Overnight Christmas Strata

kale, herb + gruyere strata

It’s about time I added this recipe to the blog, after it appeared on our table many a Christmas morning and days after while we had family at the house for the holidays. Let me tell you what’s great about this breakfast/brunch dish:

  1. you prepare it the night before so all it takes is a pop in the oven in the morning,
  2. the herbal aroma warms your whole house as it bakes,
  3. the combination of eggs, good bread, cheese and herbs is comfort food at its best for cozy winter mornings,
  4. its appetizing looks make you quite the impressive cook when you have guests around,
  5. everyone loves it (even my non-dairy-eating sister can’t resist).

Unfortunately I didn’t get to share this before prime holiday time and all those family gatherings, but perhaps you can try it as your hangover cure on New Years Day, or for your next lazy Sunday morning brunch. The recipe is not strict about add-ins or spices, so feel free to change it up with different kinds of bread, cheese, no cheese, or different combinations of greens and herbs. This is my favorite version, and I’m not a big cheese eater so I would also love it without.

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Overnight Kale, Herb + Gruyere Strata, adapted from Good Housekeeping

  • 6 large eggs (can substitute liquid egg whites for 3 of the eggs)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • salt + pepper
  • big handful of spinach or kale
  • a bunch of chopped fresh herbs – basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley
  • 1 loaf French bread OR multigrain loaf OR rosemary loaf
  • 6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded Continue reading
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cozy wintertime stew

hearty chicken, butternut + quinoa stew

It’s important at this time of year, to maintain a balance between Christmas cookies and healthy, wholesome meals. Because as long as we take full advantage of winter’s nutritious harvest at meal times, no one need turn down a scrumptious holiday cookie (or two, or three..)

We’ve had our fill of both at my house—perhaps leaning towards the indulgent side—but leafy greens and bright orange squash are still part of our everyday diet. I had this recipe for chicken stew with butternut and quinoa marked for a long time, and like most recipes I finally get around to making I think, why did I wait so long?!

hearty chicken, butternut squash + quinoa stew

This is definitely a keeper in my recipe book, as it’s everything I love in a wintertime meal. Hearty, healthy, balanced, wholesome, cozy, savory, sweet, filling, and lick-the-bowl GOOD!

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa, adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

  • 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded + chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • couple handfuls kale, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley Continue reading

A holiday recap

The winter holidays at our house always revolve around food, whether we want them to or not. It’s always been a time to indulge – a time to make the Christmas cookies everyone’s waited for all year, a time for big healthy breakfasts and hearty, planned-out dinners. And as much as we all complain about the constant eating and having too much stuffed into the refrigerator, we all look forward to the lazy days of whipping up our favorite traditional recipes and new ones we’re eager to try.

This year we surpassed our typical homemade deliciousness with all kinds of handmade gifts. I don’t know what it was, maybe the our obsession with pinterest over the past year and all the inspiring ideas it presents. So we brought on the creativity and went wild with homemade gifts – or I did at least!

Tara worked on her laser-cut jewelry (which she has been selling lots of!), and made some adorable wooden painted wall hangers for air plants, which unfortunately I don’t have a photo of. Melissa and I spent a few days straight making t-shirt scarves inspired from pinterest, and she also made some adorable holiday-themed cake pops! I took on a hanging-plant-in-a-canning-jar project, created a bread baking book from scratch for my sister Tara (with many tasty sounding bread recipes I’ve collected around the blog world), made a couple photo calendars for family, and baked cookies and nuts and granola to package up all festively for gifts. Jamie made some beautiful (and so easy!) etched wine and drinking glasses, and Jeremy gave my parents some of his homemade “honey badger hard cider” and beautiful handmade maple wood cutting boards for several of us. Whew. That’s a lot of handmade goods, lots of time, and lots of love. It may be our most crafty Christmas yet!

Continue reading

December: the month of cookies

Where it lacks in warmth and sunshine, it makes up in sweetness. Sweetness of the plethora of sugar and butter and chocolate in the kitchen, soon whisked and stirred and baked into treats of all flavors, from caramel to cinnamon, butterscotch to coconut, lemon and raspberry, maple, almond, and peppermint—let’s just say we have it all covered in this kitchen.

Am I cookied out?

Never!

What a silly question.

December is cookie month, and it only gets richer each year. This year I added to mom’s classic collection with  a couple of my less-guilty recipes: raspberry-chocolate thumbprints and sugar plums, along with a few indulgent ones: dark chocolate cherry pistachio bark and cinnamon roll cookies.

Mom’s classics [and definitely not guilt-free ;] include peanut butter balls, mint squares, pinwheels, three-pepper spice cookies, seven-layer bars, lemon Christmas trees, toffee-almond triangles, cappuccino caramels, and extra-guilty saltine toffee :]

The cinnamon rolls were my favorite to make because they’re so pretty and nothing is more comforting than the smell of hot cinnamon buns in the oven. I had come up with the idea of creating a cinnamon roll in cookie form after last Christmas, and have since seen my idea come to life on a couple of different blogs! I decided to test the recipe of Baker’s Royale, mainly because the pictures were so mouth-watering. And the cookies turned out just so. They taste exactly like cinnamon rolls—I would argue even better. And because I refuse to follow any recipe exactly, I traded white flour for whole wheat, used Earth Balance instead of butter, egg white instead of yolk, and a bit less brown sugar for the inside swirl. So at least I could feel a little better about the ingredients, and they still came out crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with that buttery-cinnamony-sugary swirled middle. Bliss in Christmas-cookie form.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies, from Baker’s Royale

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 T whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t cinnamon, plus 1 T for divided use
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ cup Earth Balance (or butter), softened, plus 3 T for divided use
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, plus ½ cup for divided use
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 1 T of light corn syrup
  • 1 t vanilla

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoon of milk
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Place ½ cup butter, granulated sugar and ¼ cup of brown sugar in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until light in color. Add in egg white, applesauce, light corn syrup and vanilla and beat to combine. Turn off mixer.
Using a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon, fold in flour mixture until just combined.  Dough may have some flour streaking. Do not over mix. Divide dough in half and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place remaining 1 T of cinnamon and ½ cup of brown sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Now divide cinnamon and brown sugar mixture in two; one for each portion of halved dough. Set aside.
Remove one wrapped dough. Dough will sticky so place it between two large pieces of wax paper and roll out dough to 1/4inch thickness. Using a pastry brush spread 1 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter on dough. Then sprinkle half of the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top and gently press it into dough (I didn’t use the entire cinnamon-sugar mixture). Roll up dough, beginning with long side. Place roll seam side down on plastic wrap and cover tightly. Repeat this once more with reamining dough and 11/2 tablespoon of butter, along with remaining cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. Place both rolled doughs back in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.
Remove chilled roll and cut into ½ inch slices. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
To make glaze: Sift powdered sugar and add in 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until drizzling consistency is achieved.
Drizzle tops of cooled cookies with glaze and let stand at room temperature until glaze dries completely. Store cookies in an airtight container or freeze to keep longer.
To offset (albeit hardly) these days of munching our way through plates of cookies, we’ve been “training” for a Christmas Eve 10k my sister Tara organized with neighbors and friends and family on a beautiful hilly country road, the same run/walk route we did on Thanksgiving but a bit longer to make it a 10k. The sun finally came out from the clouds for the morning and we had about 30 people and 10+ dogs come out for a wonderful run/walk and breakfast party afterwards. It was great! And no surprise that the winners were two brothers, one of which just did a 50-miler. We gave them a basket with some of the sweet treats and chocolate we had around the house, still barely making a dent in our sugar supply. But hey, with all this running we’ve been doing we need the sugar, right?
Sure….
the dogs sure are into it!
and here come the winners!

So it’s Christmas Eve, the sun is still out (maybe the first time in about a week), the family is all here, and we have more than enough cookies to satisfy Santa tonight.

Happy Holidays!

-mich

This post is linked to: Sweets for a Saturday