Boozy Baked French Toast

The only thing better than delicious brunch is brunch that you do not have to get up early in order to pull off well. This baked french toast is least stressful thing you could make while hosting brunch or lunch. I made this while preparing for a friend’s baby shower and this was definitely the easiest part – cut slices of old Challah, and let them soak in the custard overnight. In the morning, just bake it and serve! I went with a very citrusy flavor here with lemon zest and cointreau, but you can definitely go with a wide range of flavor combinations – Frangelico (hazelnut liquer) and nutella or cookie butter, Chambord (raspberry liquer) and fresh raspberries, bourbon and toasted pecans., Calvados and apples – just name a season, and there’s an apt combination to devour. This french toast also puffs up beautifully, so you should plan on baking it right before it’s supposed to be served, so you can get all the ohs and the ahs!

Boozy Baked French Toast

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 loaves supermarket Challah bread in 1-inch slices
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau

Directions

1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with salted (my choice) or unsalted butter.
2. Arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan. I cut one slice into smaller pieces to fill in gaps. If you are using any fillings of fruit or nuts, this is the time to get them between the layers or sprinkled atop.
3. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and cointreau and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
4. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The bread will absorb all of the milk custard while you sleep.
5. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. This will take longer if you have additional layers.
6. Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or all of the above.

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Slow Cooker Apple & Almond Oatmeal

While I am excited about this warmer weather, I am a little sad about saying goodbye to winter vegetables and fruits. This is the first year that I have really started enjoying brussels sprouts (particularly, roasted), but I have also enjoyed experimenting with apples and not just in baking. I first made this oatmeal the night before what was going to be a snowstorm. I threw all these ingredients in the slow cooker just before going to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, the house smelled just like an apple pie! With the winter wonderland that was outside, and the great smell inside, this was the perfect start to a snowy, cozy weekend. But besides a lazy weekend, this is also a great everyday breakfast because it hardly takes any active preparation time, and is very high in protein and filling. If you want less sugar, you can do so by taking out the brown sugar, and adding a little bit of honey to your serving at the end. And if you want to make it more decadent, you can add some toasted pecans or glazed pecans to your bowl.

Since these oats cook for a long time, you should only use steel-cut oats, as old-fashioned or rolled oats will not hold up their texture when cooked for a long time. This recipe results in 4-6 servings, depending on your portion size.

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups almond milk (you can substitute regular milk as well)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large apple diced (preferably Granny Smith), and extra for topping (if desired)
  • Glazed or toasted pecans, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker – oats, almond milk, water, apples, raisins, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir to combine well.
  2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours depending on your cooker.
  3. Serve and allow to cool. If desired, add toppings of your choice.

Chocolate Donuts with a Chocolate Glaze

The best donuts I’ve ever had are from The Spudnut Shop in Charlottesville – made with potato flour, the blueberry spudnut is my favorite flavor. Originally started as a franchise in 1940, the parent company is no longer functioning, but a few dozen shops across a few states still remain. And I have the good fortune of eating these spudnuts every Friday now and then, when they are leftover from the American Politics workshop. As I was munching on a spudnut a few weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and buy a donut pan. I am not a huge fan of frying desserts at home – we’ve made beignets in the past, and while they turned out great, I wanted something slightly (well, comparatively!) healthier and decided to bake some donuts. The chocolate donuts by themselves are not too sweet and they are great with a chocolate-glaze that I topped with some toasted almonds and sprinkles.

Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

Recipe adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Ingredients

For the donuts

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

For the chocolate glaze

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray donut pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Add buttermilk. Stir. Add butter and vanilla. Stir.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring in between each egg. Beat until just combined.

4. Fill each donut mold about 2/3 full.

5. Bake for roughly seven minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Donuts

6. In a bowl combine chocolate chips, butter and honey. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time until smooth. Do not overcook. When the donuts have cooled a little bit, dip them in the chocolate glaze and top with nuts, sprinkles or other toppings of your preference.

 

Cheddar Biscuits & Pancetta Roasted Root Vegetables

Guest post by Kenneth Lowande

I have found that next to smoking, the most detrimental, habit-forming act a person can do is to memorize a biscuit recipe they like. For that reason, it is with great apprehension that I share the recipe below. At first, roasted root vegetables do not sound like a comfort food. They aren’t, unless you add pancetta (or “salty pork fat”), spice them up with some cayenne, and compliment them with a plate of cheddar biscuits. The cayenne provides just enough “kick” to balance the sweetness of the vegetables, and the cheddar biscuits remind you that there is a loving God. All told, this meal takes about an hour – though if you wanted to skip the veggies and go straight for the biscuits, 30 minutes will suffice.

Cheddar Biscuits

Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients

Pancetta Roasted Root Vegetables:

  • 3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (only use the white parts)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Seasoning salt
  • 4 oz. pancetta

Cheddar Biscuits (makes around 12 biscuits, or 8 large biscuits):

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2+ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt (or sea salt + smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

veggies

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Add the potatoes and parsnips to roasting pan.  Coat veggies with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with seasoning salt and cayenne as desired. It’s important that the veggies are coated evenly.
  2. Put the parsnips and sweet potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While they are in the oven, chop the leeks and the garlic and add to a small bowl.
  4. Combine with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add black pepper, cayenne, and seasoning salt to taste. Put the bowl in the refrigerator until later when we add it to the roasting pan. 
  5. Now start prepping the biscuits. Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Combine dry ingredients and cream until you have a moist dough. Be careful not to over-mix.
  7. Distribute the dough into biscuit sized gobs on a greased cookie sheet. Set cookie sheet aside.
  8. After the parsnips and sweet potatoes have cooked for 20+ minutes, pull the roasting pan out of the oven and add the garlic-leeks mixture and pancetta. Distribute evenly in pan and mix to spread seasoning.
  9. Put the pan back in oven. Put biscuits in the oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.
  10. After 15 minutes in the oven, remove the biscuits, sprinkle graded cheese over the tops, return to oven until brown on the edges.

    Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the biscuits and put back in the oven.

    Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the biscuits and put back in the oven.

  11. The biscuits are done when the edges start to barely brown and the veggies are ready when the pancetta gets crispy. And the roasted pancetta root vegetables are ready!
  12. Generally, I let the biscuits set for 3-5 minutes. At this point, they are at the greatest risk of being snatched by a dog who is the devil.

Eggs and Avocados – Part II

The most popular post on my blog till date has been fried egg in an avocado – a simple and quick breakfast that involves baking or frying an egg in an avocado, using the avocado as a vessel, which can be topped with bacon for a salty and crunchy texture atop the nutritional mush that lies beneath. I have to admit that I am surprised that is the most popular recipe, but it got me thinking about the combination of eggs and avocados when I was trying to empty my refrigerator last week and whip up a meal without buying any new groceries. End result – a jalapeno-cheddar toast with a guacamole spread, topped with a fried egg with feta and cilantro.

The crunchiness and heat from the jalapeno-cheddar toast goes really well with the soft texture of the egg and the acidity of the guacamole. Topped off with some salty, crumbly feta and some fresh cilantro, this turned out to be a pretty filling meal. You can fry the egg to your personal preference – I personally like the yolk a little firm, but you can also choose to have the yolk ooze out on to the toast (though it may get soggy faster that way).

Eggs and Avocados

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, to season
  • Black pepper, to season
  • Jalapeno-Cheddar bread, sliced (This is my preferred choice of bread since it goes so well with the guacamole, but if you don’t have this, any kind of bread can be used)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Crack two eggs in the pan and let them fry.
  • While the eggs are frying, toast the two slices of the bread.
  • Put some guacamole on the toasted slices.
  • When the eggs are fried, put them over the sliced bread and guacamole.
  • Add some crumbled feta and chopped cilantro over the fried eggs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately so that the toasted bread is still crisp and does not get soggy.

 

Shakshuka

I’ve been meaning to try cooking Shakshuka ever since I saw it on Smitten Kitchen – and a few weeks ago, when I placed an order for groceries while almost falling asleep, thus ending up purchasing 36 instead of 6 eggs, I decided it was time to try this egg-heavy dish. Of Tunisian origin, this dish consists of poaching eggs in a fiery tomato sauce, often loaded with a lot of spices. Though it seemed like a perfect dish to bring for a potluck brunch, a friend and I decided to cook it for dinner. As you might notice from the recipe, I threw in some predominantly Indian spices as well (such as garam masala) – the yolks turned out nice and runny, and paired with spiciness of the sauce, the saltiness of the feta and the freshness of the parsley atop freshly baked and toasted bread, this turned out to be quite the filling and delicious meal. It’s also an excellent post-workout snack, as it has a lot of protein and not much fat (except from the feta).

shakshuka

 

Serves 3-4. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1  yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onions, chopped
  • Warm pitas or toasted bread, for serving

Directions

  • Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
  • Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
  • Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

shakshuka

Munching my way through Portland

As someone who is skeptical of every new hipster food obsession that emerges (constantly eating gluten-free food even when you aren’t celiac? kale in everything?), I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect when I visited Portland in late December last year. I knew that there existed a high number of food trucks and some amazing wineries and breweries in and around this city, but other than that, would I be underwhelmed by hipster food trends in an otherwise hipster city? Thankfully not! I got more than my fair share of amazing food in this city over a few days, and also got to check out some of their famous breweries. So here’s my recommendations for some delicious (and definitely unique!) foods to check out the next time you’re there:

Screen Door

Serving Southern (particularly Cajun) and soul food, I was eager to visit this place and with an impressive 1,500 reviews on Yelp, I had my hopes up quite high for this one. Everyone recommended arriving there before they opened in order to not wait in a line for over an hour. We arrived half an hour before it opened, and we were still the 20th party standing in line! Thankfully, the restaurant is pretty spacious and we managed to get in the first cycle. Service was quick and we were not disappointed by their famous chicken & waffles and the bananas foster french toast. I preferred the french toast a lot more than the chicken and waffles, even though the latter is more popular – the bananas were perfectly caramelized, the rum paired perfectly with the bananas and it definitely convinced me to make one of my resolutions for this new year – which is learning how to flambé!

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Mother’s Bistro and Bar

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Mother’s has a warm, inviting feel that would be perfect for a lazy brunch or at their Velvet Lounge next to the bar, for some pre or post-dinner cocktails. We went there for a Sunday brunch and it was absolutely packed – though we were on the waiting list, it surprisingly did not take more than 20 minutes for us to get seated given how many other people were also waiting. Service was prompt and courteous and the food came out quickly and was quite delicious. I especially liked their breakfast nachos which contained roasted red potatoes sauteed with bacon, caramelized onions and a touch of sour cream, topped with melted cheddar cheese, green onions and some sour cream. Definitely a must-prepare the next time I’m hosting brunch. The peach compote on top of the crisp belgian waffle was also really fresh, and was the right balance of sweet and acidic.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother's Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother's Bistro & Bar

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar

Voodoo Doughnuts

Which indepedent donut seller makes $600,000 in revenue each year? Voodoo Donuts established a little over a decade ago, has shown that donuts can be just an empty canvas and can given whatever flavor that a baker chooses. With a rotating menu, some of their most famous donuts include their signature Voodoo Doll Doughnut, Captain my Captain doughnut (both of which I ate and was surprised by how amazing they tasted) and the Portland Creme donut (which I unfortunately did not taste!), also designated as Portland’s “Official City Doughnut” by a resolution introduced by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and passed by city commissioners the same night. Their Bacon Maple Doughnut was also pretty great with the sweetness of the maple syrup pairing excellently with the saltiness of the bacon, which also provided a nice crunch to the glaze on top of the doughnut.

The signature voodoo donut

The signature voodoo donut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

I also tried the Mexican Hot Chocolate Doughnut which is a chocolate cake doughnut dusted in cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper. It might have been good if I had tried it at some other shop on some other day, but after the above listed donuts, this one, as well as the Lemon Chiffon Doughnut, both tasted a bit underwhelming. The latter was a bit too sweet for my taste with lemon dust and three marshmallows melted on top of the donut.

Cap'n Crunch Doughnut

Captain my captain Doughnut

Food Carts

Given how many food carts exist throughout Portland, I immediately felt overwhelmed and didn’t quite know where to start. With hundreds of food carts concentrated throughout various hubs in Portland, there is probably no better place to grab a quick, cheap and delicious lunch. Some of the notable ones that stand out in my memory include The Frying Scotsman – I’m not even a huge fan of fish, but his fish and chips had light, crunchy batter that paired perfectly with a squeeze of lemon. Currently, their fried cod and chips is their main bestseller, with the other dishes in large demand being haddock and chips, halibut and chips. Sideshow, also located in downtown Portland, offered 5 beignets for $3 – I wasn’t too sure about how beignets from a cart would turn out, but they were fresh, warm, light and fluffy. They could have used a little more powdered sugar, but other than that I was quite pleased with their quality. The other famous item at Sideshow Eatery is their poutine – a Canadian dish consisting of fries doused with gravy and topped with a pile of cheese curds!

In case you’re looking for specific kinds of food carts, check out this map of food carts in Portland.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

And in case this post made you hungry, here’s how to make some of these delicious goodies at home: