As the Cinnamon Apple Raisin Bread Pudding slowly baked in the oven tonight, the smell had us anxiously eating away at dinner so we could grab a piece for dessert. In some bread pudding recipes, the bread needs to soak overnight, but here it only requires a quick 15 minute soak. The mixture it rests in is a combination of lightly sweet vanilla soymilk, sugar, fresh lemon zest, butter, fragrant spices and eggs. Cinnamon spiced dried apples (the soft, not crunchy kind) and golden raisins are also added, but they are first plumped up with apple flavored brandy.
It took about an hour to be set in the center, but it may be less/more depending on your oven and what you use to bake it in. We agreed that the flavor was spot on, but the texture was a bit too soft (or as Jeff would say, mushy) for him. I'm not sure if it needs a longer soak time or a little less liquid - maybe if we toasted the cubed bread a bit before we soaked it next time?
Golden raisins make another appearance tonight in the side dish, Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins. If you like wilted spinach, this is a snap to throw together and was quickly eaten by both of us. Jeff looked at the giant bowl of spinach and said "Who else is coming to dinner to eat all that?!" 3 minutes later I showed him the results and he was pretty surprised it cooked down so much. After garlic quickly cooks in the same pan with a touch of olive oil, the spinach, golden raisins and seasonings are heated through. The juicy raisins were a nice compliment to the sprinkling of rich toasted pine nuts that are added at the end.
While the side dish was good, Chicken with Cashews and Vegetables was the highlight of dinner tonight. Sliced chicken breast starts this dish off by a quick cook in some olive oil and garlic. Cashews, red bell peppers and crunchy snow peas are added, followed by some chicken broth. This mixture simmers until the chicken cooks through and the veggies are tender. I would use more red or maybe some orange peppers for color, but I only had half a small red in the refrigerator. Sadly, the store here is too far away to run and get one or two ingredients if I need them. A scrumptious sauce is made with the leftover pan juices, sour cream, grainy Dijon and shot of honey to impart a little sweetness. If I realized that the sauce here would be so generous, I would have served this over some brown rice to soak up the tangy mixture. I'll be sure to make some tomorrow when I have the leftovers for lunch! Include the crunchy cashews if you can, the flavor they lend really add to this dish!