French Toast Oatmeal

Before we get into the goodness the title of this post suggests, I’d like to start off with a much-needed life update.

I graduate with my Master’s in May, and that means it’s thesis time. Forty pages in, and I’m marching along. Digital marketing is such an analytical yet creative industry. You interpret data, yes, but you also have to imagine the needs and typical lifestyle of a user on your site or digital apps. While I was an English major in college, both of my Physics professors said I should be a physicist. One of them even wanted me to be a Physics TA and teach it! I love that mixture of objectivity and subjectivity. You can find this marrying of objective and subjective in cooking. There are some elements of the craft that you must follow, through and through, like don’t ever substitute baking soda with baking powder. Food is scientific. On the other hand, taste depends on an individual’s palate. Food is creative, too.

America’s Test Kitchen is treating me well, too! I love working as a Web Editorial Intern. I’m writing their Facebook posts and some Pinterest pins. My blog series on the America’s Test Kitchen Feed is launching March 6th. So exciting! It’s called “#ATKVeg Better Together,” based on The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. I’ll be highlighting unique flavor combinations in some of the book’s recipes, reflecting on each ingredient before showing how they are the perfect match. My first post involves Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple. How do goat cheese, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper taste together? Find out next Friday the 6th!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple
Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple

Lastly, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, so I was out of town all last week. She inspired me immensely. I’ll have much more to say about her in a forthcoming post, a tribute to her and the glorious ice cream sundaes we always made together.


Now, for the goods.

Yesterday was my first day with no plans or obligations in a very long time. So, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice breakfast—something sweet but healthy. I craved two things: french toast and oatmeal. Having both would mean a carb overload. What to do? Fuse them together!

French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries
French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries

French Toast Oatmeal

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (these cook up far quicker when you’re in a pinch, but steel cut oats would be lovely if you have time. Just remember that the ratio of milk/water to oats will be different with the steel cut variety. Follow the package’s instructions.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dried fruit of your choice (I love dried apricots and cranberries. Golden raisins are wonderful. Add as much or as little as you like.)

Note: While I did not add this yesterday, I think a little orange zest would be a fantastic addition. Try it and let me know what you think!

1. Put the oats and milk into a medium pot.

2. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and dried fruit. Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.

3. Wait until the milk begins to boil on the sides, about 2 minutes. Start stirring more frequently to prevent the oatmeal from sticking on the bottom. Once the mixture starts mildly boiling, cook until oats are tender and reach desired consistency, about 5 minutes. I love my oatmeal nice and thick, but you may like yours more liquid-y.

4. Pour into a bowl and enjoy. I recommend topping the oatmeal with real maple syrup, à la french toast!

Advertisements

Cinnamon Ginger Crumpet French Toast

I love nothing more on a weekend morning than sleeping in and creating an amazing breakfast. Who doesn’t? Sometimes I’m in the mood for a savory meal – say, an omelet or scrambled eggs with sage breakfast sausage and buttered toast. Other times I just want to indulge my sweet tooth and experiment with pancakes or french toast. My favorite pancake experiment to date is cocoa pancakes stuffed with ricotta and orange marmalade (a post for another day!). My french toast needed a boost, however. The choice of bread is pivotal. I’ve tried making french toast with the Pepperidge Farm soft oatmeal bread I use for sandwiches sometimes, and that just never satisfies me. The bread needs to be fuller-bodied, denser, more flavorful, and more absorbable.

Then I had an “ah-ha” moment. Crumpets. That’s it!

I remember these gems from my six weeks studying abroad in England at Oxford University. This breakfast bread is sponge-like, with holes perfect for absorbing a spiced egg and milk mixture. I was also inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe for savory eggy crumpets. Trader Joe’s sells plain and cinnamon flavored crumpets. I recommend buying the cinnamon ones, but if you have a favorite crumpet brand, then by all means use those!

Crumpet French Toast
Crumpet French Toast

Cinnamon Ginger Crumpet French Toast (for two, or one if you’re really hungry)

  • 4 plain or cinnamon crumpets
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of milk (approximately…better to start with less milk than too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • butter for cooking

1. Crack two eggs into a bowl and add the three tablespoons of milk. See if this is enough milk for your mixture. Remember, you can always add more, but subtracting is near impossible when cooking. Beat the eggs and milk together with a whisk or a fork until combined.

2. Now it’s time to add your spices. I unabashedly shake the spices into my egg mixture, to be honest. Who wants bland french toast? No one. The answer is no one. My measurements up above are, again, approximations. If you like more spice, then please add more!

3. Mix the spices in with the eggs and milk until just combined. You don’t want egg whites separating, but you also don’t want an over-beaten mixture.

4. Warm up your pan while you soak the crumpets. Take one crumpet at a time and submerge it in your egg/milk/spice mixture. Make sure that both sides get covered. Leave it to soak for about 1 minute. Crumpets will absorb more quickly than you realize.

5. Butter the portion of the pan where the crumpet will be placed. Place the soaked crumpet in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the side is browned to your liking. Butter the pan again when you flip the crumpet over and cook for the same amount of time.

6. Repeat the process for the rest of the crumpets.

I added maple syrup and fresh raspberries to my plate for a refreshing finish. Let me know if you have ever used crumpets this way or if you have another favorite french toast bread. Happy experimenting!

Mushroom, Cipollini Onion, Asiago Cheese, and Crispy Prosciutto Quiche

After cooking the traditional dishes of Thanksgiving, what do I want to do? Experiment in the kitchen and make something new! Sometimes I make the most lasting memories in the kitchen from trying something completely different. Every time I think about that one night I attempted to make blueberry cottage cheese pancakes…oh goodness, I can’t stop laughing. What a mess in my skillet. However, failing in the kitchen is a wonderful, beautiful thing because you learn so much from making the mistake(s). You either have to eat that mess you made, or you throw it out in disgust and resort to grilled cheese for dinner (which has happened before!). I will not pretend that I am a “perfect” chef, so I will share my experiments with you, telling you what really works and what needs improvement.

I made quiche with my friend and her family recently. It came out quite well, with bacon, marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onion, and gruyere cheese. I wanted to recreate it in my little studio kitchen with the ingredients I had on hand. That’s the fabulous thing about quiche – you can put practically any combination of meats and vegetables in it!

IMG_0407

Quiche (with mushrooms, cipollini onions, asiago cheese, and crispy prosciutto)

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 4 eggs (3 for inside the quiche, 1 for the egg wash on the pie crust)
  • 1 cup of milk (you can add heavy cream, but I used 1% milk and it worked perfectly)
  • 1 cup of asiago cheese, grated (you can use any kind of cheese you wish, like gruyere or cheddar)
  • 5 medium sized baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cipollini onions (you can use 1 small onion or a few shallots instead)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, diced
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chopped fresh parsley to taste

1. Thaw the frozen pie crust and pre-bake according to the package’s instructions. Before you put the pie crust in the oven, crack and beat one egg in a bowl and brush some of the egg onto the crust. This will prevent the quiche crust from getting soggy. Note: I tried using Trader Joes’s frozen pie crust. The crust tasted fine, but the texture turned out far more crumbly than I expected. Pillsbury is always a safe bet, and I may use that next time. If you have the time and the recipe to make your own pie crust, by all means, use that! 

2. While the pre-baked pie crust cools, prepare the ingredients for the filling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a cheese grater and grate about a cup of asiago cheese. Shredding your own cheese has its perks. I heard once that packaged shredded cheese can have preservatives that allow it to stay intact and not stick to the other pieces of cheese. While that cheese still melts just fine, hand shredding your cheese will allow it to melt even better.

3. Chop your mushrooms and onion and saute in a pan with a little olive oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have released and soaked up their water (about 5-10 minutes). You can add seasoning here (I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder), or wait until you mix everything together.

4. Put the mushrooms and onions in a bowl to cool. Chop your prosciutto into small pieces (the size is up to you, but I cut slices about an inch long and a half inch wide). Saute the prosciutto pieces in a pan for about 2-4 minutes until the meat is fragrant and crispy. Transfer that to a bowl.

5. Next, crack three eggs into your mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of milk and beat the mixture until the eggs are fully incorporated with the milk.

6. Add the sautéed mushrooms, onions, and prosciutto. Add 1/2 cup of the asiago cheese and mix.

7. If you haven’t added any seasoning yet, do so now. I also added a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley here for some color and fresh herb flavor.

8. Pour the egg mixture into your pie pan with the pre-baked crust. Take the remaining 1/2 cup of asiago cheese and sprinkle over the top.

9. Put the quiche in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes (the deeper the pan, the longer it will need to cook). Insert a toothpick into the middle of the quiche to test for doneness – if it’s clean, it’s good to go. Note: I do not own a special pie pan or quiche pan, so instead I used a square pyrex pan on hand. A traditional pie or quiche pan is less deep and will only need to cook for about 20 minutes. 

IMG_0409

The filling came out so well! Next time I will use a different pie crust that won’t crumble so much on me. What are your favorite fillings for quiche? I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe more.

 

 

Homemade Applesauce

Fall is my favorite season for food. Farms ignite with produce, and the market becomes one colorful treat. Pumpkin is the craze (naturally!) with squash not far behind.

A few weeks ago two of my best friends from college flew to Boston from Chicago to visit me for a quintessential New England weekend. While we walked the Freedom Trail and went to a Red Sox game at Fenway, I knew that no New England fall was complete without going apple picking. There is something so satisfying about picking your own produce from the farm. Couple that satisfaction with hayrides and cider doughnuts and, oh man, you have the best day ever.

I chose to take my friends to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. About 50 minutes from the city, Ipswich is unique in the sense that there can be abundant farms just ten minutes away from the ocean. We were able to pick Cortland, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Jonagold, Macoun, McIntosh, and just the last bit of Honeycrisp apples left on the trees. Apple picking is popular across the country, so plan to go in mid- to late September if you can. Some farms still have apples through October, so it may not be too late to either pick your own or catch your local farmer’s market for their bounty.

IMG_0272
Entering Russell Orchards
IMG_0274
Entering Russell Orchards
IMG951007
Entering Russell Orchards

After picking ten pounds of apples, it was time to bake!

My Dad always made homemade apple sauce for us in the fall. It’s such a versatile dish, something you can have straight up for breakfast, warm up and ladle over vanilla ice cream, or have on the side with roasted pork tenderloin. The flavors are sweet, spicy, and altogether heartwarming!

Homemade Applesauce

  • 5 lbs. apples (I used a variety from the apples I picked, but I recommend Cortland or McIntosh)
  • 1/2 cup craisens or dried fruit
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (you can be creative and do 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1/4 cup of your favorite liquor – I used Pimms, my Dad uses rum sometimes)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Core the apples and cut them into wedges. You can peel the apples if you wish or leave the skin on. Spread the apples out onto your baking dish and add the craisens and/or dried fruit.

3. Warm up the apple cider, brown sugar, orange juice (and liquor if you choose) in a pot, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

4. Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the pot and stir until mixed in thoroughly.

5. Pour the liquid over the apples in your baking dish.

6. Cook the apples for 45 minutes. Make sure the apples have some liquid on them so they don’t dry out too much.

Tummy-warming applesuce
Tummy-warming applesauce

The potential for apple baking is endless. While apple pies, bars, and crisps are amazing, sometimes all you need is some simple applesauce to make your day better.

The Best Fruit Salad I Ever Made

I attended dinner party recently to say goodbye to another dear friend of mine moving away. Charged with bringing a sweet treat, I wanted to make something healthy, refreshing, and incredibly delicious. I don’t know why, but for some reason the most random song came to my head – a song from that children’s show The Wiggles my little sister always used to watch and sing around the kitchen. The song repeats the phrase “fruit salad, yummy, yummy” over and over again. Fruit salad. Yes! Perfect choice.

Fruit salad is truly an all-purpose dish. You can have it with breakfast, lunch, dinner (better yet “brinner”), or dessert (especially over vanilla ice cream). While you can make fruit salad by simply chopping and combining your favorite fruits, adding flavors brings a little more “oomph” to it. Fruits like apples and bananas also brown easily when exposed for a period of time. Do you want to serve your guests brown fruit? Do you want to eat brown fruit? I didn’t think so.

My solution? Add honey, cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon zest. That’s it! This fruit salad tastes like I’m eating freshly made pie filling, but without the inches-on-the-hips adding crust.

Best Fruit Salad
The Best Fruit Salad I Ever Made

 

Best Fruit Salad

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • 1 apple, chopped (the photo below has two, I chopped one and saw I had enough)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1/3 cup honey (any kind of honey works – I used clover honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (if you like more, go for it!)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (I used just a little less than this)
  • lemon zest, to taste

1. Wash your fruit (the apples, blueberries, and strawberries in this case).

Let's get chopping!
Let’s get chopping!

2. Slice your banana, watermelon, apple, and strawberries. Keep those blueberries whole.

3. Transfer your sliced fruit to a large bowl.

4. Put 1/4 cup of honey into a glass or microwave safe bowl. Warm up the honey for 30 seconds in the microwave so it becomes more liquid.

5. Add the liquified honey to your fruit. Then, add your cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

6. Stir all the goodness around in your large bowl. Done!

Note: If you let this fruit salad sit in your fridge for a few hours, the sugar from the honey will bring out the juices in the fruit (this is called maceration). The flavors will mesh even further, and it will taste even more like pie filling. Yum!