As far as I’m concerned, Smitten Kitchen’s Spinach and Cheese Strata is the ultimate in breakfast casserole perfection. Jessica told me about the recipe a few years ago and after making it once, I put it into permanent brunch rotation. It has never failed to impress and delight: it’s excellent for company because it’s unapologetically cheesy and carby and it’s excellent for the cook because it’s assembled the night before and simply baked the next morning. I love it because of the flavors (creamy, nutty, custardy) and because it tastes like more than just scrambled eggs with fillings—it’s a savory bread pudding. The only problem with the recipe is that I found myself making it too often. How many times can you serve the same guests the same thing without it becoming weird? I decided not to find out.
Jessica is amazing, isn’t she? Her resilience and courage overwhelm me with pride and love and admiration. I’m beyond lucky to have her as a best friend and, of course, as my blogging partner. I wasn’t sure, though, that we would come back to our blog. This place is where we can be as silly and lighthearted on the page as we are in the kitchen, so during the past couple of months it was hard to imagine that we’d ever be back here having fun. Knowing that my best friend was in such pain made it impossible for me to think straight, let alone blog. Not that I gave much thought to the idea of posting here by myself—this is our shared conversation and without my Brooklyn counterpart, there is no Butter Poached. Jessica’s the one who started that conversation again. We were huddled in a back room at her wedding, waiting for the ceremony to begin, when she said she wanted to get back to blogging if I did, too.
You bet I do, bestest.
To mark my return to Butter Poached, I’m sharing the most why-not recipe I know, one that I think would’ve made Jessica’s mom smile for its silliness: magic marshmallow crescent puffs. A puff is made of a crescent roll stuffed with a buttery, cinnamon-sugar-coated marshmallow. The rolls are baked until golden brown and drizzled with a confectioner’s sugar icing. My mom clued me in to these gems. She mailed me the recipe clipped from a newspaper with her handwritten challenge: “I DARE YOU!” My mother apparently holds my baking tastes in much higher regard than is warranted—no dare needed. I couldn’t wait to make these. A marriage of two of my favorite processed foods in one ooey-gooey treat? Pop that tube!
Greetings from my empty living room in Springfield, Illinois. I’m typing this from our card table/desk/dining table/only piece of furniture in the upper level of the house. We’ve been here since Sunday and we’re settling in, inch by inch. The past few days have felt exciting [new chapter!], sad [leaving home, friends, family], messy [dust-mud-chaos], happy [first wedding anniversary], stressful [furniture delayed for a week], and fun [life with Ed is always fun]. I can barely process all of the feelings I’m feeling. Every time I start to put my thoughts into words, our dog starts whining or the contractors shoot nails into concrete or the house makes a sound I have to investigate. In other words, I’m distracted. So instead of words, I’m sharing pictures. Below are a few shots from the past couple of days and a recipe for granola that’s been a frequent breakfast and a constant snack during this period of transition.
I am lucky in my friends for countless reasons, but high up on the list is how much they have taught me about delicious food. Laura and I almost never have a conversation that doesn’t at least touch on a new recipe or restaurant (do we ever, La?). Molly’s family gave me one of my all time most loved recipes, and she’s single handedly responsible for getting me to eat more sauteed Swiss chard. Katie makes the best homemade hummus in the world and handles her grill like a pro. Laureen introduced me to the wonders of halloumi cheese (best on Katie’s grill) and once made a chicken and waffles dinner that I still dream about. Ellen taught me how to make vodka infused gummy bears. And Sarah, among many other fantastic food things, introduced me to what quickly became my favorite banana bread.
Finding this recipe felt like finding a $20 bill in an old wallet. I was relaxing and leafing through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table when it jumped out at me: a quick bread with two kinds of cheese, a whole packet of chives, and a good portion of walnuts. In other words, simple, irresistible, and a guaranteed winner. How could I have missed this recipe the countless times I’d looked through this book? Who knows. Who cares. I wasted no more time before letting the bread exceed my expectations. It’s delicious enough to eat morning, noon, and night. Twice at night, actually: it’s both a great cocktail snack and dinner accompaniment. It’s even seasonally appropriate: you can make it with Irish cheddar and serve it with Guinness at your St. Patrick’s Day party this weekend (or with mounds of bacon at the very necessary morning-after brunch).
I have not been achieving my full festive fall potential this season. I have yet to taste my first apple cider donut or pumpkin latte of the year, I haven’t made it apple picking, I missed my students’ annual pumpkin carving event, the only foliage I’ve intentionally gandered at was out the window of a train speeding from NYC to DC (though I have to say, it was especially spectacular), and on Halloween, at my insistence, we skipped the parade happening one avenue over and stayed in eating Indian food. What I have done, however, is find a new favorite muffin that hits many of my fall cravings at once, with pumpkin, apple, and delicious spice. Not too shabby for a (relatively) healthy breakfast treat.
I love to bake, but living on my own has meant not a lot of opportunity. After all, I may want to make a two layer chocolate cake, but do I really need to have the whole thing in my apartment? Probably not. One of my favorite ways to get around this is to bake for my students–I know of no better or more appreciate audience than the wonderful (and hungry) young women I work with. The problem, tho, is that many of them have dietary restrictions…which I often just cruely ignore and please myself. So when, as part of my constant hunt for a healthy breakfast muffin, I found a likely looking recipe for gluten-free peanut butter banana muffins, I decided to give it a whirl.