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January 31, 2006

Off the Shelf: Caramel Fig Loaf

This fantastic recipe for quick bread comes from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf. The deep brown sugar flavors meld beautifully with the musky sweetness of dried figs. It's very good, and would be delicious for Christmas brunch.

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December 14, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Mushroom Quiche

A problematic recipe for quiche from The Big Book of Breakfast. The flavor is good, but the balance between egg custard and mushrooms is way off.

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December 13, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Coffee Crumb Cake

A very soft-textured coffee cake from The Big Book of Breakfast. The cake is spicy, and the streusel nut topping is crunchy and delicious.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Chile Egg Puff

It's sort of a crustless quiche, and it's a rich, tasty entrée from The Big Book of Breakfast that would make a worthy addition to your holiday brunch table.

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December 11, 2005

Christmas Brunch: Menu Ideas

Here are my thoughts on how to put together a delicious and easy holiday brunch. Most of these recipes can be made in advance, which means that your morning preparations are simple. I hope you find some recipes here that you'd like to try. If you make any of these dishes, please let me know how they turned out for you: Colleen@thecookbookcritic.com

I'll be testing several more recipes from The Big Book of Breakfast over the coming week. If any of the dishes pass muster, I'll add them to this list.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

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Christmas Brunch: Fresh Fruit with Lime Syrup

The easiest possible way to serve fresh fruit for Christmas brunch is simply to cut it up and toss it together in a bowl. To make fruit salad just a bit more festive, toss it with a lime-infused syrup.

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Christmas Brunch: Bacardi Rum Cake

A recipe that uses convenience products for an easy, festive Bundt cake that looks very pretty on a brunch table. As with most of these brunch recipes, this cake can be made the day before Christmas, if you like.

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Christmas Brunch: Cranberry Poppy Seed Loaf

Here's a moist, yummy quick bread that makes a nice addition to your holiday brunch table. Make it a day ahead, and when ready to serve, cut into slices and arrange on a pretty platter.

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Christmas Brunch: Strata with Spinach and Gruyère

This recipe comes from the November/December 2001 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. It's an outstanding example of what strata should be: rich-tasting and hearty. And it's perfect for brunch, since the casserole is assembled the day before.

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Christmas Brunch: Strata with Potatoes, Rosemary, and Fontina

Another delicious strata recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Assemble it on Christmas Eve, and next morning all you have to do is pop it in the oven. It's a great idea for brunch.

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Christmas Brunch: Bacon and Green Chili Quiche

Here's a tried-and-true quiche recipe that I've made numerous times, always with great success. I believe this recipe originated in Bon Appétit magazine, and I've made a couple of small modifications over the years. You can make quiche a day ahead of time, believe it or not.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Champagne Cocktail

From The Big Book of Breakfast comes a definite oldie but goodie. It's a fun, festive drink for Christmas brunch.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Wine Punch

A punchbowl recipe from The Big Book of Breakfast. This would also make a yummy nonalcoholic beverage with 7-Up or ginger ale.

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December 09, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake

At last! A really excellent recipe from The Big Book of Breakfast. This moist, delicious coffee cake can be made the day ahead. At serving time, sprinkle it with powdered sugar and enjoy.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Fresh Fruit with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

I've adapted Maryana Vollstedt's recipe for "Orchard Fruit Plate" (that name is just too twee, plus I've added some of my own suggestions for which fruits to serve together, and how to prep them for brunch).

The poppy seed dressing is slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness. Paired with fresh fruit, this is a nice dish for Christmas brunch.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Baked Blueberry French Toast

Well, I didn't love it. The ratio of good recipes to not-so-good recipes from The Big Book of Breakfast hasn't been great thus far, which is disappointing. I've got several more tests coming up, but my expectations have become rather low for this book, so we'll see how it goes.

Next week I'll post some other brunch ideas that I know are excellent.

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December 08, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Holiday Strata

Strata is a savory bread pudding, consisting of layers of bread, cheese, and other ingredients, topped with an egg and milk custard mixture that soaks into the bread. It's a great dish for brunch because it requires an overnight stay in the refrigerator. Assemble it a day ahead of time, and the next morning all you need to do is bake it. This is a tasty version from The Big Book of Breakfast.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Sticky Bun French Toast

Scrumptious sticky-bun flavor in a French toast casserole that can be assembled a day ahead, and then baked until golden on Christmas morning. I had a couple of issues with pan size and bread size, but they were really my fault.

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December 07, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Breakfast Dried-Fruit Soup

It sounds weird, but it's a very tasty compote-like recipe. Served warm or cold, with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, this would make a spicy addition to your Christmas breakfast table. Prep it a day or two in advance to make your brunch preparations simple.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Frittata with Smoked Salmon and Asparagus

A somewhat dry-textured frittata from The Big Book of Breakfast. If you like smoked salmon, this is a recipe you might want to try.

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December 06, 2005

Christmas Brunch: The Big Book of Breakfast

I'm putting Off the Shelf on hold for the time being, to focus on ideas for Christmas brunch. Terry suggested that I take a look at Maryana Vollstedt's The Big Book of Breakfast. I'll be testing recipes from the book and posting ideas for brunch menus over the next several days, including lots of make-ahead recipes for a relaxed, easy Christmas morning. Look for strata, frittata, quiche, coffee cake, and fruit recipes, among others.

If you have recipes for Christmas brunch that you'd like to share, or to see tested, please let me know : Colleen@thecookbookcritic.com

November 18, 2005

Roasted Green Beans

Another new recipe from the current issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. These green beans are fantastic: the roasting process brings out their natural sweetness and converts tough, boring old supermarket beans into something special.

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Mushroom and Apple Dressing

This is my favorite dressing for Thanksgiving. Take dressing mix from the store, fancy it up with some mushrooms and some fruit, and voilà-- it's a classic holiday side dish.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

A very tasty new sweet potato recipe from the current issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. Roasted sweet potatoes are puréed, then baked under a crunchy pecan streusel topping.

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Decadent Chocolate-Pecan Pie

If you like your Thanksgiving pecan pie with some chocolate in it, you'll like this recipe. Semisweet chocolate chips are stirred into the filling, and the pie is topped with a drizzle of melted chocolate. This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine.

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November 17, 2005

Brined & Roasted Turkey

Over the years I've tried many different ways of roasting turkey. Marinades, glazes, brining solutions that contain weird ingredients like juniper berries -- I've done it all. And I've determined that my favorite turkey is a simple turkey. There are so many other elements to Thanksgiving dinner that I prefer the turkey to be itself, in all its turkey glory, without a lot of embellishment.

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Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

This is a wonderful way to take some of the last-minute pressure of Thanksgiving off your head: make the gravy ahead of time. When you're rushing around your kitchen trying to pull together all of the last-minute elements of Thanksgiving dinner, you won't have to be whisking up a roux and hoping not to get lumps in the gravy. Instead, you can simply bring the premade gravy up to a simmer on the stovetop, and season it with a bit of the pan drippings from the turkey roasting pan.

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November 16, 2005

Pumpkin-Apple Butter Pie

I've noted before that I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, usually preferring to make pumpkin cheesecake for my quota of pumpkin-themed Thanksgiving desserts. This delicious recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine might make me change my mind, however. The combination of apple butter and a nutty streusel topping makes this an excellent variation of the standard, boring pumpkin pie.

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Chestnut and Cranberry Dressing

A delicious dressing that can be made vegetarian-style, if you're looking for versatile side dishes for Thanksgiving.

Chestnuts give the dressing a creamy, nutty flavor, and dried cranberries add a touch of sweetness.

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November 14, 2005

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Sweet and simple, this is a tasty way to serve sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. No marshmallows here, just cider and maple syrup to accentuate the natural sweetness of the apples and potatoes. And it can be made the day before Thanksgiving, which is always a plus.

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Cloverleaf Rolls

An easy recipe for soft rolls. The dough is formed in the food processor, and the rolls are baked in muffin tins. A cross is cut into the dough to form the cloverleaf shape, making these rolls a pretty addition to your Thanksgiving table.

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Cranberry-Orange Relish

When I was a kid, we always had canned jellied cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. And I loved it -- so sweet, so Jello-like...mmm. Tasty.

Now that my palate is a bit more sophisticated, I prefer a whole-berry cranberry sauce. This one has a fantastic orange and spice flavor.

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November 11, 2005

Thanksgiving Week

I'm taking a week off from cookbook reviews to focus on Thanksgiving. All next week, I'll be posting recipes for Thanksgiving dishes, from the turkey to the dressing to the pumpkin pie. I'll be testing some recipes that are new to me, and also posting old favorites that I've been making for years.

Have you seen any interesting Thanksgiving ideas? In cookbooks, or magazines, or the Williams-Sonoma catalog, or your local newspaper? If you'd like to see something tested before you commit to it for your Thanksgiving table this year, drop me a line at Colleen@thecookbookcritic.com. I'll give the recipe a whirl before the big day, so you'll know if it's worthy of your holiday.

October 12, 2005

Better Than Pie: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Even though I love pumpkin in nearly every incarnation, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. I'd rather have pretty much any other pumpkin dessert. This cheesecake has graced my Thanksgiving table for the last couple of years. It's delicious, and so much more satisfying than plain ol' pie.

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©2005 Colleen Flippo. All rights reserved. Contact the author.