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Mother's Day brunch ideas

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Strawberry torte

Strawberries definitely bring thoughts of spring, and Mother’s Day is the perfect time to treat Mom with this light and refreshing strawberry torte. The filling is a typical fresh strawberry pie, but the crust includes ground almonds and is simply pressed into the spring-form pan.

Mother’s Day will be celebrated this coming Sunday, May 8. There is still time to plan a special way to say “Thank You” to her for all she has done for you. If you would like to prepare a special brunch, here are some brunch ideas for you. Each of them can be prepared the day before and do not require a lot of cooking on the special day.

Fresh Strawberry Tart

Strawberries definitely bring thoughts of spring, and Mother’s Day is the perfect time to treat Mom with this light and refreshing strawberry torte. The filling is a typical fresh strawberry pie, but the crust includes ground almonds and is simply pressed into the spring-form pan.

(Servings: 8 to 10)

Ingredients:

Almond Press-in Pastry (*recipe follows)

1 quart strawberries

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons each cornstarch and lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream

2 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

Dash of vanilla extract

2 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds

Almond Press-in Pastry Ingredients:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup ground blanched almonds (whirled in a blender until powder)

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup cold butter or margarine

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon each vanilla extract and almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. For pastry, mix flour with almonds and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Blend egg yolk with vanilla and almond extracts. With a fork, lightly blend egg mixture into flour mixture. With hands, form dough into a smooth flat ball. Press almond pastry on the bottom and half-way up the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Using a fork, pierce bottom and sides of pastry. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Remove and discard hulls from strawberries, reserving three with leaves to use for garnish. Place half of the strawberries in a medium saucepan and crush them with a fork. Mix in granulated sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened and translucent (about 10 minutes). Cool until lukewarm. Cut remaining strawberries into halves; fold them into cooked strawberry mixture. Spread filling into pastry shell and refrigerate until filling is set (1 to 2 hours). Cover if refrigerated any longer. Remove sides of pan. Whip cream with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until stiff. Spread or mound over strawberry filling; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Garnish with reserved berries with leaves. Cut in wedges to serve. Source: “Breakfasts & Brunches,” California Culinary Academy.

Spring Frittata

A frittata is a thick and sturdy Italian omelet that is full of vegetables, herbs, and cheese. An advantage of having a frittata for your brunch is that you can avoid last minute preparations by making it the day before, refrigerating it, and reheating it in the microwave when you are ready to eat. It can also be served at room temperature. It is delicious served with fresh fruit and a slice of crusty bread or quick bread.

(Servings: 4 to 5)

Ingredients:

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

2 small zucchini, thinly sliced

½ cup sliced red bell pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon minced garlic

8 large eggs

6 medium scallions, minced (both green and white parts)

1 to 2 handfuls minced parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup ricotta or feta

*Optional additions: steamed fresh peas, minced fresh herbs such as dill, basil, halved cherry tomatoes

Directions:

Place a 10-inch skillet with an oven-proof handle over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, wait about 10 seconds, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the zucchini and red pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Stir in the salt and garlic; cook for about 1 minute longer, and remove from the heat. Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a whisk. Add the sautéed vegetables, scallions and minced parsley. (You can also stir in the optional ingredients you may be using at this point.) Grind in some black pepper, crumble in the cheese and stir until blended. Clean and dry the skillet and return it to the stove over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the skillet is hot again, add the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, wait about 30 seconds, and swirl to coat the pan. Pour in the vegetable-egg mixture and let it cook undisturbed over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, or until the eggs are set on the bottom. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake about 15 minutes or until the frittata is firm in the center. Remove the pan from the oven and run a rubber spatula around the edge to loosen the frittata; slide or invert it onto a large round plate and serve hot or warm or at room temperature. At this point it can be covered and refrigerated if you are preparing it in advance to reheat later. Cut into wedges to serve. Source: “Molly Katzen’s Sunlight Café.”

Chicken Salad Pie

For a special treat for Mom, serve this Chicken Salad Pie. It, as well as the chicken salad, was one of the best sellers at Marie Halone’s Level Three Tea Room. The Tea Room was “the place” to go for an elegant lunch in downtown Billings in the 1970s and '80s. Marie was well known for her catering and teaching as well. The chicken salad can be served as a salad, but also baked in a pie. To save time, purchase shredded rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken breasts in the seasoned broth. You will lose some flavor in the chicken, but it is a trade-off for time and effort. The recipe is found in Marie Halone’s recipe book, “Level 3 & Me.” Along with a wonderful selection of her recipes, the book is an interesting read and also includes the story of how the Tea Room got its start.

(Serves: 8)

Ingredients:

1 (32 oz.) carton chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 celery stalks

1 carrot

1 medium onion

3 whole chicken breasts

1 cup of mayonnaise or more to taste

¼ cup lemon juice

1 cup red grapes, stemmed, cut in half

1½ cups celery chopped into medium slices

¾ cup chopped toasted slivered almonds

5 green onions, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 (8-inch) baked pie shell

Potato chips, crushed

Grated cheddar, Swiss, or Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:

To cook the chicken breasts, chop the 2 celery sticks, carrot and onion into large pieces and put them in a saucepan with the broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; add the chicken breasts. Add more chicken broth if the breasts are not completely covered. Cook for 1 hour; let them cool to room temperature in the broth. Remove chicken breasts and cut them into medium cubes. In a mixing bowl combine the chicken breasts with the mayonnaise, grapes, 1½ cups celery, slivered almonds and green onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to prepare the pie, add ½ cup mayonnaise — more if the salad seems too dry. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the mixture into the prebaked pie shell. Top with crushed potato chips and grated cheese to cover. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until the center is hot. Serve warm.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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