Everyday French Toast

It’s no secret that I’m not always a morning person. While I love some things about mornings (peaceful bike rides and sunrises), I really only like them on my terms… aka not when the alarm goes off at 5:30.

It should go without saying then, that I don’t actually make breakfast for breakfast all that often – especially on a work day. (Sorry, Andy.) Holiday weekends, however, are the perfect time to actually make breakfast – as long as they don’t require getting out of bed before I’m ready to start the day.

Enter this new method for making French toast from Cook’s Illustrated. You bake an entire cookie sheet of toast in the oven, which means you get:

a). Crispy, golden brown slices without underdone middles (mushy French toast is the worst).
b). No flipping / turning during the cooking process = no babysitting the pan, so you can wash the dishes, set the table, slice fruit, or do whatever else you’d like to do while breakfast is cooking.
c). All the slices are done at the same time, so everyone eats at the same time!

Seriously. It’s been a game-changer over here. And it doesn’t require any fancy bread, so odds are pretty good that you can make this on any morning (or evening) that you want. Win-win-win.

EverydayFrenchToast

Everyday French Toast

vegetable oil spray (I used olive oil spray, since that’s what’s in my pantry.)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk
8 slices of hearty white sandwich bread (I’ve used regular sandwich bread from Aldi with no problems!) 

Arrange one oven rack in the lowest position in the oven, and place the other oven rack about 6″ from the broiler element. Preheat the oven to 425°.

Spray a large (18″ x 13″ is the recommended size from CI, but mine is slightly smaller and it works out OK) rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray.

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the melted butter, whisking constantly, then whisk in the milk.

Pour the egg mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Place each slice of bread on the sheet, making two rows of four slices. Leave a small space in between each slice of bread. When you’ve placed the last piece of bread on the sheet, flip each slice of bread over, starting with the first piece of bread that you placed on the sheet. Once all of the bread has been flipped, let the slices sit on the sheet until the bread soaks up the rest of the egg mixture (about 1 minute or so).

Place the sheet on the lowest rack in the oven and bake until the bottom of the slices are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. (This takes about 10 minutes in my oven.) Move the sheet to the rack closer to the broiler and broil until the tops of the slices are golden brown, about 1-4 minutes. Watch the toast during this time to make sure it doesn’t burn, and rotate the pan as necessary to ensure even browning.

Remove sheet from oven and use a metal spatula to lift the slices off of the pan. Serve immediately.

From Cooks Illustrated, March / April 2019

Printable version

Fall Fritters

Remember when I first looked through Cook It In Cast Iron? Lots of recipes caught my attention, and it’s been an almost-permanent fixture on my kitchen counter ever since I got my own copy. (Seriously. The chocolate chip cookie is my easy dessert go-to.) 

I showed Andy the apple fritter recipe, and he was on board immediately. Apple fritters are his doughnut kryptonite. I’d never made fried doughnuts of any kind, so I was eager to try them as well. Of course, this was back in April (of 2016! I’m a terrible blogger), and since the recipe calls for apple cider, I put it on the “things to make in the fall” list. I told Bethany about my plans, and we decided that it would be the perfect Saturday morning activity.

So, while our Andys were out volunteering one morning, we made it happen.

Since I knew we’d have eager helpers, I prepped as much as I could before Bethany, Judah and Sadie arrived. I used Empires from our over-zealous apple picking, which worked well. I had everything measured out and ready to go when they arrived, so the kids could easily help add things to the bowl and mix the batter.

I’d never fried anything before this, and I was pleased to discover that it’s not nearly as intimidating as I thought it’d be. I think the biggest trick is to have everything ready to go before you start frying so you’re not scrambling to find a cookie sheet for the finished fritters when they’re ready. Having an accurate thermometer for the oil really helps too. We used Bethany’s for this project, and it made a believer out of me. (So much so that I took advantage of Thermoworks Black Friday deals last fall and purchased a ThermoPop for myself.) Once the kid-friendly activities were done, Judah lost interest in the process (until we were ready to ice the fritters), but Sadie pulled a chair up to the counter and watched us fry every fritter!

The guys came home just in time to help us eat the fritters (which I served with bacon because a Saturday breakfast without bacon is not one I want to attend), and everyone loved them. The cider in the fritters added a lot of flavor, and there were apple pieces in almost every bite. They’re not going to be an every-weekend thing, but I think we’ll make it a point to enjoy them at least once each fall.

applefritters

Apple Fritters

2 apples (6 1/2 ounces each), Granny Smith, Cortland or Empire, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/4″ pieces
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 1/3 ounces (1/3 cup) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, divided
1 cup apple cider, divided
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
8 ounces (2 cups) powdered sugar
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200° and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and lay the apples in a single layer on the sheet. Pat the apples with a paper towel until they are nice and dry.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, one teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg together. In a separate, bowl, combine the melted butter, 3/4 cup of cider and the eggs. Whisk them until smooth.

Add the dried apple pieces to the flour mixture and toss to combine. Stir the cider mixture into the flour mixture, and mix until the wet ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels. Set aside. Pour the oil into a 12″ cast iron skillet (you want the oil to be 1/2″ deep) and heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 325°.

When the oil is hot, grease a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup and use it to scoop five heaping mounds of batter into the oil. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the batter in the oil. Fry the fritters until they are a deep golden brown, about six to eight minutes. Flip the fritters halfway through the frying process. Be sure to maintain the oil temperature, adjusting the burner’s heat if necessary.

Transfer the finished fritters to the wire rack on the prepared sheet and move them to the oven to keep them warm while you finish the rest of the fritters. (Before adding the next batch of batter to the pan, make sure the oil is still 325°. If the oil has cooled, wait until it comes back to temperature before adding the batter.) Repeat the process with the rest of the fritters, placing them in the warm oven when they are done.

Next, prepare the glaze. Whisk the powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and the remaining 1/4 cup of cider together in a large measuring cup. (You could use a bowl, but a measuring cup with a pour spout will make it easier to drizzle the icing over the fritters.) Drizzle a generous tablespoon of icing over each fritter. Allow the icing to set for 10 minutes before serving, which should give you enough time to scramble some eggs or fry some bacon to serve alongside your fritters.

From Cook it in Cast Iron

Click here for a printable version.

My Go-To Blueberry Muffins

I have been all about fast breakfasts lately. I don’t know if I’m getting lazier or if we’re getting busier, but there seems to be less time in the mornings around here. OK, so maybe that has something to do with chilly mornings and my desire to hit “snooze” as many times as possible before getting out of bed, but still. There just isn’t always enough time for a bowl of oatmeal before work.

Even on my busiest days though, I still need some sort of fuel in the mornings. I can be somewhat unpleasant when I’m hungry. (Andy will vouch for this. Hangry Beth = no good to anyone.) Enter muffins. They’re portable. They taste good either at room temperature or warmed up, and honestly, the flavor combinations are almost endless. (Don’t believe me? You should see Kirsten’s list.)

Blueberry muffins are one of my favorite kinds, and they’re one of the easiest ones to put together, at least in my opinion. You don’t have to peel or chop the fruit, and odds are, all of the ingredients are hanging out in your pantry/fridge/freezer right now.

These are great with fresh blueberries, but they work just as well with frozen blueberries, which is helpful when a). it’s not blueberry season and b). you froze several pounds of blueberries last July. And like I heard last night on Cook’s Country: “Frozen fruit is always in season.” (Yes, I watch PBS, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.) 

I swap about one-third to one-half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat pie and pastry flour, since this is breakfast, not dessert. I go heavy on the blueberries, since we’re kind of addicted to fruit around here. Finally, I add the lemon zest to the sugar and give it a spin in the mixer before creaming the butter and sugar together. I feel like that gives the muffins a better lemon flavor. Of course, that could all be in my head, since I get a big whiff of fresh lemon while I’m working.

I’ll admit that these are best fresh, straight out of the oven, but they keep fairly well in an airtight container for the few days that it takes us to polish off a batch. And since nine muffins just won’t cut it at our house, I always double the recipe, which are the amounts reflected below. That way, we have breakfast (and snacks) for the entire week, which means I can hit snooze one more time. Again. 😉

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
3 cups AP flour (can substitute up to half with whole wheat pie and pastry flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
heavy 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them beforehand.)

Preheat the oven to 375° and line a muffin tin with paper liners. (Alternatively, you could spray the tins with cooking spray, but that never works well for me. Besides, paper liners are so cute!) 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then set them aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Mix on medium-low speed for a few minutes, or until the zest has been evenly distributed throughout the sugar and smells lemony. Add the butter and cream together until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and beat well, then add the yogurt. Sift about half of the dry ingredient mixture over the batter and mix on low speed until just combined. Sift the rest of the dry ingredients into the batter and mix until the flour has almost disappeared.

Add the blueberries to the bowl and gently fold them in to the batter, which will be very thick. Make sure that the flour is fully incorporated into the batter when you’re done adding the blueberries.

Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons, if the spring on your scoop breaks halfway through the process…), fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full. Bake until golden brown and the muffins test clean with a toothpick, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: Approximately 18-20 muffins

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Cook’s Illustrated

Click here for a printable version.

Dessert? Breakfast? You Decide.

You may have picked up on this  (especially if we’re friends outside of the internet), but dessert for breakfast is something that I endorse wholeheartedly.

Apple crisp? That’s apples and oatmeal, which totally equals breakfast in my book. Fruit pie? I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. After all, there’s no way that’s any worse than having a bowl of Frosted Flakes. I’d argue that it’s better for you than most boxed cereals, actually.

I’ve even gone as far as having coffee ice cream in the morning, but I’ll admit that’s a little more of a stretch. However, that’s one of the perks of being an adult. Just like calling chocolate waffles “breakfast for dinner” when you know they’re really just brownies. Ha. 😉

Either way, when I saw Deb’s Apricot Breakfast Crisp, I was all in. Crisp would be an excellent addition to our busy weekday mornings. Except for one tiny detail: Apricots (or peaches, which I prefer) aren’t in season. Even worse: they won’t be for MONTHS, and there’s almost nothing more disappointing than biting into tasteless off-season fruit. (Or, as Kirsten points out, a flavorless off-season tomato.) 

I spend hot summer days picking and preserving fruit just for moments like this though. Last summer I canned 14 quarts of peaches (along with several jars of peach jam), so I figured that I’d be able to use some of them in a “breakfast crisp.”

I drained a jar of peaches and weighed the fruit, which came to just over a pound. Perfect! I dumped the peaches in the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart dish, added the sugar/flour mixture and made the topping. I think the entire process took less than 10 minutes. Then it took a quite spin in the hot oven, and bam! My Sunday afternoon baking was complete.

Of course, there was no way that I could convince Andy to save all of the crisp for Monday morning. He had to sample some that evening, which, of course, meant that I had to sample some too. And true to form, the crisp lasted about 24 hours in our house, which meant that we got one breakfast out of it. Maybe a double batch should be in our future.

Peach Breakfast Crisp 2

Peach Breakfast Crisp

For the fruit filling:
1 quart of peaches, drained (use a pound of fresh peaches if they’re in season where you live)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon AP flour
Pinch of nutmeg

For the topping:
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup AP flour
Generous pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Place the peaches in the bottom of a small baking dish. (I used a 1-1/2 quart dish; Deb recommends a 1-quart gratin dish.) In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and a pinch of nutmeg. Sprinkle the flour-sugar-spice mixture over the peaches and gently stir until they are all covered.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and then the oats, flour, almonds and salt. Stir until the mixture clumps together. (I’ll go ahead and admit that mine never formed large clumps like Deb said, but I figured it didn’t really matter.)

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is browned and your kitchen smells amazing. Serve warm or cold, with a scoop of yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for dessert.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

Back in the Kitchen!

I am officially back in action, and man, does it feel good! I’m still asking Andy to drain heavy pots of pasta for me, and I’m still a little slower at chopping things, but I am making dinner and (perhaps more importantly) dessert again. For which Andy is very grateful. He did say that he’s going to keep helping with the dishes, something I’m very grateful for. There’s nothing like a broken bone to make you appreciate the little things in life. 🙂

Last Saturday was the first day that I not only felt good enough to get back into the swings of things, but also had enough time to play around in the kitchen. I started the day with blueberry pancakes, made a lemon-asparagus-feta salad for dinner, whipped up some caramelized onion dip and baked some fantastic strawberry-rhubarb bars for dessert. The kitchen was a mess. It was fantastic. I was even able to take pictures of three of the four items! That’s a personal best for me! (The strawberry rhubarb bars didn’t last long enough for pictures. I know Deb says that you’ll get 8-16 servings, but I have to disagree. One 8″ pan feeds four adults, which is slightly embarrassing when you realize that those same four adults also did a number on the onion dip before they got anywhere near the bars. Ahem. Moving on.) 

So, let’s start at the beginning and talk about pancakes, OK? I’m normally more of a waffle or French toast girl, but for some reason, I really wanted pancakes Saturday morning, and not just any pancakes. Blueberry pancakes. So while Andy slept in, I hit up the internet for a good pancake recipe. Of course, we were completely out of buttermilk, so that eliminated an entire category of pancakes for me, since I didn’t feel like “faking it” with milk and vinegar. A little more searching turned up multigrain blueberry yogurt pancakes on Annie’s Eats, which led me to the original recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.

I liked the idea of a pancake that wasn’t completely like eating dessert for breakfast, but I didn’t have rye or barley flour in the house. Hmm. Then I noticed that someone had commented on Annie’s site and said that they ground up oatmeal in the blender and used it as “oat flour” instead. That sounded do-able, especially since Andy was awake by this point and wouldn’t be disturbed by the jet engine food processor in the kitchen. That was it. I was out of bed and in the kitchen.

The batter was really thick, which meant that my first few pancakes weren’t the prettiest, but they tasted fantastic, especially with maple syrup. I added extra blueberries (because there’s no such thing as too many blueberries in your pancakes). Between the two of us, we ate almost the entire batch. Maybe I’m more of a pancake girl than I realized. 🙂

Blueberry Pancakes

Multigrain Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes

2 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra for the pan
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I didn’t measure this…) 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, processed into a powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups blueberries (I used some of my frozen blueberries and didn’t bother to thaw them.)

Whisk the yogurt, eggs and milk together in a large bowl. Whisk the lemon zest, vanilla and melted butter into the yogurt/egg mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt together.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the egg mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in about 3/4 cup of blueberries.

Unless you feel like a short-order cook, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. This allows you to keep the first pancakes warm until the rest of the batch is done.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or griddle over medium heat. (I used my cast iron skillet.) Melt a pat of butter in the pan. When the pan is hot, spoon a few tablespoons of pancake batter into the pan and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. Sprinkle a few additional blueberries on top of the pancake batter. When bubbles have formed and the pancakes appear dry around the edges, carefully flip the pancake over. Cook the pancake until the underside is golden and the center is cooked through. (Here’s a plus for using the oven as a warmer: It will help finish any pancakes whose middles weren’t quite done on top of the stove. Win-win!) Remove the cooked pancakes from the skillet and place on the sheet in the warm oven.

Add more butter to the skillet as necessary and continue frying pancakes until the batter is gone, snacking on frozen blueberries while you wait. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Click here for a printable version.

The Power of Feta (and Bacon)

This was one of those meals that I wasn’t too excited about at first. I’m usually not a big egg eater – I prefer to eat my eggs in ice cream, cake and cookies. I made it for two reasons: Andy loves breakfast for dinner, especially eggs, and I really enjoy feta cheese. Plus, it did come from my new favorite cookbook. I guess that’s three reasons.

The first time I made it, it took a LOT longer than I had anticipated. (Operator error here. It helps if you read the ENTIRE recipe before jumping in. Especially when you start cooking at 8 pm. Details.) Maybe it was the fact that we were eating at 9pm, maybe it was the feta talking. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Even so, I figured that eggs wouldn’t reheat the greatest and sent most of the leftovers to work with Andy and took something else from the fridge. When I finally had some of the leftovers, I was (again) surprised by how much I liked them.

Lesson learned. You can’t go wrong with potatoes, feta and bacon.

I’ve also made this with ham, on a day when I was out of bacon. It’s good with ham, but let’s face it… everything is better with bacon. (Yes, everything. Even cheesecake.)

And now I have a new favorite breakfast for dinner dish. Because, let’s face it. Now that I know it needs nearly 40 minutes in the oven, I’m probably not getting up early enough to make this on a Saturday morning. 😀

Frittata

Potato, Scallion and Bacon Frittata with Feta

1 3/4 lbs. potatoes
1/4 lb. bacon, preferably thick-cut
olive oil, for the pan
3-4 scallions
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a tablespoon or two of olive oil on to a large baking sheet.

Peel the potatoes and slice them in half length-wise, then slice each half into semi-circles that are between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. (My slices are never even. Some are thinner than 1/4″; some are thicker. It all works out though.) Spread the potato slices on the prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them once at the halfway point. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Keep the oven on.

Line the baking sheet with foil, and place the bacon strips on the sheet. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until bacon is crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Alternatively, you can cook the bacon on the stovetop, but I love the oven method because there’s less mess.) Drain one tablespoon of bacon drippings into a cast-iron (or other oven-safe) skillet and combine with a little (probably less than a tablespoon) olive oil. Heat the pan over medium heat and swirl the oil around the warm pan, being sure to coat the sides. Remove from heat once the oil coats the pan.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the scallions and crumble the bacon. Scatter the potatoes in the bottom of the skillet, then sprinkle the bacon and scallions on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the feta cheese all over the top of the potato/bacon/scallion mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together with the milk, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are done and the top is nicely browned. Slice in wedges and serve immediately.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version

Great Granola!

My previous “go-to” granola recipe was one from Epicurious called Everyday Granola. And while it was good, it wasn’t great. In fact, “everyday” may not be the best way to describe it. I’d make it every now and then, but it definitely wasn’t a regular in my kitchen.

Enter my new favorite cookbook. I made a batch of Deb’s “Big Cluster Maple Granola” shortly after receiving the book for my birthday last month, but I only got to try a little bit of it before it was gone. (I shipped some to my in-laws as a thank-you for the book, and Andy made quick work of the remainder.) I decided it to give it another shot last week and figured I’d share some of it with a friend who just had a baby. One batch should be plenty, right?

Well… let’s just say I have to go buy more oatmeal now. 🙂

Seriously. Lacey’s lucky that Andy quit double-fisting it from the pan long enough for me to pack up a bag for her. And it must have been good, since she sent me a message less than a day later to ask for the recipe. Looks like we have a new “everyday” granola here.

As you can see from my pictures, I’m still struggling with getting the “big clusters” that Deb made look SO easy. Maybe I need more egg white, maybe I stir it too much. Clusters or not, we like this.

Big Cluster Maple Walnut Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut (Deb says to use unsweetened; I just use the bag of sweetened stuff that’s in my pantry.) 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I’m pretty sure this is what takes it over the top. You get bites of sweet with the salt mixed in. YUM.) 
1/2 cup real maple syrup (No Mrs. Butterworth here!) 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (Deb says cherries; I prefer cranberries) 

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a large bowl, stir the oats, coconut, walnuts, wheat germ, salt and cinnamon together. Stir in the olive oil and maple syrup, making sure everything is well coated.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until it is frothy, then pour the egg white over your granola mixture. Stir until evenly coated. Spread the mixture out on the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until mixture is dry and golden brown. Stir the granola halfway through baking, being careful to not break up the “clusters” too much. Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the fruit to the granola. Store in an airtight container.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.