Breakfast Just Got Better

Sometimes all it takes to inspire change is trying something new. I went grocery shopping this week and bought some light English muffins. I never buy English muffins, always whole wheat bread or occasionally even small bagels, but never English muffins. That changes now! The spongy, holey dough is truly a vehicle for any topping you can imagine. Crispy when toasted, English muffins have officially breathed life into my breakfast routine. Suddenly I find myself mashing avocado, slicing tomatoes and poaching eggs (trying to poach eggs, I should say. I tried and failed, but hey – the point is, I am inspired to try.)  Continue reading “Breakfast Just Got Better”

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Breakfast Locally Inspired

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Cinnamon Sugar Pecan French Toast with Smoked Bacon

Food tastes better when you buy local. For Sunday morning brunch recently, I made french toast and bacon, but not just any french toast and bacon. On Saturday, I visited the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers’ Market where I purchased a pecan loaf from Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Cafe and a pound of smoked bacon from Hunter Cattle Company. The sweet bread was the perfect thickness when sliced just right, and the Georgia pecans provided a nice crunch and texture that regular loaf bread lacks. Dusted with a touch of confectioner’s sugar, it was all I could do to take one picture before I savored every bite. And the pig. Never have I tasted the flavor of hog meat so profound and assertive.


Only available on Saturdays, the $4.50 pecan loaf at Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Cafe is hand-shaped into a round and baked. When the bread comes out of the oven, the top is sliced into what resembles a tree to allow steam to escape. When purchased, the bread is so fresh, you can still see the white flour on top in its brown paper sack. It’s so rustic and fun. For french toast, slice the bread about a 1/4 inch thick.

wpid-20130922_121044.jpgFrench toast is awesome for a few reasons: 1) It breaks up the monotony of pancakes and waffles, 2) Everything you need to make a batter for it is usually readily available on-hand or easy to get, and 3) It takes no time! For the batter, beat two eggs, whisk in a cup of milk or half & half, cinnamon sugar and a pinch of salt. Soak slices for about 30 seconds on each side.

wpid-20130922_121052.jpgMelt half a stick of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Toast slices about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and beautiful like the one in the center. Flip. Repeat.


Meanwhile, cook your bacon. For one pound of Hunter Cattle Company smoked bacon, you’ll pay a little less than $10, and when you think about what you’re getting, you can’t put a price tag on your health. Learn how choosing pastured pork can benefit your well-being. You’re guaranteed to taste the difference.

wpid-IMG_20130923_120314.jpgDrizzle it with syrup or eat it without. You decide. There you have it. Breakfast locally inspired.  

Crack This: Farm Eggs vs. Store-Bought

I’ve eaten eggs from the grocery store my entire life. I’m sure at some point in my childhood I’ve tasted an egg fresh from the chicken coop because my Grandpa raised chickens, but that was before my palate was experienced enough to appreciate the difference. It’s true that when you’ve never experienced better, you don’t know what you’re missing.

wpid-IMG_20130510_185756.jpgSo, when my good lookin’ boyfriend showed up at my door last week with one dozen, light brown and cream-colored farm eggs in one hand and a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the other (I know…keeper), I set my sights on cooking the eggs just the way a farmer recommended: in a little bacon grease with salt and pepper. I’ve never tasted anything like these eggs…it was pure eggstacy (had to do it!). Seriously, the flavor is out of this world, and sure to make you crack a smile (okay, okay). During cooking I found them to be more fluffy than a store-bought egg. Produced by free-range chickens, farm eggs are more nutritious because the chickens are able to roam freely and eat a natural diet. They contain no added hormones or fillers and are not processed. 

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wpid-20130520_195545.jpgOne meal that exemplifies comfort food for me and really lets the farm egg shine, is the tried and true bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. A fancy meal has its time and place, but it’s not always the five-star, fine dining plates that trip my trigger. Sometimes, a good ol’ familiar meal is the only thing I need to feel centered, satisfied and one with my kitchen again. Served with a side of cheese grits, breakfast for dinner has never been better.

Here’s how I make the classic McDonald’s biscuit-turned-sandwich at home:

  • Thick cut, hickory smoked bacon
  • Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
  • 2 Farm Fresh Chicken Eggs
  • Blackberry Jelly (I used homemade jelly from the Amish country that I got from a quaint market, but Smucker’s works great if you don’t have that).
  • Kraft’s Sharp Cheddar Cheese, sliced

Cook three strips of bacon in a skillet on medium heat until just crispy (I like mine slightly underdone). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off some of the grease, reserving enough to cook the eggs, about 1-2 tablespoons. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and let set. Cook for about 2 -3 minutes on each side, flipping once for even browning. Meanwhile, slice or grate the cheddar cheese and toast two slices of bread. Spread toasted bread with blackberry jelly, then build the sandwich. Serve with a side of cheese grits for optimum enjoyment!

wpid-20130520_194926.jpgAnd remember, when building the sandwich, it’s all about good architecture! Somehow, the sandwich tastes better when cut into a triangle shape too. At least, that’s the way mama always sent me to school, with a neatly packed cut-in-half sandwich in my brown paper sack.

Have you ever tasted a farm egg? If so, how would you describe the difference?

Start the Day at Palmer’s Village Cafe

Palmer’s Village Cafe
St. Simons Island, Georgia

Breakfast on vacation. It’s probably my favorite meal. Whether you rise with the sun or sleep until 10 a.m., the food at Palmer’s Village Cafe on St. Simons Island will motivate you to get up and moving. They take pride in their ingredients and present plates with no detail undone. I’ve never been when there isn’t a crowd and that’s because, where there’s good food, you’ll find people.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the menu items. There aren’t many places you can go to find an omelet with crab meat and homemade pimento cheese garnished with grilled, pickled okra. The dishes are regional too, like the Coastal Delight: an open-faced whole egg omelet topped with goat cheese, sautéed shrimp, spiced pecans and arugula. The breakfast items range from $3.95 to about $12.

Smack dab between the Island hardware store and a small real estate company on Mallery Street, locals and vacationers fill the seats at Palmer’s. It’s my favorite place to start the day on the Island.

I ordered the Challah Bread French Toast served with Palmer’s Village Cafe signature maple syrup. You won’t find Aunt Jemima here. The Fresh Fruit side dish had juicy orange segments, sliced bananas and red strawberries.

Now, y’all didn’t think I forgot the meat, did you? Not just bacon or sausage…country ham. Salty and seasoned just right. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

 Artwork by local artist Cathie Parmelee decorates the walls and is available for purchase.

This is my favorite piece.

Colorful coffee mugs bring in fun pops of color.

Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday – Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., you’ll feel welcome from the moment you step inside the creaking front door. No matter how busy Palmer’s may be, the staff members will make sure your coffee cup is full and you’ve always got everything you need.

Palmer's Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

Best Breakfast Buffet in Town

Sandcastle Cafe & Grill 
St. Simons Island, Georgia 

It was a sunny Saturday morning and 81 degrees when I strolled over to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill for breakfast in the St. Simons Island Village. By 9 a.m., many islanders and tourists had beat me there, already seated reading The Brunswick News, sipping on piping hot cups of coffee.  I made my way through the crowd and happily opted for indoor seating in the A.C.

The cafe opened in 1989 and has since fed many a hungry tourist and locals alike. With exposed brick throughout and an eclectic mix of decorations, the atmosphere is casual and the food comforting.

For just $8.50, you’ll get the “Glorious Breakfast Buffet” including just about any breakfast food you can conjure up. You’ll also receive unlimited pancakes, french toast and waffles. Or, feel free to order from the menu, where you can test your ticker with their signature Eggs Aorta–biscuits topped with gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and cheddar cheese. Saving room for lunch? Try the lighter fare–the Fruit Plate with fresh seasonal fruit and homemade muffins. Check out the menu.

I got the breakfast buffet so I could pick and choose a few of my favorites–hash browns, fresh fruit, grits and sausage. The coffee mug was just the right size.

Guests help themselves to the wide array of buffet options. Sandcastle Cafe & Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know of any other place on the island where you’ll get more for your money.

The fresh, cold fruit and orange juice are a welcomed relief from the summer sun.

Black and white images fill the long brick wall. Framed by the owner herself some 20 years ago,  the pictures depict St. Simons Island in the 1950’s and local families whose descendants still eat at Sandcastle Cafe & Grill today.

Located at the end of the strip mall in the St. Simons Island Village, the cafe faces the recently renovated Neptune Park and is just steps away from my favorite island feature…the pier.

After breakfast, or any meal for that matter, we always take a walk on the pier to see what the fishermen are catching, watch the shrimp boats or see if we can spot some dolphins swimming out in the ocean.

These are only some of the beautiful sights you might see on a visit to St. Simons. Pleasantly full from breakfast and feeling the sunshine on your skin, what a peaceful view.

Have you been to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill?

Sandcastle Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

Homemade Summer Fruit Jam and Bread

I’ve officially arrived in the kitchen. I made jam. JAM, I tell you! Successfully, and on my first try at that. If I do say so myself, I was pretty impressed. Making jam has always seemed like an arduous process that I never wanted to conquer, but with a little time and determination, the Summer Fruit Jam recipe from my cookbook, Homemade gave my Mother’s Day gift baskets just the right touch. Take away? Never let over complicated directions or words like sterilize intimidate you in the kitchen or squelch your efforts.

Amazing how a few pints of fresh berries can be transformed into a firm, spreadable jam. I used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Wash your berries, then hull and quarter the strawberries. You can use any combination of berries you’d like. I do love a blackberry! Not only do they taste great, but I used to pick them with my daddy when I was younger. They have that nostalgia factor for me. 🙂

Use a big stock pot. Bring the berries to a simmer and let them cook for about 15 minutes.

To the berry mixture, you’ll add the zest of 1 lemon and depending on your quantities, sugar and 1 package of pectin. I added four cups of sugar to about 3 1/2 cups of fruit.

This is pectin. You can find it on the baking aisle in the grocery store, usually near the Jell-O. This is what gives the jam that firm, squiggly texture–a must in any jam or jelly recipe.

Once the jam has simmered over medium heat for one hour, it’s ready to be jarred. Wash your jars and lids with dish detergent and hot water and be sure to dry them real good. Then fill them up, seal and let cool.

While my jam was simmering on the stove, I whipped up this cranberry-orange quick bread and added some white chocolate chips and the zest of an orange to bring out that citrus flavor.  Jam & bread–some things are simply better together.

The best feeling came when I received this picture message the next morning with the words, “Your jam is awesome!”

Pictured above: My grandma Dot (left), me (center) and mama (right).

One of the most rewarding parts of cooking is sharing it with the ones you love and it’s a great feeling to give back to the ones who’ve always fed me well.  Three generations…I learned from the best.

Sunday Brunch Dockside

The Black Marlin Bayside Grill
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 

Nothing says vacation to me like Sunday brunch dockside, and The Black Marlin Bayside Grill in the Carolina lowcountry delivers. Breakfast is a meal I don’t make time to enjoy often, so when I do, it’s a real treat. After a weekend of lounging in the sun, The Black Marlin with its casual, welcoming atmosphere was just the place to dine.

 A wide variety of menu options are available with very reasonable prices.

A good drink always has a proper garnish. On the left, this isn’t just any old Bloody Mary. This is a Cucumber Bloody Mary made with Effen Cucumber Vodka. It was peppery and smooth and everything I had hoped it would be. At right, a refreshing Mimosa.

I ordered the Dulce De Leche French Toast with bacon. Dulce De Leche literally translates to “candy of milk,” I later learned. It’s basically a caramel sauce. The french toast was garnished with passion fruit. How awesome it that? Definitely a step up from your average french toast dish. The bread was the perfect thickness and no syrup was needed.

I also enjoyed coffee with cream. I had it all!

Every table was packed. Even my Shih Tzu, Ewok, was welcome to sit on the deck!

The Black Marlin has a self-serve Bloody Mary bar! How cool is that? You basically order a Bloody Mary, then you bring your drink over to the bar and flavor and garnish it however you like. Very cool.
This is the hurricane bar which opens for lunch and dinner.

After a delicious brunch, Ewok and I took a stroll on the Palmetto Bay Marina to admire all the yachts. We will definitely visit The Black Marlin again!!

Do you have a favorite restaurant or brunch spot on Hilton Head Island? Given the chance, what would you order for brunch?

Black Marlin Bayside Grill on Urbanspoon

Ina Garten Takes French Toast to New Heights


Recipes that taste amazing but don’t require you to stand over the stove for hours rock my world! This one, Ina Garten’s French Toast Bread Pudding is one that’s hard to beat. Barefoot Contessa, you’re really onto something here! Thank you for coming up with this extremely inventive, awesome twist on classic french toast.

For this recipe, you’ll need a 9 x 13 x 2 in. baking dish and a large roasting pan. The recipe calls for a challah loaf, but my grocery store didn’t have one so I used what I could find—texas toast, a good thick white bread. If your bread is fresh, Ina Garten recommends toasting it in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. French Toast Bread Pudding requires a lot of time (it takes one and a half hours to cook) but when you sit down and take a bite, you’ll forget how long you waited.


I love using special ingredients like orange zest and extra-large eggs. However, the most special ingredient I used in this dish was that little jar of honey you see pictured above. I purchased it from a small shanty shack on the side of the road in the Tennessee mountains. It was just the right amount for this recipe.

The microplane is seriously one of my favorite kitchen tools. It’s perfect for zesting everything from lemons and limes to fresh ginger.

Kosher salt is often used in gourmet baking and it really makes a huge difference. Ina Garten has an amazing recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing and kosher salt is used in the icing. It intensifies all the flavors in a dish.

Order is important, especially in this step. Be sure to put your 9 x 13 x 2 in. baking dish into a larger roasting pan before layering the bread in the dish. Fill the roasting pan with warm water so that it comes about an inch up each side. This water bath will ensure the french toast stays moist during the long cooking process. Once the bread has toasted for 10 minutes, layer it in the casserole dish and pour the batter right down over the top. Let it soak for 10 additional minutes.

This is what the dish looks like after it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. The egg mixture is just starting to set and the bread is beginning to brown. Remove the aluminum foil and finish cooking for 45 more minutes. I love how you can see the flecks of orange zest! While the dish baked, I poured myself another cup of coffee and watched my favorite shows on Food Network.

 You won’t believe how beautiful the egg mixture puffs up and how golden brown the bread gets. It really is a gorgeous dish. MAN ALIVE…bring on the syrup, butter and confectioner’s sugar!! I served the French Toast Bread Pudding with a side of thick-sliced, crispy bacon.

You can really taste the citrus flavor and the sweetness of the honey. I could hear the toast crunch with my fork when I cut into it. I will definitely make this dish again, only next time I’ll plan to bake it for brunch or get up at 6 a.m. to get started, but most likely for brunch. 🙂

The entire recipe can be found in Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?

Heart Healthy Hotcakes Big on Flavor

With a drizzle of Aunt Jemimah's Lite Syrup, breakfast is served!

I’m always looking for ways to lighten recipes and boost nutritional value, so over the weekend I decided to make whole wheat flapjacks. I used stone ground whole wheat flour and brown sugar and flavored them with pure vanilla extract. Baking with whole wheat flour is an easy way to increase the amount of whole grains in your diet, potentially reducing your risk for heart disease. It’s full of fiber-rich bran and contains antioxidant vitamins and minerals that all work together to help maintain good health.

Topped with Aunt Jemimah’s Lite Syrup and paired with a side of bacon, this healthy breakfast will start any day off right.

Here’s how I did it with the help of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 14th Edition:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

2. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop and pour my pancakes on the griddle. This will ensure that all your pancakes are the same size and cook evenly.

3. Top with syrup and enjoy!

How do you make your pancakes more healthy?

Not Your Average Hash Brown Casserole

I love it when I come across an amazing recipe by accident. On the way to the grocery store last night I Googled “Hash Brown Casserole” and several results came up, but the one that caught my eye was Paula Deen’s recipe on foodnetwork.com. I immediately decided I would go home to create it and boy was it a good decision. This hash brown casserole is the best breakfast casserole I have ever put in my mouth. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

I made it with hot sausage, fresh italian bread and freshly grated parmesan and sharp cheddar cheeses. It’s not your average hash brown casserole…it’s more like french toast meets eggs and sausage and everything you need in one dish. It puffs up beautifully when it’s baking and the cheese turns to a perfect golden brown. It was so good, I’ve decided to make it again on Christmas morning. It’s one of those recipes you can assemble the night before and bake the next morning. Serve it with some fresh fruit and you’ve got a breakfast that won’t leave you hungry.