easy side: baked cheese grits

It’s quail season! Down in here in Statesboro, that means bird suppers: quail, grits and coleslaw or greens. I can’t take responsibility for roasting the quail, but I can handle making a side dish. This recipe for Baked Cheese Grits is so old that I can’t remember where I got it – I wrote it on an index card and stuck it in my recipe binder (how’s that for analog?) probably ten years ago. I always get compliments on this. The grits keep their creamy consistency and don’t turn into hardened grits cakes. Best part? You can make this ahead of time, which I do for Christmas morning brunch.

Baked Cheese Grits

photo courtesy of kraft

Baked Cheese Grits

What You Need

  • cooking spay
  • 2 cups quick grits, uncooked
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

What You Do

  • Spray 3-quart casserole dish liberally with cooking spray.
  • Prepare the 2 cups grits according to package directions. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix in 3 cups of cheddar cheese, the beaten eggs and cayenne pepper. *I do this right in the grits pot!
  • Pour into greased casserole dish. *Can be covered in foil and left overnight at this point. Just take out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it.
  • Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with additional cup of grated cheese.
  • Bake 15 minutes more, until grits are bubbling hot. Remove from oven and cool for five minutes before serving.

PS – No matter how many recipes I pin on Pinterest,  I always look to my recipe binder when I’m serious about cooking. Joe gave me this Williams Sonoma Entertaining Journal when we first got married, and over the years I have filled it with recipes torn from magazines, recipes printed out from Pinterest (yes, I know that defeats the purpose) and recipes handwritten from my mom on little recipe cards. I know there are a ton of apps to find new recipes and organize existing recipes…but I’m a paper person and don’t think I’ll ever give up doing it the old-fashioned way.

brunch bunch.

J: Jay and I are lucky to have one of the best brunch spots in ATL right across the street from our home… Buttermilk Kitchen! We trotted over recently for a little french toast and chilaquiles you have to see to believe:

Buttermilk Kitchen 2

Chilaquilles = sour cream, salsa verde, tortilla chips, epazole + scrambled eggs. A fiesta in your mouth! 💃

Buttermilk Kitchen 3

A closeup of the most delicious french toast we’ve ever had.

Buttermilk Kitchen

Nothing could keep this guy from brunch… #wipeout

brunch bunch.

J: I’m always looking for a solid brunch item to throw together on the weekends. When I came across this baked french toast recipe from our fave food blogger, Damn Delicious… game changer.  My sweet husband, Jay, said it would be perfect for Christmas morning and I totally agree. Here’s the skinny:

Ingredients:

  • 3 small French baguettes, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I skipped this)
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

For the maple glaze:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, or more, to taste
the goods.

the goods.

Instructions:

  • Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Place bread slices evenly into the baking dish.
  • In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bread mixture into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
FT

slices evenly placed.

FT2

mixture poured and ready for the oven.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and maple syrup until well combined and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices.

glazed and golden.

glazed and golden.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. It’s desired.

brunch is served.

brunch is served.

recipe: spinach and cheese strata. 

L made this delicious Spinach and Cheese Strata for Mother’s Day brunch – it was a hit! Yall know we love anything we can make ahead…means more time to work on our tablescape. Add a fresh fruit salad (L chose Watermelon Feta Salad) and muffins, and you’ve got an easy, elegant brunch. We adapted this from an Annie’s Eats post; here’s our version (with notes).

Make-Ahead Spinach and Cheese Strata

Spinach and Cheese Strata

photo: annie’s eats.

 

What You Need:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups onion, finely chopped (basically, one large yellow onion)
  • 2 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (we used bagged, organic frozen spinach)
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • ½ tsp. pepper, divided
  • Dash ground nutmeg (the original recipe called for freshly grated…but ground works just fine)
  • 8 cups cubed French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (basically one large loaf)
  • 6 oz. coarsely grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 2/3 cup)
  • 9 large eggs
  • 2¾ cup milk (we used Horizon Organic 1% low-fat milk)

What You Do:

  • Melt the butter in a medium skillet over low heat.  Add the onions to the pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, ¼ teaspoon of the pepper, and the nutmeg, and continue to cook for 1 minute more.  Stir in the spinach, remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Liberally coat the inside of a 2½-3 quart baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer the bottom of the dish with one third of the bread cubes.  Top with one third of the spinach mixture and one third of each of the cheeses.  Repeat these layers twice more with the bread, spinach and cheese. It’s important to grate your cheeses ahead of time, so that you can distribute them evenly in your layers.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper.  Whisk together until blended.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach layered in the baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.
  • Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Bake uncovered until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45-55 minutes.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serves 8.

**This is our version of a well-loved, well-published recipe. Annie’s Eats adapted this from Smitten Kitchen. Originally appeared in Gourmet, February 2003.

Bonus: Sample Brunch Menu

  • Spinach and Cheese Strata
  • Watermelon and Feta Salad
  • Blueberry Streusel Muffins
  • Assorted Breakfast Sausages
  • Iced Coffee Bar (we paired this pre-made iced coffee with whipped cream and cute straws)

review: beauty + essex brunch.

Today we’re flashing back to J’s bachelorette party in New York City to bring you a restaurant review. On the recommendation of our girls at BCBGeneration, we booked a Sunday brunch reservation at Beauty + Essex, a bi-level, chandelier-lit restaurant and bar on the Lower East Side.

The Glitter Life Beauty & Essex

beauty + essex.

B+E has a retro vibe and features a pawn shop entrance (cool but also a little confusing).

The Glitter Life Beauty + Essex

random pawn shop goodies.

BE

shine bright like a diamond.

The Glitter Life Beauty + Essex

stairway to…champagne. photo: newyork.citypudding.com

BE2

this is what happened when we told maggie and mary to “act natural.”

After cocktails at the bar, we moved into the main restaurant for brunch. The real scene at B+E is the champagne brunch upstairs (which was just getting cranked up by the time we left)…but we were in the mood for something more chill after our flights the day before. If you’re looking for great people watching, definitely request to go upstairs!

We enjoyed brunch at a large round table (great for conversation) under a pretty skylight.

The Glitter Life Beauty + Essex

imagine us right there, in the center.

What We Drank + Ate:

Plus mimosas, of course.

The Glitter Life Beauty + Essex

delish roasted potatoes. photo: fitnessnycblog.com

The Glitter Life Beauty + Essex

more brunch deliciousness. photo: you made me like you.

What We Loved:

Everything tasted seriously great, especially that biscuit. We also loved the quirky, speakeasy-ish atmosphere.

What Was Just Okay:

Our service was competent but not amazing.

Our Verdict:

Brunch was great, but if we ever have a chance to go back we’re going for dinner. We can’t stop thinking about the dinner menu – Lobster tacos, anyone?

What’s your favorite brunch spot?

behind the scenes: j’s wedding weekend.

Okay, this is our last post about J’s wedding weekend. But we really wanted to share some behind-the scenes pics. Enjoy!

FRIDAY

bridesmaids brunch + bubbly at the ritz carlton.

bridesmaids fueled up on brunch + bubbly.

The Glitter Life Brunch

l + j at brunch.

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l made this practice bouquet for j from hydrangeas (picked up at the local publix) and finished with satin ribbon from several of j’s wedding shower gifts. nail polish: essie bachelorette bash.

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bridesmaid kati made these adorbs champagne glasses, customized for each member of the bridal party. on the table: crafting materials (from ikea!) for the rehearsal dinner centerpieces. we all pitched in!

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jay’s mom karen assembled 100+ gift boxes for the cocktail reception guests. inside: georgia peanuts (in mason jars – cute!), bottled water, golf balls and customized koozies and golf tees.

the ritz carlton presidential house, the site of the rehearsal dinner and cocktail reception. also our home away from home for the weekend. 

bridesmaid mary + brendan on the patio at the rehearsal dinner.

bridesmaid mary + brendan on the patio at the rehearsal dinner. loved her maxi dress! 

SATURDAY

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the bridal party got dolled up at The Spa at the Ritz Carlton. j gifted each bridesmaid adorable h&m pajamas to wear while getting ready. also pictured: vintage-y earrings, another gift from j.

bridal attire from head (j's mother's veil)  to toe (christian louboutins). photo: the willets.

bridal attire from head (j’s mother’s veil) to toe (nude peep-toe christian louboutins). photo: the willets.

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rain showers didn’t dampen j’s mood. her photographers were great sports, too! pictured: the pool at the ritz presidential house. our home away from home for the weekend.

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j’s something borrowed: an antique bracelet from l. the bride also borrowed gorg diamond earrings from her aunt.

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one of our favorite pics from the weekend. we snapped this selfie minutes before walking down the aisle!

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presenting mr. and mrs. james murray baker, iv! j’s dress: winnie couture.

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bridesmaids, post-ceremony. from l to r: annie (maid of honor), l (matron of honor), maggie, mary and kati. dresses: alfred sung via weddington way. bouquets: findlay rowe designs.

bridesmaid maggie + talmadge. photo bomb: brendan.

bridesmaid maggie + talmadge. photo bomb: brendan.

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j’s bouquet of peonies wowed everyone. bouquet: findlay rowe designs. cake: the ritz carlton.

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honestly one of the best meals we’ve ever had: filet of beef tenderloin, seared sea scallops and braised veggies. catering: the ritz carlton.

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the happy couple snapped a pic before digging in to dinner.

The Glitter Life JJB2015

j + maid of honor annie.

The Glitter Life JJB2015

l + joe at the reception. loved the handy pockets on our bridesmaids’ dresses!

JJB 4

…and that’s a wrap! #jjb2015 was one for the books. photo credit: the willets.

 

 

 

 

 

your Masters party: ham sliders + azalea cocktails.

These Hawaiian Ham and Swiss Sliders are THE BEST SANDWICHES YOU WILL EVER EAT, swear. L made these for her fifth annual egg hunt on Saturday, and all 96 were snapped up by party-goers (kids included!). Whip some up for a Masters viewing party this weekend and add a round of Azalea Cocktails. You’re good to go.

The Glitter Life Ham and Cheese Slider

you cannot – repeat, cannot – eat just one of these.

Hawaiian Ham & Swiss Sliders (makes 24 sandwiches, plan on 2-3 per person)

What You Need:

  • 24 slices deli honey ham (L used Sara Lee Maple Ham)
  • 6 slices swiss cheese, cut into quarters
  •  1/3 cup mayonnaise (L used Kraft mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard (L used French’s Dijon)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 packages (12 count) King’s Hawaiian Original or Honey Wheat Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls

What You Do:

  • Split rolls in half and spread mayo onto 1 side of the rolls. Place a slice or two of ham and a (quarter) slice of swiss cheese in roll. Replace the top of the rolls and bunch them closely together into a baking dish.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together poppy seeds, dijon mustard, melted butter, onion powder and worcestershire sauce.
  • Pour sauce over the rolls, just covering the tops. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Bake covered at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for additional 2 minutes until tops are slightly browned and crisp. Serve warm.

These sandwiches are also great at room temperature – don’t stress about serving them right out of the oven. You can assemble the sandwiches the night before baking – just cover TIGHTLY with plastic wrap to prevent them drying out. When you’re ready, pour on the sauce and pop them in the oven!

The Glitter Life Ham & Cheese Slider

easy to make for a crowd.

Adapted from http://www.kingshawaiian.com.