Friday, April 1, 2011

date night & brunch recipes

last night craig & i enjoyed an impromptu date night at one of our favorite local restaurants.  bell's tavern.  this locals-only joint serves up delicious italian food.  what did we opt for?  my personal fave...their baked ziti.  yum!  2 glasses red wine + bleu cheese pecan salad + baked ziti = happiness : )

ok, so, today, i've been busy cooking & cleaning to get ready for weekend visitors!  two college friends are coming out saturday through sunday to see our place and enjoy some college-esque fun.  i won't bore you with the cleaning details, but i'll share what i cooked (much more fun).

i made an egg strata (i.e. egg "custard" poured over bread, onions, sausage, etc. and then baked until golden brown and delicious) and also made up some cranberry orange muffins.  so, here's what went down...

egg strata

4 eggs
1/4 cup light cream (or half&half)
1 tbsp ranch dressing
1/2 large vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 large tomato, sliced
2 slices (day old or frozen) bread, cubed
4 (small) links turkey sausage, cooked & chopped
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
salt & pepper
olive oil (about a tsp)

preheat oven to 375 degrees, spray 8" by 6" pyrex with PAM or olive oil

saute onions in a drizzle of olive oil.  season with salt and pepper.  once onions begin to caramelize, mix in sausage and rosemary.

i love rosemary with sausage!
beat 4 eggs together with cream and ranch.  season with salt & pepper.

mix bread & onion/sausage filling together in pyrex.  sprinkle with cheddar.

pour egg mixture over and decorate with slices of tomato.  garnish with a bit more rosemary.  season with salt & pepper.  (it's important to layer in seasonings for optimal flavor, not just add all at once : )

bake for 40 min until edges are browned and top is bubbly!

fyi: for 1/6th of the strata, it's only 160 calories!  for 1/4th, it's 235 cal.

cranberry orange muffins

ok, i used a mix for these, but i have a secret about how to improve ANY mix.  add-ins.

this boxed mix would probably be a bit lack-luster, but i added in fresh orange zest to brighten the flavor and give it that "made from scratch" appeal.

other ideas:
blueberry muffin mix - add lemon zest (or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice)
carrot cake mix - add coconut, chopped pineapple and/or raisins
banana cake mix - add cinnamon, nutmeg and maybe chopped pecans
brownie mix - add chocolate or pb or butterscotch morsels, chocolate chunks or chopped candy bars

do you have any cooking tricks or short-cuts?


  1. I don't cook.
    I have no skills.
    This is why my fiance cooks.
    But your food looks AMAZING.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  2. Cailen! Thank you SO much for being my 100th follower!!! You just made my day :) I'm your 215th :) haha

  3. love these add-in tips! i'm going to try the lemon in blueberry muffins for sure :)

  4. oooo both look yummy! I've never seen tomato topping an egg strata but very interesting idea! And I never get muffin tops :(... my muffins always come out looking like cupcakes... LOL

  5. everything looks yummy! esp. that strata :) Have a great weekend with friends!

  6. yummmmmmm! that all looks DELISH! I love strata!

    happy weekend! xo! Lauren @ tickled.

  7. Everything looks delicious! Thanks for visiting my blog. I am your newest follower.

  8. Wow you seriously cook! And look at all those pictures. The green light at top really interests me. How did you do it? Or was it the florescent light overhead? They look totally stylized.


  9. hi laura!

    those picts were taken with the fxcamera app on my droid pro (the toy camera setting). it does awesome things to pictures!


  10. As a kiwi i had never heard of baked Ziti until my italian Penn friend kenny hooked me into it. It's such a treat (seriously - what's not to love about pasta and cheese). Also as the Queen of comfort foods really like the sounds of your custard dish. great photos too. Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. Yumm now I want baked ziti with some red vino!!

  12. Yum what tasty ideas!! :) thanks for your comment on my blog!! I hope to have my review up this week as I will finally have the Internet back! :)


  13. I have never even heard of strata but this I could learn to love! Sounds so incredibly yummy :) xo

  14. That egg strata looks so delicious, it's making me hungry!

  15. Wow that looks good! I really want to start baking and cooking! :)

  16. Oh my goddness, you are making me hungry with all that delicious food. Glad you had a lovely night out and the recipes sound and look yummy! Cant wait to try those muffins. Happy Monday, sunshine

  17. Great tips!!! Love all the add in ideas! Your guests are very lucky!! ;)

  18. Truly an interesting post! I am such a big party freak. Dance and food are my favorite things in parties. This weekend, going to attended a fun brunch get together party at one of best lofty spaces with my friends.


hello there. thank you for your comments - i love reading them.

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