Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.

 

 

Summer: 23 Days Away (And My Favorite Comfort Food Comes In-Season)

But who’s counting anyway. Ok maybe I am.

After this last winter here in the Boston area, summer can’t come fast enough! However we have had some pretty decent spring weather (maybe a little too hot for me, but then again a true ‘New Englander’ is really never satisfied with the current weather!)

As spring/summer comes so does my favorite comfort food…. Watermelon!

Yep Watermelon. I mean I love carb-loading on stews, mac-n-cheese, and warm bread from the oven as much as the next person. But truly watermelon is a comfort food for me. Growing up my mother would always serve this to us if we were feeling bad. “Easy to digest” she would say.  Admittedly it was the perfect first food after a bout with a stomach flu, a tooth pulling or even a fight with my brother. Somehow its refreshing sweet flesh always made everything better.

My father and I would sneakily compete to see who could get to the much-desired ‘heart’ of the watermelon first. The ‘heart’ is the best part – sweet and seed free. He would wander out to the fridge at night looking for the perfect TV snack only to discover that I had already carved out the best part!

To this day, my late night snack of choice is some watermelon!

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Spring: Day 58 (Brunch On The Porch)

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!

We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.

So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.

And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!

So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)

dessert

Author’s note:

I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….

Spring Day 30: (Florida Corn)

Here in New England we have a saying… “knee-high by fourth of July!”

What we are referencing is the corn needs to be about “knee-high” in the fields in order for it to be on schedule for our typical growing season. This means local corn doesn’t really come into the stores until early august. (Maaaaybe late July if we had a warm spring and a farmer willing to take a gamble and plant early)

But if you are willing to contribute to a “carbon-footprint” you can have your “fresh” corn-on-the-cob in May, grown and flown in from Florida.

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Just one of those things that I must have!

(More from me about corn here and here!)

Spring Day 23: (Actual Warm Weather & Quiche)

spring quichePredictions of 60 degrees today in Boston!

Other than snow farms and parking lots, the snow is just about gone. A quick inspection of the yard showed that yes, maybe all the plants survived – although I have my doubts about the Hydrangea. Of course now the spring yard work and clean up must start in earnest and that means busy weekends.

I still think quiche is the best way to use up odds and ends from the fridge and it gives you something that can be available as a snack or meal in between filling the yard waste bags.

This one had asparagus, sweet red bell pepper, spring onions, and  feta cheese of course. A real spring classic. As always I try to use whole milk or better yet “half and half” for a rich, moist quiche. You can see a couple recipes here and here!

Spring: Day 10 (eggs and lamb)

Well really just eggs because although I made lamb I didn’t photograph it.

Today – a week before Easter/Passover, a foot of snow in the backyard, the Bruins struggling to stay afloat towards the playoffs and the Red Sox 15 days away from their season opener, I decided to try vintage recipe.

I decided to try this weird egg dish that I came across in the pages of an old Better Homes and Garden publication. (circa 1970’s) A “Swiss egg bake” that was listed under the “budget-stretching cheese and egg dishes” section.

eggs and recipe 2

Admittedly my husband straight-up told me he wasn’t going to try it if I made it.

I said I wouldn’t force him. :)

Sometimes you see something that is so wrong that you think “it must be right.” Prudently I decided right away to cut the recipe in half. That way I wouldn’t feel so bad if “no one” ate it.

Basically you mix and heat onion, canned soup, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese and milk together till hot but not bubbling and pour into a sprayed casserole dish and crack eggs into (onto?) the hot liquid. Line the edges with buttered toast and bake for 30 mins or so at 350 degrees until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving. ( oh and I would suggest letting this one cool off from the oven for a good 20 mins or so before sticking in your mouth – cause its HOT!)

So I pretty much followed directions – although I decided to saute fresh minced onion in a little butter first instead of using the dried instant minced onion called for. I think it was good but it did make it a tiny bit greasy perhaps. I also used an organic, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup instead of regular canned cream of chicken. And maybe my ratio of dairy ( I used full fat half and half instead of milk) was off because I didn’t feel this wasn’t as thick as it could have been coming out of the saucepan and into the baking dish.

Did I succeed? you be the judge…

Just imagine "hot" deviled egg dip!

Just imagine “hot” deviled egg dip! or perhaps a “de-constructed” eggs-in-a-hole with sauce!

Looking back I think perhaps if my sauce was much thicker to begin with the eggs might have been cuddled in better and maintained their shape. But coming upon the hard egg yolk swimming a sea of sauce was kinda fun. But really I just think they photoshop’d the crap out of the picture.

 

Production notes: if you like this dish and you could get it to be all pretty and such with the eggs and their yolks in all that glory – you could easily make this gluten-free and serve with veggies dippers instead – think artichoke spears and roasted slabs of carrot!

New Boss

I recently started a new job and with the new job comes all the usual anxiety. Will they like me? Will I know what to do? Will I make it on time traveling on yet another post-blizzard commute?

So after miraculously arriving on-time for my first day, getting settled in and looking around I realized that everybody was really nice and supportive. About an hour later one of the principles of the firm walked in and passed out a piece of paper to everyone at their desk. Uh oh, first company memo being issued…

Here is what the “memo” contained…. A recipe for a traditional New York Style cheesecake!

That’s when I knew I fit right in!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss' directions!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss’ directions!

You will need a 9″ dia, 3″ tall spring form pan, sprayed and I used a circle of parchment at the bottom as well.

You will also need an electric mixer ( stand or handheld) unless you fancy a good “wrist” workout.

Pulverize an 11oz box of those little vanilla wafers (or the equivalent in graham crackers) and add in a stick of melted butter. Spread this evenly in the pan trying to get it up the sides a bit too. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 Degree ( might want to make sure you oven is nice and clean first or there could be smoking.)

Combine: 5 qty – 8oz bricks of softened cream cheese, 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp of AP Flour, 1 Tsp Vanilla, 6 eggs and beat together on high for 10 minutes until smooth. Scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Note: It helps to have all your ingredients at room temperature and this mixing step is important as it determines how smooth the texture of the cheesecake will be. ( I scrimped a little on this step and the texture on mine was a bit lumpy)

Now add in 1/4 cup heavy cream and mix till incorporated. Pour into the prepared crust and place into the hot oven. Note: it would be wise to put the spring form pan on top of a foil covered sheet pan before filling and placing into oven as this recipe goes right to the brim. It’s easier to clean a pan then your oven.

Bake 10 mins at 500 degrees, then drop the oven temperature to 250 degrees and set the time for 1 hour. At 1 hour turn off the oven and set the timer again for 1 hour and leave it in the oven still. Try not to open and peek during this process. Now remove the cheesecake from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 1 hour. At this point you can carefully remove the outer spring form and carefully wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (overnight is good) I wrapped mine with plastic so it wouldn’t absorb the orders of other foods in my refrigerator but the wrapping is optional.

Author’s note: Mine was quite dark on top because the original directions stated to put cheesecake in a 500 degree oven for 10-14 mins and I went on the long side. I am suggesting that 10 mins may be enough and you should have a lighter crust. But you can always cover that with a little powered sugar!