Pecan Pie French Toast Bake


Thank you to Advocate Magazine for featuring me in the December Magazine and Kathy Tran for the awesome photo shoot!!!!  

PECAN PIE FRENCH TOAST BAKE……Yessss!!!  So after Thanksgiving, I thought I was done with pies for a little while.  I was ready to move on to Christmas cookies, but Pecan Pie French Toast Bake is the answer that we all need for all of our holiday brunches…I promise you will fall in love!  

French toast can be made with a variety of different breads, but my go to is challah bread.  This eggy, soft and rich bread, makes the most fluffy french toast that is sure to impress all of your guests.  



Pecan Pie French Toast Bake
Serves 10
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French Toast
  1. 1 Loaf Challah Bread, cut into 1" cubes
  2. 8 large Eggs
  3. 2 cups Milk
  4. 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  5. 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  6. 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  7. 3 Cups Pecans
Pecan Pie Filling
  1. 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  2. 1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  3. 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  4. 1/3 Cup Butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the pecan pie filling and set aside
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla, and pecans
  4. Add the chopped bread into a deep casserole dish (9x13) and pour the egg mixture over to bread to cover completely
  5. Gently stir bread to get each piece coated in the egg mixture
  6. Evenly pour the pecan pie filling on top of the bread mixture
  7. Bake fore 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked throughout.
  8. Serve warm with maple syrup and fresh whipped cream!
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Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake

IMG_2222I cannot believe it is almost November.  These past few months have flown by and I am having a hard time keeping up.  The weather is finally cooling down here in Texas so I am getting excited and feeling the holiday spirit.   We have been in full remodel mode over at my house and so I am trying to keep things as normal as possible and breakfast and snacks are our gathering time.  Before everyone runs out the door for school and when the kids get home and we can all sit and chat before the rest of the day takes over.  This busy season, cool weather and hungry kids calls for this scrumptious Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake.  We are a big banana bread family, but I knew we needed to change things up and this is pulling through as a favorite!  

Weather you just grabbed extra apples at the grocery store or you have ventured out to an apple orchard and have a lot of apples to work with, this recipe is sure to win some points with your family. Enjoy! 


Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake
Serves 15
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Cake Batter
  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  7. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  8. 1 cup sour cream
  9. 3 eggs
  10. 2 tsp vanilla extract
Apple Topping
  1. 2 medium gala apples, peeled and finely diced
  2. 1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
Crumb Topping
  1. 1 cup all purpose flour
  2. 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1/4 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan
  5. Cut apples into 1" pieces and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, toss until fully coated
  6. Sprinkle the apples on top of the cake batter to cover completely
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and melted butter to make the crumb topping
  8. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the apples to fully cover
  9. Bake cake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and knife comes out clean
  10. Serve warm and store in air tight container
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Naked Cakes….it’s the only way to celebrate

As the old saying goes “what’s on the inside counts” truly applies for a dessert trends that I am loving and adding to all of my celebrations.

As a family of five, a lot of cousins, and family around, our celebrations are always big. There is no such thing as a small intimate gathering and it truly makes for lots of fun! We gather to catch up on life, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and everything in between. Each gathering consists of a table full of food and usually the same amount of dessert to end the night and one of my favorite desserts that is added to our table is a naked cake.

Sounds a little silly, what is a naked cake? Isn’t the best part of cake the thick icing layered on the outside? Trust me…try it and you will be hooked.

In the bakery world, this method of icing was originally called a crumb coat. It was just enough icing to seal all the crumbs of the cake before putting your final coat of icing on for a smooth and clean finish. Now it is called “the naked cake”. It is a rustic, minimalist and barely there look that is found in kitchens for homemade birthday cakes as well as fancy bakeries for tiered wedding cakes. This is not only about the look, the biggest benefit to creating a naked cake is letting the inside shine through. The cake and filling are equally as important as the icing and this allows you to enjoy the true flavors without being over powered by icing that is to thick and sweet. The simplicity of this cake is my second reason for loving it so much. This relieves the stress of icing a perfectly smooth cake that needs to be over decorated. Layer your cakes, spread a thin coat of icing and garnish with fresh flowers and you will have the most beautiful centerpiece for your table.



My favorite naked cake:

Cake: Vanilla Bean
Layer 1: Sweet Cream Icing and fresh strawberries
Layer 2: Fresh made lemon curd
Icing: Sweet Cream
Decoration: Fresh flowers and sparklerIMG_9895 IMG_9872

Vanilla Bean Cake
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  1. 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
  2. 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  3. 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Baking Powder
  4. 3/4 tsp Salt
  5. 12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, Cold and Cubed
  6. 5 Egg Whites
  7. 1 Whole Egg
  8. 1 Cup Milk, Whole
  9. 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare 3-8 inch cake pans with non stick spray and parchment paper lining the bottom of the pans
  2. In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt
  3. On low speed, slowly add cold cubed butter to the flour mixture until it is fully combined and powder like
  4. In a small bowl, combine egg whites, whole egg, milk and vanilla bean paste; whisk until fully combined
  5. Slowly add in egg mixture to the flour until smooth and no lumps
  6. Mix on high speed for 4 minutes until thick and creamy
  7. Pour batter equally into three prepared cake pans and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cake springs back when you touch it.
  8. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans
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Citrus Simple Syrup
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  1. Citrus Simple Syrup
  2. 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  3. 1 Cup Water
  4. Peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  1. In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients, stir and bring to a boil
  2. Boil for 5 minutes until all sugar is dissolved
  3. Allow the citrus peel to infuse in syrup until cooled
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Lemon Curd
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  1. 1 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  2. Zest of 5 Lemons
  3. 3/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  4. 5 Eggs
  5. 1 1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, Cubed
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until fully combined
  2. Place the bowl over the sauce pan of boiling water
  3. Cook on low-medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon
  4. Once sugar and butter are melted, continue to stir until the curd is thick and coats the back of the wooden spoon
  5. Strain the curd into a new bowl and place plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming
  6. Allow the curd to cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to thicken and set completely before using
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Sweet Cream Icing
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  1. 2 Cups Unsalted Butter
  2. 1 Cup Vegetable Shortening
  3. 8 Cups Powdered Sugar
  4. 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl with paddle attachment combine butter, shortening and vanilla extract
  2. Cream together until smooth
  3. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix on low until combined
  4. Speed up the mixer to medium-high until icing is thick and smooth
  5. Store in airtight container until ready to use or store in the refrigerator
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Panzanella…the salad of summer!


Whatever your reason may be; fresh heirloom tomatoes growing in your garden, day old bread that needs to be toasted and enjoyed or just because the beautiful summer weather calls for fresh, crisp and simplicity, Panzanella Salad is a must this season. This classic Italian Bread Salad is full of juicy tomatoes, an assortment of vegetables, toasted or grilled bread and a light vinaigrette.

The ingredients are really what is important in this salad.  I love the assorted colors of heirloom tomatoes for a beautiful presentation. A hearty sour dough bread with a crispy crust, brushed with olive oil and grilled for the perfect crunch. Once you have chosen those two ingredients you can add some of your favorite vegetables. Bell peppers, cucumbers and red onions are enjoyed in a classic panzanella salad but layering in sweet grilled peaches, prosciutto and your favorite cheese will take this salad to the next level. Burrata, fresh shaved parmesan or cubed feta are three of my favorite cheese options that go well with the mediterranean flavors.

One of the best things about this salad, it can be made in advance! Mix all the ingredients together, toss in the vinaigrette and let the salad rest. Panzanella is best when the bread has time to soak up the juice of the tomatoes, vegetables and the flavors of the dressing.IMG_8817IMG_8775

Panzanella Salad
Yields 4
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  1. 4 cups Heirloom Tomatoes, wedges
  2. 2 cups Bell Peppers ( I like assorted red, yellow and orange), chopped
  3. 2 cups Cucumbers, sliced
  4. 1/4 cup Red Onion, sliced
  5. 5 cups Bread, Grilled and Cubed
  6. 1/4 Cup Basil
  7. 8 ounces Burrata
  8. 2 Grilled Peaches,wedges (optional)
  9. 4 ounces prosciutto (optional)
Dijon Vinaigrette
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tsp dijon mustard
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Slice the bread into thick pieces, brush with olive oil, and grill the bread slices until crispy
  2. Once the bread is cooled, cut into one inch cubes
  3. Cut the tomatoes into wedges, bell peppers and cucumbers into one inch pieces and slice the onions
  4. Place tomatoes and vegetables into a large bowl and add the grilled bread
  5. Prepare the vinaigrette: Using mortar and pestle, press the garlic, salt and pepper until paste like, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pressed garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon, salt and pepper
  6. Toss the vinaigrette into the vegetable and bread mixture and toss until fully coated
  7. Allow the salad to sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the juices come together
  8. Transfer salad onto a large platter and top with burrata (or cheese of choice), fresh basil leaves and prosciutto(optional).
  9. Serve and enjoy!
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Spring Tea Scones & Tea Cookies


Its spring time, the flowers are blooming and it is the most wonderful time to be outside and entertaining. A tea party is low maintenance a but classy ways to gather for friendship, baby and wedding showers and even little girl birthday parties.

High tea is most common in the UK and is offered in very famous hotels with show stopping decor and over the top pastries, cookies and finger food. It might seem overwhelming to plan, but hosting a tea party can be as simple or detailed as you would like. Tables are covered in linens, your favorite china and topped with tiered stands filled with everything from scones and tea cookies to savory fair; tea sandwiches, dainty salads and quiche. Everything is finger food and the perfect bite to show off your inner lady.

Once you have picked out the decor and style of your party, start planning your menu. Strawberry lemon scones are one of my favorite items to put on the menu. These tender pastries adorned with fresh strawberries and a tangy lemon glaze are perfect to enjoy on its own, topped with a smear of butter and jelly or filled with fresh whipped cream and strawberries for a satisfying strawberry shortcake. Next on my menu is always a classic tea cookie. Petite, buttery and not to sweet, tea cookies will pair perfectly next to your tea cup and saucer. Changing the flavor of these is super simple and will add a special touch to your event.


Strawberry Lemon Scone
Yields 8
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  1. 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  2. 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  3. 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  4. 1/2 tsp Salt
  5. 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
  6. 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, Cubed
  7. 1 Egg
  8. 1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  9. 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  10. 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  11. 1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, Chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest
  3. With the paddle attachment, mix to combine
  4. Slowly add in the cold cubed butter and mix until a small crumb texture forms
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together one egg, heavy cream, sour cream and lemon juice
  6. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture
  7. Before it is fulling combined slowly mix in the chopped strawberries and mix until fully combined (do not over mix)
  8. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface (about 1” thick) and cut into 3” rounds
  9. Place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush heavy cream on the top of each scone
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden
  11. Once the scones are removed from the oven and have slightly cooled, drizzle *lemon glaze on each one
  12. Serve immediately or store in air tight container
  13. (Scones can be frozen to enjoy later)
Lemon Glaze
  1. 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  2. 2-3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  3. 1 tsp Lemon Zest garnish
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth
  5. Drizzle over scones and sprinkle lemon zest for garnish
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Honey Lavender Tea Cookie
Yields 18
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  1. 1 Cup Unsalted Butter
  2. 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  3. 3 Tbsp Honey
  4. 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  5. 2 Tsp Dried Lavender
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and honey
  3. Slowly add the flour and dried lavender to the butter mixture
  4. Slowly mix until combined
  5. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  6. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to approximately 1/2’” and cut into 2” squares
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown
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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_7777IMG_7761I have not always been a “cookie” girl…I preferred cake, ice-cream, brownies or really any other dessert.  To me, there were so many other interesting desserts that caught my attention until I married my husband.  He is a “cookie” guy :)  I swear, there can be the most gourmet and decadent desserts around and he will go for the classic chocolate chip cookie.  

I kind of get it now, I love a good cookie.  Now that we have kids and they LOVE cookies as well, I am always on the hunt for the best cookies in town.  They don’t have to be fancy, actually I prefer them to be classic flavors, just the best flavor.  Texture is a big thing for me as well…edges need to have a little crunch, center needs to be soft and chewy and they cannot be overly sweet.

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies filled with semisweet chocolate chips, chopped pecans, a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt on top is now one of my favorites!  After a few rounds of different oatmeal cookies, some plain and some with peanut butter, this was the winning combination.


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Yields 8
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  1. 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  2. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  3. 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  6. 1/2 tsp baking Soda
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  9. 1/2 tsp vanilla Extract
  10. 1 1/2 cups oats
  11. 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  12. 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  13. sea salt (optional garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and oatmeal (set aside)
  3. In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth
  4. Add egg and vanilla extract into butter mixture and mix until fully combined
  5. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans
  7. Scoop dough into 3 ounce balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet
  8. Gently press the top of the dough ball down (just to take the dome away)
  9. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the top of each cookie (optional)
  10. Bake for 15-16 minutes, the edges will become golden brown and the centers will still be light in color
  11. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool
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Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Bundt Cake

IMG_7555Happy spring…It is hard to believe the spring season is already here! After a beautiful and fun filled week in San Diego with our girls and Oliver (still hard to believe we have three kids :) )for spring break and coming home to this gorgeous warm weather…I am in the mood for some new light and fresh recipes!  

While we were in California, we did all the kid friendly adventures but we also squeezed in some time to try out new restaurants and a few bakeries.  I love the flavors and simplicity of the food they serve.

This Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Bundt Cake is bringing me back to the California flavors while we get back into the groove at home.   



Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Bundt Cake
Yields 1
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  1. 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  2. 2 tsp Baking Powder
  3. 1 tsp Baking Soda
  4. 1/2 tsp Salt
  5. 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  6. 1 Cup Greek Yogurt
  7. 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  8. 3 Eggs
  9. 1 Large Lemon, zested (save the juice for the glaze)
  10. 2 tbsp Poppy Seeds
*Lemon Glaze
  1. 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  2. 2-3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, butter and flour bundt pan
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (set aside)
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, lemon zest and poppy seeds
  4. Alternate flour mixture and yogurt to wet ingredients until smooth and thick
  5. Spread cake batter into prepared bundt pan
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and cake springs back when you touch it
  7. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan
  8. While the cake is cooling, prepare the *Lemon Glaze
Lemon Glaze
  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and the desired consistancy
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the bundt cake
  3. Serve and Enjoy!
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Where to buy: Cute floral plates, fruit basket, Gold Flatwarebundt panInk Foods Signature

Must Have Kitchen Gadgets

IMG_6417Whether you are starting from scratch or expanding on your kitchen collections, the spring is always the perfect time to clean out and start fresh. In our home, the kitchen is our gathering place, from the moment we wake up to after school homework and finishing the night enjoying a meal with the family. This is a place that holds our family of five or a large group of thirty on a very regular basis. With the amount of entertaining that we do as a family our kitchen and all our gadgets get worn out pretty quick and honestly it might just be my excuse for a refresh! To clean out and start fresh with all new kitchen gadgets will inspire you to cook more. These five kitchen gadgets are my must haves that I use on a daily basis.

Microplane Zester/GraterIMG_6418
One of my all time favorite kitchen gadgets…I probably use it every day! The microplane zester/grater creates a fine grate to enhance flavor in your recipes and is best used on citrus, chocolate, hard cheese, fresh coconut, nutmeg and garlic. Top your favorite salad with finely grated cheese or a chocolate cake with a beautiful dusting of grated chocolate.

Ice Cream ScoopsIMG_6393
Obviously we all need an ice cream scoop for one of our favorite frozen treats, but I have a small collection of ice cream scoops for so many other things. A variety of sizes allows you to create the perfect scoop for everyday cooking such as cookies, cake balls, pancake batter, muffins and savory items like meatballs or crab cakes.

Smart Stick Blender & Food ProcessorIMG_6399
The size of our kitchen gadgets are very important. The bigger they are and the further they are stored away, the less we will use them. The smart stick blender is a great size and can be stored just about anywhere. I use mine for soups, sauces and really anything that needs to be pureed, but the best thing about this is the food processor attachment. There is no need to pull out your big food processor for every kitchen task you have. Use the Smart Stick Blender and Food Processor to chop nuts, blend homemade salad dressing, or make the perfect pesto.

Manual JuicerIMG_6387
Electric juicers are great when you are making large batches of fresh vegetable or fruit juice, but for a quick citrus juice a small hand held juicer will come in handy. There are several styles of manual juicers but the best ones squeeze the juice out and strain the seeds.

Silicone Baking MatsIMG_6401
If you have a love for baking and do it on a regular basis, silicone baking mats need to be your next purchase. I use parchment paper all the time, but there are so many reasons you will fall in love with these baking mats. Silicone mats are reusable, can be easily cleaned and I find they keep my baked goods from burning on the bottom as easily.

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