A bracket I can get behind







When it comes to sweet sixteen brackets, I don’t have the best of luck. For me, March Madness begins with as much naive excitement as the locker room of your favorite Cinderella team … and ends with crushed dreams and a $50 deficit in my bank account. Here’s to hoping that the Solo Foods Sweetest 16 recipe contest—the focus of this post—brings happier results. Fortunately (I think), my fate rests in the hands of you, my FANTASTIC readers …

As one of 16 (duh) bloggers chosen to participate in the contest, I was tasked with creating a dessert with at least one Solo Foods ingredient. Armed with pie fillings galore, I set out in search of glory. Many grueling practice sessions and several recipes later, I had my MVP: Dessert chimichangas, filled with a sweet, flavorful mix of apricot, cinnamon, almond and vanilla; fried to crisp golden perfection; doused in cinnamon sugar; and topped with a healthy dollop of mascarpone whipped cream. She shoots, she SCORES.







C’mon BWB readers—send me home with the championship. Vote for my recipe here (scroll down to vote for me!).

Apricot almond dessert chimichangas with cinnamon mascarpone cream

(6 servings)

You’ll need:

Chimichangas:

1 can Solo Foods apricot pie filling

6 small (taco-sized) flour tortillas

1/3 cup sliced almonds

 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 1/8 teaspoon vanilla 

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Canola oil for frying

Cinnamon sugar coating:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mascarpone cream:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup sugar

8 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all chimichanga ingredients (minus oil and tortillas). Spoon 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the middle of each tortilla. Fold up tortillas, burrito-style, so the ends of the “burrito” are tucked into the rolled tortilla. Secure each chimi with several toothpicks. Refrigerate for a couple hours–this will help ensure the chimis maintain their form during frying.

Meanwhile, make the mascarpone cream. Whip the whipping cream and sugar in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Beat in marscarpone cream and whip until the mixture is stiff again. Cover and refrigerate.

Mix cinnamon and sugar and set aside. You’ll use this to coat the chimis immediately after frying.

When ready to fry the chimis, heat several inches of oil (enough to cover the chimis completely) in a large pot over medium-high heat to between 360 and 375 degrees. Lower chimis in (two or three at a time) with a slotted spoon (toothpicks still inside) and fry until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Remove from oil with slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Carefully remove toothpicks and immediately coat chimis in cinnamon sugar mixture.

Serve immediately with a side of mascarpone cream cheese.

Chilaquiles







It’s been a while since I’ve had a good mexican breakfast. A local eatery that shall remain nameless was my go-to spot for out-of-this-world chilaquiles, but all of a sudden, the dish that arrived at my table wasn’t the same one I knew and loved. Convinced these new mediocre-at-best chilaquiles were a fluke, I persistently returned for a second, third and fourth taste test.

No dice. Change in kitchen staff or management? Cracking down on ingredient costs? Who knows. All I know is that I no longer had my spicy, crispy, melty hangover cure. Time to attempt a home-kitchen recreation.

The results were delicious. The only problem? I wasn’t being waited on while sipping a giant cup of Intellegentsia coffee. First-world problems … *sigh* …

Switching gears a bit, allow me to present my new recipe format, which is printable! I’d love to hear what you think of it:

Chilaquiles
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 4

 

Ingredients
    • 1 bag corn tortilla chips (the thicker the better)
    • 1 can red chile or enchilada sauce
    • 1 poblano pepper, diced
    • 1 half yellow onion, diced
    • 1 half jalapeno, diced
    • 1 zucchini or other small, tender squash, diced
    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • quesadilla or pepperjack cheese
    • avocado, cilantro, sour cream and queso fresco for garnishing
    • butter for sauteeing
    • four eggs







Instructions
  1. Saute onion, jalapeno, poblano and squash on medium heat with butter until tender. Pour enchilada sauce in skillet with veggies and heat to a simmer.
  2. Pour tortilla chips in a baking dish, cover in sauce and veggies, add beans and cumin and mix to coat all chips (don’t over mix or let chips sit or they’ll become too soggy).
  3. Cover chips with a generous amount of quesadilla cheese.
  4. Set broiler on high and bake until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
  5. Meanwhile, fry eggs.
  6. Top chip dish with fried eggs, avocado cubes, cilantro and queso fresco and serve with sour cream.

 







 

Chocolate babka … just like Nana used to make (or buy at Publix)

For some reason, lots of my childhood memories with my Nana revolve around food—the good, the bad and the Jewish. The good: delicious, sweet and savory meatballs. The bad: Rice Dream (sorry Nana, but that stuff is just awful). The Jewish: Chocolate babka. Mmmmmm, delicious babka. Come to find out, its origins are debatable (some say it’s Polish, some Eastern European, but from what I can tell it is largely a favorite of Jewish New Yorkers), but that doesn’t change the fact that it is AMAZING.

I fondly remember this delectable treat (and chocolate rugelach … mmmm) as something enjoyed exclusively in our yearly visits to the Jewish retirement capital of the world: South Florida.

Anyway, the babka was a pretty distant memory until a dinner club a few months back. The theme was Polish food, and for some reason it popped into my head that babka might be Polish. Sure enough, I found enough online evidence to be satisfied that it could pass. Because at that point, I just really, really wanted to make it.

And the recipe from Smitten Kitchen did not disappoint. It was light, airy and buttery—like a croissant—with sweet, chocaltey, cinnamony goodness. And it got rave reviews at dinner club. Don’t let the seemingly complex recipe scare you away—it’s totally worth it. Or for those of you in Fort Lauderdale, Margate or Boca Raton, a quick Publix run might give you your fix.

Fried Egg Perfection



Breakfast sandwich_2



Anything with the word “fried” in it is good in my book. Anything fried in freshly rendered bacon fat is even better. Our new weekend obsession is a heart blockage waiting to happen, but I’ll risk a triple bypass later in life for this baby.

What makes this recipe special are the individual ingredients—so don’t skimp on quality.



breakfast sandwich_5



Fried Egg and Bacon Sandwich

You’ll need:

good, thick-sliced bread (I’ve used sourdough, ciabatta, and the best yet, freshly baked no-knead bread)

cheese (I like cheddar or colby jack)

thick-cut bacon

fresh eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

First, cook the bacon in a skillet and set aside on a paper towel. Leave enough of the bacon fat in the pan to fry your egg/s. Put your bread under the broiler with a slice of cheese on each slice. Meanwhile, crack the egg in a bowl and then carefully pour the egg on the hot skillet. Using a silicone spatula, center the yolk and let the white set for a minute or so. Carefully flip the egg—doing this without breaking the yolk is a little tricky. This is also a lesson in multi-tasking—don’t forget about your bread under the broiler. Take the bread out and arrange the bacon on top. Once the egg has cooked for 30-60 seconds on the second side, carefully slide the egg on top of the bread and bacon. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. I like this as an open-faced sandwich because it’s easier to eat with a fork and knife. Either way it’s a phenomenal way to start a Sunday. Or any other day that ends with a Y.



Breakfast sandwich_6



French Toast Boast Post

Cinnamon Sugar Fench Toast_3

Dear readers, I would never steer you towards bad food. I will admit, however, that some of my recipes happen to be a little better than others. The difference between “great” and “fan-freakin-tastic!” if you will. This recipe is FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC.

I had some leftover challah and I wanted to create a jazzed-up french toast recipe.

After a little bit of thought, I decided to incorporate raspberries, strawberries, cinnamon, brown sugar, almond extract and corn flakes. Sound a little odd? Don’t worry—I have a very specific plan in mind. Stay with me people …

Cinnamon-Sugar Crunch French Toast with Raspberry and Strawberry Syrup

You’ll need:

3, 1-and-1/2-inch thick slices of old challah, cut in half

5 eggs

1/2 cup milk

4 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cup corn flakes, slightly crushed

2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Raspberry/Strawberry Syrup

1 cup mix of strawberries and raspberries

2 1/2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (add a tablespoonful at a time and taste—sweeten as desired)

First make the syrup—puree the fruits and sugar with a blender or food processor (take the stems of the strawberries. Sorry if that’s ridiculously obvious, but I can’t assume anything) and set it aside or throw it in the fridge until you plan to cook. Whisk the eggs, milk, almond/vanilla extract and one tablespoon of cinnamon in a shallow dish until thoroughly mixed.



Eggs and milk



Now mix the crushed corn flakes, softened butter, brown sugar and the rest of the cinnamon together to form a moist, crumbly topping.



Cinnamon sugar topping_2



Dip each challah slice in the egg mixture and then coat with the brown sugar mixture. I patted each side of the bread with a generous amount of the mixture and then put it directly in the pan to help the topping adhere better.

Cook in a skillet on medium-high heat for about a minute or two on each side. Use the spatula to lightly press down on the french toast.

If all goes according to plan, you should end up with a PERFECT piece of french toast. Not too eggy. Not soggy, yet perfectly soft and tender on the inside. A crunchy, toffee-like, sweet-but-not-too-sweet crust. Then comes the fruit syrup and you’ve officially died and gone to heaven.

What?? I told you this post was a boast.



Cinnamon Sugar French Toast_6






Cinnamon Sugar French Toast_12



I’m dying to hear if you all like this stuff as much as I do (Dave isn’t a very objective critic), so do yourself a favor: make this tomorrow and come back and rave about it in the comments section.

You’ll thank me later.

Southport Grocery and Cafe

This week, our Bad Economy Brunch (which now has it’s own official Facebook group, courtesy of Liz) was at Southport Grocery and Cafe, a place I’ve had on my list for a while now.

It was everything I expected and more. Although my bottomless-diet-coke habit didn’t exactly fly there:



Coca-Cola bottle



I ordered the waiter-recommended, albeit odd-sounding, Brisket & Gravy—biscuits and gravy with tender smokey brisket and fried eggs. The brisket was house-smoked, the biscuit homemade and the eggs fried to perfection. Believe me, the photos do not do this dish justice.



Briskitt and Gravy_2





Briskitt and Gravy



Melissa and Liz got the other recommendation—a breakfast-style bruschetta topped with scrambled eggs, smoked chicken sausage, queso fresco, tomatoes, onions and balsamic. The picture didn’t turn out very well, so I’ll have to satisfy your appetite for breakfast food porn with Doug’s Blueberry Bread Pudding Pancakes and cinnamon sugar butter:



Bread Pudding Pancake_2



Oh, and we also got a free cinnamon scone and four of their famous cupcakes. It pays to know the wait staff (through Liz that is). The scone barely lasted long enough to be memorialized in photo:



Cinnamon Scone_2



The cupcakes were luckier:



Cupcakes





Cupcake



I may change my blog name to Better With Buttercream.

Oh, and sadly, Furlough Fridays are over for a certain downtown ad agency, so it was Melissa’s last Bad Economy Brunch : (.

This bread is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S



Bananas_10



Sometimes we buy bananas to let them sit on top of the fridge over-ripening. Because then we get to make banana bread! I adapted this recipe from Elise’s banana bread recipe at Simply Recipes.

Here are the poor over-ripe bananas.



Bananas_12



You know they’re ready when the entire stem breaks off when you pluck them from the fridge/fruit bowl/counter top:



Bananas_13



I decided to try something new with this batch:

Spiced Banana Bread

You’ll need:

4 medium-sized ripe bananas

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

dash of salt

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup walnuts

First, mash your bananas. If they’re as ripe as they should be, it won’t take more then a gentle prodding with a fork for them to disintegrate into gooey banana mush. Mix in all of your other ingredients. I, of course, used my mean, green mixing machine—not necessary, just more fun.



Banana Bread Mix



Pour the batter into a loaf pan. I’ve been scarred by some near-disasters with overflowing baked goods, so I played it safe and divided the batter among two pans. If you do this, they should only need about 40 minutes at 350 degrees. With one pan, leave it in for about an hour. You can test the doneness with a toothpick.



Banana Bread_6



It’s nutty and spicy and B-A-N-A-N-A-y.



Banana Bread_4





Banana Bread_3



For all you salivating Cars.com-ers: I’m sending a loaf your way tomorrow. Enjoy.

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