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!

Chicken Parmesan Perfection

Every now and again, I have to give you something simple and classic. I share some creative recipes, but let’s be real. I don’t cook like that every night, it would be exhausting. So today I’m sharing my original go-to.

Chicken Parmesan is one of those recipes that everyone should have under their belt. It’s a family dinner favorite and easy to make. Actually, it was one of the first real meals I taught myself to make back in college. Of course, back then, my signature dish included Shake & Bake, breadsticks out of the freezer section and a severe lack of seasoning.


Photo taken with a potato quality phone circa Sept 2006. My sad first attempt at chicken parmesan. Thank you roommate and boyfriend (who is now my husband) for choking this down.

Thankfully, things have changed.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of time, there’s nothing wrong with using some supermarket shortcuts for chicken parm. That’s why everyone has their own way of making it. No matter how much or how little time you want to devote to cooking, anything covered in sauce and cheese is going to be satisfying.

For this recipe, I’m just going to explain how to make the chicken. I feel like at this point, I don’t need to tell you how to boil and sauce a side of pasta, or put together a salad. Both of those things are great accompaniments, but really you can make whatever you like.

Now I have the urge to toast up some bulkie rolls and make chicken parm sandwiches… hmmmm.


Ready to go in the oven!

  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried organo
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups marinara sauce
  • 6 slices of fresh mozzarella
  1. Lay the chicken breasts flat and carefully cut them horizontally in half, creating two wide, thin pieces. Cover in a sheet of plastic wrap and pound the chicken out to an even thickness. Remove plastic and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion and oregano.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine italian breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Dip chicken into eggs and then into breadcrumb mixture, coating well.
  3. Carefully lay in the chicken breasts, two at a time, as to not crowd the pan. Fry for about a minute on each side, until they begin to turn golden brown. Set aside onto paper towels and a wire rack to drain excess oil.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees while the chicken cools slightly. Thinly spread a couple spoonfuls of marinara sauce over the bottom of a pan, that’s preferably lined with foil. Place the chicken directly on the sauce and spoon more marinara over the cutlets, covering the top. Place a generous slice of mozzarella on the center of each piece.
  5. Cook for about 12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and cheese is fully melted. Broil on low for an additional 2 minutes to achieve a browning effect on the mozzarella. Serve immediately with you choice of side.

I know some people get freaked out by the frying step. It’s not a big deal, and trust me, it makes all the difference. It instantly crisps the outside, locking in the juices and flavor.


Fresh out of the oil, looking gorgeous

Another place I don’t think you should skimp out on is the cheese. Using fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded kind is night and day. Shredded cheese generally has chemicals on it to keep it from clumping (hence that waxy feeling). It also keeps it from melting the way it should. Fresh mozzarella will literally envelop the the chicken, in beautiful, creamy, melty goodness.


Cheese, glorious cheese

My breading mixture is a little odd, but after many trials, this is the combination I like best. The italian crumbs add the seasoning and flavor you want, the panko adds texture and the parmesan, well, that makes it chicken parmesan.

The shortcut here is sauce. There are plenty of great tasting, organic pasta sauces out there. I would recommend something with a thicker consistency, so go for something labeled homestyle or chunky. I also opted for a sauce with roasted garlic, but anything will do.

Sometimes if I have extra ingredients laying around that I need to use or lose, I enhance a store-bought marinara. I’ll mix in some fresh chopped basil, roasted red peppers or sauteed onions. It’s not a necessary step, but it’s a good way to use up produce if you have it.

This is a great beginner recipe to start with if you are looking to get into cooking. It’s right where I began. But you can choose to take my advice, based on years of guess work. This chicken parmesan tastes like one you would get in a restaurant. I promise!

I’ll be back in two weeks with a fun new recipe that would be the star of any brunch. Until then, let me know if you try out this dish or any of the other Picky Gourmet recipes. I love to hear from you!

Leftover Turkey Soup

It’s been a crazy few weeks. Since my husband is deployed, I decided to hit the road and drive myself and my dog home for the holidays. I drove 5 days with a couple friends from California to Massachusetts. I’ve done this trip a few times already, it’s a lot of fun with company but still exhausting. I originally wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family once I got back, but now I’m glad I took their advice and sat it out. I’ve been home about a week and am just now feeling like I’ve caught up on sleep.

A couple weeks ago I cooked a “friendsgiving” meal in California. Afterwards, I came up with a leftovers soup recipe that was pretty great. I planned on posting it the day after Thanksgiving. Problem is, I left my handwritten recipe on the west coast. I know a lot of people have already used their leftovers or eaten them all, but once I got my hands on a turkey carcass here, I had to try and recreate my soup.

So after a small delay, here is my leftover turkey soup!


For the stock:

  •  1 roast turkey carcass
  • 4-6 qts water
  • 12 oz wheat beer
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large shallot, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
  • 2 carrots, cut in thirds
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 pieces of peeled ginger root, about 1″
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1 stem fresh sage
  • 4 stems fresh thyme
  1. Put the turkey carcass in a large stock pot. Pour in 4-6 quarts water, until the turkey is submerged. Add the beer, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce hear to low. Simmer for 2-4 hours until meat is easily removed from the bones.
  3. Using a ladle, strain 4 quarts of stock through a mesh colander or cheese cloth into a separate bowl or vessel. Pick as much turkey meat off as you can and add it to the stock. Set aside.


For the soup:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup leftover squash puree (you can substitute with flour if needed)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions, cut into petals
  • 5 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 qts homemade turkey stock
  • 1 cup of carrot greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a ceramic soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium low heat. Stir in squash (or flour) until thick, making a roux. Add garam masala, curry powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Add zucchini, onion, celery, carrot and shallot to the pot and stir until coated. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour or ladle the turkey stock and meat over the vegetables. Add the carrot greens, rosemary, thyme, sage and lemon zest. Cover and cook on low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. In the last 5 minutes, stir in the fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs and bread (optional)

What’s kind of funny is that my brother in law loves making turkey soup after Thanksgiving. He does his with hot peppers, corn, beans… much more of a Tex-Mex take on it. He made his, and I actually “borrowed” the leftover turkey from a friends dinner the next night. So basically, it was soup wars this weekend at home. No one could pick a winner though, since they were two totally different takes.

I like traditional recipes with a twist. I kept my soup fairly classic, but was inspired by the cinnamon and nutmeg smell of the leftover squash puree, and decided to add in some Indian spices to enhance those flavors.

Soup is an easy way to use up Turkey Day leftovers. The cover photo is my first batch. I didn’t use the indian spices, squash, ginger and zucchini at first. It was definitely more traditional. In the end, I’m glad I got a second chance to revisit and add to this recipe.

You don’t need to follow this, or any, recipe word for word. Soups are a great tradition for after the holiday and every family probably had a way they like to do it. Whether it’s spicy and heading south of the border like my brother in law’s take, a classic with a twist like mine, or made with whatever herbs, vegetables and flavors you enjoy, it’s always a hit. And a great way to condense and clear space in the fridge, am I right?

Like I said, I’m with my family through the holidays. I’ll try and come up with some fun posts while I am here, especially now that the countdown to Christmas is on!

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

A few years ago, if you put a whole raw chicken in front of me I would have freeeeeaked out. Today? I think roasting a chicken is the most fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. I still make some girly noises and scrunch my face up if I have to pull the giblets or neck out, but once I get past that point, it’s all good.

I’m going to start with how to cook a chicken and my recipe for it. In a couple days, there’s going to be post on all the beautiful ways you can use the leftovers. I was in Whole Foods and organic free range chickens were on sale. I got a 4.75lb bird for $7.17. This literally can feed my husband and I for days. I’m used to buying 3 boneless, skinless breasts in a pack for the same price. So first lesson is, if it’s on sale, get it. I changed my entire shopping list for the week when I found this beauty.

Let’s cut to the chase, here is how I cooked my chicken.

  • 4-5lb chicken
  • 3 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tsp pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary, divided
  • 2 tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 3 russet potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 carrots, thickly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 1 white onion, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Remove giblets and neck if needed and place the chicken in a large bowl or pan. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp of the salt, 1 tsp of the pepper, lemon pepper, 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme and dried parsley. Rub over the entire chicken, bottom and top, covering as evenly as possible. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours to let it dry brine.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large roasting pan or dish, combine chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, and half of the white onion, which should be thickly sliced. Mince 3 garlic cloves and mix into the veggies. Season with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary and 1/2 tsp dried thyme.
  3. Depending on the size and what can fit, stuff the chicken with the last half of the white onion, 5 crushed garlic cloves, half a lemon, fresh rosemary and thyme. If space is tight, cut the onion and lemon into quarters. If you can’t fit everything, it’s OK, but try to get a little of each in.
  4. Place the chicken directly on top of the veggies, so it’s not touching the bottom of the pan. You could also use a roasting pan with a rack if you have one. Use the last half of the lemon to squeeze over the entire dish. Tie the legs together with cooking twine and tuck the wings under the body.
  5. Cook for 1 hour, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees. If it’s not done in an hour, keep roasting in 10 minute intervals until it’s up to the right tempature.
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving so you don’t lose all the juice. Stir the veggies around to coat them in the pan juices. Carve the chicken by removing the legs and separating the drumstick from the thigh. Remove the wings next. Cut vertically against the bone in the center to remove the breasts. Serve along side the roasted vegetables.


I can’t think of another meal more comforting than a roast chicken with vegetables. It’s also a meal that everyone makes a little differently. There’s millions of ways to do it, everyone has a “secret” to making it delicious, but my approach is simple, classic flavors.

I prefer a dry brine over a wet brine simply because it’s easier. If you have the time to wet brine, go for it. I did my thanksgiving turkey in salt water, beer and other spices and it was lovely, but for everyday cooking, a dry brine does the trick.

Some people like to use butter to achieve a crispy skin. If you coat the chicken well with the spices, you really don’t need it. With the addition of the lemon squeezed over it right before cooking, the skin came out beautifully browned and crispy.

Keeping the seasoning consistent between the chicken and vegetables make for a harmonious dinner. My favorite part is moving the chicken to the cutting board and then mixing all the veggies with the pan juice that was created. They become so delicious, I acutually ate the leftovers for lunch the next day, without any chicken. It was great on it’s own, with a tiny dollop of sour cream on top. Here’s a photo of the vegetables before roasting, totally gorgeous.

Like I said earlier, in a few days I’m going to be posting about all the possibilities of leftover roast chicken. This is a great recipe to do on a Sunday to have leftovers for the rest of the week. Also, in keeping the seasonings fairly traditional, it makes it easy to use again in a number of different dishes.

Roasting a whole chicken takes time and some work. You also have to be willing to get your hands dirty (I always keep hand sanitizer within reach) but it’s so worth it. It can be scary, especially when that naked, raw bird comes out of the plastic, but with some practice, it becomes easy breezy. And soon my next post will show you how putting in the work on the weekend will benefit your week ahead!