Easter Brunch: Egg Strata, French Toast Casserole, and a bunch of other stuff

I am going to start by saying that I did not get very good pictures of this brunch.  I have never hosted a holiday before, and I was a little preoccupied by preparing it, so I kept forgetting to take pictures.  I apologize for that. However, things did go well.  I was not entirely sure what I wanted to make for brunch.  Plus, we were headed to Easter Service so I needed stuff that I could make ahead of time.  I decided on doing a breakfast casserole, an egg strata, deviled eggs, and a bundt cake.  I also had coffee, tea, orange juice, and stuff to make Arnold Palmers (pretty much the best drink ever).

First the bundt cake.  I made the lemon one I invented not too long ago.  Here is the link to that recipe:

https://meteaandlucy.com/2011/04/12/lemon-bundt-cake/

This time I added one cup of milk to the recipe.  It did change the consistency.  This cake was much denser and more moist.  However, it was lacking the nice crumble of the other.  Both were good; I think I may leave the  milk out in the future.

Next up is the French Toast Casserole.  This recipe is from the newspaper a number of years ago.

Ingredients:

1 loaf cinnamon bread (with or without raisins depending on preference)

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 teaspoons butter

1 cup nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Method:

Cut the loaf of bread into cubes.  Take about 1 cup worth of the cubes and set aside.  Put the rest of the cubes in a greased 9″ by 13″ Pyrex baking dish.  Meanwhile mix the eggs, milks, and vanilla together.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread making sure all the cubes are moist.  Put the in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, melt the butter and add the set aside bread cubes and the nuts.  Mix until all moist and sprinkle over the egg/bread mixture in the pan.  Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.  Serve with syrup and strawberries (optional).

Ideas: I would have liked it to be a little sweater so I would not have had to add syrup in the end.  I wonder if adding brown sugar to the egg mixture would have that desired effect.  I also think it would be good if you added some apples to the dish. I might try that next fall when apples are in season again.

Egg Strata:


This one I made up, and it worked great.  The above picture is the strata before it was baked.  I don’t have a picture of it baked.  Sigh. This is a dish that you can personalize easily.

Ingredients:

10 eggs

1 cup cheese

1 cup milk

about 1/3 of a baguette, cubed

vegetables (I used potatoes, onions, asparagus, red bell peppers)

sausage (optional though good)

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the eggs and milk together until well blended.  Mix in the cheese and bread cubes.  Make sure the bread all gets moist.  Fold in the vegetables and sausage.  I pre-cook the  potatoes and the sausage, but I put everything else in raw.  The vegetables end up cooked but still crisp that way.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9″ by 13″ Pyrex casserole dish.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.  You can put a knife in the center and it will come out clean when the strata is done.

Note: I have made this pre-made this strata and let it sit overnight.  I have also made it and baked it immediately.  I honestly can’t tell much of a difference (sitting overnight might have a slight advantage, but it is slight).  I would just do what is more convenient for you.

Finally here is a couple of funny picture of Lucy in her Easter dress:

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An Italian Dinner Party: Bruschetta, Pizza, and Flourless Chocolate Cake

This past weekend we had our friends Katie and Richard over for dinner.  At Alec’s suggestion we decided to do our homemade pizza–a big favorite of his in particular.  For appetizers I made some bruschetta and olive tapenade.  I thought the dinner turned out quite well.  It is a nice way to do pizza because no one needs to agree.  Every can just make their own half of a pizza.  We all had a nice time, and I can’t wait to have them over again.

I am going to save the tapenade recipe for another post (I am keeping this short because the baby is sick, and I am a little short on time here because of it).  Apparently it is actually French, though I usually eat it with either Italian or Middle Eastern food.  We served the appetizers with a French bread that Alec made (he is good at making bread).  However, feel free to serve this with any crusty white bread.

Bruschetta Recipe

This is not a very exact recipe.  Please adjust the quantities according to your own tastes.

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes chopped

2 shallots chopped small

2 cloves garlic finely chopped or put through a garlic press

Basil, preferable fresh but dried is fine

a pinch or so of sugar

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together and let it marinade for a bit.  I left mine for about an hour which worked just fine.

I served this with slices of fresh mozzarella.

The Pizza

Ingredients:

4 1/4 cups of bread flour (it must be bread flour otherwise it will not turn out)

1 yeast packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

Put all this in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Add 1 1/2 cups of warm-hot water

Run the food processor until it blends into a ball.  Take it out of the processor, make sure it is in a ball shape.  Put it in a greased bowl and it let it raise for about 2 hours.

This makes enough for two pizza dough crusts.  Cut the dough in half and roll into rounds.  The dough is ready for toppings at this point.  You do not need to pre-bake anything.

Top the crust with your toppings of choice.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 500 degrees.  It is best if you can do this on a pizza stone.  This recipe is originally from the America’s Test Kitchen.  I have made it so many times I just do it from memory so it is not exactly the same.  You can also use this crust for a pretty good stromboli.

Weird Recipe of Yesteryear: Tomato Soup Cake, actually less gross than you would imagine

My friend Anna found a bunch of old recipes in a drawer she bought at a thrift shop a while back.  A couple of the recipes were dated from 1940, so we are assuming most are from about that time.  Many of the recipes are huge, enough servings to serve 100 people or more.  Perhaps they are from a church kitchen? A number of the recipes are also weird.  We are going to make a recipe from this collection probably once a month and post it on here.  We decided to start with one of the strangest recipes in there: Tomato Soup Cake.  The only problem was, it wasn’t so much a recipe as a list of ingredients.  However, we have made enough cakes to guess how it went together.  The big question was how long to bake it and what type of pan it should go in.  We ended up doing a 9 inch round pan, and it baked for about 4o-45 minutes.

The end result was similar to pumpkin spice cake, but not as good.  I am not sure if you could tell the difference if you didn’t know about the soup.  After we had made it, I went online to see if other people made this cake (not sure why I didn’t try this before).  I did find similar recipes, believe it or not.  The recipe originates from 1925–it was an invention of the Campbell’s Soup Corporation, no surprise there.  Campbell’s still has a modified recipe on their website!  I think we probably should have made the cake in a loaf pan–that seems to be a more common way to make it.  I was pleased to see that topping it with cream cheese frosting was also common, which we decided to do just looking at the ingredient list.

All in all it was a fun adventure.  Will I start making this cake on a regular basis? No.  It was not that good.  It was better than I thought it would be though, and it would be a good conversation starter I suppose.  Or maybe if there is a big run on pumpkin someday, and you really want a pumpkin spice cake, you can look this up and make it.

Ingredients:

1/4 pound shortening (we used butter instead, and it worked fine)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 can or tomato soup

1 teaspoon baking soda–put in the soup

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 teaspoons baking powder

Method:

We started by creaming the butter until nice and fluffy.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Add the egg and mix well.  Put in the tomato soup/baking soda combo.

Meanwhile we mixed all the dry ingredients together.  Once the wet ingredients were well mixed.

Lucy was helping out with the cake too

Bake the cake at 350 degrees.  The baking time will vary on your choice of pan.  For a 9″ round bake for about 40 minutes.  If you do a loaf pan, maybe try about an hour?

Now for the frosting:

The frosting was really good, and it made the cake better I think.  Mix up 3 ounces of cream cheese (at room temp), half stick of butter (at room temp), 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Blend together until light and fluffy.  I found this recipe from my Better Homes and Garden’s Baking book–a classic.

Once the cake has cooled, put on the frosting:

And finally, cut a slice and enjoy…

Lemon Bundt Cake

Most people may not think that a bundt pan is a necessary item for a kitchen.  I would beg to differ.  Of course there is the issue of me being a Minnesotan, and like all Minnesotans, I have a bizarre pride surrounding all things related to our state.  Perhaps it is compensation for the fact that  we live in a state that is cold 9 months out of the year, or maybe it really is just that great of a place to live.  Either way, the bundt pan was invented by Nordic Ware right here in Minnesota for a group of German-Americans.  The shape of the pan makes the cake look finished without frosting, and bundts are usually so rich on their own, they rarely need it anyway.

The following bundt recipe is my own invention.  I wanted something lemon flavored.  This is essentially a lemon pound cake in a bundt pan.  It is moist and especially lemony because I use both zest and lemon extract in the recipe.

Ingredients:

Zest of 2 lemons (you can use more or less according to taste)

2 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/4 cup butter (that is 2 and a half sticks, this is not a health cake)

5 eggs

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon almond extract (if you would rather use vanilla, add two teaspoons instead of the one almond)

2 teaspoons lemon extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

With your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it is moist and fragrant, set aside. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.  In a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the sugar mixture.  Add the eggs one at a time, make sure to beat well after each egg.  Add in the extracts.  While the mixer is running, slowly add the flour mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a prepared bundt pan.  Use Baker’s Joy cooking spay on the pan.  Something like Pam will not cut it–you will have a bundt that won’t come out of its pan.  In fact, I love Baker’s Joy.  I use it on all my pans–nothing sticks to that stuff, nothing.

Bake the bundt for 60-70 minutes.  When done, take out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.  Then it should slide right out.

The bundt is then ready to serve.  It is good both warm or cold.  It is good the next day too.

Here is a warning though: don’t eat too much at once.  I have a bit of a stomach ache from eating half a bundt cake in less than 24 hours.  One last thing, bundts are nice to give to people because they travel well.  Perhaps some of you may one day get a bundt from me (and actually some of you already have).

Oatmeal Pancakes

I love breakfast food.  I would love to go out for breakfast every weekend.  Alec does not particularly like breakfast food, and he certainly does not want to get up on weekends to go get some.  The result is I usual have some oatmeal standing in the kitchen talking to Lucy in the mornings.  Not that there is anything wrong with that–oatmeal is a good healthy way to start your day, but still.  This evening I decided to make some pancakes for dinner because Alec was out with some friends (if he is going to have any breakfast food, he usually prefers waffles), and I have been craving pancakes for the past couple of days.  After thinking about which type of pancakes, I went with some oatmeal ones.  I originally got the recipe from my mom, and I am not sure where she got it.  It is a nice recipe because it is quick–it only took about 10 minutes to make dinner–and tasty.

This is probably the simplest and least exciting recipe I have posted, but it is a good standard pancake.  I ate mine with a little butter, syrup (the cheap store-bought stuff which I actually prefer to maple syrup for some reason), and blackberry jelly.

1/4 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 large egg

1.  Combine the first 7  ingredient in medium bowl  Stir with whisk.

2.  Combine buttermilk, melted butter and egg.  Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.


3.  Cook pancakes on greased griddle over medium heat.  Makes about 12 pancakes.

P.S. If anyone wants to go out for breakfast some Saturday with me and Lucy–let me know! I am in the mood for some Eggs Benedict!

Yellow Coconut Curry

Alec loves curry, loves it.  I haven’t been making it too much because when I was pregnant it made me sicker than anything.  And I have been a little slow to go back to eating it.  This past weekend, I did make a curry that we both enjoyed a lot.  We found a recipe from one of our cookbooks and adapted it.  We were not sure what it was going to end up tasting like, but it had a Thai curry flavor to it.  The curry paste is very spicy, but the coconut cream in it mellows it out nicely.  Even Lucy thought it was good.  Granted this was not a great parenting move here, but she kept batting at my food and trying to eat it, so finally I gave her a taste of the sauce figuring she would dislike it and let me eat in peace.  She loved it to our utter amazement.  Don’t worry, I did not give her any more, but I think she is going to be an adventurous eater.

Yellow Coconut Curry

The Paste:

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2-3 died red chilis

2 lemongrass stems, white part only, finely chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground tumeric

A dash of oil for mixing

Method:

Dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Grind the seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle.

You can use pre-ground cumin and coriander to be honest, it just won’t be quite as fragrant.  But if that is what you have, go ahead and use it.

Next, remove the stems and seeds from the chilis and soak in water for 10 minutes to re-hydrate them.  We found a big bag of dried hot chilis at United Noodle for only $2.  Drain and chop.

I put everything into the food processor in order to get it nice and smooth.

This is the paste after processing:

This recipe makes enough for two batches of the Yellow Coconut Curry.  The curry paste will stay fresh for one week in the fridge.  Just a warning, this stuff is pretty hot on its own.

The Yellow Coconut Chicken Curry Recipe:

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons of the yellow curry paste

1 pound chicken breast, sliced

1 can coconut cream (it is important to get coconut cream and not coconut milk–though the milk is much easier to find.  They are two very different things, and the dish will not turn out with the milk.  I found the coconut cream at Cub in the ethnic food section, but was not able to find it at all at Rainbow)

6 green onions sliced

1 (1o ounce) can of sliced bamboo shoots

2 teaspoons sugar

1 large handful of basil

juice of half a lime

Method:

Cook the chicken in a wok (or large fry pan) in the oil.  Once the chicken is getting cooked, add in the curry paste and completely coat the chicken.  Add in the coconut cream, green onions, bamboo shoots, and sugar.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce was thickened.

Right before you are going to serve the curry, add in the basil and the lime juice.  The basil is soooo good in this dish, do not skip it!

Finally is a picture of me trying to enjoy the meal, but little Miss Lucy had other plans.

After realizing we would not give her any more curry, she decided to entertain herself with my napkin.  It might be because it had some curry flavor to it.  She is a funny little girl.

Coconut Macaroons

The other day my aunt Cheryl asked me if I had any coconut Macaroon recipes.  I had two, and I did not know which one was better. I decided to do another bake-off like I did with the Madeleine cookies.  One recipe used unsweetened coconut (Martha Stewart) and the other used sweetened coconut (America’s Test Kitchen).  There was no clear winner in this contest.  There were good things about each.  I had three cookie testers, and all three thought the sweetened had a slight edge, and I remain undecided.  The sweetened did have a more pleasant texture.  Those cookies were a little softer and fluffier seeming.  The unsweetened I thought had a slight advantage in taste, but it was minimal.  Both are good cookie recipes, and I think you would be happy with either one.  Plus, if you save egg whites (I had 14 in the freezer–all the shortbread tart shells) this is a great way to use some of those up.  Another benefit of these cookies: they are very quick and easy to make.

Left: sweetened coconut; Right: unsweetened coconut

Unsweetened Coconut Macaroon Cookies

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (you can find this either in the bulk section of your grocery store or in more natural stores like co-ops or Whole Foods)

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of kosher salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment

Mix all the ingredients together–by hand works best.  Roll them into little haystacks or little balls, about 1 1/2 inches.  Place on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

Transfer (while still on the parchment) to a wire wrack to cool.

Sweetened Coconut Macaroon Cookies

5 cups shredded sweetened coconut

6 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (could substitute vanilla if you don’t have almond)

Put the coconut in the food processor and pulse until the  texture is fine.

Coconut after processing

Take out the coconut and put in a large bowl.

Put all the other ingredients into the food processor and pulse until frothy.  Add the egg mixture to the coconut and mix until combined. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Roll the coconut mixture into little balls or haystack shapes.  I did bigger cookies and smaller cookies the next batch, and the smaller ones baked up better.  So I would stick to 1″ cookies.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the macaroons look slightly golden brown.

Let them cool before serving.

In the above picture the unsweetened macaroon is on the far left.  The larger sweetened macaroon is in the middle, and the small sweetened macaroon is on the right.

To fancy these up a little, you could melt some chocolate and dip the bottom of the cookies into the chocolate and let them cool completely on some wax paper.  Though, these cookies are plenty sweet without the additional of chocolate.

I was a little disappointed, I originally was going to have a recipe for a Caribbean Chicken recipe and fried plantains too.  But when I went to make it yesterday, my chicken was bad, so we went out for some Indian food instead.  I promise I will put some cooking up again.  One cannot survive on baked goods alone.\

Note: if anyone has any recipes they would like me to try and blog about, feel free to email them to me at jennie.hornyak@gmail.com.  I am always looking for new ideas.