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Breakfast, Brunch, Nosh

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

January 7, 2015
Strawberry Goat Cheese Baked French Toast_Table

This cold knocked me down pretty hard. I was out for the count most of the weekend, dragging myself off of the couch for all of four hours to have our friends over to the house to watch the UFC fights instead of our original plan to head to this gastropub we love that airs them. Needless to say, I headed to bed before the main event. I did get to watch four movies in a weekend though and that never happens, so there’s always a positive side, right?

Back on New Years Eve, we had a small get together, and I made up a cheese and charcuterie spread on our table. I used parchment paper as a table runner, then wrote out the names of the different meats and cheeses down the length of the table. I garnished it with some olives, peppers, dried fruit, fig spread, pretzels, crackers, and baguette rounds.

Like always, I had a lot of leftovers, including a freezer bag of the baguette rounds. Once I started feeling a bit better, I headed to the kitchen to do something about them. I was antsy with cabin fever, craving a comforting breakfast, and eager to not waste an entire baguette. Breakfast and creating something new always boosts my mood.

This Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast is not too sweet and the goat cheese adds a nice contrast to the dish. Broiling the top gives it an almost caramely texture that I love. Oh, and of course there was bacon.

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

What you need
  • About 48 baguette rounds (1/2 inch slices)
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond/coconut milk blend
  • 7  large eggs
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 jar (15.25 oz or ~ 1 1/2 cups) Polaner All Fruit strawberry preserves (or another of your choice)
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
Make it
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly beat eggs, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl
  3. Whisk in milk, until well combined
  4. In a greased casserole dish (9×13 or similar), lay one layer of baguette rounds
  5. Spoon eggs mixture over first layer, leaving enough for the next layers
  6. Continue until all bread has been used. Press down lightly on the bread, so that all of the mixture can be absorbed.
  7. You can optionally let this sit anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight to soak up more of the mixture. (I let mine sit for two hours, while Adrian was out running errands)
  8. Before you bake it, add preserves and orange juice to a small saucepan over medium and allow it to thin a bit for pouring (3-5 minutes)
  9. Pour preserves over top of the casserole
  10. Slice or crumble the goat cheese and top the french toast with it
  11. Cover the casserole with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes
  12. Remove tinfoil and bake for 10 more minutes
  13. Now broil the top until the cheese browns a bit. (6 minutes for how I have it)
  14. Let cool, top with syrup if desired, and enjoy!

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Does a weekend “wasted” frustrate you as much as it does me or do you go with the flow and enjoy the down time?
Breakfast, Brunch, Nosh

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

December 31, 2014
Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

Yay, New Years Eve! Our last day of 2014. I’m really looking forward to good food, good friends, and all the champagne punch I’m going to make. We’re also doing a beer tasting countdown, where we all try one winter beer for each month of the year. It should be a great evening and the comfort of celebrating at midnight in our own home makes it even better for me.

I couldn’t have been more lucky in 2014, but I am still very excited for 2015. In 2014, we bought a new house, got married, and got our puppy, but there’s something about a new year’s fresh start that always brings me optimism and glee. I plan to share my resolutions… but first, I want to bring you breakfast for tomorrow (or brunch, depending on how much punch you’ll be having!)

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

So, Adrian goes on kicks with food. He loves having something over and over until he tires of it. We’re very different this way because I would almost never make the same thing twice (unless it’s a breakfast or lunch staple) if it weren’t for him. Now, I try to switch up his kicks, while still giving him what he wants.

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

One of his recent benders has been grits. I’ve only recently tried grits for the first time. It was always just a Southern staple to me that didn’t seem all that appealing… that is until I had a taste and actually really enjoyed them! They’re versatile in that you can prepare the dish savory to sweet and I’m definitely a fan of that. Adrian has been enjoying cheesy grits with eggs for our weekend breakfasts, so I wanted to come up with another way to bring them to the table. Hello, Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata and welcome to the new year!

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

It sounds kinda weird, right? Trust me, it’s not. The cheesy grits act as a faux crust, putting a classic frittata right over the edge. If you’ve never tried grits before, try them this way. Oh, and you should probably serve it to the guests you’ll be partying with tonight too if they stay over. You can thank me tomorrow morning, after your leftover-champagne mimosa!

What you need
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup quick cooking grits
  • 1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used sharp white)
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 lb. center cut bacon
  • 1/2 fresh asparagus bundle
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Make it
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare grits according to package, but cook 3-5 minutes longer to thicken. Once finished, add 1 cup of the cheddar and the 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Chop bacon and cook over medium in a large pan. Once bacon begins browning, add in the onion, and cook until translucent and bacon is cooked, but not crispy. In the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus.
  4. Remove bacon mixture from heat and drain grease.
  5. Whisk eggs, milk, cayenne, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  6. In a greased pie dish, lay a layer of cheesy grits in the bottom.
  7. Cover grits with bacon and asparagus.
  8. Pour eggs over top and push down any asparagus poking through. Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar on top.
  9. Bake frittata for 30 minutes or until the frittata’s center doesn’t jiggle.
  10. Let cool and serve. Enjoy!

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

 What are your plans for tonight? Have you already made a list of resolutions for the new year?
Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Nosh

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

December 18, 2014
Candied Clementines_2

A tradition I adore, but isn’t typically practiced in my area, is finding a clementine in the toe of your stocking on Christmas day. They are the cutest little gifts and fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. How sweet!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

Did you know clementines are the result of an accidental pollination between a tangerine and sweet orange, found by Father Clement Rodier in the gardens of his orphanage in Algeria?

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

I was interested in how the Christmas clementine tradition began and was brought back to the story of Saint Nicholas, formerly Bishop Nicholas, of Turkey. There are many variations, but if you haven’t heard them, the story goes there was a man with three daughters, too poor for dowries to marry them off. Bishop Nicholas was known to be a generous giver. He visited the home at night and threw a bag of coins (sometimes pictured as gold balls) down the chimney, landing them in the stockings left to dry on the fireplace. These coins became represented by the clementines children find in their stockings today.

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

This lovely tradition is one I plan to bring to my family when we have children. (Even if they won’t be as excited about it as I will be!)

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

I have been buying clementines all season and wanted to find a use for them other than snacking on them whole. I’ve also been wanting to try out different creations in my new skillet, so without further ado, here is my Darling Clementine Skillet Cake. Oh, my darling, clementine!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

Candying the fruit is surprisingly easy and it comes out wonderful!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

What you need
  • Candied clementines
    • 2 clementines, washed, ends removed, and thinly sliced
    • 2 oz. Cointreau (or another orange-flavored liqueur)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 clementines, peeled and pureed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
Make it

Candied Clementines:

  1. Combine Cointreau, water, and sugar in deep frying pan
  2. Over medium heat, stir mixture until the sugar is dissolved
  3. Add the clementines to the pan in a single layer
  4. Allow the clementines to cook until the syrup evaporates some and the clementines begin to crystallize, flipping them halfway through (this will take about 20 minutes start to finish)
  5. Remove clementines from pan and place on greased dish to cool

Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a cast iron skillet*, melt the butter and remove from heat
  3. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top
  4. Arrange candied clementines over the brown sugar
  5. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry
  7. Blend well, either by hand or in a mixer
  8. Pour the batter over the clementines and brown sugar
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  10. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge if it needs to be loosened
  11. Cover your skillet with a large plate and flip

*I used a 12-inch skillet. If you are using a 10-inch, increase the baking time to about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Then, let sit for 20 minutes before flipping the cake over.

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake
What’s your favorite holiday tale? Do you have any traditions you’ve always admired?
Brunch, Nosh

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Bacon

November 29, 2014
Adding Syrup

Happy Saturday! Did you fight the crowds on Black Friday?! I thought about it… but decided to stay in and start a bit of decorating, which really turned into catching up on the DVR, and watching a couple of movies. Tomorrow, I’ll finish up. It’s a long holiday weekend after all!

We hosted our first Thanksgiving this year and I loved it. We only had Adrian’s father and his girlfriend over, but it made things totally relaxed and I was able to practice the timing of preparing a large meal without having anything go wrong. The other best part about us hosting is that I always make too much food, so we have lots of leftovers. And Thanksgiving leftovers are obviously the absolute best!

We weren’t too creative with the leftovers yesterday and just made up some plates, but today, I decided to get inventive and make us a leftover brunch. This meal definitely takes the place of breakfast and lunch and you may still be full at dinnertime!

My favorite part of this sandwich is the Maple-Espresso Candied Bacon. They are pieces of caramelized joy! That with the brie, turkey, and cranberry, on top of challah french toast… Thanksgiving needs to come twice a year!

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Bacon

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Bacon

If you have any leftovers, go make this now. If not, you should consider throwing another turkey in the oven ASAP. Breakfast for dinner is always a win too!

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Bacon

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied BaconYou can eat it just like this…

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied BaconOr be bold and add a dusting of powdered sugar…

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Baconor bolder yet and drizzle on some syrup.

Thanksgiving Leftovers: French Toast Sandwich with Espresso-Candied Bacon

 Enjoy!

What you need

For two sandwiches (adjust to fit your needs)

  • 6 slices Espresso-Candied Bacon
    • 1 tbsp. ground espresso
    • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
    • 1 tbsp. water
  • 4 slices Challah french toast
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup whole milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Leftover turkey
  • 4 slices of brie cheese (cut the wedge vertically)
  • Leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Powdered sugar and syrup for topping

Make it

Espresso-Candied Bacon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F
  2. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil
  3. Mix the espresso, maple syrup, and water in a small dish, until well combined
  4. Dip the slices of bacon in the mixture and lay on the foil- You can brush on the extra syrup
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking that it doesn’t overcook. (This bacon comes out dark because of the syrup and espresso, but don’t let it scare you! Just check that it’s done to your likeness with a fork or tongs)
  6. Let cool on a plate- I don’t recommend using paper towels because they will stick

The French Toast Sandwich:

  1. Make the french toast mixture, by mixing the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large shallow dish- a pie dish works great
  2. Soak the challah for a minute or two on each side- press down in dish to soak up the moisture better
  3. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a deep sauté pan over medium heat
  4. Add a slice of the challah to the pan (if it’s big enough for two sandwiches, add two)
  5. Layer turkey breast, 2-3 pieces of candied bacon, and 2 slices of brie on top of the bread slice
  6. spread cranberry on the other piece and lay on top
  7. Cook until golden brown on each side
  8. Remove from heat, cut in half, and serve topped with powdered sugar and drizzled syrup

 

What are you doing with your leftovers this year?
Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Nosh

Cranberry French Toast Stick Pudding

October 8, 2014
Cranberry French Toast Stick Pudding

We have a ton of leftovers from the brunch…  I forced quite a few doggy bags of bagels, croissants, and muffins on our guests as they left, and we still have way more than Adrian and I can eat (especially with the wedding coming up, I don’t have time to gorge on carbs!)

I froze most of the croissants (I’ll be doing something with them soon!), rolls, and bagels, and then looked through the rest of the stock. We still had a big batch of already-baked french toast sticks left and something needed to be done with them! What I like about this leftover recipe is that it’s totally customizable.
We had granola and dried fruit left from the yogurt toppings, so I decided to throw that in. Then the glaze helps to get rid of the bulk tubs of cream cheese I bought from BJ’s. You get the idea. I bet eggnog would be a great add in for a richer pudding for the holidays too!

Here’s what you need:

  • Glaze
    • 4 ounces cream cheese (about a half of a cup), room temperature
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 3-4 Tbsp. milk
  • 16 oz thawed French toast sticks (If you try using frozen, let me know how it goes!) – since mine were left over, it was just under the the 16 oz, but if you’re making your pudding fresh, that’s a standard box size
  • ¼ cup granola of choice
  • ¼ cup dried orange-cranberries (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cran-Bread-Pudding-in-Pan-1

Make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F
  2. Cut your sticks in thirds (or break ’em up however)
  3. Top the toast pieces with the dried cranberries and granola
  4. Mix eggs, milk, 3 T brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl, then add the liquid mixture to the pan
  5. Now, press the french toast down to soak up liquid
  6. Sprinkle with the other tablespoon of brown sugar
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, then cover with tinfoil – cook for 20 more minutes or until firm
  8. While it’s baking, make your cream cheese glaze.
    1. Beat cream cheese until very creamy.
    2. Beat in powdered sugar.
    3. Stir in vanilla.
    4. Add 3 tablespoons milk.
    5. Totally combine. (Add more milk to get desired consistency)
  9. After letting the pudding cool a bit, top with your cream cheese glaze and serve!

Note: I can be super impatient and I didn’t let the cream cheese get to room temp (plus our prehistoric microwave called it quits at our brunch!!) so it’s a tad lumpy. Just make sure you do or soften it in the microwave at ten seconds intervals or so.

 

Cranberry French Toast Stick Pudding

 

Brunch, Wedding

Meet, Greet, and Eat!

October 6, 2014
Bar-Cart--Meet-Greet-and-Ea

This past weekend, we had a lovely brunch to bring our families and bridal party together. Adrian and I have pretty divided families: all of our parents divorced and remarried, and I met my biological father as an adult, so it was very important to us to bring everyone together for a meet, greet, and eat before the wedding to take any pressure off of mingling on the big day.

As the years have gone by, I came to learn how lucky I am to have a large family, with lots of support and love. Now that we have our new home, it’s provided a neutral spot for everyone to gather and allows enough space for everyone to be comfortable. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a worry wart when it comes to potentially-awkward situations, but I was also so excited to have our first major event, plus it’s my favorite meal of the day!

Overall, the afternoon was wonderful, but being new to having more than a handful of guests at a time, I still have some learning to do.

Cups and Napkins Focal

Here are some notes of what worked and what I’ll focus on next time:

1. List it out:

I love making lists, and more importantly checking them off. Shopping wasn’t as daunting when I knew exactly what I was going for instead of guessing along the way. I did get caught up in the juice aisle, estimating how many mimosas would be guzzled, and then again in the bakery because who doesn’t love sweet brunchy goodness?? But, in the end, I ended up with way too much of both!

Don’t forget to include any decorations, table cloths, flowers, paper-ware, cups, and utensils you might need. I took inventory of serving spoons and tongs before I went and found a good deal on them in bundles at the party store to make up for what I lacked.

An extensive list will keep you from having to run out and grab something you forgot the night before or the day of your event, which is totally worth the effort!

Stocked Fridge Combined

2. Plan the Menu:

We had about two dozen guests, so I decided to go with a buffet serving option to make things easier. For this method,  it’s good to use a blend of already-prepared items, items requiring little prep, and then some recipes.

Bulk with no prep:

  • Croissants
  • Bagels
  • French toast sticks
  • Mini cornbread loaves
  • Mini muffins
  • Donuts from the local bakery

It’s good to just note what spreads you will serve with the bulk items you choose and add ’em to your list if you don’t already have them. There are also lots of great recipes for French toast casseroles and oatmeal bakes too, if you’d like to make some of these your recipe items.

Some prep:

  • Lots of bacon
  • Sausage
  • Two-bite quiches
  • Yogurt bar with fixings
  • Lunch meat tray
  • Fruit salad
  • Caesar salad

Full prep:

Plan the dish or dishes you want to create. If some of them can be done ahead of time, go wild! I went with a sun-dried tomato and asparagus casserole-sized frittata that was be prepared that morning, so that I’d be able to spend more time with everyone instead of in the kitchen.  A plus is frittatas are easily gluten-free for the couple of guests that are gluten intolerant!

Drinks:

  • Mimosa bar – I included this awesome Strawberry Grapefruit Mimosa, champagne grapes, and extra fruit for our guests to mix things up with
  • Bloody Mary’s – A pre-mixed carafe with the vodka on the side allows more room on the bar and it’s quicker than preparing each one
  • Coffee – don’t forget the decaf!
  • Assortment of Teas
  • Milk
  • Water pitcher – adding cucumbers, and even mint, always makes for a refreshing hit!

Mimosa-Trio

3. Prep, prep, prep:

Here is where my biggest lesson comes in. I woke up early, showered, and perused social media while drinking my coffee, thinking I had everything under control. Man, was I wrong! I was lucky enough to have one of my bridesmaids come over early to lend a hand and yet in the end, at 11:15,  (brunch was at 11:30) my sister arrived to find me in my sweats, tying ribbons to the back of the chairs! She shrieked and pushed me towards the stairs to get ready while she finished the last-minute decorations I didn’t get to.

If I had decorated and set out all the tableware the night before, I could have shaved off just enough minutes to avoid that hustle and bustle before our guests arrived. Rolling the lunch meats for their tray and cutting all the fruit ahead of time would have given me the actual time to sip my coffee that morning too! Without being too hard on myself, these little tweaks are my biggest takeaway from the event. One positive was everything was prepared in a way that once the guests arrived, I had nothing else to tend to until they were ready for coffee and tea. I’ll take some rushing for that any day.

Another helpful tip I didn’t even think of was to list what would have to be put out for guests in addition to the main menu items. Maybe no one else noticed, but I was kicking myself when I realized while cleaning up,  that the celery didn’t get served with the Bloody Marys! A friend suggested to me recently that even going so far as to label the serving dishes with what goes where makes all the difference too.

 

In the end, we had a full house with chatting, drinking, and eating.  Seeing all of my favorite people together, enjoying themselves in our new home, left us one happy couple.

 

… Now, what to do with all the leftovers??

 

Do you have any tips and tricks for an effortless brunch or gathering with more than a few guests?