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Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie and a FREE coupon!

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As you know, I love food. Food is so much more to me than just sustenance and nutrition. It’s more than just putting a meal on the table and feeding my family. It’s an experience. It’s a pleasure-inducing event. It satisfies me in a manner much deeper than just quenching my hunger. But this love of food comes at a great cost, not only to our waistlines, but also to our piggybanks.

I admit that, in the past, I have never been very conscious of shopping grocery sales or monitoring the prices of individual ingredients. I typically plan our grocery trips based on what we feel like eating or what looks fresh and delicious in the store, rather than basing our meals on sales or what we have in the pantry. This approach is deliciously satisfying, but puts our normal grocery spending off the charts. Lately though, I’ve been trying to become more conscious about our grocery spending; buying meats in bulk, planning a few less expensive meals each week, and even using coupons!

Now, couponing is something I’ve attempted in the past and never had much success with. I’d diligently clip my coupons, only to arrive at the store with a stack of savings on things I wouldn’t normally purchase anyway or things which would end up costing me more than other similar items, even after the coupon was applied. But, this time has been different. This time, I’ve started following a few couponing blogs, which have made things so much clearer. I get it now. Not sure why I didn’t get it before, but I get it now!

My Coupon Binder

I’ve learned about sale cycles, stocking up on items at their lowest prices, and matching up manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales to get things for mere pennies or even for free. Yes, free! Why in the world have I been paying full price for toothpaste and toothbrushes when stores are giving away my preferred brands for free almost every week???  Silly, silly me!

I’ve become a little obsessed. I’ve even set up a binder to neatly organize my coupon collection. I refuse to sacrifice the quality of the foods we eat for savings, but why wouldn’t I try to save money on the things I’d normally buy anyway…money which I can put in my vacation fund for some grand, luxurious trip to a tropical locale, where I’ll overindulge in food, drink, and naps. I’ve already picked the place.

So, when I was contacted recently, by Foodie Blogroll (in partnership with Halogen Network), inviting me to help promote some new products from Dannon Activia Selects, with the opportunity to invite my readers to receive a coupon for free yogurt, I was immediately intrigued. When it comes to coupons, it doesn’t get much better than FREE!

My family goes through yogurt like it’s nobody’s business and Dannon is a brand I’ve loved since childhood. I was initially a bit hesitant about using this site to promote new products, but Dannon is a brand I can stand behind and this particular promotion gives me the opportunity to share my love for yogurt, coupons, and delicious smoothie recipes, so I agreed.

Dannon Activia, a yogurt with the added benefit of helping to regulate your digestive system, has recently introduced two new lines of yogurt. The first is a collection of smooth and silky French-style yogurts, which come in cherry, mango, blackberry, and cherry flavors. They’re also offering the French-style yogurt with fruit on the bottom in strawberry and mixed berry flavors. I’ve got to say, I’ve always been a big fan of Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom yogurts, so I’m really excited to try these products.

The second is a line of thick and creamy Greek-style yogurts, which come in vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, and pomegranate berry. Greek yogurts are all the rage these days, and for good reason! They’re thick, smooth, and packed with protein. I haven’t had the opportunity to sample these yogurts yet, but the new Greek-style yogurts are top on my list to try!

You can try these new yogurts too! Simply enter a few pieces of information on the Dannon Activia website or Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

Now…you know I couldn’t let this post go without a recipe! One of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt, aside from straight out of the container, is mixed into smoothies. And this smoothie is a good one! So, use your free coupon to pick up some of this new yogurt and then give it a try in this fantastic smoothie which has the taste of a delicious slice of apple pie a la mode! (Dannon Activia’s Greek-style vanilla yogurt would work perfectly in this recipe!)

Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into small pieces, then toss in the lemon juice. Freeze for a few hours in a covered container. To prepare the smoothie, blend the frozen apple pieces with all other ingredients until smooth. Garnish with a fresh slice of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.

FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 – 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.

Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a ‘$1 off 3 Activia Selects’ coupon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post! Would you enjoy future opportunities to hear about new products and potentially receive free coupons or samples? Or should I just stick to the recipes and leave the advertising elsewhere?

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

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Don’t you just love a good breakfast casserole? Something savory, made with eggs and cheese or maybe something sweet, like a French toast casserole, oozing with cinnamon and syrup? There’s just something so satisfying in its completeness.
For some incomprehensible reason, I’d never even heard of breakfast casseroles until well into my adulthood. It just wasn’t something my family ever made. My first experience with a breakfast casserole was at a monthly workplace breakfast. An unknown casserole sat on the table alongside the tray of bagels and bowl of fruit salad. One scoop of this casserole contained bread, eggs, sausage, peppers, and cheese. I thought, What brilliant genius created this complete breakfast in a baking dish? The following month, someone different made something nearly identical. My workplace was clearly dripping with geniuses. And the month after that, someone else made it again. Seriously, Mensa should send an evaluation team to this place.
Over the years since, I’ve enjoyed numerous breakfast casseroles from various coworkers, friends, and family members. It seems that everyone, except for me, was privy to this genius breakfast casserole idea. And I’m pretty sure that everyone is using the same secret recipe, for every one of these casseroles has been nearly identical (and equally delicious).
Recently, I fell upon a different version of a breakfast casserole that sounded too good to resist; a casserole of eggs with sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Ummm…can you say comfort food?? I’ve made this casserole twice now and it does not disappoint. In fact, my brother-in-law’s response to his first bite was something to the effect of, If I wasn’t already married to your sister, I’d marry this casserole. I’d venture to say that he enjoyed it.
I can not take credit for this recipe, nor can I cite the original creator. It’s one of those recipes which is all over the internet in a hundred variations. Perhaps you’ve already enjoyed something like this, but just in case you haven’t, I needed to share it with you. Make it for breakfast, brunch, or breakfast for dinner. Share it with your coworkers, friends, and family. You’ll be happy you did!
***
Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole
***
Ingredients
  • 8 large buttermilk biscuits, frozen or refrigerated
  • 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage (without casings)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 envelope country gravy mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions

Bake the biscuits according to package directions, using the lower end of the recommended cooking time so they do not overcook. When cool enough to handle, cut the biscuits in half to create a top and a bottom. Set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat, until fully cooked. Use the edge of a spoon to break the sausage into small pieces as it cooks.

Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the baking dish with the bottom halves of the biscuits. Scatter the cooked sausage on top of the biscuits. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of the cheese over the sausage.

In a large bowl, whisk together the gravy mix, milk, and eggs, until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Arrange the top halves of the biscuits over the eggs. Lightly press the biscuits into the egg mixture.

If desired, cover and refrigerate the mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the biscuits during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Quadruple Berry Muffins!

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Have you seen my belly lately?? It’s seriously impressive. I suppose that is what happens when you’re a month away from expecting your third baby! A belly this big requires plenty of delicious treats. And these muffins totally fit the bill! These quadruple berry muffins are bursting with all of the sweet flavor and delicious nutrition you’d expect from fresh berries and yogurt.

Yes, you caught that right… QUADRUPLE Berry Muffins! We don’t mess around with plain old blueberry muffins ’round here. Our muffins are exploding with the flavor of four different berries. A sweet and buttery, cinnamon streusel topping adds the perfect finishing touch. It’s a fantastic way to start a beautifully sunny spring morning.

The recipe which follows is slightly tweaked from the one I actually baked. In my original recipe, I incorporated fresh strawberries into the batter, along with the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. What I quickly discovered is that fresh strawberries get kind of wet and mushy when baked. In my book, that was a less than ideal texture. So, I traded in the fresh strawberries for some creamy strawberry-flavored yogurt. Now the only thing missing from these muffins is a bit of cranberry! Maybe next time we’ll go for quintuple berry muffins!!

Quadruple Berry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup strawberry yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries, coarse chopped
  • 1/2 cup blackberries, coarse chopped

For the Streusel

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with liners. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, egg, yogurt and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir, just until combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the fresh berries. Fill each muffin liner with a generous 1/4 cup of the batter.

For the streusel, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients. Stir until evenly moistened. Use your fingers to press the mixture together into large clumps. Break the large clumps into smaller crumbles over the muffin batter. Gently press the crumbles into the batter.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

Makes 12-15 Muffins

** Adapted from Alton Brown’s Blueberry Muffins

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

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I love brunch; that meal which is so perfectly placed between breakfast and lunch; a perfect excuse to eat breakfast foods at lunch time and spike your orange juice with leftover champagne from your New Year’s celebrations.

A few years ago, I awoke on the morning of a planned brunch with my sisters, set upon making some sort of French toast casserole. Much to my dismay, I quickly discovered that nearly every French toast casserole recipe called for resting the casserole overnight. Clearly, I was not prepared for this French toast casserole idea. But, not to be dissuaded by the small obstacle of time, I continued searching until I landed upon a French toast bake, which could be prepared and baked instantly, using prepared cinnamon rolls.

I made this Cinnamon French Toast Bake the morning of that brunch and a few times since, including this New Year’s Day. I’ve slightly modified the original recipe, which I found to be overly sweet and in need of a few additional minutes in the oven. This decadently sweet dish makes a delicious, special breakfast for Christmas morning, New Year’s Day, or a brunch any time of year!

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

Adapted from Pillsbury’s Cinnamon French Toast Bake

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Butter, melted
  • 2 cans Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls (with icing)
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Light Cream
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 cup Pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the melted butter into a 13×9 baking dish. Tilt the dish so the butter covers the bottom. Cut each uncooked cinnamon roll into 8 pieces. (Set the containers of icing aside to garnish the finished French toast bake.) Scatter the cinnamon roll pieces over the melted butter. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the cream, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cinnamon roll pieces. Scatter the chopped pecans on top. Drizzle with the maple syrup. Bake for 30-32 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Slightly warm the cinnamon roll icing in the microwave for a few seconds. Drizzle the icing over the French toast bake before serving. (You may only need one of the icing containers.)

Serve with additional maple syrup, if desired.

In the mood for a good brunch? Here are a few other previously posted Gourmand Mom brunch ideas:

Traditional Eggs Benedict and Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict (with links to photo guides on poaching eggs and making Hollandaise Sauce)

Breakfast Pizza

Homemade Cream Cheese with Bagels

Brunchy Beverages

PB&J French Toast

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

The Gourmand Mom has a Bun in the Oven

You know how real estate agents recommend throwing a batch of cookies in the oven just before an open house to fill the house with a warm, welcoming scent? Well, they should scratch that idea and throw these in the oven instead. Perspective buyers will be practically licking the walls.

I’d originally planned on making apple cinnamon buns. Then, I ran across a recipe for pumpkin buns and the idea of an autumn harvest bun came to mind. I made a few adaptations to the pumpkin bun recipe, then whipped up a little apple, pear, and walnut filling; similar to a thickened pie filling. Next, I rolled the sweet pumpkin dough with the apple, pear, and walnut filling, baked them, and drizzled the whole batch with a sugary glaze.

The entire process takes a little time, but the result is well worth it. You’re not going to get buns like this out of any can. And just wait until your home is filled with the aroma of warm cinnamon, pumpkin, and apples. Who needs seasonal scented candles anyway??

These buns are moist, doughy, and bursting with fall flavors; an autumn harvest, indeed! The best part is that the reheat really well the next day. So, make them a day ahead of time and reheat in the morning for a special breakfast treat! A few seconds in the microwave should do the trick.

Autumn Harvest Buns

Ingredients

For the Buns:

  • 1 packet Dry Active Yeast
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3 3/4 cups Flour (plus additional flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/2 stick Butter, melted
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup Pumpkin Puree

For the Filling:

  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 large Granny Smith Apple, diced
  • 1 Pear, diced
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup Walnuts, chopped

For the Icing:

  • 3/4 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Water, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to combine. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the milk, butter, egg, and yeast mixture. Add the pumpkin puree. Stir until well combined. The dough should be sticky, but manageable.

Place the dough onto a generously floured surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, gradually incorporating more flour until the dough is smooth and elastic. Periodically, add more flour to your work surface, as necessary, to prevent the dough from sticking.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the kneaded dough into the bowl. Cover with a towel and allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour, until the dough has double in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the water and lemon juice. As you dice the apple and pear, place the pieces into the water mixture. Add the cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss to combine. Place the mixture in a pan over medium/medium-low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the liquid thickens and the fruit becomes tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the walnuts. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a small baking sheet with cooking spray.

After the dough has risen, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10″x12″. Spread the fruit mixture over the dough.

Then, starting with the long end, tightly roll the dough. Cut the dough into 1″ slices. Place the slices onto the prepared baking sheet. Pack them in, if necessary. Let the buns rest for another 20 minutes before baking.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

As they cool, prepare the glaze. Combine the confectioners sugar with the water and vanilla extract. Add additional water, a few drops at a time, until the glaze has the consistency of a syrup. After the buns have cooled for about 10 minutes, drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm.

**The dough portion of the recipe is adapted from the Cooking Light recipe for Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns, found here.

One more little thing… I’ve been keeping a teeny-tiny secret from you all. I’m extremely delighted to announce that I’ve got a bun of a different sort baking in the oven. Our third baby is due to arrive early May 2011!

Coming in May 2011!

Chorizo and Potato Frittata

During a recent episode of Man v. Food, host Adam Richman visited the city of Syracuse, the city I call home. Though, admittedly, I don’t regularly watch Man v. Food, I recorded this episode, since I’d heard there would be a segment featuring one of my favorite places, Dinosaur BBQ. And there was. But the segment which really caught my attention featured a place I haven’t been to, called Mother’s Cupboard, home of the six pound frittata. You heard me right. Six. Pound. Frittata.

Now this frittata is not like any frittata I’ve ever seen. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 5.95 pounds of it is composed of the fillings; sausage, peppers, onions, pepperoni, and a full pound of potatoes. The entire pile of food is bound together with 4 scrambled eggs and served with 4 ends of Italian bread. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to eat and I have a very healthy appetite, but watching Adam Richman eat that entire mass of food turned my stomach just a bit. The small percentage of diners who do manage to eat the entire meal, as Mr. Richman did, get a T-shirt and their picture on the wall. I don’t think I’ll be attempting the challenge anytime soon, but it was sure fun to watch.

I like frittatas quite a bit and don’t make them nearly enough. Frittatas are an egg dish, similar to an omelet, filled with any combination of ingredients and typically finished in an oven. Once you’ve got the idea, the possibilities are infinite. They make a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They’re also perfect for using up leftover vegetables, cheese, or meat.

For my frittata, I made use of some chorizo I’ve been storing and a few potatoes I purchased for another meal. The potatoes get cooked with the chorizo and a bit of chopped onion. As the chorizo cooks, it releases its tasty flavor to coat the potatoes. Once the potatoes are tender, the egg mixture gets poured over the fillings, cooked for a few minutes on the stovetop (try not to burn the bottom like I did), then placed in the oven to finish. A bit of melty Fontina cheese adds the finishing touch.

Chorizo and Potato Frittata

Ingredients

  • 4 Baby Red Potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1/2 small Onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup Spanish Chorizo, chopped
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 1/3 cup Fontina Cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an oven-proof skillet with cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo, potatoes, and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley. Once the potatoes are tender, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Cook for a couple minutes until the eggs appear cooked around the edges. Sprinkle the fontina cheese over the egg mixture and place the pan in the oven.  Cook for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are completely cooked through. The top will appear golden brown and the center should look a bit puffy.

Serves 4

PB&J French Toast

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In the three years and some odd months that we’ve been parents, we’ve been fortunate that our children have been mostly happy and mostly healthy. But during these past few weeks, our littlest guy has been sick. What started as a typical ear infection, treated with amoxicillin, led to an allergic reaction and two weeks worth of running back and forth between our doctor’s office, multiple emergency rooms, and specialists. As this week progressed, we thought we were through it. No more swelling. Very mild, occasional hives. No fever. No pain. Happy baby. Happy parents.

Until yesterday, when my momentarily healthy baby woke up from his nap with a scalding fever and complaining of pain in his leg; the opposite leg from the one which led us to last week’s all-nighter at the ER. Another visit to the doc revealed an angry red throat, seemingly unrelated to everything else. The poor little guy can’t seem to catch a break. A call to the orthopedist reassured us that the additional leg pain was a normal part of the reaction, if anything about these past few weeks can be called normal.

As I’ve learned during these past few weeks, there is nothing more nerve wracking for a parent than having a sick child. Watching our baby deal with all of the symptoms and the resulting medical tests and treatments has been so heartbreaking. The weight of trying to stay informed and make the best decisions for our baby has been emotionally draining. I wish I could just take the sickness away from him; put it on me instead. I’d do it in a heartbeat if I could.

With everything that’s been going on, I have to admit that I’ve been spoiling both of the kids a bit; a couple extra treats after dinner, little presents from the store, endless hours of snuggles. They need a little extra spoiling and I’m equally compelled to give it.

So, when it came time to make dinner this evening, I wanted to make something a little special for the kids;  a little treat at the end of a long week.  My first thought was breakfast for dinner, which is always a treat in my book. Perhaps some banana-nut pancakes or maybe chocolate chip waffles. Then, I started thinking about my comment yesterday, about my picky eater’s love for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And that is how we ended up eating Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast for dinner.

PB&J French Toast

Ingredients

  • 8 Slice of Thick-Cut Bread (like Texas Toast)
  • 6-8 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • 4-6 Tbsp Jelly or Preserves
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp Butter, for the pan
  • Syrup and/or Powdered Sugar, if desired

Directions

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on 4 slices of bread. Spread jelly on the other 4 slices. Put the slices together into 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In a small baking dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. In a pan, melt some of the butter. Dip both sides of each sandwich in the egg mixture. Cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned and the eggs are fully cooked.

*If you’re making a large quantity and want to serve them all at once, heat your oven to about 250 degrees. As you finish cooking each batch, place them on a piece of foil or a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

If desired, sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar. You can serve the French Toast with syrup on the side, though it’s honestly sweet enough as is!

Brunch – It’s the meal that comes with a Mimosa

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There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then there’s BRUNCH, the meal that comes with a Mimosa. Sign me up for that one! I do love a good, hearty brunch! Aside from enjoying my darling breakfast at lunch time, brunch usually means good times with good friends and family.

Yesterday, we hosted our first Brunch to BBQ party. And it was a fantastic success, though we never actually fired up the grill. We started with a wonderful brunch and several Mimosas. Then, we lied around on the living room floor until we felt like we could move again, watched a bit of the World Cup and then headed outside for a few games of Polish Horseshoes. My sister whipped up a batch of margaritas and the festivities continued. Later in the day, we enjoyed dinner and then relaxed in the backyard until it was time to sleep. A great day!

Here are a few details on the brunch…

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Toast English muffins in a toaster. Place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you assemble the other components. In a skillet over medium high heat, cook each slice of Canadian Bacon for a minute or two on each side, until it is hot and slightly browned. Place one slice on each English muffin in the oven to keep warm. Poach the eggs, according to the procedure shown here. Hold the eggs in the cold water bath while you prepare the hollandaise sauce (Recipe here). Prepare the hollandaise sauce and keep it warm above a bowl of warm water. Reheat the eggs by gently placing them in a pot of barely simmering water for about a minute. Remove the eggs and dry on a paper towel. Place one egg on each English Muffin. Top with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately.  Serves 4


*As a little variation, use smoked salmon in place of the Canadian Bacon. Just don’t cook the salmon or put it in the oven!

Salmon Eggs Benedict

Brunchy Beverages

Brunch and Mimosas go hand in hand. Bellinis are another brunchilicious option. Both Mimosas and Bellinis are champagne cocktails. Mimosas mix orange juice with champagne while Bellinis traditionally combine champagne with peach nectar. About 2 ounces of fruit to 4 ounces of champagne should do the trick. Substitute other fruit nectars to make your own variation. For a non-alcoholic option, use ginger ale or sparking cider instead of champagne.

Mango Bellini

Homemade Cream Cheese with Bagels

Make your own flavored cream cheese by softening cream cheese and adding your own flavors. For today’s brunch, I made scallion cream cheese by mixing in a bunch of chopped green onions and an olive cream cheese using a mix of chopped olives. Sliced Spanish olives with pimento would work great too! After you stir in your flavoring, put the cream cheese back in the refrigerator to cool before serving. A few other ideas for homemade cream cheese flavors: Smoked Salmon, Strawberry, Veggie, Blueberry, Honey-Nut, Roasted Garlic, Sun-dried Tomato, Maple, Cinnamon Apple, Cherry Almond, Spicy Pepper.

Homemade Cream Cheese

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

My sister treated us to her breakfast pizza, which as she explains, is based off of a breakfast pizza she saw offered at a Hess gas station. Imagine my surprise! Basing a dish off of something you saw at a gas station?? I suppose food inspiration can come from anywhere! I may base my next Beef Wellington off of Hess’ food offerings. All kidding aside, this pizza is delicious. It’s easy to put together and makes a great dish for guests.

Ingredients

  • 1 Prepared Pizza Crust (my sister uses a whole wheat crust)
  • 1/2 pound Bacon
  • 1 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Cheddar, shredded
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Allow bacon to drain. Then, crumble it into small pieces. Reserve bacon grease. Whisk the eggs together with the milk. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and then cook in a pan until scrambled. Set aside. Brush the pizza crust with a bit of the bacon grease. Sprinkle about a cup of the mozzarella cheese over the crust. Top with the scrambled eggs and bacon. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the cheddar cheese on top. Season with a bit of pepper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes.

Breakfast Casserole

Sarah's Breakfast Casserole

A good friend brought along a breakfast casserole, a delicious mix of eggs, cheese, bread, and sausage. She explained that ever since she enjoyed this dish at a friend’s house, it’s been her go-to breakfast recipe. It’s a great all-in-one breakfast dish that’s perfect for a crowd. My mother in law makes a similar casserole, but she uses peppers and onions too. They’re both delicious. I’ll have to get the recipes to share with you soon!

Part 1 of our day was perfect!  The food, the drinks, and the company were all amazing.

Round 1 Results: Food - 0 The Gourmand Mom - 1

To be continued…

Father’s Day Breakfast in Bed: Strawberry Stuffed French Toast and Bacon

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Are there ways of knowing whether a man will make a good father? Some sort of definitive predictors? Perhaps a checklist or a DNA test? If there were such a thing, what characteristics would they test for? What factors determine whether a man will become a great father?

My husband and I met in college. We certainly weren’t thinking of kids at the time. We were just kids ourselves. Some of our earliest memories involve pitching hot dogs out of his dorm room window to watch them explode. Our attraction had more to do with each other’s beer pong skills than it did with future parenting abilities. Could I have known at the time that he would someday make at great dad? At what point in our relationship did it start mattering? Could I have been certain, even as we said our wedding vows, that he’d be as excellent a father as he was a husband?

I’m not sure it’s possible to be absolutely positive that someone will make a good dad before they actually are one. Parenthood is such a life-changing experience.  It requires more of you than you’ve ever given; parts of you that you may not have known were there. Fourteen years ago, I couldn’t have known whether my husband would make a good father. But over the years, we got to know and love each other. We grew and matured together. And, in the way that he treated me, I came to know a good man; a selfless, considerate, gentle, and kind man.

So, I suspected. In fact, I would have bet money on it. But, it wasn’t until I saw the look on his face, in the moment our first son was born, that I knew for sure. He was a father and a dad all at once, in that instant. And, as I recovered from the birth and a debilitating spinal headache, he cared for our newborn baby with apparent ease. When I was nervous and uncertain, he was a natural; calm and confident. And, since those very first moments in the hospital, he has been a loving, selfless, and devoted father to our boys. The good man, who has loved me for all of these years, turned out to be the most wonderful father.

Did I luck out or were there clues in those early days? Probably a little bit of both. Come to think of it, it probably won’t be too long before he’s hanging out the window with our kids, throwing hot dogs onto the pavement, as they all laugh along. I’ll probably join in.

So, this morning we celebrated my husband, the wonderful father, with breakfast in bed. If I were cooking for my own amazing father this morning, there’d be corned beef hash, an egg over-easy, and well-done rye toast on the menu; a man after my own heart or more likely, I after his! (Love you, Daddy!!) But, my husband’s more of a strawberry-stuffed french toast kind of guy with applewood-smoked bacon on the side.

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Ingredients

  • 8 slices Challah Bread
  • 1 package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 8-10 Strawberries, sliced
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Cream
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Butter, for pan
  • Powdered Sugar, for garnish
  • Maple Syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto each slice of bread. Place sliced strawberries on four of the slices.  Use the other four slices of bread to create cream cheese-strawberry sandwiches. In a small baking dish, beat together eggs, cream, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.  In a pan, heat a little butter. One at a time, dip each sandwich into the egg mixture, so that it lightly coats both pieces of bread. Cook in the pan, flipping once until both sides are lightly browned.  Then, place it on the baking sheet in the oven.  Repeat until each sandwich has been cooked.  Allow the sandwiches to cook for 5-10 minutes in the oven to ensure that they are fully cooked.  The cream cheese will be melty and the strawberries slightly softened. Cut each sandwich into two pieces and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup.

Serves 4

Happy Father’s Day to my husband, my Daddy, and all of the wonderful fathers out there!

Breakfast for Dinner – Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal. I say that it’s also the yummiest. Given the choice, I’d eat breakfast all day long every day. I could just kiss the genius who invented brunch, giving the world a valid excuse for eating breakfast at lunchtime (and drinking champagne along with it). And, some times it just feels right to have breakfast for dinner. As kids, some of our favorite nights were the ones when our mom cooked up Chocolate Chip Coconut Pancakes for dinner. We seriously felt like we’d hit the dinner jackpot.

Over here, we find plenty of excuses to host Sunday brunch, be we don’t have dinner for breakfast nearly as often as I’d like. (My hubby’s just not as enthusiastic about it as I am.) But, tonight, there’s a frozen pizza in the freezer for Mr. Anti-breakfast-for-dinner and I’m making Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes for myself and the kids! (Sorry, hubby.) And, yes, I said Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes. It’s like eating a chocolate covered pretzel, only meatier. Clearly, this isn’t the kind of dinner you’d make often, but it’s a fun treat every once in a while. Tonight feels like that kind of night.

The following recipe is a basic buttermilk pancake recipe.  You can substitute the chocolate and bacon with just about anything that strikes your fancy. So, if the idea of chocolate and bacon, married in perfect pancake harmony, doesn’t float your boat, try cherries with a bit of vanilla, or bananas and pecans, or blueberries.

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes with Chocolate Chips and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Flour
  • 2 cups of Buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbps of Butter, melted
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Directions

In a bowl, combine the buttermilk with the melted butter and beaten eggs. Slowly blend in the dry ingredients and stir until large lumps disappear. Stir in bacon and chocolate chips (or your filling of choice). Preheat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Grease with a little butter. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake and cook until small bubbles start to appear on the top and the edges are cooked. Flip and cook for a couple more minutes, until cooked through. **As you complete each batch, you can place the pancakes in a 200 degrees oven, to keep warm until all the batter has been cooked.

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