Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Strawberries & Cream French Toast Casserole

Strawberries and cream is such a classic springtime combination.  And unsurprisingly, sometimes simple is best:  one of my favorite ways to enjoy the combo is simply to top some sliced strawberries with whipped cream and dig in.  However, that doesn't translate so well to breakfast (I would be hungry again in approximately 0.034 seconds).  Enter strawberries and cream French toast casserole.  This is a super simple French toast casserole base, with sweet strawberries mixed in.  I typically use milk when I make breakfast casseroles, but this time I replaced half of it with cream.  The result was incredibly rich and decadent, worthy of a special occasion.  Like say, Easter Sunday?  The sweet and bright strawberries were the perfect foil to the custardy filling, and this is going down as one of my favorite breakfasts ever.  I foresee many fruit and cream varieties being made as we head into spring and summer.... blueberries and cream?  Peaches and cream?  Go wild!

Strawberries and Cream French Toast Casserole
a Pink Parsley Original
serves 4

  • 5 cups cubed French bread (day old bread, slightly stale bread is ideal)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries, divided
  • 1 Tbs sugar, for sprinkling
Lightly grease a 9x9 inch square baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Mix in the bread and the strawberries.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, cover, and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of strawberries over the top.

Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the custard has set.  During the last 10 minutes of baking time, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Vegetable Tortellini Salad

I definitely owe you guys an apology.  When I posted the menu and pictures from Smith's Baptism Lunch last year, I received a ton of requests for the spring veggie tortellini salad recipe.  I kind of just threw it together on the spot at the time, and since I was making a really big batch and didn't write down all the ingredients, I was afraid it wouldn't translate well to the blog.  So I meant to make it again before posting, and I never got around to it before the end of spring.  BUT here we are.  Less than a week before Easter.  In the height of spring..... if "the height of spring" means 35 degrees outside, that is.  But we can still live vicariously through our food.

This salad has some of my favorite things:  asparagus, pasta, cheese, and crispy prosciutto.  It's lightly dressed in a lemony-herb vinaigrette, and served with more herbs.  If you're still planning your Easter menu, I highly recommend this salad as a side dish.  And if you're not planning your Easter menu or don't celebrate the holiday, I highly recommend this anyway.  It makes a great lunch or light dinner.  Enjoy!

Spring Vegetable Tortellini Salad
a Pink Parsley Original

As written, this serves 2-3 people as a side dish, but it can easily be multiplied to serve a crowd.

  • 1 (9-oz) package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, woody ends removed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2-3 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, divided (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil, and oregano.  I really love mint in this as well though)
  • just a smudge of honey
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the tortellini according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, slice the asparagus into 2-inch pieces.  Add it to the tortellini for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking time.

Drain the pasta and asparagus and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain again.  Toss with the frozen peas and set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the prosciutto, stirring often, until crispy and lightly browned. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

To make the dressing, combine the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of the fresh herbs, and the honey.  Whisking constantly, stream in the olive oil, and continue whisking to combine well.  

In a large bowl, toss the tortellini, asparagus, peas, dressing, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the fresh herbs. Allow to sit 15 minutes to let the flavors meld.  Sprinkle with the prosciutto and serve.

*This can be made the night before, but the vegetables may not retain their bright green color.  It will still taste great though!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the Side - March

Happy spring!  Spring is by FAR my favorite season, and I'm so glad that we welcomed it yesterday.  Now if mother nature would just get with the program and give us some spring-like temps, I'll be even happier.  And yes, I live in Georgia and am complaining about the cold.  I'm a southerner through and through.

The babies are growing like weeds, and we just had their 2 month pediatrician's appointment.  They are exactly the same weight and height, and their heads are only 0.5 centimeters apart.  Twins indeed!

Most notably this month, we made the trek to my hometown of McDonough, Georgia to introduce the babies to my grandpa.  Pop was tickled to death to meet them, and we had a great time visiting with family.  Caroline and Smith both love seeing their cousins as well.

The highlight of any trip to Pop's is riding in the golf cart with Uncle Paul and Uncle Thomas  :).

We had family pictures taken by the awesomely talented Danielle Bryson (if you live in Georgia or South Carolina, check her out - she's amazing!).  I am so in love with these photos.

This one is my favorite.  We all seem very peaceful and idyllic, but let me be clear when I tell you that chaos normally reigns in our house these days :)

We also celebrated my birthday on March 2nd.  It was a pretty awesome day - a giant iced coffee, cookie cake, a sushi lunch, and a three hour nap.  That's all it takes to make me feel happy and special.  Caroline and Smith had sushi for the first time, and they both loved it - especially using the chop sticks.

And finally, I'll share this picture.  I swear it makes me smile every time I see it.  I just hope they always love each other this much.

And now for a few things I've been loving lately...

Nashville is definitely my guilty-pleasure tv show these days.  I just wish they showed new episodes every week.  There hasn't been a new one if a few weeks now; I'm going through withdrawals!  And the male eye candy isn't too shabby, FYI.

I've had the Urban Decay Naked palette for almost a year now, and I recently splurged on the Naked 2.  I love it!  They are both great, but I think I prefer this one - the colors are more grayish and cooler, which works better with my skin tone.

Very Jane is a daily deal site, specifically for women.  They feature deals for cute jewelry, clothes, stuff for kids, home decor, etc.  I've ordered quite a few things from them over the past few weeks.  It's becoming a problem...

Green smoothies.  I've been making a point to drink one every day.  My favorite combo right now is frozen mango, banana, pineapple, kale, and a little orange juice.  Sometimes I make them "ungreen" by adding frozen berries.  Caroline loves to help make them, and she and Smith both love drinking them as well.

Justin Timberlake.  Enough said.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cheesy Cauliflower Baked Pasta

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.  Pasta - yes.  cheesy sauce - yes.  melty cheesy topping - absolutely yes.  Now prepare yourselves to be floored:  macaroni and cheese is not healthy.  Quite the shock, I know.  But it's not supposed to be.  But this one is actually semi-healthy.  However, in general, I'm not a fan of the two things that this recipe accomplishes:

  1. Health-ifying bad-for-you food.
  2. Hiding veggies in dishes from kids
I don't typically making indulgent foods lighter - they never taste the same, and I end up eating way more than I otherwise would to be satisfied.  I'd much rather just eat sensibly 80% of the time and then indulge when necessary.  

And don't get me started on hiding veggies from your kids - or calling veggies something they're not (green beans are not "green fries."  Black beans aren't "black jelly beans." Give your kid some credit and let them love green beans for what they are /rant).  BUT I'm all for cramming as many veggies as possible into a meal.  So I'll gladly add some pureed cauliflower to this.  But I won't be lying to Caroline or Smith about what it is.  It's mac and cheese with cauliflower.*

The cauliflower is steamed and then pureed with a little milk and cheese to form the sauce for the noodles.  It's then topped with a little more cheese and baked until it's bubbly and delicious.  Does it taste identical to the most decadent, cheesy, rich mac & cheese you've ever had?  Of course not.  But it does taste great.  It's still creamy and silky, and by using a combination of sharp cheddar and Parmagianno-Reggiano, you don't have to use as much to gain great cheesy flavor.  I actually think it would be quite tasty to add in some roasted or steamed cauliflower florets in place of some of the pasta as well - I love texture, and I think it would be a great addition.  

So if you are a mac and cheese lover like me, then give it a try.  It's much healthier, but you get to feel good about what you're eating and feeding your kids.  Win win.

*I do realize that some kids are immensely picky, and drastic measures are necessary.  But in general, I feel like many people don't give kids enough credit and feel like they have to be "tricked" into eating healthy food because they couldn't possibly like a vegetable without thinking it's a french fry.

Cheesy Cauliflower Baked Pasta
adapted from Fine Cooking
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (1 lb, about 3/4 head)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled 
  • Fine sea salt or table salt 
  • 12 oz. dried penne 
  • 2 cups 1% milk 
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • pinch cayenne pepp
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (optional  - I didn't have any on hand, and it was no big deal)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated extra sharp Cheddar
  •  1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.

Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a large microwave-safe bowl, and cook until softened and very tender, 5-7 minutes (it will obviously vary based on your microwave, just take it out and stir every few minutes to check the progress)

Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta and sauce to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Foil-Baked Lemon-Garlic Fish and Asparagus

Lately I have been dealing with a lot of mom-guilt over the twins.  They take up SO much of my time, and it leaves me with little to no time to spend with Caroline and Smith.  So when I am just running out for some mundane errands (which sadly is the highlight of my week), I try and take Caroline along with me for some quality mother-daughter time.

Last week we were at Whole Foods, and Caroline asked if we could buy some fish for dinner.  She didn't have to ask me twice - I love the fish counter there, and the idea for this recipe had been rattling around in my brain for months.  I went with halibut because I like it so much, and it was on special that day.  But any white fish should work - just adjust the cooking time for the thickness.

As I was cooking dinner, Joey and Caroline had a funny little conversation:

Joey:  Mommy bought some nice fish for dinner tonight, are you excited?
Caroline:  Yes!  I love nice fish - it's delicous.  We don't eat mean fish though, they don't taste yummy.

That girl cracks us up to no end.  She's right though.  This fish was delicious.  I made a simple compound butter with lemon, garlic, and herbs, and slathered it on each piece of fish.  I then wrapped each portion in a foil-packet, along with some asparagus and lemon slices.  After a very brief stint in the oven, you have a super flavorful, healthy fish dinner.  The lemon butter melts over the fish and asparagus, and you have a tasty sauce to pour over the fish.  I served it over couscous, but it would be great over any number of grains - rice, quinoa, orzo, etc.

Foil-Baked Lemon-Garlic Fish and Asparagus
loosely inspired by this foil-baked fish
serves 4
  • 4 (6-8 oz) skinless white fish filets, about 1-inch thick
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  • 4 lemon slices, plus more for serving.
  • 4 Tbs dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Cut 4 pieces of foil, each measuring about 10x14 inches.  Divide the asparagus evenly between the foil sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, top with a lemon slice, and set aside.  Pat the fish dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, combine the butter, lemon zest and juice, herbs, garlic, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread 1 tablespoon of the butter on each piece of fish.  Carefully transfer each piece of fish to the foil, and pour 1 tablespoon of wine over each piece.  Wrap and seal the packets, and transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake until the fish is just cooked through and the asparagus is crisp-tender, 15-20 minutes.  Open very carefully, as the steam will burn!  Serve the fish and asparagus with the accumulated juices in the packet and extra lemon.