Easy French Toast

So I’ve tried fancy.  I’ve made overnight french toast, french toast that has 47 steps and then bakes in the oven, sandwich bread french toast… and you know what I’ve learned?  Simple is better.  French toast is my favourite thing for breakfast – mostly because I get to drown it in butter and syrup.  It is not as heavy as a pancake and it makes a good use of leftover bread.  The most important thing to know about classic french toast, (or eggy bread if you’re British) is to never, ever, under ANY circumstances, use fresh bread.  It makes for soggy-mushiness that could not be characterized as toast on a bad day.  It is a culinary crime.  If you only have fresh and you MUST have french toast or die, toast it in the oven until it’s dried out but not hard.  10 min at 200F should do it.  I have done this before and it is an acceptable substitute.  For best results use day old (or a couple day old) French or Italian bread.  It’s also quite wonderful with Brioche but who has leftover Brioche?

This recipe is easily doubled and is a no-brainer for brunch.  It’s super forgiving, and is actually LESS work and LESS time than all those fancy bakes and make the night before dishes.

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You Will Need:

  • Half a loaf of day-old bread (about 8 slices – 1 inch thick)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp of nutmeg – I really like nutmeg but you may want to cut back.  Fresh ground is best.
  • 2 rounded tbsp sugar
  • butter for the griddle
  • maple syrup to serve

In a small bowl combine cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Put aside.  In a 8×8 baking dish or other shallow container big enough to accommodate your bread (don’t use a bowl, you want an even coating and you want to get the bread out of the custard quickly before it absorbs too much liquid.  Splashing it around in a bowl makes it hard to get an even coat) whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Add 1/2 of the cinnamon mix and whisk again.  You will add the remainder after the first 4 slices are cooking.  I find if you add it all at once the first few slices get all the spicy goodness while the others are lacking in flavour.

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Heat a griddle to 375F, or if you don’t have one you can use a heavy bottomed skillet heated on medium to medium high.  You want the egg to begin to cook as soon as the bread hits the pan but not burn before the custard has a chance to cook through.  Melt a small tab of butter where you will place each slice.  Lay your bread in the custard and flip it to get an even coating on both sides, this should be a quick dip, then lay the bread on the hot griddle where you’ve melted the butter.  Repeat with 3 more slices.  These take about 3 min per side so be ready to flip.  When both sides are nicely browned, remove from griddle.  Add the remainder of the cinnamon mixture to the custard and repeat with the remaining 4 slices.  It’s ready to serve!  Smear with additional butter if you wish (I mean, you’re already breaking the bank on calories with the bread and the syrup so why not?) and pour on some maple syrup and voila!  I like to pair these with some yummy breakfast sausages and some fruit for brunch.  It’s a crowd pleaser!

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Turkish Chicken, Roasted Squash, and Citrus Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing

I always like to try to pair sides with mains that are complementary, but sometimes I hit on a combination completely by accident and it is amazing.  This meal is now officially  part of my meal rotation because these three things together made the perfect harmony and were all easy and budget friendly to prepare.  I try to make my own dressing whenever possible, its easy and preservative free, plus it just tastes better.

The inspiration for this meal came from the fact that I need to finish a blog post that goes with the leftover chicken for this meal, and also because Hubby brought home a mystery squash from work.  Yes, I said it, mystery squash.  A coworker of his had some rather gorgeous winter squash grow out of her compost and wasn’t sure what variety it was.  It was a lovely deep yellow with green stripes.  I originally thought it was delicata, a variety of winter squash with edible skin, but after cutting into it I knew the skin was not edible.  As it turns out, it was a tasty variety of spaghetti squash.  Super yummy.

Turkish chicken is a recipe that I use from one of my favourite books, Simple by Diana Henry. 20170109_200442It’s got some heat, a ton of flavour, and is just as the title of the book suggests:  Simple to prepare.  I often change it up with different spices, but I wanted to give you the original version just as it is.  I use the leftovers from this for a variety of meals which you will see in future posts.  She pairs it with a parsley salad that I didn’t really care for but can appreciate.  Instead, I chose a tangy salad with a bit of sweetness to stand up to the warmth of the spice and the buttery-ness of the squash.  My family dragged their chicken through the salad dressing to intesify the lemon and add some sweetness to the chicken and the result was divine.  Sometimes they are the best tasters.  They occasionally do things with my culinary masterpieces that horrify me… like add ketchup to goat cheese fritata (I’m crying inside thinking about it), but sometimes they are geniuses.

You Will Need:

For the Chicken

  • 1/3 cup olive oil (don’t use extra virgin here, it will smoke a lot during the cooking process)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Aleppo pepper or a tsp of cayenne (I reduced this to half a tsp of cayenne because I have tiny humans to feed and they cry when I burn their mouths)
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed (I used minced garlic in oil here to save some time)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • lemon wedges to serve

For the Spaghetti Squash (or any winter variety that you prefer)

  • 1 large spaghetti squash – sliced in half vertically with the seeds removed.
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar, not packed
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • salt and pepper

For the Salad

  • 1 romaine heart, washed and chopped
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of feta, crumbled
  • 1 cup of cucumber, sliced
  • 2 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented

For the Dressing

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp honey

Preparation:

The chicken needs to be marinated.  The longer the better, but anywhere from 30min to 8 hours will get you a ton of flavour.  For the marinade whisk the first 7 ingredients of the chicken in a bowl and pour into a large zippered freezer bag.  Toss in the chicken and mix it around until it’s evenly covered and put in the fridge.  Turn at least once while marinating.

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Preheat the oven to 400F and place the squash cut side up on a sheet pan.  I used a ceramic pan here, if you are using a traditional pan you may want to cover it with foil first.  Brush the squash with melted butter, sprinkle brown sugar evenly and season with salt and pepper.  Don’t worry, this doesn’t make the squash overly sweet, I don’t like candied squash, it’s just enough to highlight flavour and work with the other components of the meal.

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Bake on the center rack for 45-50 minutes until the squash is tender.  I baste them with the butter halfway through and I always try to arrange it so that these are ready a few min before the chicken.  They will benefit from some resting time and be easier to remove from the skin.

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Meanwhile, heat a grill pan or a heavy pan on medium high heat. Pull the chicken out and shake to remove excess marinade (otherwise you will end up with a very smokey kitchen) and place on pan.  Make sure to open up the thighs so they’re butterflied, otherwise you end up with burnt outsides and raw insides.  Cook until beautifully seared and flip.  About 4-6 min per side.  If you start these 20 min into the squash cooking time you will have enough time to rest them for 10 min before serving.

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While the chicken is resting toss the ingredients of the salad together.  In a small empty jar, add the dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until combined.  Pour about 1/4 cup on the salad and toss until evenly coated.  I put the remaining dressing on the table to flavor the meal if desired.  (I accidentally spilled the remainder on my plate the first time I made this and it went well with everything!).

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Raisin Bran Muffins with Greek Yogurt and Applesauce.

By Julie

Makes 12 muffins

Time:  30 min including baking

Wheat Bran is amazing stuff.  Just 1/3 of a cup has 26% of your daily fiber and 10% of your iron.  It also tastes like cardboard.  Really dry cardboard.  In order to get the cardboard to taste like something, I opted for easy muffins.  These bake in just 15 min and are on the table start to finish in about 30 min.  If you’re one of those morning people, you could even manage these on a weekday (I think it’s insanity to wake up an extra half an hour early to bake so I just make ahead and freeze them).  They will also keep well for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

I was in search of a raisin bran muffin recipe that was moist, flavorful, but also not packed full of fat.  I didn’t find one, so I made one.

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One of the first things you will find is that most raisin bran muffin recipes contain buttermilk.  For the same reason that most chocolate cakes do… it provides richness but also lift because it works with soda to make bubbles and a light and fluffy crumb.  Buttermilk is not something I have in my fridge.  That being said, it’s easy to make but I find it never quite tastes the same.  One thing I DO always have in my fridge is greek yogurt.  It’s high in protein, but not fat.  It’s thick, and rich, and possess the acidic quality you need to wake up the soda in the cake and start that reaction before you even begin the baking process.  Also it’s delicious with a tang that is hard to beat.  I used vanilla greek yogurt here but any flavor will work and by using a flavoured yogurt you can change up this recipe easy-peasy so that it becomes a staple in your household.  I also removed the oil and substituted applesauce, and skipped the sugar and replaced it with natural maple syrup.  The batter for these muffins came out super light and airy, almost mousse-like, which resulted in beautiful, fluffy, moist muffins.  And the raisins?  Well you know how I feel about raisins, but if you absolutely must leave them out these muffins will stand up well on their own.  Or you could replace them with any dried fruit, such as dates or cranberries.  These are an easy way to add a ton of fiber to your breakfast routine or snack.

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You Will Need

  • 1.5 Cups of Wheat Bran
  • 1 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup of apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt ( or buttermilk if you have it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of raisin (any variety)

Preheat Oven to 375F

Grease your muffin tin well, I use cooking spray because it’s just easier.  As I’ve explained in my previous muffin posts, I don’t like to use the muffin wrappers.  I hate it when the muffins stick to them and they are unnecessary.  If you grease your muffin tin the muffins will slide out easily, and they will have a lovely crispy exterior that will make you glad you listened to me.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a separate, medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add wet to dry and fold the dry into the wet until just combined, do not over mix or your will squash all of the fluffiness out of your muffins.  Fold in the raisins.  Place in center of the oven for 15 min.  Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean or with only a few crumbs they are done.  Rest for 5 min and if you remove them while they are still hot you will get the previously mentioned crispy exterior.  Enjoy.

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Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Dill

By: Julie

Serves:  About 3 cups.

Time:  15min plus egg boiling time.

I dreamed this up on the way home from the grocery store while starving, eating Triskets (olive oil and black pepper of course) right out of the box, and praying that the baby wouldn’t wake up before I had access to a bottle warmer and the remote control.  I thought: you know what this trisket needs?  Some egg.  And some dill.  And maybe a little mustard.  Oh, and that super crunch pickled celery that I put in my potato salad, yep, that’s what it needs.  So I went home and immediately boiled the eggs… and then everything descended into pandemonium and the eggs got put in the fridge and forgotten.  Fast forward to the next day – 20180906_115127_HDR eating triskets directly from the box, again, and I thought, you know what this trisket needs?  Some egg!  These are a great replacement for making deviled egg appetizers for your next get-together.  It will really hide the fact that you’ve completely messed up the eggs during the peeling process and that it’s impossible to fit all of the filling back into the eggs.  You can make this in record time and they look beautiful.  If you’re making sandwiches instead, I like them toasted on plain old sandwich bread.

If you don’t like dill (yes mom, I am talking to you), there is still a ton of flavor here with out it.

You Will Need:

  • 5 hard boiled eggs (the original plan was for six, but the snack fairy stole one in the night).  roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (can substitute mayo)
  • OPTIONAL – 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped plus 1 TBSP for garnish.
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 heaping Tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 Tbsp onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

First, chop the celery, place in a small bowl and add the vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar.  Give it a good stir and set aside.  This needs to soak for at least 10 min.  Stir occasionally.

I like chunky egg salad, so I just roughly chop the eggs and place in a medium bowl.  Add the yogurt, dill, black pepper, mustard, onion and stir gently until combined.  Remove celery from brine but RESERVE BRINE!  Add celery, stir, and taste.  Add 1 – 2 tsp of the celery brine, tasting between each addition.  It’s salty so be careful!

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This makes 4 healthy sized sandwiches or about 30 crackers.  For the crackers I used about a Tbsp for each and put a sprig of dill on the top.  I’d like to say I made these for company, but really I had them for lunch and then hid the rest in the back of the fridge to share with NO ONE so I could eat it all the next day.

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Lemon Raspberry Hand Pies

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By Corinne

What’s better than a pie? A pie you don’t have to share with anyone. A pie crust you only have to wrangle into a 6″ circle without disaster and that will give a rustically beautiful result. Your own personal pie, otherwise known as a hand pie. And what should you fill this treasure with? I highly recommend something special and in season, in this case, summer sweet raspberries.

Raspberries are a tart and delicate treat. I rarely buy them from the store, as they are always expensive and are so perishable. I am, however, fortunate to have a friend who has an absolutely glorious raspberry patch that I have had the pleasure of picking on occasion. If you end up with surprise access to some raspberries, I highly recommend treating yourself to these!

Time: Prep 30 minutes, bake 20-25 minutes (+additional chilling time)

Makes: 8 hand pies

You will need:

Pastry

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar(if desired)
  • 1/2 lb. or 8 oz. vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • cold water

Filling

  • 1 lb of raspberries
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your raspberries and your desired level of sweetness)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water

Egg wash + sugar for sprinkling

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar if desired, divided (I generally omit the sprinkling sugar, but it does look pretty)

**Both the filling and the pastry can be made the day before and then assembled when needed.

I have successfully worked with this pastry dough after chilling for as little as 10 minutes, but it is much easier to work with when it has chilled for at least an hour.

Make the filling first. Add fruit, sugar and lemon zest to a wide saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil for 5-6 minutes until fruit is broken down. Add cornstarch and water mixture and stir for a minute until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you make the pastry. 

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Stir the flour and salt together. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the shortening is in pea size pieces.

In a measuring cup, combine the egg and vinegar. Add enough cold water to make 1/2 cup.

Stir the liquid into the flour mixture a tbsp or two at a time, mixing with a fork. Add just enough to make the dough cling together. If you need more liquid, add cold water 1 tbsp at a time. 

Knead with hands until mixed thoroughly (knead as few times as necessary to bring to dough together. Do not over knead), then gather the dough into a ball and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour, or you can chill overnight, but leave it at room temp for 10 minutes before rolling.

Line a baking sheet with  parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Form a dough piece into a ball, place on a floured work surface, and roll into a circle about 6 inches in diameter.  Spoon about ¼ cup of pie filling in the center. Do your best to avoid the temptation to overfill.

Fold dough over filling, leaving about 1/2 inch of dough below the top crust. Press dough closed around filling.

Fold the overhanging bottom part of the dough up over the top edge, working your way around the crust, pinching together

Crimp the edge closed. This video gives a great demonstration of this technique at about 3:22. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Use a spatula to lift pie onto prepared baking sheet. **at this point you can freeze the pies if desired. Pies can be cooked directly from frozen, add about 10 minutes onto the cooking time. 

Whisk egg together with milk. Brush the top of each hand pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired. Cut 3 small vent holes in the top of each pie.

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Bake in the preheated oven until pies are golden brown and filling is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. 20180810_124424.jpg

 

Vegan Breakfast Cookies

By Corinne

I like my cookies soft and not too sweet. I like to think of these as ‘breakfast cookies’ as there is some goodness packed in there. These cookies stay soft even after baking, but the sunflower seeds and almonds give them a bit of a crunch.   I prefer them without chocolate chips, but my husband has more of a sweet tooth and prefers them with.  They are vegan as long as you use chocolate chips with no milk solids.

Time: prep 10 min, bake 20-22 min per batch

Makes: about 48 medium sized cookies

Oven: preheat 350F

You will need:

  • 3 cups quick oats*
  • 1/2-1cup lightly packed brown sugar (I tend to use the smaller amount as I find with the other sweet ingredients(cranberries, chocolate chips) they are sweet enough.
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (roasted, salted)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds(need nut free? Substitute pepitas-shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom (If you love cardamom and would like it to be more ‘present’, go 1 tsp cinnamon and 2 tsp cardamom instead)
  • 1 can (398 ml) 1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together all dry ingredients. Melt virgin coconut oil in microwave, about 1 minute. Add coconut oil, canned pumpkin to dry mixture and thoroughly mix together. This can be done pretty easily by hand, or if you have a mixer, that works too.

Roll a scoopful of cookie dough into a ball between your palms, then squish flat.  They cook into whatever shape you make them now and they don’t spread or ‘puff up’  so you can snuggle them up close together.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cookies will be slightly browned around the edges, bottoms and tops. Cool completely and store in an air tight container, or freeze and take out just a few at a time as desired.

*oats are one of those ‘maybe’ items for many celiac people. While oats themselves are gluten free, crops may be contaminated with wheat. Some brands of oats will say ‘gluten free’ and others don’t.

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Vegan chickpea and white bean “Chicken” Parmesan

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By Corinne

These aren’t chicken. They don’t taste like chicken and they don’t feel sad about it and neither should you. They really aren’t even trying to be chicken, they are just their own delightful thing that happened to be inspired by a dish usually made with chicken.  They are crispy on the outside, tender and spiced on the inside and you will be making this again.

While tofu is the standard vegan/vegetarian meat substitute, I just don’t love it. I feel like it doesn’t really have anything going for it in the flavour or the texture department. So in searching for a reasonable substitute that wasn’t a highly processed, already premade thing, I managed to come up with these. They are delicious. I mean. I of course had to taste to adjust seasoning… but may have done more tasting than strictly necessary before even breading and frying them.

Time: about 40 minutes

Serves: makes 4-5 servings

Oven: 450F

You will need:

For “chicken”

  • 1 cup white navy beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley + more for garnish
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil + 1tbsp additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup high gluten flour (80%)
  • 1/2 cup veggie broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil or vegetable oil for frying
  • vegan mozzarella cheese, or regular mozza if you’re just feeling vegetarian rather than vegan
  • about 1/2 cup of your favourite marinara sauce

For breading

  • 1 cup panko
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • several grinds of fresh pepper

Add chickpeas, navy beans, garlic, shallot, fresh parsley, nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, thyme, panko, vegetable broth, and 2 tbsp oil to a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until ingredients are combined.

 

Remove mixture to a large bowl and add 1/2 cup of high gluten flour. Mix together and knead it a bit. At this point, if you wish, you can wrap in plastic and leave overnight in the fridge. Letting the mixture rest does seem to give it an easier to work with texture(tends to stick together a bit more and is easier to flip when frying) but is not strictly necessary.

Mix breading ingredients together. A pie plate works great for this, but a shallow bowl will work as well.

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. You want the oil to be hot enough that there is vigorous bubbling when you drop some crumbs in. If your oil is too cold, your patties won’t get that nice crisp crust and will be somewhat soggy and oily.

Divide bean dough depending on how large you would like your patties to be. I find if you do larger patties, they look more like chicken breasts, but smaller patties cook and flip a little better. So- say 8 if you want smaller patties, and 5 if you want larger ones.  Press them into an ovalish patty shape. Brush each side with the reserved oil and then place into the crumb dish. Firmly press breading onto both sides and around the edges of the patty.

 

Pan fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping once. Remove to a baking pan. When all patties are golden, top each with 1-2 tbsp of your favourite marinara (don’t spread it around,  you want those edges to stay crisp) and then top that with the cheese or cheese product of your choice. Bake in a 450F oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is warm.