Coconut Cream Pie French Toast

Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal of the day, followed by dinner and lunch comes last. I can't function without breakfast. If I don't eat breakfast, rather than simply skipping the meal, I'm just more hungry the entire day, so I'm pretty sure I end up eating the same amount (or more!) than if I do. I like variety - my breakfasts range from cereal (this one is so good!), overnight oats, chia pudding, hot oatmeal, french toast, bircher muesli, granola and yogurt, eggs (scrambled are my favorite) with some hearty toast, pancakes, breakfast pastries, smoothies, and when I'm tired of the rest, toast with some delicious spread. And one important thing I haven't mentioned - fruit! Breakfast isn't breakfast without some fruit, for me. 
Of all of these, if you were to ask me what my favorite was, my answer would unequivocally be french toast. There's just something about it that knocks my socks off. Its egg-y, custard-y, sweet (I need the sugar kick!), and there are so many varieties and ways you can play around with it with different flavors and toppings. 

This buzzfeed article seems like it's made for me (and I'm sure a lot of other people as well, but definitely me!). All the french toasts look so good - I'm drooling.

This coconut cream pie french toast was inspired from that article, which led to this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I changed it up a little bit, but it's essentially the same. I lightened it up slightly by swapping out the coconut milk in the custard mixture for regular milk and replaced that lost coconut flavor by adding some dessicated coconut to the custard mixture. I served the french toast with some coconut whipped cream, toasted coconut flakes, fresh berries, drizzle of honey and a homemade salted caramel frappucino using this homemade salted caramel to go along with it. Definitely a decadent breakfast, but when I break it all down, it isn't actually all that bad. Not diet-friendly, for sure, but not unhealthy either! Protein from the eggs, healthy fats from the coconut, and calcium from the milk - a balanced meal, right?

The coconut flavor is not overpowering, but it's definitely detectable. And absolutely wonderful! Because the bread is first quickly seared on the pan, but finished in the oven, it has an unbelievable texture - crispy on the outside, but soft and melt-in-the mouth on the inside.

If you like french toast, coconut cream pie, and/or love breakfast, this recipe is a must-try! And the best part is that you prepare it all the night before and 20 minutes of cooking in the morning (total!) and you've got a delightful breakfast on the table!

Serves 4 hungry people!
8 slices of a thick crusty loaf (I used a white baton)
5 eggs
1 1/3 cup whole milk
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar
butter, for cooking
To serve (optional): coconut whipped cream, toasted coconut flakes, honey, fresh fruit

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, agave, salt, vanilla extract and dessicated coconut. 
Arrange the slices of bread in a flat layer in a glass dish(es).
Pour the wet custard mixture on top of the bread and let set for 10 minutes. Flip the bread over to soak the other side. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 185 C.
Heat one or two medium-sized pans over medium heat and add some butter for cooking. 
Lightly sprinkle one side of the slices of bread with the cinnamon sugar. Place a slice of bread, cinnamon sugar side down on the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until toasty and golden brown. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar and repeat on the other side. Do this with all the slices. 
Place all the slices of bread in a baking dish(es) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and puffed up. 
Carefully remove from the oven and serve warm with desired toppings.
As always, enjoy (I'm sure you will)!


Delicious Date Bars

Now that the brunch series is complete, it's time to get back to my weekly baking shenanigans. In other words, these treats serve as breakfast, a school snack for my sister, a snack for the office for my dad, an evening pick-me-up alongside a hot drink for my mom (and I - but I don't do the whole drink thing; drinks aren't really my thing - I'm a water kind of gal!) or even an after dinner dessert.

Moving on to these date bars. Dates are one of my all time favorite foods and ingredients. They're actually perfect. Having grown up in Dubai, dates were a daily staple of mine. Dates are very filling and just one or two (stuffed with some nuts or nut butter - yum!) are a perfect snack to keep you going. Because they're sweet, they also definitely satiate any sugar cravings you may have. In recipes, they provide sweetness, gooey-ness, heartiness, healthiness, moisture, color and a caramel-like flavor. They are die-hard delicious.

Just like these date bars! The crumble mixture used for the top and bottom acts in two different ways. When pressed down, it forms a base for these bars. When sprinkled on top, it forms a wonderful crumble. Most of the sugar in this recipe comes directly from the dates. There's a total of one tablespoon of added sugar, plus some freshly squeezed orange juice! And let me assure you, these taste decadent. When the bars are refrigerated to set, the date filling gets almost as hard as a gooey brownie, but just sticky and soft enough that you're teeth don't have to work hard. That creamy, sticky, slightly orange-flavored filling juxtaposed against the crumbly, delicious, subtly-salty crust and topping is a blast of textures and flavors in your mouth. Just take a look for yourself! These bars even got the daddy approval stamp (a big deal!), so I can promise you they're good.

If you were to taste these bars, you'd swear they have lots of sugar and butter. Then you'd take a look at the ingredient list and swear your eyes were deceiving you. But no, it's true. You don't need all that butter or sugar to make indulgent-tasting treats like these!

For the date filling:
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
3/4 cup water
freshly grated zest of 1 orange
freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

For the top and bottom (crust and crumble) layers:
1 cup almond flour
1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, cold

Preheat oven to 175 C.
Line a square baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse together all the ingredients for the top and bottom layers until just combined. Place this mixture in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling.
Combine all the ingredients for the date mixture in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until liquid has fully evaporated and you are left with a wonderful, creamy, heavenly date mixture. Set this aside to cool.
Press 2/3 of the crust mixture into the baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust begins to slightly brown.
Remove from the oven, spread the delicious date mixture on top and sprinkle the rest of the crust mixture on top.
Place back in the oven for 30 minutes or until crumble on top is a beautiful golden brown.
Let the bars come to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Cut into large squares, grab a glass of cold milk, and enjoy!


Quiche with a Hashbrown Crust (Spinach, Feta and Mushroom)

And this is now the last recipe from the Mother's Day 2014 brunch series. I bring to you... a quiche!

This dish was made with one person in mind - my dad. If you've read a few of my other posts, you've probably realized that he does not have a sweet tooth. In fact, it's probably the opposite. His lack of a sweet tooth combined with my mom, sister and I's sugarholic personalities make it quite hard sometimes. We three could easily do an all sweet brunch, but as in very many aspects of life, my daddy brings the balance. Hence, we have a savory dish.

No doubt, quiches are now a mainstream staple on anyone's brunch table (because they're delicious), but this, my friends, is no ordinary quiche. It's quiche taken to the next level, with yumminess blown out of proportion. I mean seriously - a hashbrown crust? That's like two super brunch items combined into one!

This quiche is also a lot better for you than those butter-laden, cream-filled, ham-and-cheese-stuffed quiches. Don't get me wrong, I eat my share of those quiches too. But if you can make something that tastes this good, and call it healthy, who's complaining?

Feel free to switch up the filling ingredients and use a wide variety including bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, goat cheese, even swap some of the potato in the crust for sweet potato!

It looks great, tastes great and makes you feel great - what more do you want from a brunch dish? And if fills that savory quota (definitely the way I think about it!).

Leftovers reheat really well, so you could call this brunch one day and lunch the next paired with a side salad.

For the crust:
3 medium potatoes
1 medium white onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

For the filling:
7 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves (1/2 cup frozen can be substituted here, but be sure to thaw and dry it before using)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Grate the potatoes and onion using the larger "holes" in the grater. You don't want this to be shredded. Think hashbrowns and rosti - you want that size shreds.
Squeeze them dry using a cheese cloth (my mom thought of this idea it worket impeccably!).
Season with salt and toss with olive oil.
Fill in a 9 inch glass baking dish or pie plate with the mixture and press down to cover the base and sides.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly crispy and golden brown. If the edges are browning too quickly, cover them with foil. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Reduce the oven temperature to 175 C.
Whisk together the eggs and milk.
Place the filling ingredients (ie. vegetables, cheese etc.) directly onto the potato crust. Pour the egg mixture on top.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until filling has set.
Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.


Baked Apple Pancake (Salted Caramel NOT Optional!)

And now it's time for the second recipe in the brunch series!
This delicious apple pancake is fuss free, light* and baked in the oven! It's has just that perfect hint of cinnamon and sweetness. It isn't very sweet so you must dowse it in oodles of this salted caramel! If you don't have it made (don't buy please!), honey or maple syrup will suffice. But trust me, the caramel in combination with the cinnamon-y apples - yum!
*It's perfectly fine to ignore the fact that when these are drenched in salted caramel, they're not light anymore, but, hey - we all have a right to indulge once in a while! Balance is key.

The batter is very thin, so don't be alarmed when yours turns out that way. It bakes to create a very light, airy, fluffy pancake! Oh, and when I say pancake, I don't mean like a cm or less thick. Rather, it's the texture and taste of a pancake... In sort-of a cake form! I would combine the words pancake and cake, but I think you probably see how that would fail!

2 large or 3 small firm, crisp and tasty apples, thinly sliced**
3 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp applesauce
1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

**I used Pink Lady, but I'm biased because I'm very picky about my apples and these and Granny Smith are the only ones I eat!

Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Lightly butter and flour a round, but relatively flat, baking dish.
Toss together the sliced apples, light brown sugar and cinnamon and arrange on the bottom of the baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, applesauce and vanilla. Mix in the sugar and flour until just combined.
Pour the batter on top of the apples.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is browned and set.
Wait for it to cool slightly then dust with icing sugar.
NOT optionally, top with lots of this salted caramel and enjoy!