Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Leftover bread, dinner rolls, etc. can all be put to good use in making stuffing, croutons and one of my favorites, french toast casserole.  Easy to make ahead and bake in the morning, this recipe was amped up this weekend with the addition of fresh blueberries.  Served warm with a drizzle of maple syrup and crisp salty bacon, you’ll definitely want to try this around the upcoming holidays.

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BLUEBERRY FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 6 Dinner Rolls or 1/2 Load Bread
  • 5 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Butter

Instructions

  • Tear bread into roughly 2-inch pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine eggs, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.  Whisk together until until all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Place bread into egg mixture and toss lightly to coat evenly.  Do not over-mix or your bread will turn to mush.
  • Fold in blueberries until evenly distributed.
  • Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Take casserole out 30 minutes prior to baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake covered for 40 minutes.
  • Remove lid or foil and sprinkle dish with brown sugar.  Cut butter into small pieces and dot along top of brown sugar.
  • Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

It doesn’t get much easier than a make-ahead breakfast like this one.  This recipe serves four, but can easily be doubled and baked in a 13×9 dish.  Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this on Christmas morning?  Or any morning for that matter?  Dig in!

Open-Faced Salmon BLT’s

It’s been a long time since I’ver posted, but trust that I’ve been both cooking and eating with my regular enthusiasm!  We recently went camping and were looking for something fresh and easy for dinner – who needs another hot dog on a stick, right?!  These open-faced salmon BLT’s were simple, delicious and easy to make with minimal mess.  Try them at home for a busy weeknight or as a wonderful weekend brunch.

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OPEN-FACED SALMON BLT’S

Ingredients

  • 1 Lbs. Fresh Salmon Filet
  • 4 Sliced Ciabatta Bread
  • 8 Slices Crisp Cooked Bacon
  • 2 Avocados
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • Fresh Bibb Lettuce
  • 2 Ripe Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbs. Water
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Chives, Chopped
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, dijon mustard, water, chives and a dash each of salt and pepper.  Stir until smooth and place in refrigerator.
  • Remove skin and pit from avocado.  Dice and place both avocados in a small bowl.  Add lime juice, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Smash together with fork until mixture is slightly lumpy.  Cover and place in refrigerator.
  • Salt and pepper the salmon filet.  Grill or pan sear until cooked through – about 5-7 minutes per side depending on thickness.
  • Remove salmon from grill and let rest.  Place ciabatta on grill and toast both sides for 30-45 seconds until browned.  You can also use a toaster here.
  • To assemble sandwiches:  smear each piece of toasted bread with 1/4 of the avocado mixture.  Add two slices of bacon per piece, then layer with tomato, Bibb lettuce and 1/4 of cooked salmon.
  • Drizzle each sandwich with dijon/mayo mixture and serve immediately.

I hope you love this easy dish as much as we did!  It could easily be doubled or tripled for a larger group, but still doesn’t require a ton of work.  Whether outdoors on the grill or made in your kitchen, you’ll add this to your summer meal rotation for sure.  Dig in!

Baked Cinnamon Oatmeal

The cold winter weather has me craving a hot breakfast lately.  I love oatmeal on a cold morning and this recipe is a great way to start a blustery day.  We used to have baked oatmeal at our friend Connie’s house every Memorial Day.  There’s something about hearty oatmeal and warm milk that’s comforting.  You’re going to love this one for a breakfast crowd or to use throughout your busy week.

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BAKED CINNAMON OATMEAL

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Oatmeal (quick-cooking)
  • 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 Tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Stick Butter, Melted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl add oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Stir to combine.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.  Skim milk works fine here.
  • Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Stir in melted butter.
  • Pour mixture into a 13×9 pan coated with non-stick spray.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cut into squares and serve immediately in bowls with warm milk.

Our tradition is to eat this with warm scalloped apples and warm whole milk.  You can definitely vary the toppings based on your preference.  You can also add dried fruit and/or nuts to the oatmeal before baking for added flavor and texture.  I’d recommend that as an option if you plan on taking these tasty squares as a grab-and-go breakfast with your cup of coffee.  You and your family will surely love this recipe as much as we do.  Dig in!

Creamed Chipped Beef

Fall is definitely here today and few things feel more like fall than comfort food and breakfast for dinner.  As a kid, I couldn’t get on board with the fresh-from-the-freezer version of chipped beef my mom used to microwave.  Sorry mom!  Once I married into a country-cooking family and continued to hone my skills, I learned how to make the real version!  When you see how easy this is, you’ll wonder why you ever had anything other than homemade.

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CREAMED CHIPPED BEEF

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs. Butter
  • 4 Tbs. Flour
  • 2 Cups Whole Milk (Skim will work, but why not??)
  • 4.5 Ounce Jar Dried Beef
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cut dried beef into 1/2-inch squares and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  • Add flour and stir until a smooth paste.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Removed from heat and slowly whisk in milk.
  • Return to low heat and stir constantly until desired thickness, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in dried beef.  Add black pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately over well-buttered white toast.

Whether this reminds you of grandma’s cooking or your time in the service, I hope you love making and eating it!  Schools of thought on the toast:  definitely white, regular is good, but Texas toast is even better, don’t forget the butter.  And this is also a great to serve on a buffet or for a brunch.  Elevate it with the addition of crustless toast points and/or a sprinkle of fresh parsley and chives.  Dig in!

Breakfast Quesadillas

Feel like heading a little south of the border for breakfast?  In honor of Cinco de Mayo last weekend, I made these simple quesadillas.  Gooey cheese, salty bacon and creamy scrambled eggs are the perfect filling for a crispy tortilla.  The filling possibilities are endless – try these next weekend and change up your morning routine.

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BREAKFAST QUESADILLAS

Ingredients

  • 4 8-inch Flour Tortillas
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 8 Strips Crispy Bacon, Crumbled
  • 2 Cups Shredded Cheddar-Jack Cheese
  • 3 Green Onions, Chopped
  • Salsa, Hot Sauce and/or Sour Cream For Garnish

Instructions

  • Place eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk until combined.
  • Scramble in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Cook eggs until almost dry, remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
  • Wipe skillet clean and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place a single tortilla in the skillet over medium-low heat.  Sprinkle entire tortilla with 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
  • On 1/2 of the tortilla, spread out 1/4 of the scrambled eggs, 1/4 of the bacon and green onion to taste.
  • When cheese begins to melt, use a spatula to fold half of the tortilla over onto the side covered in the eggs/bacon.
  • When the bottom is golden brown, flip over entire tortilla to brown the other side.
  • Remove from heat, cut into thirds and serve with your favorite toppings/sides.

One of these is enough for one person so this recipe makes enough for four.  Like a little spice?  Try using chorizo, roasted poblanos and pepper jack cheese.  You can also use sausage and green peppers.  There’s really no limit, but keep the proportions right or it won’t close properly.  Do you have a brunch coming up?  Double this recipe and place wedges in a warming tray for a perfect buffet finger food.  Let me know what combinations you come up with – I’d love to hear your ideas!  Dig in!

Banana Nut Bread

We’ve all run into the end of the week where our bananas are getting a little ripe – it’s time to make banana bread, muffins, foster and anything else we can think of!  My moist recipe has a little twist on tradition with the addition of orange zest and cinnamon.  It’s the perfect weekend companion to your morning coffee.

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BANANA NUT BREAD

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
  • 3/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/3 Cup Butter-Flavor Shortening
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Orange Zest
  • 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Ripe Bananas, Mashed
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together sugar and shortening.  Add in eggs, orange zest, vanilla and bananas.  Mix until thoroughly combined – I use a hand-mixer here.
  • Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix dry ingredients into wet until combined.  Fold in walnuts.
  • In a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray, pour batter and gently tap pan to remove air bubbles.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  • Serve immediately or store for up to 3 days.

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I love the crunchy addition of walnuts in this recipe.  If you don’t like them, chocolate chips are a great substitution – kids love it!  The hint of orange will bring out the best flavor of either option.  If you really want to go over the top, consider making a glaze out of a cup of powdered sugar and 2 Tbs. orange juice.  This recipe isn’t overly sweet and the glaze could be just enough for those that like the sweeter side.  Dig in!

Cold Smoked Salmon or Steelhead Trout

If I’m near a bagel shop, I’m hard-pressed to not snag a smoked salmon bagel.  There’s something about the melty salty salmon combined with onions, whipped cream cheese and capers that gets me every time!  Naturally, I said to myself recently, “I can do this at home”.  Sure enough, I figured out a great process to make my own smoked fish that’s fresher and tastier than anything I’ve had before.  This recent recipe was made with a steelhead trout fillet, but can be replicated with salmon as well.

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COLD SMOKED SALMON OR STEELHEAD TROUT

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Lbs. Salmon or Steelhead Fillet
  • 1 1/2 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Inspect your fish for any pin bones and remove.  Rinse fillet and dry completely with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Spread 1/3 of salt mixture in a glass baking dish to completely cover the bottom.
  • Place fish on the salt mixture, skin-side down.  Cover the fish with the remaining salt mixture and pat lightly to make sure it adheres.
  • Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
  • After curing, remove fish from fridge, take out of glass dish and rinse under cold water to remove salt mixture.
  • Dry completely and place on paper towel on a cookie sheet.  Put in fridge and allow to dry for 3-4 hours uncovered.  Flesh will be firm and slightly tacky.
  • Cold smoke fish with alder or another mild wood at 120 degrees for 90 minutes.  I smoke mine over a foil pan filled with ice to prevent the fish from cooking.  The goal is to impart the smoke flavor only.
  • Remove from smoker and refrigerate.  Slice thinly and serve.  It will remain fresh in a ziplock bag for 7-10 days.

I love when a recipe relies on just a few ingredients, but tastes like a million bucks.  The technique here isn’t difficult, but the result is delicious and better than most store-bought versions.  Imagine the oohs and ahhs when you serve your homemade smoked salmon for your next brunch!  Take the time and give it a try, I think you’ll love the process and I know you’ll love the end product.  Dig in!

SuperChef’s – Gahanna, OH

Sunday morning screams for amazing breakfast or brunch!  And when we’re not at home, it’s always fun to check out somewhere new and inventive.  On our recent trip to the Columbus, OH area for some Christmas shopping, we decided to check out SuperChef’s Breakfast & More in Gahanna.  Located just east of the I-270 loop, this strip mall eatery did not disappoint.  I’ll admit the exterior with bright graphics and large pictures of food reminded me of an oversized Chinese menu in a mall food court, but it’s all part of the schtick for this comics-themed brunch spot.

A lively place with plenty of seating packed into a tight spot, there is an overabundance of energy in the morning with the perfect backdrop of conversation and the aromas of coffee and syrup.  A large wall in the rear of the restaurant is covered with comic book covers and characters which were complimented by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts the staff were wearing.  After a short wait we perused the menu choices with amazing “bam-kapow” comic book takes on traditional breakfast fare.  Think of green waffles with bacon, egg and cheese – that’s “The Hulk”.

We sipped strong coffee and then dug into our choices, all of which were really good.  Breakfast pizza was a thin chewy crust with eggs, cheese, bacon, house-made sausage, tomato and parsley.  I had a tasty croissant sandwich made with sausage (a spicy chorizo-like breakfast patty), eggs, cheese and mustard vinaigrette dressed greens.  What a perfect addition to cut through the fatty richness of the rest of the sandwich!  The omelets were hefty and full of fresh ingredients.  Most dishes are served with chunky hash browns browned with topped with a dollop of spicy butter – I know, genius idea!

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With another location in downtown Columbus, I would recommend trying this place out for a great brunch any day of the week.  The waffle and pancake combinations looked ridiculous – wings & waffles or blueberry pancakes with lemon buttercream are just a few of the choices!  Add those choices to a great cup of strong coffee and really good service and you’ll see why there was a wait to get in.  You can read their story and check out the breakfast and lunch menus at mysuperchefs.com.  Dig in!!

Sticky Cinnamon Rolls

Holidays were made for indulgences.  Let’s face it, I ate a significant portion of the 65 lbs of ham and turkey I made for Thanksgiving a few days ago.  So why not go the extra mile for my family in town this morning by making some homemade cinnamon rolls?!  Calorie counting will commence promptly on Monday, but I will continue to enjoy the rest of this weekend.  You’ll love the recipe below because it’s easy and also offers a twist with the addition of apricot honey butter (from my home town) and chopped pecans.  Go ahead, make some for yourself and make any weekend morning special.

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STICKY CINNAMON ROLLS

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Warm jar of honey butter in microwave for 30 seconds.  Remove and pour contents into bottom of a 9″ round non-stick pan.  For this recipe I used apricot pecan honey butter from a candle and honey company in Medina, OH called A.I. Root.  However, you an also find the same flavor combination here or at your local retailer.
  • Roll out pizza or bread dough to a 12-inch x 12-inch square.
  • In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon.  Spread in a thin even layer over the pizza dough going completely to the edges.
  • Roll dough from one side tightly until you have a long tube.
  • Cut rolled dough into six pieces and then place sideways into pan of honey butter.  Arrange five on the outside and one in the middle.  Press down slightly so that all edges are touching.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes until top is golden brown and middles are no longer gooey.
  • Remove from oven and top with a heat-safe platter.  Turn baking pan upside down to turn out finished rolls.  Scrape any excess honey butter and pecans onto the top of the cinnamon rolls.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve immediately.

This super-sweet decadent treat is perfect for weekend company or for a brunch event.  It would be easy to triple this recipe and make them in a 13×9 pan as well.  You can also substitute any kind of honey butter here, but I’ll tell you that the apricot gives a wonderful fruity hint to any otherwise really sweet dish.  Either way, I think you’ll make these again and again when you feel the need to indulge.  Dig in and enjoy!