Jul 21, 2011

Summertime Socializing

"Summertime and the..." cooking should be easy! Caitlin was visiting Southern California and that was the perfect opportunity to have a small get together on a warm Monday evening.  We enjoyed great conversation and some scrumptious summertime fare with our friends and family.  This post is going to be a little different, a little more relaxed, and isn't that what summer is all about!
Caitlin's 'Roasted Garlic Basil-Pesto Crostini'

2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
4 garlic cloves, roasted
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
1 fresh baguette (choose your favorite, we opted for French baguette)
For the Ricotta Spread (optional, but recommended):
Fresh Ricotta 
2 or 3 Tbs Cream Cheese 
Extra grated parmesan 
S & P 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast garlic cloves in the oven. While garlic is roasting, slice baguette thinly and bake until toasted.  Let cool.

Toast pine nuts in a small pan.  Make sure to watch them closely so they don't burn! Combine basil, toasted pine nuts, and garlic in food processor and pulse until chopped.  Add 1/2 of the olive oil and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the remaining oil and pulse until smooth again. Mix in the cheese and get ready to top your baguette.

To make your crostini more delicious you can make a ricotta-cream cheese mixture to spread on some of your slices of bread.  Add 2 or 3 tablespoons to your tub of ricotta.  Mix well.  Add some grated parmesan (to your liking ) and salt and pepper to season. Spread on top of sliced baguette and top with pesto.  You can also add some sliced tomatoes (grilled or fresh) if you choose.  Serve immediately and enjoy! **The pesto is also great on pasta, pizza, or with grilled veggies too!

Monica's 'Summer Quinoa Salad'
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well & cooked
1 diced red pepper
1/2 hothouse cucumber
10 kalamata olives, pitted & diced
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 large avocado, diced
handful of basil, chopped 
juice of 1 lemon
salt (the salt of your preference)
1 tbs dried oregano
Olive oil to drizzle
Fresh pepper (optional)

Rinse and prepare the quinoa as directed.  Let cool.  

While the quinoa is cooling, prepare all the veggies and herbs.  Once the veggies are prepped and the quinoa is cooled to room temperature add the red peppers, cucumber, olives, garbanzo beans.  Add the oregano and squeeze lemon juice.  Drizzle olive oil and season with salt.  You can add some fresh pepper. 

Once the salad is seasoned, gently add the avocado and combine in the salad but make sure you don't smash the avocado.  You can also choose to just slice the avocado and lay it on top of the salad.  Top with fresh basil. Serve immediately and devour!

Summer music should put you in good spirits, especially when you are around your nearest and dearest friends and family.  We chose to listen to some of our faves.
1)  "Oh Yoko!" - John Lennon
2)  "Love and Happiness" - Al Green
3)  "Me Gustas Tu" - Manu Chao
4)  "Summer Days" - Bob Dylan
5)  "A Day in the Life" - Easy Star All Stars
6)  "Keep it Goin' Louder" - Major Lazer

Drink of Choice
Overall this was a meal with fresh and bright flavors - therefore, we opted for a few lighter wine choices.  We recommended a Riesling, Viognier, or Rosé. You could also opt for something like a fizzy lemonade which would also be perfectly delicious!
Would we make these recipes again?
Definitely!  Not only were they quick and easy...they are also incredibly tasty! It was great to be able to cook and entertain together while Caitlin was visiting Southern California.

Jun 12, 2011

Things to Make with Rolled Oats

The title of this post is reminiscent of a Jeopardy answer: "What are things to make with rolled oats?"  Upon experimentation we developed recipes for a few tasty treats: homemade granola, granola bars and banana oatmeal cookies. This post is partly inspired by the idea of using ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  So, if you are staring at that container of rolled oats and are sick and tired of making oatmeal, try one of these deliciously healthy treats!
Granola Bars
Caitlin's Granola Bars, straight out of the oven before being sliced
Caitlin: Decided to make granola bars for a couple reasons: first, they're super easy and fun for kids to make. Second, you can get really creative with the ingredients and alter any recipe to fit your liking. One of my favorite snacks at work is a parfait of sorts with granola, yogurt, diced apples, honey, almonds and dried cranberries. It's a healthy, filling and a really tasty treat that tides me over until lunch. So when we talked about the granola post, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. I altered a few things, but the bars are mostly inspired by my mid-morning treat - plus a little chocolate thrown in for good measure. I sprinkled a little sea salt on top for a nice sweet and salty combination, and the end result was quite tasty. I highly recommend you try it - you can add other dried fruit, nuts or even shredded coconut depending on what you like. It's a great little treat for your lunch. They even got two thumbs up from a picky little eater who is very particular about his food.

Granola Bar Ingredient List
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw almonds, slightly crushed
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
sprinkle sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Lay oats, almonds and cinnamon flat on a baking sheet and toast in oven for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, put butter, honey, vanilla and brown sugar - cook until fully melted and mixed. 
Take oats out and mix with the butter mixture, stir in cranberries and chocolate. 
In a baking dish lined with parchment, pour the oat mixture and flatten it out with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Sprinkle sea salt on the top and bake in the oven on 300 for about 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. 

 Pumpkin Spice Granola 
Monica's Granola
Monica: Both of the recipes I am going to share with you were inspired by a variety of things. For example, in this particular recipe I wanted to make a granola with pumpkin spice.  How many of us have pumpkin spice in our pantry, yet only seem to use it during the Thanksgiving holiday?  So if you are possibly wondering what you can make with pumpkin spice (even though it is nearly summer) try a pumpkin spice granola!

Sunflower Sprout Salad w/ Artichokes, Olives, & Heirloom Tomatoes
Secondly, I decided to alter both of the recipes I am going to share with you to make them not only tasty, but rather healthy as well. I was further inspired to make both of these vegan friendly due to a lovely vegan meal I was treated to recently. I am including a  picture, to the right, of one of my favorite dishes from that meal. (Oh, and although this is a bit off topic, let me just say sunflower sprouts were quite a revelation...a really delicious base for a salad.) 

Therefore, I took that experience to make the granola vegan and the cookies nearly vegan-friendly (the exception is the chocolate chips I used, which can be easily substituted). Both of these recipes will definitely satisfy your craving for something sweet, yet they will not leave you feeling guilty about consuming empty calories. So onto the granola recipe...

Pumpkin Spice Granola Ingredient List 
5 cups rolled oats
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup raw organic sugar
1/2 cup organic canned pumpkin
1/4 cup organic applesauce
2 tbs good quality vanilla extract
1/2 cup raw pepitas 
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup raw agave nectar

Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine oats, spices, and salt.  
In a medium bowl whisk sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, agave nectar and vanilla. Pour over oat mixture - until oats are coated evenly, spread onto baking sheet.
Bake for 20 min, remove from oven, stir.  Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes until granola is golden and crisp. 
Remove from the oven and stir in pepitas and golden raisins.  

Let cool completely.  Then, enjoy!

(Nearly Vegan) Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Monica's Oatmeal Cookies
Monica: Ok, now to make these 100% vegan you can used cacao nibs or omit the chocolate entirely. Instead of chocolate, you could substitute dried fruit like cranberries or raisins, or you could also add the fruit for an extra something special.  If you prefer, you can cut the sugar substantially because the smashed banana is usually sweet enough. To use the least amount of sugar possible, test the batter once you mix in the banana and then decide whether you wish to add sugar or not. These cookies are absolutely delicious.  Everyone I shared them with really enjoyed them (and I have some finicky friends and family).  My favorite part about baking these: absolutely NO BUTTER!!! I don't bake very often because I try to avoid butter at all costs. This recipe really struck my fancy and I hope it becomes one of your new favorites. 

Oatmeal Cookie Ingredient List
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbs good quality vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon (more to taste if you prefer)
2 1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs
1 large banana, smashed
*1/2 cup raw organic sugar (optional, depending on your sweet tooth)
dash of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Note about cinnamon, if you like cinnamon, sprinkle more in the batter to your liking.
On a cookie sheet (make sure it is non-stick) arrange the cookies by scooping them with an ice cream scoop. Make sure there is enough room between cookies (they will spread as they bake).
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, checking to make sure that the cookies don't brown too quickly. They tend to bake quite quickly, just watch as the edges begin to brown.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  

Should make about 2 dozen cookies.

Caitlin: I have a thing for motown and soul. I absolutely love it; especially when I'm baking. I was recently introduced to this great band, Fitz and the Tantrums. This is a catchy song that's reminiscent of one of the greatest eras of music. Check out the video here.
Monica: I think when you bake, you need to listen to music that you can sing and/or dance along to. 
1)  "Ready for the Floor" - Hot Chip
2)  "On the Floor" -  J.Lo/ Pitbull (Guilty!  I do like this song.)
3)  "El Baile y El Salon" - Cafe Tacuba
4)  "Deja" - Sidestepper
5)  "Burnin' Down the Spark" - Nancy Sinatra

Drink of Choice
Iced Green Tea with a squeeze of lemon.

A Recipe to Remember?
Definitely, there is so much you can do to alter each recipe and make it your own and you will feel good about making and eating these delicious treats.

May 22, 2011

Pot Pie: 2 Ways

Chicken Pot Pie is a classic example of comfort food. We took the idea of a basic chicken pot pie and added our own inspiration;  Caitlin added artichokes and parsnips to her pie while Monica deconstructed the dish, using buttermilk biscuits as her "crust."  The great thing about pot pie is the versatility: you can experiment with different veggies and herbs, as well as make it with various meats or go veggie. This is definitely a dish that you can add your own signature stamp to; it's always fun to make food your own!
Caitlin's Version with a traditional crust
Caitlin: Well summer is supposed to be coming soon, however you'd never guess up here in Eugene with this lovely rain interspersed between sunny days. Needless to say, chicken pot pie still makes a great comfort dish this time of year - rain or shine. As many of you know, we're avid watchers of Top Chef and Carla won the Jimmy Fallon episode with her rendition of chicken pot pie. From what the judges and everyone around the table said, what made her dish spectacular was the crust on the bottom of the bowl as well as the top. Couldn't agree more. It's a little disappointing when you break into the pie, take a bite of the gravy and veggies but soon realize that there's no crust to enjoy on the bottom - almost makes it not worth eating. Now, that being said, I made chicken pot pie for dinner one night with quite a few people and I couldn't bring myself to make anymore crust, so I let the bottom go bare - major faux pas on my part, but it was a last minute thing...
Anyway, one great thing about pot pies is that it allows you to use up all your leftover veggies in the fridge that are on their way to rot city if you don't use them soon. I had large amounts of carrots, parsnips and corn that needed to be used, so what better way then to throw it in a pot pie. I also added peas, roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, squeeze of a lemon and tad of white wine for extra flavor. It all went great together with the buttery crust - even the kids will enjoy this one!

Monica's Deconstructed Version with Buttermilk Biscuits
Monica:  I love pot pie, especially when I am craving something that is warm on a cool night.  I am not a fan of pot pies that have too much cream or are full of a flour based gravy and not enough veggies.  I decided to try something different with my version.  I usually make a pot pie with a pie crust bottom and mashed potato topping, but this time I wanted to take the pot pie apart and use buttermilk biscuits as my pie element.  Since I am not very familiar with making food with a bit of a Southern flair, I followed the Neely's recipe for buttermilk biscuits virtually word for word, however I modified the cooking temperature (which I will note on the method portion) in order to make sure the biscuits were properly baked.  I also love peas and added peas, carrots and roasted corn to my veggie mix.  The roasted corn when mixed with the biscuit and gravy was such a great element to the otherwise traditional mix.  I hope you enjoy my version of a Southern inspired dish with a modern flair...Bon Appétit y'all!

Ingredient Lists & Method
Caitlin's Crust Recipe
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water


Place flour, salt, sugar in bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture and process about 10 seconds until mixture resembles course meal. Add ice water in a slow and steady stream until the dough holds together, but no more than 30 seconds. 
Alternatively, mix dry ingredients then cut the butter pieces in with a knife, or use your fingers to mix. Add water and mix until it holds together.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide into two pieces and place onto two separate sheets of plastic wrap. Flatten and form two discs. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.

When you're ready to us it, roll it out on a floured surface until 1/2 inch thick. You can adjust the size of the discs depending on what size bowl you'll be using.

Monica's Biscuit Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons ice cold butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
(Since I am no biscuit expert, this is the Neely's recipe I found & used word for word, only variation, I lowered their recommended oven temperature to 425 for better baking results)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Slice butter and put on a plate in the freezer.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until it looks like coarse sand. Add the buttermilk and continue to cut the dough together. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently bring together. Gently press the dough into a rectangle until it is between 1/2 and 3/4-inch thick.

Use a round cutter that has been floured to cut the biscuits. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.Remove biscuits from freezer and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet so they are touching each other. Bake for 20 minutes
Chicken Pot Pie Filling
(You can use any variation of this filling according to your preference of veggies..we both made similar fillings with different veggies)
Boneless Chicken Breast
Fresh Roasted Corn
Carrots, small dice
Parnips, diced
Artichoke Hearts
Chicken Broth
Fresh Lemon juice
White Wine

Preheat oven to 375. Saute whatever meat and veggies you plan on using in butter. Add flour and stir for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add stock and stir to thicken. Season with s&p or fresh herbs, wine or lemon juice. You can also add cream, if you want a creamier stock, or even cheese. Let it cook for about 10-15 minutes until you get a nice, thick filling.
If you're making the traditional crust, line the bottom of a ramekin with crust, fill it about 3/4 of the way full. Place crust over the top and press down the sides. Brush the crust with eggwash and make 3 slits in the top. Bake on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the crust is browned, and the filling is bubbling out of the slits.
If making the deconstructed version, cook the filling about 40 minutes on the stove. Spoon into a bowl and crumble the biscuits over it.

We both decided to use different veggies. Caitlin incorporated parsnips and artichokes in her pie.  Monica opted for peas, roasted fresh corn, and carrots.  Have fun with what you like! If you want to make it with beef use beef.  If you want to make it veggie, omit the meat and make a veggie based gravy with veggie stock.  

Caitlin: I was feeling a bit folksy with this one; I had a nice mix of the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Dylan, Ellis (a great folk singer that I was recently introduced to), My Morning Jacket and so on.
Monica: Music for the evening meal...stuck to some old/new American classics to go along with this classic Southern inspired dish (as Southern as a girl from Southern California can be).
1) Bob Dylan:  Just Like A Woman
2) Johnny Cash: I Got Stripes
3) B.B. King: Let the Good Times Roll
4) Avett Brothers: I And Love and You
5) Willie Nelson:  Crazy

Drink of Choice
Pinot Grigio, light enough to go with this heartier meal.

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes!  It is a classic comfort food that is open to various interpretations.

Apr 24, 2011

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Wanted to revisit this recipe for a couple reasons. First, we made it for our Easter dinner and it was fantastic. Second, this is one of those rare years that both Easter and the Greek orthodox Easter fall on the same day; so we figured lamb is surely appropriate. This is an absolutely wonderful family recipe that will surely become part of your cooking repertoire once you taste it; it's great as a holiday meal or for a dinner party with friends. The spices, oil, lemon and juices from the lamb offer the perfect basting liquid and the result is a tender and juicy leg of lamb that's sure to impress. We each served it with different sauces - Monica made a Tzatziki sauce and Caitlin made a mint-cilantro and yogurt sauce. Whether you try the sauces or just the meat and veggies alone, we're positive you'll love this just as much as we do.

Caitlin: Love this meal!! Overall, it's pretty easy - just season the lamb then throw it in the oven for about 4 hours making sure to baste it often, then toss in the veggies for the last hour or so and it's ready! I decided to try a twist on the traditional mint sauce that is often served with roast lamb. I used a cilantro-mint recipe from Wolfgang Puck and combined it with yogurt and citrus - the result was amazing! It complimented the meat perfectly - it was the right amount of spice, citrus and mint which didn't overpower the taste of the meat. The lamb is so perfectly seasoned that it can be eaten both ways - with sauce or without.
Caitlin's version with a mint-cilantro yogurt sauce
Monica: I agree with Caitlin...I love a recipe that is easy to prepare and cooks while you are able to prepare the sides and enjoy the music!  I have eaten leg of lamb since I can remember and I asked my cousin Veni for her famous lamb recipe.  This is it!  It absolutely melts in your mouth.  I also had to make my potatoes the way my Yia Yia makes them. First wedge the potatoes and pan fry them lightly in a saute pan with a bit of Canola oil then add them to the roasting pan about an hour and a half before the lamb is ready. I also threw some carrots in there because they roast beautifully with the meat.  Oh and don't forget the Tzatziki - I have an awesome recipe for that too!  
Monica's version with Tzatziki sauce
Ingredient List 
6 lb Leg of lamb – you can ask for bone-in for a more tender piece of meat
6 – 7 cloves of garlic, slivered
Sprigs of fresh thyme, enough to wrap around each sliver of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil (plenty to rub on the lamb)
1 -2 tbs dried or fresh oregano
1  tbs  rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon
Glass of water

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

To prepare the meat:
Pierce with knife numerous times to make slits. Stick slivers of garlic wrapped with sprigs of thyme in the slits.

Rub both sides with extra virgin olive, be generous.  Once olive oil is applied add plenty of salt, then add pepper.  Add the lemon juice and finish by sprinkling dried rosemary & dried oregano on the meat.

Place in a roasting pan, fat side up, and add 1 glass of water around the meat.

Let it cook for about 4 hours, basting with the juices every half hour. Add the vegetables of your choice to the pan - we suggest potatoes (steak fry sliced) and carrots.  Cook for an additional 1 ½ hours turning the heat up to 325 (you'll get a nice a brown on the top and the veggies can cook without turning soggy). 

Be sure to watch the water and add more throughout the cooking process if needed.

The two sauces we suggest are a lovely compliment, but the juices alone from the meat taste fantastic. Thinly slice the lamb, arrange the veggies and pour the juices over both. If adding a sauce, place a dollop on the plate.

*If Making the Cilantro-Mint Yogurt Sauce 
1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
1/4 cup each of cilantro & mint
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
juice from 1 lime
1 cup of plain yogurt

Combine all of the ingredients except for the yogurt in a small blender. Take out and stir in the yogurt.

*If Making the Tzatziki Sauce 
1 medium cucumber, peeled, sliced in half, seeded and finely chopped
1/8 tsp plus 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp minced garlic
Put the cucumber in a strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt and drain for 1 hour. Put the yogurt in another strainer set over a bowl and drain for 1 hour. Combine the cucumber and yogurt ina bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Both of the sauces we feature compliment the meat perfectly, but you can opt to use the pan drippings to make a gravy, or simply use the juices and pour them over the meat and veggies upon serving.

Caitlin: I listened to one of my favorite albums from Badly Drawn Boy - "Once Around the Block"
Monica:  I had to incorporate a Greek song into my playlist for this meal:
1) "Do You Like the Greece" Antonis Kalogiannis
2) "Hey You" Pink Floyd
3) "This is Radio Clash" The Clash
4) "The Best Is Yet to Come" Frank Sinatra
5) "Driving with Bert" Neil Halstead

Drink of Choice 
Caitlin: We had a nice Viogner from a local winery, which complimented the lamb perfectly.
Monica: Since I had a Greek meal, I had to have Greek wine - Restina.

A Recipe to Remember?
We both love this recipe!!!

Mar 17, 2011

Brunch Anytime

With the official start of Spring on Sunday we have compiled great ideas that you can incorporate into your brunch menu.  Brunch is always a fun meal to serve when you have company over for entertaining, whether it be for a garden party enjoying the warm Spring sunshine or for celebrating upcoming holidays like Easter or Passover, these ideas are sure to be crowd pleasers.  We each took some of our favorite recipes and are including them here to share with you!

Smoked Salmon Baguette with Avocado, Arugula & Apple Vinaigrette

Monica: This is so simple and these little bites are an explosion of flavor. They are easy to make and they are great starters for brunch. I got this idea after watching Giada De Laurentiis make a smoked salmon salad for a brunch she was hosting on her show Giada at Home. I took her basic idea in terms of using smoked salmon and this amazing apple vinaigrette. I added the avocado and decided to use arugula instead of the frisee she used in her salad; and obviously instead of making a salad I reconstructed it using the baguette. All in all, I have to say it was a very good choice. And this apple vinaigrette has become my salad dressing of choice at the moment (plus it is a healthy choice)! If you don't eat smoked salmon, I highly recommend you try the dressing for your next salad.

Ingredient List
4 oz of good quality smoked salmon
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Cream cheese
French baguette, sliced
For Vinaigrette:
1/2 Granny Smith Apple (peeled, cored, and chopped)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette: In a food processor, combine the apple, vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

To constrcut the salmon baguettes: Spread the cream cheese on the baguette, place a slice of the smoked salmon, top with avocado and one leaf of arugula. Drizzle with apple vinaigrette and a sprinkling of ground black pepper (optional).

Asparagus Tart
Caitlin: I watched Jamie Oliver make this on his show and I thought it would be the perfect addition to any brunch menu. However, there is one disclaimer I must add: I thought the consistency would be more quiche-like, but it's not. He uses mashed potatoes mixed with eggs and cream, so after taking it out of the oven give it plenty of time to cool before cutting into it, or else the potatoes just spread and it won't look pretty on the plate (trust me). Now, this isn't mentioned in the show or in the recipe (aside from the 10 minute cooling time which isn't nearly long enough), and it made me wonder- why do some chefs leave out important bits of detail such as that? My only conclusion is that maybe they secretly want you to fail so it makes them look like kitchen gods. 
Regardless, it tasted great - once it cooled enough to stay firm after being cut. You can also get creative with the types of cheeses added - I was quite boring and stuck to the recipe, but next time I think I may try something different. If you're a fan of bacon, pancetta or ham you can add that as well for some added flavor.

Ingredient List
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander. 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a baking dish, layer the sheets of filo pastry, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.
When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Add  the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. 
Take out of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. 

Chilaquiles Casserole

Monica:  There are different variations of chilaquiles and one of my favorite versions is a casserole (eventhough it may not be 100% authentic), because it is easy to make for a crowd and oh so tasty.  For the salsa, I used the recipe for the tomatillo salsa I made with the pork loin we posted back in October. And I do have to say that salsa is the real deal!  Overall, this dish is simple and works perfectly for brunch.  If you like fried eggs, you can choose to fry some up and top each serving with one; it really tastes delicious that way. I baked my own tortilla chips instead of frying them (they are somewhat healthier that way) and they get really crispy.  You can make them with chicken or keep it veggie with cheese only, or you could opt to also add some spinach in there too.  I topped mine with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro (if you don't like cilantro, it is optional).  Buen provecho!

Ingredient List (Serves 8 - 10)
16 corn tortillas, cut into triangles (for the chips)
Chicken breast, cooked and shredded (you can even use a roasted chicken)
Mozarella cheese
Sour cream, optional
Cilantro, optional
Cotija cheese crumbles, optional
For the Tomatillo salsa:
1 lb tomatillos
8-10 dried chiles de arbol
dash of cumin
kosher salt, to taste

First comes first, gotta bake those chips. Preheat oven to 375.  Once you cut the tortillas into triangles, lay on baking sheet and coat with baking spray on both sides.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until crispy and golden.  Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. Don't turn the oven off, you are going to need it to bake the casserole.

Make the tomatillo salsa.  
Put the 1 lb of tomatillos (husks removed) in a small pot. Fill the pot with water, just barely covering the tops of the tomatillos and add salt. Cook the tomatillos until the water is boiling and they are tender.
As the tomatillos are cooking, fry 8 –10 (you can add more or less according to your preference) chiles de arbol in a tablespoon of canola oil. Fry the chiles until they are well crisped.
Once the tomatillos are soft, add the tomatillos and the boiled water to a blender, along with the chiles. Add a dash of cumin (about a teaspoon) and blend to a smooth consistency. Taste, and add salt accordingly. If the salsa is too thick, add a bit of water (but not too much) and blend until smooth.
Once the chips and salsa are made, it's time to layer the casserole. First, spread salsa on the bottom of your baking dish.  Make a layer of chips on the bottom, add shredded chicken (if using) and top with shredded mozarella cheese.  Continue layering using salsa, chicken, cheese, chips.  Top layer should be a layer of chips and lots of cheese.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden a bubbling. 
When you serve the chilaquiles, top with a dollop of sour cream.  You can also add cilantro and cotija cheese crumbles.  As mentioned before, to add more flavor and excitement, top with a fried egg. 
Cinnamon Rolls
Caitlin: I came across this recipe for cinnamon rolls when I was browsing the Williams Sonoma site and daydreaming of being wealthy enough to purchase all of the cool gadgets and kitchen tools. Sigh....
Anyway, back to reality - these looked delicious and I had to make them. I was surprised how easy they were and how yummy! However, if you're looking for instant gratification and want to eat these immediately after looking at the recipe, you'll have to wait. The dough does require an overnight rising period, but trust me they're worth the wait. I made the dough Saturday evening and Sunday morning for breakfast we had warm, sweet, delicious buns :) 

Ingredient List
1 Tbs. (1 package) active dry yeast 
1/2 cup warm water (105°F) 
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed 
4 eggs 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 tsp. kosher salt 
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature  *I cut the butter almost if half and they turned out great, so if you don't want to use a whole stick, about 3/4 to 1/2 stick will suffice.
*I added crushed walnuts for texture - delicious.
 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 
1/2 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon  

For the vanilla glaze:  
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract


To make the dough, in a bowl sprinkle the yeast over the water, add a tbsp of sugar and allow to bloom for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot, about 30 minutes.

Add the eggs, granulated sugar, salt and the remaining 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture. Knead until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the room-temperature butter and continue to knead, adding a little flour to reduce stickiness if needed, until the dough is smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Roll out into a 15-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush the rectangle with half of the melted butter, leaving a 2-inch-wide strip uncovered on one long side. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter. * You can add the crushed walnuts here, if you want them inside the rolls, or you can add them to the top. Starting at the long side covered with sugar, roll up the rectangle snugly and pinch the seam together.

With the seam facing down, cut into 10 equal pieces. Place the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared dish. Brush the rolls with the remaining butter. *You can also add the walnuts here to the top of the buns. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let rise until half again as high, about 1 hour. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the vanilla glaze: In a small bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, milk and vanilla, then stir into the sugar mixture to form a smooth paste. Spread the glaze over the warm rolls and serve immediately. Makes 10 large rolls.  
Cinnamon-Vanilla Sticky Buns
Monica: I first saw a variation of these sticky buns on Ina Garten's Holiday special and I've been wanting to try them ever since.  What better excuse than brunch?!  Again, they are simple and scrumptious.  Instead of using pecans, like in traditional sticky buns, I decided to omit them from the recipe all together and I added vanilla to the butter mixture in order to enhance the cinnamon flavor.  Oh and I used frozen puff pastry (don't judge)...if it's good enough for "The Barefoot Contessa", it's good enough for me! They are not only fun to make - they are fun to eat.  It's really the perfect way to end (or begin) your brunch.

Ingredient List
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoons good quality vanilla extract
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl with an electric mixer, combine 12 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. 
Lightly flour a wooden board or surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam-side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, about 1 1/2 inches each. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: I suggest a strong bold coffee with cream. Then again, if you're in the mood and want something with a kick, champagne might be nice....
Monica: I made a rosemary infused raspberry lemonade, inspired by this recipe from Marcella Valladolid.  I highly recommend it, just add your favorite berries. Oh, and a little Kettle One wouldn't hurt (if it's not too early in the day)...it is brunch after all.

Cailtin: I think Motown is always good for brunch. Here are some of my favorites (old and new) and a video of a song I can't get enough of right now. Enjoy!
Amy Winehouse: Tears Dry on their Own
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel: Ain't Nothin Like the Real Thing
Aretha Franklin: Baby I Love You or The House that Jack Built
Al Green: Love and Happiness
Adele: Rolling in the Deep
Monica: My mix of tunes, perfect for a weekend morning.
1)  Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground
2)  English Tea - Paul McCartney
3)  Keys to Your Heart - The 101ers
4)  Little Lion Man - Mumford & Sons
5)  Just Like Heaven - Katie Melua