Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gruyere & Bacon Stuffed French Toast



Breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. However, it is my hubby’s favorite hands down. If you are curious, mine would be dinner with a whole bunch of small plates. Albeit, I do eat breakfast everyday to get fuel for the day – typically a Greek yogurt along with a banana or berries.


Since hubby likes to go out for breakfast on the weekends or have me create a “full” breakfast on the weekends, I do have a few favorites including French toast. I love the custard consistency along with a crispy outside of French toast and of course, the rich maple syrup that goes along with this delightful weekend treat.



Early in our relationship, I made Grand Mariner French Toast for my hubby. My hubby never had French toast like this before, since I use thick sliced French bread. The thickness of the bread helps to absorb the luscious custard which produces a decadent and satisfying breakfast. I think my hubby had grown up on sandwich bread dipped in an egg mixture; did not take long for him to be converted.


For me, it all starts with the bread, whether it is a Semifreddi's sour dough loaf or a crunchy & chewy ciabatta, the richness of the bread makes all the difference. Next comes the rich custard with egg, half & half along with real vanilla extract - sometimes a bit of triple sec adds that extra special punch and flavor.


Taking it to the next level is stuffing your French toast with various fillings. Perhaps with ricotta and blueberries or mascarpone and orange zest OR gruyere and bacon stuffed French toast? Lately I am a bit obsessed with the later of my variations; hence I wanted to share with all of you. It is something I have been making for quite sometime and perfected the combination over time. The combination of smoky bacon, earthy gruyere, dense sourdough bread, rich custard, sweet maple syrup and hint of cinnamon is an explosion of amazing flavors all in one bite.

Just imagine all of the wonderful flavors and textures you can stuff your French toast with. Would love to hear all of your wonderful ideas for what you would stuff your French toast with!

Gruyere & Bacon Stuffed French Toast

Makes 4 Slices

4 Slices, good sourdough bread (about 1 1/4th inch thick)
8 Bacon Slices, Cooked until crispy and crumbled
1 C. Gruyere Cheese, grated
Cinnamon dusting French toast
Butter for cooking French toast

Custard

2 Eggs
1 C. Half & Half (could use whole milk or 2% milk)
1 t. Vanilla

Once you have the sour dough bread sliced, you will want to with a sharp knife cut into the bottom of each slice and gently slice to almost the end of the top and sides to create the pocket to stuff each slice.

Add the cooked bacon once cooled and gruyere cheese together in a bowl. Divide evenly among the four slices of bread and begin to gently stuff each one. Once you have completed, then gently press each stuffed bread together to prevent the inside ingredients from escaping.

Prepare the custard by adding the eggs, half & half and vanilla together and whisk gently until combined.

Use a large griddle to cook all of the French toast at the same time. Heat griddle on medium and add approximately 2 tablespoons of butter to the griddle and spread evenly. Meanwhile dip each stuffed bread into the custard mixture and add to the heated griddle. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Let cook over medium for about 5 minutes per side – if your cook top runs hot, you may want to reduce the heat to prevent burning.

Serve with your favorite maple syrup. To make more, simply double or triple the recipe to serve the desired amount of guests. Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

{ Rotisserie Chicken & Barley Soup }



There is a certain level of comfort in a bowl of Chicken Soup, especially when it is homemade. Could it be the richness of the broth? Shredded pieces of chicken? Dense noodles? Or perhaps, just the satisfaction and comfort it brings with each spoonful? I believe it is all of the above.


I am sure most of you have heard of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. They are real stories from real people who share inspiration; bring hope, courage and love, to folks around the world. There is a book for almost any audience and topic. Just like a hot bowl of homemade chicken soup, these books bring great comfort.


Chicken soup typically puts a smile on your face and warms the soul. While growing up, my mother would always tell us – “think positive, not negative” and “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”. She taught us that we were independent and being positive would get you much further in life, than the opposite. As I journey through life, I take the opportunities and challenges as lessons I learn. Each lesson makes me stronger along with continuing to be very comfortable in my own skin, plus that comes with age and our own unique experiences.


If you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I pin quite a few inspirational quotes and/or thoughts. They are wonderful for new ideas, ways to think differently along with being motivational and giving encouragement to get to the next level on this journey called life. I wanted to share a few of my favorites and hope that they inspire you too:






Rotisserie Chicken & Barley Soup

1 Large onion, diced small
6 Large carrots, peeled and cut into coins
7 Celery stalks, trimmed and sliced into pieces
1 Rotisserie Chicken, remove both white and dark meat, shred
9 C. Chicken Stock
¾ C. Barley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a large pot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium for a few minutes. Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot. Sauté for about 15 minutes until somewhat soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock, shredded chicken and barley to the pot. Turn on medium to high heat until slightly bubbling. Turn down the heat to simmer and let cook for one hour. The barley will cook all the way through along with the flavors developing. Taste along the way to see if you need to add more salt or pepper. Relish in the comfort of a piping hot bowl of homemade chicken soup!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies



Friday in the Bay Area yielded our first storm of the winter season. Another one is expected today, which is extremely good news. The hope is that the rest of winter brings many rain showers along with snow in the Sierras. It would mean the chance of drought during our summer months would be insignificant. We actually have had to run our sprinklers since the lawn was beginning to turn brown and crunchy. The goal is to keep the sprinklers turned off and let mother natures sprinklers run.



With a slight break in the rain yesterday, hubby and I decided to remove the leaves from the gutters to allow for the trapped water to drain. We have a beautiful hundred year old walnut tree in our backyard that produces a significant amount of leaves during the fall that cover the ground and gutters. It is a regal and striking tree but extremely high maintenance. After completing our homeowner task, I jumped on the treadmill and hubby for a bike ride.


Once energized from the treadmill and with rather grey and drab skies, I decided to bake cookies. Not sure what it is about baking, but for me it is just plain comforting - from laying all of the ingredients out on the counter to the mixing of the dough to tasting the final product. {Of course, tasting the raw cookie dough is half the pleasure for me – how about you?}


I had pinned this Lemon Crinkle Cookie recipe some time ago, in hopes of making in the future. Today was that day. Laura Brennan has her own food blog and this was a winning recipe from a contest she participated in. After tasting, I completely agree why the judges awarded her the grand prize. By the way, it is hard to eat just one – trust me.


Lemon Crinkle Cookies

½ cups Butter, softened
1 C. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 T. Lemon Zest
1 T. Fresh Lemon Juice
¼ t. Salt
¼ t. Baking Powder
⅛ t. Baking Soda
1 ½ C. Flour
½ C. Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and press lightly to flatten slightly and repeat with remaining dough. I used a one inch diameter ice cream scoop.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. I found 10 minutes was perfect. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Makes between 2 and 3 dozen cookies depending on the size.

Recipe slightly adapted from Laura Brennan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stilton and Walnut Palmiers


Who doesn’t LOVE puff pastry? That rich, buttery and flakey dough - when baked is like eating a cloud of pure goodness. Okay – maybe not a cloud per se, but a wonderful piece of pastry, whether it is savory or sweet is one of life’s simple delights.

Puff pastry is just one of those staple items that you should keep in your freezer for last minute guests, so you can whip up a quick appetizer or dessert. I have yet to make it from scratch, although it is on my bucket list; I do keep a couple packages on hand at all times.



For the past 11 years, I have been hosting an annual year end appreciation lunch for my direct reports. I really enjoy making people happy by cooking and entertaining for them. I plan the menu a few weeks in advance, since I need to allocate time to get everything done while working long hours at work. As an extra special touch, I create menus that I have at each place setting so the guests can anticipate what they will be feasting on and have a souvenir to take home with them. I keep a three ring binder of all menus I have ever created for not just this annual team lunch, but all dinners at my house.



{ Clockwise: Stefanie, Debby, Amy + her new baby, Me, Christine, Lisa, Catrina and Matt }

It is fun to reminisce about each gathering, along with ensuring I don’t repeat identical items for the same guests. I will typically tailor each menu by listing my guests, the date and the entire menu from appetizers to dessert. It is a fun way to make your dinner party special.

For this year annual lunch, I served three appetizers to start the festivities including: Truffled Butter and Parmesan Popcorn, Cranberry, Orange & Ginger Brie Cups and the Stilton and Walnut Palmiers I have highlighted in this post. All three were unique but the flavors were brilliant and were teasers for the rest of the menu. Enjoy!


Stilton and Walnut Palmiers

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
3 ounces Stilton cheese, at room temperature
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use a non-stick baking sheet.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to 1/4 inch thick.

In a medium bowl, combine cheese and enough cream to make a spreadable paste. Spread the mixture on the prepared puff pastry, spreading to within 1/4 inch of the edges. Sprinkle with walnuts and rosemary.

Roll one side tightly to the middle, then roll the other side to middle and press slightly together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Use a sharp knife, cut into ½ inch slices thick.

Place on prepared baking sheet spacing the rolls 1 inch apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until rolls are puffed and golden. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Sweetpeaskitchen

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Truffled Butter and Parmesan Popcorn


Popcorn is a wonderful childhood memory for me. For those of you, who have been to a drive in movie either as a child or adult, know that it is a special event. I realize as I write this post, that many of you must be thinking – “what is a drive in movie”? I certainly hope that I am not dating myself, since I do not consider myself old by any means. (Smile)

When I was a little kid, it was a treat for our family to venture in the car to the drive in movie to watch a few flicks. We would get into our pajamas; bring pillows and blankets to be comfortable. Ultimately, my parents were genius’s masterminds - we would fall asleep, be comfortable and were ready to carry to bed when we got home.

Not sure about you, but in the Bay Area, the concept and reality of the drive in movie is almost as extinct like our friends the dinosaurs. A few exist, but not many. How about where you live?


What is a movie, whether at the drive in, theatre or home without the traditional treat of hot buttered popcorn? They go hand in hand. My Mom would use a well seasoned cast iron pot to make popcorn. The pot that my Mom uses actually belonged to my Dad before he married my Mom.  She would pop several batches of white popcorn, melt butter and throw into a large brown paper bag. Numerous vigorous shakes would occur, a bit of salt and then a taste test to ensure the proportions were perfect. Once complete, the top on the trusty brown paper bag would be folded over and packed into the car for our drive in movie adventure.

Over the holidays, I found this recipe from Gourmande in the Kitchen and was completely inspired. I have a real  love for anything truffle related.  I altered her recipe slightly and it was simply divine.  I served it for New Years Eve as one of the appetizers along with my annual team lunch last week.  A hit both times!  Enjoy!!

Truffled Butter and Parmesan Popcorn

6 T. Salted Butter
1 T. Truffle Oil
3 T. Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 C. White Popcorn Kernels
1/2 C. finely grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt to taste

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and truffle oil together and set aside.

You’ll need a large heavy-bottomed pot with lid. Heat oil over medium heat with 2 or 3 popcorn kernels. Once the kernals begin to pop, cover with a lid.  Shake periodically so the kernals do not burn.  Once you stop hearing popping, take off the heat.  Add to a large brown paper bag.  Best to double the paper bags to allow for the oil to absorb and not come through.

Drizzle the truffle butter over all of the popcorn once in the brown bag and shake well.  Next add the parmesan cheese and shake well.  Taste and then add salt and shake well, until it reaches the desired taste levels you are looking for.  With the salted butter and parmesan cheese, you may not need to add too much salt.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Roasted Grapes with Thyme, Ricotta and Grilled Bread


How many times do you wish you had a creative appetizer that will “wow” your guests? I bet the answer is a resounding YES!

While browsing through Pinterest, I can across a fantastic crostini recipe that will most certainly impress. I have found time after time, the simplest ingredients put together make the best recipes. This Roasted Grape Crostini fulfills that philosophy. It is smoky, sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy and herbaceous all at the same time.


During my holiday vacation of seventeen glorious days, my hubby and I did quite a bit of entertaining at our house. {One of my favorite things to do}. I served this Roasted Grape Crostini to our guests and this appetizer certainly impressed. It is so simple yet the flavor combinations together are simply wonderful. For me, the grilled ciabatta bread is the key to the success of this appetizer.


I saw a great saying the other day that every foodie can identify with – “Mangia Vita Amore”. It is Italian for – “Eat, Live, Love”. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is geared up for a fantastic 2012!




Roasted Grapes with Thyme, Ricotta and Grilled Bread

Grapes (used seedless purple grapes)
Ciabatta Bread
Olive oil
Ricotta Cheese
Thyme
Lemon Zest
Fleur de Sel

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Spread grapes onto a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Toss all together gently with your hands. Place pan in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until grapes just begin to burst.

Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Brush the bread with olive oil. Grill until nice and toasty. Tip: keep heat at medium and toast longer, to prevent burning.

Assemble the open-faced sandwiches: Spread ricotta over bread. Top with roasted grapes. Add the lemon zest and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Sprinkle with a bit of salt or fleur de sel. Tip: Have the ricotta at room temperature before spreading.

*This recipe is originally from Real Simple Magazine, September 2011 and I found it on Alexander’s Kitchen through Pinterest. I made a few slight alterations. It is a loose recipe, so you have flexibility to make as many or little crostini’s as you like.

Monday, January 2, 2012

{ Foodie-Flections 2011 }























It is 2012 – a New Year! It always amazes me, how in the matter of minutes, the clock hands tick over to midnight and a brand New Year begins. With the New Year comes: resolutions, changes, hopes, dreams, aspirations and a renewed energy. It is therapeutic to recognize that with a click of the clocks hand, we are able to set new goals, make changes and reset ourselves for the better.

I am excited to set my goals for 2012, stretch myself beyond, continue life’s journey and relish each and every moment. I am extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful hubby, family and friends plus so much more including being healthy, a wonderful career and a creative outlet called Authentic Suburban Gourmet.

What started as a way to document recipes three years ago, has turned into so much more. It has been a vehicle to new friends, enhanced writing skills, a new passion for photography, numerous innovative recipes, adventures, stretching beyond, an outlet for my creativity, diving into social media and so much more. For 2012, I am setting new milestones for my blog and look forward to reflecting back over the year in December to see how many I will have accomplished. {Hopefully 100%}

I began a segment last year called – “Foodie-Flections” – a way to recap the year of blogging for me with highlights of top posts, fond memories and aspirations for the New Year. Let’s continue the tradition with “Foodie-Flections” for 2011.

My top nine posts for 2011 are highlighted below: (#1) Lofthouse Style Frosted Sugar Cookies (#2) Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette (#3) Chocolate Smores Cupcakes (#4) Toasted Coconut Marshmallows (#5) Neiman Marcus Popovers (#6) Fig and Watermelon Salad (#7) Sweet and Salty Brownie (#8) Simple Pleasures: Buttermilk Biscuits (#9) Roasted Garlic Mushrooms


    

Along with the top posts are a few of my personal favorites for 2011. These were posts of recipes that were simple, delish, full of flavor and many I have made over and over again throughout the year. Starting in the top left corner, then row by row: Lemony Slice and Bake Cookies, Cast Iron Padron Peppers, Cranberry, Orange and Ginger Chutney Brie CupsRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Srirachi Aioli, Espresso Chocolate Cake, Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette, Fig Jam Straws, Green Goddess Dip and Crudite and Beer Battered Avocado Wedges with Mango Salsa.


It was a fun and rewarding year with learning that I made the Top 9 on Foodbuzz four times. I was honored to be asked by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil to do a guest post on her beautiful blog along with Liren of Kitchen Confidante asking me take part of her “friends-giving” series. Thank you Lindsay and Liren!


{ Guest Post on Love and Olive Oil }


{ Guest Post on Kitchen Confidante }

Earlier in the year I attended a food blogger brunch hosted by Jean along with Liren, the barrister, Ben, Azmima, Stephanie, Patty, Gina and Angi. It was wonderful to catch up with my fellow food bloggers and to have the opportunity to meet several face to face. Several weeks later, I ventured down to the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Event where Jean, Liren and I snagged a photo opportunity with Tyler Florence. If you want to see a recap, just click here and here. In addition, I learned to make macarons from Gina and you can see a recap of our fun day here.


In 2011, I created a Facebook Fan Page, joined Secret Recipe Club, ate at numerous wonderful restaurants and discovered a new obsession – Pinterest. All in all, it was a wonderful year and look forward to the adventures ahead in 2012.
 
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