Simple Baguette French Toast

I love a good baguette.

Last summer I got into a really bad habit of buying a baguette several times a week because there happened to be an awesome bakery located right next to the pottery studio where I was taking classes.

(And yes. I DO realize this sentence makes me sound like a movie starring Diane Keaton.)

While my favorite way to eat baguettes is really just ripped right off with my hand, perhaps with a bit of soft butter and salt, I do also love when a day-old baguette can be turned into something lovely.

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Pomegranate Rose Champagne Cocktails

Here's what you need to do:

Get a bottle of champagne. A decent one! Or at least some good dry sparkling wine.

Get a pomegranate, too.


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Life Lately, on Instagram

Life lately has been all about travel. With trips to Atlanta, Miami, and Nicaragua all in the past few weeks (and upcoming trips to Greece and Italy!), it's been a bit crazy, but in the most wonderful of ways. My surf trip to Nicaragua was probably one of my most favorite experiences from this past year and can't wait to share that full story (and more!) in my new revamped travel section.

You'll have to wait a bit for that, but for now these are a few of my current favorites captures!


L to R, Top to Bottom:
Fresh ceviche, salsa and guacamole on a catamaran in San Juan del Sur during my surf trip, Nicaragua; Surfboards at CHICABRAVA--a super cool all-women's surf retreat in Nicaragua; breakfast of eggs, sweet plantains, and gallo pinto in the Nicaraguan jungle (again, at the awesomeness that is CHICABRAVA!); room service breakfast at the Surfcomber Hotel in South Beach; Ready for a night out in Miami; Gorgeous art in the lobby at the Surfcomber Hotel; the cafeteria at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta; mojitos in South beach; a night out in NYC.

Follow me on Instagram: @AlwaysAlejandra
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Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread

Today is officially the first day of Fall, and while I admit that I have mixed feelings about this since summer is my one true love, there are a few things I appreciate about the new season.

Chief among those is the fact that cooler days are wonderful for baking cozy and decadent desserts like this Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread.

A dense, moist banana bread topped with a shower of chopped pecans and plenty of dulce de leche caramel drizzled and swirled throughout seems like a nice way to start out this new season.

The basic bread is just as simple as any other banana bread: you mash and stir, but then you get a little wild with the toppings.

Chopped pecans--which I recommend actually chopping by hand for the best texture--form a gorgeous crust on the top of the bread. I prefer this to baking them into the batter because then you get that contrast of soft cake and crunchy nuts on top.

And then there is the dulce de leche, which is the best part. You can make it homemade if you prefer, but I actually just used a jarred one I got at the grocery store (it's usually near the condensed milk and other baking supplies). The trick here is to layer it into the cake. You want some mixed into the batter, then some swirled in on top. Then a bit drizzled on with the pecans just before baking, and then...when it comes out of the oven?

That's when you go wild.

Drizzle it on all over. Let it drip and ooze down the sides. Get messy with it!

(You can even add a bit more to each slice as you serve it.)

 This isn't an austere, breakfast-like banana bread. This is rich, gooey, decadent, go-to-town-and-enjoy-it kind of banana bread.

(Which, does NOT mean that you can't have it for breakfast, mind you!)

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Loved this recipe? Here are a few other banana bread recipes you might like:


And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

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Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf (about 8 servings)

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for garnish
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped


Directions 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a 4x8” loaf pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl or the base of a mixer, beat together the bananas, sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of the dulce de leche (don’t use all of it!). Add the flour, baking soda, an salt, and stir just until evenly combined.

Pour into your prepared baking dish, and drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the remaining dulce de leche. Add the pecans and press in slightly with your hands, then drizzle on another 1/4 cup of dulce de leche (again…don’t use it all!)

Bake about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from loaf pan and let cool completely. Drizzle with all the remaining dulce de leche just before serving.

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Chipotle Red Pepper Potato Salad

Last night, something magical happened in our building. All of our neighbors came together to celebrate the end of summer in a gorgeous evening garden party under twinkling lights. There was an incredible live band, children running around the garden, plenty of wine, laughter, and (of course!) a spectacular buffet of food contributed by each of the building residents.

It was an awesome night, and I kept marveling over the fact that it was happening in our very own building.

My contribution to the festivities was a giant bowl of this spicy Chipotle Red Pepper Potato Salad. Made with roasted red potatoes and tossed in a creamy homemade dressing of roasted red peppers and my favorite Chipotle TABASCO, it was a welcome accompaniment to the grilled hot dogs, burgers, and other classic party foods.

This is one of those great party salads that works well all year long. It's perfect for tailgating celebrations in the fall, game-day parties in the winter, summer barbecues, and even the holidays (I love this along with Thanksgiving turkey!).

When cooking for a crowd, I like to keep things as simple as possible, so this one uses a few of my favorite party cheats:

The potatoes are left unpeeled for extra flavor and to save time. They're roasted until crisp, then tossed in a simple, but flavorful dressing, that's made entirely in a blender.

You can make the salad right before serving or even a day or two in advance; it's one of those dishes that actually gets a little better the longer it sits.

And much of the flavor comes from Chipotle TABASCO, which is smokey and spicy and adds a great blast of flavor without the need for multiple herbs or seasonings. I love how it kind of knocks out a bunch of ingredients in a single flavorful tablespoon.

It's an easy one, but you'll be amazed by how good it is.

Remember that this potato salad is definitely meant to be shared, so gather up some of your favorite people, and enjoy it in good company.


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by TABASCO. Over the next few months, I will be sharing a series of recipes inspired by some of my favorite TABASCO sauces. All recipes and opinions are strictly my own. Thank you for supporting great brands like TABASCO that make it possible for me to create new content for you!



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Loved this recipe? Here are a few other party recipes featuring potatoes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading!


Chipotle Red Pepper Potato Salad
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
5 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds roasted red peppers, drained (you can get these in jars in the canned food aisle or from the deli/antipasti section near the loose olives and pickles in well-stocked grocery or gourmet stores.)
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Chipotle TABASCO sauce
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk OR plain yogurt
2 tablespoons Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced


Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F

Toss the cut potatoes with generous amounts of olive oil and kosher salt. Arrange on two baking sheets and roast 20-30 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes are roasting, combine the red peppers, garlic, Chipotle Tabasco, coconut milk, and paprika in a blender, and puree until smooth.

Pour dressing into a large bowl, and add the roasted potatoes and cilantro. Toss well to combine, and taste to adjust seasoning.

Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or up to overnight, before serving.
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Orange Blossom Mimosas

How do you feel about mimosas? I confess that while I love the idea of them (boozy brunches! day drinking!), in reality, I'm rarely a fan.

I usually find that they're WAY too sweet, never served cold enough, and made with the cheapest possible sparkling wine, making for inevitable headaches later on in the afternoon.

I generally avoid them, but a few weeks ago, I was introduced to a spectacular twist on the classic mimosa that totally changed my mind forever about them.

If you have felt the same in the past, you'll probably love these Orange Blossom Mimosas just as much as I do! Made with fresh orange and lemon juice, and a few drops of orange blossom water, they're a light and sophisticated take on a regular ol' mimosa.

We were served something similar at a fancy jazz brunch I went to with friends a few weeks ago, and loved the tart, slightly floral flavor. You want to pour heavy on the bubbles, so that the orange is really the accent--not the main event.

Give these a try at your next brunch (or whatever!) party, and let me know what you think!

Cheers!

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Loved this recipe? Here are a few other brunch recipes you might like:


And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading!



 

Orange Blossom Mimosas
Makes 1 mimosa, multiply as necessary

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces chilled fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
Chilled dry champagne

Directions
Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and orange blossom water at the bottom of a champagne flute. Top with champagne until it reaches nearly the top of the glass. Serve immediately.

Tip: if making these for a crowd, mix up a the juices and orange blossom water first and chill, then pour into individual glasses and top with champagne as necessary. Keep everything very cold and only open the champagne right before serving.


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Ginger Peach Moscow Mules

I absolutely adore summer, and though we may be approaching the end of it for the year, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye just yet.

Hence this perfectly timed Ginger Peach Moscow Mule cocktail!
Juicy and ripe peaches meet the warm Fall spiciness of ginger in this perfect end-of-summer cocktail. It's the best parts of summer and fall combined into an easy and crowd-pleasing drink.

I can honestly think of no better drink to serve during your Labor Day celebrations.
As you may know, I partnered with Smirnoff this summer to share a series of fun and easy vodka punch recipes for your summer parties. As we wind things down and start preparing for Labor Day and the arrival of Fall, I thought I'd mix things up with a summery twist on a classic Moscow Mule cocktail.

Have you ever had an original Moscow Mule?
I absolutely love them. I tried them for the first time about 10 years ago at a fancy bar located around the corner from my first apartment after college. I remember loving that mix of spicy ginger beer and cool, crisp vodka.

This fruity late-summer twist on that classic adds homemade peach puree and a hint of spicy fresh ginger. It's the perfect way to bid farewell to summer!
For more fun cocktail recipes and ideas, follow Smirnoff on Instagram and Facebook, and check out their fun party boards on Pinterest!


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Smirnoff for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.
Please remember to always drink responsibly!

Ginger Peach Moscow Mules
Serves 4

Ingredients
3 large ripe peaches
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 ounces Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka
Ice for serving
2 cups ginger beer soda (be sure to look for ginger beer, not ginger ale)
Lime or lemon wedges, for garnish


Directions
Make the puree: Cut the peaches in half and remove pit (do not peel). Slice the peaches, reserving four slices for garnish. Combine the rest of the peach slices in a blender with the peeled ginger root, lemon juice, and water. Puree until very smooth then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding any solids and keeping only the smooth puree.

To make the cocktail, combine 1 cup of the puree with the vodka in a large shaker filled with ice and shake until frosty. Divide the peach and Smirnoff vodka mixture evenly into four Moscow Mule mugs or cocktail glasses filled with ice.

Pour 1/2 cup ginger beer into each mug. Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge and a fresh peach slice.

Serve immediately.
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