. Don’t worry if the caramel cracks as it sits. This is normal.
  5. Pour bread pudding mixture into the bowl that has been coated with caramel.
  6. Cover tightly with tin foil.
  7. Place in large roasting pan and fill roasting pan with enough water to come at least halfway up sides of bowl. This is called a water bath.
  8. Put into oven and bake for about 1 hour. To test for doneness, remove foil cover and jiggle bowl back and forth. You want to see a slight jiggle in the center of the pudding.
  9. When done, remove bowl from water bath and place on a rack to cool to room temperature.
  10. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. You could also eat the bread pudding warm if you want to.
  11. To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the pudding to loosen it from the pan.
  12. Invert pudding out onto a serving plate with a lip to catch the sauce.

NOTES:

  • If you prefer, you can make the caramel sauce by just melting 1 cup of plain sugar without adding any water to it. This goes much faster, but it can burn faster too, so watch your caramel carefully!
  • You could also cook the caramel in a saucepot or skillet. Once the caramel reaches the color and consistency you want, quickly pour it into whatever container you’re making your bread pudding in, swirling the container to coat the bottom and sides.

Mom also had what she called her TIPID VARIATION (economical variation):

  • 2 cans evaporated milk + 1 cup water
  • 5 cups bread cubes
  • 4 eggs

Basic Biscuits

Basic Biscuits | Pinky's Pantry
Biscuits are an all American classic. They’re perfect for breakfast with bacon and eggs, or turned into sausage and cheese breakfast sandwiches. And who doesn’t love biscuits and gravy, strawberry shortcake, or peach cobbler? Biscuits also go great with a bowl of hot soup. They’re wonderful piled warm into a basket and served with butter and honey. And let’s not forget they’re the quintessential ingredient in monkey bread. However you like to eat biscuits, this recipe is tasty and really easy to prepare. The secret is to handle your dough as little as possible. The more you handle your dough, the tougher your biscuits turn out. Biscuits are best served warm from the oven the same day they’re made, but these ones will keep in an airtight container for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Basic Biscuits | Pinky's Pantry

For soft sides like these, bake biscuits in the pan with their sides touching each other.

BASIC BISCUITS
(Makes 6-8 biscuits)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut in pieces (can substitute margarine or shortening)
  • ¾ cup milk or buttermilk (you might need a little extra)
  • extra flour for kneading
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter, for brushing on top (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease bottom of cast iron skillet or baking sheet.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.
  4. Stir in milk just till mixture comes together. You’ll have a soft, sticky dough.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, sprinkle a little more flour on top, and pat it with your hands into a rough rectangular shape.
  6. Knead dough by folding it in half towards you and lightly pressing it together.
  7. Turn the dough a quarter turn and fold it in half towards you again, lightly pressing together.
  8. Repeat till you’ve done this 4 or 5 times. Don’t over knead your dough!
  9. Pat dough to desired thickness (I like about an inch thick).
  10. Cut with a sharp biscuit cutter dipped in flour using a straight down and up motion. Don’t twist the cutter or your biscuits won’t rise properly. Dip the cutter in flour between each cut.
  11. Arrange biscuits in pan. If you want crusty sides, place them an inch apart. If you want soft sides, place them in the pan touching each other.
  12. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  13. Take biscuits out of oven and immediately brush tops with melted butter, if desired.

NOTE:  To make make biscuits using a food processor, place dry ingredients in work bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Pulse cold butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in milk or buttermilk and pulse until just combined. Then continue with Step 5.

TO MAKE HERB BISCUITS:  Add ¼ cup dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, savory, parsley, etc., to the dry ingredients. You can use a single herb or a combination of 2 or more herbs.

Homemade Garlic Butter Croutons

Garlic Butter Croutons | Pinky's Pantry
Croutons are cubes of bread that have been coated in butter or oil and then baked or fried until crisp. They’re wonderful sprinkled on soups or salads, or used as a topping for casseroles. You can buy ready-made croutons from the grocery store but why bother when homemade croutons are a hundred, no, a thousand times better and are sooo easy to make?

They can be seasoned in a variety of ways. In place of garlic powder, you could use anywhere from ½ to 2 teaspoons of italian seasoning, herbes de Provence, dried dill, Greek seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, fresh cracked black pepper, or whatever seasoning strikes your fancy. You could make parmesan croutons by adding ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese to the butter, or make fresh cheese croutons using cheddar, swiss, gruyere, emmentaler, or asiago by sprinkling 1 cup or so of the grated cheese over the croutons halfway through baking.

These garlic butter croutons are my family’s favorite. They’re so good and smell divine while they’re baking. It’s all I can do to keep the fam from gobbling them all up before dinner! Feel free to use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder if you like. The garlic powder just makes it super quick and easy to do, but fresh garlic is equally delicious.

HOMEMADE GARLIC BUTTER CROUTONS

  • 1 loaf (about 1 lb.) french or italian bread or texas toast
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
  • 1½ tbsps. granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt, optional (we like a little salt on our croutons, but this is completely up to you – feel free to omit the salt if you like)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. With a serrated knife, cut bread into ¾ to 1-inch cubes.
  3. Combine melted butter, granulated garlic, and garlic salt (if using) in a gallon-size ziploc bag.
  4. Quickly add bread cubes to bag and seal well.
  5. Shake like mad till bread cubes are completely coated with garlic-butter mixture.
  6. Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  8. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

NOTE:

  • Make sure to use a good, sturdy bread. A light, airy loaf will just turn soggy. This is better made with stale bread so try to purchase your bread a day or two before you plan to make the croutons so the bread will have a chance to dry out a little.
  • If you’d rather use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, finely mince 4 cloves of fresh garlic and use that in place of the garlic powder.
  • Use real butter and not margarine. Margarine has a high water content and could turn your croutons soggy. Also, my family loves the butteriness (is that a word?) of these croutons but if it seems like too much butter for you, just cut the amount down to half a cup.

Cornbread Trifle

Cornbread Trifle | Pinky's Pantry
I needed a side-dish to take to a barbecue. Well what could be better than cornbread and a veggie salad? Enter Cornbread Trifle. This recipe has a lot of my favorite components for barbecue side dishes. Plus it looks so beautiful all layered up in your trifle bowl. It’s guaranteed to wow everyone with its gorgeous looks and just wait till you taste it! It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser for sure!

This recipe makes a lot so you’ll need a large trifle bowl. Otherwise, be prepared to have some leftover veggies (which are great tossed with chopped lettuce and ranch dressing the next day).

CORNBREAD TRIFLE

  • 1 box cornbread mix (I used Krusteaz Honey Cornbread mix)
  • sour cream (amount according to milk called for on cornbread package)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, depending on how spicy you want it
  • 1 lb. thick sliced bacon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ small red onion or sweet vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cans (15-oz. each) whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can (15-oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 8 ozs. smoked gouda cheese, grated (If you can’t get smoked gouda, you could use smoked cheddar or even just plain sharp cheddar cheese)
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced

Make the Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven as per package directions and grease an 8 or 9-inch baking pan.
  2. Cut off the stem end of the jalapeños, then remove the inner membrane and seeds.
  3. Finely mince the jalapeños.
  4. Prepare batter following the directions behind the box, but replace the milk with sour cream to make the cornbread moister.
  5. Add ¼ cup milk and the minced jalapeños to the rest of the ingredients for the cornbread batter.
  6. Bake according to the time and temperature directed on the package.
  7. Turn out onto wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  8. Cut cooled cornbread into approximately 1-inch cubes.

Prepare the Bacon:

  1. Lay the bacon slices on a foil covered sheet pan.
  2. Bake at 400ºF for 15 minutes or until brown and crispy.
  3. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.
  4. Stack the crispy bacon and cut them into ½-inch pieces.
  5. Set aside ¼ cup of bacon pieces for garnish.

Make the Dressing:

  1. Place the mayonnaise and ranch dressing in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together until smooth and well blended.

Prepare the Veggies:

  1. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, corn, black beans, and cilantro.
  2. Stir to combine well.

Assemble the Trifle Layers:

  1. Place half the cornbread on the bottom of a large trifle bowl. Press down lightly.
  2. Top with half the veggies.
  3. Next half the cheese.
  4. Then half the bacon. Don’t touch the ¼ cup you reserved for garnish.
  5. End with half the dressing.
  6. Repeat the layers a second time ending in dressing.
  7. Garnish the top with the green onions and reserved ¼ cup bacon.
  8. Chill in refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

[Adapted from 52 Ways to Cook]

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

Corn Dog Muffins | Pinky's Pantry
Summer is State Fair time in California. The State Fair makes me think of corn dogs. I love corn dogs. Corn dogs bring back warm, fuzzy memories of state fairs and carnivals past. There’s nothing like wandering around the fair taking in all the sights and smells with a corndog-on-a-stick smothered in mustard clutched in your hand.

I saw a recipe for mini corn dog muffins on the Kraft website and thought they looked like fun so I decided to try it. They turned out so good! The Kraft recipe has you poke a little cube of cheese into the muffin next to the hotdog. That actually sounds yummy to me too! I’m going to have to try that next time! I remember eating cheese dogs when I was a kid. A cheese dog was basically a hotdog-on-a-stick but with a log of gooey, melty cheese in place of the hotdog. They were oh-so-good!

If you can’t make it to the State Fair, give these tasty little muffins a try. They’re baked so they’re a healthier alternative to a deep-fried corn dog, but they’re every bit as nostalgic and addictive!

MINI CORN DOG MUFFINS

  • 1 pkg. (15 oz.) cornbread muffin mix (I used Krusteaz)
  • 6 beef hotdogs, each cut into 4 pieces (about 1-inch)
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF and grease 24 mini muffin cups.
  2. Prepare cornbread muffin mix according to package directions.
  3. Fill muffin cups half full with cornbread batter.
  4. Push a piece of hotdog down center of batter in each cup.
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from muffin pan.
  7. Serve warm with dijonnaise.

DIJONNAISE

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp. dijon mustard
  1. Combine mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl.
  2. Blend well with a wire whisk.