recipes


Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

I love awards shows. I do. Yes, they drone on and on and sometimes, maybe get to be a bit long. And sometimes the hosts disappoint. But you know what doesn’t disappoint? The dresses. Oh the dresses. Whereas the Oscars tend to lean towards the “fancy fancy”, the Globes tend to sprinkle in some crazier options for attire. Then there’s the general unexpected, like celebrities tripping and falling. As someone who often does so herself at inopportune times, I live for seeing stuff like that. It makes me feel better.

I had a few friends over for a night of red to line up with the red carpet. There was (mostly) red wine, red meat (chili), and red velvet cupcakes. I thought chili would be a perfect simple awards show meal – filling but not so labor intensive that I wouldn’t be able to sit down and hang out with everyone myself. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

You can easily replicate the mix of spices that I usually buy in a packet, but I’ll admit I usually just buy it because it makes whipping this up even easier and possible to do so on varying levels of spiciness. I’ve been using the McCormick brand mix, and opting for some alterations – the simple one that looks like this:

Ingredients

  • 1 spice pack chili mix
  • 1 pound ground beef (can substitute turkey)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 jalapeño (diced) – optional
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese – optional
  • Crackers – optional

First, brown the ground beef. Drain. Separately, sauté the diced onions. Incorporate the onions in with the beef, adding the spice mix, both cans of tomatoes, and jalapeños (optional). I suggest dipping in a spoon and testing the spice level. If it’s not enough, you can add in more chili powder or even more jalapeños. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve as preferred. I love sharp cheddar cheese and a smattering of crackers. Sour cream also makes for a fun addition.

Looking for a different kind of chili? Check out my prior post on pumpkin turkey chili.

On a related topic, which Golden Globe winner do you want to see first? American Hustle, August Osage County, and Dallas Buyers Club are on my list.

When we went apple picking at Harbes Farms, I thought 1/4 peck didn’t sound like it was really that many apples. Granted, I’m working with double that but still, I’ve been surprised just how few apples most recipes require and how many, at this point, I still have left! Of course, going apple picking again this past weekend in Vermont didn’t help with the apple situation, but that’s another story.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make an apple tart with more of these apples for date night. It seemed perfect timing that I received a great looking recipe from Tasting Table for a Brown Butter Apple Tart. Since I actually don’t have a tart pan and didn’t want to be the grand hold up on dinner, I ended up simplifying, skipping making my own crust and using a crust from the store. It’s hard to feel guilty about this shortcut when your store carries crusts made entirely from Nilla Wafers.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise, scrapping out the seeds from the pod with the tip of a knife)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 semi-tart apples

First, you’ll need to make the filling. To do so, you’ll whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Separately, heat the sticks of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add in the scraped vanilla seeds as well as the vanilla bean pod. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat until the butter foam begins to subside and turns a deep golden color (rougly 5 minutes).

Remove the saucepan fromt he heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pod halves and then whisk the butter into the original egg-sugar mixture. (Full disclosure: I accidentally didn’t keep the egg/sugar separate from the butter/vanilla bean. While I didn’t get quite the same brown butter effect, I kept going and the tart was quite good. If you mess up something, keep on going!)

Then whisk in the flour and salt, whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Next, you’ll need to cut the 3 apples into rings. The best apples to use are something like Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Pink Lady. The apples need to be peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (ideally into ¼-inch thick rings). I can only assume this would be infinitely easier if you happened to own an apple corer. I, naturally, do not. No big deal, right? Wrong. This made coring and slicing the apples a bit more difficult. Arrange the sliced apples into a an overlapping concentric circle. Add a few apple at the center as well. I’ll admit that when I did this I looked at the apples, neatly situated in the pie crust, and assumed this was going to be one ugly pie-tart.

But fret not. The filling magically filled in the gaps and covered over the non-uniformly sliced apples. Finally, you’ll slowly pour the prepared filling over the sliced apple. Since the filling is a bit thick, allow time for it to make its way through the spaces between the apple slices to make sure you don’t overflow. Stop once the filling reaches ¼-inch from the top of the crust.

Place the pie-tart on a baking sheet in the oven, baking until the colof of the apples is deep golden-brown. Make sure the center of the pie is also set and that the filling does not move when the pie is jostled. This should take around 1 hour. Once it is done, remove the baking sheet and the pie-tart from the oven, transferring it to a surface to cool for 2 hours. It’s lovely served with simple vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy!

It’s become tradition the last four years that it’s not truly fall until a trip to Long Island happens – four friends escaping the city for a day of  fall fun. There’s brunch, cider donuts, tastings at North Fork wineries, and a corn maze. This year though, the trip came early enough that there was a new option – apple picking.

I can’t recall ever having been, though I’ve long had a fondness for apple season (likely due to it coinciding with my birth month, which I believe every kid automatically loves). I’ll admit, from the setup, I wasn’t sure how fun it would be for us adults. We arrived at Harbes Farm and were surrounded by strollers and children, one who thought it was funny and cute somehow to reach up and grab my rear as we waited in the super long ride to be taken around and into the orchard.

The line managed to move relatively quickly. We were set loose into our permissible rows (only certain rows are opened at a given time in an attempt to ensure the orchard is not completely ravaged). Thankfully, they opened an additional row while we were there as the rows up to that point were bare, with almost all of the apples decorating the floor.

We ended up with roughly 16 apples. So many apples to put to use! The first thing on my “to make” list was a no-brainer: apple butter. Growing up, this was an annual thing in our house. Homemade is in fact way better than anything you can buy in the store. My parents would make a batch, freeze it into smaller containers, which we’d then thaw and use over time. It lasts quite well and it’s perfect with fresh buttermilk biscuits.

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds of tart apples
  • 4 cups of cider or apple juice (plus extra, in case – see below*)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

I don’t have an apple corer, so I started by peeling and cutting the apples into slices. The original recipe I used (same my parents have used) intended to make the apple butter extremely smooth. I prefer it a bit chunky, highlighting the fresh flavor of the apples, so I prefer this rendition. Cook the apples in the juice (I used apple juice) until they are soft. This will take around 30 minutes.

Then boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, you’ll need to stir in the sugar and the spices.

Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a gentle boil, stirring freqently until you reach the desired thickness.  The recipe claims this should be around an hour, but I found this to be much less as I halved the recipe.

The apple butter will thicken once it cools, so take the pot off of the heat and watch as it cools. *If it thickens too much, use additional apple juice to thin it out, adding and stirring in gradually. Allow to fully cool before you can or preserve (I freeze mine in small containers, which I then heat up when I wish to consume).

Group & action shot courtesy of Joey Pasion.

I had sinus surgery last week (fun times!) so I’ve been enjoying a pretty low-key several of days. Yesterday my sister and her boyfriend came over along with my boyfriend and my mom made the basic meatball from The Meatball Shop’s cookbook. Really, it was like the restaurant inside your own home – amazing. So good. We ate meatballs and polenta and watched the Alabama football game (Roll Tide!) and relaxed. I decided it was a good time to pick something and put my new KitchenAid mixer to work. Isn’t she pretty?

I was looking at cakes and cupcakes, but wasn’t feeling inspired. I then decided what I really wanted was oatmeal cream pies! Like the Little Debbie variety, but homemade (of course). I started looking through recipes online. There weren’t too many varieties. Some were gluten free. Some were making odd substitutions to make it super healthy (and I didn’t want to have to buy all of those additional ingredients that one required – too much money and hassle). Several also used marshmallow cream, which I need to look at the Little Debbie box, but that just didn’t sound right to me.

I ended up going with Martha Stewart’s recipe, because Martha usually knows best. The recipe was quite simple, although I always know going in that even though Martha says it’ll only take 30 minutes, that’s never the case for me.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking variety)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I omitted this)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl, beat butter, brown and granulated sugars, and molasses on high with an electric mixer, scraping down bowl, until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Then add the vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. You’ll need to scrape down the bowl after each addition.

Next with mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in oats (and raisins, if you chose to add them). Drop dough in 2-tablespoonful mounds, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. I actually had to do in two batches since it ended up being too many for two baking sheets. Crowding them will squish your cookies a bit, and may make them take longer to bake. Bake until cookies are just set at edges and slightly soft in middle, about 11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets for around 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until light for around 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Use a small spatula to spread the filling on the flat (bottom) side of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.

I thought these came out quite good! Recipe claimed it would yield 13 and I ended up with 12, so quite close to what I was expecting. These were close to the Little Debbie originals. The cookies were nice and fluffy. The filling is slightly different from the originals though (but tasty in its own way). I’d be curious to try out some of the other fillings to use with these cookies, but I think this cookie recipe is just about perfect!

And after a day of cooking and all this company, Dixie was ready to call it a day.

When I went to the Farmer’s Market to get blueberries to make this blueberry cobbler, let’s say I was a bit off on the amount of blueberries I needed. As in off by a lot. I ended up putting some in the freezer, figuring I’d come up with something else to do with them. When JB mentioned she had a blueberry banana bread recipe she was crazy about, I figured I’d give it a go. It turned out to be a quick, easy way to put the blueberries to use, and I even had enough for two loaves!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Coat your 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Whisk the buttermilk, brown sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Then stir in the mashed bananas.

Whisk whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a separate medium bowl.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (don’t over stir). Fold in blueberries. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool for about 2 hours before slicing.

The first time I made this recipe, I didn’t have a wire rack (it got lost somehow in the move). Don’t underestimate the power of a good wire rack! I ended up with my bread not cooling enough. Half of it was put too quickly into a container and ended up having to be thrown out. No bueno. The second time, I had the wire rack out, let it cool for a while, and then sliced. I keep the bread in little Ziploc bags, perfect to grab and take into the office.

Several weekends ago, I felt compelled to try Guinness pancakes at Alchemy in Park Slope. It was the first weekend after we returned from Dublin and when I saw them, it seemed like they were there just for me.

When the server brought them over, hey seemed nice and fluffy. They were perfectly cooked to a light golden brown and were topped with fresh fruit. When I took my first bite though, I found them to be dry. As for the flavor, the Guinness was barely detectable at all. If I’d not ordered them myself, I don’t think I would have caught that they were even flavored. (Side note – I hear Alchemy is great for dinner, so I’ll definitely be back for another visit.)

T and I started talking though and decided that the weekend after his birthday, I should give them a try. I found that the Internet loves to *talk* about Guinness pancakes, but only a select few actually share a useable recipe. I grabbed the one that seemed like it would work the best and was curious to compare the end result. The recipe makes around 12 4″ pancakes. Allow approximately 10 minutes prep time (can be prepared and left in the refrigerator overnight) and about 20 minutes cook time.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ cup milk (¾ cup buttermilk can be substituted to replace both the milk and the lemon juice)
  • 1 cup flour (I tried just regular all purpose)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (plain, vanilla, or honey – I used vanilla)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup Guinness Draught
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (I substituted 1 tsp. maple extract)

Stir the lemon juice into the milk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon. Add the egg, yogurt, and butter into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk gently. Add Guinness, vanilla, and milk mixture to the batter. Whisk until blended.

Heat a griddle, or you can also use a frying pan. When it is at the right temperature, drops of water will sizzle when dripped onto the surface.

Use ¼ cup of batter per pancake. Let the batter sit for about 2 minutes before flipping. I’m not sure the location of the blogger I found the recipe from, but my “pancakes” came out more like crepes. Not bad at all, but was not what I was expecting. With a bit of care and skill, I was able to get them to flip without breaking. I also realized very quickly that the darkness of the pancake does not indicate it being burned. I panicked after a couple turned out on the dark side but was able to confirm with a quick taste test that everything was just fine. One very important note from the recipe is that due to the carbonation in the beer, the pancakes will bubble more than normal pancakes, so you won’t be able to use this to determine when to flip the pancakes.

Cook the pancake on the other side for about a minute. Remove from heat and repeat prior step with the next 1/4 cup of batter until all batter is used. I followed their tip of keeping the pancakes warm while cooking others, put them in a 200-F oven. Serve immediately.

These were actually quite tasty Guinness crepes. The recipe did state that if you like thicker pancakes, that substituting self-rising flour may make sense. They also recommended divide the egg, incorporating the yolk to the dry ingredients as usual. Then beat the white on high for thirty seconds until it is frothy. After the Guinness, milk, and vanilla have been added and the batter whisked, you would fold the egg white is folded into the batter. Worth a shot!

Since moving, I’ve become slightly obsessed with my local farmer’s market. To round out the end of T’s birthday week of fun and tasty things, I picked up what (accidentally) turned out to be a lifetime supply of blueberries to make blueberry cobbler. The best thing about the recipe is that it reheats quite well, as unless you’re entertaining a crowd, it makes more than you’ll need for just one meal.

The recipe was quite easy. I wasn’t sure before, but the comparison that 1 pint container is the equivalent of 2 cups of blueberries is in fact accurate. I’m sorry I ever doubted you Internet.

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer's market blueberries

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer’s market blueberries

Because I’ve recently become obsessed with it, I ended up choosing to substitute coconut palm sugar for 2/3 of the overall sugar in the recipe. It made it come out a bit darker in color, but I loved the flavor. This recipe was quite simple and is a great way to incorporate whatever seasonal fruit strikes your fancy. The original recipe referenced blackberries. I used blueberries. Next time, perhaps peaches or mixed berries!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups, white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water just until the mixture is evenly moist. I went ahead and used the whole amount this time around, but monitoring more than I did is probably the smart way to go!

Disolve the corn starch in cold water in a separate bowl. Mix in the remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blueberries. Transfer the mixture over into a cast iron skillet and bring it to a boil, stirring often. Drop the dough into the skillet in small spoonfulls, placing them spaced out across the skillet. Then place the skillet on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes, until the dough on top is a golden brown. Serve with ice cream, if you are so inclined. (The simple vanilla bean from Turkey Hill made for an inexpensive and excellent additionl when I made this!)

I spent this past weekend in Vermont with a wonderful group of people as a part of Alejandra RamosSweet Escape, a long weekend filled with culinary and crafting activities at Good Commons in Plymouth, Vermont. I knew I was in from the moment I read about the concept. I love Vermont, and this sounded like a perfect way to get out of the city for a long weekend (and the idea that we would be enjoying Alejandra’s amazing cooking all weekend definitely didn’t hurt). I’ll be sharing more about my experience there in the coming days/weeks.

My main goal for the weekend, aside from relaxing and disconnecting (as much as possible) from social media was to get some inspiration to start cooking more. I have a big move coming at the end of the month. I will be moving into my own place, which means a kitchen all to myself and, oh yes, full responsibility for all of the bills! Let’s just say cooking in home might be featured here more prominently, with restaurant reviews still here, but less frequently.

One of our sessions about midway through the weekend focused on making jelly. Not just any kind of jelly. Wine jelly. We were lucky enough to get to spend some quality time with Nancy, the master of all things jam or jelly at The Potlicker Kitchen. She walked through the basics of making and canning jelly, as well as her fascinating story about how she got into doing this full time. Her line of jams/jellies is quite extensive and unique. She had a small sub-set of the selection with her, ranging from oatmeal stout to strawberry habanero to carrot cake to knotweed. I’ll admit, I was amused at the varieties and initially was wondering how many varieties I really needed with my biscuits – until she started to talk about how to possibly use them in recipes. Reduce over heat and, logically, you get a sauce. Brilliant!

She went onto describe how the pineapple habanero jam worked great in stir-fry. This popped into my head when I was getting ready to leave work yesterday afternoon, and I decided to keep the momentum going from the weekend and head into the kitchen. I found a quick recipe online for stir fry for 1, which I modified a bit to the below, and doubled. I’ll admit, I was a bit antsy. Modifying recipes isn’t something I’ve done a bunch of, and I wasn’t sure if I could figure out just what to do in order to make this jam into a sauce of sorts – so I opted to try this one for myself before sharing with anyone else. I was relieved to find how easy it really was to do.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup diced green or sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons beef broth
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple habanero  jam
  • Hot cooked rice

The recipe claims this takes 25 minutes. I will not say how long it took me, other than that I did not end up doing any packing last night. Ooops. Anyhow, it’s easy enough.

In a large resealable plastic bag or shallow glass container, combine the first four ingredients. Then add your chicken and make sure to turn to coat. Seal or cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. I did this with a container and feel like the plastic bag might have better coated the chicken.

In a skillet (or wok, if you should you have one), stir-fry the broccoli in the oil until vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken and marinade (don’t forget the marinade – I didn’t remember to put it all in, and it made my chicken end up a bit dry). Then cook on medium-high for 3 minutes. Add green pepper, and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Next add the onions.

Combine broth and cornstarch until smooth, and add to skillet. Bring to a boil. At this point, I added in the jam to make sure that it didn’t cook too long, but yet had time to reduce. I would recommend incorporating it a bit earlier to make the flavor more distributed. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, and serve over rice.

Remember to start cooking your rice well before you start all of the above (or use microwaveable rice), or else you’ll end up with crunchy rice like I did… Overall though, the recipe was great and the jam was a great way to add a bunch of flavor using only one convenient ingredient. Love it!

If you’re interested in ordering some of Nancy’s jams and jellies, they’re available here online, I bought one other one this weekend and will share how that works out once I figure out how I’m using it!

Not that I’m exactly a pro, but I’m learning that hosting in-home events can be a challenge. Especially if, like me, you don’t cook often. The timing can be tricky and you don’t want for your guests to be stuck waiting for too long without enough to eat. Everything coming out once everyone has left would definitely be a hostess faux pas.

I’d never tried an overnight french toast casserole but thought it was the perfect addition to the line-up for Dixie’s recent birthday brunch (AKA my annual excuse to have all of my friends over for brunch in February). I adapted it from this version I found online.

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (or, if you’re like me and bought new bread, oatmeal thick style bread worked quite well – added a bit of additional flavor)
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon (whatever you have will work – optional, but delightful)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.


Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, bourbon, and syrup in a large bowl. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Take out the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast.

The result was quite good. The recipe claimed that it would serve 10, but I think most at the event were able to get a bite of this. Perfect for splitting at an event like this.

In addition to lots of great food and conversation, my little five-year-old pup was completely exhausted with all the fun she had. Win!

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