Cooking With Lauren!

Welcome back to another semester. Aside from getting a fresh start on new classes, the best part about the beginning of a new term is a lighter workload and more free time. Perhaps you can sleep in later, especially on the weekends, and what better way to celebrate a lazy morning than with a hearty brunch? Skip the boring cereal, dry bagels and plain eggs that you scarf down during the week and make something special.

You can begin to up the ante of your typical breakfast fare by making flavored spreads for your toast or muffin. You can do this by adding honey or maybe some cinnamon-sugar to ordinary butter, bringing a subtle sweetness to the breads. You can also make your own specialty cream cheese by mixing some chopped veggies, garlic, herbs, chives, sun-dried tomatoes or cooked bacon to a plain variety.

In my opinion, though, if you have the time to make an occasion out of a meal, by all means do so. Whip up a batch of pancakes, from a mix or from scratch if you are ambitious, and add some fresh fruit like bananas, raspberries or strawberries. If you have an insatiable sweet tooth like myself, toss in some chocolate chips or peanut butter to the batter. To make spectacular French toast with thick, fluffy slices, forego your average sliced bread and pick up a fresh-baked loaf, French baguette, challah or even brioche.

If you favor something salty, or even greasy, spice up your bacon or use some special ingredients in your eggs or omelets that you normally don’t consider. You can sprinkle in some smoked salmon or ham, or experiment with unusual cheeses, vegetables or spices. Bring a southwestern or Mexican twist to your dishes by adding salsas, guacamole or sour cream, or even by making a breakfast burrito or tostada. You can make a breakfast pizza by spreading scrambled eggs on purchased pizza crust or dough with saut?eed spinach, sprinkling with cheese, and baking. Almost any of your favorite breakfast ingredients can be added to your pizza to make for spectacular feasting.

Search out some easy recipes or mixes for scones, coffeecakes or muffins if you have the baking bug. Simply buying these treats tends to take the fun out of a decadent brunch. Even your ordinary coffee can get a boost for the occasion.

Make an iced coffee treat by adding vanilla extract, milk and vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream to your brew. You can make it mocha-spiced by sprinkling in cinnamon and nutmeg with the grounds, and then add milk, brown sugar, vanilla and chocolate syrup once the coffee is brewed. For those that are age-appropriate, you can even add some Kahlua, Bailey’s or Sambuca for a festive java drink.

It’s nice to reward a hectic week with a lazy day of sleeping in, and a great brunch will undoubtedly transform it into a true celebration. It doesn’t take a lot of skill or know-how, just a desire to have something good to eat whenever you get around to rolling out of bed. Breakfast foods are fabulous at any time of the day, but you might as well make something special before your plate really gets too full.

Scrambled Egg, Potato and Bacon Tostadas

Vegetable oil

12 (8-inch) corn tortillas

12 slices bacon

4 russet (baking) potatoes

cup water

stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

12 large eggs

1 bunch scallions, sliced thin

Salt and pepper

Sour cream


In a heavy skillet, heat one-half vegetable oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry tortillas one at a time, turning with tongs, until pale golden and crisp: about one and a half minutes. Transfer fried tortillas with tongs to paper towel to drain and cool completely.

Cook bacon until crisp. Cooking in a frying pan yields chewier bacon, while the oven or microwave yields a crunchier result. Crumble and set aside.

Peel potatoes and cut into half-inch cubes. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat water and two tablespoons butter until melted. Add potatoes and cook, covered, over moderately low heat six minutes. Remove lid and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, scallions, salt and pepper. In a skillet, heat remaining two tablespoons butter over low heat. Add eggs, stirring and breaking up into bite-sized pieces until just cooked through.

Spoon potatoes, bacon and eggs onto tortillas and top with sour cream and salsa as desired.

Double Cinnamon French Toast

1 cup pure maple syrup

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tsp. ground cinnamon

3 large eggs

1 cup whipping cream or half and half

2 Tsp. vanilla extract

4 thick slices of cinnamon or egg bread

Bring syrup, one tablespoon butter, and one teaspoon cinnamon to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Boil two minutes.

Whisk eggs, cream, vanilla, three tablespoons maple syrup and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon in bowl. Place bread slices in large baking dish. Pour egg mixture over bread to coat. Pierce bread in several places with a fork. Let stand five minutes.

Melt one tablespoon butter in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add bread and cook until brown, about three minutes. Add one tablespoon butter to skillet and turn bread over to cook other side until brown. Transfer to plate and serve with remaining syrup.

Open-Faced Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Omelet

2 big handfuls baby spinach

2 Tbsp. butter

8 pieces sun-dried tomato packed in oil, drained, and finely chopped

2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

6 large eggs

2 ounces goat cheese (1/2 a small log), cut into thin slices

Wash and dry the baby spinach and chop coarsely.

Heat the two tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sun-dried tomato and scallion and cook, stirring, until the scallion is wilted, about two minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted and the water it gives off is evaporated, about four minutes.

In a bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper.

Lower the heat to medium. Pour in the eggs (on top of the previously cooked ingredients) and let them sit a few seconds until they start to set around the edges. Using a plastic spatula push a piece of the set edge gently toward the center.

Tilt the pan and let some of the unset egg from the top fill the little gap you just made. Keep going around the edge of the pan like this, until there is no more unset egg on top.

Scatter the goat cheese slices over the top of the omelet. Put the skillet under the broiler and leave the oven door open, cook just until the top of the omelet is set and puffed, about two minutes.