Egg-in-a-frame with ricotta is just one brunch idea to get you through the winter. Karen Schneider / For the Forecaster

Brunch is my favorite meal when it comes to entertaining during this time of year. I think that 11 o’clock or so in the morning is a great hour to greet company in the winter months. Everyone is fresh and fun, there are hours of daylight ahead, and you’re not expected to serve a roast and mashed potatoes and offer cake or pie. You can relax, enjoy some brunchy foods, get in a walk together and no one has to drive home in the dark. Unless of course, you’re so fun to be around that your company stays forever.

We’ll address that in another column titled “Midnight Snacks.”

When my children were little and we had a clutch of hens, we often had eggs and toast at meal time – it didn’t matter which meal. Eggs nestled into a hole punched from liberally buttered bread then fried to perfection in a skillet was aptly named “eggs-in-a-frame” by my youngest daughter, Shannon.

Today, I present to you a grown-up version of that delicacy. Your guests (or family) can help you put these together. Just keep a close eye on the eggs once they’re in the oven as the baking time will really depend on how you like your eggs cooked and how crunchy you want your toast to be.

During the last few minutes of baking time, I sometimes add rolls of thin ham to the baking dish. They go nicely with these filling toasts.
Apples for breakfast came to me via my friend, Mary, a former co-worker. I haven’t seen her in a while, but whenever I make this delicious treat, I think of her with much fondness. This is another one of those dishes that can be served for any meal. It’s great with maple syrup and a side of sliced ham or bacon.

Typically, I consume a lot of smoothies during the week and this is a favorite. Belt one back to tide you over until your guests arrive or make enough to share. I often use cooled green tea to aid in blending and getting the consistency just right if needed, but you can use coconut water or juice as well.

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Here’s to many companionable, cozy brunches ahead!

Eggs-in-a-frame with ricotta

4 large slices rustic bread, sliced 1-inch thick

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 cup ricotta cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon thyme

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4 large eggs at room temperature

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Thin ham rolls, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut out about a 1 1/2 inch hole in each slice of bread and reserve the bread rounds. Brush olive oil on all the bread on both sides. Arrange slices and rounds in a parchment-lined baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix ricotta with salt, pepper and thyme. Spread onto toasted bread and drizzle with olive oil.

Break an egg into the hole of each toast and season with salt. Bake until egg whites are set, about 10 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan, toasted rounds and ham.

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Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Yield: 4 servings

Apples for breakfast

1/4 cup butter

5 tart apples, peeled and sliced

3/4 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup raisins

6 tablespoons brown sugar

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1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 cup flour

3/4 teaspoons salt

Topping:

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3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté apple slices, nuts, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring often until apples start to soften, about 6 minutes. Spoon into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine eggs, orange juice, flour and salt with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour over apples.

For the topping, combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 8 servings

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Get-up-and-go smoothie

2 frozen bananas

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 orange, tangerine, or 2 clementines, sectioned

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon green juice powder

1 teaspoon chia seeds

Green tea or other liquid

Chop bananas and orange then combine all ingredients in a blender, processing until smooth and adding enough liquid to assist with blending.

Yield: 2 (8 ounce) servings

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