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!

Sweet & Savory Party Nuts

The holiday season is fast approaching and that means plenty of entertaining.  It’s always good to keep some homemade snacks on hand for company or to take along as a hostess gift when visiting family and friends.  This recipe is a simple way to dress up mixed nuts for a salty, sweet and savory snack you can make over and over again.  A surprising hint of rosemary provides a contrasting flavor and slightly piney aroma that’s reminiscent of the holidays.

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SWEET & SAVORY PARTY NUTS

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Salted Mixed Nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Rosemary, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Egg White
  • 2 Tsp. Water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, onion powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.  Mix well with a spoon.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together egg white and water until frothy.
  • Add nuts to the egg white mixture and toss well to evenly coat.
  • Pour nuts into spice mixture and mix well to evenly coat nuts with sugar and spices.
  • Spray a 12-inch cast iron pan with cooking spray and pour nut mixture into it.
  • Bake at 275 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Remove nuts from oven and pour out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Allow to cool fully.
  • Break up nuts and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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These nuts were a huge hit at trivia night recently.  I know we’ll make them often over the next few months with all we have going on.  Don’t have a cast iron pan?  Shame on you!  But you can definitely make these on a heavy non-stick baking sheet.  Also think about varying the herbs and/or nuts to your liking.  I’ve seen similar receipts with just pecans or cashews.  The addition of a little citrus zest would also bring another great flavor element.  Give them a try and tell me what you think.  Dig in!

Coconut Cookies

Let the holiday cookie-making continue!  My wife introduced me to one of her favorites back when we were dating and they quickly became one of my favorites too.  Here’s the twist, there’s no coconut in them!  The interesting combination of instant mashed potato flakes and coconut flavoring will fool anyone.  And you will absolutely love the crispy edges and chewy middles with a hot chocolate or coffee by the fireside.

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COCONUT COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 Package or 1 1/3 Cups Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • 1 Cup Bisquick (or similar baking mix)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Margarine, Softened
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tsp. Coconut Flavoring

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl cream together butter and sugar.  Add coconut flavoring and mix well.
  • Add egg and beat well with an electric mixer.
  • Stir in Bisquick and potato flakes, with a spoon, until mixture comes together.
  • Cover and chill cookie dough in refrigerator for 1 hour or longer.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and put cookies on a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
  • Store in a covered container.

Simple, weird and totally delicious!  Try making a batch of these this year for something a little different on your cookie platter.  I hope you love them as much as we do.  Dig in!

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

If you’re from Ohio, you’ve likely had the peanut buttery goodness of BUCKEYES!!  Shaped like the seed from our state tree, these namesake treats are a hit for the holidays or any time of the year.  You’ll find them at almost any store in Ohio that sells confections and definitely at Ohio State football tailgates!  Good news is, you don’t have to be an OSU fan or from Ohio to love the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate – just ask all of our Minnesota friends who clamored for a treat box of Buckeyes around the holidays.

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PEANUT BUTTER BUCKEYES

Ingredients

  • 18 Ounces Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 Lb. Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Margarine
  • 12 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Ounce Parafin Wax

Instructions

  • Using a stand mixer (you’ll need a heavy duty one) with a dough hook attachment, cream together peanut butter and margarine until smooth.
  • Add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
  • Roll into one inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Place balls in freezer for 15 minutes to harden.
  • While peanut butter balls are in the freezer, use a double boiler (or a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water) to melt chocolate chips and wax together.
  • Remove balls from freezer.  Using a toothpick, pierce each ball and dip 3/4 of the way into chocolate/wax mixture.  Place on parchment paper.  Chill a full tray in the freezer again for 10 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  • Keep stored in an airtight container.  I like to keep them in the fridge, but they’re fine at room temperature too.

There’s little practice involved in the dipping process, but overall these are really easy to make.  A good tip is to use a small bowl or boiler for the chocolate as you want the chocolate to be deep enough to dip into.  You can also make 1 1/2 of the chocolate/wax mixture to make it easier.  We like to then use the excess chocolate to dip pretzels in.  Or try mixing in enough corn flakes to coat them thoroughly.  Drop in small spoonfuls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and top with sea salt flakes – wow are those good!  Try the buckeyes, share with your family and friends and make it a favorite holiday tradition like it is for us.  Dig in!!

My Favorite Layered Cheesecake

For my entire life my mom has been making her family cheesecake recipe for the holidays and special occasions.  And as I learned to cook, I began making the same recipe that her grandmother made for as long as she can remember.  So what’s the big deal?  First, you make it in a 13 x 9 pan – so you know there’s plenty to go around and then some!  Second, rather than a single layer of dense creamy goodness, this recipe calls for a rich sweet cream cheese layer and is topped with a sour cream and sugar mixture that gives a secondary texture and a slight bite.  It’s easy to make, but everyone will think you spent a ton of time on it – read how simple it is below.

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MY FAVORITE LAYERED CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Melted Butter

Filling:

  • 3 Bricks (8 Oz. each) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 5 Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla

Topping:

  • 24 Oz. Sour Cream
  • 4 Tbs. Sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, thoroughly mix crust ingredients with a fork.  Pour into a 13 x 9 metal baking pan and press firmly and evenly.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, lightly beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add 1/4 Cup sugar and beat.  Add one egg and beat.  Continue alternating until all sugar and eggs have been combined with cream cheese.  Mixture should be smooth and free of any lumps.
  • Mix in vanilla and then pour mixture over crust in pan.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Turn oven up to 425 degrees while you mix topping.
  • Stir together sour cream and sugar until combined and smooth.  Pour and spread evenly over baked cheesecake.
  • Return to oven and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

I hope you love this decadent dessert as much as my and my wife’s family do!  It will surely be a hit and requested for all of your family functions.  While we aren’t formal and normally serve it out of the pan, you can cut and arrange on a platter for a party, shower, etc.  I recommend using a sharp knife and dipping it in warm water after each cut to prevent sticking and to achieve perfect squares for serving.  Dig in!!