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Posts Tagged ‘brunches’

It’s spring and strawberry season is upon us.  In fact, one of my friends turned two gallons of berries into umpteen jars of preserves yesterday.  Hope she is planning to share them with friends! (Hint, hint)

Today’s recipe comes from one of my longtime Oklahoma friends.  She made these for a Bunco party and they were a hit.  Even better, you aren’t limited to strawberry season to make them; a package of frozen berries will work just as well.  Perfect for a brunch or gathering with girls.  (Hey maybe I’ll rustle up a pitcher when Dallas debuts next month…you need an all-star lineup of food for a watch party, right?)

Cheryl’s Strawberry Spritzers

Ingredients:
2 pints berries, (or 3 10-ounce packages frozen berries, thawed but cold)
1/2 cup sugar
1 24-ounce bottle white grape juice, chilled
1 28-ounce bottle club soda or other plain carbonated water, chilled
1 liter (or 16 ounces) Sprite or other lemon-lime beverage, chilled (can use diet)

Directions:
If using fresh berries, clean and coarsely chop berries; blend with half-cup of sugar and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Frozen berries can be thawed by placing in refrigerator the day before.  Blend 2/3 of the berries in a blender until smooth.  In a punch bowl combine berry puree, juice, water and Sprite and remaining chopped or sliced berries as a garnish. Serve immediately.  (For casual gatherings, pour over crushed ice to keep each glass cold.)   Makes 24 4-ounce( punch cup) servings, 18 6-ounce servings or 12 8-ounce servings.  If you use regular Sprite and berries in heavy syrup, the calorie count is around 30 cals per 4-ounce serving.  Fresh or plain berries and diet soda reduce the calories to a fraction of that.

A little lagniappe:  For even more festiveness, add sprigs of mint to each cup.  Or add lemon juice and simple syrup (to taste) and create strawberry-lemonade spritzers; garnish with thin twists of lemon.

Happy entertaining!
Terry

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Recipe of the week: Pumpkin Biscuits

We’re nearing the home stretch with this miniseries of pumpkin recipes.  As witnessed by my posts over the last few weeks, most pumpkin recipes are sweet: pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts, etc. And most of them partner cinnamon (and often nutmeg or allspice) with the pumpkin to achieve that familiar “pumpkin” flavor.

This week will take us in a more savory different direction:  pumpkin biscuits.  if you look around, you’ll find there are recipes for sweet biscuits featuring pumpkin or sweet potato puree, with brown sugar and the traditional spices. But this one (adapted from Country Living) is decidedly not sweet.  Instead it has a yin and yang of  cayenne pepper and ginger, and only a small squeeze of honey; no sugar, no cinnamon.   The biscuits can be eaten warm and buttered or slathered with apple or pumpkin butter.  Or – as you can see here, I upped the ante with slices of Black Forest ham (country ham would be total awesomeness, but I didn’t have any on hand) and a dollop of apple butter for a yummy flavor combination that would be perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch spread.

Spicy Savory Pumpkin Biscuits

Ingredients:

The salt and honey arrived late on the scene…

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespooon + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside.  In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients until blended.  With a pastry knife, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and honey; add to the flour mixture just until blended.  Mix in buttermilk until the mixture clings together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead and fold douh a half-dozen times.  Pat out 3/4 to 1-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter or drinking glass.  I used a 2-inch cutter.  Place on baking sheet leaving an inch or so between biscuits.  Press scraps together and cut again until the dough is used up.   It will make 12, 2-inch biscuits.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown; transfer to wire rack to cool slightly before serving.  Best served warm.

Happy baking,

 
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Last Saturday was my second year to host a late summer Saturday brunch for our “Secret Sisters” group. After enjoying our favorite brunch dishes potluck style, we assembled care packages for our recent high school grads, so we can send them off to college with a surprise box full of goodies packed with love and care.

I’m not a huge fan of fruit punches, but a brunch just calls out for something special and fun to drink, and there are many mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks that are fun and refreshing.  Last year, I tried out two new beverages on the group: June Bugs and Green Grape Glaciers.   I made grenadine for the June Bugs when I saw how easy it was to make your own.

This year I created my own concoction, which I dubbed Peach-Orange Fizz.  It’s reminiscent of Fuzzy Navels and Mimosas, minus the alcohol.

Here are the recipes for all three, including directions for making your own grenadine.  Each recipe makes 8 servings and can be scaled up or down depending on the number of guests.

June Bugs
 6 cups (48 ounces) ginger ale
8 tablespoons grenadine*
8 tablespoons orange juice
6 scoops orange sherbet
Mix together and serve.  (To make in advance, mix all ingredients except sherbet and add it just before serving.) 


Homemade Grenadine
Grenadine comes from the French word “grenade” which means pomegranate.  Most of the commercial grenadines no longer contain pomegranate juice, despite its rise in popularity and healthful qualities.  The commercial syrups also typically contain a lot of high fructose corn syrup.  Try making your own – it’s quick, easy and arguably healthier.

1 8-ounce bottle pomegranate (I’ve also used POM’s pomegranate and cherry juice – yum!)
1/2 cup sugar

In a heavy saucepan, bring juice to a boil and let it reduce to half (about 10-15 minutes; keep an eye on it while it boils.)  Add sugar; stir to dissolve. Cool before using; refrigerate.

Green Grape Glaciers
4 dozen seedless green grapes
32 ounces white grape juice
32 ounces cold sparkling water

In advance, wash, dry and layer grapes on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze for several hours or overnight.  To mix, combine all but a dozen of the grapes and other ingredients in a blender and pulse until blended.  Pour into glasses, divide remaining grapes among glasses.  Can also add a mint sprig if desired.

Terry’s Peach-Orange Fizz
1 large container frozen orange juice concentrate
1 liter peach-flavored sparkling water*
1 liter lemon-lime flavored sparkling water*

Mix together and serve immediately.  


*You’ll find flavored sparkling waters in your grocery’s beverage section, usually near the seltzer water and club soda and drink mixers.  They are artificially sweetened, so if you’d prefer, you can substitute a lemon-lime soft drink (Sprite, 7-Up) for half the sparkling water and add a few ounces of peach nectar.

Happy brunching,

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Pancakes are a mainstay for weekend breakfasts.  I have a favorite from-scratch recipe and occasionally I’ll even use packaged mixes.

But homemade cinnamon rolls or waffles make a leisurely breakfast extra-special.  One of the first recipes I tried from Mary Gubser’s Quick Breads, Soups & Stews cookbook was this yeast-raised waffle recipe.

It requires planning ahead – you either need to allow an hour for the batter to rise in the morning, or mix it up the night before and refrigerate it.  (I usually do the latter.) I modified Mary’s original proportions a bit to suit us, and nothing compares to the texture I can get with this recipe.  I’ve tried several other waffle recipes over the years, from scratch and mixes, and always come back to this one – it’s worth the extra effort.

I have two stove-top Belgian waffle irons.  They demand close attention to maintain the proper temperature, but when I have bacon in the oven and both irons going on the stove top, I can get breakfast on the table in good time.

Our family’s favorite syrup is hard to find here;  Griffin Foods is an Oklahoma-based company and not many Tennessee stores carry their syrup or other products.  (Too bad – their corn syrup and preserves are pretty tasty and economical, too.)

 When our boys were growing up (and had ravenous appetites as only pre-teen and teenage boys can have), I bought Griffin’s pancake syrup by the gallon.  Now we snag a few smaller bottles anytime we can get our hands on some. In between we make-do with other brands.  If you get the chance to try some Griffin’s, you should.

Our Favorite Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
1 package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 eggs, separated
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
Sprinkle yeast on water in small bowl and mix well.  Set aside to proof (I usually add a bit of the recipe’s sugar to speed things along.)  In a large bowl, combine milk with the butter, sugar and salt, mixing well.  Add the 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks (place the whites in a separate dish); stir until well-blended.  Stir in the yeast mixture.  With a wire whip, beat in flour and vanilla.  Cover bowl and let proof for 45 minutes or refrigerate overnight.  (Be sure the bowl is large enough to accommodate the raised mixture – refrigerator disasters are no fun to face in the morning!)  Refrigerate egg whites separately.

When ready to bake, beat reserved egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.  Bake according to your waffle iron’s directions.  Makes 7 waffles.

Serve hot with butter and syrup, or your favorite waffle toppings.  Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated if you have a toaster or toaster oven with an extra-wide slot.

Happy brunching!

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Recipe of the Week: Hash Brown Casserole

I loved Cracker Barrel the first time I stepped foot in one, on the morning of November 27, 1982. It was a memorable breakfast preceding my first-ever UT football game. Unfortunately, it was one of only five games the Vols have ever lost to their in-state rival, the Vanderbilt Commodores (it’s only happened once since, in 2005.)  I still love Cracker Barrel, despite our rocky start.

One of my favorite dishes is their hash brown casserole.  I’ve been known to order a double-portion as part of a “vegetable plate” (I know, potatoes shouldn’t count as a vegetable, let alone TWO vegetables, but it’s worth the occasional splurge.)

I’ve tried many recipes that claimed to taste “just like Cracker Barrel’s” casserole, and I always came up short, until someone clued me into this simple and wonderful version. It is a perfect dish for a leisurely weekend breakfast or brunch, especially at the holidays.

Hash Brown Casserole Just Like Cracker Barrel’s

Ingredients:
1 32-ounce bag frozen shredded hash browns
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.  Spray or grease a deep-sided 9×13 baking dish (I like my big deep Pyrex “French White” casserole dish, but you can use any dish deep enough to hold the potatoes.)
Saute onion in butter.  Place frozen hashbrowns in dish, toss in softened onions.  Use a spoon and scoop the undiluted soup over the casserole; toss well (it won’t seem evenly distributed but do the best you can.)  Sprinkle on cheese and toss once more to mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle with pepper (you can also season with salt, but I don’t think it needs it.)

Cover with foil and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until edges are crisp and center potatoes are cooked through.  Remove foil and allow to bake another 5-10 minutes to brown on top.  Serve warm.  Makes 6-8 generous servings.

Note:  I have made this casserole the day before and refrigerated it overnight.  The baking time is approximately the same, since the potatoes will have completely thawed.

Happy breakfasting!

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