Amish Friendship Bread

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The holidays are coming up on us very quickly and many of us are dreading the inevitable gift shopping.  Well, maybe just I am, but this year will be a homemade holiday and people will be getting baked goods and knitted objects from me.  One of my favorite gift ideas, other than a tin of delicious cookies and brownies, is an Amish Friendship Bread.  I received my first starter from the mother of a former boss of mine and have loved this ever since!  Don’t forget to dress this little beauty up with fun holiday ribbons and containers from your trusty dollar store to make sure that it feels like a special gift 😀

To Make a Starter Batter:

1 pkg. dry yeast
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar

In a glass bowl using a non-metal spoon, stir 1 package of dry yeast into 1 cup of milk. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar, stirring until smooth. Cover loosely and place on kitchen counter. Do Not Refrigerate Starter. Count this as day 1. Day 2, 3 and 4 stir mixture. Day 5 add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 cup flour to starter mixture, stirring until smooth. Days 6, 7, 8 and 9 stir mixture. Day 10 add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 cup flour to starter mixture. Starter is now ready to be used to make cake and give to friends.

The Recipe

Important Note: Don’t use metal spoons or equipment. Do not refrigerate. Use only glazed ceramic or plastic bowls or containers.

Required Main Ingredient

1 cup live yeast starter (see above)

day 1:

Do nothing with the starter.

days 2-5:

Stir with a wooden spoon.

day 6:

Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Stir with a wooden spoon.

days 7-9:

Stir with a wooden spoon.

Day 10:

Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate plastic containers. Give one cup and a copy of this recipe to three friends. To the balance (a little over one cup) of the batter, add the following ingredients and mix well.

1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 – (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Amish Friendship Bread Variations

Banana Amish Friendship Bread

Omit cinnamon and vanilla pudding in the basic recipe and add two bananas (mashed)

Chocolate Amish Friendship Bread

Omit cinnamon and vanilla pudding from the basic recipe and add 1 – (5.1 oz) box of instant chocolate pudding, 3 tsp. cocoa and 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Bake for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours.

Apple Cinnamon Friendship Bread

add one cup of raisins and one small diced apple.

Chocolate Chip and Nut Variations

You can use many different flavors of pudding. My favorite is pistachio flavor. You may also use different flavors of chocolate chips and nuts.

Butterscotch Amish Friendship Bread

Add 1 box of butterscotch pudding and 1 cup of butterscotch chips. Bake the cake in a 13″ x 9″ pan.  It’s a family favorite!  Don’t forget to omit the vanilla pudding.

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Buttermilk Banana Bread

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Do you work from home?  Do you have 30 minutes to mix and knead and 4 hours to wait?  Then bread making is for you!  Don’t get me wrong- there is nothing better than making fresh loafs of piping hot fluffyness, but it is labor intensive and you will have many misses before you have many hits.  I can tell you that the instant you have a hit one your hands, well, there’s no feeling quite like it 🙂

My first foray into bread making started simply with a luscious banana bread.  This is a batter bread and one of the best ways to make sure that you never throw away a banana ever again.  There are many variations that you can follow and I am particularly fond of the buttermilk version.

Trick- Many a times I have started to make this and realized that I had no buttermilk.  A fantastic substitution is to put 1 T. of either white vinegar or lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Ingredients-

1 1/4 cups Sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired
 
Instructions-
  • Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.
  • Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.
  • Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Working Your Budget at the Dollar Store

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It’s that time of year and you are probably already thinking about how much you’ll need to spend at Christmas or Hanukkah or Eid.  Whichever religious celebration you take part in, there is dreaded and inevitable gift giving.  So, you want to start saving now, but you thought that you were already being frugal.  One of the most fantastic stores that many of us ignore for a multitude of reasons is your local Dollar Store.

While I was in college in Miami, I was blessed to have a dollar store right next to the Wal-Mart that was a tiny grocery store.  Eggs, Milk, Cheese, Butter, Produce- EVERYTHING!  I realize that these are by no means the norm, but many of the larger chains do have a frozen food section with vegetables, fruits, and other staples that are in no way better or worse than the stuff you would buy at the grocery store.  If you have an opinion about organic food and MSG content, then this route is not for you, but I would stress that everything in moderation is OK.

My favorite buys at the Dollar Store are basic spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder), plastic containers, seasonal serving and table decorating items, gift wrapping bags, just to name a few and every dollar store is different.  Until I had a much smaller budget to work with, there was a lingering hesitation about the quality of items I would get or whether some other store stuff is just better.  I say this a lot, but I’ll repeat it because it’s important, be an informed consumer.  If you see aluminum foil for a dollar, check how many feet are in the role.  If you are buying packaged food items such as mac and cheese or spaghetti- read the ingredients and check the expiration dates, many of the products are either generic versions of your name brand items or they are simply getting close to their expiration dates so shop wisely and save yourself a lot of money!

We Don’t Need No Stinking Brownie Mix!

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Deandona has a friend spending the night this evening and after the nummy Turkey burgers with Feta in the patty we both unanimously decided that brownies were necessary.  One problem- we don’t have any brownie mix.  This small little hurdle can be overcome very easily so long as you have a few key ingredients in the cupboard, mainly- cocoa powder, powdered sugar and butter.  All other ingredients can be substituted except for these and we were thankfully in luck!  Here is a simple brownie recipe that takes about 20 minutes to mix and 25 minutes to bake- Enjoy 🙂

We couldn't wat to take a picture....

 Ingredients-

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions-

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
  2. Melt 1/2 cup butter and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm. I used a pastry cutter and a wooden spoon to make sure that the butter mushed up enough to come together into a frosting.

Making Mashed Potatoes

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One of the most frequent questions that I get around Thanksgiving from all of my friends is, how did you make those mashed potatoes that time we ate at your place?  The mashed potato is one of my favorite side dishes, but also one that I feel very guilty about making.  The world of low-carb mania and fat free everything does give me pause, but you can season these lovely tubers to total yumminess with half the fat.  Most of my posts have ingredients and instructions in them, but for this one, we will be going a bit less scientific.

The first thing that you will need are potatoes 🙂  Ok, so that’s a bit of pointing out the obvious, but the selection of a potato is not as simple as you would think.  The type of mash you like will determine the type of potato you get.  For example- if you want a light and fluffy batch, a Russet potato would be your best bet because it has a higher water content, but if you like your mash a little bit thicker and creamier, then a golden or buttery potato is for you.  My suggestion is to keep an eye on the sales and to just try all of the different types there are to determine which one you like the most.

For this description, I shall assume that you’ve gone the traditional American route and chosen the lovely Idaho Russet potato!  Right, first step, boil your potato until it is fork tender.  Wait, what? Fork what?  This mean exactly what it say- if you can easily stick a fork in it, then it is done.  You can either leave the skins on or peel the spuds before boiling, but personally, I find both options tasty.

Once you have boiled your potatoes, place them into a large bowl or stand mixer.  I like to put the butter into the potatoes while they are still piping hot so that it melts into a gooey salty goodness, but it doesn’t make much difference.  The ingredient that will drastically change the texture of your mashed potatoes is the milk.  When you want to have a rich and creamy batch, I suggest that you use heavy cream or half and half, but if you don’t really care and aren’t looking to eat so much fat, then skim milk will do just fine.  Start out slowly with the milk/cream (1/4 cup at a time) and begin to mash using either the mixer, a potato masher, or a fork (this will tire out your hand, just saying).

As you are mixing, you will want to season.  This is where you can get creative and zesty.  I’ve had the urge to mix a packet of ranch dressing mix into masher, a classic combo is minced garlic and oodles of butter, you can also go crazy and use sour cream and chives with some bacon bits!  The taste is entirely up to you.

Marinade Mania

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What do you do when you are getting very bored with your meals and you know that your budget simply won’t accommodate your desire to experiment?  Well, you experiment like a mad scientist with your spice cabinet.  Protein is protein and unless we are talking about some very expensive cuts you can make your cheap proteins taste however you would like.  The best way to add some spice to your meal- marinade!  This method is also a good time saver because you can take a tough cut of meat and tenderize it with the acid in the sauce or you can just let it sit and accentuate the flavors you love.  Either way you go, there is a lot of down time that allows you to let your meat sit in the fridge until you are ready to cook it!

The primary types of protein you would be marinading are beef, chicken, pork, and tofu.  Wait, what?  Tofu? Yes, I said Tofu.  The joy of tofu is that it has such a neutral flavor, you can make it taste like whatever you would like.  Here is a list of some great all-purpose marinades that are not expensive to put together.

The amount of marinade you get from each of these varies, but the minimum is 1 1/2 cups.  I encourage you to try each flavor with all different sorts of protein because the different between a bland and an exciting dinner is flavor!

Pork, Chicken, Lamb, Fish:

Number 1-
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except oil together. Blend until smooth in food processor. Slowly add oil while blending. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be stored up to 2 weeks.
Number 2-
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns

Preparation:

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Make Ahead The marinade can be refrigerated for 5 days. Serve With Pork and veal chops, steaks, spareribs (marinate for 1 hour); chicken (marinate for 20 minutes).
Number 3- (sorry for the metric measures)
  • 4 shallots or 50 ml sliced green onions
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 50 ml oil
  • 50 ml cider vinegar
  • 50 ml water
  • 5 ml dried dillweed
  • 5 ml salt
  • 1 ml pepper

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients together and cover your meat.  Allow to marinade for 12-24 hours before cooking.

Beef:
Number 4-
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Dijon mustard,
and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Number 5-
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Mix tequila, pepper, lemon peel and garlic in a heavy plastic bag. Add your beef and rotate to distribute mixture evenly over steaks. Let sit in refrigerator over night.

Number 6-
  • 2 cups fresh parsley and/or cilantro, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves (optional)
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (optional)
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Preparation:

Pulse the garlic and onion in the food processor until finely chopped.
Add the parsley and/or cilantro, and oregano if using, and pulse briefly, until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and vinegar, and stir. (Adding the liquids outside of the blender gives the chimichurri the correct texture. You don’t want the herbs to be completely puréed, just finely chopped).  Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.   Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Number 7- (good for beef or tofu)
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (I’ve used all light soy or substituted Ponzu Sauce for the Dark Soy)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili paste (Sirichi Sauce works well for this and can be found at the supermarket)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, light and dark soy sauce, Asian sesame oil, sugar, chili paste, garlic and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate.
Number 8-
  • 6-8 ounces Mexican Beer (any beer will do)
  • 1/3 cup fresh Orange Juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated Orange Zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 cup Minced Onion
  • 2 tablespoons Minced Garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Preparation:

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and process the mixture until combined. Pour the marinade over the meat of your choice, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to cooking.

Number 9-
  • 2 T grated ginger root
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup sherry (a dry liquor)

Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Marinate your meat of choice for a minimum of 4 hours then cook meat as preferred.

Number 10-
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup soybean oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup black pepper
  • 1/2 cup garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried onions

Preparation:

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. When you are ready, place the meat in a plastic container and pour the marinade over. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

Chicken Skewer with Satay Sauce

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Photography by Geraldine Terc- All Rights Reserved

Ingredients-

8 oz. Chicken Tenderloins
3/4 cup Fat Free Sour Cream
2 T. Low Fat Peanut Butter
1 T. Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 tsp. Dark Sesame Oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. Lime Juice
3 T. Oil (olive, vegetable, soy- it doesn’t matter)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
 
Instructions-
1. Cut the chicken into cubes no larger than 1 inch and marinade the chicken in the lime, oil, salt and pepper.
2. Combine the sour cream, peanut butter, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and whisk together in a bowl.
3. If you are using wooden skewers, you must soak them in water to avoid scorching.  Thread the chicken onto the skewers and grill, bake on a broiler pan at 350 degrees F, or cook on a George Foreman grill until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 170 degrees F.
4. Serve with the satay sauce in a small cup for dipping 🙂

Making Flavored Oils and Vinegars for Cooking and Topping

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This post seems like a no-brainer.  You LOVE to cook and want to get creative with all of the flavored oils that you see in the store, but can’t afford- I UNDERSTAND!  You need to stop before embarking upon this mission and realistically evaluate your own culinary abilities.

When making infused oil with fresh herbs or any ingredient that has a natural water content, you will run the risk of breeding Botulism in your newly infused oil.  I’m not saying that this is a bad idea, but I am stressing that you need to be well informed before you do this for your own safety and the health of those you are serving.  There are many good resources on the web that discuss this, so do some research if garlic is the flavor that you covet! (click here for more information)  Now, what I am telling you is that if you would like to make flavored oils, it is safest to use a dried herb.  That being said, lets make some tasty flavored oils!

Vinegars, however, are a whole other beast!  I don’t have much to add to the current brilliance of Ethel’s Guidelines, but I will throw in a few ideas 😉

Ingredients-

1 bottle of olive oil (do not get the most expensive stuff unless you have a taste preference)
1 bottle of Red Wine, White Wine, or Apple Cider Vinegar
2 oz. Kansas City Steak Seasoning, Dried Rosemary, Italian Seasoning, or berries
1 large pot of boiling water
Enough glass jars to contain the amount of oil or vinegar you are making
 
Combination Ideas-
Olive Oil with Dried Rosemary– always a versatile flavor.
Olive Oil with Kansas City Steak Seasoning– a little spice in your oil.
Olive Oil with Garlic– be sure to sterilize the garlic by heating it to at least 200 degrees F for 10-15 minutes and always store in the refrigerator!  This has a shelf life of about 1 month, so don’t make too much.
White Wine Vinegar with Strawberries and Raspberries– Great for Salads!
Red Wine Vinegar with Strawberries and Raspberries– A fun flavor for marinades.
Apple Cider Vinegar with Italian Seasoning– so many uses, very versatile.
 
Instructions-
1. Bring the water to a boil and place the jars and lids into it to sterilize.  You can also do this in the dishwasher if it is set at it’s hottest temperature, but  you must wait until they are dry to put anything into them.
2. Fill the jar 1/4 of the way full with the herb/blend/berry combination you prefer and fill with oil or vinegar.  Seal the containers and store in a cool dark location where they will not be disturbed.  If you are using fresh herbs or organic flavors in the oil, such as garlic, make sure to cure these in the refrigerator so that you do not inadvertently poison yourself.
3. Allow the oil or vinegar to sit for 2 weeks before tasting the product to see if it has enough flavor.  If it is not yet ready, allow it to sit for another 2 weeks or until it is at the correct strength.
4. Using a cheesecloth lined strainer or a coffee filter, strain the solids from your liquid and bottle in a pretty container 🙂

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

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Tonight’s dinner began as an Irish Stew in the slow cooker, but then we realized that Lamb was too stinking expensive, we didn’t have any carrots, and we didn’t have any regular potatoes.  What did we have?  We had cubed beef, sweet potatoes, and frozen mixed vegetables!  After shoving all of these ingredients into my slow cooker and getting dressed, I went to visit Deandona at her lovely office to bring her the lunch that she’d forgotten that morning.  Domestic, aren’t we? 🙂  There is a Panera Breads Cafe near there, so I caved and bought a lovely loaf of country white bread to serve this evening.

The original plan for tonight involved beef tips, onions, and peppers along with copious amounts of Bud Light Lime, but that just didn’t seem right.  We will be having a house guest this evening and she and Deandona won’t be getting home until rather late, so the stew won the day.  The best thing about making a stew in the slow cooker is that you can serve the meal whenever you feel like once it has cooked.  There is a convenience factor in this that I am eternally grateful for especially since the three of us have such different schedules most of the time and sitting down to a family meal is an effort.

Ingredients-

2 lbs Beef, cut into chunks (this can be pretty low cost as you are stewing it and it will tenderize)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 large sweet potatoes
1 bay leaf
2 c. water
1/4 c. dry small pearl tapioca
16 oz. frozen mixed vegetables
1 T. Kansas City Steak Seasoning (or your favorite steak seasoning)
 
Instructions-
1. combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to mix.
2. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.
Serves 6

Polenta Napoleon

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Deandona is a genius!  I will say this again, because this post would not exist without her- DEANDONA IS A GENIUS!  This morning we went to an indoor wall climbing gym for a 2 hour introductory session and had a fantastic time.  We also didn’t eat anything for lunch, so I was fine, but she was having a low blood sugar moment and we made the mistake of going into Trader Joes for some $3 white wine.  As we meandered down the aisles, thinking of fun and exciting things to do and post onto Caviartaste we came across an 8 oz package of polenta.

She asked me- What does polenta taste like? I said that it was really good, but I had issues trying to explain the taste to her.  That was all I needed to say- she was game to try something new on this rainy and overcast Thursday.  We continued to roam the store looking for sales and attempting to fool the taste test woman into thinking that we hadn’t already had 3 tastes of the pumpkin bread and all of the ingredients and the construction of this little beauty came together in our heads!

You can treat this as an entree, side dish, or appetizer depending upon how hungry you and yours are, but there should be between 12 and 14 stacks for you to serve.  It is best served warm with a nice chewy flat bread and a glass of chilled fruity white wine!

Photography by Geraldine Terc- All Rights Reserved

Ingredients-

8 oz. Polenta, premade
3 Tomatoes, large (you can use whatever is the freshest and on sale as well)
10 oz. sliced crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms
2 T. minced garlic
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. Mozzarella, sliced (12-14 slices)
3 T. salted butter
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
 
Instructions-
1.Slice and seed the tomatoes and set aside.  Slice the mozzarella and set aside.
2. In a skillet, warm the olive oil on a medium heat.  Saute the garlic, mushrooms, basil, and red pepper, until they are fully cooked (approximately 10 minutes).  Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in your skillet over a medium heat.  Pan fry the polenta slices, cooking 4-5 minutes per side or until it begins to brown.
4. Construct the napoleon: Tomato, polenta, mozzarella, and top it with the sauteed mushrooms.  Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil.
Serves 5