Shopping Downtown and Salt at the Ritz {Amelia Island, FL}

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We spent a lot of time walking around downtown Amelia Island on our Florida vacation and made a couple stops as we went.

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I loved this cute little boutique, lori + lulu, where I got a pretty, flowy, coral top that I’m planning to wear for work and fun. Make that – I’ve already worn to work. :)

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{post-lunch ice cream}

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I loved this antique market, 8 Flags, where I found some vintage silver wear for food photo props. They had a lot of interesting memorabilia in there, so it could be fun to visit, even if you don’t think you’re in the mood to shop (though you’ll likely find something you like – they have a ton of stuff).

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After our boat tour, lunch, and ice cream, we headed back to our B&B, the Hoyt House, to relax.

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Isn’t the house gorgeous?!

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And then it was time for dinner.

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When I originally asked friends and co-workers for suggestions on a Florida vacation spot, the Ritz at Amelia Island was one of the first (and top) recommendations. Unfortunately, they’re not pet-friendly, so I’m really glad we were able to find the charming Hoyt House where Bailey was a welcome guest.

Fortunately, the Ritz does have a few places non-guests can visit, like the Spa and Salt, one of their on-site restaurant.

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Salt’s theme is pretty obvious – it’s all about the salt. There are pink Himalayan salt lamps and candle votives all around. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you’re greeted by a display of various salts of all shades, shapes, and flavors – they have over 40 types!

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We decided to try the Chef’s Adventure Menu. I was a little nervous because I’m not all that experimental with my food, especially when it comes to gourmet eats. But, after talking about it more with our waiter and after he assured me he could make sure I didn’t get anything raw (sushi – ok, beef tartare – hmm?).

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Our waiter gave us two glasses of sparkling wine, I’m guessing because he found out we were celebrating our anniversary.

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There was bread a-plenty in three options. We didn’t want to fill up on this, but…

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…they had butter from France to enjoy with the bread…

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…and a cute serving dish of three of their signature salts. We started with three types with the bread and got two more with the main courses.

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So, you got to top the bread with French butter and gourmet salts. Yum! I’ve never topped bread with salt before, but it was a fun and interactive way to eat it.

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I’m so glad the kind team at Salt printed a copy of the menu for me because I would never remember all the intricate details of this wonderful tasting menu. First up, we started with an Amuse Bouche – “Strawberry Gazpacho / Toasted Pistachios / Micro Basil”. This was a great way to kick our meal off as the gazpacho was light and refreshing.

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As soon as we saw our first dish of the adventure menu, we knew we’d made the right choice.

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“1st Course: Kajiki Wrapped in Potato / Pickled Snow Peas / Yuzu Gel / Rice Crisp / Gremolata”

Isn’t this one gorgeous!? I think I would have been okay to eat this one raw (or less cooked), but since we’d already talked about no-raw-foods, the chef cooked mine a little extra. I thought it was still delicious – one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The fish had a great texture and flavor, and I really enjoyed the crispy potato outside. The little details of the micro greens and edible flowers were icing on the cake. The combination of ingredients was just so unique, and I’d never had kajiki before. Who knew I liked it? Too bad kajiki seems to come from the West coast because I would totally order this fish again. I’d love to order the dish again, too, but I’m not sure you can even do that, and it’s a little far for dinner from home anyway.

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“2nd course: Hawaiian Gray Snapper / Corn & Lobster Ravioli / Grilled Squash / Tomato Vinaigrette”

The 2nd course was another happy surprise. I’m not a big fish eater, so I rarely order it, and I tend to stick to the same types, but apparently I like Hawaiian gray snapper. Yum! But, it wasn’t just the fish, the entire plate was a playful medley of deliciousness. And just look at all those colors. I thought every bit of this was a pleasure to eat, and surprisingly, hubby said he thought it was the best kale he’s ever had. He doesn’t even like kale that much, but he enjoyed it this time.

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We had a great view of the ocean just outside and watched the sun slowly set as the skies turned from blue to pink.

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We didn’t do the wine pairings of the dinner, but I did get a glass of red to go with the 3rd course.

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“3rd course: Wood Grilled Beef Tenderloin / Purple Potato Espuma / Fried Egg / Fava Beans / Morels / Chimichurri”

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We were starting to get pretty full by this point, but we kept going. The beef was very tender and had a great flavor. I loved the nice sear on the outside. And, I’ve always wanted to try morels. I feel like those are something I only see on Food TV. You guys know I’m not much of a mushroom fan, but I thought they were quite tasty and went very well with the beef. I also really enjoyed the fava beans and various sauces on the plate.

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Check out the tempura poached egg! I’ve definitely never seen that before.

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And for dessert: “White Chocolate Mousse / Caramelized Rhubarb Compote / Fresh Strawberries / Creamsicle Ice Cream”

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I was so happy dessert was light because we were truly stuffed by the end of this meal, though we were slightly crossing our fingers that we would get one of the soufflés we kept seeing at tables around us. The dessert was a unique mixture of mousse, compote, and ice cream. I enjoyed experiencing the different textures and temperatures of the components of this dessert.

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And since we were so absolutely stuffed from dinner, we took our complimentary sweets (and salts – not pictured) to go and enjoyed them on the car ride home. I also stopped by the Salt shop earlier in the week and selected a couple salts to bring home for cooking later.

We had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Salt at the Ritz. The service was impeccable, and the food was so unique, beautifully plated, and simply delicious. I’m so glad we tried that adventure menu because it really helped make the entire experience extra special.

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My other Florida road trip posts are available here:

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Thanks for reading! Want to have a say in what recipe will be blogged first? Go to my Facebook page and like your favorite photo to vote (click)!

Best Desserts in St. Augutine, FL

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You guys know me – I have a major sweet tooth! After our delicious dinner at The Floridian, I knew I wanted to bring home some dessert for later. What I didn’t know is that I was about to accidentally go on a bit of a dessert crawl in search of the best desserts in St. Augustine, FL.

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I spotted these chewy-looking bars on the way into The Floridian and couldn’t resist snagging one to enjoy later. They were very similar to “magic bars” with lots of chocolate and coconut. Mmm…

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We headed closer to the water, just meandering around, and wound up at A1A Ale Works, which was a recommendation from Food Blog Forum by Julie @ The Little Kitchen.

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We didn’t intend to go here for dessert – we came for the beer!

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I was ready to check out one of their drafts when I noticed that they make their own root beer. It’s not every day you find homemade root beer (which I love!), so I decided to try that for a bit of a liquid dessert. The root beer was light and refreshing, perfect for the hot summer night.

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Hubby got real beer.

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After our liquid refreshment, we continued down the waterfront towards the fort.

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I started mapping dessert options on my phone and realized that we were right at one of the tourist streets that seemed to have many of the best.

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Fudge Buckets was our first stop.

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I’ve always been a fan of fudge, but these guys had the most unique fudge flavors I’ve ever seen, including Red Wine…

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…Root Beer Float…

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…and my favorite – Dark Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt. *drool*

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Not only does Fudge Buckets have a slew of unique flavors, their packaging is pretty fab, too. The fudge is served up in small “buckets”, so they’re easy to transport and enjoy.

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We had a great time chatting with Michelle of Fudge Buckets about all of her delicious fudge. Okay, we had a great time tasting what seemed like almost all of them, too! And we brought home 5 buckets of fudge for later.

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Side note – right next to this place was The Hyppo, which has gourmet popsicles. I wanted to try one, but once night fell it was pretty cool outside. I’ve heard great things about their popsicles, so stop by and let me know what you think!

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I wasn’t looking for more dessert at this point, but when I saw that Bon Ami had French Macarons, I had to scope it out.

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Inside, a beautiful rainbow of macaron flavors.

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I quickly selected 6 to take home, with flavors ranging from Earl Grey to Birthday Cake.

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And for our final stop, we swung by Columbia Restaurant, a recommendation from one of the girls at the Whole Foods brunch. We’ll have to come back for dinner, but on this occasion, we were in search of something sweet.

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We quickly discovered the White Chocolate Bread Pudding – (from the menu) “Our dad and grandfather’s favorite dessert,simply put, this is the best bread pudding that we have tasted anywhere we have ever visited. Our version is made with white chocolate, La Segunda Central Bakery Cuban bread, Sunny Florida Dairy milk and Florida eggs, topped with a rich Don Casimiro Classic Silver rum sauce.

Uhh…yes, please! This was exactly what we were looking for when we set out on our accidental dessert crawl. The others could be enjoyed later, but for something hot and now – this bread pudding was the ticket. I’d never seen a white chocolate bread pudding before, and it was a nice surprise. I loved the play on this classic dessert.

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With full stomachs (and shopping bags), we headed back towards Flagler College and to the B&B.

Next time – breakfast at the B&B!

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Check out the previous posts from our Florida trip here:

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By the way, sorry these posts are taking so long to get up. The stomach bug on vacay really set me back, and I’ve recently started a new project at work that has me on lock down. It’s tough when you can’t do anything with the blog or email from 8am-6pm (or even 8pm most days) I already have some yummy, summer recipes to share with you guys, so I’m hoping to get through these vacation posts pretty quickly so I can get those recipes posted! Thanks for reading!

Epcot Fireworks and Churros at the Magic Kingdom {Orlando, FL}

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Our dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh ended just in time for us to catch the Epcot closing fireworks. There is a mini clip of the fireworks at the end of the video I made for that last post. Here are some of my favorite photos of the fireworks in action:

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I wanted to stay longer, but the park was closing. Luckily, the Magic Kingdom was open pretty late. So, we filed out with the rest of the crowd and took a very slow trip back to the transportation center and then to Magic Kingdom. Till we meet again, Epcot!

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When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, there was a special show going on at Cinderella’s castle. They created all types of different scenes by casting different lights on the buildings.

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It was pretty neat, but we didn’t watch long. We wanted to go on a ride! We decided to hit up The Haunted Mansion, which is one of my childhood favorites. The line was pretty short, so I was thinking we’d be able to do a couple more rides before heading home. Unfortunately, we saw lightning above and started feeling rain drops trickling down.

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So, we looked for dessert instead. I grew up eating these churros at Disney, so they’re sort of a tradition for me. I look for them every time I’m at the Magic Kingdom. I really need to try a homemade churro recipe sometime! Anywho, hubby and I each enjoyed one of these cinnamon-sugar-covered treats.

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And while we noshed on the churros, we watched a night time parade pass by.

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We considered braving the (potential) rain, but ultimately, we were pretty tired. So, we made one more pass by Cinderalla’s castle and then took a small boat across the lake back to our hotel.

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We had enjoyed a full and wonderful day, but it was time for sleep. We still had many more Florida adventures ahead!

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Catching up? Here are some previous posts from our Florida trip:

Next time – my last Food Blog Forum post all about brunch!

Thanks for reading!

Just Right Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies {Recipe}

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A new cookie has taken the lead as my favorite cookie – oatmeal chocolate chip. The old favorite was chocolate chip. I know, it’s not much of a difference. And yet, that simple addition of oats gives the texture and flavor something special that I just love.

Of course, this meant I needed to come up with a recipe so I could make the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies just the way I like – a little chewy. I started with this recipe for butterscotch oatmeal cookies that I made a couple years ago with good success, but I made a couple changes, also looking at my dough ball recipe for some ideas. I liked the flavor and chewiness of those butterscotch cookies, but I wanted to reduce the sugar and make them less flat, plus I wanted to make far fewer cookies. I played with the recipe over several batches, about 8 or 9 over the last couple years. I started by halving the butterscotch cookie recipe, adding flour, and reducing the sugar amounts. The first couple tries were decent but not great. I thought simply adding flour would make the cookies less flat, but it didn’t work as I expected. I tried some batches with far less sugar, far less flour, different amounts of butter, using baking powder instead of baking soda, and many other variations. Each try was just okay but not just right. I tracked my adjustments and made notes along the way. Most recently, I tried doing some google research.

I did some online searching for how to make cookies chewy, and it turns out sugar is one thing that that helps make them chewy (so much for reducing it lol). Apparently using melted butter and baking soda instead of baking powder helps, too. So, I tried a couple more times, tweaking things all along the way. The final result is what I’d consider a “just right” oatmeal chocolate chip cookie – a little chewy, a little soft, and a little crispy all in one delicious package.

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5.0 from 1 reviews

Just Right Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies {Recipe}
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The ingredients are simple and the results are delicious. They whip up pretty quickly, too! I started with this cookie recipe and experimented, analyzed, and re-experimented, and re-analyzed over several batches until I was happy with the results. According to some google research, melted butter, sugar, and baking soda help give the cookie a chewy texture, so keep that in mind if you modify the recipe at home, especially if you like chewy cookies, too. Be sure you use kosher salt or reduce the amount if you use table salt instead. And mini chocolate chips distribute better than large ones, so I was able to reduce that amount versus the ¾ cup of the regular size chocolate chips I’d recommend. Hope you like these cookies as much as I do!
*Vegetarian, vegan options listed below*
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup quick-cooking oats (old-fashioned would probably work just fine, too)
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (reduce amount if you use table salt, maybe ¼ – ½ depending on how you like your cookie flavor)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly (vegan – sub Earth Balance or similar product)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (vegan – sub a flaxseed egg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (or use ¾ cup regular sized chocolate chips)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three baking sheets with parchment paper. Note: I could bake all the cookies in one batch with 2 shelves and 3 baking sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, add oats, flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to evenly combine.
  3. In a medium bowl mix butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Make sure butter mixture isn’t too hot so it doesn’t cook the egg when add it, and add the egg and vanilla. Whisk to evenly combine.
  4. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and gently mix with a large spatula. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Using a medium sized sorbet scoop (2 tablespoon), scoop dough and evenly distribute on baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches of space in between each ball of dough.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are slightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets to room temperature. Enjoy!

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Happy baking! Thanks for reading!

Which do you prefer: regular chocolate chip or oatmeal chocolate chip?

French Broad Chocolate Lounge & Homegrown {Asheville, NC}

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The weekend seemed to go by too quickly. I wished I’d had a whole week to spend there like we did last time.

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Nevertheless, Sunday night was for revisiting some faves from our last trip – French Broad Chocolate Lounge and Homegrown.

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But first, I enjoyed a massage at Spa Theology – a recommendation from our B&B. I first checked into the Grove Park Inn, but it was over $200 for an 80 minute massage, and they didn’t have anything shorter. The price just seemed so high. Has anyone been? Is it worth it? I was really intimidated by most of the prices at the Grove Park Inn. $90 for a non-resort guest to visit the spa area pools? Maybe it’s worth it, and I just don’t know since I haven’t been.

Either way, I had a great massage at Spa Theology. Their setup is really nice (and really close to French Broad Chocolates). I felt really comfortable and relaxed at their facility. I liked how they offered massage upgrades (scalp treatment, foot scrub, hot stones). I opted for the foot scrub, though I’m not sure that particular one was worth it. It didn’t add any additional time to the massage, just the treatment. Anywho, the lounge area was small but cozy. Oh, and did you see the photo above? A post-massage chocolate waited for me in my locker. Pretty sweet, right? I also really liked the goodies for sale in the shop area of Spa Theology. I took home a candle and linen spray to enjoy later.

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Since it was nearby, I walked on over to French Broad after my massage. Last time we were here, we waited in a line out the door. This time, there was almost no line. Score!

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I had a tough choice selecting from all the delicious options, though they were narrowed down since I was getting everything to go. I got a couple things for dinner and then a brownie and pecan tart to take home the next day.

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Hubby picked me up from downtown, and we headed to Homegrown for dinner.

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We started with pimento cheese with pita wedges and fresh veggies.

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Hubby had some tomato soup as a starter.

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For my entrée, I had the fried chicken I loved so much last time with mushroom gravy. I got the sesame kale and mashed potatoes for my side. It was comfort food goodness. I still can’t believe you can get such good food for such a low price!

In case you didn’t see my last post on Homegrown, the decorations are sparse, but what they lack there they make up with delicious food and amazing prices. I wouldn’t go here for a romantic dinner, but I definitely recommend stopping by some time if you’re ever in Asheville.

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We headed back to the B&B to enjoy our French Broad take-out with a glass of vino (picked up from the local Green Life/Whole Foods)

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We had super tasty macaron…

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…and a slice of the quintessential chocolate cake. Yum! Both were just as delicious as I expected them to be based on our last trip. I almost got the olive oil chocolate cake this time, but I guess I’ll have to safe that for trying next time!

Thanks for reading!

Individual Challah Breakfast Bread Pudding {Recipe}

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{New to The Chic Life? Welcome! Thank you for stopping by. You can click here to get free updates delivered to your inbox, and you can also find me on Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.}

Looking for something new to try for breakfast this weekend? I may have an idea you’ll enjoy. This recipe was inspired by a recent conversation with my husband. We were out to eat with friends on New Year’s Eve, and someone at the table ordered bread pudding. We started talking about how I never make bread pudding (or something to that effect), which inspired me to put “bread pudding” on the list of recipes to play with soon. I’ve never been a big bread pudding fan, myself. I don’t typically like soggy bread (or soggy anything…especially cereal!) and most bread puddings have raisins in them. Though I like dried cranberries quite a bit, I can’t seem to get into raisins.

With a couple day old pieces of challah in the house, I decided to get creative one morning. Not only would I make him a bread pudding, I’d make one that was breakfast-friendly (and sans raisins)! The result was a hit that both of us enjoyed.

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Individual Challah Breakfast Bread Puddings (for Two)

If you’ve ever had just a couple pieces of challah left, maybe just the ends, save them for this fun breakfast. Treat yourself to Challah Breakfast Bread Pudding first thing in the morning. I tweaked the recipe to be a little more breakfast friendly. You’ll get one whole egg in each serving, I went low on the sugar, and there’s no added butter or oil (besides whatever was already in the bread). Go with the raspberry sauce option mentioned below for a healthier topping option. Life’s short. Eat dessert…for breakfast!

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 32-38 minutes
Total time: 37-48 minutes

Ingredients:

  • non-stick spray
  • 2 cups challah, cubed small (about 1/2″ pieces)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • maple syrup or raspberry sauce (click for easy recipe), optional topping
  • sliced almonds, optional topping

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two ramekins with non-stick spray.
  2. Evenly distribute bread into the ramekins.
  3. Add eggs to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk eggs lightly. Add milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt and whisk till combined.
  4. Evenly distribute egg mixture into the ramekins. Press bread into the egg mixture until all the bread pieces are no longer dry.
  5. Bake for 32-38 minutes, until bread pudding is puffed up and cooked through. (A toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the pudding springs back when you tap the top lightly).
  6. Cool till safe to touch. Top with maple syrup or this delicious raspberry sauce (click). I also added almond slices for some extra crunch.

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Anyone doing anything fun this weekend? After all the craziness lately, I’m laying pretty low this weekend. It will be good to catch up with things in the house. I’m also trying to do some spring cleaning in my wardrobe – more purging, etc. I really need to downsize my clothes collection. I wear such a small percentage, and yet, I can’t seem to let go of things very easily. C’est la vie.

Thanks for reading!

Reader question: Are you anti-soggy-foods or do you love them?

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