White Bean Coffee Cake

whitebeancoffeecake4I’ll be the first to admit it – for the past few weeks, I’ve been neglecting this blog. With all the busy-ness involved with moving apartments, work and my recent trip to Asia (read all about the Thai cooking school Hailey and I went to here), I took a much-needed blogging hiatus. Now I’m back and even more excited to show you guys what I’ve been cooking (or in this post, baking) up!

A few weeks ago I threw a little house party, where I served this coffee cake. But this isn’t a normal coffee cake complete with blocks of butter and cups of sugar. No, this cake was made mostly with…white beans!

You’re probably thinking, “white beans?!?! Cathy’s finally gone off the deep end.” Well, my friends, that wasn’t a typo. I made a coffee cake where the main ingredient was white beans.

I first heard about this bean cake from a co-worker who raved over the recipe. Her son is obsessed with coffee cake, but she wouldn’t let him have it often because – let’s be honest – it’s not the healthiest thing in the world. And after listening to her rave about the recipe, I was sold. I needed to try it.

This coffee cake is the perfect blend of moist cake and crunchy crumble, which is surprising given that the recipe only calls for 1/3 of a cup of coconut flour. That said, the cake is not as “cakey” as it could be if made with tons of flour and sugar. But hey, that’s the sacrifice we make for healthy alternatives. M I RITE?

In short, I’ll definitely be making this guilt-free cake whenever the sweet tooth hits – so every day.

Cheers!

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White Bean Coffee Cake (adapted slightly from Pamela Salzman)

Topping

2 1/2 Cups of Walnuts

2 Tbsp of Coconut Oil

1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar

2 Tsp of Ground Cinnamon

Cake

2 Cups of Canned White Beans, drained and rinsed

6 Eggs

3/4 Tsp of Liquid Stevia

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

1/4 Cup of Melted Coconut Oil

1/3 Cup of Honey

1/3 Cup of Coconut Flour

1/2 Tsp of Salt

3/4 Tsp of Baking Soda

1 1/2 Tsp of Baking Powder

Directions:

Heat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine walnuts, coconut oil, brown sugar and cinnamon. Blend until the texture looks crumbly. Remove from the blender and set aside.

Again in the blender or food processor, combine beans, eggs, stevia, coconut oil and honey. Blend until fully mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix fully.

Spread batter in a 9X9 or 10X10 greased pan, and sprinkle the crumble topping on top. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (My new apartment’s oven has a mind of its own – and is very temperamental when it comes to consistent heat – so I suggest checking you cake after 35 minutes and at 5 minute intervals until done.

Serves 9.

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A Taste of Chiangmai: Asia Scenic Cooking School

 

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 A couple of weeks ago Cathy and I were in Thailand for an annual trip we do with our girl friends from college. Last year we went to Spain, and this year we decided to give Southeast Asia a try! We had a wonderful time, starting in Bangkok, heading north to Chiang Mai, and finally south to the islands Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. One of the highlights of our trip was a Thai cooking class we took in Chiang Mai. 

Cooking Stations

 
The cooking class was run by a company called Asia Scenic, and we would highly recommend the experience. We started the day at the local market where our guide showed us where the locals would buy their ingredients, followed by a garden tour where we learned about and harvested all sorts of Thai spices and herbs including three types of basil, lemongrass, green onion and chives.

  
In the cooking class, as a group we had to decide on a few categories and within that we could each choose our own dishes. Personally, my menu went as follows:

Stir fry: pad see ew

Soup: tom yum

Vegetable spring roll

Curry Paste: panang 

Curry: panang with chicken

 

Panang Curry and Tom Yum Soup

 
The teacher taught us how to chop and grind the ingredients for prep work, and we each had out own wok and cooking station outside where we followed demonstrations and cooked our own dishes! The class was very well organized and informative. We learned all sorts of interesting tidbits along the way. For example, did you know that Thai people rarely eat Pad Thai? The natives tend to eat more curries and rice dishes rather than noodles, which you would never guess from looking at menus in all of the restaurants in Thailand!

Cathy and I realized how easy most Thai dishes are to make (with the exception of fresh curry pastes- it took about 20 minutes of hard labor to pound the fresh chilli peppers and herbs!)   

Showing off the finished product!

 

Pounding the chillies for curry paste

 

The best part about the class was that they gave us a cookbook at the end, so we can continue to make Thai food at home!

And just for fun…here’s a picture of us at Patara Elephant Reserve!   

A Taste of NYC: Union Square Cafe

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I recently finished reading Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table.” Danny Meyer is a New York City icon within the food industry, and one of the greatest restauranteurs of our time. His philosophy on business and hospitality is unique and noteworthy, and his work in the industry has been an inspiration to me personally. I highly recommend this book, especially to those immersed in the New York City food scene, as it offers fascinating insight into the thought process and labor behind Danny’s restaurants, menus and impeccable service. For instance, you get to learn about Danny’s lengthy research journey across the US to sample the best burgers and custard, and the long hours spent in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park developing the perfect frozen custard concoction for Shake Shack with the help of Eleven Madison’s pastry chef at the time. Every time I bite into a Shake Shack burger since reading “Setting the Table,” I think of Danny’s long journey to create the perfect blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket, and I understand the reason it’s so good.

Danny Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985. Being Danny Meyer’s original restaurant, it has obviously been on my “list” since I moved to NYC, however reading “Setting the Table” was what finally pushed me to make the reservation. Union Square Cafe is a product of Danny Meyer’s year spent in all of the finest trattorias in Italy and brasseries in France in his 20’s after he left his successful career in sales. Danny took all of his favorite elements of the European dining experience and brought them to life in NYC with his vision of Union Square Cafe. Today USC may not be the trendiest spot in NYC, but it sure is reliable. Reliable is serving some of the highest quality yet simple Italian cuisine, coupled with some of the best service in the city.

It was truly a unique experience to dine at Union Square Cafe after reading the book and truly having an understanding of Danny Meyer’s story. I noticed things about the dishes and service that I otherwise would have overlooked had I not gained a sense of Danny’s fine-tuned attention to detail, style, and philosophy through his book. USC met all of my expectations. (Note I did not use the word exceed simply because I have the highest expectations for Meyer’s establishments based on experience). Bravo Union Square Cafe, a New York classic with outstanding food and service. 
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Union Square Cafe $$$

21 East 16th St. New York, NY 10003

What to Order: Fritto misto, any pasta (I had the spaghettini with flaked sea bass), roasted chicken, cannelloni beans, broccoli rabe

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A Taste of NYC: Traif

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I’ve been wanting to try Traif for quite some time, but I get lazy on weekends and it takes a lot to get me out of Manhattan. (Note: Traif is in Brooklyn). Furthermore, Traif is a fairly hard reservation to get, so some advance planning has to go into it. Luckily my good friend did plan ahead, and made a reservation for 6 and dragged us all to Williamsburg for the night!

And I’m sure glad he did…Traif was absolutely incredible. It’s a small and cozy restaurant with a charismatic open kitchen and a backyard patio. The food is served tapas style (my favorite), so you get to try a bunch of different things. There was not a single dish I didn’t absolutely love, which is rare for a small plates place; I usually find that there is at least one dish I could have done without. The waiter suggested about 2-3 plates per person, which ended up being a perfect amount of food.

A few things to note about this restaurant: 1) It is NOT vegetarian friendly. Pretty much everything was heavy on pork, shellfish or some other kind of meat (hence the name, Traif which means non-kosher). No complaints from my end, but don’t bring your vegan or kosher friends here. 2) Most of the dishes are served in multiples of 4, so I would suggest going with a party of either 4 or 8. We had a (ravenous) group of 6, which was a bit tough and resulted in fighting over the last two pieces of each dish.

I’d say if I HAD to pick my favorite dish, it would be the baked muenster, pictured below. Keeping in mind I am a cheese lover, this was the most decadent and delicious melted cheese plate I’ve ever had. It was literally a pot of thick, baked muenster cheese, so thick that you couldn’t dip like fondue; we had to use knives to cut pieces of the cheesy, gooey goodness. This is one not to be missed, but then again I could say that about so many other dishes here as well!

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Traif $$$

229 South 4th St. Brooklyn, NY 11211

What to Order: Spicy Bigeye Tuna Tartare, Hampshire Pork Belly, Strawberry-Cinnamon Glazed Ribs, Baked Muenster Cheese, Broccoli Rabe

*Note: The menu seems to rotate quite a bit, but these were some of our favorites in April 2015!

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Simple Kale Avocado Salad

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Guess what everyone? It’s officially T-3 weeks until bikini season!! (For me anyway…). Cathy and I leave for Thailand right after Memorial Day Weekend, so it’s crunch time for getting that summer bod ready. And believe me, it’s been tough. NYC is FINALLY beautiful out which means everyone wants to get rooftop drinks…all the time! That’s sure not helping anything. I’m really trying to be good before I leave on my 2+ month summer world tour, just so that I don’t feel guilty about eating all of the pad thai, baguettes + fromage, and kebabs I want on my travels through Southeast Asia and Europe! The good news is that I’ve been testing out a bunch of easy, healthy recipes to keep me fueled throughout the day.

This is one of my new favorite go-to lunches. It’s extremely nutritious, surprisingly filling, and vegan-friendly. It’s also a very quick meal to prepare, and I have portioned out the ingredients to be perfect for a single-serving salad. The dressing takes inspiration from my time studying abroad in France, where my good friend adopted the recipe from her “host mom” who pretty much used it on everything. (One interesting tidbit: I became obsessed with French dijon mustard while in France, and the only brand I’ve found to be close to what they served in France is the Trader Joe’s brand! So clearly that’s what I used for this dressing).

I hope you enjoy this French-inspired healthy salad, and good luck to everyone trying to shed that winter layer!

Bon Appétit!

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Simple Kale Avocado Salad

1 Cup chopped Kale

1 Cup shaved brussels sprouts

1/4 Cup Toasted Almond Slices

1/2 Avocado, sliced

5-7 Baby Carrots, chopped

Dressing:

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

Pinch of Salt

Pepper

Directions:

Assemble all of the salad ingredients onto a plate. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad to your liking.

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Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie

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I’m not sure about you, but emerging from winter this year is going to be tough. I’m starting to get nervous about removing all of my layers and showing my hot new NYC bod…a body built from the accumulation of all of the wonderful treats NYC has to offer. In other words, I’m not exactly at my best right now.

 As I’ve mentioned before, this was my first real winter. Never before have I had this problem, since in LA you can be in shorts all year round. But the sun is coming out, and now is the time to get in shape. (Sidenote- this is partially why I haven’t been posting as much on this blog, but it can also be attributed to laziness!). I will be quitting my job in the next 6 weeks and embarking on a 2 month summer trip before enrolling in a full-time MBA program in August. This means swimsuits—lots of swimsuits! From the Full Moon Party in Koh Samui to Santorini to Ultra Europe in Croatia, the pressure is on.

 I will begin my journey with Cathy and some other college friends in Thailand. We will be leaving for Thailand on May 27th, and that is the timeline I’ve set for myself to eat super healthy and keep up my gym kick. This means the recipes I will post until then will be much more on the healthy side. My goal is to eliminate (but realistically minimize) carbs and refined sugar for at least the next month! Wish me luck…

This recipe was inspired by a smoothie I often get at Equinox after a workout. I love it because it has coffee and sort of reminds me of a frappaccino, but way healthier and without refined sugar. It makes the perfect breakfast after an early morning workout. Chocolate and cherry also happens to be one of my favorite combinations, so I hope you enjoy!

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Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie

3/4 Cup Chilled Coffee

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1 Frozen Banana

1/2 Cup Frozen Cherries

1 Tbsp Peanut or Almond Butter

1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder

3-4 Ice Cubes

Optional: 1 Tsp Honey

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy!Cherry 6

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Blackberry Muffins with Oat Crumble

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 After a year (ish) of blogging, I finally bought my own camera. I know what you’re probably thinking: How did I get to this point without owning a camera? Answer: I have a very gracious friend who allowed me to borrow her DSLR for the year. And, while the DSLR is a great camera – I learned how to take food photography on it – I decided to buy a … wait for it … an Olympus digital camera instead. Before you go photo-purist on me, just look at some of the photos I shot on my new Olympus.

*Just a note: Most food photographers suggest shooting in natural light in the early afternoon. I took these photos at 6 PM and in very poor lighting; if that doesn’t sell you on my new camera, I don’t know what will.

Now on to the important stuff: The muffins.

This recipe has been in my back pocket for a few months now, and finally got around to testing it out last time Hailey was in town. The original recipe calls for gluten-free flour alternatives, but it works well (and is just as tasty) with regular flour. We also replaced the blueberries with blackberries, since Hailey isn’t a blueberry fan. (Insert shock!)

I can sum up my love for these muffins in three bullets.

  • The blackberries: While I’m a huge fan of any berry – I haven’t found one to date that I do not like – the blackberries not only add a tart kick to the otherwise sweet muffin, but are also visually stunning. They go into the oven almost black, and almost thirty minutes later, come out a delicious, dark raspberry color.
  • The size: My roommate Marta gave me this muffin tin from Anthropologie. Not only is the tin gorgeous, it creates huge muffins. One of these muffins is sure to keep you full for hours.
  • The oat crumble: With the perfect amount of sweetness and just the right crunch, the crumble is the cherry on top, if you will.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe!

Cheers!

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Blackberry Muffins with Oat Crumble (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Oat Crumble:

1/2 Cup of Oats

1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp. of Salt

2 Tbsp. of Cold Butter

Muffins:

Nonstick Vegetable Spray

1 Egg

1/2 Cup of Milk

6 Tbsp. of Butter, melted

2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour

3/4 Cups of Sugar

1 Tsp. of Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. of Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp. of Salt

1/4 Tsp. of Nutmeg

1/4 Tsp. of Cinnamon

1 Cup of Fresh Blackberries

Directions:

For the crumb, mix together dry ingredients until combined. Using your fingers or the flat side of a fork, work in the butter until the mixture is a crumbly texture. Set aside.

Coat the muffin tin (6 large muffins or 12 normal-sized muffins) generously with a nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter together. In another, larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients: Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and, using a fork, fold in the two mixtures until just combined. Mix in the blackberries.

Divide the muffin batter evenly into the tin and top with the crumble. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serves 6-12, depending on muffin tin size.

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Meyer Lemon Bars

Lemon Bar 1A few weeks ago I attended a “Dinner for 12 Strangers,” a UCLA alumni tradition. It’s exactly what it sounds like; alum in various cities host a dinner at their house for 12 strangers, all of whom share UCLA as their alma mater. It’s always an amazing experience and a way to meet and network with highly motivated and interesting individuals. This was a special one for me because it was my first on the East Coast, and the group very much enjoyed reminiscing about Westwood and discussing how much we miss SoCal weather and Korean Barbeque. Turns out I am not alone in my #eastcoaststruggles.

Our Dinner for 12 Strangers was potluck-style, and I volunteered to bring a dessert (of course). I wanted to make something seasonal, but I find winter a little hard for seasonal desserts since fruit is fairly limited. I settled on Meyer lemons as my main ingredient and went with a classic lemon bar. One of my main deciding factors was that I needed something easily transportable taking public transportation all the way to the UWS; these worked out well in that regard.

I had actually never made lemon bars before, but I pretty much love everything lemon-flavored so there’s no going wrong here. They turned out fabulous and I received quite a few compliments at my D-12 dinner.

Bon Appétit!

Lemon BarMeyer Lemon Bars (recipe from Treats)

Crust:

1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup powdered sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the finished bars

A pinch of salt

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, still cool and cut into 8 pieces

Filling:

7 large egg yolks

2 large eggs

1 Cup + 2 Tbsp sugar

2/3 Cup meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons)

Finely grated zest from the lemons

1/2 Tsp salt

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in to 4 pieces

3 Tbsp heavy cream
Directions:
Take a 9″ x 13″ pan and cover in two sheets of aluminum foil, perpendicular to one another. Spray with non-stick spray and set aside.
Process flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor for several seconds. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing several times after adding each piece. Process by pulsing until the mixture reaches a course meal consistency. Place the mixture into the pan and press down with your fingers into the the pan until there is an even layer of crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
While crust is cooling, make the lemon filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together eggs egg yolks until combined. Add the sugar, meyer lemon juice, zest and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency, about 6 minutes.
Immediately pour the lemon filling through a fine-mesh steel strainer set over a medium bowl.  Stir in the heavy cream and then pour the curd into the warm crust. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the filling is shiny and opaque.  Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes.  Remove the bars from the pan with the aluminum foil and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into squares, wiping the knife blade clean between cuts as necessary.  Sift powdered sugar over the bars.

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A Taste of NYC: Otto Entoco Pizzeria

Otto2In my book, Otto wins best pizza in NYC. (Gosh, it may even be my favorite overall restaurant in NYC!) I’ve tried some of the more esteemed spots, like Keste in the West Village, but somehow I can’t let go of Otto. Otto is one of Mario Bartoli’s more casual (and cheaper) restaurants, but he certainly does not skimp on taste or quality. I first fell in love with Otto after a taste of their signature truffle honey, which comes with any cheese selection. Oozey honey with generous speckled black dots of truffle, I could not think of a better accent to a decadent cheese selection. (Side-note: the triple cream is my personal favorite in the cheese selection).

Once you get past the cheese, we come to the pizza. The crust is perfectly thin, with just the right proportions of cheese and sauce. The prosciutto arugula is one of my favorites, with deliciously thin slices of high-quality Italian meat that you see being sliced as you enter the restaurant. The white pizza is also one to try- I’m not usually a huge fan of white pizza, but man it’s good here. The monster of all Otto pizzas is the truffle pizza, which I have now found twice on the specials menu. It’s much pricier than others on the menu, but SO SO worth it. After all, I did say it was the best pizza in New York; for that I’m willing to dish out. Hefty shavings of white truffle dot the pizza, and you will find an egg cracked in the middle. The only time I’ve eaten something with this much truffle was a black truffle risotto at Melisse in Los Angeles. And on a pizza? Yes please.

Otto also has pretty good pastas, and the sides are great to even out your meal with some greens. The carbonara pasta is particularly good, but I wouldn’t make a trip to Otto just for the pasta. I’m a pretty big fan of the brussels sprouts as well, but be warned these are served room temperature (the waiters will “warn” you of this- I guess customers have complained in the past?). I’m still at the point where I try not to repeat restaurants too much, but this is one of my few staples, it’s just too good. One last warning: You may experience a “truffle hangover” the next day, that’s how decadent this place is. But absolutely worth it.

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Otto Entoca Pizzeria $$

1 5th Ave. New York, NY 10003

What to Order: Selection of Cheese with the truffle honey, truffle pizza, brussel sprouts, caprese salad

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Caprese Salad

 

Spinach and Feta Bread Pudding

imageOne thing I like to do when I have down time at work (which is not often nowadays) is search for quick and easy recipes. Titles like ” 7 Fifteen Minute Breakfasts You Must Try,” “One-Pot Meals Sure to Make Your Mouth Water,” or “5 Minute Dessert Hacks Better Than the Originals” are almost guarenteed a click from my mouse. I currently have probably 15 to 20 recipes bookmarked that I promised myself I would try. This is one of them: spinach and feta bread pudding.
I think I originally found this recipe under a title like “10 Easy Dinners Under 30 Minutes.” And though this recipe definitely takes more than 30 minutes if you count for the refrigeration time, I’ll forgive Food and Wine this once.
I love bread pudding if only for the fact that it’s so versatile. Not only can you make it with various types of bread — in fact last year I made a pretty tasty banana bread pudding for my boss’s birthday — you can add various mix-ins. And even though I love to experiment with dessert bread pudding, I never thought about making a savory bread pudding. So when Hailey came to visit a few weeks ago, I was super excited to try this savory dish.
The star of this dish is the feta so remember to use liberally. When mixed in the bread pudding, feta melts into a nice creamy, yet tangy, glue for the bread and spinach. When sprinkled on top, the feta browns and adds a slightly crunchy texture. This dish could really be called feta with bread and greens, and get along just fine.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did.

Cheers!

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Spinach and Feta Bread Pudding (lightly adapted from Food and Wine)

3 Tbsp. of Olive Oil

8 Ounces of Bread (approximately 1/2 loaf)

5 Ounces of Spinach (approximately 2/3 of a cup)

1/2 Cup of Crumbled Feta Cheese

2 Tsp. of Dijon Mustard

1/2 Tsp. of Lemon Zest

1 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice

6 Eggs, beaten

2 Cups of Whole Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

Cut bread into cubes and spread over a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until dry. Let cool completely and then mix with the spinach and half the feta cheese. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add one egg at a time and beat until blended. Mix in the milk, salt and pepper. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bread and spinach mixture, making sure to evenly soak the bread cubes. Transfer to a baking dish and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. (I refrigerated over night, but a couple hours should suffice). After you let the mixture sit, sprinkle the left over feta on top and bake for about 45 minutes, of until the bread pudding mixture starts to solidify. Bake for 5-10 more minutes afterwards, or until the feta crumbles start to brown.

Makes approximately 4-6 servings.

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