Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

A couple years ago, I saw an article from Food Network for Mix-and-Match Brunch Casserole. They’ve featured various mix-and-match recipes for a variety of dishes (including quick bread, baked pasta, quiche and pesto), and I’ve found it extremely helpful. “Mix-and-match” cooking is my favorite way to cook – you’re provided with general guidelines, but there’s freedom in the recipe to use whatever you like best or have on hand. Often, that means you can save yourself a trip to the store for those one or two ingredients that you’d never use otherwise. 

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole
Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

This Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole is the result of that flexible style of cooking. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with bacon, and I love the nutty, almost sweet flavor of Asiago cheese. I also like to throw dark greens such as spinach into almost everything I can for added color, flavor and nutrition (and it’s also a good way to sneak more veggies into my kiddos’ meals!). 

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

Of course, this being a mix-and-match style recipe means you can follow the instructions exactly as written, or you can change up the ingredients however you like. Try sausage instead of bacon, cheddar cheese instead of Asiago or sautéed bell peppers with a bit of fresh basil instead of spinach.

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

You can also make this recipe the night before, and then bake it the next morning, which I highly suggest so you can avoid waking up earlier than normal. Or, I sometimes make a big pan early in the week and then we end up eating leftovers warmed in the microwave for a quick breakfast or lunch...and sometimes even dinner. 

Are you a fan of mix-and-match cooking? Or do you like to follow a recipe exactly as written?

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole

Bacon, Asiago + Spinach Breakfast Casserole
Yields about 8-10 servings

12 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 ounces spinach or other mix of tender greens
12 large eggs
2½ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
5-6 cups day-old bread, cut into cubes

Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate. 

Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until slightly wilted, about another 2 minutes. Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add the sautéed bacon, onion and spinach. Stir in the cheese and bread cubes. 

Pour into the prepared baking dish, cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight (let it come to room temperature before baking). 

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the casserole for about 45-55 minutes, uncovered, or until the eggs are just set and the top of the casserole is slightly browned. Let stand for 5-10 minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

I’ve changed up the way I cook since having kids. Between trying to eat more whole foods and the two munchkins clawing at my legs while I’m standing the kitchen, what ends up on my table looks a little different than it did pre-babies. 

Thirty-minute meals that I used to make required that I stand over the stove uninterrupted for a half hour. Ummnm, the only time I have uninterrupted at 5:30 in the evening is when family is over to entertain the kiddos. Anything that requires more than a few minutes of uninterrupted time has to be able to be done either during nap time in the morning, or the night before. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

I used to be able to spend time prepping lots of ingredients, or experimenting with various cooking techniques. Now, when I read recipes, the first question I ask is, “Can I do that with fewer ingredients?” The second question is, “Can the cooking process/technique be simplified?” (In other words, “Can I throw it in the oven and not worry about it until the timer goes off?”) 

I’m learning to simplify without sacrificing flavor. Olive oil, salt and pepper can work wonders on almost anything. And if I can make something using only one dish? Glorious.

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper
Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

Sometimes, none of that is possible. Sometimes, you need lots of ingredients and several cooking techniques to really make a meal shine. I don’t often do those recipes anymore unless it’s a special occasion or I can set aside time on the weekend to geek out in the kitchen. Mostly, if I can throw it in the oven, assemble it at the last minute, prep it during naptime or make it the night before, that recipe is a keeper. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

This Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper hits all those points, and you can make it even more simple than what I’ve written below. Skip the broiling part and just eat it without crisping up the prosciutto. It is still soooo good! Have fresh basil in your garden? Use that instead of the sage. Try cutting large slices of melon and then wrap those in sage and prosciutto for an easy summer side dish. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper
Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

My favorite way to serve this is the version below with crispy prosciutto and finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. It’s the perfect combination of spice and herb, sweet and savory, crisp and soft. But the best part? It’s simple enough to make with toddler twins in tow. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper
Yields 16 pieces

8 slices prosciutto
16 cubes of ripe cantaloupe
16 fresh sage leaves
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler (to high if you have a high/low option). Cut the prosciutto slices in half width-wise, so you have 16 pieces. Hold a cube of cantaloupe and a sage leaf together, and wrap a piece of prosciutto around them. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until the prosciutto, cantaloupe and sage is used up. 

Right before you're read to serve, place the baking sheet under the preheated broiler for about 1-2 minutes, or until prosciutto gets slightly crisp. Remove from the oven and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. 

Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade [and Mother's Day reflections]

Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade

I am soooo excited for today’s post because I have the privilege to have a guest contributor! I “met” Tiffany dos Santos a few months ago through Instagram and a mutual love for Coffee + Crumbs, and we’ve been following each other on social media ever since. Tiffany has a beautiful heart for her family, and you can see it so clearly in her humble, honest and beautiful writing and photography. She makes you feel like you’ve known her for years and has a way of encouraging your soul that I absolutely love. 

I asked Tiffany to share her reflections on Mother’s Day, and I'm so thankful for the chance to feature her writing! To check out more of what she's up to, make sure to follow her on Instagram (@sheseeksjoy). 

(Of course, I couldn’t help but include a recipe with the post, too, so enjoy a cold glass of Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade this Mother’s Day weekend!)

Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade
Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade
Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade
Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade

I was asked to write something for Mother's Day. "Sure!" I responded. "I've got this!"

But really, I don't think I do. 

See, I don't have a mom to celebrate on this day. I haven't for a while – fourteen years to be exact. I remember that last Mother's Day she was alive. I handed her a copy of Love You Forever and she cried. "I'm sorry I wasn't a better mom, Tiffany," she told me. She had reason. A big chunk of my childhood was spent living with other families – her friends, my friends, others who were capable of caring for my brother and me. She had struggles…serious struggles. 

"Mom," I replied, "You may not have given me what everyone else had, but you gave me your best, and that makes you the best mom for me."

It was all truth. 

Then I stopped celebrating Mother's Day because, well, why celebrate when you don't have a mother around anymore? It just became another day on the calendar – not a sad day, not a mad day…just a day. To study, to go grocery shopping, to awkwardly answer when people asked, "Did you get your mom a gift yet?" No. No, I didn't. But don't worry; it's under control.

So I don't have experience from that perspective. 

Now I am a mother. But I am a new-ish mother. As people like to point out, I only have one child. So I'm not really a mother, because I don't know the tiredness they know, the balancing act that goes on with more little bodies needing your constant attention, the sibling rivalry to be dealt with. Nope. I don't know any of that. I guess I'm like a half-mother, if people's words count for anything – someone who has a taste of it but still gets freedom during naptime. (Because, you know, that's obviously what defines a mother. Sorry, did you see my eye roll? Oops.)

But I get it. Really, I do. I am terrified of that full-mother position. Of multiple kids needing me in the middle of the night. Of juggling screaming toddlers with screaming newborns. That sounds overwhelming, oh so overwhelming. I am sure it is also wonderful and magical and perfect in its own way. I know that when my time comes, I will think back to when life was so much easier – and what the heck did I have to complain about with one?! That, however, is not my reality today. So I don't have experience from that perspective, either.

Really, who am I to talk about “motherhood” on this all important day celebrating moms?

A mother. Only of one, but a mother nonetheless. 

The child of a mother. An imperfect and challenged mother, who loved me with all of her heart, the way mothers do.

A friend, who hears the fears of doing it wrong and celebrates the triumphs that come along in this journey. 

A teacher, who listens to what your kids say about you when you aren't around – and trust me, it's better than you think. 

I may be a little fresh in this game, I may not have the life experience of others or have my own mother to call for advice, but I am qualified. Qualified to say:

Mama, you are doing great. You truly are. No one can love them like you do. No one can keep pace with your hopes and prayers for them. No one can compete with you for who is the most beautiful person in their world. 

So again I tell you, you are doing great. They may forget to get you a gift this year, or they may shower you with all you could ask for, but if you really want proof of how you are doing, look into their eyes. I am sure you will see your own love reflected back. That deep and flawed and intense and perfect love that burns within you even when you want to scream for just some peace and quiet. That love. That's all the proof you need. As I told my own mom 14 years ago, you are doing your best – and that makes you the best mom for them. 

No matter what Mother's Day brings, whether a big celebration or a quick run for more coffee just to survive, know this, trust this: you are doing great. And I, along with those precious little faces looking up at you, applaud you.

Tiffany dos Santos records her thoughts and pictures of her journey in motherhood at @sheseeksjoy. In her free time, she can be found teaching, cooking, writing and shooting pictures. Oh, and she's a her free time consists of laundry, dishes and receiving sweet, sweet snuggles. 

Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade

Blueberry + Cardamom Sparkling Lemonade
Yields about 6 servings

1 (heaping) cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-6 cups seltzer water*

Add blueberries, water, sugar and cardamom to a small saucepan. Turn on medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 5 more minutes, or until the blueberries have broken down and the mixture gets slightly syrupy. 

Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, if desired. (I usually skip this because I don't mind the blueberry pieces in the drink.)

In a large pitcher, stir together the blueberry syrup and lemon juice. Add seltzer and ice. Stir gently. Garnish with fresh blueberries and lemon slices. 

*You can adjust the amount of seltzer to make the lemonade the strength you prefer. I usually prefer a bit more seltzer, but adjust it to your taste. You can also use regular water for a non-carbonated lemonade.

Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl

Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl

I keep seeing smoothie bowl recipes pop up on food blogs and all over social media, and for a while, I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. But to be honest, after enjoying a few versions of smoothie bowls over the last couple weeks, I've jumped on the bowl bandwagon.

First, they're photogenic. Let's just be honest and admit that's why many of us like posting photos of them on Instagram. Second, it's all about the toppings. I don't know why, but it's just so fun to go crazy with toppings. Whether it's over ice cream, a blended soup, a plate of tortilla chips or a smoothie bowl, these "blank canvas foods" provide a tasty backdrop for whatever we can dream up to throw on them. 

Third - and most important - smoothie bowls require we sit down. I love regular smoothies, but I usually eat them on the run. With a smoothie bowl, you've gotta pull up a chair, grab a spoon and actually sit down and enjoy. It's a breakfast you can whip up quickly, but is meant to be savored. 

Are you a fan of the bowl? What are your go-to toppings? 

Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl
Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl
Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl
Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl

Cherry Almond Smoothie Bowl
Yields about 16 ounces (not including toppings)

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 heaping cup frozen, pitted cherries
3 Medjool dates, pitted
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk
Toppings (such as almonds, unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped dates, chia seeds)

Add the yogurt, cherries, dates, almond butter and vanilla to a blender. Add a splash of milk and blend until smooth. Add additional milk until you reach the desired consistency.

Pour into a bowl and top with your favorite toppings such as almonds, unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped dates or chia seeds. Grab a spoon, dig in and enjoy!

Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola

Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola

“You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” —Tina Fey

I think back to a year ago when my husband and I were trying to stay afloat during the newborn stage. I was recovering from my unwanted, although somewhat expected and very fortunate C-section. We were up multiple times a night, me attempting to nurse and then often with tears of defeat, handing my son over to my husband for a bottle while I tried to feed baby number two. After too little sleep, the sun would rise, I’d schlep my achy body downstairs and the daytime routine would commence.

Read more and get the recipe over at Coffee + Crumbs.

Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola
Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola
Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola
Big Cluster Cocoa Cherry Granola

Granola makes a great new mama gift! Head over to the Coffee + Crumbs shop to purchase the adorable cards pictured above to include with a batch of homemade granola! 

Spinach Bites

Spinach Bites

When it comes to food, I often get bored easily. I like trying new recipes and using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before. Even when we go to a familiar restaurant, I typically choose whatever I haven’t tasted yet (with a few exceptions to that rule). There’s so much variety in the food world, and I think I have this subconscious goal of trying it all – maybe minus a few super weird foods. 

But then there are those dishes that beg to be repeated. They’re too tasty, too simple or too crowd-pleasing to let that recipe card or cookbook collect dust. There are splatters and grease marks on the pages that make the print hard to read, but it doesn’t matter…because you’ve made that dish so many times that you wonder why you need the instructions at all anymore. 

These Spinach Bites are one of those recipes. I think I first had them when my sister-in-law made them years ago for a family gathering, and they’ve made their appearance at almost every celebration since then. They were even requested by my 16-year-old niece for her birthday a couple months ago. 

The concept for this appetizer is by no means original to me; there are a myriad of variations on this same theme. But below, you’ll find the version that I’ve made over and over again, making my own little adjustments along the way.

It’s definitely a recipe worth repeating.

Spinach Bites
Spinach Bites
Spinach Bites

Spinach Bites
Yields about 30 Spinach Bites

2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cups butter, melted and slightly cooled
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge Farm)*

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl. Stir together until everything is fully incorporated.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Shape the mixture into 1-inch sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. 

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until warm through and slightly browned. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Re-warm in a low-temperature oven. 

*Make sure to use the crumb-style stuffing mix, not cubes.

Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins [featuring Sonoma Syrup Co.]

Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins

Warm weather is here! Living in the Chicago area, I'm sure we'll still get a few cold and wet days ahead, but I'm guessing the snow is behind us (hopefully!). That means it's time to fire up the grill, pull out the yard games and grab a cold beverage - like this Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins. 

Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins

A Tom Collins is typically made with lemon juice, simple syrup, gin and club soda. This recipe adds a touch of pomegranate juice and uses Meyer lemons, which are less tangy and slightly sweeter than regular lemons. For even more lemon-y goodness, I used Sonoma Syrup Co.'s Meyer Lemon Infused Simple Syrup. If you're looking for a refreshing, summery cocktail, this is it. 

Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins
Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins

Are you heading outside this weekend? What's your favorite drink for warm weather days?

Meyer Lemon + Pomegranate Tom Collins
Yields 1 cocktail

2 ounces gin
1 ounce Meyer lemon juice
½ ounce pomegranate juice (make sure you use 100% pomegranate juice)
½ ounce simple syrup, such as Sonoma Syrup Co.'s Meyer lemon simple syrup
2-3 ounces club soda
Meyer lemon wedge for garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, pomegranate juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a handful of ice and shake. 

Strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a wedge of Meyer lemon.    

Quick Tip: If you can't find Meyer lemons, you can use regular ones. You may want to increase the amount of simple syrup since Meyer lemons are sweeter. 

Simple syrup for feature was provided by Sonoma Syrup Co. All opinions are 100% my own.

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts [with buttered whiskey glaze]

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts

I wasn't a huge doughnut (or donut, if you prefer) fan until I got pregnant. Pregnancy will do that to you...especially a twin pregnancy. I had all these grand ideas of eating healthy and exercising throughout those nine months and, well, that happened for about a week. Especially towards the end, it was Netflix binging and doughnut eating. Oh, and bagels. And Chick-Fil-A. And whatever else. Don't worry, I did eat healthy things occasionally, too...but only occasionally (hence the postpartum Whole30 my body desperately needed a few months later!).

Anyway, back to doughnuts. After I had the kiddos, I bought myself a doughnut pan, stalked my favorite food bloggers' sites for recipes and eventually got around to baking up these bad boys. (Might I suggest checking out The Faux Martha and Joy The Baker for further doughnut inspiration?)

While my post-pregnancy sweet tooth did dissipate slightly and I'm learning to tame the sugar dragon, there are just some days when you need a doughnut. And if you're going to eat a doughnut, make it a good one - like this banana bread version sweetened with maple syrup, served warm from the oven and drizzled in a buttery whiskey glaze. Go big or go home, my friends. 

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts with Buttered Whiskey Glaze
Yields 6-8 doughnuts

½ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup mashed bananas (about 2 small bananas)
¼ cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon whiskey (I used Bulleit Bourbon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, buttermilk, maple syrup, butter, egg, whiskey and vanilla until fully combined and smooth.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a pastry bag (or you can use a zip top bag and snip the corner of it). Squeeze the batter into the prepared doughnut pan, filling each compartment about ¾ full. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. All to cool for a couple minutes and then remove from the pan. Drizzle with Buttered Whiskey Glaze. Doughnuts are best served warm. 

Buttered Whiskey Glaze

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon whiskey (I like to use bourbon)
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Scant pinch salt

Add all ingredients to small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and butter is melted. Remove from heat and drizzle over Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts.