Apple Cider and Honey Vinaigrette

Everyone wants to spend less money, make healthier choices and eat better tasting food, especially in January. If not all three, there must be one on the list that you consider when it comes to cooking. Making your own salad dressing addresses all three.

I eat plenty of salad. But I buy zero bottled dressings. I can’t remember the last time I did either. While I do buy some condiments and sauces that are not worth the time and/or money that goes into making them, salad dressing is not one of them. It’s quick, can be made with common ingredients you already have at home, and if you have a jar and the capability of shaking it, you have the power to making great tasting dressing.

And that’s not to mention that a homemade dressing, like this delicious apple cider and honey vinaigrette, contains no fillers, emulsifiers, corn syrup, or anything else.

This dressing stars two health rockstars – apple cider vinegar and honey. You can find both of these locally in Vermont. Apple cider vinegar is attributed to numerous benefits, including weight loss, detoxification, and the break up of mucus in the lymphatic system. Honey is believed to act as an antibacterial and antifungal while helping to prevent diseases, ulcers and gastrointestinal problems.

Apple Cider and Honey Vinaigrette

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: About one cup

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients in a small jar and shake until emulsified. No jar? Whisk all but the oil in a small bowl and slowly stream in the oil as you mix.
  2. Taste the vinaigrette. If it’s not to your liking, it’s easy to fix.Too sweet? Add more vinegar. Too tart? Add more honey. Bland? Add a little more salt. Too strong? Add some water.
  3. Toss with your favorite greens. It pairs well with apples, of course. Get creative and mix with cooked veggies, like potatoes.

 

Vanilla Chai Bread Pudding

How often do you buy bread and not get a chance to use it before it goes stale? I don’t know about you, but this happens to me all the time. That doesn’t mean I toss the bread out though. Stale bread has all kinds of good uses – like bread crumbs, croutons, and my favorite – bread pudding.

At the restaurant I worked back in Connecticut, bread pudding was on the dessert menu every day and the variety was always changing. It’s an economical dish using household staples of bread, milk and eggs. And its flavored with almost anything. Chocolate, raisins, nuts, dried or fresh fruit are all options. Really, anything goes with bread pudding. Even the type of bread doesn’t particularly matter. Chances are you could make this right now with what you already have.

When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is key, but not absolutely vital. If your bread is not stale you could leave it out on the counter for a good 24 hours. But if you don’t feel like waiting, a slight toasting in the oven will do the job. The bread needs this degree of crunch otherwise you’ll be serving mush pudding.

I find that the amount of liquid needed can vary depending on the degree of staleness of the bread and the type of bread used. Some absorb a ton of liquid and others do not. That’s why I say to use a bit more half and half then you might actually need. If you have leftover, keep it cold and pour over the warm bread pudding when ready to eat. You could use all milk or all cream, or a nondairy option just as well.

Raisins, almonds and plenty of vanilla complement the chai flavor nicely here. And what’s great about it is that you could serve this for breakfast or dessert.

Vanilla Chai Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of your favorite bread (about 6-7 cups) stale is great, but not completely necessary
  • butter, for greasing
  • 5 cups half and half
  • 4 tablespoons quality chai tea
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice or tear up the bread into large chunks. If not already stale, spread the bread out on a baking sheet and place in the preheating oven for a few minutes until slightly toasted.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the half and half with the chai tea in a small pot. Bring to a gentle boil on the stove and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. While the tea simmers, grease a 9x13x2″ baking dish with butter.
  4. When ready, strain out the tea leaves and stir in the honey, salt and vanilla. Cool for about 5 minutes then reserve one cup for now.
  5. In a bowl, beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well combined. Add to the half and half and pour the mixture over the bread. Toss the bread together with the almonds and raisins, being sure to coat the bread well in the egg-milk mixture. The bread should be well saturated. If not, add in some of the reserved cup of half and half. Top with a few of the almonds.
  6. Place the bread pudding in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check on it about halfway through. If it looks like it is too dried out, add some of the remaining half and half and continue baking.
  7. When done, serve warm, with any of the cold half and half drizzled over top.