April is a bit of a painful month for me. I am chomping at the bit for summer fruits to come in season. I love to make huge fruit salads, throw the bowl in the refrigerator and then the family eats off it for the next day or two. The downside is that everyone seems to pick out their favorites and, eventually, I'm left munching on whatever they all don't want.
Sometimes the problem isn't what's in the fruit salad, but that the fruit just isn't quite ready. That's kind of how I feel about fruit in April. It's just not there yet - and while ripe fresh fruit is better than candy to me any day (chocolate is excluded from this sweeping generality), sometimes it needs a little boost. We try to avoid copious amounts of refined sugar in our house (probably hard to tell from some of the recipes I've shared here), and I have found that honey, lime juice and mint blend together with the fruit without being too overpowering.
So now that we've hit the healthy side of things, how about pairing it with an incredibly decadent baked French toast? Baked Crème Brulee French Toast is great not only because it is something you can prepare the night before, but it is Oh. My. So. Good. Make a side of sausage or bacon, serve fresh coffee, tea, mimosas with these recipes and you're good to go for a lovely brunch - while you can still sit outside in the cool mornings and enjoy it.
Baked Crème Brulee French Toast – Serves 6
(Prepare day before serving)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (seriously, buy the real stuff)
1 loaf soft Italian Bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Melt butter with brown sugar and maple syrup in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour into a 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Cut six 1-inch thick slices from the center of the bread, reserving the ends for another use. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the baking dish over the caramel sauce.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, vanilla and Grand Marnier until well blended. Pour evenly over the bread slices. Cover and chill 8 hours or up to one day.
Bring bread mixture to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered until the bread puffs and the edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately. When serving, flip the bread over on the serving plate so the caramel is on top.
Fruit Salad with Honey/Lime/Mint Dressing
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
Toss with whatever fruit you like, but here is a suggested combination:
1/2 cantaloupe cut in pieces or scooped out with a melon baller
1/2 honeydew melon, prepared like cantaloupe
1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
1 small container blueberries
2 cups seedless grapes
2-3 kiwi fruit
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lori Rossi began collecting recipes at age 14, but her real love affair with cooking started after picking up a December 1989 Bon Appetit magazine. Today, she shares her love of the kitchen with her two kids, Nathan, 11, and Nicole, 8. If you'd like to get in touch with Lori with a question or idea, e-mail her at email@example.com.