Thursday, December 26, 2013

Brunch Bake... aka Christmas Eggs

For years my mom hosted a Christmas Eve open house. It was always one of my favorite parties - dinner of appetizers, great company, chocolates, cookies, wine and lots of candles. Some years my mom would get a big ham and we would all make little sammies or just peel off and eat delicious ham. 

When everyone left and the food that needed to be put away was wrapped up and the candles were melty and low, we would start make Christmas Eggs. The next morning, we would make coffee, take the Christmas Eggs out of the fridge, warm up the oven and open stockings. When stockings were done, we'd eat our Christmas Eggs and gear up for the next round of presents. It's a Christmas tradition I am keeping!

Christmas Eggs are basically a breakfast casserole. It's super easy to put together the night before and bake on demand the next morning. 

Christmas Eggs
Serves 6
Preheat oven to 350

1 loaf of crusty French bread
1 tablespoon butter
8 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup dijon mustard
6 oz cubed ham (or more. The only reason I know for sure how much I used, was because we didn't have a Christmas Eve ham and I used a measured package.)
1 cup of shredded cheese (I like pepper jack)
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Grease the bottom of a 9x13 (or similar sized baking dish) with 1 tablespoon of butter. Roughly cut up the French bread or tear into pieces and scatter them in the baking dish. Cube the ham, grate the cheese and scatter these over top the bread pieces.

Whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper until eggs are fully whipped and the milk and mustard are totally incorporated, about 2 minutes. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread, ham and cheese. Cover and store in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, take the Christmas Eggs out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 350. Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the egg is fully cooked. You should be able to see cooked egg between the bread pieces. Serve hot.

A few things about this recipe...
It has to sit and soak in for a while. Overnight works really well, but if you like breakfast for dinner, assembling in the morning and cooking for dinner is great too.
If you don't like pepper jack, sharp cheddar is a great substitute. I like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes if I use milder cheese.
I used plain French bread this time, but a jalapeno cheddar loaf is awesome!
I've brought this to lots of brunches. I've baked this in ramekins for individual servings. I've doubled the recipe, I've cut it in half. This is wonderful. 
If you don't like ham, don't use it.

Happy New Year to all!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wonderpot - One Pot Dinner

So the weeknight dinners in our house are forever changed. Forever. This took less than 30 minutes. It was delicious. It had tons of veggies. It was SO easy! I'd seen this kind of thing floating around on the Internets, but I had yet to try it. I don't know why I was waiting. 

I changed this up quite a bit from all the recipes I found online, but the basic idea stayed the same - all components of the meal are plunked into a big pot and cooked together. It's like a super easy crockpot meal, but in less time than it takes to watch a Seinfeld rerun. Amazing.

Wonderpot: One Pot Dinner - adapted from Budget Bytes and the Internets
Serves 4+ in less than 30 minutes

1 pound of dried pasta - I used linguini
8 ounces mushrooms
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 large onion sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 6oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
10oz fresh spinach
crumbled feta cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place sliced onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, garlic, marinated artichoke hearts, pasta, spices, oil, chicken broth, wine and water into a giant pot. 

With a cover on the pot, let everything boil, stirring a few times to mash everything down and rearrange the ingredients. Turn the flame down to a simmer and replace the lid. While the pot simmers, stir occasionally to keep the noodles from sticking together.

When the noodles are done - about 5 or 6 minutes after the pot boils - put all of the spinach in the pot and stir to wilt and incorporate. 

Serve in bowls and top with feta cheese, ground pepper and salt. Enjoy!!

A few things about this recipe...
I found recipes for this with fewer veggies and more limited variety. I am always looking for ways to up the veggies and up the variety and this was a great one for extra veggies.
If you don't like using wine, forget about it. Use another cup of chicken broth or more water. 5 cups of liquid worked well for the amount of veggies and pasta I used. 
I think this has potential to be a thousand different flavors - kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes - pretty much anything I'd want on a pizza sounds good here!
One recipe listed canned, diced tomatoes - that sounds like a great alternative to the cherry tomatoes I used. 

Things made this time last year...
Hot Chocolate Mix with Dark Chocolate Bits - a perfect gift in a jar!!

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup - a great meal for a cold night... also a pretty quick dinner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Twix Cookies

I have a very hard time making drop cookies. I don't know what my problem is. Lack of a Sunset magazine looking, Bon Appetite magazine tasting cookie and I'm troubled. I tried again this week and while following the directions exactly, I ended up with definitely delicious, not quite as good looking cookies as I'd hoped to get. C'est la vie. 

These are chocked full of Twix candy bars and milk chocolate chips. They are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and honest to goodness rivers of caramel flow through these bad boys. They are good. And I think they would be great with any other fave candy bar... Butterfingers, I'm looking at you.

Twix Cookies - from Averie Cooks
Makes 24-30 cookies
Needs 2 hours for dough to cool - after cooling, preheat oven to 350

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt - about 1/4 teaspoon
4 Twix candy bars diced up (8 individual Twix bars)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Sorry my picture has two eggs. I was mistaken. 

In a stand mixer or with a hand beater, cream butter, eggs, sugars and vanilla. Beat until butter and sugar are light in color and fully incorporated - about 5 minutes. 

While the butter mixture creams, in a small bowl mix together flour, corn starch, baking soda and salt. Add flour to butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. I mixed this by hand to make sure I didn't over-mix the flour.

When flour is incorporated, mix in candy bar pieces and chocolate chips. I also folded these in by hand to avoid over-mixing. 

Line two baking pans with parchment paper and drop small balls of dough onto the paper. I used a 1.5 tablespoon ice cream scoop. Press the cookies down a bit to flatten them some. When cookies are flattened, place the baking pans in the fridge and let the dough cool for at least 2 hours. 

Pull baking pans out of the fridge and preheat oven to 350. Bake one pan at a time for 8 or 9 minutes. I liked the cookies better after 9 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

I really do think this would be great with all sorts of candy bars, but Butterfingers are high on my list of things to try.

Things made this time last year...
Pumpkin Spice Cookies - Antoinette has no problem making gorgeous cookies!

Husband Chili and Skillet Cornbread - nice for cold nights and busy days