Archive for the ‘Brunch’ Category

Corn Griddle Cakes

We have a lot of corn-on-the-cob in this house. The kids love it, but I tend to over-buy the ears at Costco. Today, listening to this interview on Fresh Air by two chefs I admire, I was inspired to turn a couple of those ears of corn into corn cakes. I looked at a few recipes and made something that worked great for our family. We served it as break-fast-for dinner with veggie sausages, blueberries and yogurt, but it also makes a great side dish for a more typical dinner. You can add chives or herbs, but I left ours plain for easier acceptance at the table by my children.

Makes 6 Corn Cakes

INGREDIENTS

2 Ears of Corn, shucked

1T melted butter

¼ C skim milk

1 egg

¼ C cornmeal

¼ C flour

½ t Kosher salt

2T shredded parmesan or gruyere cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grate the corn on the large holes of a grater, or cut off the kernels and process in a mini-processor. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Beat together grated corn, milk, egg and butter.
  3. In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients, plus cheese. Add to wet ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Heat the griddle to medium and spray with canola or vegetable oil.
  5. Cook as you would a pancake—about ¼ C mix on the griddle per cake, flipping when edges are cooked.
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End-of-the-School-Year Party Snacks Solved

I don’t know how I made it all these years without knowing about Monkey Bread, but I’m glad those days are over. My first introduction to this carbs-cinnamon-sugar-butter concoction was via Paula Deen (Natch).  I borrowed one of her cooking-with-kids books from our local library last year, and one of the recipes my kids and I made was Monkey Bread. It made more than we could handle, and we brought some to the soccer team the next morning for an after-game snack and still had enough to bring to the baseball team that afternoon for the same purpose. So, as end-of-season sports parties are upon us, I made a batch for the Spitfire’s season-ender.

When the kids find out we’ve brought Monkey Bread we either receive blank stares or cries of “Yes! I love Monkey Bread!” from the assembled masses. Introducing kids to this treat is a real pleasure. It works well for these functions because, while it looks like a lumpy cake, it is a pull-apart treat. And sure, there is sugar all over it, but’s less sugar-high-inducing than the usual cupcakes.

As I mentioned, the Paula Deen version of this recipe made a lot—too much, for my taste. It was actually really hard to get it to bake evenly and I ended up splitting it into two dishes after the initial baking time, to finish it off uniformly. Most recipes call for 3 or 4 biscuit rolls, but using 2 cans of 8 should be enough for the usual kids gathering/potluck. We have another one this Sunday, and I’ll be making it again. It’s just so easy–to make, keep and serve.

Monkey Bread (serves 15)

INGREDIENTS

2 cans of refrigerated, unbaked whole-wheat biscuits (8 per can)

½ C granulated white sugar

2T cinnamon

½ C brown sugar

¾ stick of butter

DIRECTIONS

Coat a tubular cake pan with cooking spray or similar.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix white sugar and cinnamon on a plate (some recipes recommend shaking it in a bag and then adding the pieces in, a la shake-and-bake, to coat. I do not. The first many pieces will be coated only in cinnamon using this method.)

Separate the biscuits and cut each one in ¼ pieces.

Roll the pieces in the sugar mix to coat and drop each piece in the tube pan one-by-one. Continue layering until all the biscuit pieces are coated and in the pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the layered biscuits.

Bake 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn it over to release the bread, and flip it again onto the final plate for serving.

What do you make for a group of kids for these end-of-year parties? I know not everyone brings a dessert treat—what are some of your best recipes that go over well with this kind of crowd?

Brunch Staples, Valentine’s Day Edition: Upside Pear Pancake

This pancake was the first brunch staple in my repertoire. I made it as a newlywed and have fond memories of serving it on anniversaries and other special occasions. I have not-so-fond memories of forgetting the potholder and burning my hand on the skillet handle. But, I continue to create it for those days that feel celebratory.  And because we have a pear tree in the back yard, I’m always grateful for an easy recipe with pears.  This is good option for a special Valentine’s Day breakfast or, as we like it, Breakfast for Dinner.  It pairs well with the biscotti, pink milk, turkey sausage and a heaping helping of scrambled eggs.

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day meal?

Upside Pear Pancake  (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

3T butter, divided

1+1/2 firm, ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears (about ¾#)

2t lemon juice

2/3C all-purpose flour

¼ C plus 3T sugar, divided

1t baking powder

½ t baking soda

¼ t salt

2/3C plain non-fat or 2% yogurt

2 large eggs

Maple syrup

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel and slice pears into ¼-inch slices and transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Add 1/4C sugar and lemon juice to pears; toss to coat well.
  3. Melt 2T butter in an oven-proof 10-inch skillet on low heat, tilting to coat skillet.
  4. Arrange pears decoratively in skillet (I tried to make a heart shape) and drizzle any remaining sugar mixture over them.
  5. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until just tender.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if you preheat at all—I rarely do and it makes almost no difference to the timing, but a nice difference to my gas bill).
  7. Combine remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add eggs, 1T melted butter and yogurt and whisk together until just combined.
  8. Pour batter over pears. Bake in middle of oven for 15 minutes or until top is golden and center is firm when touched lightly. Remove with pot holder. PLACE POTHOLDER ON HANDLE WHEN YOU REST IT ON THE STOVE.
  9. Place a large plate over the skillet, then USING THE POTHOLDER turn the skillet over to invert the pancake, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together. Carefully lift skillet off pancake and replace any fruit still stuck to bottom of skillet.
  10. Cut pancake into wedges, arrange on 4 plates and cover with 1T maple syrup.

Brunch Staples: Challah French Toast

When one of my (many) second cousins was engaged back in 2001, her aunts enlisted the extended family in a cookbook project. They asked each of us to contribute our favorite recipes as an engagement gift to the happy couple, and then emailed the final document to everyone. Several of the recipes are old family classics, so I printed and bound it to keep with my other cookbooks.

A number of the newer recipes have become favorites in our own home, including this one contributed by someone who is not related to me (but in my family, that is not a disqualifier), and clearly knows her way around a brunch table. I love that I can make it the night before. I’ve also made it up to the point of chilling, then frozen it for weeks, thawed it in the fridge for a day and cooked it in the morning. The ideal make-ahead dish.

 

Image courtesy of wildyeastblog.com

 

Challah French Toast Casserole (serves 8)

INGREDIENTS

1 loaf of challah

8oz. reduced-fat cream cheese

8 large eggs (egg substitute works well, too)

1.5C 2%milk (confession—I usually use skim)

2/3C half-and-half

½ C maple syrup (don’t skimp!), plus more for serving

½ t Vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a rectangular 11×7 baking dish with cooking spray or similar.
  2. Cut off top of challah crust and slice into 1-inch cubes. Lay cubes in pan.
  3. Mix all other ingredients in a blender. Pour evenly over mixture in dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 50 minutes, covering when it starts to brown.
  5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) and serve with additional maple syrup on the side.   

If you serve this with a number of other items buffet-style, it’ll feed a lot more people. It naturally slices into 8 servings, but those pieces are really big and a lot of your guests will cut them in half.

I usually bake this with the Santa Fe Egg Bake, and add a fruit salad to the table.  If you do the same, bake them both at 350 for one hour, but check them at 50 minutes and understand you may need to adjust the time. That is fine because each one will stay very warm when covered. Actually, the egg bake needs time to cool regardless.

Do you have a favorite brunch staple?

Happy Hanukkah, Y’all!

Each year during Hanukkah our friend Josh comes for dinner and fry latkes. A few years ago, Josh brought Erica with him. This year, he and Erica brought their tiny, cute baby. In the name of family sanity, we decided ahead of times to forego the latke-frying this one year and buy them already prepared at Whole Foods. Then, I just had to heat them in the oven on cookie sheets for a few minutes.

I don’t consider Hanukkah to have a traditional set menu the way Thanksgiving or even Passover can, but I do have an idea of a traditional winter Jewish meal and it has two key point: slow-cooked beef and a kugel. Since I was going to be gone almost the whole day, I opted for a very easy slow-cooked beef stew (yes, again from “America’s Test Kitchen” and again a home run). This recipe taught me about the joy of using frozen chopped opinion for soups and stews. Why have I not know about this before? I should have bought 40 bags, in case I never find them again. I also bought rice that steams in the bag in the microwave. This shortcut seems a little less Whole Foods-sanctioned, and I will try to use it sparingly, but it worked out great last night. Then, I roasted asparagus right before serving dinner.

The kugel recipe was a on scrap of paper stuck in another cookbook (“Lowfat Jewish Cooking” if you can believe it). It credits the Hadassah Sisterhood cookbook of Valdosta, GA. I don’t know where or when I found this gem, but I’d bet it was at least a dozen years ago. Everyone loved this peach kugel. What’s not to love? I made it the night before and it reheated extremely well.

Peach Noodle Kugel

Great for: Pot luck dinners, a meal with company, comfort food, brunch

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes

Cool: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

8-12 oz medium egg noodles (I used 12, recipe called for 8)

3T butter, plus additional for baking dish

3 eggs

½ C sugar

2C milk, preferably whole

½ C seedless raisins

16-oz can sliced cling peaches, drained, or 2 fresh peaches sliced ¼-inch thick

STREUSEL TOPPING:

2T butter

¼ C bread crumbs

½ t ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly coat 13/9/2 baking dish with butter.

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large bowl. Add butter and toss until melted and noodles are coated. Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined. Whisking constantly, slowly pour milk in steady stream. Add raisins. Pour egg mixture over noodles and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to baking dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes.

Prepare Streusel: In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, melt butter. Add bread crumbs and cinnamon and stir until coated. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove kugel from oven and arrange peach slices in rows on the surface and sprinkle evenly with streusel topping. Return kugel to oven, uncovered, and bake about 15 minutes or until kugel is lightly browned and custard sets. Transfer dish to wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Do ahead: you can cool, cover and refrigerate the kugel, then heat it for 30 minutes at 300 degrees, covered.

Serves 10-12.

 

Brunch Staples: My Sister’s Biscotti

When my sister stayed with us after the birth of The Energizer Bunny, she graciously prepared a number of meals for the family. I often asked for the recipes, including the one for these biscotti which have since become a staple for brunches. I have to bake them for an event or a large number of guests, because if I have a lot of it in the house I’ll eat them up. This week, I baked the biscotti for Thanksgiving. We’ll have a large number of family in town, hanging out at the house, and I need to fortify the freezer with baked goods. I may make another batch of Seinfeld Cookies for the kids—these are for the grown-ups.

Brunch Biscotti

Great for: Brunch guests, overnight guests, you

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40-50 minutes

INGREDIENTS

8T Butter

3/4C Sugar

2 Eggs

1T Vanilla

2.5C Flour

1T Baking Powder

8 oz. toasted nuts (I used sliced blanched almonds)

1/2C dried fruit

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Beat the sugar and butter.
  3. Add Eggs and vanilla and blend
  4. Add flour and baking powder and blend
  5. Add nuts and fruit and blend
  6. Shape into logs and place on a nonstick baking sheet.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Remove from oven, then remove logs to cutting board.
  8. CSice carefully and return to baking sheet, spacing evenly apart.
  9. Bake another 15-20 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen biscotti.

Brunch Staples: Santa Fe Egg Bake

We host our share of dinners with friends, but with young, tired kids and early bedtimes, evening isn’t always optimal for entertaining. We’re a lot more likely to have a successful meal with guests if it’s a weekend brunch.  Even in the heat of a Texas summer we can eat on our back deck before noon, and the kids can play in the backyard and subsist on bagels alone if necessary.

I have a few staples in my brunch repertoire, all borrowed from family or friends. Today’s recipe is an egg bake that is incredibly easy, can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance (and can then be frozen, to be thawed and baked at a later date with no harm—just prep it in a dish lined with wax paper, freeze it, lift the “bake” out, wrap it in wax paper and then foil before deep freezing. When ready, thaw slightly, remove wax paper, pop back into the original dish and bake). Best of all, it is almost idiot-proof.

 I acquired this recipe after brunch a dozen years ago at our friend Scott’s house, and I am asked for a copy of it almost every time some has brunch at our house (I have never NOT served it for brunch). Turns out, it’s originally from Betty Crocker!

This image shows up on at least a half-dozen pages from a search for "Santa Fe Egg Bake"

Santa Fe Egg Bake (serves eight)

INGREDIENTS

4 C frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 C fresh or frozen whole kernel corn

1 C frozen stir-fry bell peppers and onions

2 C shredded Colby-Jack cheese (8 ounces)

2 T chopped fresh cilantro (I never include this, though)

8 eggs (or Eggbeaters)

1 ¼ C milk

¼ t salt

¼ t ground red pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a rectangular 11×7 baking dish with cooking spray or similar. Mix first 5 ingredients together in the dish. Sprinkle half the cheese (and cilantro, if using).
  2. Mix last 4 ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Pour evenly over mixture in dish. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Cover and refrigerate 2-24 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 55-60 minutes or until fork/knife/toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Really, you can probably eyeball it. Cover with foil if cheese starts to burn before it’s done. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.  

If you serve this with a number of other items buffet-style, it’ll feed a lot more people. It naturally slices into 8 servings, but those pieces are really big and a lot of your guests will cut them in half.

I place a bowl of fresh salsa on the side for topping, which is the best way to eat it, but that’s the Texan talking.

What are your go-to menu items for brunch?