Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHappy Valentine’s Day, nerds! (I’ve been re-watching a lot of 30 Rock lately, can you tell?) Here we are in February already; the second month of a full-on dumpster fire of a year so far. I, generally, like Valentine’s Day for the heart-shaped everythings and the extra reminders and opportunities to say ‘I love you,’ while also acknowledging it’s yet another holiday rooted in consumerism. Yawn. We all know the story by now. In the midst of so much horrible, though, I’m fully embracing Valentine’s Day this year as a chance to spread some big, fat, queer love all over the place – and I’m starting with these Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes!

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHere, we have the best of two breakfasts – blueberry pancakes and corn muffins – rolled into one. What’s your favorite part of a cornbread muffin? The lightly browned and buttery edge, of course! And blueberry pancakes? All of those tart, warm berries bursting in each bite, yes? Lucky you, because this recipe has both, plus the usual melted butter and maple syrup, to boot.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesCould you make these with your go-to cornbread recipe? Yes, I imagine so, but Valentine’s Day is very often on a weekday and who has time for all that measuring when all you want to do is put a plate of heart-shaped griddle cakes in front of your loves, your besties, or your kiddos? No one, that’s who! I’d rather spend that time cooing over someone I adore – Hey, Bear, that’s YOU! – than getting fussy. For this recipe, I rely on a boxed mix because it does the job very well and allows me a great base to throw in a few extra bells and whistles.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesQuick, delicious, and they just feel so dang special, Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes are my new favorite breakfast treat for any day that needs a little bit more love. And, let’s be honest, that’s most days lately. Happy Valentine’s & Galentine’s to all my many loves – I wish I could have each of you over for breakfast, kisses, and a plate of griddle cakes. Someone bring the bacon and the mimosas!

XOXO

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes
Yields 6, 4-inch griddle cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for cooking
  • 3/4 cup of blueberries
  • Maple syrup or honey for serving

Directions
In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the cornbread mix and add the egg, sugar, milk, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Whisk to combine and let rest 10 minutes. When you’re ready to go, heat a frying pan over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to make round cakes or pour the 1/4 cup of batter into a metal cookie cutter that you’ve placed into the pan. I used a 4″ heart-shaped cookie cutter. Do not add more batter than this, simply use a spoon to push the batter to the edges of the shape to fill it. Once the griddle cake has set, add the desired amount of blueberries to each cake. Allow the griddle cake to cook until bubbles begin to form and break on the surface of the cake.

If you’re not using a cookie cutter to create shapes, simply flip the cake with a spatula. Be gentle. The cornbread texture makes these a little prone to crumbling. If you are using a cookie cutter, test that the batter has cooked enough for you to remove the cookie cutter by raising it slightly and observing whether or not batter begins to run out. When you’re sure it is set, carefully remove the cookie cutter (be careful! it’s hot!) and flip. If your cookie cutter is a little more intricate, it may help to slide the griddle cake still in the cookie cutter onto the spatula and then remove the mold before flipping. Cook griddle cakes an additional minute on the opposite site and then remove from the pan. Follow with another tablespoon of butter and the next batch of cakes. You can keep your cooked griddle cakes warm in a low 170 degree oven.

When ready to serve, top your griddle cakes with an additional pat of butter if desired and drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

Mushroom and Kale Egg Bake

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeAdulting is hard stuff. Sure, there are the big things like taking care of kids or parents, unexpected car and home repairs, dealing with awful work situations, but sometimes the littlest things feel the most difficult. These days, one of my biggest dilemmas is finding what to feed myself in the mornings that is convenient, nourishing, and so tasty I’ll be psyched to eat it a few days a week. This mushroom and kale egg bake hits all the marks!

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeI’ll be the first to say that when it comes to breakfast, I’m picky. It’s not that I don’t like all the very many breakfast options available to me, but on weekdays, I almost always want something fast and something that isn’t sweet. I’m up so early Monday through Friday that I can’t stomach much breakfast at all let alone something sugary or even fruity. This winds up eliminating a lot of standard, and quick go-to breakfast items, like smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt. These are all delicious things, but none that really fit what I’m looking for in breakfast these days.

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeA lot of strategizing has caused me to embrace the egg bake as the solution to my problems. Sure, I don’t want to eat eggs five days a week, but with this make ahead, it’s easy to grab it for a few days and pepper the rest of the week with other options. While you can customize an egg bake with anything you’re craving, this mushroom and kale combination is my new and current favorite.

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeWith only a handful of ingredients and a fairly quick preparation, this is the perfect thing to bake off on a Sunday and then feed yourself with it throughout the week, microwaving it for just a minute or so to warm it through when you want to enjoy it. I’ve frozen pieces I haven’t gotten to in a week and after a quick thaw, they’re good as new warmed up for next week or next month. I’m hooked!

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeThe inspiration for this combination comes from a delicious mushroom toast recipe that my mom and I have been making for years around the holidays and that I think of several times a month even when it’s not anywhere near Christmastime, that’s how good it is. Garlicky kale seemed like it would be a good partner in this egg bake marriage with the buttery mushroom mixture and, well, it’s truly kismet.

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeLots of delicious, earthy flavors in this mushroom and kale egg bake, but truly, you can use the base of this recipe to make it your own. Use it to power you through your work week mornings or even as a light lunch. While I cut this into 4-6 wedges and take them  for breakfast, this also makes a great main dish at a brunch or as a contribution to a potluck – Easter brunch recipe, maybe? What will you put in your egg bake this week?

Mushroom and Kale Egg Bake
Yields approximately 6 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon of butter
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
8oz of white button mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon of herbs de provence or dried thyme
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of half & half or heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups of kale, stemmed and cleaned
1 clove of garlic minced
6 eggs
1/4 cup of milk

Directions
In a large skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. While it is melting, mince the shallot and add to pan sautéing and stirring occasionally. You’ll want to cook the shallots about 3 minutes. While the shallot is cooking, chop the mushrooms and then add to the skillet with some salt and pepper and the herbs de provence. You may need to add another teaspoon or two of olive oil to the mushrooms as they cook if they become dry. Cook mushrooms with shallots for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have browned nicely. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the lemon juice, cream, and half of the parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until all of the ingredients are incorporated and then remove from pan and set aside in a bowl.

Cut your clean, stemmed kale into 1/2-inch ribbons and then mince the garlic clove. Wipe out the skillet you used to cook the mushrooms and add a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic clove and sauté for a minute or two until fragrant and slightly softened. Add the kale and toss in the oil and garlic with a little bit of salt and pepper for one minute or until wilted, but not completely soft. Remove from heat, add the mushroom mixture and combine thoroughly. Allow to cool while you prepare the eggs.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a medium-sized bowl combine the eggs, milk, remaining parmesan cheese, salt, and lots of fresh black pepper. Prepare a 9″ round baking dish (mine is 9″ across and 3″ deep) with cooking spray or some softened butter on the bottom and around the sides. Pour the egg mixture into the baking pan and then top with heaping spoonfuls of the mushroom mixture. Use a butter knife to gently swirl the mushroom filling into the eggs and then put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the middle is just set and the slightly brown edges have pulled away from the sides of the baking vessel. Allow to cool slightly and then slice into wedges for serving. Can be eaten hot or at room temperature.

Tomato Pesto Gratin

Tomato Pesto GratinTomato Pesto Gratin may seem like a summer dish if ever there was one, but the beauty of it is that it brings the familiar flavors of your farmer’s market bounty into your kitchen in the dead of winter. Last weekend, I was toiling around the kitchen after a week-long bout of bronchitis, anxious to cook and eat all the vegetables I could find. Having just spent seven full days with a stuffed nose and congested chest, I wanted bold flavors I could actually taste and enjoy. Side note: I’ll never take my taste buds for granted again. Digging through the crisper, I thought I’d make some omelettes, maybe with some red peppers and spinach, but therein, I spied five plum tomatoes that I had managed to forget about during our brief plague.
Tomato Pesto GratinI know, I know, tomatoes don’t belong in the refrigerator, but when illness set in, there was no common sense exercised about what belonged where, for how long, or why. We’re lucky the cats were fed and, occasionally, the dishwasher ran. Quickly, the idea for bruschetta came to mind, but with temperatures dipping well into the negative numbers, a cold salad alongside some eggs and toast, wasn’t all that appealing. But baked tomatoes were my quick next thought, and a damn good one at that. We had them again this weekend and I’m taking the leftovers for work on Monday alongside a salad and a hunk of crusty sourdough that we got this weekend at a new bakery in our neighborhood. I’m already looking forward to it!
Tomato Pesto GratinBecause I wanted these to be sweet, tender, and concentrated in tomato flavor, I seeded the tomatoes and then roasted them for 10 minutes without any of the filling. A little known fact about me is that I actually really dislike the taste of raw tomatoes, unless they’re in something like bruschetta or salsa where they’re broken down a bit by some kind of acid – lemon or lime, vinegar – and then mixed up with a ton of flavors I love – onion, cilantro or basil, lots and lots of garlic…yum!


Tomato Pesto Gratin

Once the tomatoes are halfway to jammy (that’s a technical phrase), I took them out of the oven and filled them with a tablespoon of homemade pesto I had in my freezer from last summer and then topped each little mound with a small amount of shredded  mozzarella and panko bread crumbs. They cook for another 20 minutes or until the tops become brown and crisp and the cheese and oil from the pesto are both bubbling away.

Tomato Pesto GratinThese are beyond delicious and such an easy any meal, any day of the week, kind of recipe. We had them with eggs – and may or may not have dipped our sourdough toast in all of the oil and juice – but these would be good along side a steak, grilled chicken, fish, as much as they’re a meal all their own with a hearty salad. Tomato Pesto Gratin is my favorite side dish of the New Year so far and I fully expect to fall back on it time and time again between now and actual summer. Between now and July, I plan to eat my fill and then some!

Tomato Pesto Gratin
Yields 5 servings

Ingredients
5 plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder, divided
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup of pesto (mine was cold, so it made it easy to scoop rounded tablespoons into the tomato halves)
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs

Directions
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Slice tomatoes in half and scoop out seeds and center flesh. You can toss this or use it in a soup, salsa, or as part of a light pasta sauce at another time. In a bowl, add the tomatoes and then douse with two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat and then arrange in a baking dish that is about an inch taller than the height of the tomatoes. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the garlic powder over the tomatoes and add salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and raise the temperature to 400°F. Fill each tomato half with a tablespoon of the pesto and top with approximately the same amount of shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon 2 tablespoons of panko bread crumbs over each tomato half and top all of the pieces with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the panko is lightly browned and crisp.

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable Medallions

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable Medallions
Hello, friends! How I’ve missed you and this space! While I won’t bore you with all the mundane details, a new job came my way in March shortly after our little getaway to Santa Fe and time has been a hard little beast to track down ever since. With my full-time job now and two classes to boot, it doesn’t seem as if I’ll get a full break any time soon, but the little “me time” I’m carving out, I’d like to put towards this cozy little spot where I make and bake with and for all of you. Send me your love notes of encouragement, yes? Come next semester things will, hopefully, be much less hectic and we’ll get back to much more regular schedule.

A few weeks ago, I skipped out of work a bit early to take a trip to IKEA for some office supplies. A workspace filled with beautiful, modern IKEA elements is a good-for-the-soul workplace, after all! While there, I couldn’t resist a stop for lunch which is where I first encountered their Grönsakskaka, or broccoli and potato vegetable medallions. Have you had these? They’re delicious croquettes made with mashed potatoes, broccoli, leeks and cheese that are then baked and served as a side dish. These are savory little cakes, homey in their density and richness; a perfect accompaniment to the warmer, heavier dishes coming our way as we mosey into fall and winter.

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable MedallionsIntent upon recreating them at home, I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and picked up what I suspected might be in them figuring that if I was slightly off, close enough wasn’t ever going to be bad. When I got in, I did a little research online and found that I’d mostly hit the mark with the suspected ingredients and was only short a leek, which Bear lovingly acquired after I whined about having to go back out to the store – ah, love! Now, dear reader, if you’re a frequent guest of IKEA you may be asking yourself, “Couldn’t this woman have just bought the bag of frozen vegetable medallions IKEA sells in its food section right near the entrances and exits of all its stores?” And you’re right, I could have, but where’s the fun in that?! Us Virgos, we love ourselves a challenge.

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable MedallionsSo here I offer you my version of Grönsakskaka, or IKEA’s vegetable medallions, which are unbelievably close to the original thing and can be available to you in less time than it takes to get to your closest IKEA, find a parking spot, beat the crowds, grab the bag, find a cashier, find your car, and get back to your house. You know, unless you live, like, right next door to an IKEA, in which case, do you eat their meatball dinner three times a week? Four? I’m asking for an (envious) friend.

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable MedallionsThese are great next to a slice of meatloaf, along a roast chicken, or reimagined for breakfast or brunch with a poached egg, a slice or two of bacon, and a lightly dressed salad. Make a batch tonight and freeze what you don’t use for next week. They keep well in the freezer and only need a brief thaw before they can be baked off and ready for your next meal.

Broccoli and Potato Vegetable Medallions
Yields 12 2-1/2-inch medallions

Ingredients
6 medium russet potatoes
1 small head of broccoli – about 3 cups
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 leek
1-1/2 cup of a mild, white melting cheese, such as Monterey Jack or havarti
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of parmesan, divided
2 eggs, divided
3 teaspoons of half and half or cream, divided
salt, pepper

Directions
Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters, and then add them to a large pot with 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover with cold water by about 3″ and bring to a boil. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 5-7. In the meantime, rinse and cut up the broccoli into medium-sized pieces. You can also chop up the stem to include, but you may need to remove its fibrous outer layer first. After the 5-7 minutes have elapsed, add the broccoli and cook an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the potatoes and broccoli are soft and mashable. Drain the vegetables in a colander and allow to cool for a bit.

Cut the root end off of the leek and the top half of the link where the white and green parts meet and the leek gets very tough; discard. With your remaining leek, slice it lengthwise and then into thin half moons. Add the leeks to a large bowl of water and swish them around, allowing any grit or sand to rinse off and fall into the bottom of the bowl. After you’ve done so, drain the leeks in a colander and give them a final rinse and set aside to dry off a bit. In a medium frying pan, add the butter and olive oil and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter is melted, add the leeks and sauté for a few minutes until they start to just turn a bit golden brown at the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, crack two eggs and whisk them together. Reserve 1-1/2 tablespoons of the eggs in another bowl for your egg wash. In the bowl where you initially cracked the two eggs, add two teaspoons of half and half or cream, black pepper, and a little salt. Return to your potato and broccoli mixture and in a large mixing bowl, mash the vegetables together. They shouldn’t be completely smooth, but not very chunky either. A few larger bits of potato or broccoli are fine, as they give texture, but they should be mashed enough where they’ll hold together with some binder.

Add the egg mixture, the 1-1/2 cups of Monterey Jack, and the 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese to the broccoli and potato mash. Stir to combine. The mixture may be a bit sticky, but it should hold together well when shaped. You can free-form the medallions by hand or pat the mixture out into a large rectangle and use a 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter to form rounds. Once the medallions have been formed, allow to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while your oven preheats to 375. When ready, arrange the medallions on a lined baking sheet and brush the tops and sides of each with an egg wash composed of the 1-1/2 tablespoons of egg you set aside along with the remaining 1 teaspoon of half and half or cream. Sprinkle the top of each medallion with parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes or until just starting to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to sit a minute or two, and serve.

Bagel and Lox Cheese Ball

Bagel & Lox Cheese Ball
As an only child who lives halfway across the country, it’s safe to say that when I go home to visit my family, it’s a pretty big deal. If you’re an SNL fan, you couldn’t have missed this year’s Thanksgiving sketch by the ladies of the cast about heading home for the holidays – Back Home Ballers – which feels like an only slightly exaggerated version of my reality. What can I say? My mom misses me a whole lot (it’s mutual, Mom! Promise!). While home a few weeks ago, I was greeted two Saturday mornings with the biggest perk of being a long distance daughter – fresh-baked Jersey bagels! Still slightly warm in the center, they were perfectly chewy and heavily covered in a dense “everything” style mix of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coarse salt, garlic, and onion. Gah, so delicious!Bagel & Lox Cheese BallThese bagels reached true “baller” status, though, when my mom broke out the surprise of lox and cream cheese to go along with them. We bonded over this treat when I was little; when the sight and smell of lox saw my dad scurrying from the kitchen with his nose pinched and me following suit just because it seemed the silly thing to do. Left to enjoy her luxe bagel alone, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I returned to the table one morning and asked my mom for a bite. I had never tasted anything so savory and so delicious! I was hooked and from then on it became a special, once-in-a-blue-moon treat shared between mother and daughter – my dad stayed firm in his position on the matter.

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallWhen I returned to Minneapolis after Christmas this year, I brought back with me some fresh bagels for Bear and I because that’s the kind of girlfriend I am. One who travels with food in her luggage to bring you a familiar taste of home. We gobbled them up in just three days (what? they go stale fast!) and each time I bit into one, I sighed and spoke about the bagel and lox of weeks ago. Laying in bed on the night of the last bagel, I fantasized about the bagel and lox plate at a cafe I used to get here in Minneapolis that was truly a tasty feast, save for the hard, dense bagels they served with it. The Midwest has many perks, but bagels aren’t one of them. At any rate, this bagel plate came with a mound of garlic and dill cream cheese, capers, thinly sliced purple onion, and tomatoes. Mixing and matching ingredients between bites of lox and everything bagel was an indulgent pleasure, but one I’d foregone in recent years because of those disastrous bagels that accompanied it.

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallBut wait – I had cream cheese and purple onion in the fridge…and capers too! I even had, after examining the specifics, all the spices and seeds I’d need to make an everything bagel. All I was missing was the lox itself and that certainly wouldn’t be hard to find. I was onto a re-creation of sorts as I drifted off to sleep. Thing is, though, I knew even as my dreams found me that night that I didn’t want to be bothered making bagels – and anything store-bought out this way was just going to be a cruel, doughy joke even if it was to be smeared with all the right fixin’s. Enter: the bagel and lox cheese ball that came to mind the next morning. Sleep really is good for the brain!

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallIf you’ve spent any time on Pinterest lately, you’ve seen that the humble cheese ball is having a renaissance right now and truly, thank goodness! Why did cheese balls ever go out of fashion? While they might not necessarily be the most chic thing, I’m willing to bet that there’s never any left at the end of a party, no matter what you add to them or what you roll them in. A bagel & lox cheese ball seemed like a natural next step, adding in all the familiar toppings and flavors within the ball itself and covering the whole thing in the crunch reminiscent of my favorite bagel.

It sounded so good in theory, but the execution was tastier than I could have even imagined! All of the flavors I dreamt about, enjoyed around the table with my mom, are right here in this cheese ball. The perfect bite, but wrapped up into one adorable, party perfect sphere! Served with bagel chips or rye crackers, this is the perfect cheese ball for a brunch spread or an afternoon tea party. Won’t you give it a try?

Bagel and Lox Cheese Ball
Yields one cheese ball, approximately 3 inches across

Ingredients
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons of thinly sliced green onions
2 Tablespoons of finely minced purple onion
1 Tablespoon of nonpariel capers, roughly chopped
3 ounces of lox or smoked salmon
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds
3 Tablespoons of poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons of dehydrated onion flakes
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt (I go a little light on the salt because of the salt in the ball itself)

Directions
Leave the cream cheese out to soften for a few hours or microwave for 30 seconds or until soft to the touch and set aside. Slice the green onions, the purple onion, the capers, and the lox. Add all aforementioned ingredients to cream cheese and crack in about half a teaspoon of black pepper. Combine thoroughly together. Put bowl directly into the refrigerator, uncovered, and allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime, cut a 14″ piece of plastic wrap and lay on a flat work surface. After the time has passed, remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator and spoon into a big mound in the center of the plastic wrap. Draw sides and edges of the wrap up together toward the center, shaping the mixture into a ball and twist the plastic wrap tightly shut. Finish shaping the plastic wrap-covered ball into as round a shape as possible. Return to a clean bowl where it will help hold the shape and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

While the cheese ball is resting and firming up, prepare the “everything” bagel coating. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated onion flakes, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl and than pour, in a single layer, onto a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is toasted. Keep an eye on these, as they go from toasted to burnt in a second. When finished, remove seeds from pan immediately and allow to cool completely.

When the topping is cooled and your cheese ball has had time to firm up, remove the latter from the plastic wrap and roll in the the toasted “everything” mixture, being certain you cover the cheese ball completely in the topping. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake Crust

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake CrustWhew! That title is a monster! You might be asking, are all of those things really going to be in this recipe and will it really be good or just plain overwhelming? Fear not, dear readers! This recipe is as every bit delicious as it is a mouthful and I promise to never steer you wrong. If you’re looking for a lovely little Fall-inspired breakfast to have this weekend or later on in the season once the leaves have all wrapped themselves in ochre, this is it. All the flavors of Fall and home in one dish!

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake CrustPrior to moving to Minneapolis, I’d never seen French toast dipped in anything other than your standard egg custard. All of that changed, though, when I found my favorite local brunch spot, Sunnyside Up Cafe, where they rolled their French toast in crushed cinnamon-sugared cornflakes – what a surprising and delicious treat! Their Cowboy French Toast, as they called it, was unmatched in its crunch and caramelization – cornflakes and sugar browned up in butter? Help me, Rhonda!

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake CrustSadly, my beloved Sunnyside Up went out of business a year or so ago and ever since I’ve been thinking of trying my hand at recreating their French toast. I’ve hesitated though because, truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of sweet for breakfast. Sweet and salty, yes, please, but a whole plate of sugary, syrupy breakfast makes me feel off the whole rest of the day. Last week, though, I found a beautiful cinnamon bread at the store and while we’d had a few slices for a late-night sweet treat over several days, it was starting to get a bit dry. As I made my way back through the kitchen en route to the bedroom on Saturday night, I passed it on the counter and it clicked – we could have French toast tomorrow morning! With a plan in place, I left 8 slices out on the counter, took a package of bacon out of the freezer to defrost, and off I went to slumber.

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Conflake CrustThe next morning felt like Fall, with a cooler breeze in the air and the first turning leaves spied from the kitchen window. As I began to gather my ingredients, I came across a lone can of pumpkin puree in the back of my pantry. My initial thought was “You’d better use this remaining can up from last winter before you start stockpiling cans for this season!” and as soon as the thought was complete, my stomach & brain sung “pumpkin french toast!” in unison. The rest of this story is history!

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake CrustThe pumpkin custard here is simple, but tastes like the loveliest of pies – cinnamon, vanilla, & cardamom all join the milk and eggs to round out the flavors of Fall. Rolled in a mixture of crushed cornflakes, sugar, and some more cinnamon, the French toast takes on this hard, crisp exterior that holds up well to a pat of butter and your best maple syrup. In fact, you don’t even really need the latter as this recipe is so delicious on its own, but why stop at pumpkin french toast with cinnamon sugar cornflake crust? A drizzle of maple syrup, a slice or two of bacon, some fresh berries and this is the stuff of dreams – autumnal dreams! Serve this to your favorite wearer(s) of plaid & enjoy!

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake CrustNote: Exciting news at Femme Fraîche – I was able to upgrade my camera just last week, which means I have a bunch more megapixels to capture and play with. While these photos were taken with the new baby, it was less than 24 hours after its arrival, so they might not look so great while I get up to speed on all of the new bells & whistles. Prettier (less grainy?) photos to come!

Pumpkin French Toast with Cinnamon Sugar Cornflake Crust
Yields 8 slices of French Toast

Ingredients:
8 slices of a sturdy bread, such as brioche, that has been left out on the counter overnight or is a few days old
3 eggs
1/2 cup of whole milk or half & half
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, separated
2-3 shakes of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of cardamom
5 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, separated
1/3 cup of canned, pureed pumpkin; not canned pumpkin pie filling
2 cups of cornflakes
Small pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons of butter, plus more for serving
Maple syrup, optional
Fresh berries, optional

Directions:
Set out 8 slices of bread overnight to dry out a bit so that they will absorb maximum pumpkin custard and flavor when you make your French toast. In a resealable gallon bag, pour 2 cups of cornflakes, 1-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 5 Tablespoons of sugar, and a small pinch of salt. Crush together until all of the cornflakes are broken down coarsely. Pour contents onto a large platter and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the 3 eggs and milk until well incorporated. Add the remaining cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and vanilla. Whisk together, then add the pumpkin puree and stir until combined.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat as you dip each piece of bread in the pumpkin custard. Depending on your bowl, you can submerge each piece for a minute or so, or soak each side for approximately a minute each. When your bread has absorbed a enough custard, transfer to the platter of cornflakes and coat with the mixture. Pat mixture onto both sides with a little pressure so that the cornflakes adhere well. Add to melted butter in the pan and follow suit with 3 others slices. Cook in two batches of 4 for approximately 3-4 minutes a side or until cornflakes are golden brown and smell of caramelized sugar and butter. Use remaining two tablespoons of butter to melt in the pan between batches.

When finished, allow French toast to sit for 2 minutes so that the coating hardens up. Top with a pat of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, and fresh berries if desired.

 

Strawberry Lime Yogurt Cake

Strawberry Lime Yogurt CakeI love the overabundance of fruit and veggies in the summer. Not only because it means there are more options of what to make, but also because it’s a challenge to discover new recipes and create your own in using up what you have on hand. Some of my tastiest dishes have come out of staring into the deep abyss of the refrigerator, or at a dwindling fruit bowl, and thinking, “What am I going to make with these remnants?” or, shamefully/more realistically, “What should I make with all of this before it’s past its prime?” The latter is exactly what occurred a few weeks ago when I overbought on strawberries thinking I was making shortcake for a party and then changing my mind at the last minute. It’s not like it’s hard to just eat strawberries – they’re my favorite of all the berries – but they take a turn for the worse so quickly that having them around, without a plan, makes me fret. Those red beauties aren’t cheap! Strawberry Lime Yogurt CakeSeeing them looking back at me from their front-and-center spot in the fridge made me start hunting around for flavors that pair well and before I knew it, I had limes and was on my way to a baked good of some sort. Inspired by all of the gorgeous strawberry buttercream-topped desserts I keep seeing online, I knew I wanted to make a cake, but didn’t have the energy or the ingredients to go in that direction. Instead, I thought a loaf cake of sorts would be just the ticket and with the added bonus of having some yogurt on hand, things quickly took shape. The yogurt and sour cream combo in this cake keeps the crumb super moist, but also lighter than if you used only sour cream. The tang of both plays well with the sweetness of the berries and mirrors the lime, which makes everything feel so fresh and summery. Because when I think “lime,” I almost always think of “coconut,” I substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil and put some unsweetened flakes in the batter too; the result was subtle, allowing the strawberries and lime to shine, but present enough that it gave the cake a bit of a tropical feel.

Strawberry Lime Yogurt CakeServed with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, ice cream, or just on its own, this cake is the perfect light, refreshing end to a summer meal. It also makes a great gift to welcome a new neighbor or to say “thank you!” to a friend because it’s a small, easy-to-transport cake with not a lot of frills to make it messy. Plus, it’s pretty as a picture. What a keeper!

Strawberry Lime Yogurt Cake
Yields one loaf cake; adapted from here.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole-milk is preferred, but non/low-fat works well too because of the sour cream addition)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, plus 1 teaspoon or so for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using approximately one teaspoon of melted coconut oil, grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the 1-1/2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt, and add the unsweetened coconut flakes. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, one cup of sugar, eggs, lime zest, vanilla, and coconut oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients, a bit at a time, into the wet ingredients and whisk gently until all is combined. Toss the strawberries in the remaining tablespoon of flour and fold gently into the batter. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a cake tester is inserted into the center and comes out clean. While the cake is finishing cooking, cook the 1/3 cup of lime juice and remaining one tablespoon of sugar together in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and set aside. When the cake is finished baking, allow it to cool for 10 minutes and then gently flip it out onto a cooling rack. Put the cooling rack over a sheet pan or cutting board to prepare for glazing. While the cake is still warm, poke a few holes into the top with a fork or a skewer and then pour the lime-sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak into the cake. If desired, sprinkle with some additional coconut flakes – I would have done this, but ran out! Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

Berry Scones with Orange Cardamom Glaze

I, easily, fall victim to the bounty of fruits and vegetables that flood the supermarket this time of year; sometimes, to the point of detriment. In that I’ll be so overwhelmed with all of the delicious, fresh offerings that I’ll buy a few too many tomatoes or an extra pound of peaches and then scramble for ways to use them as I notice them starting to go soft a week or two later. I always find something to do with them, but sometimes it makes for some mismatched meals.

Luckily, I always know what to do when I have berries on their way South, which is exactly the situation I found myself in this week after I had stocked up on some good strawberry and blueberry sales a week or so prior. I’d already eaten many of them on their own, dotted on top of cereal, blended into smoothies (some of which were actually milkshakes that I called “smoothies,” shhh!), and even in a balsamic vinaigrette I’d made poured over grilled chicken atop salad. Delicious! When I happened on their overripe siblings yesterday while searching for a snack, I knew I wanted to use them in a sweeter application, but also something that could handle and disguise the fact that they were past their prime.

Muffins? Sure, muffins are delicious, but why make muffins when you can have their sophisticated cousin, scones? Have you properly met? Scones are simple to execute, but sound and look special, maybe even snooty! Undoubtedly this is because of their being good, proper teatime fare. Scones, though, prove themselves worthy of the fuss. They have a much dryer crumb than the muffin, but in their airiness, they are also deliciously buttery and light all at once. With blueberries and strawberries folded in, they make for a slightly sweet breakfast treat on their own or accompanied with butter and jam for spreading. Better yet, spoon on some clotted cream and lose sense of everything else happening around you. True story: Bear thought I should make clotted cream to accompany this post. Like it was NBD. Like I should just get to it after I churn some fresh butter or something.

Anyway, these scones are delightful in their simplicity as is, but bumped up with the addition of a quick glaze of orange and cardamom that adds a different kind of sweetness and a bit of spice. When it hits the hot scones, the glaze gives off a wonderful scent of citrus with warm notes similar to ginger and cinnamon. The glaze is the perfect compliment to the roasted berry flavor and, because they’re a sturdier crumb, the scones hold up to the glaze well. This is a pairing of flavors I think I’ll come back to again and again.

Mixed Berry Scones with Orange & Cardamom Glaze
Yields 8 scones

Ingredients:
For the scones
2 cups of flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of cold butter
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh berries of your choice

For the glaze
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons of orange zest
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon of butter
1 small pinch of cardamom (a little goes a long way!)

Directions:
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and then mix it into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or a fork. When finished, the mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Fold the wet ingredients into the flour and butter mixture gently until just incorporated; if a bit of dry crumb remains on the bottom, that’s fine, you just don’t want to over-mix.

Dump the ingredients onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Sprinkle the berries (I used blueberries and strawberries; with the latter, you’ll want to dry them a bit with a paper towel after dicing and before integrating them into the dough) in an even layer onto the dough and then fold it over onto itself. Repeat this process once more or until all berries are incorporated throughout the dough. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the dough is refrigerating, make the glaze by combining the above ingredients and set aside. When you are ready to roll out the scones, preheat the oven to 400°F and transfer the disk of dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the disk into 8 wedges with a sharp knife or pizza cutter and assemble the wedges on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Leave a few inches of space between wedges, as they will grow in size as they bake. Bake the scones for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. After 5 minutes, transfer to a baking rack to cool.

If planning to serve that day, drizzle glaze over warm scones and enjoy. If not, store the cooled stones in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, warm them and apply glaze before eating.

Almond & Banana Espresso Smoothies

I’ve been following the trend of making smoothies lately for breakfast or afternoon snacks and I have to wonder why I waited so long. They satisfy so many of my needs in that they’re filling, good for you, and super delicious. What’s more is, depending on what ingredients you choose, they can be super refreshing or a great 3pm pick-me-up. Plus, they’re a good way to use up the too-ripe fruit sitting on your counter or stashed in the freezer for a better day.

Morning and mid-afternoon are my groggiest times of the day, though, and often find me searching for coffee, soda, or tea (two bags for extra punch, please!). The idea of double-fisting smoothie and one of these caffeine-fueled beverages doesn’t exactly appeal to me, but combining the properties of coffee with the smooth, cold, creaminess of just the right smoothie is downright inspirational! Thus, what led me to creating this almond & banana espresso smoothie last week.

There’s no chocolate for it to pair with in this smoothie, but it does add depth to the overall flavor while not overpowering the main flavors of banana, cinnamon, and honey. I also used almond butter here – yay, protein! – but peanut butter works perfectly fine, too. all nut butters are created equal in my house. If you use regular (non-natural) peanut butters, like Peter Pan or Skippy, you might want to halve the honey at first, taste it, and then add more if needed. This is a smoothie combination I know you’ll come back to time and time again, it’s that good. It also doesn’t hurt that it goes the extra step of giving a caffeine boost. Aside from bacon, what more could you ask of from your morning?

Almond & Banana Espresso Smoothies
Makes 1 breakfast smoothie or 2 snack portions

Ingredients:
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of almond butter
1 ripe banana, cut into chunks
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons of honey
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of ice

Directions:
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon, if desired. Serve cold.