Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas (or New Year's) Egg Bake

Who wants to spend Christmas morning making breakfast for a house full of people? Or for that matter, waking up after a night of ringing in the new year and putting together something to soothe your aching head? Usually after a night of a few too many cocktails (at least when I was able to drink!) we make a run to Panera to load up on bagels, eggs and pastries. Isn't it so much nicer to eat your own food? I am asking a lot of questions here, but the answers are simple. You don't want to cook after a night of wrapping presents. You don't want to cook after a night of drinking. And you DO want to eat a homemade breakfast!

This egg dish has been adapted over the years from a recipe my father-in-law gave me. When we would spend Christmas at his house this was always on the menu. When we started hosting Christmas at our house 4 years ago, I made sure to include this in our tradition, but changed up the original recipe. I think each year I make it, I do it differently. It is all about what ingredients you have around or suiting the tastes of your guests. My mother is a vegetarian, so every year I make two of these dishes. One full recipe that I include meat in, and one half recipe with just vegetables. I actually preferred the way my vegetarian version came out this year.

This recipe can be really really simple, or you can make it a bit more eleborate. All depends on how much time you have and how fancy you want to be. The options are endless on this all in one egg bake. Really any ingredient you would use to make an omelet with would work in this recipe. This recipe is a base for your own creativity!

Christmas Morning Egg Bake

serves 6-8

7 pieces white bread, torn into pieces (the original recipe has you remove the crust, but sometimes I just leave it on. I like it either way)
8 oz shredded cheese (the original recipe uses cheddar, I usually use "Fiesta blend" from Whole Foods for my Southwestern version, and for my veggie one this year I used crumbled feta)
6 extra large eggs
3 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste. I like my food well seasoned, but it also depends on the salt level of your other ingredients)
1/4 tsp pepper
6 strips cooked and crumbled bacon (this is the original recipe... for my Southwestern version I use 1 1/2 links Spanish chorizo- chopped that I cook in a bit of olive oil along with a chopped red pepper, and a small diced onion until softened)

For the vegetarian version (remember, I did a half recipe) this year I added (in lieu of the bacon or chorizo, peppers and onion) 1/2 cup chopped sun roasted tomatoes (off the Whole Foods olive bar.. the BEST!), and about 1/2 cup+ of defrosted, drained, frozen spinach.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish
Toss bread pieces and cheese together in dish

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add meat and/or vegetables to bread and cheese and toss lightly with your hands. Pour egg mixture over bread.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350.
Bake 55-60 minutes until dish is puffed and golden.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Tis the Season for all things baked!

There is something about the combination of cold weather and the smell of baked goods that gets me all excited. I usually avoid baking in the warmer months, then try and make up for it once the weather turns chilly. From Thanksgiving through the end of year I give myself a pass for baking whatever I want, regardless of the butter content of it. My excuse is that I'll give my creations away and all that butter won't end up on my hips. Most of it makes it out the door, but it is my duty to taste-test everything first, right?

I'm always looking for new things to try and have a bunch of blogs that I read for inspiration on a daily basis. Sometimes, recipes are found in less conventional spots, like the Today Show. A few weeks ago while at the gym (probably working off some other sugar laden masterpiece) I found myself glued to the Martha Stewart segment on Today. What drew my attention from my US Weekly, was her mention of the word "pumpkin." I LOVE pumpkin and anything that contains it or the flavor. Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin pancakes (my husband makes THE BEST!!), pumpkin ice cream (run to Whole Foods and get some!), pumpkin pie, and when Martha mentioned that she was making pumpkin donuts (!!!!!!) I was hooked. After watching the segment I realized that these are not your run of the mill donuts. Instead of them being plopped into a vat of hot oil, these are BAKED in muffin tins. No grease, no special equipment. Are you sold?

The other part of this recipe is that we found that they actually tasted better the next day. Thrown in the microwave for 22 seconds they bounced back to a nice donut consistency, and make the house smell delish. Oh, and they look really pretty sitting in a big bowl...maybe a holiday centerpiece??

Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Donut Muffins
makes 12 muffin donuts

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.

Make batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture. Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container...Martha says for up to one day, but we found they did great for a few, just needing a little warm up in the microwave)