Tag Archives: brunch

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

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Berries All Around! | Best Berry Salad

23 Jun

image credit: my mom’s childhood “Fun to Cook Book” printed by the Carnation Milk Company

Jess first made me this yummy treat as part of a little picnic (@ Walden Pond!) we went on when we first started dating. Berries are in season & they’re everywhere! Take advantage of local “pick your own” farms — or the sales in your local supermarket & bring this along to your next BBQ. It’s really easy to whip up & your friends/family will thank you! Extra bonus: it’s healthy too. 

Best Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 quarts of strawberries
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries 
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup “Craisins”
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 
2 Tbsp cane sugar or other natural sweetener

Steps

1. Rinse the berries in cool water & drain.
2. Hull & quarter the strawberries.
3. Put the berries, Craisins, walnuts & sweetener into a large bowl & gently toss with a wooden spoon.
4. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit macerate.  
5. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate. 

Happy picnicking! 

Blueberries All Around | DIY Syrup, Compote & Dad’s Day Memories

17 Jun

I have always loved blueberries & my most delicious memories from childhood (and beyond!) are my dad’s amazing baked goods. We’d wake up on the weekends to freshly baked blueberry muffins (one of his specialties!) or celebrate the 4th of July with blueberry & rhubarb pies. The list of yummy baked confections goes on & on — keep an eye out for future posts featuring some of his secret recipes!

While there aren’t any baked goods featured in this post, this one goes out to my dad: carpenter by trade, baker self-made — & an all around amazing guy. I couldn’t be luckier (or more inspired)!

Inspiration can come from anywhere — a memory, a sale, a recipe, a special birthday, etc. So when ridiculous quantities of blueberries were on sale at a local specialty market & a friend’s birthday (whose SodaStream dreams were about to come true) was right around the corner, I dug out one of my favorite making books, can it, bottle it, smoke it by Karen Solomon, & got inspired!

Blueberry Lemon Syrup (from book referenced above)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (the BEST/freshest available)
2 cups sugar (I used organic can sugar & a about a 1/4 cup less than this)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the berries, sugar & water in a large saucepan over medium heat & bring to a gentle boil (be careful not to let it boil over).
2. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 3 minutes — just enough time to let the berries release their juice.
3. Take the pan off the heat & stir to cool slightly then pour the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl, stirring but not pressing the berries to harvest as much syrup as possible.
4. Reserve the berries for another use (more on that later). The recipe suggests pureeing them in a blender to make a great jam or using them as an ice cream topping, pie filling or compote.
5. Stir the lemon juice & the salt into the syrup.

Storage 

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle for storing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. (I just used a batter bowl with a little dip in the side & that worked just fine — no need for the funnel or extraneous kitchen equipment.)

Making soda

Stir 1 part syrup into 2 parts sparkling water. Add ice cubes & enjoy. (Shot of vodka optional.) It’s very pretty looking & a yummy summer beverage!

Using the blueberry leftovers

I put the leftover blueberries from the syrup making process into a mason jar & tossed it in the refrigerator. I used the compote as a topping for a week’s worth of DIY yogurt parfait breakfasts using a couple of tablespoons of compote, 0% Chobani plain yogurt & Trader Joe’s blueberry muesli. We also mixed some of the compote with fresh berries & used it as a topping for angel food cake. YUM!
 

Breakfast for Dinner | Banana Bread French Toast

29 Mar

When life hands you dry banana bread…then make Banana Bread French Toast!

The banana bread recipe had great flavor, but baked really dense and quite dry. To fix the dryness in the recipe below add an additional banana and an additional 2 TBS of melted butter.

The inspiration for the banana bread french toast came from a breakfast I had with Kate during one of our trips to Austin, TX. The South Congress Café serves up an amazing Carrot Cake French Toast. It has been highlighted on the Food Network and was worth every calorie. I just remember eating that on our last day in Austin trying to think of how I could take the left overs with me, but we were heading to the airport, ha!

(Adapted from Baking Illustrated)

Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf (preferably 3” inches deep)

Ingredients:

2 c King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 c walnuts, coarse chopped

¼ c sugar

½ c light brown sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

2 very ripe large bananas, mashed well **(see note above for change)

1 – 5.3oz container Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

4 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled **(see note above for change)

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ TBS orange zest

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet and bake 5-10 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients including the zest in a medium bowl.
  5. Gently fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, with a silicone spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  6. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Total baking time is 55 – 60 minutes. Rotate the loaf at the 30-minute mark of the baking time. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Banana Bread French Toast Time:

Makes 2 full servings or 4 side servings


Egg Wash:

In a shallow vessel whisk:

2 Eggs

¾ c milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ TBS sugar

pinch of salt

  1. Soak 4 slices of Banana Bread in the egg wash while you are making the topping

Topping:
Combine the following 3 ingredients in a small bowl:

3 heaping TBS of Greek Yogurt (I used Sophia’s Greek Yogurt of Belmont, MA)

½ TBS freshly grated orange zest

½ TBS honey

¼ c Pure Maple Syrup (heated) for drizzling… yum!

Cooking Directions:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 TBS of butter in the skillet. Place the egg wash soaked banana bread slices in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
  2. Remove cooked slices from heat and cut in half.
  3. Place 4 halves of the slices on each plate.
  4. Top with a heaping TBS of greek yogurt topping.
  5. Grate orange zest over the top for garnish.
  6. In a small microwave safe bowl pour ¼ c of pure maple syrup.
  7. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds.
  8. Drizzle over the French Toast and enjoy!

Sunday Scones | Fresh Cranberry Orange Cream Scones

18 Mar

Last weekend, we needed to come up with a sweet baked brunch treat to bring to our friends’ house for a long awaited get together. Little did we know, whatever we brought had to compliment yummy savory quiches (2 types!), a fresh fruit salad & perfectly slow brewed coffee (Stumptown in a Chemex…more on that in a future post). We made scones & it was, after all, a delicious & adorable visit (complete with a baby AND a pup!).

I don’t make scones often but know that they’re best when baked & enjoyed the same day. That said, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5:00 AM on a Sunday to bake two batches of scones. Yes, that’s right, TWO batches. (We couldn’t decide on which recipe to bake so I took a quick poll at work one afternoon. The response was split down the middle. That was it, my mind was made up — I’d definitely make both.)

I searched the interwebs & our library of baking/cook books for information about making the dough in advance and found tips for freezing unbaked scones but very little information about refrigeration. Now that I’m thinking of it – I should have consulted our dear friend, Cobrina – pastry chef extraordinaire. Silly me! Note to self for next time…

Ok, so here are a couple of helpful tips I found in my scone research:

  • As with most pastry recipes, very very cold butter yields the best results
  • Brown sugar is a nice substitute for granulated
  • The brand of all purpose flour matters (really! some are higher in protein than others which can affect the end consistency of the scones)

What did we do?

Well, since we’ve had good luck refrigerating similar types of dough, we figured that refrigerating the cut & prepared scones overnight couldn’t hurt.  So…we made the dough for the two recipes, cut the scones & put them on cookie sheets, covered them & popped them in the refrigerator (precariously balanced on containers of milk and pickles and stacked Chobani yogurt). We tossed them in a preheated oven the next morning. They took a little bit longer to bake (just a few minutes) but it worked out perfectly in the end.

Today, I’ll share our favorite of the two recipes with you.

(Adapted from Joy the Baker’s Fresh Cranberry Cream Scones with Candied Ginger)

Recipe makes 6 scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold & cut into cubes (I froze it for a couple of hours first)

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ cup heavy cream, cold

1 heaping cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries (I had some in the freezer from our late fall trip to Cape Cod to visit my dad – I defrosted them & then cut them each in half)

1 tsp orange zest

1-2 TBS cream (for brushing scones)

For the glaze

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 medium orange)

1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 TBS honey

Steps

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.

2. In a food processor, add flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Give a quick pulse to mix the dry ingredients. Add the cold butter & process until the butter is well incorporated in the flour mixture. Some butter bits will be the size of peas & some will be as small as oat flakes. Don’t panic, this is exactly how it should be. 

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla extract and heavy cream. Add the cream mixture all at once to the flour mixture in the food processor and process until everything comes together & forms a ball. Do not over mix! It will be very obvious when it happens — the ingredients suddenly combine to form a ball – it’s a little magical & less messy (no kneading required…yay!).

4. On a floured work surface, divide the dough in half and press each into a roundish disk.

5. In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with orange zest. 

6. Press the zesty cranberries onto one half of the dough & then place the other half of dough on top. Congrats! You’ve made a zesty cranberry filled dough sandwich…mmm!  Fold the stacked cranberry dough in half a couple of times to combine the cranberries. It will seem like there are a lot of cranberries poking out. It’s okay. You don’t want to over knead the dough.

7. Pat the dough into a 1 ½ inch thick disk.

8. Cut the disk into 6 wedges.

9. Place the wedges 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and brush tops with a little cream. (If you aren’t going to bake them until the next day, skip the cream for now, cover with plastic wrap & toss them in the refrigerator. Brush the tops with cream right before putting them in the oven & note that they might have to bake a few minutes longer because they’ll be really cold.)

10. Bake for 15 minutes until just cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on a cooling rack.

11. As the scones are cooling, in a small bowl, combine the O.J., confectioner’s sugar and honey with a fork or whisk.

12. Once the scones are cool, place a baking sheet under the cooling rack (for easy clean up!). Use a tablespoon to drizzle a little glaze on top of each scone. Let the glaze set before placing the scones on a plate or wrapping them up (this will take about 10-15 minutes).

 Serve at room temperature or warm them slightly in the oven before serving. Scones are best when served the day they are made, but these will last well wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 The result: A tasty scone with really great texture (not too dry & not fluffy or biscuit-like). The tart cranberries & bright orange zest perfectly balance the sweetness of the sugary glaze. We only wish the recipe made more! 

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