Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day Brunch Recipes

Hope you all had a happy Mother’s Day!  I tried two new recipes this past weekend for our brunch. It was at my parents’ place, but I didn’t want my mom to have to make anything.  My dad made our traditional “John Wayne” casserole along with bacon and cinnamon rolls. I made a sweet potato crusted quiche and a fruit tart.  And my Grandma Anne brought some beautiful tulips.

The quiche was a huge success – it was healthy and a lot simpler than I expected.  I’ll definitely make that again. 

The fruit tart looked beautiful, but unfortunately it was a way more complicated recipe than I had planned for. I should have read ahead of time that it requires several hours or up to a day of preparation, so it didn’t set properly. The pastry cream was more of a yogurt consistency and after putting it in the freezer to try to get it to firm up, the crust was so hard we couldn’t cut through it.  So we ended up serving it more like a parfait instead. 

I’ll also post the recipe for the “John Wayne” casserole. This is one of my dad’s all-time favorite dishes to make. My Grandma Anne came across this recipe in a magazine years ago and it’s been in our family ever since. If you’re looking for a healthy egg dish, this is not your thing. It is loaded with two pounds of cheese and has evaporated milk to give it a creamy consistency.  The green chiles give it just the right amount of spiciness. 

Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche (adapted from Cooking Light)

·        2 medium sweet potatoes
·        1 teaspoon canola oil
·        1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
·        1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
·        1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
·        1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
·        1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
·        4 large eggs
·        2 large egg whites
·        1.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled


1. Preheat the oven to 350°, then peel and slice sweet potatoes into rounds.

2. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray, then fill the bottom of the dish with a layer of sweet potato slices. Cut the sweet potato rounds in half and fill around the edges of the pie dish; round side facing up.

3. Once the entire dish is filled, coat one more time with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn heat up to 375°.

4. For the filling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.

5. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Arrange spinach mixture in crust; pour egg mixture over spinach. Sprinkle with feta. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes.

Fruit Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream (adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth)
·        1 large egg yolk
·        1 tbsp heavy cream
·        1/2 tsp vanilla extract
·        1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
·        2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
·        1/4 tsp salt
·        8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2" cubes

Pastry cream:
·        2 cups whole milk
·        1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp
·        4 tbsp cornstarch
·        2 egg yolks
·        1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
·        3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

·        Whatever fruit you’d like! I used strawberries, kiwis, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, but use whatever is in season


1. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs - about 15 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture until the dough just comes together (about 15 seconds).

3. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6" disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

4. When the dough is ready, unwrap and roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface into a 13" round. Transfer the dough to a 9" tart pan and mold the dough to the sides of the pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes.4

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and press foil over the frozen shell and fill with pie weights. (I didn’t use the pie weights…perhaps this would have helped)

6. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven, remove the foil and weights, and then bake another 5-8 minutes longer until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Pastry Cream:
1. Combine the milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until simmering.

2. Meanwhile in another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 2 tbsp of sugar for about 15 seconds. Then add the cornstarch and mix until pale yellow and thick.

3. When the milk has reached a simmer, slowly add the milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly as you combine. Return the mixture to the saucepan and return to medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture just starts to boil and the mixture is thickened.

4. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Strain pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.

5. Cover pastry cream with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the top of the cream so that a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

1. Spread pastry cream evenly in tart shell and top with desired fruit.

John Wayne Casserole (family recipe)

·        2 cans (4 oz) chopped green chilies
·        1 lb Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
·        1 lb cheddar cheese, grated
·        2/3 cup evaporated milk
·        2 tomatoes, sliced
·        1 T flour
·        ½ t salt
·        4 egg whites
·        4 egg yolks
·        1/8 t pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 325°.

2. Drain and dice green chiles. Combine the grated cheeses and chiles in buttered shallow casserole dish (12x8x2).

3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, combine egg yolks, milk, flour, salt & pepper. Mix until well blended.

4. Gently fold beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the mixture over the cheese in the casserole dish using a fork to ooze it through the cheese.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange the sliced tomatoes on the casserole. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the cheese in the center is firm. (If you do not use the tomatoes, bake for the full hour, but check periodically and once the top begins to brown, cover with tin foil).


Upside Down Banana Bread

Our friend, Claire, just joined the Peace Corps and is about to move to The Gambia for the next few years! Before her new adventure, Tony & Katie hosted a surprise going-away brunch.

I decided to try out a recipe I saw on BuzzFeed for upside down banana bread – which is more of a dessert really.  You make your standard banana bread mix, but before pouring it into the pan, you line it with a layer of bananas covered in caramel sauce.  When you flip it over at the end, it becomes a gooey treat. 

The bananas on mine slid around a bit when they were flipped and I had to clean up some of the excess caramel sauce that leaked off the plate, but overall I’d say it was a success.  Next time I’d dry adding walnuts or pecans to the recipe as well (maybe just toast some to sprinkle over the top). 

We didn’t serve ours with ice cream, but Buzzfeed suggested that you do and I’m sure it’d be amazing. 

I don’t think this will be my replacement banana bread recipe since it was a bit too sweet and dense for me, but it’s perfect for a potluck when others can help eat it!

Best of luck to Claire on her exciting journey to come!

Upside Down Banana Bread (adapted from BuzzFeed)

  • 4-5 ripe bananas (I had a few ripe ones in the freezer that I thawed out along with some fresher ones)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 fresh bananas, sliced
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)
  • Toasted walnuts/pecans (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer), mash the ripe bananas.

3. Add the eggs, oil, sugar, and cinnamon, mixing until evenly incorporated.

4. Add the flour and mix until the batter has no large pockets of flour. Set aside.

5. In a pot over low heat, melt the butter, then mix in the brown sugar until dissolved.

6. Bring up the heat to medium, cooking until the mixture starts bubbling.

7. Remove the caramel from heat and pour into a greased 9x9 baking pan.

8. Lay the banana slices evenly on top of the caramel.

9. Spread the banana bread batter on top.

10. Bake 40-50 minutes.

11. Cool until the bottom is barely warm and use a knife to loosen the edges from the pan.

12. Place a plate upside-down on top of the pan, then invert the pan, flipping the banana bread onto the plate.

13. Slice, then top with toasted nuts and/or vanilla ice cream. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

10th Annual Easter Cheesecake

This is year #10 that I’ve baked a cheesecake for Easter and it was one of my favorites! I try to make a different flavor each year (minus the first two years…)

We went blueberry picking last weekend at Starkey Farms in New Port Richey and came home with over 2 pounds of berries. So this year, I did a white chocolate blueberry cheesecake. 

The recipe I followed used a pre-made pie crust, but I did a homemade crust instead which turned out great.  My only complaint about this cake was that I wish there was more. It was pretty thin, so if I make it again I’d double the filling for a thicker cheesecake.

Lance and I hosted Easter at our house. We had 16 people and it was amazing! We did it potluck style so we ended up with lots of food.  The cheesecake was devoured. 

Lance’s mom always makes bunny-shaped pears for Easter.  She also made a family recipe of candied bacon and a corn casserole. We also had fruit, mac & cheese, two different egg casseroles, and pineapple bread pudding.

Lance made crockpot maple sugar ham and it was so easy (recipe here).  The ham was so big we had to split it between two crock pots though. All you do is rub the outside in brown sugar, put it cut side down, and cover it in pineapple juice and maple syrup. Cook it 4 hours and every hour baste it with the juices. 

We did a DIY mimosa bar with cranberry, orange mango, and grapefruit juice along with raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. I found cute tags for the juices from the Target dollar section.

We used the chevron runners and vases from our wedding and bought tulips & daisies from Trader Joe’s (love their flowers).

We had a really great Easter. Hope you all spent the day with people you love!

White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake (adapted from Cooking Classy)

Crust Ingredients:
·        10 full sheets of cinnamon graham crackers
·        6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
·        1/3 cup granulated sugar

Filling Ingredients:
·        1 Tbsp granulated sugar
·        1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
·        1/2 cup cold water
·        1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
·        2 tsp lemon juice
·        12 oz. cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 pkg.)
·        1/3 cup granulated sugar
·        1 egg
·        1 egg white
·        1 tsp vanilla extract
·        1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
·        1 cup white chocolate chips (vanilla chips)
·        1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
·        About 1/2 cup more blueberries for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 300.

2. Grind graham crackers in a food processer, Mix with the melted butter and 1/3 cup sugar. Spray the bottom of your cheesecake pan with cooking spray (I use Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray) and press the graham cracker mixture firmly to the bottom with some going up the sides of the pan.

3. Bake the crust for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool.

4. Increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

6. In a small saucepan, whisk together 1 Tbsp sugar and cornstarch until well blended. Stir in cold water, blueberries and 2 tsp lemon juice. Cook over medium heat whisking often until mixture begins to boil lightly. Boil 30 seconds whisking constantly.

7. Remove from heat and force mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl (to remove blueberry skins), set mixture aside.

8. In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in egg and egg white. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Set mixture aside.

9. Combine white chocolate chips and cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave mixture on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add melted chocolate mixture to cream cheese mixture and blend until smooth.

10. Pour 2/3 cup cheesecake mixture into the graham cracker crust and spread evenly over bottom. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp blueberry sauce. Slowly ladle remaining cheesecake mixture over the drizzled blueberry sauce, covering all of the blueberry sauce. Carefully giggle the pan to even out the top.

11. Drizzle 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp blueberry sauce over top (reserve remaining blueberry sauce in refrigerator). Take a knife and swirl it through the cheesecake to marble blueberry sauce.

12. Bake cheesecake in center of the oven for 40 minutes, then turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Add blueberries to the top for garnish, then refrigerate cheesecake for 6 hours, until set. Serve slices with remaining blueberry sauce (we actually forgot to serve ours with the sauce).

Happy Easter!