Pumpkin French Toast in October

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French toast is one of those easy, but comforting breakfasts that’s no fuss to whip up but feels luxurious on a leisurely weekend morning. For a fun fall twist to this classic dish, add pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg to the milk mixture. Continue reading “Pumpkin French Toast in October”

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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.  

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

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?