Californians have it all.  Great weather, great food, sunshine, and the people are eco-conscious, beautiful, expressive, tan, and they always look like they get at least 9 hours of sleep every day.  And to make things worse, they are all really really nice people.  They are that beautiful girl who dates the boy you are in love with, but then you find that this girl is actually a really really nice person, so you can’t even hate her. Grrrrrr.  

Californians who are born there or move there – they don’t leave (understandably).  So, in turn, they don’t understand weather limitations that the rest of us suffer.

“So, tell me, you actually have to go to the ‘market’ to buy vegetables?  Interesting.  You can’t grow the complete kingdom plantae right in your backyard?”
“You don’t have a giant expanse of wine country in arms reach?” 
“Now, what is this mosquito organism you speak of?”

Last Sunday, we hosted brunch on our patio and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  The sky served us a cocktail of mild-sunshine-with-light-breeze, probably donated by California because they have to be so damn nice.  They told God, the bartender, “Tell her [Texas] this drink’s on me.”  Well thank you, Cali, for offering us a sip of what you normally enjoy in a tall glass. 

Entertaining is really more about the company than the food, but having great food and great weather is a plus.  🙂

Patio Brunch Menu

1) Beverages
  • Mimosas with Lime Sugar rimmed glasses (Made of Orange Juice, Mango Juice, and Sparkling Wine.  Lime Sugar was a concept I learned from Louise Mellor of The Art of Cuisine. Instead of granulated sugar I used turbinado sugar. )
  • Bloody Marys
  • Coffee

2) 7-Layer Breakfast Scramble Casserole (vegan-izable!) – Recipe below!

3) Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme – Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise, face up on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme and bake at 400 degrees for 10 mins. 

4) Bread Basket

  • Buttermilk Biscuits – Recipe from the black and white Joy of Cooking cookbook, the most underrated cookbook ever…we Gen Xers avoid reading anything without color, just as equally as the next generation can’t function without digital devices.  I used homemade plain yogurt, in place of buttermilk.
  • Raisinbread Slices – store-bought
  • Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins – Homemade from the Joy of Cooking cookbook

5) Condiments – (store-bought) – as my friend Roshni says, “breads are simply the vehicle for the really really good stuff.”  (She also kindly photographed every photo shown in this post.  Thanks, Roshni!)

  • Cream cheese
  • Grapefruit Marmalade
  • Lemon Curd

6) Deviled Eggs (store-bought) – I made these last year and decided it was too much work.  But I prefer the taste of home-made rather than store-bought.

7) Fruit Cup of Grapefruit Segments, Blueberries, and Cantaloupe (store-bought components)

7-Layer Breakfast Scramble Casserole
(Eggless and Vegan-friendly)
Serves 12-16
Make ahead tip: Do steps 1-3 the night before.

This is a giant casserole of breakfasty goodness.  I really wanted to serve a piping hot “skillet” type of dish, but for a large group.  Eventually I thought of a 7-layer dip, but breakfast style.  Seven layers: Potatoes, Blackbeans, Corn, “Egg”-less scramble, Asadero-Manchego cheese blend (or vegan cheese), cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips.   This casserole is a great way to feed and please a mass of people.  Most guests won’t even know that there is “tofu scramble” in place of eggs.  You can find many tofu scramble recipes online – I had a recipe from a local vegan restaurant.  The key ingredients are tofu, turmeric for color, a dash of ground cumin and then seasoned additionally with your favorites from your spice cabinet…play around, and don’t be intimidated…but you do want the taste to resemble eggs, so don’t go crazy…unless you’re from California.  Then it would turn out perfect no matter what you do.

1 32-oz bag frozen diced potatoes
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
4 Tablespoons Butter/Vegan Butter
2 cans Black Beans, excess liquid poured off, but not rinsed/drained
1-1/2 Tablespoon Arizona Dreaming spice (from Penzey’s)
1 12-oz bag frozen corn kernels, defrosted
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1/4 to 1/2 red onion finely diced
1-1/2 blocks packages firm or extra firm Tofu, well drained
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste
vegan cheese or mexican cheese blend (“Authentic Mexican” with Asadero and Manchego cheeses)
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 jar Herdez tomatillo salsa – really, the best tasting tomatillo salsa you can buy (and with the shortest ingredient list)


1.  Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add paprika until butter turns into a fiery red-orange color.  Add potatoes and coat in butter.  Cover and lower heat.  Stir occasionally until potatoes are cooked through.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside.

2.  Empty beans in the same skillet and turn heat to medium.  There should be a bit of a “gravy” from the cans.  Add Arizona Dreaming spice mix.  Allow flavors to mingle over heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.

3.  Using your fingers, crumble the tofu blocks finely.  Add the turmeric, ground cumin, garlic, herbs de provence, and pepper.  Mix well with a spoon, not to alter the texture.  Add salt to taste.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Saute onions and celery, until onions are almost translucent.  Lower heat to medium and add tofu mixture and mix thoroughly.  Color should intensify to a deeper yellow.  Heat until excess moisture has evaporated.  Remove from heat.  Set aside.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer ingredients in a greased, oven safe 9×12 casserole dish.  First add potato layer.  Most of the potatoes should fit on one even layer.  Then add beans.  Spread them gently to one even layer.  Then add defrosted corn kernels.  Then add tofu as the 4th layer, using a spatula to gently spread it evenly across the pan.  Finally, sprinkle with cheese.  Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 mins. 

5. Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Top with cilantro and crushed tortilla chips.  Serve with tomatillo salsa and tortillas.