Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Create an Epic Cheese Board

Happy new year friends! I hope everyone had as wonderful of a holiday with family and friends as I did. I'm in charge of Christmas Eve every year.

I spent about a month yabbering about how excited I was for this day. How epic it is. The copious amounts of cheese to be consumed. It is my favorite.


This was the most epic of cheese boards ever. A cheese board the size of my kitchen table to feed 9 hungry beasts! There were no sad bellies on this day. Not a single one. Happy Santa bellies for all!

I'm surprised it took me this long to dedicate a whole post to cheese, being Cheese Club president and all. Not to mention I could eat this for dinner every day all day. Who doesn't love a cheese, meat and crackers for dinner? Crazy people. Today is the day people!

I break pretty much every "rule" there is to making a cheese board because I get too excited. I want ALL of the cheese. Plus, there aren't really any hard and fast rules for a cheeseboard - except to have fun!


If you are not as big of a nut about cheese or it is your first time, here are some general guidelines. You'll want a firm cheese, like a firm aged cheddar (always a crowd pleaser) or gouda; a hard cheese like a parmesan or asiago, that is a little salty and flaky when you cut into it; a soft goats cheese (my favorite!); a mild, creamy, not too salty blue cheese; finally, a triple cream brie or camabert, warmed slightly.

I usually go overboard an have a few cheeses from each of these categories, which is good and bad. Choices, variety, and options are never bad. On the other hand, with too many choices you get a bit lost in the land of cheese, everything blending together with no clear favorite.

This year I even included two cheese balls! A cheddar one and a goat cheese one. No recipe to share unfortunately, but excellent contribution to any cheese board. I will be experimenting with them in the near future.


The perfect cheese board doesn't end with cheese. Accoutrements are a must, such as your favorite local jams and jellies. I always include fig jam.

Honey is a must too and if you can find a honey comb, buy it. It is amazing. It is sweet, semi-soft, crystalized, crunchy magic in your mouth. Honey goes great with things like goat cheese or blue cheese.

Pickled, briny things are a must too. Lots of olives if you are me. Love me some olives! I usually go to Whole Foods or the Co-op and pick from the olive bar: garlic-stuffed, Herbes de Provence, kalamata etc.

This year I found some pickled ramps and fermented brussel sprouts from Underground Butcher to change things up a little.



I always include a few types of meat as well. The men in my life love themselves some meat. Prosciutto is a must. A lot of prosciutto, which I get from Fraboni's. Then I usually go to Underground Butcher and pick out a two cured meats to thinly slice along side the prosciutto.

If you have never been to Underground Butcher, check it out. They have a lot of fun and creative sausages, in addition to a lovely meat case.

There also needs to be a variety of crackers and bread like vessels for your cheese, honey and jam. Finally, some grapes are always a delicious and beautiful addition to round out the cheese board. A variety of nuts are also a welcome addition, for those snackers out there who need a break from the cheese.


Below I've included all the information I just discussed, with fewer words and random thoughts, along with specific cheeses I love. Remember to have fun with it, these are just guidelines, make it your own.

Before we get to that might I suggest if you have not made plans for NYE, to invite all your friends over, with the small task of bringing their favorite meat or cheese over and ring in the new year with a belly full of cheese! You provide the accoutrements and maybe a bottle or two of bubbly and no regrets.

Cheers,
April

Cheese Board Guidelines:

Aged cheese: aged cheddar or gouda; two of my favorites are Hook's 10 year cheddar or Marieke's aged gouda
Firm cheese: Asiago, Parmesan or Satori Bellavitano Merlot, Raspberry or Cognac or any other wine washed Parmesan
Blue cheese: Any creamy, mild blue cheese or Gorgonzola, or my favorite Hook's Little Boy Blue
Chevre or goat cheese: Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog or a truffled soft goat.
Semi-soft cheese: brie, camabert or St. Andre

Breads: baguette, crostini, water crackers, hard breadsticks, whole wheat crackers, fruit and nut crackers, and little toasts

Charcuterie: thinly sliced prosciutto, hard salami, cured meats, pepperoni

Jams and jellies: bacon jam, fig jam, fruit jams/jellies/perseveres (Quince and Apple, my favorite from WI), honeycomb or honey

Fruit and nuts: marcona almonds, black pepper almonds, corn nuts, dried apricots, fresh or dried figs, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, fresh or dried pears

Salty and briny snacks: olive medley, pickled vegetables, cornichons, mustard

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and was able to enjoy some time off of work with family and those they love.  Hopefully there was lots of scrumptious food involved too!  Nate and I go to three different family get-togethers and our various contributions this year included buffalo chicken dip, strawberry spinach salad and mint brownies.  Simple recipes that were mostly make ahead are key so you can optimize time with good company!


Santa was good to me this year and seemed to know exactly what was on my list.  He stocked me up with some new yoga gear, a couple of cookbooks and some new kitchen tools!  I'm really excited to start using my new pair of Lodge cast iron skillets especially because I know Brittany and April both use theirs a lot and love them.  I also found some Penzeys Spices in my stocking that will be fun to do some experimenting with.


Up until a few months ago I had never eaten falafel.  It now might be beating out hummus for my favorite way to eat chickpeas.  Some of my favorite places I've tried it so far in Madison include the Mediterranean Cafe, The Great Dane and Banzo.  I can see the Banzo food cart out the window of my office which is both parts amazing and dangerous if you know what I'm sayin'.

I'm loving this trick for making a DIY cake platter out of cardboard.  There's been many times in the past couple of years when this would've come in very handy.

Just a little friendly reminder (or teaching moment) on how to open wine like a pro!  An important life skill if I do say so myself.

2015 is going to be a big year with lots of changes for me and I'm excited to see what it brings.  I'm looking forward to another short work week and I'll be ringing in the new year with a quick trip down to Houston.  What are you looking forward to in 2015?!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars


I'll admit, there have been weak points in my life where all I've really wanted to do is indulge in a little bit of cookie dough.  The solution tends to be that I will whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but since the cookies aren't the actual goal, for simplicity's sake the dough just get pressed into a 9x13 pan and voila, cookie bars.


The problem then becomes that you have a large pan of cookie bars sitting around the house that you will be constantly tempted to devour.  When there's only a couple of people in the house, it becomes a real test of your self-control.

To help solve this problem I came up with the very ingenious solution to simply make a smaller batch!  I can still get my cookie dough fix but with much less temptation after the fact.  The cookie bars are now made in a smaller 9x9 pan instead.


The bars don't lose any of their chocolatey cookie goodness with the smaller serving.  My only complaint is that as a middle piece lover, those perfectly soft pieces on all four edges become a hot commodity.  Any other middle piece lovers out there?  Or are you like my mom and sister who fight over the corners?  Not to worry, all pieces middle and edge alike can do the trick, especially when enjoyed with a tall glass of milk.

Enjoy!
Kelsey


Recipe adapted from Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dry oats
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat in egg.
  4. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips and oatmeal.
  6. Press cookie dough into prepared pan.
  7. Cook for 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Vanilla Bean Caramels


Yum, I love caramels. They're sweet and chewy and addictive! Last year around the holidays was the first time I tried making caramels. It can take awhile getting use to your candy thermometer and trusting it. My first ever batch was a bit runny like caramel sauce because I didn't let the mixture get hot enough. Lesson learned.



Luckily, I perfected my technique just in time for Christmas. They were a hit! So, I think it will become a tradition that I bring the caramels each Christmas from now on. This year, I tried a new recipe with less ingredients but I still think it has a great flavor.

What are some of your holiday must-have recipes? A few of ours include peanut butter blossoms, cake balls, and spritz cookies. The best part about these goodies, along with these caramels, is that we really only get them once a year. I think that makes them taste twice as good!

Happy Holidays!
Brittany


Ingredients
2 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1/2 lb. butter
1 c. light corn syrup
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

Instructions
1. melt butter on medium heat in a sauce pan.
2. Mix in brown sugar and stir until it begins to melt
3. Add corn syrup and stir for 2-3 minutes.
4. Mix in the sweetened condensed milk.
5. Cook to exactly 245 degrees. This may take awhile and you may need to up the stovetop to high heat. The mixture will bubble vigorously for awhile. This is normal.
6. Off the heat, stir in vanilla.
7. Pour into a greased 9X13 pan.
8. Allow to cool, cut, and enjoy!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and has been able to enjoy the start of the holiday season!  I saw this picture on Instagram the other day and wanted to share it because I think we all can use a little reminder every once in a while of what the holidays are really about.  It's so easy to get swept up in it all.
Image via Instagram
Holidays can sometimes be a little tricky when you're in a relationship and all of a sudden have twice the family gatherings to get to.  Lucky for Nate and me, both of our family's have somewhat different schedules so although they're in different cities, besides leaving slightly early or arriving a little late, we're able to spend time with everyone which is really great!


I've been in charge of desserts for both families the past couple of years and this year I ended up going with Smitten Kitchen's Pumpkin Pie (made my first pie crust from scratch!), this Low-carb Pumpkin Cheesecake (because even if you have dietary restrictions you should still be able to enjoy dessert) and this Double Layer Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake from Carlsbad Cravings.  Everything was a hit!


Last weekend we went to the final home Badger football game of the season against the Minnesota Gophers.  I was really excited to go not just because the Gophers are our biggest rivals and the winner takes home the coveted trophy that is Paul Bunyan's Axe, but there was also a great epilepsy awareness campaign that an organization I used to intern with, Lily's Fund, had put together.  In case you were wondering, we got to keep the axe and had a beautiful purple sunset to boot!


I've been chugging away with the wedding planning lately.  We sent out our save-the-dates a couple of weeks ago, have our ceremony site officially reserved and have our flowers in the works with a non-traditional florist.  Last weekend we took advantage of some Black Friday sales to get some odds and ends from The Knot Shop and bridesmaid dresses ordered from Weddington Way.  Only seven months to go!


I'd like you all to meet our newest roommate, Ruger!  He's my oldest sister's dog and will be temporarily living with us for the next few months.  I'm thinking I might have to whip up some homemade treats for him, like the apple cheddar pupcakes that Brittany has made for Bear.


One of my favorite new cookbooks is The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka.  Gina's blog Skinnytaste has been one of my favorites pretty much since I discovered food blogs a few years ago.  She makes lightened up versions of a wide variety of foods from different cultures and for every occasion.  I've never come across a recipe on it that disappoints so I knew that her first cookbook would be a must-have.

One of my favorite things about the cookbook is that every recipe has the nutritional information printed right on the page so it's nice and easy to find and there's no guessing as to whether the recipe is in fact healthy or not.  If you're a reader of her blog, one thing you will definitely notice is that she does not provide Weight Watchers points for the recipes in the book.  Since that is one of the features that I think really helped her blog grow it would have been nice to have it in the cookbook as well but I can only assume there were legal issues associated with that.

Throughout the book almost every recipe has a tip or "skinny scoop" that accompanies it as well as many food facts that really help you to learn about what you're putting in your body.  There is also a set of icons used throughout the book on both the recipe page and the recipe index at the beginning of the chapter which is one of my favorite features because it makes it really easy to identify some of my favorite types of recipes quickly.  The "slow cooker" and "quick" labels appeal to me the most, but there's also "vegetarian", "gluten-free" and "freezer-friendly".

Just like the Skinnytaste blog, I haven't come across a recipe yet that we haven't enjoyed.  Recently we've enjoyed the Greek Chickpea Salad and the Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken.  Some recipes are cross-overs from the blog, but they are some of the most popular so you can't really blame her for including them in the book.  This cookbook would make a great gift this holiday season and the pictures are sure to leave the recipient's mouth watering.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions are my own, honest truth!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hard Cider Bourbon Cocktail

You need a cocktail right now, it has been a long busy week and things aren't going to let up anytime soon. You disagree? Well maybe you need a quick cocktail for a party in the coming month because there will plenty of parties in your future. This is it.


This cocktail reminds me of a loaded corona, but for fall and with a boat load more class, mostly because we drink it from a glass and not a bottle. You don't know what a loaded corona is? Well let me enlighten you. Open yourself a corona, take a swig, now that there is a little room in the bottle, fill 'er back up with a shot of tequila and drink responsibly.

This is just like that, but a loaded cider, with bourbon. It is more classy though because we are making in a glass. Trust me, it is classy and tasty most of all.


A lot of ciders are, Crispin in particular, suggested to be served over ice. I'm not a fan of this suggestion though. Not at all.

No body likes a watered down cocktail. To make this super simple cocktail feel special and keep it cool and fall like, I made some apple cider ice cubes. It "apples" the cocktail down instead of watering it down. It just makes sense!

I've tried making this with a lighter cider like Crispin and a darker richer cider like the one pictured from Door County's Island Orchard Cider. Which to use is a personal preference. I think the bourbon boozy flavor comes out more with a lighter cider and the darker, richer cider blends with the bourbon because they are both bold and full flavored, duh. Just kidding.


Garnish the whole thing with some sliced apples. You could even use apple cubes as a garnish. Because who doesn't love a little booze soaked fruit at the bottom of their cocktail to wash the whole thing down.

This is a really easy simple cocktail to bring along to a party last minute. All you need is a bottle or six pack of your favorite cider and a bottle of bourbon and it is cocktail time. You can pick it all up en route to your party. It is perfect. My boyfriend who usually only drinks white russians loved it.

It is just the right amount of sweet, rich, apple and fall in a glass. I realize it doesn't feel like fall anymore, but I think this cocktail is a nice addition to all the eggnog, hot toddy and cocoa that will be consumed in the coming month.


Just remember to always keep it classy and mix your cocktail in a glass, not the bottle. Nothing good ever comes from a beer cocktail made in a beer bottle. Trust me. Plus, it is the holiday season and it should be filled with joy, class, laughter and kindness! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I did!

Makes 1 cocktail
Ingredients:
1 shot/jigger or 1.5 ounces bourbon
12 ounces hard cider (such as Crispin or Island Orchard Cider)
Apple cider ice cubes
1 apple, cored and sliced or cubed

Instructions:
to make the ice cubes: Pour your favorite apple cider into and ice cube tray and freeze overnight.
to make the cocktail: Combine the bourbon, hard cider and cider ice cubes in a glass. Garnish with sliced or cubed apples. Enjoy and be merry.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

April's Sunday Brunch

The holidays are approaching, well more like they have arrived. I have not had much time to get into the spirit of it all. My life is consumed by writing papers, social work issues and mental health. Any situation I encounter these days, I immediately translate it into a social work, criminal justice or mental health context.

Like the other day, a friend told me my brother hadn't slept for a few days. My mind immediately thinks, oh my goodness, he must be having a manic episode. Totally normal train of thought. My concerns were immediately invalidated when I was informed a new expansion to World of Warcraft was recently released.


The next thing I thought was, he hasn't been awake for three days straight. That is unnatural. He has had to have taken some cat naps. Inmates, I intern at the Dane County Jail, are always complaining they haven't slept for days. It just isn't true. Your body needs sleep. You have not been awake for three days. You just haven't been. Trust me. Jail may not be fun, but you've slept. I digress.

Well, there you have it. These are the thoughts I have all day ever day. Plus a lot of worries about everything. I might catastrophize every situation. I might be a little neurotic, thanks Dad. I diagnosis myself with a different mental health disorder weekly. I have too many thoughts and not enough time to think them all through. I'm rambling. I apologize.


I'm going to school to be a licensed clinical social worker and sometimes I think I might be the one who needs to see a therapist. I blame it on school. I can't keep my thoughts straight. There is so much to do all day every day. There is an end in sight at least. 166 more days to be precise.

If you can't tell from my above ramblings, I haven't had a lot of time to stop and enjoy myself. Sure there have been pleasant moments here and there, but its immediately on to the next thing, which I worried about at least 20 times while I was supposed to be enjoying myself.

I look forward to the day where I can step back, process and appreciate my day to day life. I'm not sure when that will be. Sometimes I don't think it will ever happen. Growing up scares me. Is this the way my life will always be? Is it just a consequence of graduate school? Probably.

It is a balance, I suppose. I haven't figured out that balance yet. It scares me. There are too many things I want to enjoy and accomplish in life.


I've rambled, but this is what my life has been lately. A little glimpse into my head. It's a bit crazy in there, but I'm thankful to have a lot of supportive people and a very special cat in my life. They put up with me and make me smile. I'd be a lost puppy without them. Although being a cute, fun-loving, care-free puppy sounds pretty nice right now.

I've been working on some recipes for you all though. It is just a matter of finding the time to share them will you all! The other weekend I made some killer drinking chocolate and pickled beets, while my mom and man-friend split wood for the million fires I will be having this winter.


What are your plans for Thanksgiving? I'm going to the man-friend's family Thanksgiving and then to my own family's on Saturday. I'm making this pumpkin cheesecake, by request from my sister-in-law. Then I will be feeding everyone the sweet potato hash, I shared the other week for breakfast.

Speaking of puppies, Thanksgiving and my sister-in-law, there will be two dogs at my Thanksgiving. I'm so excited. My brother and sister-in-law's pit bull and our family friends border collie will be there. They are going to have the best time.

I'm going to have the best time watching my mom cook, drinking wine and playing with the pups. I hope your holiday is as magical as mine should be. Happy Thanksgiving, a little early everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baked Blintz

Just one more week until Thanksgiving is here!  Are you excited for the holiday season to officially be in full swing or what?!  While lunch or dinner are always the star of the show on Turkey Day, you can't let the family starve in the morning either.  Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions, Chorizo and Eggs or a French Toast Bake are great options to serve, as is this Baked Blintz!


Baked blintz is actually part of my family's Christmas Day tradition.  Every year on Christmas morning we would always go to my grandparent's house for brunch after opening our presents from Santa.  Baked blintz was always sure to be part of the spread on the table along with all other sorts of brunchy goodies.


Now, you may have never heard of blintz and have no idea what it is.  Traditionally, it is a type of thin pancake that you put a filling in and roll up, similar to a crepe.

To simplify the recipe for serving to a crowd it can also be easily converted to a dish bake.  A layer of the batter is spread on the bottom of a baking dish, coated with a cottage cheese mixture for the filling, and then topped of with another layer of that batter.  It ends up as a sort of egg souffle.  Serve with a side of sour cream and fruit preserves to lather on top as you please.


There's actually only three eggs in the dish so it's neither super eggy nor super cheesy since cottage cheese doesn't have an overwhelming amount of flavor.  The sour cream and fruit preserve toppings can really direct the flavor of the dish.  It's not bland in and of itself, I've enjoyed it plain plenty of times, the toppings just give it a flavor boost.  It's very similar to pancakes where they can still taste great plain, but when you load them up with chocolate chips and berries it just takes them to a new level!


If you've never had baked blintz before and you're looking for something new to try, I definitely suggest you give it a shot.  It's pretty simple and straightforward to prepare and can easily be doubled to make a larger batch.  Just a warning that if you aren't able to spread the top layer of batter all the way to the edges, it may lift up and curl a bit (as you can see it did in my pictures) but don't worry, it still tastes just as good!

Enjoy!
Kelsey


Ingredients:

Batter

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (skim or 2%)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cup flour

Filling

  • 1 lb (16 oz) cottage cheese, creamed
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Fruit preserves or fresh berries and sour cream for topping.

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x9 (or similar sized) baking dish.
  2. To prepare batter, in a medium bowl mix butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Blend in milk.  Add baking powder and flour and mix until combined.  Set aside.
  3. To prepare filling, in a medium bowl mix creamed cottage cheese and butter.  Beat in egg.  Mix in sour cream and salt.
  4. Spread half of batter in prepared baking dish.  Add all the filling.  Cover with other half of the batter.
  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Serve with fruit preserves or fresh berries and sour cream.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

Holy hornblowers winter rolled in with a vengeance here in Wisconsin this week and boy was I unprepared.  I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new winter coat that I ordered earlier in the week and I'm also on the hunt for some new winter boots.  I've been trying out some new recipes for healthier versions of comfort foods to help keep my warm like this Mexican Quinoa Chicken Casserole and this Sweet Potato, Chicken and Quinoa Soup.

We've had a couple days of on and off snow flurries and it's really starting to get me in the holiday spirit.  I've been scouting out the Black Friday ads as they've slowly been released this week.  Any other Black Friday shoppers out there?  Luckily, I'm marrying a guy who loves a good deal as much as I do so it's become a fun little tradition for us the past couple years.


Last weekend I went wedding dress shopping with my mom, my sisters and Emily and it was lots of fun!  I ended up finding the winner at Brandi's Bridal Galleria in New Glarus, WI and we enjoyed a champagne toast to cap off the day.  Hopefully now I will stop having dreams where I wake up on my wedding day and don't have a dress!

Since my life has been settling down a little more after moving and with wrapping up law school applications, I've had a little more time on my hands to get some reading in.  Recently I finished The Vacationers by Emma Straub and really enjoyed the lighter, fun read.  I'm currently reading #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso which is a memoir by the founder of Nasty Gal and is very inspirational for those with an entrepreneur spirit.


Speaking of which, I pulled the trigger and launched an Etsy shop called Midwestern Comfort to sell my knitted goods.  To start with I only have infinity scarves but I hope to add more products and color options soon.  Let me know if you have any requests!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

French Toast Bake


Another recipe for breakfast for a crowd is here again! I think this is the perfect time to give you all ideas on how to satisfy the breakfast cravings of your soon to be holiday guests. Holiday breakfasts are some of my favorite recipes. I just love how breakfast can be such a comfort food and what memories it brings back! Holiday breakfast is especially meaningful to me because every Christmas Eve morning just the immediate family gets together. Of course I love seeing all my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents but there's something I just love about the small, intimate group of Christmas Eve morning.

For Christmas Eve morning, each of my sisters, myself and my parents prepare some sort of dish. Egg bakes are normally the hit of the table, but the spread also almost always includes fruit, monkey pull-apart bread, mimosas and a few desserts (because we don't get enough of those during the holidays). This year, I wanted to find a recipe that didn't fit the traditional ham and egg bake mold. So, off to search Pioneer Woman's website, because does Ree ever leave you disappointed? And then I found it!


This french toast bake is sweet and delicious. It closely resembles regular french toast but the nice thing about it is that you're not stuck in the kitchen flipping toast all morning. You can prepare it all the night before. The next day, all you do is pop it in the oven and voilĂ ! You have french toast for all to enjoy at the same time! Needless to say, I think this recipe will make it onto the Christmas Eve morning table.

Enjoy!
Brittany

Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman

Ingredients
French Toast
1 loaf crusty french bread
8 eggs
2 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Topping
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 stick cold butter

Instructions
1. Grease a 13x9 pan with butter.
2. Cut the french bread into cubes and add to pan.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Next, add the milk, cream, sugars, and vanilla extract. Pour over bread cubes.
4. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight. This step can be reduced or skipped all together.
5. For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl.
6. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and scatter into bowl. Using a fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture resembles corse pebbles. This, too may be refrigerated in a bag or container. Makes things a bit easier the next morning :)
7. The next morning, or when you're all set to bake the dish, preheat oven to 350.
8. Sprinkle topping over the soaked bread.
9. Bake on the middle rack for 45-60minutes. 45 minutes will give you a nice bread pudding texture; 60 minutes will yield a crispy and firmer texture.
10. Enjoy with your favorite traditional french toast toppings: syrup, fruit, powdered sugar, etc!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Good morning brunchers! I hope you are reading this under a snuggly soft blanket with coffee and a smile. Because that is how I wrote this! Lately, the littlest things, which sometimes to me seem quite large, have been filling my heart with happiness.

First of all, a few of my latest posts have been published on Foodgawker and Tastespotting! Woohoo! Not always having the most confidence in my food photos and camera, a little reassurance like a published photo on Foodgawks goes a long way. I don't have a professional camera and I have no education in photography so I'd say I'm doing pretty well for myself. I still have a lot of practicing to do (thank you readers for being so patient with me). And maybe someday I'll get a fancy camera to help...but a wedding to pay for comes first.


Speaking of wedding, I'm getting all sorts of excited for that day! Save the dates are sealed and sent! What a difference I feel now that those babies are out. It's like it's finally official now that the guest list knows about it. We also finalized our tasting date and menu. Oh boy. I'm super excited to try out the new menu featured at Steenbock's on Orchard. Also, my dress got moved to Madison! Oh man, it's so hard not to run to our storage unit 5 steps away and try it on. It's a shame I only get to wear that beauty for one day!

What else has me doing the happy dance? Well, I'm a tad ashamed to say it but...I listened to some Michael Buble Christmas songs. I waited until after Halloween and I really wasn't going to but it just happened. And now it's hard to shut it off. But, I'm I really the only one to have Christmas songs playing already? I bet others out there are just as excited for the holidays as me. Anyone have any good Thanksgiving recipes to share? Normally, we each bring a side or dessert and my parents supply the bird. This year, I want to try something new. Here are a few recipes I'm contemplating
I think I'm really feeling a pie...or maybe a healthy side (I think it's the guilt I felt when all I wanted was to devour that peanut butter pie)
Looking for Thanksgiving inspiration on Badger Kitchen? Check these out: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries, Apple Crisp Pie, Cranberry Upside-down Cake, Braised Carrots


Enjoy your Sunday, thanks for stopping by!
- Brittany

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash with Carmalized Onions, Chorizo and Eggs

Its about that time to start thinking about the holidays and what you are going to be making for holiday dinners and gatherings! Its the best time of year. I wish I had a bit more time to think and plan these things, but honestly school has really gotten the best of me.

My mom doesn't know it yet, but Thanksgiving dinner is all hers this year. Usually I claim things. By things I mean every single holiday that calls for a meal. What I will lay claim to is breakfast the morning after!


This here hash is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for a crowd. Its more creative than your standard egg bake too. Really wow your guests. I actually made this on a Thursday night and then cooked 2/3 of it on Sunday morning for friends that were visiting.

Who doesn't love a runny eggs?! Crazy people. No offense, but seriously! I will never understand how you couldn't like a runny egg yolk. It acts like a magical dressing for whatever it sits on top of. Delicious, silky, greatness. Food porn at its finest.

For those who prefer a hard cooked egg, don't worry. Your eggs can take a trip into the oven for an extra five minutes. After five minutes, take out the hash and add the rest of the eggs for another 10 minutes.


The meat and potatoes are also very flexible. I think a nice breakfast sausage, with sweet or russet potatoes would be delicious, maybe will a little bacon and maple syrup. For a more smoky take you could use andouille sausage.

The chorizo that I used here makes your kitchen smell divine. A sort of sweet, peppery and smoky party for your nose. I think it is the paprika, which might be my newest spice obsession.  I got my chorizo at Whole Foods, if you can't find it you could substitute any other sausage you see fit.


The preparation of the hash is a bit labor intensive but totally worth it! Reheating the hash with the eggs is what really makes the hash special. Its bottom layer gets super crunchy, but the top layer of taters are still soft. Sweet, with a little hint of spice. I think chorizo and sweet potatoes were made for eachother.

Because I only served 2/3 of it to my friends, I cooked up the rest for these here photos and ate it for lunch the next two days. If you don't have a huge crowd to feed, still make the whole batch and treat yourself throughout the week to a special breakfast.


You, you're guests and bellies will not regret this. It is a must make for the upcoming holiday season and will make your house smell delicious!

xo
April


Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 5-8
Ingredients:
for the hash:
2 large onions, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt
1 1/4 pound fresh chorizo

3 pounds sweet potatoes, about 3 large potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste if necessary
Freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
Large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
To make the hash:
Heat the oven to 450°F. Place the sausage in a large skillet and brown over medium-high heat, chopping it up into fine crumbles with a spatula. Cook the sausage for about 10 minutes, or until it is browned and beginning to crisp. Drain the sausage, reserving 1 tablespoon fat and set aside, in a large bowl (large enough that you can mix everything together before it goes onto a baking sheet and into the oven).

While the sausage cooks, peel the onions and cut them in half lengthwise, then cut them into thin half-moons. Cut the half-moons in half. In the same skillet, melt the butter with the drippings, over medium-high heat. When it foams up add the onions and sprinkle lightly with salt. (Don't worry if they are crammed into the pan; they will rapidly cook down.) Lower the heat slightly and cook the onions for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and lowering the heat if they seem to be burning. Cook them until they are dark brown.

While the onions are cooking, chop the unpeeled sweet potatoes into cubes that are about 1/2-inch to a side. Finely mince the garlic and toss it in a large bowl with the sweet potatoes and sausage. Toss with the olive oil, kosher salt, and a generous helping of black pepper.

When the onions are dark brown, stir these into the sweet potatoes as well. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and spread out the sweet potatoes evenly, depending on the size of you baking sheets you may need to use two. Roast the sweet potatoes for 30 to 45 minutes (roasting time depends on the size and uniformity of the sweet potato chunks, as well as the variety of sweet potato you buy) or until they are soft and browned.

Refrigerate the cooled hash for up to 5 days.

To serve:
Heat the oven to 425°F. Spread a relatively thin layer of the (already cooked) sweet potato hash in a baking dish, such as a cast iron skillet or a 9x13-inch baking dish (I've done it with both). You can also bake in individual ramekins. Make small wells in the sweet potatoes and crack in large eggs. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes for a runny yolk and 15 to 20 minutes for a hard cooked egg. (Test the eggs by prodding them with a fork to check the firmness of the white and the yolk; baked eggs are deceptive in that the white often looks much less cooked than it really is.)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

April's Sunday Brunch

I went to Cali to visit some friends who moved to the Sacramento area for a job. They pretty much live in a magical garden paradise, with fruit trees all around their neighborhood free for the picking! Amazing! The persimmons weren't actually ripe, but boy they sure are pretty!


We went to Muir woods and saw some redwoods. I've always wanted to see them. Next time it will be Yosemite and some Sequoias. Because they are massive and majestic. At least I imagine them to be that way.

We went to San Fran and ate some expensive toast and coconut. Wandered around down to the beach. Drank some beer. Ate some tacos and watch the Giants win some baseball. We finished the day off with an ice cream cookie sandwich. It must be a thing in California. Expensive toast and ice cream cookie sandwiches. It is like the fro-yo craze, but with more carbs.


On our way home from San Fran, we tuned into NPR and started listening to Serial. It is actually a podcast you can listen to online. What is it about you ask? Basically a real life murder mystery. Is the guy in prison, guilty like the court determined or innocent? This is totally right up my alley too.

In case you didn't know, I'm getting my social work masters and intend to work with a criminal population in some capacity or another. I think its a fascinating population and system in so many ways. You should listen to the podcast. Kelsey also listens to it too and is totally into it.


Since Cali, life has pretty much been all about school, with a few fun breaks here and there. It is endless. Graduation can't come soon enough. Maybe a 40 hour a week job will be worse? Only time will tell and I think not.

My friend Anna and her boy came to visit for the badger game the other weekend. It was amazing weather. It has been such a mild October. Hopefully that bodes well for winter. Doubtful. The almanac agrees.

I went to a demo cooking class at the Madison Club with my mother. It was a lot of fun and delicious!  It was a Spanish tapas theme. There were twice friend potatoes with a paprika tomato reduction sauce and aioli. The main attraction though was the big old octopus!

It was boiled for a whopping 90 minutes! Crazy. I'd always imagined it would be overcooked if you cooked it that long. It isn't. It was buttery and delicious.

  

My boyfriend and I watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, ate macaroni and cheese with hotdogs and relieved my middle school days. What were my parents thinking? I turned out okay though. He has never seen it before and I've watched it about a million times.  

I danced and sang a lot. It was a wonderful way to spend Halloween, for me anyways. He probably thinks I'm a nutcase now. Did you do anything fun for Halloween?

Cheers,
April 

Friday, October 31, 2014

S'mores Rice Krispie Treats


When I think of rice krispie treats, I think of marshmallows and when I think of marshmallows I think of s'mores! S'mores just have that nostalgic taste that brings you back to your childhood of bonfires and camping (or at least it does for me). Most people nowadays don't realize that I use to be quite the rugged camper. I'm sure my college friends can't even picture me hooking a worm or going without a shower for a week. But yes, I did that all the time growing up and I loved it.

Ok, back to s'mores and rice krispies. So when this chain of thought brought me to s'mores, I couldn't wait to start experimenting in the kitchen. You see, I thought I came up with some novel idea to combine s'mores with rice krispie treats. I was slightly crushed when it only took 30 milliseconds to find 28 recipes for s'mores rice krispie treats on Pinterest. I was quite embarrassed that I thought I had some evolutionary culinary masterpiece in mind. However, I decided to stick with my original plan and create my own recipe instead of borrowing. Plus, how hard could it be to create a rice krispie variation? I didn't think I could mess this one up.


After my second try (yes, I did screw up on the first try), I was pretty pleased with the outcome. And I'm guessing others liked them too since I already washed the dish they were in! As s'mores and rice krispie treats imply, these dessert bars are sweet and chewy with a crunch. And there is plenty of chocolate to please my craving, so it should satisfy yours as well. Plus, overall this recipe is quick, easy and sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Hope you enjoy!
Brittany


Ingredients
Crust:
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

Rice Krispies:
5 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
2 tbsp. butter
6 c. Rice Krispies cereal

Chocolate coating:
1/2 c. chocolate chips
Any additional topping such as mini chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, or sprinkles

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix to combine. Make sure everything is evenly coated with the butter.
3. Press crust into a greased 13x9 dish. Bake for 7-10 minutes.
4. As the crust is baking, melt butter in a large pot on medium heat. Add the marshmallows and constantly stir to prevent burning.
5. Once the butter and marshmallows are a nice, smooth consistency, turn the heat off and add the rice krispie cereal.
6. Pour the rice krispie marshmallow mixture over the still warm crust. Press firmly in order for the two layers to stick. *I also melted a bit more marshmallows and put it in between the two layers as glue. I'm not sure how much good that actually did, but worth it if you're not convinced the layers will stay together without it.
7. Let cool for 1-2 hours.
8. Once cool, cut the treat outs with your favorite cookie cutter, or cut into squares.
9. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute or on low in a saucepan.
10. Dunk the treats in the melted chocolate and garnish with your favorite topping. Place on parchment paper to cool.
11. Let chocolate cool and harden for about 1-2 hours.
12. Enjoy!

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