RECIPE: THE PERFECT BRUNCH MENU


Photo by the ever lovely Mary Caroline Russell, who took all the pictures for my last album, Hourglass.

Photo by the ever lovely Mary Caroline Russell, who took all the pictures for my last album, Hourglass.

Since we last spoke, I had a birthday...

I'm getting to the point in my life where I can't decide if birthdays are exciting or emotional. But either way, I turned 27 on April 7th. As per our usual tradition, Michael and I decided to throw a big party to celebrate. My birthday serendipitously fell on a Friday this year, so we used it as an excuse to celebrate all weekend (and actually for a few days during the week as well...bc YOLO). 

As I've mentioned before, brunch is pretty much my favorite thing. In years past I've thrown a brunch for my friends on the Saturday of my birthday week (it's a super fun tradition, you should adopt it as your own). We bake something with cinnamon (we've done everything from cinnamon toast, to cinnamon rolls, to cinnamon donuts, to churros...), have lots of fresh fruit, and of course mimosas.

Even just thinking about brunch right now makes me so happy. I hope you'll plan one for this weekend. Here are some recipes...in case you need a few home-run menu items...


Pineapple Mint Mimosa

serves 8

2 bottles of Brut champagne

2 cups pineapple juice

1/2 cup orange juice

4 Tbs mint simple syrup*

4-8 sprigs of mint, for garnish in the pitcher and in the cups

 

The best  thing about Mimosas is that you can't go wrong! Champagne is delicious on its own, but the key to this famously classy brunch drink is to give it just a hint of tropical sweetness. So my perfect mimosa tastes like champagne mostly, with mint, and a little pineapple-orange juice, as notated above. But YOUR mimosa may need to taste a little more like OJ to suit your fancy! So experiment until you find the perfect mixture. What a good excuse to test it out the day before!

*I like my mimosas ever so slightly sweet, so my secret ingredient is a little mint simple syrup. (or this year I made rosemary, as you can see in the picture). You can find mint simple syrup at the grocery store pre-made, or you can simply combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil while stirring until there are no more grains of sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Then add 5-10 sprigs of mint, letting the mint sit in the mixture and wilt. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator, or if you're making it the day-of, try cooling it quickly in the freezer before adding it to the mimosas.


Mushroom & Feta Skillet Frittata

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serves 8

1. In an oven safe skillet, heat 1 Tbs olive oil.  Roughly chop the spinach and cook it over medium heat. After it's wilted, transfer the spinach to a colander and press all of the liquid out of the spinach. Let it sit for a few minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper.

3. While the spinach is resting, heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in the skillet. Then add the yellow onion to the skillet, cooking until translucent. Stir in the garlic, spinach, and mushrooms, cook until fragrant. Gently fold in the egg mixture. Cook until partially set, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle feta cheese and remaining parmesan cheese over the top.

4. Place skillet in oven and bake until frittata is puffed up and golden, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve.

8 large eggs,

1 cup of half-and-half

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt + pepper to taste

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

10 ounces fresh spinach

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup shitake mushrooms


Caramelized Vanilla-Cinnamon Toast

Ah, cinnamon toast! The very first thing that inspired our brunch tradition. It's simple, but intricate. It's comfort food that can be mouth-watering. Follow the steps closely, but as always, you are the chef! Tweak and experiment based on what you like.

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Cinnamon Spread

4 Tbs Cinnamon

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 sticks of butter

Soften butter, whip ingredients together in a stand mixer until completely combined. The texture should be crunchy with cinnamon and sugar, but spreadable. 

THE Toast

1. Find a fresh, uncut loaf of bread at the grocery store. The Fresh Market makes a really nice white bread that is uncut, if you can't find that you can use a sourdough.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut thick slices of toast, about 1 inch per slice, and lay them out on a large cookie sheet, covered with foil. Butter the top side of the toast & stick it in the oven until the butter is melted. Remove from oven and spread the butter evenly over the surface and return to the oven for about 3 minutes, until golden.

3. Remove toast from the oven and flip. On what used to be the bottom side of the toast, spread a thick layer of the cinnamon spread, all the way out to the crust. Place back in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cinnamon is bubbling.

4. Set the oven to broil and leave the toast for a final 1-2 minutes on high heat. Be careful not to burn, and monitor the toast based on your own crunchiness-preference.

5. Remove from the oven and serve with fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream (unsweetened or sweetened, adding vanilla is always nice). If you want to get crazy you can always drizzle some syrup on top. 


The backyard movie

This year we decided to switch things up a little and have the birthday brunch with my family, and then celebrate with friends by hosting an outdoor movie neighborhood party. The weather has been beautifully warm for the last few weeks, so we felt like it was a perfect night to celebrate the first of Spring. Michael and I have talked for years about throwing something like this together, but we hadn't found the perfect excuse to do all this for just the two of us until now.

This is the kind of weekend activity that can be an adult birthday party (throw in some mojitos & a popcorn bar), a kid birthday party (think candy and Finding Nemo), or just a fun neighborhood gathering to welcome Spring. 

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What you'll need:

1. A projector, laptop, and speakers

We used the speakers from our studio, Michael's laptop and an Epson projector from Best Buy. The higher the quality the better (we splurged for 1080p). Michael set it all up on a coffee table and it worked like a charm.

2. Black fabric + White fabric, plus a frame (or something to nail it to in the backyard)

We found some cheap fabric by-the-yard at Hobby Lobby that worked perfect for this. There is a little wooden shed in our backyard, so luckily for us it was as easy as measuring the size of the shed and buying fabric to cover it. We nailed the black fabric behind and the white fabric in front, doubled. Easy set up, easy tear down, plus a cute little roof on top of the movie screen.

3. Outdoor furniture

Because our party was a couples party, we set up little sections of two chairs with some sort of table in between. We knew people would have drinks, candy and popcorn, so its a good idea to give them something to put that on. Michael brought down his old futon from upstairs which was PERFECT. We had lots of cushions, and a fire pit going behind the movie area in case people got cold. Don't forget to tell everyone to bring blankets galore unless you're having your movie night in the middle of summer.

4. Candy + Popcorn

Kroger was having a beautiful candy sale--$10 for 10 boxes of candy. So my sister and I went through and grabbed every type of candy we've ever wanted to try, 4 different flavors of popcorn salt, regular popcorn and kettle corn. We planned for 1 bag per person and it seemed to work out about right. It's never bad to have a few bags of popcorn left for your movie nights at home later.

5. birthday cake

There has never been, and never will be a better cake than this. Michael and I actually ordered this Caramel Brown Sugar cake from The Grit here in Athens for our wedding cake. We love it so much. I haven't had it since our wedding almost 5 years ago, so we decided this would be a fun occasion to have it again. (Also, I grabbed this cute cake topper from Target).


What's better than having a reason to celebrate?

Get festive this weekend and have brunch with your friends, or maybe even host an outdoor movie. Here's a list of my (current) top 10 movies in case you need suggestions. This list is heavy on the RomComs because what's better than a little laughing, crying, and falling in love on the lawn under twinkle lights?

10 Things I Hate About You

Midnight in Paris

About Time

You've Got Mail

Brooklyn

Pride & Prejudice

Almost Famous

When Harry Met Sally

Harry Potter (all of them, sorry can't choose)

Notting Hill

p.s.

Speaking of cinnamon, If you want the recipe for these homemade brown butter cinnamon rolls, click HERE . You can click through the pictures below to get a glimpse at the decadence you'll be making.

RECIPE: BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS



Hello + happy weekend!

I've got a fun weekend recipe for you, so if you've got a sweet tooth and you're ready to attempt your most domestic (and also epic) baking adventure of all time, continue reading..


I'm a big fan of tradition. 

In fact, I love the idea of tradition so much that when Michael and I got married we sat down and made a list of festivities and traditions from our childhood (PLUS several newly imagined ones) that we wanted to be a big part of our new lives as a married couple.

One of the things that was really important to me is that we learn to celebrate each other really well, especially on birthdays. 

One year I had the idea of a birthday brunch, and it really stuck. The menu is always different, but the one item that always makes it into one of our brunches is some sort of cinnamon-y sweet. We've experimented with cinnamon toast, cinnamon donuts, and even churros. But the ultimate winner turned out to be a homemade cinnamon roll

I started with 3 different recipes and sort of combined and tweaked until it was perfectly tasty. Now I'll whip these out for any day that needs a little pep in its step. 



 

FILLING

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

Plenty of cinnamon

3 sticks butter, melted

 

GLAZE

2 bags powdered sugar

1 stick of butter

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp light corn syrup

2 cups hot water

 

BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS

*yields between 2-4 dozen, total time: 3-4 hours

 

DOUGH

8 cups all-purpose flour + 1 cup

2 packets dry active yeast

1 qt. whole milk

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 heaping tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp salt

16 oz. cream cheese


DIRECTIONS


1. SCALD THE MILK

In a large stock pot, combine milk, oil & 1 cup sugar. “Scald” the milk by heating on medium-low until just below a boil, stirring frequently. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and let cool for about an hour, stirring occasionally to speed up the process.  When the milk has cooled down to lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast evenly cover the surface and let sit there for about 2 minutes.

A very important baking note: DON'T ADD YEAST TO HOT MILK. Yeast is a living thing that needs a comfy warm environment in order to rise. If you put it into something too hot, it will die and the bread won’t rise. A good test for temperature is to stick your finger into the liquid and if you can comfortably keep your hand there, then the yeast will be fine. Make sure to touch near the bottom of the pan where a lot of the heat is held.


2. Make the dough

This is a two-step process. (step one) While the milk mixture is cooling, measure and sift out 9 cups of flourThen add 8 cups of the flour on top of the yeast and stir until combined. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough sit out at room temperature for an hour. (step two) Combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of flour in a separate bowl, stirring together very well. After the dough has been rising for an hour at room temperature, add the remaining flour mixture, stirring well. 

Dough should be a little sticky, but should hold together well. The dough is ready to use if you'd like, but for best results cover the pot with plastic wrap and let the dough continue to rise in the refrigerator overnight. You may have to punch it down a few times as it rises above the top of the pot.



3. MAKe the brown butter for the glaze.

Place 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and turn on med-hi. First the butter will melt, and as its cooking I usually pick up the pot and swirl it around every few minutes. Then the butter will come to a boil, then start to foam. You don’t want the it to burn, so you can swirl it a little more often while it’s boiling. Cook it on this temperature until the foam goes down and you start seeing little pieces of brown (and the butter will smell more like toasted nuts than before) and it will foam up a little bit. Pour the butter into a small bowl and set aside for later.


4. Roll out the dough

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and split it into two halves (repeat the following steps for each half). Place one half on a heavily floured surface to be rolled out. Sprinkle the top with flour and press the dough out into a rectangle shape, then roll it out to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. The thinner your roll the more swirls you'll have. Take one 6 oz. bar of softened cream cheese and spread it out until its a thin layer covering all of the dough. Make sure the counter underneath the dough has plenty of flour, it tends to stick. Fold the dough in on itself 3 times -- once from each side meeting in the middle and then again where the two sides meet. The dough should now be in a smaller rectangle with the cream cheese inside. Roll it out again to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.


5. Add cinnamon & roll 'em up

Melt 3 sticks of butter (this will be enough for greasing both pans and for the cinnamon spread on both rolls). Pour a generous amount of melted butter on the dough, and spread it out until it covers the whole surface. Then sprinkle with a layer of cinnamon, white sugar and brown sugar, then another layer of cinnamon. Be generous with all this stuff. Then roll the dough lengthwise as tightly as you can until it forms a log. Using a bread knife or a sharp chefs knife, cut the log into individual rolls measuring about 2-3 inches thick. You may need to flour the knife.

(I rolled mine thick and cut them thick, so these turned out about the size of a Cinnabon)


6. BAKE THE ROLLS

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat the bottoms and sides of the pans with the melted butter. Place the rolls in the pans, (3 to a circular pan). It’s best to keep them farther apart to let them rise and fully cook in the oven. Give each one of them about an inch or more of space all the way around. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they begin to brown & look like the photo below.


7. MAKE THE GLAZE (FINAL STEP!)

the first batch is in the oven, make the glaze: Add the powdered sugar, brown butter, vanilla, salt, corn syrup and 1 cup at a time of the hot water. Stir together with a whisk as you go, and once your glaze is the right consistency set it aside. I like mine somewhere between an icing and a glaze, so when I stick a spoon in it flows off easily but the spoon never gets completely clean. As each batch comes out of the oven, immediately put a giant spoonful of glaze on top of each one and let it melt over the top. Or just pour it on...

ENJOY


TIP /

You may not use all of the water, or you may feel like you need to use more. You're adding water to get the correct consistency, and that's really up to you. I like my glaze thick because it melts over the hot cinnamon rolls. But I promise this glaze will taste good no matter what consistency it is.


EAT THEM HOT + SHARE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE

xo, Emily



RECIPE: CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD


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I have the best memories of rotten banana days in my house growing up.

You know what I mean... you were at the grocery store and decided to buy bananas. But you don't really like bananas that much. So they end up sitting there for a week (or two or three...) and they start to get too gross, even for a smoothie.

But the best thing about almost-rotten bananas is that they're great to bake with. My mom used to make this DELICIOUS banana bread on those rotten banana days, and I remember the smell of fresh baked bread filling the house.

Banana bread is really good the first day when it comes out of the oven warm, but its REALLY GREAT for the next several days when you cut yourself a slice or two, spread a little butter on it and throw it in the toaster oven.


Well, yesterday was rotten banana day in my house

and a dear friend of mine just did me a huge favor, so I was thinking about writing her a thank you card. But what's better than a thank you card?

A thank you card and banana bread.


I used a recipe for "Whole Wheat Banana Walnut Bread" in the Williams-Sonoma "Cooking At Home" book. It called for whole wheat flour and walnuts, but I (obviously) substituted chocolate chips for the nuts. I also decided to try out a local flour that I found at the Farmers market. If you frequent the farmers market you may find that there are some really cool vendors there that you never noticed before. It happened to me last time, and I've got to say that using the fresh, local flour made the whole baking experience a little more fun.


This is for you, person who accidentally let your bananas rot.

And for you, person who has a thank you card they need to send.

Give it a try...


HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

( M A K E S   1   L O A F )

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick of butter

1 cup sugar

2  mashed, very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1/2 cup chocolate chips



COMBINE flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl

WHIP the butter (room temperature) and the sugar in an electric mixer 

BEAT in the eggs and the banana until completely mixed. It’s ok if it’s lumpy.

STIR in the chocolate chips, then the flour mixture until just combined

POUR into greased loaf pan + BAKE for 1 hour at 350 degrees



When I took the loaf out of the oven I put it straight onto a cooling rack. When it felt cool enough to touch I wrapped it in clear plastic wrap and cut a piece of butcher paper to wrap around the middle. I wrote a little note on it for my friend, but if you're interested in sharing the recipe click HERE for a printable version that you can hole-punch and tie onto your loaf.

I hope you enjoy your baking day!


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Because it's on you to make life interesting.

xo, EM


RECIPE: Lavender Gin & TONIC


I remember when I first read The Great Gatsby.

It's one of those books that you have to read for school, so you assume that you won't like it. But I loved The Great Gatsby. I was so intrigued by the Roaring 20's and the way of life for people like Daisy Buchanan. There was a social event every night where women went out in their most elegant dress and sipped cocktails and danced all night. Then I started watching old Audrey Hepburn movies (in an attempt to catch up on the classics I'd missed when I was a little too interested in the Mary Kate an Ashley movies…). Then MadMen became an obsession for all of my roommates in college. I think we watched the whole first season in 2 days. To me there is something so alluring about the way things were in those days.  It's funny, because in most ways I don't like fancy things. My little house isn't perfect or impressive. It's cozy and represents little pieces of who I am, like the paint colors I chose on a whim or the furniture I picked up for $20 from an estate sale. So I'm not fancy, and I turned down my own chance to be a debutant. But I've think my fascination with elegance comes more from my desire for things to feel magical.

One magical, Roaring 20s-esque thing that has become a hobby of mine is making traditional cocktails. It adds a hint of creativity and sparkle to a regular night. Next time you have friends over, I have an easy (and impressive) recipe for you to try for my very favorite cocktail.

One day we'll tackle fancier drinks (like the Martini) but until then, enjoy the Lavender Gin + Tonic. Your guests will think you're a cocktail whiz. Scroll down for the recipe & a print out to stash on your fridge or in your go-to recipe book if you like the recipe.

xo, EM

CLICK + DRAG THE IMAGE TO YOUR DESKTOP

CLICK + DRAG THE IMAGE TO YOUR DESKTOP

INGREDIENTS /

Gin / St. Germain Elderflower liqueur / 1 lemon / culinary lavender / sugar / club soda

Directions /

    Combine the lavender, lemon juice + sugar cubes. Use the muddler to dissolve the sugar cubes in the liquid. Add the St. Germain, gin + 6 cubes of ice. Securely close the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Top off with about 1 oz. of club soda (I recommend Fever Tree).

PRO TIP / you can make this recipe with any clear liquor (rum, vodka, etc)

Because it's on you to make life interesting.

xo, Em