Island Cooking: Let’s join the brunch bunch

I love brunch and I have it at my house almost every weekend because I don’t get up in time for an early breakfast – it’s usually mid-morning or so before I can get my act together to make something and on the weekends it’s the one time that I can actually enjoy having breakfast mixed in with lunch.

I’ve never been just an eggs kind of person so it’s a nice time to experiment with different food and flavors and since I’ve always preferred the heartier breakfast items such as waffles, pancakes, sausage, and biscuits-and-gravy. I guess you could definitely say I like the heavy things.

By eating brunch I can kind of mix it up and try to add a few healthier aspects to the meal – then I don’t feel so guilty having that second waffle because if I top it off with blueberries then it’s – voila! – I’ve had my serving of fruit!

Brunch can be either Saturday or Sunday and sometimes even both days. Sometimes it’s just me and the kids and other days people join in so you never know. But no matter what, I just love brunch and the possibilities.

I’ve been on a waffle-making kick again lately but it hasn’t been very successful because my old single Belgian waffle-maker finally stopped heating and I had to replace it. So I ordered a new one that I thought would be great and it cooks four waffles at one time and has interchangeable plates – two that are a griddle and two that are a grill. And the waffle maker flips completely open so you have two sides to cook on. Anyway, the waffle part just does not work. I have spent hours trying to make waffles on it but I haven’t quite really succeeded. But I’m not about to give up, so I’ll be giving it a go again for dinner sometime soon, and if it fails and if you’re driving by my house keep your windows up because I don’t want anyone hurt by the waffle iron that will be flying out of my front door.

But I actually have a couple of really great back-up recipes for this week that are actually lighter and healthier and really delicious that you should try.

So it’s probably a blessing in disguise that the waffle maker does not work since I said I was going to be eating healthier – so with it gone I can stop having these visions in my head of chicken and waffles, waffles topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce, sausage-stuffed waffles … At least for a while until I break down and get another waffle iron.

But first things first, a nice cocktail to start off the new year right and you can enjoy it beforehand or with your brunch this weekend and you get your fruit juice too!

Traditional Greyhound Cocktail

2 oz. vodka

4 oz. grapefruit juice

Lemon or lime wedge to garnish

Place ice cubes in a glass. Add vodka, grapefruit juice and stir well. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge and enjoy!

Breakfast Bruchetta (Lighter version)

You can definitely use real eggs in this recipe and add your own touches.

2 Tbsp. light butter spread

One French baguette

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 cup fat-free egg substitute

1 plum tomato, diced

1/4 cup fresh basil

Optional kosher salt and ground pepper

Heat oven to 450. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Place butter in a small microwave bowl. Cover and microwave until melted about 15 to 20 seconds. Set aside.

Using a serrated knife, slice your baguette into 16 half-inch thick pieces discarding the ends and place the slices on the baking sheet.

Brush each slice of bread with the melted butter and sprinkle with the garlic powder. Bake until warm and crispy, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, spray skillet with nonstick spray and bring the pan to medium high heat. Add the egg substitute and scramble until mostly cooked, about 3 minutes. Add tomato and basil and finish cooking, about one minute.

Distribute the egg mixture evenly on the slices of toasted bread and add salt and pepper if you want – then enjoy!

Eggs Italiano

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium zucchini, diced

3 to 4 plum tomatoes, diced

3 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

8 large eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

4 whole wheat English muffins, split and toasted

2 Tbsp. fresh grated parmesan cheese

In a pot or straight sided skillet, put 2 inches of water and bring to a boil and add white vinegar.

Meanwhile, heat your oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Stir in the zucchini and tomatoes and cook stirring occasionally until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of the basil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Reduce the boiling water to a gentle simmer (water should be steaming and small bubbles should be coming up from the bottom of the pan) Crack each egg into a small bowl and slip them one at a time into the simmering water do not break the yolks. Cook for 4 minutes for soft set, 5 minutes for medium and 8 minutes for hard set. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to a clean kitchen towel to drain.

Top each muffin half with the veggie mixture, an egg and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and touch of basil and enjoy!

Send me all your favorite brunch recipes at [email protected]

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Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.