Vanilla Paste, Seriously?

What in the hell is vanilla paste?  Okay, so I can imagine what it is but where does one buy vanilla paste?  Rather than trying to search all of Santa Barbara for this foreign, unrecognizable ingredient (have I mentioned I’m extremely lazy and slightly dramatic?), I decided just to use 4 vanilla beans.

I went into this so confidently.  Huge mistake.  Huge!  Paul and I hosted a Saturday morning brunch for a few of our friends and their kids, so I chose two “easy” recipes that both children and adults would like.

In truth, the dishes were very easy to make, simple with simple ingredients.  But vanilla paste???  I’ve watched plenty of cooking shows where the chef/baker cuts open a vanilla bean and ever-so-gently slides the “guts” of the bean right into his/her concoction.  Liars!

Yeah, that didn’t quite happen.   I cut open the very thin beans and scraped the insides out quite messily and clumsily.  In other words, I would’ve been fired on the Cooking Channel.

Okay, back to the recipes… Both are very easy and perfect choices if you’re hosting a brunch.  I wouldn’t choose these recipes for a pot luck brunch that I’m attending because both should be served immediately.  However if you’re hosting, these are perfect because they can be made ahead of time; allowing you time to rest and relax, or scramble to make the table/setting presentable.

Side notes:

  1.  I doubled the topping for the French toast.  At first I thought that a baguette would not work for this recipe.  When making French toast, why wouldn’t one use brioche?  Turns out, the baguettes held up beautifully to the heaviness of the topping.  But doubling the topping is necessary (in my sweet-tooth expertise).  When prepping and baking this treat, the top portion of the baguettes stay slightly hard and crunchy.  Once drenched and redrenched in the maple topping, the baguettes are strong enough to handle it all.  The brunch crew agreed that the contrast of crunchy and soggy was delightful.  The syrupy, maple flavored, brown sugar, buttery loveliness softens the bake to perfection.
  2. When making a dish as powerful as a baked French toast, use really good maple syrup.  I mean, REALLY GOOD maple syrup.  Thank you Klou!
  3. The savory, breakfast casserole was an excellent and quite substantial dish to balance the very sweet French toast.  I used two additional eggs (with a touch more milk, Sriracha sauce, salt and pepper) and a bag of spinach in order to boost the veggie/healthiness of the dish.  The dish also calls for a 9″ pan; I understood that to mean a 9×13″ pan.  You’ll need the space.
  4. Enjoy!  Flavors and amounts were perfect for 10 adults plus children.

Easiest Overnight French Toast Bake (recipe care of

Baked French Toast.jpg

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

Maple Glaze:  1/4 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed), 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or more, to taste)

Maple Syrup.jpg

DIRECTIONS:  Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Place bread slices evenly into the baking dish.  In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bread mixture into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and maple syrup until well combined and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.


Cheesy Breakfast Casserole (recipe care of

Breakfast Casserole.jpg

INGREDIENTS:  2 small russet potatoes (diced), 4 large eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional), Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 Italian sausage links, casing removed, 1 red bell pepper (diced), 1 green bell pepper (diced), 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (divided), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.  Place potatoes and 1/4 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and place into microwave for 4-5 minutes, or until tender; drain well and set aside.  In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and hot sauce; season with salt and pepper, to taste; set aside.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat. Stir in bell peppers and potatoes until tender, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese until well combined.  Place sausage mixture evenly into the baking dish. Pour egg mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Place into oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the eggs are firm.  Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.


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