Eggs In Purgatory (With A Few Friends)

OK, first new recipe of 2019! It took a little while to sit down and do this, as I’ve had a lot going on. The holidays were lovely, and now I’m preparing for a trip next weekend, and I’ve been starting some new projects. I’ve taken a position as the Honolulu ambassador for an online influencer marking company called Zipkick, which is very exciting. Basically it’s my job to cultivate a local community, recruit more influencers and reach out to brands to connect them with the company and it’s network.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about becoming an influencer and success on social media. We’ll see. I’m still shocked at how far The Picky Gourmet has come in 3 years. I never thought I’d be turning it into (hopefully) a career.

I also never thought I’d be doing an egg recipe. All the way into my adult years, eggs freaked me out. First off, there’s so many ways to cook them… whenever a waiter would ask how I’d like my eggs, I’d just say no thanks. Where do you start?

Scrambled seemed like an obvious choice, so that was my first attempt at liking eggs. Nope, nope, nope. I was not a fan. Still not a fan. I thought the fluffy, yellow eggs looked more appetizing than those weird runny yolks, but eventually, I learned the error of my ways.


The best part… so satisfying

I started practicing cooking eggs to give them another shot. I didn’t get far past the fried egg. I’m sunny side up/runny yolk for life now. Especially when it involves dipping some kind of bread into it. It tastes like melted, buttery goodness. Suddenly the whole “put an egg on it” movement made sense to me.

Then I heard about “eggs in purgatory”… baked eggs in a bed of spicy, thick tomato sauce. And you eat it with bread. I knew immediately this was going to be my jam. Honestly, I threw this together with what I found in my kitchen, and it’s one of the only times I’ve ever created a blog-worthy recipe on the first try. Here’s how I did it:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts (from the jar)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped capers
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pickled banana peppers, thinly sliced for garnish
  • chopped fresh basil & parsley for garnish
  • 1 loaf of sourdough or Italian bread, sliced & lightly toasted (I like to toast the bread first & keep it warm in the oven while making the rest of the dish)
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet (about 12 inches ideally). Add in the onion, artichoke hearts, capers & garlic. Stir occasionally for 1-2 minutes, until the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme, basil, paprika & oregano. Stir into the onion mix for a minute.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes & tomato paste. Season with a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Let it gently boil for about 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce thicken for about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, create six divots in the sauce. Crack an egg in each cavity, then cover the pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the whites are cooked & the yolk is to your liking (I prefer a shorter cooking time for a runny yolk).
  5. Garnish the dish with the sliced banana peppers, fresh basil & fresh parsley. Serve family style with toasted bread slices.




The three stages of cooking

Easy and delicious. My favorite things. This was one of those things I had to stop myself from eating because I was getting full but didn’t want to stop! I love the runny egg, I love the spices and herbs, and I love getting the salty pops from the capers and the sweet, vinegary bite of the peppers on top.

You can scoop individual servings into bowls for people, but I like just digging right into the pan with the bread. I love a recipe that looks (and tastes) impressive, without a ton of work. This is essentially just throwing a bunch of delicious ingredients together, and when you serve it out of the pan, clean up is that much easier.


Beautiful even when it’s messy

This is also a great “pantry grab” recipe. Pretty much everyone has cans of tomatoes and tomato paste in their cupboards. If you don’t have jars of artichoke hearts, capers & banana peppers, that’s fine. This is a great way to use up the ingredients you do have and love. You can use jalapenos, or you can leave out the spicy pepper flakes altogether. You can add more garlic, or something healthy like spinach. You can substitute parmesan cheese for the salty capers or that last bit of jarred marinara sauce no one it going to use in place of the tomato paste. Use your favorite herbs and make it your own. As long as you have a thick, tomato sauce base, there’s a million ways to make eggs this way.

This is a fantastic option for a brunch where you want to have a few different dishes. It satisfies the need for eggs, without you having to make them to order or worry about cooking them correctly and you can even make the sauce the night before to save time. With just a few minutes on the stove top, you have a show-stopping dish.

I’m already trying to think of the next time I can make this. It would be perfect for a Super Sunday pre-game brunch (since the big game airs at 1:30pm out here in Hawaii) or for when my family comes to visit next month. Actually, this is just perfect for any breakfast, any day. I have a feeling this is going to become a staple in our household.

I promise to stop making it long enough to come up with a few new recipes soon. I’ve got some ideas that I can’t wait to try out when I’m back from traveling next week. See you soon!

Hawaiian-Inspired Fried Chicken & Pineapple Waffles

Where does one get their cooking inspiration? A lot of people will refer back to their childhood, and learning to cook with family or the food that comes from their parents or grandparents culture. A lot of people will refer back to where they grew up and turn it into buzz words: their southern roots, their island flair, their spicy attitude.

For me, I didn’t grow up in a house where people loved to cook. Since my family tree is full of mutts (a term used lovingly) from places like Lithuania, Russia and other random European countries, there wasn’t a cultural cuisine that we practiced. Dinner was just dinner, and if there was something special about it, it went over my head because I was probably refusing to eat it as I heated myself up some chicken nuggets.

I grew up in New England, which immediately is associated with seafood… which I hated when I was little. Basically, my cooking style just kind appeared after a while when I finally decided to start eating better and cooking in college. I’m not even sure you can call it a style, but when put on the spot I always blurt out “comfort food with a twist.”

My motto is “I cook what I like.” (My blog e-mail is actually icookwhatilike@gmail.com, if you wanted to get in touch.) I started out in cooking by learning to make the very limited amount of dishes I enjoyed, and branched out from there. That’s pretty much my approach now to individual recipes: start with something I know, and figure out how to make it my own.

Since I don’t have my own built-in family food culture, my inspiration comes from restaurants, books, people and of course, the wonderful places I’ve lived in and traveled to. Today’s recipe was actually inspired by a little breakfast spot down the street from me that makes “Hawaiian waffles”.


Diced pineapple, toasted coconut & coconut syrup. YUM.

As I was eating them, my mind wandered from the beaches of Oahu to Savannah, GA, where I lived for almost 5 years. My absolute favorite brunch dish is chicken and waffles, so I decided I wanted to see what that would look like on a tropical vacation. Thus, a recipe was born.

This isn’t as hard to make as it looks, but there are a lot of components going on here. Let’s break it down:


The Salsa – this is the easiest place to start, because you can make it a day or two in advance. You’ll probably have leftovers, and you’ll be happy about it.

  • 1 cup pineapple, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup mango, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños, finely diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • sea salt
  1. Combine the pineapple, mango, jalapeño (1 or 2 depending on how spicy you want it) and red onion in a bowl. Add the zest and juice of the lime, chili powder & a pinch of sea salt. Cover tightly & refrigerate, up to a week.

The Brine – it’s super important to brine fried chicken so it doesn’t dry out. I like adding pineapple juice to mine because the acid makes the meat even more tender & flavorful.

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 6 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  1. Mix together pineapple juice, water, salt & chili powder in a large glass bowl or tray. Submerge the chicken fully. (Add a little extra water if you need to, depending on your vessel.) Cover & refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.

The Breading – this step can be messy. I like to use ziploc or paper bags to toss the chicken around in. If I’m doing a big batch, those disposal aluminum trays from the grocery store work great.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Mix together 1 cup of flour with the garlic powder, chili powder, salt & pepper. Toss the chicken until evenly coated.
  2. Mix together the remaining 1/2 of flour with the panko bread crumbs. Dredge the chicken in the beaten eggs & immediately toss in the panko mixture until evenly coated.
  3. Fry as you please- I tried out my new air-fryer for this recipe, so if you have one, follow your models instructions for cooking fried chicken. You can also fry in oil, at 350-375 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160. If you prefer to do “oven-fried”, I would suggest lightly spraying the breaded chicken with canola or vegetable oil spray to ensure a crispy crust.


The Toasted Coconut – I tried to incorporate coconut into the breading, but it would burn, so it became it’s own, easy step.

  • 3/4 cup shredded cocounut
  1. Cook the coconut on a lined baking sheet in the toaster oven or oven at 350 degrees. Stir & toss the coconut every 45 seconds to a minute until golden brown.


The Waffles – don’t worry, with everything else going on, I don’t expect anyone to make these from scratch. You can also make these as pancakes if you don’t have a waffle iron.

  • 20 oz can of pineapple slices in pineapple juice
  • 1 box of instant waffle/pancake mix (the kind where you only add water)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Place 8 pineapple slices onto paper towels & pat dry. Reserve 1/4 cup pineapple juice.
    2. Mix the batter to the boxes instructions for 8 waffles, subtracting a 1/4 cup of the water required. Substitute it with the 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. Stir in the cinnamon & vanilla until smooth.
    3. Pour the batter onto a greased waffle iron, preheated to about 400 degrees, careful to not overfill. Drop a pineapple slice into the center of each waffle, close the iron & cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Sometimes the extra moisture in the pineapple will require an extra minute or two of cooking.

The Sauce – there’s more? We’ve come too far for boring old maple syrup.

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sriracha
  1. Mix together the maple syrup, honey & sriracha until blended. Drizzle & serve!

To Assemble – this makes four servings, so put two waffles on each plate. Place the fried chicken alongside the waffles and drizzle with the spicy syrup. Top with the tropical salsa & the toasted coconut. ENJOY.

We did it!


Savory, spicy, sweet, fried, fresh, fluffy, crunchy… hmm, sounds like the seven dwarves in my foodie remake of Snow White.

If I am at a new spot for brunch and I see chicken and waffles on the menu, I am all over it. Number one, it’s a good way to judge a restaurant by getting something from the breakfast and the lunch menu. Number two, it’s dang delicious.

I love the contrast of sweet and spicy in this version, so this is basically heaven to me on a plate. The salsa, the toasted coconut and the pineapple waffle are all tropical flavors, but they are also all pretty sweet. The spice infused throughout, particularly in the sauce, perfectly balances everything. This recipe is a smorgasbord of flavors and textures.

And about that salsa. I have used different variations of it in recipes like my crab cake sandwiches and all the time on Taco Tuesdays, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I love the color and freshness it brings to a dish, especially one like chicken and waffles, that would otherwise be be very monochromatic.

So where do you get your inspiration from? Maybe you should make this recipe and see if it gets your creative juices going. Although, it’ll probably just get you ready for a nap, especially if it’s paired with a couple mimosas.

Time to get back to the kitchen and dream up my next recipe!

Stuffed French Toast

There are some foods you are never really taught to make. From a young age, you just know how it works. You do it the same way every time. I think French toast falls into that category.

You can remember getting your hands in there, helping your mom, dad, grandparent or whoever make a huge stack of it on a weekend morning. Eggs, milk, bread. You could stop there, that’s really all you need, but maybe you add a little vanilla, or cinnamon, or whatever your family secret is.


However you make it, I think we all agree those edges are the best part.

Even I remember eating French toast as a little kid, despite being extremely picky. It’s comfort food, which is one of my favorite phrases, because being a picky eater can be very uncomfortable. It’s one of those things you can almost always guarantee will make everyone happy, because it’s simple, it’s easy and it’s classic. Comfort foods are the best place to start when you want to have some fun in the kitchen.

I got the idea for this while my husband’s parents were visiting recently. My father-in-law decided to make French toast for us all one morning and give me a break from cooking. Usually, I don’t like handing over the reigns in the kitchen. I still have incredible anxiety when other people cook for me, because I spent most of my life hating everything. Being in control of the food means I’m not going to hurt anyone’s feelings, but honestly, when he said he was making French toast, I said go for it. That’s always a winner.

Cut to a week or so after they were gone, when I buy a loaf of bread not realizing my husband also picked one up. It’s just the two of us, so we don’t need it all. Then I remembered… French toast. But you know me, I can’t stop there. I have to see what else I have to use around the house and I found even more inspiration left over from the family visit in the form of jam and cream cheese. (I always stock up on quick breakfast items like bagels and biscuits when visitors come.)


It starts off looking like lunch, but wait until it hits the egg wash and the pan

This recipe isn’t meant to be crazy or way out there. Stuffed French toast is pretty common on a lot of breakfast and brunch menus these days. With just a couple extra ingredients and steps, you can make an ordinary dish a little more special. Here’s what you need:

  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup jam (whatever your favorite is. I used raspberry.)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 8 slices of bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • butter to grease your cooking surface
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, jam and honey until well-incorporated and as smooth as possible. Spread the mixture evenly on half of the bread slices and make “sandwiches” by topping them with the dry pieces of bread.
  2. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar.
  3. Heat a griddle pan or large skillet to medium heat. Add a slice of butter and when it’s melted, dip one of the sandwiches into the egg mixture. Turn it to evenly coat the outside and place on it the griddle. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. You can cook more than one at a time if space allows, but don’t crowd the cooking surface. Add more butter if needed between cooking.
  4. Serve immediately, sliced on the diagonal and topped with powdered sugar and maple syrup (optional)


Optional… but why wouldn’t you?

Here’s why I think this might be one of my easiest and most family/kid friendly recipes to date… everything I just wrote is merely a suggestion. My secret ingredient to regular French toast is the brown sugar, because it gives a nice caramelization to it, but you can make this the way you always do if you want. I mean, I do recommend my way. It’s pretty dang good, but I’d rather you be at home enjoying breakfast than cursing me as you run to the store to get exactly what I told you to get.

I used raspberry jam. It was delicious, but maybe you have strawberry, or blueberry, or who knows, boysenberry jam in your fridge. Use that. Make a couple different flavors if you want, change it up. Suddenly your French toast is like a big ol’ gourmet Pop Tart, and it only took one extra bowl and little whisking.


Inner beauty is important.

Here’s a couple more tips before I go. If you have a panini press or griddle like the one I have, you can cut down on cooking time since you don’t have to flip it. Spread the filling crust to crust, but plop a little extra down in the middle before you put the two pieces of bread together. And speaking of bread, it’s best if it’s on the line of being stale. If your bread is fresh and soft, it doesn’t hurt to lightly toast it. Not enough to change the color or really cook it, but just long enough to where it starts to stiffen up. It’s easier to dunk in the egg wash and flip around if it’s not super soft to begin with.

My goal with these recipes isn’t to tell you how great I am at cooking or what you are doing wrong. A few years ago, I was not familiar with any of this. My goal is to show people who never thought they could cook that they can, and that it’s OK to be creative and see what happens. I want the little kid who hates everything to see their plate and be excited to eat.

All food should be comfort food!

This Bread Pudding is Bananas

B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Sorry, if Hollaback Girl had to be stuck in my head the whole time I was making this, it’s got to be in yours too.

It’s finally March! Who’s ready? Honestly, the end of February… is there a worse time of year? It’s dark, it’s gloomy and it’s cold. Well, most places it is. In Hawaii, it’s sunny and warm, but there’s still that funk that sets in post-holidays while waiting for spring to roll in.

The GREAT news is my kitchen is up and running! I don’t want to share pictures yet, because we still need to do the backsplash and the lights over the island. That’s all cosmetic though, so my cooking life has gotten 1000% easier now that I have counter space, a sink/dishwasher and all my stuff put away in the proper cabinets. If you want a sneak peak, you can see a few videos the remodel process on my Instagram highlights: @thepickygourmet!

Since starting my blog a couple years ago, I’ve collected lots of cute bowls and platters and specialty dishes to use for pictures and recipes. Basically, if I see something I don’t have, and it’s on sale, it’s mine. (I’ve been on the hunt lately for a good deal on copper mugs for Moscow mules, for instance.) Sometimes I even forget I have stuff, which is the good thing about moving so much. I discover things in my own kitchen and get inspired, and this time it was my ramekins.

Sidenote: I learned I had no idea how to spell ramekins before I wrote this post. I tried, and in the words of Lloyd Christmas, “I was way off.” Thanks, spell check!

I decided I wanted to make something warm and cozy for everyone suffering through the end of winter and I settled on bread pudding. Not only is it perfect for this time of year, it was perfect for me because I had everything I needed already in my pantry. I love bread pudding because it can be a dessert, it can be a breakfast, it can be a snack… there’s never a wrong time for it.


Bonus: your kitchen is going to smell amazing

  • 4 slices of sandwich bread (I used a honey wheat)
  • 1/2 cup of banana chips, slightly crushed
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Grease four ramekins liberally with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Cut the bread into small cubes and toss with the crushed banana chips. Divide it equally between the ramekins, making sure to leave some room for them to rise when it bakes.
  3. In a bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Add the eggs, milk, butter, sugar, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon and whisk vigorously until all ingredients are well-incorporated.
  4. Carefully pour the mixture over the cubed bread in the ramekins, without overfilling (you may have a little leftover). Use a spoon to pack it all down, making sure all the bread is covered in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the ramekins on a parchment lined baking sheet, in case any of them bubble over. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean.


Don’t crush the banana chips into a powder, you want those bigger bits for a pop of texture

Obviously the wildcard here is the banana chips. I know those aren’t always in everyone’s pantry, but they aren’t hard to find at the store. You could also substitute for dried apples or cranberries or whatever you’re into.

I have always tried not to let food go to waste and now that we bought a home and are remodeling, I’m in full-on penny pinching mode when it comes to groceries. In a household of only two people, it’s hard to finish a whole loaf of bread sometimes before it gets stale. Bread pudding is an awesome way to use it all up, especially the heels, since no one ever wants those for a sandwich. If your bread isn’t stale, leave it out overnight to dry it up. It actually absorbs more flavor when it’s stale.

You can make this in an small baking pan if you don’t have ramekins or prefer a more family style presentation, but I like being able to make exactly the amount of servings I want or being able to adapt the recipe to the amount of bread I have to use. You can also make a couple the first day and save a couple in the fridge overnight for day two.


Bread pudding before going in the oven. Remember, they will rise like a souffle in the oven!

Having individual servings is also fun because you can try out different toppings. This bread pudding is not overly sweet (which I like) but you can always get fancy and add some powdered sugar or maple syrup before serving. Adding some chocolate chips into the mix would be a big hit with kids.

Well, I’d love to stay and chat longer but I’m actually heading off to my first luau tonight! I need to fuel up on bread pudding and start getting ready. I’ll be back soon with another new recipe and (hopefully) the final before and after photos of the new Picky Gourmet kitchen. See you then!

Burger Bun French Toast with Strawberry Syrup

Labor Day has come and gone, which means everyone is arguing about whether summer is over or not. Growing up in Massachusetts, I knew it was fall when it felt like fall. Unfortunately, there isn’t much change in the air in southern California, and I bet the next few years in Hawaii will be more of the same.

Don’t roll your eyes. I’m allowed to complain about too many sunny days in a row. I’m from the land of foliage, apple picking, pumpkin patches and all-out autumn insanity. I suddenly understand why Max was weirded out by everyone in Salem being obsessed with Halloween in Hocus Pocus… because he grew up in California, where seasons don’t exist. Side note: Hocus Pocus is (and always will be) the best Halloween movie ever.

WHOA. How did I end up all the way at the end of October? I’m starting to get a craving for hot cider. Let’s get back to today, the end of summer or beginning of fall, whichever you prefer it to be. I bet there’s a good chance most of you have leftover hamburger buns laying around.

Go get them.

We’re going to make French toast.

  • 2 hamburger buns, split (4 “slices” of toast)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp strawberry simple syrup*
  • 1/4 cup chopped strawberries
  1. Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar in a shallow bowl or dish. Soak each bun for at least a minute in the mixture.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle pan to medium heat and coat with vegetable oil. Cook the toast for a minute or two on each side, until golden brown.
  3. In a small saucepan, stir together the maple syrup and strawberry simple syrup over low heat. Once warm, add the chopped strawberries and toss them in the syrup. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve French toast warm, drizzled in strawberries & syrup, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if you wish.

*(I used this recipe for the strawberry simple syrup. Initially I made it for yummy frozen rosé drinks, so it’s worth making. You can add it to a lot of things.)


Fresh strawberries keep that summer feeling alive

If your buns are a bit stale, good. You want them to be as sturdy as possible. If they are still super soft, leave them out for a day. Hamburger buns can be flimsy and you don’t want it falling apart.

I’ll be honest with you guys, it’s always going to look like a hamburger bun, there’s no hiding that. If I was having people over for brunch and I wanted to make something fancy, I would probably go buy brioche or challah bread. But that’s not always practical.

I try to make my recipes as budget-friendly and accessible as possible. I feel like most people grew up with their mom or dad making them French toast with plain old white sandwich bread, and that’s exactly what this version tastes like. Bread is bread, so use what you have.


Close-up, it all looks the same: delicious

I didn’t reinvent the wheel with flavor profiles here either. Classic French toast has a very comforting and nostalgic taste that I didn’t want to compromise. Kids will love this dish. This is perfect for slumber parties, because you can make burgers for dinner and use the leftover buns for a cute breakfast everyone will love. You’ll have to double or quadruple the recipe amounts though!

Alright, sorry to recipe and run, but I’m literally in the middle of a huge house clean-up. We have friends coming to town for the weekend, and then immediately after we have a house/dog sitter coming to stay… while my husband and I house hunt in Hawaii! Make sure you follow my Instagram @thepickygourmet to see my stories and pics. I’ll talk to you all again when I’m back!

S’Mores Puffs aka S’Monuts

Alright everybody. We are in the last half of summer. For one reason or another, I think we are all feeling that creeping dread of looming responsibilities, whether it’s back to school shopping, having to say goodbye to the beach or prepping for big life changes (like our upcoming move).

How about we forget about that stuff for a few minutes? I have a dessert recipe that uses only 5 ingredients. Yup, only 5, and they are all things that are probably in your kitchen right now.

One of my favorite summer treats is s’mores. Why?

Exhibit A

It’s a classic, so I decided to take the idea of s’mores and mesh it with one of my favorite dessert hacks: frozen puff pastry sheets. This recipe is so easy, there’s no need to even give you measurements. You need a bag and/or box of each of the following items:

  • frozen puff pastry sheets
  • milk chocolate chips/bars
  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • one egg (for egg wash)


I left the poor egg out of the family photo

Boxes of puff pastry typically have two sheets in them. Once they are thawed, I like to put it on parchment paper with a dusting of flour. This keeps it from sticking and makes clean up really easy because you can prep everything on it, or you can use a large cutting board.

You want a 12×12 inch square, so you might need to roll the dough out a bit before you cut it into 16 pieces (cut it in half length and width wise, then repeat). Since we are going to be sandwiching the dough together, each sheet makes 8 puffs.

Whisk together an egg with a Tbsp of water for your egg wash. And no, water doesn’t count as an ingredient! Put some chocolate chips (or break up a chocolate bar into small pieces) in the center of one square then brush the edges of the dough with egg wash. Place a second square on top and use a fork to seal the edges. They will look like giant raviolis, it’s kind of funny.


Stuff as much chocolate as you want in there, just make sure to leave room on the edges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet… you probably could have done that earlier. I don’t know why I’m not writing this like a typical recipe, it just seemed easier this way. And it’s too late now!

ANYWHO.

Put a couple graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crush them up into a powder. I wanted to get cinnamon ones at the store, but they didn’t have any! I cheated and added some cinnamon to the crushed crackers, but you don’t have to. Use whatever kind you want.

Put your weird, mutant raviolis onto the baking sheet. I like to smush the edges in to the center, kind of rounding them out a bit before I brush them with egg wash and generously sprinkle on the crushed graham crackers.


Ready to get baked

When they bake, they come out kind of looking like donuts that way. Or maybe I should say cronuts, because they are flaky like croissants… wait, did I just invent the s’monut? (I’m calling that, and immediately editing the title of this post.)

Bake them for about 10 minutes, until they are golden and puffed up. Take them out of the oven and top them with marshmallows. I had mini ones on hand, that were kind of a pain in the butt to balance on top, but I got it done. Next time I think I am going to get the big ones and cut them in half. Bake them for another 3-5 minutes until the marshmallows start to melt and brown.

Optional toppings would be a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate sauce if you really loooooove chocolate.


There’s enough chocolate inside for me

Let them cool a little, because the chocolate inside can be quite hot. Oh man, though. These fresh from the oven are like heaven. They also hold up really well on the counter for a couple hours or you can keep them in the oven on warm if you are waiting for guests.

This would be an adorable sweet treat at a summertime brunch, or an outdoor bridal/baby shower. I had my friends try these, and when I told them how simple they were to make, their minds were blown.

This would also brighten the mood on a rainy weekend when you can’t get outside to make real s’mores. This is a super easy recipe to make with kids, they will love to be on dough duty. The beauty of these puffs is that they are not meant to look perfect, they are just meant to be delicious.

C’mon. It’s the end of July. If you are doing summer right, you’ve been spending it with friends and family, outside and grilling. Someone always brings stuff for s’mores, and there’s always stuff leftover. Try this out!

Shortcut Banana Bread Muffins

Hey everyone! The last few weeks have been crazy. My husband got back from deployment after 7 months, we had family come in from out of town, we went on our very belated honeymoon to Cabo San Lucas and this weekend was our one year wedding anniversary! Honestly, we were so wiped out, we scrapped our plans for going out to a fancy Italian dinner in favor of picking up Indian take-out and a bottle of champagne from Whole Foods.

I need to get myself back on schedule. Working out and planning out meals went out the window for a couple weeks, and so did blogging. Now it’s Monday, everything is getting back to normal, and it’s time to reset.

So I’m back, baby, and I’m baking!

Kind of.

Baking still makes me nervous. Don’t let anyone tell you a chef and a baker are the same thing, it’s a whole different set of skills. Since I don’t have total faith in my own baking skills, I like a shortcut. Enter: boxed cake mix.

You know you have one, tucked away in the pantry “just in case.” There’s no shame! The box did all the hard work for you by measuring out and mixing the dry ingredients and leavening agents. Great for me, because I can’t seem to bake anything without ending up with flour all over my pants.

I’m not going to use cake mix for a dessert though, I’m using it for a breakfast recipe. Everyone loves warm, fluffy, straight-from-the-oven muffins in the morning, but no one wants to get up early to start baking, especially on a weekday. That is, until they see how easy my shortcut banana bread muffins are!


These muffins look like they are about to drop the hottest album of 2017

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 box of spice cake mix (I recommend Betty Crocker Delights Super Moist Spice Cake Mix)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Peel and mash the bananas in the bowl of your mixer (or a large bowl if you have a hand mixer) and add two eggs. Beat on low for about a minute until it’s fairly smooth (some lumps are fine).
  3. Add the oil, brown sugar and cinnamon and mix slowly, just until the ingredients are well incorporated. Add the cake mix and chia seeds, and mix on low for a minute. You want the batter to be blended, but you don’t want to over mix.
  4. Fill the muffin tin with the batter, almost all the way up but not to the rim. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.


The batter doesn’t need to be completely smooth before baking

The batter takes about 5 minutes to put together and you only have to get one bowl messy. Pop these in the oven, then go get dressed or read the news or wake up the kids, and return to fresh muffins. It’s so easy.

I made my cake mix recommendation above. If you can’t find that exact brand, try and keep an eye out for mixes with everyone’s favorite word on it: MOIST. My muffins came out super light and airy, but in no way dry.


They were perfect little cinnamon banana clouds

After initially testing this recipe, I was making a batch for today to double check and shoot some pictures of (and chow down on) and I decided to throw in some chia seeds at the end. It doesn’t change the flavor at all, but it adds a bit of texture. It’s a great way to sneak in something healthy but not necessary for the recipe. Next time I might actually double the chia, it’s pretty hard to detect.

This is a fun recipe too because you could really use whatever kind of box cake you like. I feel like a lot of people keep a box of vanilla and/or gold cake mix around, so you could add more of your own cinnamon and spices to it. I also wouldn’t be mad at a chocolate dessert version of this, warmed up with some whipped cream or with bananas foster, if you are feeling ambitious.

Ahhhh! It feels great to have everything back on track. I hope you’re feeling as good as I am. Summer is around the corner and we should be getting news in coming months about our next big move (if it works out, it’s an exciting one, but my lips are sealed for now!). Until then, catch me here every other Monday for new posts or follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake

I don’t post many breakfast recipes. Probably because I’m not much of a morning person, and the idea of cooking the second I get up doesn’t usually strike my fancy. A typical morning meal for me is a smoothie bowl or something quick out of the toaster.

Weekend mornings are actually when my husband gets to take over the kitchen. He loves making breakfast, especially banana pancakes. But, as you know by now, he is currently deployed, so I’m on my own if I want to treat myself.

The other night I was thinking about how every Christmas morning, my mom makes a french toast casserole. It’s insanely delicious and easy, because you make it the night before, and then just pop it in the oven when you wake up. I love a meal that you can prep ahead of time, so I wanted to come up with something similar.

Sweet or savory is always the first choice you make when deciding what to eat for breakfast. I actually spent the last two days in Denver for a wedding and encountered spectacular examples of both options.


Delicious fried chicken & biscuit sandwich with honey & stone-ground mustard from the Denver Biscuit Company (left), french toast & pancake sampler from Snooze in Union Station (right)

I usually lean towards sweet when I cook breakfast but I want to change it up, so that’s where I started. A savory dish that I could make the night before.

I opened my pantry and right in front of my face was a bag of everything bagels, one of my go-to quickie breakfasts. After a little more rummaging, I realized I had all the things I needed to create an everything bagel breakfast bake. Check this out:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 diced white onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 10 cups cubed everything bagels (4-6 bagels depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion (white & light green parts, set the rest aside)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • additional eggs for frying, to be used as garnish (optional)
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and minced garlic and stir for a couple minutes, until onions become translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Place the everything bagel cubes in a large bowl and mix in the cooked onions & garlic, sliced green onions and shredded mozzarella. Spread out the bagel mixture out evenly in a greased 9×13 baking pan.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the half & half until well-incorporated. Pour the egg mixture over the bagels in the pan. Gently stir to get it all the way to the bottom, then lightly pack it all down with a spatula so the surface is even. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the leftover sliced green onion tops. Optional: While it cooks, you can also fry some more eggs to use as a garnish, sprinkled with salt & pepper.


Fresh out of the oven

First things first. This sounds heavy, but it came out so light and fluffy. It’s somewhere in between a stuffing and a bread pudding. I like using mozzarella to hold the casserole together, because it’s a great melting cheese, and then using cheddar on top for a little more flavor. You can always switch it up if you have preference.

I highly recommend putting an egg on top, because became like sauce. It’s kind of like how we drizzle maple syrup over my mom’s french toast casserole; it doesn’t really need it, but it’s so darn good it’s hard to pass.


Cracking the yolk is the most satisfying part

This breakfast bake can stand up as a meal all on it’s own, or in a smaller portion, it would be a great side. It’s a great option for any weekend, whether you are hosting a brunch party or having a cozy morning with family. It also holds up really well as leftovers. I was picking at this thing for a couple days, even after I gave some away to friends.


I got fancy with my leftovers & drizzled on some sriracha for an extra spicy kick

Operation savory, make-ahead breakfast was a success. It was easy and yummy, my two favorite things. I hope you try it out! See you again in two weeks with a new post.

Recipe Redux: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Baked Pears

Hi everyone! Time for another look back in time on The Picky Gourmet Blog. This recipe is probably my all time favorite breakfast recipe. I’ll admit, I am not a morning person. Getting up and fixing a big meal is not something I do often. I joke with my husband that the only time the kitchen is his is weekend mornings, when he makes waffles for us. After that, lunch and dinner is all up to me.

Usually my breakfast is a smoothie or yogurt bowl topped with fruit and granola and whatever good stuff I have on hand. Sometimes I make them pretty, which you may have seen if you follow my Instagram. But a lot of times I just throw it all in a bowl and get it over with. I reserve my creativity for later in the day… when I’m actually awake.

If I am feeling a little more ambitious and having a “treat yourself” kind of day, I refer back to my brown sugar cinnamon baked pears. I wanted to bring this recipe back because it’s so perfect for fall. Served with yogurt and granola, it’s a fantastically sweet start to the day, but this could easily be a great dessert over some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

I typically use bartlett or comice pears, but this works with whatever you refer. You can also do this with apples, so if you have a bunch of them laying around after an afternoon of picking, this is perfect for you.

Of course, over the months I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Not too much though. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong when you have fresh fruit, butter, sugar and spices.


This is the smell of fall right here

Yields 2 servings.

  • 2-3 pears (depending on size)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, combine melted butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and ginger. Whisk until incorporated.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30 minutes until the pears are soft and caramelized.
  5. Divide the yogurt between two bowls, top with the baked pears and garnish with granola, coconut flakes and extra sauce from the pan.

The only changes are I’ve cut back on the honey for more brown sugar, added ginger and instead of using powdered sugar as a garnish, I use coconut. I’m also really digging coconut milk yogurt lately. It’s got the same tang as Greek yogurt, but its dairy free. I use vanilla flavored yogurt in this recipe for a little extra flavor.

The other great thing about this recipe is it’s quick. The only time consuming part is peeling the fruit, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get this in the oven. Then just sit back and wait for your house to start smelling like cinnamon sugar goodness.

So this isn’t a huge departure from my original baked pears, but this is truly one of my favorite recipes. This was posted way back in January, when my blog as just starting, so I want to make sure all the followers I have now get a chance to see this! Especially now that pears (and apples) are everywhere.

Hopefully you are all enjoying autumn and all the wonderful, seasonal treats that come with this time of year. Stay tuned for one more recipe redux post coming this week that will include more than one makeover for a go-to weekday meal!

Muffin Pan Party Hacks

Hellooooo summer! I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Mine was great: mini golfing, happy hour, quality time with my guy and a big surprise birthday party/cook out for a friend. Most people I know kicked off the weekend of summer with a party and there will be plenty more between now and Labor Day.

It got me thinking about easy ways to feed a crowd, besides a package of hot dogs and a bag of chips. The best kind of food for a party is something people can just grab and go. Individual portions, cute presentation, easy transportation… It all brought me to my muffin pan. Here’s three ideas I have, and trust me, they aren’t muffins.

Baked Mac & Cheese

If you are headed to a cook out, you can pretty much expect a big bowl of slimy pasta salad, sitting out in the sun all day. But if you were going to an authentic barbecue spot, you’d be served warm, gooey mac & cheese.

I started by making a big batch of macaroni and a sauce of cheddar cheese, milk & butter. Use whatever recipe you like or you can make the kind out of the box if you want to keep it even simpler. I lined the muffin pan with cupcake liners and sprayed them all with a little cooking spray. Fill the cups with the pasta, making sure you don’t go over the rim. Then I mixed equal parts Italian bread crumbs & Parmesan cheese, with a dash of Cajun seasoning, and sprinkled it over the top of each cup.

At this point, you could cover with foil if you are traveling somewhere. All it takes to finish these up is to bake them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’d love to see how they turn out by putting the pan on the grill. The pasta is cooked, so it’s really just about getting that bread crumb topping crunchy & golden.

What you get is an adorable side dish that’s so easy to serve. It stays contained and doesn’t spread all over the plate. It’s so easy, but guests will be so impressed. They are great for dinner at home too, because they help with portion control and kids will love them.

Mini Calzones

These probably aren’t the first thing I would think of for a cook out, but a rainy summer day? A game night with friends? A casual pot luck dinner? These will blow everyone’s minds.

I used store bought pizza dough, the kind that comes in a 13 oz tube. I needed two of them. I divided it equally into a dozen parts and flattened them into circles. At this point, you can stuff these however you’d like. I made three kinds.

  • Mozzarella, fresh basil & pesto
  • Cheddar, bacon & pickled jalapeño
  • Mozzarella, spinach, carmelized onion & blue cheese crumbles

Put the ingredients in the center of a dough circle, then carefully stretch the edges over the stuffings and pinch together. Place seam side down in a greased muffin pan. Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan (or garlic powder, or Italian seasoning, or all three!). Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

I served mine with some marinara (great for the pesto) and ranch dressing (great for the bacon/jalapeño) to dip. The spinach/onion ones were so creamy from the two cheeses inside, I didn’t bother to dip those in anything at all!

These were so delicious and a huge hit all around. I still recommend a fork and knife, but my husband dove right in and ate it by hand. Just beware of molten hot cheese! These also keep in the fridge really well for a couple days, so you could totally make these ahead of time and reheat them.

French Toast Cups

This is kind of a French toast/bread pudding mash up. Everyone loves French toast, everyone can make it, but this is a fun, new way to present a classic.

I used cinnamon raisin bread and cut it into small, uniform cubes. Then I whisked together a tradional French toast batter of milk, eggs, sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and added the bread cubes. Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure they all get saturated. Place the mixture into a greased muffin pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I serve mine with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar.

This is awesome for a breakfast or brunch with friends and family. French toast can be messy and tedious, because you can only cook a couple pieces of bread at a time on the stove top. This way everyone has a perfectly sized, perfectly warm helping of French toast at the same time. You could even plastic wrap the pan and travel with it before baking it off. I had leftovers, and reheated them later at night, topped with some cinnamon ice cream. Yum! Double duty, breakfast & dessert!

I hope you try some of these tricks out. They are three well-loved and familiar recipes, simply scaled down to, well, muffin size. I promise these will be the star of your summer gatherings. Do you have any ideas for a creative muffin pan hack? Let me know.

Party on!