French Toast: Variations on a Theme

French Toast (1)French toast is a family favorite, whether we are having it for breakfast or supper. And I love that there are so many variations of the recipe.  Like most of the things I cook,  I don’t have a recipe I follow every single time or even have written down. This one is coming from my head,  but I will try to put actual amounts in — and FYI a glug of milk is a measurement.  A glug is the sound the milk makes when you pour it, and it kind of hiccups; if you keep pouring, it goes glug, glug, glug.  (Maybe some day I will measure it for real.)  I am explaining this, because when I make French toast, a glug of milk, from a gallon size jug is part of the recipe.   So I will share a basic French toast recipe, my variation to it, and my friend Isabeau’s Stuffed French Toast recipe.

Somerville Manor

Isabeau is a friend I met through the medieval re-enactment society I belong to, and she was a marvelous cook, oftentimes cooking an entire feast for fifty or sixty or seventy people.  She and her husband, William, built a live-action medieval village, and held events there. (Which has since moved locations several times, this is their current Facebook page.) Sometimes I would go help them with a girls’ camp, scout camp, or special event.  And from those visits, I learned some of her recipes.  Unfortunately, about twelve years ago,  Isabeau had an accident, and lost her memory, and forgets things that are not a daily/weekly part of her life.  For years, every time I saw her she would say, “My husband tells me we are good friends.”  And then I say yes we are and repeat some of our shared adventures, which include going with her to help with medieval merchanting, driving from Idaho to Arizona for a “War” pulling a trailer  (a new adventure for both of us), setting up camp and pavilion, no small feat for two women), and weathering an unexpected Arizona rainstorm which caused flooding in our pavilion.  But we survived to tell the tale, and my life is better for having had the adventure with her.  And happily, we are Facebook Friends now, so because she sees my posts on a regular basis, when I see her in person, she now knows who I am.  This makes my heart happy. So this post is dedicated to Isabeau; an extraordinary friend and an excellent cook.

Basic French Toast

(About four pieces – adjust recipe to feed more people.)

Bread (sliced)

2 large eggs beaten

1 glug of milk

pinch of salt

Beat eggs with fork, add a glug of milk and a pinch of salt, beat with fork until frothy.  Pour into a flat-bottomed container (or simply mix in one to begin with).

Heat griddle over medium low heat. (The right temperature is when a couple of drops of water dance on the griddle.)

Dip slice of bread into egg mixture, letting it soak into the bread, using a fork (and fingers if necessary) flip it over to coat the other side.  Immediately place on prepared griddle (I usually melt some butter, or spray it with pan-spray).  Cook until golden brown (30 – 60 seconds), flip and cook other side.   Serve with butter and syrup; or strawberries and whipped cream.

My Variation of the Basic Recipe

Bread (sliced)

4 eggs

2 glugs of milk

pinch of salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs, salt, and spices together, mix really well, and then add the glug of milk and the vanilla. (The nutmeg tends to float to the top, so you may need to add more after the first two or three slices)

Heat griddle over medium low heat. (The right temperature is when a couple of drops of water dance on the griddle.)

Dip slice of bread into egg mixture, letting it soak into the bread, using a fork (and fingers if necessary) flip it over to coat the other side.  Immediately place on prepared griddle (I usually melt some butter, or spray it with pan-spray).  Cook until golden brown (30 – 60 seconds), flip and cook other side.   Serve with butter and syrup; or strawberries and whipped cream.

Isabeau’s Stuffed French Toast

(From memory, I’ve never written it down before.)

Loaf of Bread (Sliced)

1 8 oz jar plum jelly

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese (softened)

6 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1/4 c. milk

powdered sugar

Filling:

Whip cream cheese and plum jelly together until smooth.  Spread mixture between two slices of bread (like making PB&J sandwiches) making sure to get all the way out to the edges.  Mix eggs, salt, salt, and milk together. (Pour into flat-bottomed container for dipping.)

Dip stuffed bread into egg mixture, turning to coat both sides.  Cook on a hot griddle 30 – 60 seconds per side, until a golden brown.  Place on serving plate and top with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

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Lemon Grilled Whole Trout Foil Packets (Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!)

 Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! – The Story

Lemon Grilled Whole Trout Foil Packets

Grilled Whole Trout Foil Packets

Recipe By:Reynolds Wrap(R) Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
Ingredients
  • 2 whole trout – cleaned, rinsed, patted dry
  • 2 sheets Reynolds Wrap(R) Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 large lemons, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill, or as desired

Directions

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to 350 degrees. Lay out two large sheets of heavy duty Reynolds aluminum foil (long enough to wrap fish).
  2. Sprinkle inside of the trout with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place 3 to 4 lemon slices, sliced leeks and a couple sprigs of fresh dill into each cavity.
  3. Place 3 slices of lemon down the middle of each foil sheet and lay the stuffed fish on top and fold the foil up loosely around the fish and seal seems tightly.
  4. Place the two packets on the grill and cook until fish is cooked through and flakes easily, 18 to 22 minutes.
  5. Remove packets from grill, unwrap and season with a little more salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Grilled Trout – Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! (A Flashback, and the Alaskan Saga Continued)

A few days ago, after doing battle with a fence (and losing) but inadvertently making a single serving of applesauce (the subject for another blog post); I was bundled up on the couch, with the twin consolation of chocolate and Dr. Pepper, near at hand, and Downton Abbey season three helping me forget my bruised body and pride. I am lost in drama of a grand English estate when there is a knock at the door.  Pausing the show, I slowly limp to the stairs, and walk down them a step at a time, the same way a toddler would, to open the door.

And there, on the doorstep, stands my sister.  The one who lives in Alaska! What a pleasant surprise.  Normally I only see her once every year or so, but this year, I’ve been blessed to see her three times now.  And that makes me happy!  It was a brief visit, but I enjoyed it so much. And she had a huge smile on her face too, brimming with the success of her surprise.

My mom and baby sister.
My mom and baby sister.

Growing up in a family of six; four brothers, plus my baby sister, who is twelve years younger than I, meant that my sister and I shared a room.  This wasn’t a problem, I had waited a long, long, time for a sister.  In fact, when I found out my mom was pregnant, I prayed every night that I would have a baby sister (and if you know what living with four brothers is like, you will know why I prayed for that! If she had been a boy, I think I would have quit believing in God then and there, so great was my faith, that he would make sure I had a sister). In any case, I was overjoyed when she was born, and finally, I had a sister.  Oh how I adored and spoiled her, and took pictures of her.

When she was four, and I was sixteen, we were still sharing a room.  Being a teenager, I was often out in the evenings, and she was asleep in our shared bed by the time I got home. A light was left on in the walk-in closet for her, so she wouldn’t be afraid, and when I slipped in, I used the same light to prepare for bed.  Well, one night, I got home after midnight, prepared for bed in the walk-in closet, and then, before I turned the light out, I flipped back the covers prior to getting into bed, Continue reading

Momma’s Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken-noodle-soup
I made chicken noodle soup tonight, and it was amazing, according to my son. I also caught the Pokemon! 

 

When I was a girl, one of my favorite meals was thick, creamy chicken and noodles served over mashed potatoes. It was a comfort food then, and chicken and noodles still conjure comfort for my family.  My mother taught me how to make the soup complete with homemade egg noodles.  It was hard for me to believe that something so delicious is so easy to make.

I have taken her recipe and made it my own. Her version involved boiling a whole chicken and saving the broth, and pulling the meat off the chicken, and mine uses shortcuts like the microwave, chicken broth, and boneless, skinless chicken breasts to speed up the process. But the noodle recipe is the same, and the comforting aroma still makes me think of sitting at my mom’s kitchen table enjoying  a bowlful, or watching my kids eat it up as they sit around my kitchen table.  Today, my daughter, Katie, sent me a text asking for the recipe. So for her and anyone else that needs to serve up a homey memory, here it is:

Momma’s Chicken Noodle Soup

(with Homemade Noodles)

Broth with Chicken

2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts*

3 – 4 10.6 oz cans chicken broth

2-3 carrots – shredded (set aside)

3-4 stalk of celery – chopped

1 onion – chopped

1-2 c. water + 1 cube chicken bouillon per cup

salt & pepper to taste

*Depending on how much soup you want to make, add meat and/or vegetables for a larger pot of soup. You can also use chicken thighs, but use twice as many in place of chicken breasts. Increase the amount of chicken broth/water to cover. 

Directions:

Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a covered container and microwave 10-14 minutes. While chicken breasts are cooking, simmer chicken broth, chopped onion, and celery in a large stock pot.

When chicken is cooked, cut into small chunks (a pair of kitchen shears works well for this) and add to the simmering broth. Add enough additional water (and chicken bouillon cubes – one per cup of extra water) so vegetables are barely covered. Continue to simmer.

Egg Noodles

2 eggs, beaten

¼ c. milk

1 ½ tsp. salt

2 – 2 ½ c. flour

While broth is simmering and chicken is cooking make noodles. In a medium size mixing bowl, beat eggs about three minutes with a wire whisk, add milk and salt. Mix. Add 2. cups of the flour, mix with a fork until dough is stiff; add additional flour if needed, a tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour out on the countertop. Place half of the dough on counter and roll out until it is about ⅛” – ¼” thick in a rectangular shape. (Use enough flour underneath the dough so it doesn’t stick to counter.) Cut noodles so they are about ¼ inch wide. (Use a pizza cutter to make this a quick job.) Use a spatula to lift them up off the counter, place them aside and let them rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Repeat with second half of dough.

When the noodles are resting, increase the temperature of the broth from simmering to a full boil. Drop the egg noodles into the boiling broth, stirring to separate them. Add the shredded carrots and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for ten minutes on medium heat. If you want a thicker broth, mix 2 tablespoons of flour into ¾ cup of cold water with a fork. Then add to the boiling soup the last five – ten minutes of cooking time. The soup will thicken as it cools. Serve with toasted bread, cornbread, or crackers.

Poor Man’s Lobster or Adventures in Alaska

Alaskan Adventures
What does my sister, a dead fish, Alaska, my teenage self, and a bed have in common?  Read on to find out.

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit my sister who lives in Alaska. She has lived there for over twenty years, and this was my first (but not last) visit. It was an amazing adventure for me. I loved the fire weed, the amazingly beautiful scenery, enjoying sunsets over the ocean at 10:30 p.m.,  climbing to the top of a ginormous rock left by a glacier, playing in the ocean, being silly with my sister, and the good food my sister made for me.

As you know, Alaska means fish.  Now I’ve never been much of a fish-eater, because of several traumatic, fish-related experiences. Despite that I do like clam chowder, and shrimp.  I have also tried sushi (my daughters adore it) but it was just bleh for me.  I still try it every now and then simply to confirm that I DON’T like it. But, my sister’s family eats a lot of fish, and it wasn’t sushi, so I was willing to give it a try.  So one night for dinner she made Poor Man’s Lobster, and it was good.  I even had seconds! So here is the recipe, and then the rest of the story.

Poor Man’s Lobster

8 cups water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup salt

Bring to a boil.

Add 1 inch by 2 inch pieces salmon or halibut, with no bones.

Boil for 4 to 5 min or until pink (for salmon – halibut rises to the top). Scoop out with a slotted spoon.

Serve over rice. Drizzle garlic butter over the top.

Rice

Cook in a rice cooker, or follow package directions

Garlic Butter

1 cube butter

3or 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Sautee  garlic in butter, keep warm, be careful not to burn.

And stay tuned  the rest of the story, coming up in another blog post soon.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

To find out why I included this recipe, see this post: Kelly Cooks Spaghetti Sauce

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

½ c. white sugar

½ c. olive oil

¼ c. distilled white vinegar

¼ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp minced onion

10 ounces fresh spinach – rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces

1 quart strawberries – cleaned, hulled and sliced

¼ c. almonds, blanched and slivered

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and onion.  Cover and chill for one hour.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe from All Recipes.com

Kelly Cooks Spaghetti Sauce

Kelly and the kids playing cards.
Kelly and the kids playing cards.

When the children were young, many of our meals consisted of pasta, vegetables, and well, pasta and vegetables.  Kelly was always concerned with the kids getting enough nutrients, and eating their vegetables.  My daughter Melanie once recalled sitting at the dinner table long after everyone else had finished because she refused to eat the three green beans on her plate, and her father refused to excuse here until they were eaten.  It was an impasse, and I don’t recall the ending.  But, the consumption of veggies by his children was important to Kelly.

Thus, when he made spaghetti sauce, he had a habit of adding vegetables to the sauce, shredded carrots for example, were disguised in the sauce, and the kids ate it up, without ever realizing they were eating a bunch of cooked carrots.  He added onions and peppers, minced broccoli even.  But then, one day he went too far —even for me.  Continue reading