Homemade Croutons

I love homemade croutons!

Homemade Croutons

4 hamburger buns
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut up the hamburger buns into crouton size pieces and place on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt, black pepper and garlic powder.

Toss together with clean hands.

Place into preheated oven and bake for 22 minutes. Remove and cool before using.

CHEW THIS! Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread.jpg

The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, January 4th 2020 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Banana Bread with a Chocolate Twist 
Blaise Doubman

I love banana bread and I love coming up with new and different recipes that not really improve upon the original and familiar recipe but make it better and more flavorful. Did you know that if you use ripe bananas in banana bread, your bread will come out moister and more flavorful? Did you know that if you add extra banana, more than your recipe calls for, your bread will be raw in the middle, while the outside is overdone. Yes, like most everything else in baking, banana bread is a science. Over the years I’ve discovered that cinnamon and nutmeg are good additions to banana bread but so are cardamom, clove and even pumpkin pie spice! Banana bread is versatile, with some people adding a variety of nuts or fruits in the bread, while others may top the bread with a cream cheese frosting. All ways sound delicious, don’t you think? I have even taken leftover pieces of banana bread and transformed them into a delicious breakfast by turning the leftovers into banana bread french toast! Simply use your favorite french toast recipe and substitute the bread for your leftover banana bread! Serve alongside butter, maple syrup and maybe some sliced bananas and you have a delicious and simple breakfast that people will absolutely go crazy over.

When developing this recipe, I wanted something chocolate. I love chocolate and most things that are not chocolate, I wonder in the back of my mind, if they can be transformed into something chocolate. Who wouldn’t love chocolate banana bread? And I’m not talking about adding in some chocolate chips to your traditional banana bread batter. I am talking about turning the whole loaf into a deliciously chocolate banana bread loaf. I added cocoa powder to the batter, chocolate chips and sprinkled some chocolate chips on top just for good measure. Feel free to explore and have fun with this recipe by adding in your favorite flavors. Add a touch of instant coffee granules to exchange the chocolate flavor or add white chocolate chips and pecans to the batter and the top. You can even take this recipe and divide it into muffin cups and bake off little mini chocolate banana bread muffins! Have fun and enjoy!

Chocolate Banana Bread

To achieve oven ripe bananas, place your yellow firm bananas onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place into preheated 300 degree F oven for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

3 large bananas, oven ripe and mashed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup white all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a regular size loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl combine the mashed oven ripe bananas with the melted unsalted butter. Beat in the vegetable oil, packed light brown sugar, large egg and pure vanilla extract.

Add in the white all-purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda and salt all at once. Gently stir until everything is combined.

Fold in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Place the batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth out the top.

Sprinkle a generous handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips along the top.

Bake, in preheated oven, 60 minutes.

Once baked, remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Gently remove from the pan and place onto a piece of parchment paper to cool completely before cutting.

Leftover bread should be kept wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. Wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil if you want to freeze the bread which will last frozen for 1 month.

Ask and Answer: I have gotten a few questions about frying bacon in the past and would like to address them now. So many of you have wondered my favorite method to cooking bacon. Well, until recently, I didn’t care for bacon. Now that I do, I have a simple and delicious way of preparing it that I would like to share. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the bacon, in a single row, not overlapping, onto the prepared baking sheet. Place into preheated oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove and brush each slice with pure maple syrup. Sprinkle on black pepper. Return to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until desired crispness. Replace and carefully drain on paper towels.

CHEW THIS! Pretzel Biscuits

Pretzel Biscuits.jpg

The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, November 16th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Pretzel Biscuits
Blaise Doubman

Can anyone else believe that it is almost Thanksgiving! I can’t believe how fast this year has went! Soon we will be venturing into the year 2020! Which blows my mind even more because was it really twenty years ago that everyone was panicking over “Y2K”? Remember that? For those who are not old enough, Google it and you will be amazed. Ha! Looking ahead to Thanksgiving, not to mention Christmas and New Years’, I am already starting to plan the family meals. It is never a bad idea to start planning ahead, especially with the busy lives everyone lives today! For Holiday meals I have a few tips I would like to share with all of you! First off, I always say to start with a list. Make a list of the things you want to prepare and then cross off two or three different things. This will eliminate your stress, give you extra time to put love into the other dishes and will narrow the focus on what you would really like to serve. Secondly, write down the time and date of your Holiday party and start writing down what you need to do to prepare each dish, backwards, so that you will get an idea of when you actually need to start each dish. Thirdly, and maybe the most important, try to find recipes that you can make ahead of time and don’t be embarrassed or afraid to buy some good store-bought side dishes or even desserts! Yes, that is right, everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has also given the same advice when it comes to good store-bought side dishes and desserts so if it is good enough for her, it is good enough for me!

When thinking about this year’s Thanksgiving I was researching different combinations of yeast rolls. I wanted something different, something that was easy and something that was a combination of sweet and salty. I thought about coming up with a recipe for salted rosemary yeast rolls, when I caught an episode of Ree Drummond’s show, The Pioneer Woman. She was making pretzel rolls and they looked delicious! Aha! How about making pretzel biscuits? I did some research and discovered that not many appealing recipes exist, so I got busy developing. These are wonderfully soft with the flavor of a pretzel without being too chewy, like a lot of the recent pretzel breads and rolls can be and have a wonderful deep flavor with minimal effort. I highly recommend you stir up a batch of these delicious rolls for something new and fun!

Pretzel Biscuits

These can be made ahead and then warmed up ahead of serving. If keeping these overnight and wanting to heat them the next day for serving, run cold water over the biscuits and place on baking sheet. Bake in 375 F degree oven for about 8 minutes until warmed through. This trick also works with stale or dry breads and rolls.

1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 stick, unsalted butter
1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups white all-purpose flour
1 package instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 cups water
½ cup baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Start by combining the whole milk, unsalted butter, packed light brown sugar and salt in a large pot over medium high heat. Bring to a near boil, but not boiling, and remove from the heat.

Allow to sit at room temperature to slightly cool for 8 minutes.

Add in the white all-purpose flour, instant dry yeast, baking soda and salt. Stir well. Cover this mixture with a clean, dry kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 60 minutes.

Divide the dough into 14 equal size balls and place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.

Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

In the meantime, place the water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once at a boil, stir in the baking soda. After the 30 minutes is up, place each ball of dough into the boiling water, working with about five balls at a time, and let them boil for 45 seconds.

After 45 seconds, remove and place back onto the baking sheet. You can form the balls at this point to appear a little “cleaner” by rolling in lightly floured hands, or just leave as they are for a more homemade, “rustic” appearance. This is up to you. I prefer a “rustic” appearance.

Brush each dough ball with the melted butter and sprinkle the tops with the Kosher salt.

Bake, in preheated oven, 14 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.

Ask and Answer: Do you have a family recipe that you would like to share with me, or perhaps a special recipe that you have developed or are “known for”? I would love to hear from you and would love to feature you in an upcoming column, right here! Please reach out and share with me! Visit my contact page located at, https://trailblaise.com/contact for more information.

CHEW THIS! Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread

Mona Brown Zucchini Bread.jpg

The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, September 7th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread
Blaise Doubman

I have known Inga Neal, owner, mastermind, recipe developer, cook, baker and genius for a few years now, but have known her business, “Temptations” even longer. She is a wise woman and has given me great advice over the years. Every time I talk with her, it is like talking with an old friend. The people in New Castle and surrounding areas would have to agree about her fun and unique personality and would have to agree about it being a contributing factor as to why her restaurant and catering service are so successful. “Temptations” is located in New Castle at 2001 South Memorial Drive and is open Monday through Friday from 11-2. They have anything and everything under the sun, including but not limited to, chicken and dumplings, chicken and noodles, cube steak, bbq pulled pork, chicken fajita wrap, BLT and turkey club. They also offer salads such as taco salad, crispy chicken salad and their chicken salad plate. Homemade sides include, broccoli and cauliflower salad, pea salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, grape salad, potato salad and many more delicious offerings. And, we can not forget her famous “Sweet Shelf”, which offers everything from brownies and banana cake to cherry almond bars and butterscotch fudge! So, reading all of that, are you hungry yet!? Ha!

After getting acquainted with Inga, and sampling some of the most delicious potato soup and caramel corn that I have ever had, the conversation quickly turned to food and recipes. Inga told me that her mother, Mona Brown, had a recipe for zucchini bread. It was not just your typical zucchini bread recipe either; this one was “award winning”! Of course, I figured that the recipe would be top secret and I would never get my hands on it but to my surprise Inga shared it with me! She explained that the recipe was featured in “The Courier-Times” and earned her the title of “Reserve Champion” for “The Courier-Times’ 12th Annual Readers Recipe Review”! Inga was kind enough to not only send along the recipe but a photo of the original article that ran in the paper so many years ago! The article stated that the bread was a “spicy loaf with an unusual ingredient – a box of butterscotch pudding mix!” Inga has the original recipe hung up in her shop as a loving tribute and memory to her Mom. I tried the recipe immediately and I instantly fell in love! This bread is unlike anything I have ever had before and highly recommend you try it for yourselves! Inga said that her Mom, Mona, loved being known for this bread but also loved baking other delicious types of breads. Mona baked up until she was 90 years old! Now that is an inspirational woman! Inga also surprised me with her Mom’s “Grand Champion” recipe for her “Jade Express Chicken with Rice” which is also fabulous! But you will have to wait until my next installment for that recipe and the story behind it!

Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread

This bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to four days. If you would like to use walnuts and raisins in this bread, as the original article describes, add about ½ cup of walnuts and 1/3 cup of raisins. To bring out the walnuts flavor, slightly toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Inga has since added her spin to this original recipe by using cinnamon spice instant oatmeal, instead of the original flavor and by freezing the bread to give the flavors and textures a whole other flavor profile.

3 large eggs
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups shredded zucchini, slightly drained
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups white all-purpose flour
½ cup instant oatmeal
Small package instant butterscotch pudding mix

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large or two small loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl mix together the large eggs, white granulated sugar, vegetable oil, prepared zucchini and pure vanilla extract.

In another large bowl whisk together the baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, white all-purpose flour and instant oatmeal.

Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until mixed well.

Stir in the instant butterscotch pudding mix and pour batter into prepared pan / pans.

Bake, in preheated oven, one hour for large loaf pan, 30-45 minutes for small loaf pans.

Remove, allow to cool slightly before removing and continue to cool or serve warm.

Ask and Answer: I have had a few questions about my recipe for “Magical Chocolate Cake” and if you can make the frosting using different types of chocolate chips. Yes! Use dark chocolate, milk chocolate or even white chocolate chips! My favorite would have to be the semi-sweet variety though because I really think the flavors pair best with the chocolate cake.

CHEW THIS! Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake 

Strawberry Shortcake.JPG

The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, July 6th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake
Blaise Doubman

Indiana strawberry season seems to be short and fickle. I cannot tell you how many times my Dad, Jamie, has missed the season by just a day or two. “Bell’s Strawberry Farm” is where my family and I visit every strawberry season. Located in Hagerstown, Indiana at 16447 IN-38 it is a must see stop for anyone and everyone loving strawberries. They have a couple of options available at their business. You can “pick your own” or simply just buy what has already been picked. For those who know me, you can guess my favorite option! Ha! I buy what is picked. They also offer other delicious things such as local honey, Amish baked goods and homemade strawberry freezer jam. Let me talk about their jam for a minute. It is fabulous! I have made strawberry jam for years and even shared a recipe here with all of you for my version a couple of years ago. Their strawberry jam though, beats mine, yes there I said it! Ha! Delicious on toast, bagels, waffles, ice cream or even just a simple spoon.

Their strawberries and strawberry freezer jam got me to thinking about homemade strawberry shortcake. I usually buy an angel food cake to go with strawberries during that time of the year and always insist on buying one instead of making one from scratch! Why? There is literally very slim difference in taste, texture and even ingredients between the homemade and store-bought variety. Making an angel food cake from scratch is a very touchy thing because you cannot deflate the egg whites and you must keep things at a certain temperature. Plus, have you ever tried to cool one? Once removed from the oven, it must be turned upside down for several hours before removing and serving. Maybe it is just me but that just seems like so much work for something that tastes identical to something you can buy for less than $5! I have had taste test after taste test, and nobody could tell the difference between homemade and store-bought angel food cake. For this recipe though I was inspired by the old-fashioned flavors of an actual shortcake. I wanted the taste and texture from what I remembered when I was younger. This recipe is so easy to whip up and will keep at room temperature for several days. Warm a slice up or serve it cold and top with strawberries and whipped cream. I love this summertime dessert and is even delicious topped with frozen strawberries and ice cream! Happy Summer!

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

This can be made ahead and wrapped in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months. If chilled or frozen, remove and allow to thaw at room temperature before cutting and serving.

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a regular sized loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl beat the soft unsalted butter for at least 15 minutes until extra light.

Gently pour and beat in the white granulated sugar.

Beat in the large eggs, adding in only one egg at a time.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the white all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

In a glass measuring cup combine the milk, pure vanilla extract and pure almond extract.

Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir the mixture well to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 65 minutes.

After baking, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Carefully run a knife outside of the shortcake, loosening the edges. Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper to cool.

When cooled and ready to serve, cut thick slices with a serrated knife.

Store leftover pieces tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.

Ask and Answer: I have been getting a lot of messages about how to properly melt chocolate. There are lots of way to melt, or temper, chocolate and I find the easiest way in the microwave. Start by adding the chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and add in a tablespoon of solid vegetable shortening or coconut oil. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth, combined and melted. Use as desired.