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Eating Well: Egg bake, caramel French toast perfect brunch partners

A brunch menu is easy to prepare as long as you don't get too wrapped up in fancy.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to come with a game plan for my granddaughter's fifth birthday party which was held later in the morning for the adult guests, followed by a trip to Yunker Farm by the children.

Given the timing of everything, it was necessary to come up with a quick and easy plan that everyone would enjoy with minimal fussing.

Consequently, I dug into my recipe file coming up with my favorite egg bake that is versatile and can be prepared with any mix of ingredients - instead of ham, use sausage or bacon, and whatever vegetables or cheese you like.

I like this particular one because it calls for hash browns instead of bread slices, making it one that does not need to hang out in the fridge all night, instead, can be whipped together in five minutes flat the morning of, if you have all the ingredients in their neat little containers all ready to do.

The recipe calls for green pepper and onions, but I also eliminated this step by purchasing the hash browns with the vegetables already in them.

As for the ham, I normally cut up my own, but this time purchased a container of the already diced, also adding to the easy factor.

Consequently, all that was required was placing everything in the bowl, mixing it together, pouring it into the baking dish and placing it in the oven. I didn't put the cheese on the top right away. I let the dish bake for about a half an hour before I sprinkled the cheese generously over the top.

The Caramel French Toast was a new recipe that had just caught my eye and I thought it would be the perfect partner for the egg bake. Luckily, I was right. I was a little nervous about cooking the caramel mixture, worried that it would either be sugary or way overcooked.

I was wrong on both counts; it ended up creamy and just the right texture, with my oldest son, who tasted it first, comparing it to caramel rolls.

We cut each of the bread slices in half, so the pan made twelve nice sized servings.

I heated up syrup to pour over the top of it, but it was obvious once the French toast came out of the baking dish, no syrup was required or needed. I did put a dollop of softened butter on the top of mine, however.

The end result, delicious and definitely a recipe I will be preparing often.

Until next week, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!!

Hash Brown and Ham Egg Bake

12 eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

16 oz. bag hash browns, thawed

2 cups of diced ham

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cups grated cheese

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Beat together the eggs and milk. Mix in the remaining ingredients reserving about a half a cup of cheese to spread on the top. Pour into greased 9x13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Caramel French Toast

1 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. light colored corn syrup

½ cup butter, no substitute

12 slices bread with crust

6 large eggs, beaten

½ cup half and half or whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. salt

Mix sugar, butter and corn syrup in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until melted together well and thickened, stirring constantly. Pour syrup mixture into greased (cooking spray) 13x9 inch baking dish. Layer six slices of bread on top of syrup mixture. Then top with the remaining six slices. Combine eggs, half-and-half, vanilla and salt, mixing until well blended. Pour egg mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned.