Professional chef reveals holiday hacks for home cooks

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- A professional chef revealed some easy holiday hacks that even novice home cooks can pull off - including crock pot French toast and pumpkin empanadas.

Pavilions' Executive Chef Jeff Anderson knows how to feed a crowd.

"I like to start like a week out in advance and then there's things that I'll make and put into the refrigerator or freezer so all I've got to do is pull them out the day of and pop them in the oven," Anderson said.

He suggests stocking up on extra ingredients like eggs, milk, butter and chicken broth, and then utilize easy do-ahead recipes.

"You can buy pie dough already made and cut it out into three-inch round circles," Anderson describes.

Then top with pumpkin, cream cheese and spices as filling for sweet or savory empanadas.

"Put the lid on top and then crimp them and they're ready to bake," Anderson explains.

Anderson says you can make it savory by adding mushrooms or maybe bacon or sausage. Just make sure these things are cooked then cooled prior to filling.

"That way it doesn't steam out in the dough," Anderson said.

A slow cooker, or a crock pot, is probably something you have in the back of the cupboard but aren't using. That's what makes Anderson's French toast a snap.

"The recipe we have is a crock pot French toast and we've used some of our egg nog as the main flavoring ingredient along with some other spices," Anderson said. "It takes four hours to cook but you can mix everything ahead of time, put it into the crock pot."

The recipe is so simple - eggs, egg nog, sliced bread, and then get your hands dirty.

No crock pot? No problem.

"If you don't have a crock pot, the other tip for saving time is to use a Bundt pan," Anderson suggested.

It requires the same ingredients - just a different way to cook it.

"Slice it and serve it, and then top it with a little bit of egg nog and maple syrup as a sauce," Anderson said.

He reiterates that this recipe too can be savory by using sausage, bacon or cheese to make it more of a bread pudding brunch item.

Brunch recipes by Chef Jeff Anderson:

Crock pot Eggnog French Toast with Maple Creme Syrup

Servings: 8-10
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours

1 (18 ounce) French bread loaf
8 eggs
2 1/2 cups light eggnog, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Line a crock pot with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Cut bread into cubes and place in crock pot.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs. Add 2 1/4 cups eggnog, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and 1/2 cup maple syrup, whisking well. Pour mixture over bread cubes.
3. Cover, turn on low for four hours. Remove lid and sprinkle in pecans. Scoop on plates and drizzle top with maple creme syrup.
4. In a microwavable bowl or mug, pour maple syrup. Microwave for 1 minute. Whisk in 1/4 cup eggnog.

* For a savory twist, substitute the eggnog, cinnamon and maple syrup mixture with for two cups of whole milk, mixed with 6-8 eggs and:
-- Option 1: 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, 1 cup of chopped cooked, crumbled Italian sausage for the cheddar, and 1 tsp of oregano
-- Option 2: 1 cup of grated pepper jack cheese, 1 cup cooked chorizo, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp chopped green onions and 1 tbsp chopped jalapenos.

Pumpkin Empanadas

Servings: 15
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
2 premade pie dough crusts, rolled out into 10" circle For brushing pastry
2 tsp whipping cream
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a mixer, combine pumpkin, cream cheese, maple syrup, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla until well incorporated. Set aside.
2. Roll out pie dough and using a 3-inch round cutter cut out circles, approximately 30.
3. Whisk together whipping cream, maple syrup and cinnamon.
4. Taking a round, place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center. Top with additional round. Brush edges with whipping cream mixture. Using fork tines, seal edges of pastry.
5. Place rounds on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Brush top with whipping cream mixture.
6. Bake for 13-15 minutes until bottoms are golden brown.

* Create a more savory filling by mixing:
-- Option 1: the cream cheese with cup of chopped cooked bacon and 2 tablespoons cut chives
-- Option 2: the cream cheese with cup sauted mushrooms, 1 tsp fresh thyme and 2 tbsp of parmesan cheese
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