Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Raspberry French Toast Casserole

The Jews have survived.  Hanukkah, that is.  Now it is the Christians' turn to face the pressure.  Do you have the same number of gifts for each kid? (they are counting, you know).  And are they equitable? (they are mentally calculating that too).  

Equally as important, what are you eating on Christmas morning? (and what are you wearing, because cameras will be flashing).  A favorite Christmas morning treat is my mom’s coffee cake, of course.  Try Barefoot Contessa’s French toast casserole too – you can make it the day before and bake while you open gifts (from her Make It Ahead cookbook).  Delish (even David says so!)!!! 

Happiest of whatever holiday(s) you celebrate!  

Raspberry French Toast Casserole

  1. 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  2. 10 extra-large eggs
  3. 3 cups half-and-half
  4. 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
  5. 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  6. 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  8. 10 cups day-old challah bread (cut into 1 inch cubes) – (10 c is about 1 challah)
  9. 12 oz raspberries
  10. Confectioners’ sugar
Grease an 9x13 Pyrex dish with the butter and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/3 c of sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.

Spread half the challah cubes into the dish.  Sprinkle the raspberries on top of the first layer of bread.  Top with the rest of the bread and pour on the egg mixture, pressing down lightly to moisten the bread.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 T of sugar.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 60-70 minutes until the custard is set and the top if puffed and browned.  After 45 minutes, check if the top is getting too brown; if so, cover lightly with aluminum foil.  Cool for 10 minutes; sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.  Serve warm.

Note: you can halve the recipe, bake in an 8x8 Pyrex dish, and serve 5-6 but why??  Leftovers are excellent reheated. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Chosen Desserts

Chocolate Sheath Cake
Nine years ago our world quickly moved to a zone defense.  As the doctors talked about what they were doing for Christmas, the rest of us were anxiously awaiting the surprise of two babies.  We guessed they were a boy and girl but not in the order that they arrived.  

Butterfinger Ice Cream Pie
As their birthdays approached this year, I asked what kind of cake they wanted for their party and for their birthday dinner.  To my surprise, they did not choose Baskin Robbins or Central Market, but a chocolate sheath cake and a Butterfinger icecream pie.  No complaints here because it will be soon enough that mom is not cool and neither is her cooking!

Happy Birthday Elizabeth and Andrew!!   May the next 9 years be as sweet as the first!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peppermint Meringue Cookies

‘Tis the season for… piano recitals.  Yes, the countless hours spent practicing and the 1 minute (if that) of glory and fame, not to mention the other 59 minutes of other people’s kids’ performances.  This year Elizabeth is playing a Sonatina and Travis is playing "Say Anything" by A Great Big World and is being accompanied by a voice student of the music school.  Andrew got out of it all together by having a basketball practice scheduled during lesson time.

I am a fan of the meringue cookie these days.  This peppermint meringue is light and refreshing and perfect for the holidays (and it makes a ton – I actually cut the recipe in half and it still made about 40 cookies).

Peppermint Meringues
Bonus humor for the day from an almost 9-year-old: “Mom, spell pig backwards and then say ‘a lot.’ ”  So I dutifully followed directions and potty humor emerged.  Then she said “think before you speak, Mom.”  See – there is a lesson in there somewhere. 

  1. 6 large egg whites
  2. 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  3. 1 1/2 c sugar
  4. 1 tsp peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 200°. Let egg whites stand 20 minutes. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer, using whisk attachment, until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium. Add vinegar; add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until blended. Beat 2 minutes. Beat in extract.

Gently spoon meringue into center of bag (decorating bag or a Ziploc), filling three-fourths full. Snip end of bag. Pipe about 2 T meringue onto 1 parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I outlined a quarter-size circle and then swirled in the middle, ending with my best Dairy Queen curl), leaving 1 inch between each cookie. Repeat with remaining meringue, using a clean bag for each batch.

Bake at 200° for 2 hours. Turn off oven, and let meringues stand in oven until completely cool (about 3 hours).

For details on decorating these cookies with red food coloring gel or dipping in chocolate, go to the original Southern Living recipe on My Recipes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Been invited to a holiday party and want to bring an appetizer?  Watching football this weekend?  Whatever your plans, make this hummus (from Barefoot Contessa’s new cookbook, Make It Ahead).  I know – there are tons of brands and flavors at the grocery store and they are oh so convenient.  BUT David says that this hummus is more flavorful and fluffier.  So if that isn’t a ringing endorsement...  Plus your kid can punch the buttons on the food processor and help.

There have been many reminders recently about the fragility and blessing of life.  Remember to hug and kiss those you love.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  1. 2 - 15 oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained (about 3 cups)
  2. ½ c lemon juice
  3. 1/3 c sesame tahini
  4. 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
  5. 1 ½ tsp Sriracha
  6. 2 roasted red bell peppers (or about half a 16 oz. jar of roasted red bell peppers)
  7. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, Sriracha, roasted red peppers, 1 T salt and 1 t pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process until the mixture is coarsely pureed.  Season to taste.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.  Serve with pita chips or veggies.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Meringue Cookies with Chocolate and Nuts

“Today is a good day for a good day.” – Joanna Gaines, Fixer Upper, HGTV.  I love the optimism of this statement: that every day is an opportunity to have a good day.  And today – Friday, December 5 – was a GREAT day!  Life is a blessing.  So for all the good days, life, blessings, and family, I give you kisses.
Meringue Cookies

  1. 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  3. 2/3 c superfine granulated sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 c semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped semisweet chocolate
  6. 1 c finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not at all dry. (Be careful not to over beat.) Add the sugar gradually, about 3 tablespoons at a time. When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding remaining sugar in batches, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very shiny and tight. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of 1 teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies. Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until cookies are crisp and dry.