Birthday Dinner & Homemade Thank You Brunch

I promise, I’m still here!Β  Sorry for no post last night – I was feelin’ a little lazy and sleepy when we finally got home, so let me get you guys all caught up.

Yesterday was a very special day — it was my mom’s BIRTHDAY, so Jay and I met up with her and my dad for a late dinner at one of their absolute favorite places: Applebees! πŸ™‚

Happy Birthday Mom!!

By the time Jay and I got there, mom and dad already got the party started with some nachos – Jay and I happily helped them out.Β  They were pretty decent – I did a lot of picking at the crumbs. πŸ˜‰

For me entree, I picked an item off of their Under 550 Calories menu: Grilled Dijon Chicken & Portobellos, which was Marinated chicken breast grilled and topped with roasted red peppers, onions, portobello mushrooms, Dijon sauce, and aged cheddar cheese. Served with steamed herb potatoes and seasonal vegetables. It was REALLY tasty – quite impressive for under 550 calories! πŸ™‚

And then there was the birthday dessert: Mom told me I could choose, so Chocolate Molten Lava Cake it was!

Our server was smart and brought out 4 spoons so we could all share, but I did a pretty decent job of licking the plate clean…

Oops, caught red handed πŸ˜‰

It was a fun night being able to hang out with Mom & Dad – they’re always such great company! πŸ˜€

So TODAY started nice and early and has been BUSY BUSY BUSY!Β  We have a few friends over helping Jay and I out with some landscaping — we’re revamping our entire front yard!!Β  Yes, it’s going to be quite a project, but I’m so excited at how things are going to turn out (we got some gorgeous stuff!)Β  I’ll give you guys a little preview of our “before”:

*This was actually “my” side that I was supposed to weed out — oops** 😳

As a thank you for the boys coming over to help, I cooked up a little “Thank You” brunch!

Fresh Watermelon

Egg Strata (see recipe below)

Overnight French Toast (see recipe below)

My plate (I actually went back for another slice of the french toast too) πŸ˜‰

The bottom of this french toast is out of this world good!

This meal has actually become a Christmas tradition for me and my family.Β  I first got the recipes for the eggs & french toast in my 7th grade home & careers class, and the tradition just kind of “stuck”.Β  I’ve now found new reasons to make it, such as today!Β  They are seriously two of my favorite breakfast recipes: they’re so easy to make, AND you make them the night before so it makes for an easy peasy prep in the morning — so let me share them with you! πŸ™‚

Egg Strata


2 slices whole wheat bread, cubed

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/4 cup diced peppers

1/4 cup diced tomatoes

1/2 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup chopped cooked ham (you can just ask for a chunk at the deli counter)

6 eggs, remove 2 yolks (*you can also incorporate egg substitute as well, and it tastes just as good – this batch actually had 1/2 cup egg substitute, 2 eggs, and 2 egg whites)

1 cup milk (or 1 cup evaporated milk or 3/4 cup milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream)



  1. Grease 9″ square baking pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Layer first 6 ingredients in pan.
  3. Beat eggs and add your milk (or whichever milk mixture you choose). Pour over layered ingredients.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Set out for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set.

Overnight French Toast


2 tbsp corn syrup (light or dark)

1/2 cup butter or margarine (I used 5 tbsp and it tasted perfectly fine!)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 loaf unsliced French bread

8 eggs, remove 3 yolks (*you can also use egg substitute – I’ve done many different combinations, and they’ve all turned out fine – today’s was 1/2 cup egg substitute, 3 eggs, and 3 egg whites)

1-1/2 cups milk (*any milk will do – I used 1 cup skim milk + 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg


  1. In small saucepan, combine corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and simmer until syrupy. Pour this mixture over the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg.
  3. Slice the bread into 20-24 slices and dip in the egg mixture until well coated.
  4. Place the bread, vertically, over the sugar mixture in the baking pan.
  5. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread. Cover dish and put in refrigerator overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered for 40, then uncover and bake for 5 more minutes (*this keeps the tops from getting too crunchy and the sugar mixture less sticky).
  7. Serve hot or warm, or the French toast will harden in the pan.

Time to back and check out the landscaping!! πŸ™‚

Question of the Afternoon:

What traditions do you and your family or friends carry over from year to year?

9 Responses

  1. Can’t wait to see the end result of the yard. Our front yard needs some major help. Hope you have a great day and don’t work toooooo hard πŸ˜‰

  2. Your mama looks SO SO young – you two could be sisters. Good luck landscaping – can’t wait to see the before/after : )

  3. YUM! Your “thank you brunch” looked amazing! You can tell me thank you anytime! haha!

  4. What a gorgeous brunch! That french toast looks almost like a cinnamon bun. Actually, one of our family traditions is for my mom to make homemade cinnamon pecan rolls on Christmas! Sooo yummy.

  5. Those eggs are the best, if I knew you were going to be making brunch it would have been a little easier to convince me to come over

  6. Happy Birthday to your Mom πŸ˜€
    Glad you got to spend it with her.
    Good luck with all of your yard work..I honestly HATE yard work..with a passion..ESPECIALLY pulling weeds. I have NO idea how people find it enjoying…but I guess they look @ me & wonder how I enjoy running- haha πŸ™‚

  7. Why is it that parents are so obsessed with Applebee’s? I swear- when I catch my parents on the cell phone out eating, that’s where they are…

    I hope your mom had a great birthday!

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