Category Archives: French Toast

A Floral Inspired Brunch feat. Lavender Lemon French Toast

April 2015

We sat picnicking in a sunny field, not far from the narrow streets, bordered by the cracking plaster of crooked old buildings. These little roads opened to the center plaza, where farmers had sold us apples as big as our heads, creamy, stinky cheeses, rustic breads laced with nuts and fruits, and a cheap bottle of wine that would keep a sommelier squawking for days. You wouldn’t recognize me in this sunny field.

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

Close friends are often shocked when they glimpse this stage of my life. My hair was dreaded and spindled down my back. My flowing fabrics and loose garments spoke to my pseudo-hippy stage, but beyond my looks, you wouldn’t recognize me because I was still such a baby in my food journey. Those picnics in the very quaint and serene Aix-en-Provence taught me to appreciate ingredients, the effects of soil and flowers, why a name can only be applied when a strict set of standards are followed. In a word, terroir.

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

When I glimpsed this green enamel bucket arrangement at Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, where I regularly style and photograph beautiful florals, I felt transported. I briefly returned to the narrow roads, crooked buildings, crackling plaster and bustling farmers markets of Aix-en-Provence. I returned to the centre-ville that taught me how bread, cheese, olives and wine tempt and lure me as much as an intricately prepared roast. In turn, the very provincial centerpiece inspired my brunch menu.

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

This easy side dish combines fennel, blood oranges, roasted red grapes and fennel greens with Pink Himalayan sea salt. Fennel is a staple in many provincial French recipes. Roasting the grapes adds an extra sweetness, and their shape mirrored the spherical Billy Buttons. The loose fennel greens added a color pop to match the green enamel bucket and the salal leaves.

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

Lemon Lavender Brunch by With The Grains 11

When I set the table, I added a curly lemon peel garnish to each glass. The yellow peels picked up the yellow hues of the floral arrangement. For an inspired brunch cocktail, I invited guests to mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice, champagne, Art in the Age’s Sage Liquor and Royal Rose Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup, according to their flavor preferences. The tart lemon and sweet lavender mixed well with the herbal notes of the Sage Liquor to create a very fresh, spring drink. If you could drink in the hillsides of Provence, it might taste like this!

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

As a token for each guest, I created simple nosegays using the same flowers as the arrangement. This carried my floral theme to the plates and made a lovely parting gesture to my guests. When it came time to fill those plates with food, my main dish was a Baked Whole Grain Lavender Infused French Toast.

Lemon Lavender Brunch //

Pain Perdu, lost or wasted bread, the French call it, and aside from almond croissants, it’s one of my favorite French breakfasts. For my baked version, I served each portion with a dollop of homemade Lemon Lavender Whipped Cream and added a small sprinkling of loose lavender as a fragrant and flavorful garnish. As the morning progressed, with tart, herbal sips and sweet, syrupy, floral bites, part of me felt far, far away on a picnic in Provence.


Bon Appétit!

Baked Lavender Lemon French Toast with Lavender Lemon Whipped Cream

About This Recipe: Baked French Toast is best when assembled the night prior to your brunch, which makes morning preparations a lot easier. I infused cream with organic lavender, which soaks the bread overnight. The longer you infuse the lavender, the better, so start that step early. I sourced my organic lavender from a Farm-to-Table expo, but you can find it in certain specialty stores. Be sure to buy food-grade, organic lavender to avoid flowers sprayed with pesticides. When I was struggling to find lavender, I had purchased Royal Rose’s Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup, which I used in this recipe, but alternately, you can make your own.

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Baked Almond French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote

August 2014

“Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” Kahlil Gibran

I wrote down these words in the midst of a to-do list. I nearly buried them, but in leafing through the little book, they stopped me in my tracks once more. In order not to lose them again, I wrote them on their own page, bigger, harder to miss…


Cocktails and Syrup

Comfort is that steady paycheck I once had, the one that afforded travels and frequent dinner outings. However, that comfort came at the price of dreading each and every day and the mind-numbing tasks ahead of me. It came at the cost of supporting others’ passion while I struggled to determine my own. Then life intervened, uprooted my path, and I went with it.

Brunch on the Deck

I took a very deep-dive plunge into uncertainty. I chose the gamble of pursuing beauty, and in doing so, I stress, I frenzy, I freak. I also brainstorm, ideate, debate and create. Somewhere in between stress and satisfaction is the ideal sort of comfort, the earned comfort, the much needed, Sunday-brunch-on-a-deck-with-good-friends sort of comfort.

Baked Rhubarb French Toast

These Sunday brunch comforts include:

Muddled mint tipsiness.
The scent and taste of bacon.
The happiness of my pup when she scores a piece of said bacon.
Kitschy pinks and turquoises.
Helping a friend embrace his sweet tooth.
The emphatic praises from my friend as she takes her first bite.
LAYERED French toast.
Feasting, Feasting, Feasting!

Whipped Cream

Final French Toast with Whipped Cream

Baked French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote


6 slices of stale country wheat bread + 6 stale brioche hot dog buns

Lemon Curd
Rhubarb Compote

3 cups plain coconut milk
3 large, organic eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 mL Disaronno Liqueur (amaretto)
1-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste

sliced almonds


Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter or coconut oil.

Arrange bread in a tightly packed layer in the pan. Use chunks from an extra piece to fill any gaps.

Spread an even layer of lemon curd over the bread, followed by an even layer of rhubarb compote.

Arrange remaining bread in a top layer, using smaller chunks to fill in any gaps. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, Disaronno and maple syrup. Pour the mixture over the bread layers, being sure it seeps into the top.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in order for the bread to absorb the liquid.

Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup (optional, this French toast is good on its own) and homemade whipped cream.


Rum Whipped Cream


1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons spiced rum


Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the rum, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.


Here’s to the Necessary Comforts & Passions!

A Fall Flavored Brunch: Pumpkin & Cranberry French Toast with Cranberry Sauce

October 2013

Walking the hills of my neighborhood with my growing pup has made me acutely aware of seasonal changes: bright reds peeking under the lingering greens, spindly branches strewn across the sidewalks, crunching, crisp leaves underfoot and an increasing chill in the air. Mentally and physically, I retreat into hibernation mode, preferring to curl up under furry blankets rather than face the weather that gusts between nightlife and me.

Brunch Table for Two

My main defense against hibernation mode is to embrace and share the wonderful flavors the colder months bring. This defense isn’t fool proof. I still want people to come to my den, but at least it pulls me away from the cozy couch and ensures social interaction.

Foraged Florals

Foraged florals

Floral Table

Between the sunlight and the oven warmth, brunch is the perfect time to feature pumpkin, cranberry, maple, brown sugar and the spices so commonly linked to fall. Here’s to facing the increasing darkness, the colder winds and all the beautiful colors and flavors of the changing seasons!

Cranberries and Champagne

Organic Sparkling Cranberry Juice & Champagne with an Orange & Cranberry Twist

Honey and Cheese

Local Pears, Bellavitano Raspberry Wisconsin Cheese, Toasted Walnuts & Raw Honey

Fall French Toast

Fall Flavored French Toast with Cranberry Cider Sauce & Snap Whipped Cream

Fall Flavored French Toast


~10 slices stale bread (I used Seedless Rye + Sourdough)
8 oz organic Neufchatel cheese
3/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 cup organic dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

6 large organic eggs
2 cups local whole milk
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract


Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Arrange half of the bread slices in a base layer. Use smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

Dollop and then spread the cream cheese over the base layer of the bread. Next spread on the pumpkin puree, then sprinkle with the various spices.

Add the dried cranberries and walnuts.

Cover with remaining slices of bread. Use smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, heavy cream, brown sugar and extracts. Use a hand mixer to blend.

Pour the liquid over the bread layers, making sure it seeps into the top layer. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Top with 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown. Cover with foil or parchment if the top starts to burn early.

Serve warm with cranberry sauce and homemade whipped cream.


Cranberry & Cider Sauce


1 1/12 cups apple cider
1 cup pure cane sugar (raw sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of ground cardamom
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

12 ounces fresh cranberries (or thawed frozen cranberries)
1 cup dried cranberries

zest of 1 organic orange (~1-2 Tablespoons)


Pour the cider, sugar, salt and spices into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Add in the fresh cranberries and dried cranberries. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and add orange zest.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.


Snap Whipped Cream

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
dash of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Art in the Age Snap


Combine the cream, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low until soft peaks form. Add the Snap and continue to beat until desired texture.

Voila. C’est tout! Bon appétit!

Citrus & Bourbon French Toast For A Brunch With Acadia

March 2013

We met over drafting boards, and we toiled over models. That was architecture school, and that was then.

Blood Orange Table Setting

This was now. This was brunch!


We still had plenty of creative scheming to do, but with the focus on French toast, this scheming was far less stressful than the good ol’ architecture days.

Recipe for individual egg bakes pictured above will follow in a subsequent post.

Orange Apricot French Toast

Citrus & Bourbon French Toast


4 Challah or brioche rolls (or 1 loaf) in 1-inch slices
orange honey butter (recipe below)
1 package (8oz) organic cream cheese
1/2 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, sliced

1/2 cup bourbon
3 cups organic whole milk
3 organic eggs
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt


Generously grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan, using smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

Spread the orange honey-butter over the bread. Follow with a layer of cream cheese.

Disperse the sliced apricots evenly over the cream cheese.

Add the final layer of bread slices, again filling in any gaps with smaller chunks.

Drizzle the bourbon over the top bread layer.

Whisk milk, eggs, sugar and salt and pour over the bread.

Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the surface.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in order for the bread to absorb the liquid.

Bake at 425°F for 30-40 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup and bourbon whipped cream.

Slice of Apricot Orange French Toast

Orange Honey Butter 


1/2 cup packed organic light brown sugar
3/4 cup orange zest (from about 4-5 oranges)

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups honey
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Use a mixer to beat softened butter, brown sugar, and zest in a bowl.

Add salt, honey, and extracts; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.


Bourbon Whipped Cream


1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
3-4 Tablespoons Bourbon, to taste


In a chilled bowl, use chilled mixers to beat the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and bourbon and continue to beat just until incorporated. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part II): Baked French Toast Cups

April 2012

My love of French toast, and conversely my inability to flip anything in a pan, leads to a lot of baked French toast at my brunching table.  The baked French toast is a blank canvas that can be painted with all sorts of colors and flavors, but for the Epic Brunch on my horizon, I sought to change the canvas as well!  I thought, “wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone felt like a little French toast had been made just for them?”  Thus another miniature menu item popped into my head (the first was the mini alliterative frittatas)!

(Bread from Left to Right)

Friendship Farms Buckwheat Barley Bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]
La Gourmandine’s Pain aux Cereales (Sesame, Flax and Sunflower seeds)
Ultimate Grains’ Double Fiber bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]

If you’re a Pittsburgher, do I have a bread tip for you!  The almond croissants in my eyes blinded me to a magical loaf of bread for far too long.  All these trips to La Gourmandine [my Pittsburgh salvation], and I was too pastry driven to notice the wonderfully grainy, yet pillowy loaf known eponymously as pain aux cereales.  If you’re in the neighborhood, pick up a loaf…on second thought… don’t pick up a loaf!  I want it!  It was only by restraint and a sheer desire for the utmost bread variety that any of that delightful purchase made it to the stale level of French toast potential.  My growing list of La Gourmandine obsessions will surely end in fisticuffs one fateful day!  Don’t let me see you snatch the last almond croissant before me in line.  You have been warned!

Individual Baked French Toasts
Makes 18 French Toast Cups


4 eggs (local/free-range)
2 cups organic buttermilk
5-6 chunks of bread/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of [Bonne Maman] cherry preserves/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup/cupcake
Dash of cinnamon & nutmeg/cupcake
Slivered almonds
Organic brown sugar


Line a non-stick cupcake pan with natural parchment cupcake liners.

Add about 5-6 chunks of bread to each cupcake, followed by the cherry preserves, almond extract, vanilla extract, maple syrup and spices.

In a measuring glass, mix the eggs and buttermilk. Pour over each cupcake, making sure to fully saturate the top of the bread. Use additional buttermilk to saturate any dry pieces.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Sprinkle almond slivers and brown sugar on top of each cupcake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped maple mascarpone topping and Bonne Maman cherry preserves!

Whipped Maple Mascarpone Topping


1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract


Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.  ‘Tis all!

Stay tuned for the rest of the Epic Brunch of Miniature Proportions!

A Very French Baked French Toast & Roasted Pineapple

March 2012

It was the bright and sunny brunching hour at the special cabin in the woods, but more importantly, it was the last brunching hour of the long weekend, so we treated ourselves to a decadent baked French toast!

This decadence stemmed from the substitution of croissants for bread and a layer of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut nutbutter (more wholesome than nutella!), making for a very French, French toast!  One rather rich thought entered my mind as I was making this… can you even fathom a bite of baked French toast made with almond croissants?!?!  One bite would surely be heaven, and one bite would surely be enough! Perhaps I’ll try that one day!

Baked Croissant French Toast

Inspired by Bon Appétit


5 all butter croissants, cut lengthwise

2 Tablespoons Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
*1 cup homemade bourbon whipped cream (recipe below)

5 large eggs (local/free-range)
3/4 cup organic buttermilk
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

extra maple syrup

For the Baked French Toast

Grease an 11×7 glass baking dish with butter.

Create one layer of croissants using four bottom halves.

In a bowl, whip the bourbon whipped cream and chocolate hazelnut butter together until creamy.

Add the 4 croissants tops. Use the remaining croissant to fill in any gaps.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk and maple syrup.

Pour the egg mixture over the croissants, making sure to fully saturate the top layer.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Let sit for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown and set in the middle, about 40 minutes.  Serve with maple syrup.

*Bourbon Whipped Cream


1 cup organic heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

For the Whipped Cream

In a chilled bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Add a dollop to your brunch cup of coffee while you’re at it!

Roasted Pineapple with Pistachios 
Adapted from Bon Appétit 


1/2 cup (packed) organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into wedges or chunks
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves


Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add pineapple; toss to coat.

Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place pineapple, one flat side down, on a nonstick skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast pineapple for 15 minutes.

Stir/flip, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes.

Drizzle with remaining marinade; let cool slightly.

Arrange pineapple on a plate.

Spoon Greek yogurt on top of the pineapple. Garnish with pistachios and fresh mint.

The sun was as warm and golden as that roasted pineapple.  When March hands you a warm, sunny day, there is no choice but to spend as much of the afternoon outside as possible, especially when that afternoon takes place at a cabin in the woods.

Oh that big hunk o’ man?!?  He’s my lumberjack boyfriend.  No big deal.

The grasses, trees and mountains began to yawn and stretch, as they gradually awoke from their winter slumbers.  For though the sun was quick to warm us that weekend, the grasses, trees and mountains had been dormant for many a cold, wintry month.  Their warmth was yet to come!

As a newcomer to that special cabin in the woods, part of my privilege is discovering the changes the seasons bring over the mountains, valleys and wooden beams.  I can’t wait to see how the cabin gussies himself with spring flowers and bright green grasses!

(…until the next, greener, sunnier times that is)

Header_leftovers and syrup

Leftovers and Inspiration

February 2012

The gray, somewhat snowy, somewhat rainy, altogether sludgy days are abundant in this part of Pennsylvania.  I often ask myself what I’m still doing here, since I have an inherent need for sun on my skin.  Despite my desires to be in a warmer, bigger elsewhere, I welcomed all the gray this day had to bring.  I’ve recently begun a sincere attempt to switch my thinking, to synthesize happiness and to find at least three positives in each day…

1.  A quiet, reflective consumption of delicious French toast leftovers from time well spent with a dear and crazy friend.

2.  You know the feeling the gray days bring- wanting to curl up with tea and a good book?  The union of that feeling and the ability to do just that is really perfect!

3.  A day to myself.  No place to go.  Nowhere to be.  Just me, a sheep skin, my arm chair, my window light, a good view, my tea and contentment.

Bonuses:  the perfect size and sentiment of grandma’s gradation mug, the warming effect of yellows, pools of pure maple syrup, the ease and payoff of making homemade whipped cream, finding a friend’s drawings in my reading material !!!

I’m really quite lucky!

To Happy Gray Days!

World Nutella Day Commemorative Brunch

February 5, 2012

Someday I’ll have a calendar marked with all the quirky, commemorative food “holidays” (does that calendar already exist somewhere?).  Last year, I discovered I had just missed World Nutella Day, but I did what any modern girl on a mission might do:  I marked my Google calendar and let technology take care of the rest for me!  Last year, I also discovered what I had always thought was the result of a flash of French brilliance was actually an Italian invention.

Fast forward to 2012, and my calendar reminded me I had a celebration in store!  When Italy is due kudos, it’s my time to queue Nina, the best gift Italy ever gave me (albeit it via America, but she does have the passaporto)!

I am not one to argue against the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, but I do have a few objections to some other items on the Nutella ingredient list.  Thus, I made my own version…my own “rustic” version (my food processor is a bit on the tired side) and then put it in between layers of panettone bread for a really rich flavor and an additional nod to Italy.

Look what happens when we pretend!!!
(click on the image ↓ below ↓ to see us in action!)

We channeled the best of Italy- the curvaceous women of Fellini films, donned our sunglasses for a spell and proceeded to pretend we were sitting at an Italian cafe.

Little trays with a view certainly help the Sunday morning game of pretend…

Brunch beverages…

One Village Coffee (with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, perhaps?) and a cinnamon swizzle stick for a touch of fancy and spice!

Blood Orange Bellini and a toast… to our inner Sophias!

World Nutella Day Baked French Toast

I had some egg nog approaching its final days.  Being the daughter of invention, I used that egg nog for a really decadent milk source in the custard sauce.  Waste not, eat creatively!  Feel free to use regular milk instead.

World Nutella Day Recipe:  Baked French Toast


Organic, unsalted butter
1 loaf Panetonne bread in 1-inch slices,
1 cup homemade nutella
pure maple syrup
Goat cheese (Soignon), sliced
Mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa
3 cups organic egg nog
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Frangelico
1 Tablespoon AITA Root
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt


Generously grease a 9×9-inch baking dish with butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan.

Smooth a layer of homemade nutella over the bread, followed by maple syrup and the slices of goat cheese.

Use the remaining slices of bread to complete the top layer. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa.

Whisk egg nog, eggs, vanilla extract, Frangelico, Root, brown sugar and salt. Pour over the bread. You probably will have extra liquid, but make sure the mixture seeps into the top layer of bread.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares and serve with maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Homemade Whipped Topping


1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons Kraken Rum


Step One:  Release the Kraken!

Step Two:  Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Step Three:  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Step Four:  Heap onto French toast and maybe even add a dollop into your cup of coffee!

Felice festa di Nutella!

[Mi dispiace io non parlo italiano.]


Fall Back Brunch

November 2011

When you receive a gift of an extra hour of sleep somewhere between late night Saturday dancing and Sunday morning sunshine, the best way to celebrate is to preheat the oven and unwind with a lazy day of brunching.  It’s even better when a friend can join!

The Days Prior…

When I saw Kelly Carámbula’s concoction (I am also a fan of her site), I was so inspired I made a point to buy rum.  I’m no rum expert, so I allowed myself to be lured by the Kraken squid (watch the Kraken videos!!).

Though the recipe calls for a couple days of infusing, my busy schedule led to a quite thorough infusion.  My Fall Back Brunch was the perfect opportunity for the much anticipated fall flavor, and the result did not disappoint.  It was like sipping a pumpkin milkshake!  Much of my version was made according to my tastes, so the documented measurements are approximate.  Keep sampling little spoonfuls as you go and lookout for giant squid!

Infused Rum Ingredients

1 mason jar of dark rum, like Kraken
4 large cinnamon sticks

Cocktail Ingredients

7-10 ounces (about half a can) organic pumpkin purée
1 cup cinnamon-infused rum
7 ounces (about half a can) sweetened condensed milk
5 dashes Angostura bitters
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Cinnamon
Ice block or cubes

For The Infused Rum

Combine the cinnamon sticks and rum in a large mason jar.  Close with a lid and place in a dark area for 3-7 days, gently shaking daily.

For The Cocktail

In a large pitcher, combine the pumpkin purée, rum, condensed milk and bitters. Gently stir until fully combined.

Pour over a couple ice cubes, and sprinkle ground nutmeg and cinnamon over each glass.

Time for oven warmth…

As it turned out, my kitchen had plenty of fall flavors and leftovers lending to a very delightful baked French toast.

The Flavors of Fall French Toast (baked)


Unsalted butter for greasing baking dish
Organic brown sugar, to taste
4 Challah rolls from Mediterra Bakehouse & a few rolls from this friendly fella
1 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2-3 cups apple pie filling****
1 cup natural dried cranberries
2 cups toasted pecans

Pinch of salt
4 eggs (local/free-range)
¼ cup chai concentrate
3/4 cup local whole milk
1/2 cup local maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Lots o’ local maple syrup for serving!

(Click the photo step by step to enlarge ↓)

Use the butter to grease a rectangular glass pan.

Slice the challah rolls and arrange the slices on the baking dish.

Follow with a layer of the pumpkin, followed by the mascarpone cheese, apple pie filling, cranberries and pecans.

Top with another layer of bread slices.

Whisk together the salt, eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure it fully seeps into the top layer.

Let the bread soak up the liquid for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.  Drizzle any extra wine sauce from the pie filling over the surface.

Once properly saturated, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set, and the bread is golden brown.

Cut into squares and then drizzle generously with pure maple syrup.


Time for the Brunch!

Welcome to my dining room table…

Time for the antics…
(this could very well be why people think I am legitimately crazy?!?  Nah…)


Time to dig in…

Time to play some more…

Time to adapt to darkness so early on a Sunday evening.


I Love You Both, so Let’s Brunch!

July 2011

If there had been a heart shaped necklace split in two that said “Best” and “Neighbors,” Nikkie and I would have worn those necklaces “so hard,” as Nikkie would say!  Beeler Street brought us together, and our shared stoop made us the best of friends!  We sat on that stoop in all kinds of weather, but especially on the sunniest of days.  Nikkie and I were like the neighborhood watch, but not in a safety surveillance way.

We just enjoyed piecing together people’s lives based on what we could observe:  the girl’s progression through the typical college hippy stages; the girl hopelessly in love with her [attractive] male roommate only to be let down but visibly “brave” when his [rather unimpressive] girlfriend came for graduation; the nerdy boy who simultaneously attempted rollerblading and pushing a dolly for the first time, resulting in a flailing fall to the grass; the egos of the football players from the nerd school where only the football players cared about (or even knew about) the football team; [unfortunately] the neighbor who felt the need to parade around naked in his break with society; the robotic speed walker; so on and so forth!

We may have been watching the world, but we also learned so much about each other (and papier-mached together!). Nikkie is one of the most solidly rooted women I know.  She is sharper than a tack, creative, talented, humorous and wise beyond her years.  She knows exactly what she wants and how to take a stand for herself.  I truly valued her insights and support, and when I moved away from that stoop to another part of town, I was sad for one reason only:  no more stoop sessions with Nikkie.  We managed to talk in other ways and see each other every now and then, but the times were never the same quality as our stoop days.  Meanwhile, Nikkie had made quite a few big changes in her life and made a big decision:  a move to Atlanta!

I do declare that Nikkie and I will meet again.  I’m sure of it!  I even fancy a visit to the south to see her in a new context.  I couldn’t let her go without a proper send off, so I set the scene for a Sunday brunch and a third character entered stage left:  Deanna.

Deanna and I met through Nikkie.  What really took us from two friends of Nikkie to two friends was two particular circumstances.  The first was a particularly disappointing tree tending workshop, in which we sat in a community center room and looked at an excessive quantity of slides of diseased trees.  We had to find humor in that, or it would have just been sad.  The second circumstance was an encounter at the farmers’ market that led to a night of goodwill shopping.  Deanna had visions of channeling Dolly Parton via a zombie, and I walked away with an incredible print of a Native American in a tacky gold frame.

From then on, there were Afro-Carribbean dance classes, swimming in a man made lake, bicycle rides, a night at the symphony, so on and so forth.  Deanna has such an amazing spirit!  She is always trying something new, and she makes me laugh so hard my sides hurt.  When I fell for the song “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, I knew one person would understand my days on replay:  Deanna!

Imagine both of those smart, assertive, smiling ladies at one table, and you begin to understand why my focus is turning to Sunday brunches with the important people in my life.  For these lovelies, I really played with my ingredients.  Could bleu cheese really join French toast at the brunch table?  The combination of figs and bleu cheese was inspired by a memory shared with another smart, beautiful, sharp witted woman in my life:  Magali Duzant.

Back in our Paris days, we prepared a little indoor pique-nique of a similar palate but in a more savory sense.  I risked the combination for brunch, and I am ever so glad I did!  It was a delicious morning with delightful ladies!

Figgy Compote
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

14 ounces dried figs
Red wine
1/8 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh juice and zest from one lemon

*I would have used ¼ cup dried cranberries, but that was all that the cupboard supplied.

For the Figgy Compote

Cut the figs into fourths and put in a bowl.  Add enough red wine to cover the figs.  Set aside for at least an hour and up to overnight.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, combine figs, cranberries and wine.

Cook until reduced to a jam consistency, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine the fig jam, the lemon juice, the lemon zest and vanilla until pureed.

Toasted Walnuts


2 cups walnuts
A few squeezes from your local honey bear

For the Walnuts

Heat the walnuts over high heat until fragrant, stirring occasionally.

Add a splash of water.  Drizzle honey over the nuts.  Stir.

Remove from heat.

Cool. Chop.  Dance.  Sing if inclined.

Figgy Bleu Baked French Toast
Or…Baked Bleu Figgy French Toast (for more alliteration)


Unsalted butter for greasing baking dish
Organic brown sugar, to taste
2 Challah rolls from Mediterra Bakehouse & half a loaf (a rustic loaf, so some of the slices are smaller) of Honey Oatmeal Raisin wheat bread from Friendship Farms
2 cups fig compote*  (see above recipe)
2 cups toasted walnuts* (see above recipe)
Crumbled blue cheese
Pinch of salt
4 eggs (local/free-range)
1 cup local whole milk
1/2 cup local maple syrup
Lots o’ local maple syrup for serving!

Use the butter to grease a rectangular glass pan.   Spread a thin layer of the brown sugar on the pan.

Slice the challah rolls and arrange the slices on the baking dish.

Follow with a layer of the figgy compote, then bleu cheese, then the walnuts.  Here is where it starts to look like a bad, box, stuffing mix, but I swear, it all tasted delicious in the end.

Assemble the raisin bread slices, and then set aside.

Whisk together the salt, eggs, milk and maple syrup.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure it fully seeps into the top layer.

Let the bread soak up the liquid for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Once properly saturated, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set, and the bread is brown.

Cut into squares and then dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with maple syrup.

Mango Parfaits
(From the base to the top)

Layer one:  Puréed mango
Layer Two:  2% Greek Yogurt + a smidge of local honey
Layer Three:  Puréed mango
Garnish:  Crushed pistachios, raspberries, a little of squashed raspberry juice and a slice of mango

Chill the entire thing in the freezer before serving

I present to you le table

Cold brew coffee, a summer brunch necessity!

The final figgy French toast and the cocktail ingredients (Prosecco + Organic Cherry Lemonade + Fresh cherry/strawberry purée)

I mixed some of the remaining fig compote with pure maple syrup, in a sauce pan, over medium heat, to combine.

The brunching ladies in blue!  I didn’t even tell them what to wear, and we all matched the table!

C’est fini for the brunching portion of the day.

It was time to take these ladies to the neighborhood pool!

Gone swimmin’.  Leave a message.