McKensie Curnow found herself with lots of spare time to work on her cooking during these past few months.
The Carbondale resident is a special-education teacher at Lakeland Junior-Senior High School, where she works with emotional support for grades nine to 12, and she and the rest of the district switched to remote learning in March. While she missed the day-to-day interaction with her students, Curnow always has been big into cooking, and the time at home prompted her to get even more creative in the kitchen.
As a lover of breakfast and brunch foods, Curnow wanted to try her hand at a brunch bake recipe from model, celebrity chef and Twitter queen, Chrissy Teigen’s, second cookbook, “Cravings: Hungry for More.”
“I tried it out, and I was happy it didn’t suck,” Curnow laughed on a recent day. “So I used that as kind of my inspiration and changed up some stuff and added my own flair to it.”
The Upvalley woman’s take on the Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake earned her a $50 grocery gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.
The recipe calls for sweet apple chicken sausage, bacon strips, spinach, chunks of everything bagels, Parmesan, Gruyere or Swiss, cheddar, cream cheese and more. The dish is incredibly versatile, and cooks can swap in whatever combination of breakfast meat, cheeses or veggies they’d like, Curnow said. They also can add more meat or make it vegetarian-friendly by doubling the amount of vegetables.
“If you’re a sucker for (a) sweet presentation, put some fresh basil and roasted tomatoes on top to really wow your (eventual) brunch guests,” she said. “Mimosas are also strongly encouraged.”
It’s no wonder that Curnow has taken to cooking, as she’s been inspired by almost her entire family, including her grandmothers, Jill Symanski and the late Judy Curnow; dad, Harry; and mom, Terri.
Curnow loves to cook dinner for her family, including her siblings Harry, Jordan and Jakob and her signifcant other, Christian Williams,who are her best taste-testers. They’ve reaped the benefits of her kitchen experiments, including Jamaican Lamb Chops, Banana Rice, Sesame Chicken, Prosciutto-wrapped Zucchini Bites, Caprese Salad, Baked Peaches and more.
While she can’t wait to get back to her love of teaching, she’s savoring the days she has left to try out new recipes. For Curnow, the journey to the finished dish is half the fun.
“It’s just my time to chill out and get my creativity flowing,” she said.
McKensie Curnow’s Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake
- 12 ounces sweet apple chicken sausage
- 8 bacon strips, cooked and cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter (plus more to grease baking dish)
- Half of a large onion, cut in small chunks
- 6 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
- 3 day-old everything bagels, halved and cut into big chunks
- 1 1/4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1 3/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (or Swiss)
- 1 3/4 cups shredded cheddar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8-ounce brick of cream cheese, cold and cut into about 14 cubes
- Everything Bagel Seasoning (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the bacon strips on the sheet. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it. Let bacon cool; absorb grease with paper towels and then cut 6 bacon slices into bite-sized pieces. Set aside the other 2 bacon strips.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage according to package directions (or for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally). Remove sausage from the skillet and cut into small chunks (about 1-inch each) and set aside.
- Melt butter in skillet over medium heat, then add onion, stirring occasionally, and cook until lightly golden and translucent, or about 8 to 9 minutes.
- While waiting for the onion to cook, pile the thawed spinach onto a clean towel. Roll the towel up and twist the ends to wring out as much liquid as you can.
- Transfer sausage, cut-up bacon and spinach to a large bowl. Add onion, bagel chunks, basil, tomatoes, Parmesan, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup cheddar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss together with a spoon or your hands.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, half-and-half, eggs, Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
- Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter and arrange the bagel mixture in the dish. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the top. Gently press down on the bagels so they soak up the liquid. Nestle cream cheese chunks all around the pan.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, and up to 12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Uncover dish and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Gruyere and 3/4 cup cheddar.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Bake until the top is golden and the center is set, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Take out of the oven, cut up the remaining 2 slices of bacon, and sprinkle all over. Sprinkle with bagel seasoning if desired.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT