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.

Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

One of my favorite desserts to make over the holidays is bread pudding. It is a great way to use up old bread because the drier that a bread is, the more it will soak up the custard. You also do not have to be extremely precise unlike other desserts – you can easily use more or less bread or custard depending on your preferences. You can also pretty much go any route with it – sweet or savory. And if it’s the holidays, I think having a brandy/whiskey/rum/bourbon sauce to go along with it is essential!

I have made a bananas foster bread pudding with a vanilla rum sauce in the past, so I decided to go with a different one this time. While looking for recipes over the holidays, I fell in love with Food and Wine’s Yearly Compilations that have the recipes from every month together in one place. Though I subscribe to Bon Appetit, I have to confess that the amount of advertising in that magazine really detracts from the recipes, and having a yearly compilation means that I get a giant cooking magazine, with just recipes and no ads. I finally ended up settling on this apple bread pudding from  Food & Wine’s website. You can alter the level of sweetness in this recipe depending on your taste – I personally like a little less sugar, letting the sweetness of the apples and raisins complement the warming flavors of cinnamon and brandy. My two main tips  for bread puddings are – 1) you should cut the crust off the bread, and then cut the bread into cubes and leave it out to dry overnight. Then it’ll be sure to absorb more of the custard, 2) if you are using raisins or fruit, you can infuse them with the brandy (or whatever else the recipe calls for), to ensure that the raisins soften a little bit, get more plump, and get more flavor.

Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brioche, cut into 1-inch pieces without the crust
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Calvados or other brandy (I used Calvados)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in brandy
  • Whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. If you did not leave the bread to dry out overnight, spread the brioche on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly golden and dry. If you did, you can skip this step.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter; reserve 2 tablespoons of the melted butter in a small bowl. Add the apples and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and add the Calvados. Return the skillet to the heat and cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 1 minute. Apple Brandy Bread Pudding
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the custard (save the vanilla bean for another use). Add the brioche, raisins, and apples and toss until evenly coated. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the brioche to absorb the custard.
  5. Brush an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the reserved melted butter. Add the bread pudding and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Let the bread pudding cool slightly, then serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche

 

Rosé Sangria

Some of my favorite summer foods are fruits – and the sweet and juicy berries and peaches that I’ve been finding in Virginia are almost enough to make me not miss Indian mangoes. But a few weeks ago, I finally gave in and decided to buy some mangoes, knowing full well that it would not measure up to the mangoes I was used to. And while that was true, it did help me fulfill my craving, and I barely missed their usual lack of juiciness when mixed in with some sangria. And speaking of favorites, sangria is one of my favorite summer drinks – it’s not only delicious, but also incredibly easy to throw together. When making sangria, do not bother using fancy wine – any mediocre bottle of wine will do. The only trick is to let the fruits rest in the wine for at least a few hours so that the wine can acquire some of the sweetness and acidity from the fruits. I use a combination of blackberries, raspberries and mangoes in this recipe, but feel free to substitute peaches, blueberries and nectarines.

For this sangria, I decided to go with some rosé wine. I am usually not a huge fan of rosé – they can sometimes be a little too dry for me and I usually prefer sweeter and floral whites. But lately, in tasting several wines for our wedding, I’m hooked to the 2014 Norton Rosé from Keswick Vineyards and so I feel underwhelmed by most other rosés. And fortunately, we always have the option to make sangria with underwhelming wines!

Rosé Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry rosé wine
  • 1/3 cup triple sec
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (if desired)
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 large mango, diced into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups seltzer water (I used peach-flavored seltzer water)

Directions

  1. Pour the Rosé into a pitcher. Stir in the triple sec and lemon juice.  Add the fruits.
  2. Chill for a few hours (preferably at least 3-4 hours). Taste, and add sugar if desired.
  3. Right before serving, add the seltzer water to the pitcher, then pour the sangria into glasses.

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.