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Category Archives: Eggs

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

I haven’t talked a lot about my diet recently, but rest assured, I am still on the path of success. As of this morning, I have lost 16 pounds, give or take a pound depending on the day. I am continuing to follow the guidelines of the South Beach diet, but not without some leeway for splurging. In fact, I spent most of Valentine’s week living on a diet of chocolate, wine, and cheddar goldfish, which in an odd twist of fate, resulted in a quick 2-pound weight loss. I think sometimes we just need to mix things up and splurge a little to remind our bodies that there is indeed no famine and there is no reason to hold onto that excess weight. Somehow it’s never really as simple as calories in vs. calories out, is it?

Clearly I’m not following any hard and fast ‘rules’ as get myself in shape, but what I like about the overall South Beach diet approach is that by mostly avoiding refined carbs, I rarely feel the perpetual, intense hunger and cravings that I often feel when I’m not limiting refined carbs. I can eat a two-egg omelet in the morning and feel satisfied for hours or I can eat a bowl of rice flake cereal, be starving 30 minutes later and then spend the rest of the morning playing the hunger games (not those hunger games, silly). I chose the omelet. It just makes the weight loss process so much easier and a lot less painful. In fact, once you get the hang of it, the South Beach ‘diet’ doesn’t really feel like a diet at all. It just feels like healthy eating.

I don’t believe that refined carbs are evil, nor do I blame their excess as the root of weight gain or applaud their absence as the grand solution to weight loss. But what I do know is that refined carbs cause a rapid blood sugar spike and subsequent crash, which gives you that starving feeling soon after eating, which then causes you to eat more, which causes you to gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle of cravings. And even if you can manage to resist those cravings, you’re still left with that uncomfortable hunger which makes trying to lose weight so darn frustrating. So, for me, reducing my refined carb intake just makes the whole weight loss thing a lot easier.

And there’s still plenty of room for indulgences within the framework of a reduced carb diet plan, like this spinach salad which is topped with a slightly runny egg and drizzled in a bacon vinaigrette. I first ran across the idea for this salad on the Christian Science Monitor website, which regularly features my blog in their food section, Stir It Up. I’ve always been a fan of spinach and bacon salads, but the egg on this one really sealed the deal for me. I just love finding eggs in surprising places, like atop a pile of fries, a burger, or a salad! Not to let any of delicious bacon-y flavor escape this dish, I incorporated the bacon drippings into my vinaigrette. I couldn’t decide whether that was a genius or revolting idea as I was doing it. I firmly settled on utterly genius with my first bite.

This salad isn’t totally ‘legal’ on South Beach, since bacon doesn’t technically count as a ‘lean’ protein. And certainly mixing the bacon drippings into the dressing is not a recommended South Beach strategy. But it’s close enough (and definitely worth the splurge). This salad packs a ton of protein and lots of good healthy nutrition which will keep you feeling nicely satisfied for hours. Just go easy on the dressing and you can feel pretty good about this meal.

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

(Inspired by Beyond the Peel’s Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and a Poached Egg)

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup warm bacon drippings (reserved from cooking bacon)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 8 slices bacon (use applewood smoked bacon, if available)
  • 2 cups baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Cook the bacon according to package directions. Reserve the bacon drippings for the vinaigrette. Once cool, crumble or chop the bacon into small pieces.

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the warm bacon drippings with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper until blended. The vinaigrette will get firm when cooled (from the bacon drippings). Microwave for a few seconds to warm and loosen the dressing.

To prepare the mushrooms: Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender and slightly golden. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To assemble the salads: Place about 2 cups of baby spinach on each plate. Scatter the bacon and mushrooms over the spinach. Just before serving, fry an egg to your preferred doneness (I prefer over-medium…well-cooked white, runny yolk.) Place the fried egg over the salad. Drizzle with a bit of the vinaigrette.

Makes 4 Salads

Diet Update: 16 pounds down and staying the course…only 6 pounds away from my first major goal!

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

I’m going to become an Irish step-dancer. Stop laughing… I’m serious. Well, that’s assuming I can find a dance teacher to take on this 35-year-old mess of incoordination, with zero dance experience, but a whole lot of passion.

It’s just always been one of those things for me. I regret never having done it as a child. Years ago, I told my husband that if we ever had a girl, I’d be signing her up for lessons as soon as she could walk, so I could live vicariously through her. He was smart enough not to argue with me on that plan. But since it seems we’re destined to create a big brood of boys (and they’re much more interested in busting ghosts than dancing), it looks like I’m gonna need to live this dream for myself. Probably best that I fulfill my own dreams anyway, rather than pushing them on my kids, huh?

I’ve contacted a few local Irish dance schools and have yet to find anyone offering adult beginners classes at a time and location I can get to, but I’ve not given up hope yet. This middle age mom is ready to show Michael Flatley who the real lord (rather, lady) of the dance is. Stay tuned…

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day around here, filled with enough delicious goodies to throw me off my diet for at least the rest of this week. Oh, but it was worth it. So worth it. I surprised my loves with this special breakfast, which had everyone oohing and ahhing with each bite. For a weekday breakfast, it’s surprisingly easy to pull off. Simply prepare the ‘sandwiches’ the night before, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. This will actually help firm up the Nutella, which will make the sandwiches easier to dip in the morn. You can cut the sandwiches into any shape or not cut them at all…though the scraps make a really nice snack with a glass of red wine…just sayin’.

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients

For the French Toast:

  • 8 slices white bread
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 4-6 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
For the Raspberry Coulis:
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Spread each slice of bread with a thin layer of nutella. (Fight the urge to spread it too thick.) Place the sliced strawberries on four slices of the bread, then place each of the remaining four bread slices on top to make four nutella-strawberry sandwiches. If desired, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwiches into creative shapes. If preparing ahead of time, wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Eat the scraps.

Lightly beat the eggs with the milk and salt. Melt a bit of the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture. Place the dipped sandwiches in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. The nutella will become warm and melty. (It’s easier to carefully flip the sandwiches using a fork and your hands, rather than a spatula.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

For the raspberry coulis, puree the raspberries with the sugar. If desired, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Diet  Update: Avoiding the scale like the plague this week and enjoying my valentine’s day chocolates. Will be back on track next week…promise!

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Some days, I wish I could go back in time to my fifteen year old self and shake myself silly. The fifteen year old self who thought her chest was too small and her hips too wide for her too thin waist and flat as a washboard stomach. Oh you silly, silly girl. Why in the world are teenage girls programmed to despise themselves so?? What I would give to go back in time to appreciate the beautiful body I never knew I had.

And now I sit here, in my mid-thirties, after having had three kids over the course of four years, wishing my hips were only as wide as they were twenty years ago or that my chest were nearly as small or my stomach as flat. Oh, the lessons we learn too late.

And while I may never be as small as I was then, I am confident that I will regain a healthy and strong figure; a body I am proud of as much for the way it looks and feels as I am for how it has grown, birthed, and nourished my three beautiful babies. It’ll just take a little effort to get there.

I’m 17 days into my New Year’s diet; a diet which I intend to stick with, long past the one month expiration date which many people’s New Year’s resolutions seem to have. Because it’s more than a diet. It’s a shift to healthier living and a healthier, more confident me. I’m feeling motivated and optimistic. Over the past few weeks, we’ve eaten so many delicious meals; cut out the junk we shouldn’t be eating anyway and replaced it with tons of fresh veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. We’re eating like kings around here and our extra pounds are falling off.

I’ve got a growing list of new healthy recipes to share with you, but for now, here’s a quick recipe for a delicious, protein-rich, low-carb breakfast or snack.  These mini quiches hold well for a few days in the fridge and take only a few seconds in the microwave to reheat. You can even freeze half the batch for later use! I added swiss cheese, tender, sweet onions, and crumbled bacon for a tasty play on quiche Lorraine, but the options are endless. Try different combinations of cheese, veggies, and meats to create your personal favorite mini quiches!

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender and golden.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Place a pinch of the cheese, onions, and bacon in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, carefully pour the egg mixture into each tin, just to the top.

Place the trays on the middle oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes. They will look puffed and golden when done.

Makes 24 mini quiches

*Quiches can be served immediately or refrigerated or frozen for later use. A few seconds in the microwave will do the trick for reheating.

Diet Day: 17    Weight Loss: 11    Motivation: Let’s do this!

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
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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.

Spanish Tortilla

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Nowadays, our television is set to an endless marathon of Disney Junior and Nickelodeon. It’s had a slow, but profound effect on our sanity level. My husband and I frequently find ourselves giggling aloud over funny scenes in Phineas and Ferb and Spongebob. And I’d be lying if I said we didn’t occasionally record iCarly while we put the kids to bed, so we don’t miss what happens next between Sam and Freddy. We knew we’d gone overboard when we seriously contemplated spending a small fortune on a special Nick Jr. themed cruise to the Bahamas, which would feature special guests from the cast of iCarly and the voice-actor for Spongebob Squarepants. For the kids, of course.

So, yes… We might count iCarly amongst our current favorite shows, right alongside Community, Modern Family, 30 Rock, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But don’t mock it until you’ve seen it. It’s seriously funny. Or perhaps, with parenthood, we’ve gradually lost our ability to objectively evaluate television comedy. Before you know it, we’ll be blasting the Spice Girls in the car and trying to convince the kids that it’s cool.

Whatever the case may be, I rarely get to watch any of the shows I used to watch in my pre-children days. It’s been years since I sat around watching a marathon of cooking shows on the Food Network, mentally bookmarking recipes and culinary techniques.

But, during my postpartum hospital stay, I had the opportunity to do exactly that. In fact, I watched the Food Network day and night for two days straight. I would have turned it off at night, but I couldn’t figure out how to use the one-button hospital remote and was too embarrassed to ask the nurses about it.

It was refreshing to spend those two days watching cooking shows, instead of children’s television. I left the hospital reinvigorated about cooking and with my mind set on a few new ideas. One of those ideas was so simple, yet something I’d never thought to try; a Spanish Tortilla or Tortilla Española.

A Spanish tortilla is not like the type of flour or corn wrap you’d use for tacos or burritos. It’s an egg based dish, more like an omelet or Italian frittata. It’s typically filled with sliced potatoes and occasionally onion, chorizo, or other fillings.

The main difference between a tortilla and a frittata is in how the eggs are finished. Both preparations begin with the eggs and filling, cooked stovetop in a frying pan. But whereas the frittata is finished in the oven, Spanish tortillas are flipped and finished on the stovetop.

Traditionally, the potatoes in a Spanish tortilla are peeled and lightly fried in a generous amount of oil prior to composing the tortilla. But, due to a grocery shopping oversight, which left me with very little oil on hand, I chose to bake the potato slices, with skins on, until tender. It worked perfectly and significantly cuts down on the oil typically used in the dish.

Serve your Spanish tortilla alongside a mixed greens salad for lunch or as a side-dish at dinner along with some smokey chorizo sausage and sweet corn.

Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes, sliced thin (about 1/8″ thick)*
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
*Low-starch potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or red potatoes work best, since they will hold up to the precooking without falling apart. I used baby golden potatoes.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange potato slices in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Add the green onions, if desired. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and toss to combine.

In a nonstick skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Swirl the oil so that it coats the bottom and edges. Pour the egg and potato mixture into the hot pan. Gently shake and shimmy the pan to help evenly distribute the potatoes. Cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and continue cooking until the eggs appear mostly set, about 15 minutes.

Here’s the fun part… Once the eggs are mostly set on the top, you will flip the tortilla. First, use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the edges and ensure that the tortilla has not stuck to the pan. Then, remove the pan from the heat. Place a large plate over the top of the pan. Place one hand on the plate to hold it securely to the pan. Then, holding the pan with the other hand, flip the pan and the plate so that the tortilla falls onto the plate. Finally, gently slide the tortilla back into the pan to finish cooking the other side, about 5 minutes over medium/medium-low heat.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mac & Chitos, Anyone??

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I love macaroni and cheese; any type of cheese, baked or creamy, imaginative or traditional, fresh or frozen. It barely matters. I love them all. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a macaroni and cheese I haven’t enjoyed for one reason or another. But, I do have my favorites; some for the combination of cheese, some for the addition of interesting ingredients, and some for purely sentimental reasons.

One of my favorite macaroni and cheeses in the whole world is easily my Grandma’s. It is the macaroni and cheese I grew to know and love as a child. I’d know it blindfolded by its smell, taste, and texture. It’s a spoonful of perfect comfort. My grandma, (or Bunger, as she’s lovingly known within the family) uses a familiar combination of Cheez Whiz, cheddar, and American cheese. Crunchy corn flakes complete the comforting dish.

The secret might be in the Cheez Whiz, but I suspect otherwise. Though she didn’t mention it when I called for the recipe, I’m pretty sure the secret ingredient is a hefty dose of love! So, don’t forget to throw some in!

It should be noted that when I called my grandma for the recipe, she couldn’t give me any exact measurements. Like many familiar family favorites, she cooks the dish by instinct; a little of this, a little of that, and a little more of this until it’s right. And you just know it’s right when it is. The recipe which follows is my attempt at putting precise measurements to my grandma’s recipe. It may not be exactly like hers, but it’s pretty close!

Bunger’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 15-ounce jar Cheez Whiz or other cheese dip/sauce
  • 1 8-ounce package shredded mild cheddar or 2 cups shredded Velveeta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), divided
  • 2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 12 slices American cheese or Velveeta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Strain, toss with two tablespoons of butter, and set aside.

In a separate pot, bring the milk and one tablespoon of the butter to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Slightly warm the Cheez Whiz for a few seconds in the microwave. Add the Cheese Whiz and shredded cheese to the simmering milk. Stir until melted and well combined. Crack the two eggs into the Cheez Whiz jar. Close the jar and shake vigorously to whip the eggs. (I’m pretty sure there’s a little magic in this step!) Slowly pour the whipped eggs into the milk and cheese mixture. Stir to combine. Add the garlic powder and pepper. Cook for a few minutes over low/medium-low heat.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and toss to combine. Divide the cheesy macaroni between two large (13×9 inch) baking dishes. Cover the top of the macaroni with the American cheese slices and the crushed corn flakes. Melt the remaining five tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the top of the cornflakes.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbly around the edges.

Makes 2 Large Baking Dishes…one for dinner, one for the freezer!*

*Freeze the extra dish prior to baking. Defrost and bake before serving.

After making this dish, you’ll probably find yourself with a bit of leftovers. And I’ve got the best way to use them! Recently, an old friend of mine from college posted a picture of her newest culinary creation; a macaroni and cheese burrito! I’ve always thought that Sara was one of the funniest people I know. I’m now convinced that she is also one of the smartest! A burrito filled with macaroni and cheese and crispy fried onions for crunch; a Mac & Chito, if you will! Pure genius!

To prepare yourself a gourmet Mac & Chito, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a slice of American cheese in the center of a burrito-sized flour tortilla. Place a scoop of warmed macaroni and cheese on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with a generous quantity of fried onion pieces, such as French’s French Fried Onions. Wrap the tortilla burrito style (fold the top and bottom over the macaroni, then roll). Partially wrap the burrito in foil and bake for about 10 minutes, until thoroughly heated.

Chorizo and Asparagus in a Deconstructed Hollandaise

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I love eggs. I love ’em boiled, fried, scrambled, or poached. I love ’em with hot sauce or just a touch of salt and pepper. I love them stuffed as cheesy omelets or served on top of a huge pile of corned beef hash. Deviled eggs, egg salad, and potato salad with chunks of chopped boiled eggs warm my heart. And I go gaga for bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches, most especially when they come from any bagel shop in NYC.

I love eggs. I love a slightly runny yolk with a thoroughly cooked white. I anxiously await the burst of the yolk between two halves of an English muffin and find particular pleasure in wiping up the drippings with a corner of bread. I love the little bits of scrambled egg which are tossed in fried rice. Oh, and quiche…I love quiche. Egg pie, perfectly genius. And don’t even get me started on Eggs Benedict! Oh, incredible,edible egg…you make my heart swoon!

Of all the ways I love eggs, there is nothing I love more than finding an egg in an unexpected place; in the middle of a pizza, on a burger, or set atop a mound of crispy fries. Or how about gracing a pile of perfectly roasted asparagus??

I like to think of this dish as asparagus in a deconstructed hollandaise sauce. Asparagus and hollandaise sauce are a classic pairing. Hollandaise sauce is traditionally made by creating an emulsion of egg yolks, lemon juice, and butter. A dash of salt and sprinkle of cayenne pepper complete the sauce’s seasonings. It’s a rich, buttery sauce which has a tendency to be a bit finicky to prepare. (Click here to see my step by step photo guide on how to make Hollandaise sauce.)

Today’s dish combines all the elements of asparagus with a classic hollandaise sauce, without the fuss. We’ll fry our eggs sunny-side up in a generous amount of butter, leaving the yolks smooth and runny for optimal dippability. Then, we’ll set the eggs atop piles of roasted asparagus, drizzled with a touch of fresh lemon juice. Slices of spicy chorizo sausage complete the dish.

Chorizo with Asparagus and a Deconstructed Hollandaise

Ingredients

  • 2 smoked chorizo sausages
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chorizo sausages in a baking dish and cook for 25-30 minutes, until thoroughly heated through. Slice the chorizo before serving.

Rinse the asparagus and trim off the tough end. (A little trick for determining how much to cut is to hold one asparagus spear by the ends and bend. The point where the asparagus snaps is generally a good place to trim off.) Toss the asparagus in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place them in the oven for the last 10-12 minutes of the sausage’s cooking time.

To cook the eggs, heat butter in a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat. Crack two eggs into the pan, being careful not to break the yolks. (If desired, you can first crack the eggs into a small bowl or ramekin to ensure that the yolk remains unbroken and then carefully transfer to the pan.) Cook for a few minutes, without flipping, until the whites are cooked, but the yolk remains runny. Season with a dash of salt.

To serve, arrange several asparagus on a plate. Drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Carefully place the fried egg on top of the asparagus and arrange the chorizo slices on the plate. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.

Serves 2


Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

I was well into adulthood before I tasted bread pudding for the first time. Quite honestly, I didn’t really understand what it was and the thought of it was completely unappealing to me. Soggy bread in some sort of puddingy mix? Eww. I certainly wasn’t about to choose the bread pudding option over the 15-layer chocolate ecstasy cake on any restaurant dessert menu!

It wasn’t until I attended a Sunday brunch, at a restaurant which was local to me during my DC days, that I finally had the opportunity to try bread pudding. There, amongst the dessert table of fruity pastries, chocolate croissants, and elegant petit fours, was a large dish of warm bread pudding. This, my friends, is exactly why buffet-style dining delights my heart. I could take a risk-free scoop of that bread pudding without chancing disappointment and without the opportunity cost of my chocolate selection.

Imagine my shock upon taking my first bite of that bread pudding! That bread pudding schooled me, for sure. It was not the soggy, unappealing concoction I’d imagined it would be, but rather a sweet, luscious treat for my palate. Think french toast, but sweeter and richer. I was reformed that day. I’d even consider passing up a heavenly slice of chocolate cake for a scoop of warm, homemade bread pudding. Now, that’s saying something!

Here is my spicy, fruity take on a bread pudding; chunks of day-old French bread, topped with a spiced mixture of dried apples, apricots, and raisins, then baked to perfection in a sweet custard. Served warm, with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon, this treat would make a fantastic dessert or decadent brunch treat for any occasion or no occasion at all!

And if you’re ever in the DC/Silver Spring, MD area on a Sunday morning, check out the brunch at Mrs. K’s Toll House! Have a mimosa and a scoop of bread pudding for me while you’re there!

Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried fruits, chopped (apricots, apples, raisins…)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 cups stale French bread, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream and cinnamon, for garnish

Directions

Place chopped fruits in a bowl. Stir together the apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the fruits and allow to sit for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the melted butter into a large (about 2-quart) baking dish and swirl to coat the bottom and edges. Arrange the chunks of bread in an even layer in the baking dish.

Scatter the soaked fruits in an even layer over the bread. Drizzle any remaining liquid over the bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Pour the mixture over the bread and fruit. Press down on the bread to ensure that all pieces have been moistened. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the fridge and press down on the top again. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm, topped with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Creole Deviled Eggs

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Recently, I was contacted by an organization called The Kids Cook Monday, which advocates for involving children in the kitchen. I’m a longtime supporter of cooking with kids. As a  parent and educator, I’ve seen firsthand the many benefits which early cooking provides, including building motor skills, developing and practicing mathematical concepts, enhancing language skills, and strengthening social-emotional skills. Furthermore, kids who participate in the cooking process are more likely to experiment with a variety of foods.

Here at The Gourmand Mom, my two mini sous chefs are my frequent companions in the kitchen. At the ripe old ages of 2 and 3, they’ve already begun to acquire a depth of culinary knowledge. You’ve already seen my little helpers pop up in previous posts. Some of my recipes have even been directly inspired by the wild imaginations of my tiny chefs (Pepperoni Pizza Salad and Vanilla Soup). As a supporter of The Kids Cook Monday campaign, you’ll be seeing my helpers featured more regularly, ideally once each Monday. The recipes themselves will remain the same.

In some way or another, almost everything I post can be seen as a kid-friendly recipe. To me, it doesn’t take hot dogs or PB&J to make a recipe suitable for kids to help. Just about every recipe has got components which would be appropriate for even the littlest hands to assist with. Young children are experts at measuring, stirring, rolling, pouring and smashing. Older children can even begin cutting soft items, like fruits or cheese. There’s almost always some way to get kids of all ages involved in the kitchen. Even modeling techniques and talking through the steps can be engaging and beneficial.

This past Friday, while my littlest guy napped, I entered the kitchen to begin preparing a few hors d’oeuvres for our little New Year’s Eve gathering. My three-year-old was content in the living room playing with some of his new toys. I hadn’t planned for a cooking with kids activity. But, within a few minutes, my son had climbed up on a chair to get a closer look at what I was doing and began asking, Is there a special step for me to do? I sent him off to wash his hands and grab the new chef’s hat and apron he received from his great grandmother for Christmas. Then, together, we set about preparing the first hors d’oeuvre; Creole Deviled Eggs, a spicy twist on a classic hors d’oeuvre.

My petite chef expertly smashed the yolks with a fork, then added and blended the ingredients which I measured for him. He was excited by the relish, which smelled like pickles and the hot sauce, which he claimed his brother would love. I invited him to taste our creation, prior to kicking up the spicy factor, but my hesitant little taste tester refused. Once the filling was complete, he stayed by my side as I spooned our filling into a pastry bag and completed our hors d’oeuvres. Though he was unwilling to taste our creation, he was more then proud to present his homemade hors d’oeuvres to our guests later that evening.

These spicy little eggs make a great addition to any hors d’oeuvres menu. They feature the familiar flavors of classic deviled eggs with just a touch of grown-up spicy flavor. If desired, you can even split the batch and prepare half in the traditional mild-flavored way and half with the added spice.

Creole Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 12 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Creole Mustard (or Dijon Mustard, if Creole Mustard is not available)
  • 1 Tablespoon Relish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Creole/Cajun Spice Blend
  • Hot Sauce, to taste
  • Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil. Boil for about 10 minutes. Then, rinse the eggs under cold water and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, carefully peel the eggs. Cut each egg in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Place the yolks in a small mixing bowl and smash with the back of a fork. Combine the egg yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, relish, spices, and hot sauce. Add more or less spice and hot sauce, as desired. Spoon the filling back into the egg whites. For a more elegant result, place the filling into a pastry bag and pipe the filling into the egg whites. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 24 Deviled Eggs

A little picky-eater tip: When it comes to food, my children can be just as picky as any children, but it doesn’t stop me from exposing them to new flavors or lead me to water-down their meal plans. It can take a child multiple exposures to a new food before they become comfortable with it. Don’t give in to picky eaters. Continue to expose your kiddies to new foods, even foods they’ve vehemently rejected in the past. Typically, when I’m offering something unfamiliar, I pair it with a side of something known and enjoyed. This way, I ensure that everyone has got a little something familiar to fill their bellies, while also providing the opportunity to become more comfortable with a new food.

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

Secrets of An Avon Beauty Boss

Achieving Beautiful Dreams with Avon

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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