All posts by Jolyn

New to this blogging world. Even new to brunches. I've never seen myself as much of a cook or hostess, but it's amazing how simple it can be, and I'm enjoying it so much that I want to document my process and inspire others to give it a try.

Slow Cooker Lamb Stew


Nothing says “Ides of March” like a good lamb stew.   The secret to tender lamb is to sear the edges of the meat to seal in the juices and then cook at a very low temperature for hours.

You can add your favorite stew ingredients and seasonings.  I used lamb, but beef would be yummy, too.  Onions, carrots and potatoes are pretty standard, and I added garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for
additional protein and texture.  Tomatoes are not technically appropriate for an Ides of March stew since they weren’t eaten in Caesar’s day, but I chose flavor over authenticity.


1.  Put 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons pepper and 1 teaspoon salt in a plastic food storage bag.  Add 2 pounds lamb (cut into 1-inch
cubes) and coat the meat evenly with the flour mixture.

2.  Brown the meat over medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, turning to brown all sides, but do not cook through.  Depending on how much meat you are using and the size of your skillet, you will probably need to brown the meat in batches.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat from the skillet to the crockpot.

3.  Add one sliced onion to the skillet and sauté until golden brown, scraping up the remaining bits of lamb.  (I left several pieces of lamb in the skillet and cooked them through for my dinner.  Oh my! So delish!)
03 Grilled Onions

4.  Add the onions and the remaining ingredients to the crockpot:
2 cups carrots, 2 cups potatoes, 28oz can crushed tomatoes,
15oz can of garbanzo beans (drained) and 2 cups of water.  My crockpot was filled to capacity, so I only used 1 cup of water and it was fine.

5.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Printer-friendly recipe:  Slow Cooker Lamb Stew

Pizza with Arugula, Ricotta & Red Grapes


Here’s a truly unique and delicious pizza, and it’s so quick and simple to make.  It was featured in Dinner at Tiffini’s and People magazine.

8 oz refrigerated pizza dough, halved
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups arugula
1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1/4 cup pine nuts
Zest of one lemon

1.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and preheat oven to 400.

2.  Flatten and stretch each half of dough into 12″ oblong or rectangle. Lay one dough into bottom of hot grill pan and cook until it stiffens, 1 to 2 minutes, flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes more.  Repeat with remaining dough.

3.  Transfer crusts to a baking sheet and spread ricotta on top.  Bake until ricotta melts slightly, about 6 minutes.

4.  Remove from oven and top with arugula, grapes, pine nuts and lemon zest.   Cut into squares and serve warm.20150308_092703

Confession: The first time I made this, I didn’t read the directions carefully and put the toppings on before baking the crust instead of after. The second batch was made following the instructions. Turns out I liked it better with the toppings cooked, especially the pine nuts, but it is good either way.

Print-friendly recipe:  Pizza with Arugula, Ricotta and Red Grapes

Enjoy this and many more easy brunch recipes to come.

Cheesy Onion & Bacon Monkey Bread




Bacon-anything is a sure hit, but this cheesy bacon monkey bread is sensational.



There are many recipes online for bacon monkey bread, and I tried a few different approaches to see which I like best.  By far my favorite is the recipe found in Christmas With Southern Living (there’s an Amazon link to the book below).   I’ll give you the step-by-step instructions and then explain the variations I tried.

5 tablespoons butter
2 sweet onions, sliced thinly
1 32-oz package frozen bread dough, thawed
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese

1.  Sauté onions over medium heat in 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring often, until onions are a caramel color, about 15 minutes.Chopped onions    03 Grilled Onions

2.  Roll dough into balls the size of large marbles.

3.  Sprinkle ½ cup of bacon and ½ cup of cheese in the bottom of a buttered bundt pan.  Arrange one-third of the dough balls over the cheese and brush with melted butter.  Layer half the onions, ½ cup of bacon and ½ cup of cheese.  Continue layering with the dough balls, onions, bacon and cheese.
20150301_085556    20150301_090600

4.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees) for an hour to an hour and a half or until doubled in bulk.  (I left it too long so mine is a little “over the top.”)
20150301_091804-1   20150301_112757-1

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; carefully invert bread onto a serving platter.  Serve warm.




The other recipe for this that I like is found on  This recipe called for using refrigerated pizza dough instead of frozen bread dough and stuffed the bacon, cheese and onions inside each dough ball.06 Stuffing

07Stuffed    08 Ball

It also uses Rosemary Butter — just sauté garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes and then stir in rosemary for 1 minute.  Yummy!04 Rosemary Butter    05 Buttered Pan

Here’s how the finished product looks with the goodies tucked inside:
11 Baked     12 Bite  

Print-friendly recipe:  Cheesy Bacon & Onion Monkey Bread

Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.




Strawberry Icebox Cake

Strawberry topping of cake Icebox cakes are made from a variety of cookies and cream that, when refrigerated, meld into a cake-like texture. This cake is simply layers of graham crackers, whipped cream and strawberries.  A
drizzle of melted chocolate can increase the wow factor. 20141224_231218

The amount of ingredients depends on how tall you choose to build this dessert.  For a 9″x13″ cake pan, you’ll want to use 3 cups of whipping cream and 2 sleeves of graham crackers.  When stacking it 5Ingredients or 6 layers high, it takes about 4 cups whipping cream and 3 sleeves graham crackers.  A basket of strawberries is probably enough for the cake pan, but I used most of a double basket to build my tall cake.  The only other ingredients are a little powdered sugar and vanilla to make the cream sweet and some chocolate to melt and drizzle if you like.

The simplest way to core a strawberry while maintaining it’s shape is to insert a plastic straw from the point of the strawberry to the stem.  Then grasp the stem and pull to remove the core from the straw.

As you’re slicing the strawberries, select a couple of the prettiest ones to use as a garnish and save some bright end slices for the top layer.
Pretty strawberries

Using an electric mixer on high speed, whip 3 or 4 cups of heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form (keeps it’s shape).  Then add one-third to one-half cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon or so of vanilla and whip until combined.
Whipped Cream

Spread a small layer of whipped cream on the tray or bottom of pan to keep the graham crackers from sliding.  Then alternate layers of graham crackers, whipped cream and strawberries until they are as high as you like.
First layer    Graham Cracker on top

There are many ways to melt chocolate for drizzling, but by far the simplest way I know is using Candy Melts and disposable icing bags from Wilton (Amazon link at bottom of this page).Chocolate Melts

Just put as many or few disks as you like in an icing bag, microwave it 15 seconds at a time and massage the bag with your fingers until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Then snip a tiny opening at the tip with a pair of scissors and squeeze the bag as you wave it back and forth above the cake.
Icing Bag    Icing the Cake

Refrigerate at least eight hours and prepare yourself for the oohs and ahs you’ll get from your guests.

TIP:  This cake is extremely hard to slice neatly the first day (but still yummy).  If you make it two days ahead and keep in the fridge, it will be much more cake-like and easier to slice.

Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.

Printable recipe:  Strawberry Icebox Cake

Crudités Art & Roasted Red Pepper Dip


Absolutely simple yet so impressive!

You can see that I simply sliced some carrots, cucumber, radishes, celery and green onions, but instead of loading them on a platter around a bowl of dip, I arranged them into a picture.

You could use pretty much any type of veggie to create any scene you want.  One warning though: I had a terrible time getting my guests to eat any because they didn’t want to disturb the picture.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip 2For the dip, I served roasted red pepper dip.  So easy and yummy.  Finely chop 1/2 cup of almonds and one clove of garlic.  Add 1 cup of roasted red peppers from a jar, drained, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Whisk together and chill.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

There you have it … and very simple yet impressive tray of veggies and dip.

Crudites and dip

Printable recipe:  Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.

Baked Oatmeal

DoneThis is an amazing recipe for baked oatmeal.  Not only is it easy and delicious, but it is incredibly healthy (just don’t tell your family that part) with quinoa, steel cut oats, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and even protein powder.

Of course, we think of oatmeal as a breakfast food, but this recipe is so yummy you can top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a very tasty dessert.  For my brunch I served it with Slow Cooker Applesauce, Greek yogurt, nuts and pomegranate seeds.

There are twelve ingredients, but please don’t let that dissuade you.  It’s still quite simple to prepare.  And this recipe makes 18 servings (or cut in half and use a smaller baking dish).

1.  Rinse the quinoa and steel cut oats (1 cup each) until the water runs clear.  Drain well.

TIP:  Use the right tool for the job.  I grabbed my go-to colander (the green one) but the holes were too big and the first splash of water sent quinoa and oats racing down the drain.

2.  Prepare the fruit:  3 or 4 bananas, sliced; 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen); and 1 cup raspberries (frozen might be fine, but I prefer fresh ones because they are plumper and hold their shape better.)

3.  Layer half the fruit in a large baking dish prepared with cooking spray.
Layer of fruit

4. Cover with the quinoa and oats.
Layer of grain

5.  Layer the remaining fruit.
Layer of fruit 2

6.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 cups of your favorite milk (dairy, almond, soy, etc.), 4 eggs, 2 scoops of your favorite protein powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a dash of salt.

7.   Pour the liquid over the fruit and grain.
TIP:  To prevent the fruit from floating or migrating unevenly, pour the liquid very slowly from one corner of the dish.
pouring  Pouring 3

8.  Sprinkle half a cup of coconut flakes over the top.
Coconut added
TIP:  If you like, toast the coconut first in a 375 degree oven,
but watch it very carefully.  The first minute looks like no change is happening and suddenly it turns brown very quickly.
Coconut with large minutes

9.  Bake at 375 degrees until nicely browned and dry on top, about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.

10.  Let sit for one hour before serving — that’s the only hard part because it smells sooooo good!






IMPORTANT NOTE:  While quinoa is very healthy for us, many people have not embraced the texture.  If you and your family or guests are not quinoa fans, you may be happier preparing this recipe with just oatmeal and no quinoa.

Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.

Print recipe:  Baked Oatmeal Recipe

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Applesauce final

Talk about simple AND impressive.  I love this easy brunch recipe.  It takes only five minutes of work and adds so much to oatmeal, pork chops, a Thanksgiving dinner, oh, oh! and ice cream!! OOoohoohooo!  Excuse me for a minute.

Okay, I’m back.  Yes, definitely tops ice cream well.

Most any type of apple can be used for applesauce.  I used Braeburn this time; Pink Lady last time.  Equally yummy.  Or you can try a mix of apples to find your perfect flavor combination.

And lookie, lookie!  I finally peeled an apple in one strip without it breaking!  Woo hoo!
Applesauce peel

Peel and core four apples and cut each apple into four pieces.

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker — apples, ¼ cup packed brown sugar (or 3 tablespoons granulated sugar), ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ cup water.  (You may want to add less sugar, but don’t ask me to.)
Applesauce ingredients  Applesauce combined ingredients

Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on high until tender, about an hour and a half.
Applesauce in crock pot

Use a potato masher or whisk for chunky applesauce or puree for a smoother texture.

Mmm MMM! Enjoy.

Applesauce final

For a print-friendly version:  Slow Cooker Applesauce Recipe


Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

 Bacon dates “Life is too short
not to order the
bacon dessert.”
– George Takei

You’ll never go wrong serving bacon at a brunch, but this appetizer is my absolute favorite bacon recipe.  It’s the perfect blend of
savory/sweet, crispy/chewy and creamy/crunchy with bacon, cream cheese, almonds and dates in every bite.

  1. You’ll save time by getting pitted dates (“pitted” means the pits have already been removed), but in case they aren’t available, no worries.  It’s actually quite simple to remove the pits.  Start by removing the hard, round tip if still attached.  Slice the date from end to end and open it carefully.  Discard the pit.
    20150117_123230-1-1     20150117_122328-1
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Coat baking dish with cooking spray.
  4. Spread a dollop of cream cheese inside the date.
  5. Put an almond in the center and close the date around it.
  6. Roll up the stuffed date in a half or third of a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
  7. Arrange wrapped dates seam side down and a half-inch apart in a shallow baking dish.
    20150117_123106-1    20150117_125054-1-1
  8. Bake until bacon is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Drain on a paper towel or parchment paper and then transfer to serving platter.


Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.

Printable version: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

Pomegranate Juice


True confession:  I have a long history of a passive-aggressive relationship with fruit.  I get it with the best of intentions to eat it because I know it’s good for me.   I buy different types of fruit that I’ve never tried before in hopes of finding one I will actually enjoy.  But more often than not, it sits on my counter neglected to the point of having to be tossed onto the compost heap, leaving me feeling guilty and ashamed.  All I can say is it’s on a long list of things to discuss with a therapist.

So true to this pattern, I bought my first pomegranate a couple of weeks ago.  Day after day I would think about eating it.  It’s the thought that counts, right?  Today I realized that if I didn’t fix it soon, it would no longer be edible, so I got on the internet and watched several YouTube videos on how to deseed and juice a pomegranate. Then miraculously, I got myself into the kitchen and actually tried it myself.

OMG!!!!  So yummy.  So easy.  So quick.
How could I have waited so long to discover this wonderful fruit?!

To my great chagrin, the three produce departments I called today all told me that pomegranate season is over and they will not be carrying any more until the fall.   Boo hoo!  (and yes, I realize what a charmed life I have if this is my worst problem)   According to Wikipedia, pomegranate season is from September through February, so I’ll keep checking with other markets to hopefully find some pomegranates to use for my Valentine’s brunch in February.

I only took this one picture today of the glass of juice I made along with a few seeds I left to snack on. When I am able to get more pomegranates, I will take pictures and update this post to include my step-by-step process.  In the meantime, here’s one of the YouTube videos I found helpful:

Moral of the story:  Carpe frutus! Seize the fruit!

Enjoy this along with many of the easy brunch recipes to come.

Blanched Asparagus


I was shocked to discover how SIMPLE it is to prepare asparagus.  Seriously, it’s so SIMPLE I feel a little silly posting about it, but hey, maybe some of you don’t know either.

1.  Trim asparagus.   Some people bend the spears until they naturally snap.  I just slice them to the same length to fit my serving platter.

2.  Rinse the asparagus well and add to boiling water.

3.  For thin spears, boil only a minute or two.  Medium or thick spears may take two or three minutes, but do not overcook.

4.  Remove asparagus from boiling water and submerge it in cold or ice water to stop the cooking process.

5.  Drain and refrigerate until completely chilled.

It’s that SIMPLE.  For a printable version, click Blanched Asparagus Recipe.