Thanksgiving Breakfast: Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. It means family, friends, road trips and excellent food. It also means spending-as much-time-around-the-table-as-possible and complete-disregard-of-caloric-intake. And it doesn't have to stop at the turkey!

My mom and MeeMee usually make this incredible breakfast feast after Thanksgiving. Is a bit labor intensive, but completely worth it.

You will need to begin the process the night before as it should chill overnight. (Sounds intense, but trust me: this is so completely worth it. I promise.) 

For the French toast:  
12 slices French Bread cut into 1-inch cubes
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes (I usually just use one package) 
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
12 large eggs 
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups milk

For the blueberry syrup:
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp unsalted butter 

Day 1: 
Grease a 13x9 baking pan
Place half of the bread cubes evenly in the prepared pan
Scatter cream cheese cubes over bread
Sprinkle with 1 cup blueberries
Arrange remaining bread cubes over blueberries

In a large bowl, combine all 12 eggs, syrup and milk and whisk to blend.
Pour evenly over reserved bread mixture. 
Cover with foil and chill overnight.

So many eggs. 


Day 2: 
The next morning, make yourself a cup of coffee and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake -- covered with foil in the middle of the oven -- for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue baking 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan:
Combine sugar, cornstarch and water over medium-high heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until thickened. 
Stir in 1 cup blueberries and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, or until most berries burst. 
Add butter and stir until melted. 
Transfer to serving bowl.

Blueberries have not yet burst. 

Now they're bursting. I love this color. 

Serve on individual plates and top with blueberry syrup. Make yourself an extra large serving because you've earned it. 

Note: The syrup can be prepared up to 1 day in advance -- chill and reheat gently. 

Laura's Thanksgiving essentials: rosemary rolls, creamy mashed potaotes & bourbon pecan pie

Still have some holes in your Thanksgiving menu? Have no fear, the 3 Happy Eaters are here to help! This week, we'll each be sharing our favorite tried-and-true, must-have Thanksgiving recipes!

First up: three carb-o-licious staples from Laura.

[photo credit here]

This is a simple but impressive way to step up your bread game. My sister calls them Stick Rolls because of the delicious rosemary "sticks" sprinkled on top. These are definitely best served straight out of the oven, but make sure you allow 3-5 hours for the frozen rolls to rise. Make sure you get unbaked frozen rolls--the pre-baked ones will not work for this! Again, don't freak out over the amount of buter--just get organic and move on.

Rosemary Rolls (aka Stick Rolls)

bag of frozen, unbaked rolls (Rhodes is the brand I find at Publix)
butter, melted (depends on how many rolls you're making, but around 2 sticks--1 before cooking and 1 after cooking)
rosemary (I use dried bc lazy)
coarse sea salt

Spray a round pan (iron skillet, cake pan, whatever you have on hand) with nonstick spray, or rub with olive oil. Place rolls in pan an inch or so apart for room to rise. Cover with a clean dish towel and set in a warm-ish place (on top of an oven that's cooking your turkey, in the laundry room, etc) to rise for 3-5 hours.

When risen, brush generously with melted butter, and sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.

Preheat oven and cook according to package (usually 350-400 for 10-15ish minutes). If you're so inclined, which I always am, brush again with butter upon removing from oven.

[photo credit here]

One of the most important dishes at Thanksgiving is the mashed potatoes. A friend of mine recently reached out to me for my go-to recipe because she felt like hers were just kind of boring. So if you, too, are looking for an easy way to spruce up this essential dish, look no further. (Disclaimer: if you're looking for a low-fat version of mashed potatoes, I don't wanna hear it. Stop counting calories and buy organic dairy products for "clean" fats that are actually good for you.)

PW's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Makes a heaping 13x9 pan's worth. I usually halve it.

5 lbs potatoes (I use regular "baking" potatoes, but russet or gold are good too, whatever you prefer)
1.5 sticks of butter
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Peel and quarter potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through (a fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, but they shouldn't quite be falling apart).

Drain potatoes in a colander. Dump potatoes into a large mixer bowl with paddle attachment, and turn on lowest setting for a couple minutes to let steam escape. When steam has slowed down, start adding the remaining ingredients. (If you're into the mash-it-by-hand method, do that until most of the steam has escaped.)

Keep the mixer on the lowest setting, and slowly add the butter and cream cheese in tablespoon-size cubes. (The hot potatoes will melt and incorporate them better in smaller chunks rather than whole sticks.) Then, the mixer still on the lowest setting, add the half-and-half and let run until incorporated. Add the seasoned salt and pepper, and mix until incorporated. You can turn the mixer up higher to mash the remaining chunks, but don't over-mix or it'll turn to paste.

At this point, you can pour into a dish and serve, or pour into a dish, top with MORE pats of butter and bake at 350 until heated through (helpful if you've made them ahead of time).

Pecan pie is almost as essential to Thanksgiving as the turkey itself. As I've said before, I'm not ashamed of pre-made pie crust. Go right ahead and make your own if you want, but I am all for the packaged stuff. There are zillions of pecan pie recipes out there, but this one is my go-to because chocolate and bourbon. Of course, it's from my favorite baking cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I'm telling you: Christmas list that shiz!

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1 pie crust (I've used both the in-pan version and the rolled up version, either work)
2 cups pecan halves, toasted (spread on baking sheet for 10 min at 350--don't skip this!)
3 eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup (I don't wanna talk about it)
3 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs bourbon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Whichever crust version you go with, stick it in the freezer (in the pie dish) for a couple hours, or if you're lazy like me, just while you put together the other ingredients.

If you haven't already, toast your pecans. No arguing, just do it. Roughly chop 3/4 cup of them and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until combined. Add the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla and bourbon. Whisk again until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Take your pie crust out of the freezer. Spread the chocolate chips evenly along the bottom of the pie shell. Slowly pour the filling you just mixed together on top of the chocolate chips. Sprinkle/arrange the remaining pecan halves (not chopped) on top of the filling.

Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, then loosely cover the edges of the crust with foil and bake another 30 minutes (keeps crust from burning) until knife stuck in center comes out clean (no clumps of filling).

Cool on wire rack and serve warm or room temp.

Give these recipes a try this Thanksgiving, your family will thank you!

Essentially homemade chicken pot pie

Even though it's somehow basically summer again outside here in Atlanta, last week was absolutely frigid. so naturally I made my favorite cold-weather dinner: chicken pot pie.

I love this recipe because you can be as complicated or no-frills as you want to be with it. I think the most important part of a recipe is that it should be reasonably doable on an average night. So I took a potentially complicated, exhausting recipe and made it just that. Here's how:
  • Homemade crust? Sure, if you're into that kinda thing. Me, I don't have any kinda time for that business. Who wants to spend 5 hours making a (extremely temperamental) pie crust before even starting to cook dinner? Not this moi.
  • Another potential point of debate: the frozen veggies. Look. Look. Listen. Listen. Look. Come on, who really likes celery? I find no shame in grabbing the organic Publix-brand frozen mixed veggies that come in the exact amount that I need. aka more of what I want for less effort. I pick that.
  • Optional white wine aka an excuse to buy a bottle of white wine. Even if you're not into wine, it really does enhance the flavors, so don't skip it unless you really have to.
  • Final point of flexibility: the protein. If you've got a leftover chicken breast or two that you can cook and chop up: go for it. You can also buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery and pull the meat off--sometimes it's cheaper than buying raw chicken, plus it's already cooked! Have leftover chicken from a roast? Use that. Lots of room for flexibility here.
Special Thanksgiving hint: this recipe is AMAZING with leftover turkey. Do yourselves a favor and set aside 2 cups of turkey so you can make this--it's WAY better than turkey sandwiches, I promise.

Okay, enough defending my choices. Just try it and you'll see for yourself. My family requests this over and over again, and it might just be what snags me a husband one of these days. It's that good.

Laura's Chicken Pot Pie

1 pie crust (if you get the two-pack from the store, freeze one for next time!)
1/2 stick butter
2 cups frozen mixed veggies
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken (or turkey!)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
splash of white wine (optional) (not really)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp thyme (or to taste. I use dried/ground because lazy)

Preheat oven to 400.

(Cook your chicken and shred it up if you haven't already.)

Melt butter in a large skillet. Toss in frozen veggies and, stirring, cook until heated through (a couple minutes). Add the chicken and stir, coating the chicken in the remaining butter. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to coat. Cook over medium for a couple minutes (this helps the chicken and veggies stand up to the liquids).

Pour in broth, stirring constantly to deglaze (get the crispy stuff off the bottom) the pan. Let it return to a simmer and add a splash of white wine. Stir and let return to a simmer. Then add heavy cream.

Bring to a slow boil and let simmer for a few minutes until the mixture thickens a little to an almost gravy-like consistency. While simmering, add salt, pepper and thyme. I hardly ever measure these things (#YOLO) I just keep adding and tasting until I'm happy with it.

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or pie dish (at least 9-in). Unroll the pie crust and carefully place over the mixture, and press the edges into the side of the dish (so the insides don't boil out). Slice vents in the top of the crust.

Bake 30-40 mins or until golden and bubbly. Allow to cool just slightly before serving (because the inside will be at molten lava temperatures).

Make it tonight!

TGIFriday Video: Pumpkin Spice Lie-tte

Today's post might burst a few bubbles, but seeing as all three of us Happy Eaters have a background in journalism, we find it our duty to keep our readers informed. May the truth avail!

The pumpkin flavor craze has always driven me mad, mostly because I'm just not one for hype--but I'm especially not one for hype over a big fat marketing LIE (again, thank you journalism background for my overall cynicism toward advertising).

Anyone who has actually tasted plain pumpkin knows that their pumpkin flavor latte (almonds, M&Ms, etc) tastes nothing like pumpkin. It tastes like the spices commonly used in a pumpkin pie. But not actual pumpkin, as the name falsely implies. So really, if the marketers were honest (hahahahahaha), it should be called a cinnamon-nutmeg-clove latte. and now, thanks to the New York Times, we know that even these flavors are almost always synthetically manufactured with as many as 80 other additives to mimic the sensation of a pumpkin pie.

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself:

Let the (pumpkin spice) truth set you free!


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

One of my favorite things is cake disguised as bread. I'm not sure the details of the classification system, but if I can get away with eating cake for breakfast (lunch, dinner, dessert, snack) then I am all for calling it "bread."

I really love quick breads (aka quick cakes) because they fall in this category of cake/bread perfection, and because you don't even have to use a mixer to throw it together.

Here's my favorite fall quick bread recipe, coming from my all-time favorite baking cookbook by Baked NYC. If you don't already have it, put it on that Christmas list pronto! Perfect for a potluck or Thanksgiving celebration or just because--it's so easy you don't really have an excuse not to make it.

The recipe makes two 9-inch loaves, but is easily halved if you just need one.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

3 1/4 cups flour, sifted (or not sifted if you're me)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg if you're me)
1/2 tsp ground allspice (cloves would probably be nice too!)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree (aka one 15-oz can)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar (I used all white)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup water, room temperature
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and grease & flour your 9-inch loaf pans (I use butter).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, baking soda and salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and oil until combined. Add the sugar and whisk again. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking well after each addition, and the vanilla. Add the water and whisk until combined (I wish I could tell you why you add rando water. It's going to seem watery and weird. but I promise it makes it moist and delicious. #science). Using a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips (yes, they'll mostly float to the bottom but don't worry).

Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined--try not to overmix.

Divide the batter between the pans (or pour it all in the one pan if you halved the recipe). Bake at the center of the oven for about 1 hour 25 minutes (depending on your oven. start checking it at 1 hr 15 min), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I was really worried that my edges were burning while the inside was finishing cooking, but it turned out perfectly, so be at ease and let it cook all the way through.

Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Or until your small group gets there and you can't wait any longer before diving into it.

Make this today! Your coworkers (book club, family, small group) will love you for it!


New shoes

Let's be real. Everyone needs a new pair of shoes, but they don't really need that pair of shoes.

Well, this is kind of the same. We got ourselves a new shmancy design. I'm pretty much in love with it.

It makes me want to pull myself up out of the feeling-bad-about-myself mode (winter, husband traveling, crazy neighbors) and get back on the learning to cook bandwagon!

All this just in time for Thanksgiving! And Christmas! Win-win-win.

So roll up your sleeves -- let's cook.

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