Kitchen Mailbox: For Mom's special day, brunch at home

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Mother's Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. If you don't make your reservations weeks in advance, you may have to eat in for the holiday.

But don't fret -- have a Mother's Day brunch at home. Brunch is easier to plan than a sit-down dinner because you avoid trying to fit everyone's schedule to a single start time. Instead, just invite family members to drop in and let them know there will be plenty of food available from, say, noon to 3 p.m.

Brunch can include breakfast and lunch dishes, many of which can be prepared partially or completely ahead of time. And once you set out the food, you can enjoy your family.

A reminder: If you use glass baking dishes, reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees.

    PG tested
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne or rotini pasta (short spirals about 1 to 2 inches long)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small onion (4 to 6 ounces) chopped
  • 12-ounce can white kidney beans (cannelloni), rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (red, yellow and orange mix if available), cut into quarters

Heat large covered sauce pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook as label directs.

Meanwhile, make pesto. In a food processor with knife blade attached, blend basil, garlic, water, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper until pureed, stopping processor occasionally and scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Add parmesan, pulse to combine. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until very hot, add onion and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until beginning to soften. Stir in beans and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and return to sauce pot; stir in bean mixture, pesto, tomatoes and reserved cooking water. Toss and serve.

Makes 6 main dish servings.

-- "Comfort Food! Scrumptious Classics Made Easy" by Good Housekeeping (Hearst, 2011, $14.95)


PG tested

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick ( 1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 5.1-ounce box vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 7 tablespoons milk

Heat water and butter just until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour and salt. Beat until a ball forms. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Spread on an ungreased 15 by 10-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately punch to flatten pastry. Cool 30 minutes.

Mix pudding and 21/2 cups milk for 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and mix until smooth.

Spread over cooled crust. Top with whipped topping.

Melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave 1 to 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar and milk. Mix until smooth. Drizzle over whipped topping. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

-- "Fix-It and Enjoy-It! Potluck Heaven" by Phyllis Pellman Good (Good Books, 2011, $15.95)


PG tested

The next time I make these, I will add more ham.

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped low-sodium ham
  • 3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese and ham. Combine buttermilk and egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 to 5 times with floured hands. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into but not through dough. Bake 20 minutes until lightly browned.

-- "Cooking Light Comfort Food: Home-Cooked Delicious Classics Made Light" (Oxmoor, 2011, $24.95)


PG tested

For the crust
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons 1-percent-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 5 to 6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • For the filling
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup thin-sliced green onions
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup 1-percent-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated smoked Gouda cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs

Place butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Combine milk, salt and egg yolk in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add milk to butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour; beat just until combined. Press mixture into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap and wrap up. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Unwrap and place chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze 15 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; saute 2 minutes.

Combine 1 cup milk and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in spinach mixture. Pour filling into crust. Bake 35 minutes. Cut into 10 wedges.

-- "Cooking Light Comfort Food: Home-Cooked Delicious Classics Made Light" (Oxmoor House, 2011, $24.95)


PG tested

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for the pan
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends snapped off, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms (shiitake or white mushrooms), stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, white and green parts separated ( 1/2 cup green and 2 tablespoons white)
  • 9 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 large loaf (about 1 pound) rustic white bread (like ciabatta), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 3 cups (about 8 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally until spears start to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and scallion whites; cook stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and cook through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Whisk eggs with milk and the remaining salt and pepper. Spread half the bread in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half the egg mixture, then cover with half the ham, cheese and asparagus mixture; sprinkle with half the scallion greens. Repeat with remaining egg mixture, ham, cheese, asparagus mixture and scallions. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so the bread is completely submerged in the egg mixture, and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 2 days before baking.

Position a rack in the center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Let the strata sit at room temperature while the oven heats. Bake until the custard sets and the top browns, about 30 minutes. Loosely cover with foil and bake another 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

-- "Fine Cooking Comfort Food" by editors and contributors of Fine Cooking (Taunton, 2011, $19.95)


PG tested

  • 8 egg whites (I used Just Whites)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups whipped cream

Place egg whites in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Add vinegar, vanilla and salt; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar about 2 tablespoons at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved.

Spread into a greased 10-inch springform pan. Bake at 300 degrees 50 to 60 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool (meringue may fall). Serve with strawberries and whipped cream.

-- "Taste of Home Cooking School," (Taste of Home Books, 2012, $17.99)

recipes - kitchenmailbox

To request a recipe or send a recipe or question to Kitchen Mailbox, write the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222 or First Published May 10, 2012 4:00 AM


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