eggnog french toast

We began our holiday weekend with a bang -- an eggnog french toast bang. There's going to be so much good food in the next few days, we had to set things off on the right foot.

Baked french toast is beginning to be a staple brunch food for me, 'cause it's so darn easy and delicious. All ingredients go in the pan the night before, and you just throw it in the oven in the morning. Yummmm!

Merry Christmas!

eggnog french toast

french baguette

Slice baguette and layer in the bottom of baking pan (8x8 or 13x9, depending on size of party). Cut up some slices into halves or quarters and fill any gaps between slices, overlapping the bread slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together some eggs (for our 8x8 pan, I used 3 eggs), pour in some eggnog and a little milk to cut the thickness. Pour over bread. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take out of fridge about 20-30 minutes to take the chill off the pan (we don't want anything to break in a hot oven!). Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes, until the eggs are done.

variation: berry & pecan french toast

french baguette
vanilla extract
fresh or frozen berries -- blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries
toasted pecans

Same basic idea as above, but soak bread with a regular french toast mixture of eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. In the morning, sprinkle lots of berries over the egg/bread mixture (poking some berries into pockets in the bread...mmm) and sprinkle a few toasted pecans over as well. Bake as usual. I like to serve this with a berry syrup and whipped cream. (To make the syrup, warm some regular maple syrup and a few berries in a saucepan on the stove, crushing the berries once they are warm.)

We had this last year for xmas -- scrum-diddly-umptious.


road food: chocolate-covered pretzels

We went on a little road trip (Clay was turning 30 and needed a good surprise) last weekend and I packed some treats for the journey. I'm not usually a fan of snacks that try to mingle salty and sweet (I can't stand kettle corn!) but these chocolate-covered pretzels were a hit -- a little crunchy wrapped in yummy chocolate.

chocolate-covered pretzels
A whopping two ingredients: pretzels & chocolate (milk or dark)

Melt some chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the pretzels in chocolaty goodness, then place them out on wax/parchment paper. Chill in fridge. You'll probably want to keep them chilled until you're ready to eat since there is no magic preservative to keep the chocolate from melting.


adventures in hat-making

Warning: This is a knitting-nerd post -- all ye non-knitters may want to just skip to the end for pictures of finished product. :)

This darling little hat (link & scroll down) by Sarah intimidated me with its provisional cast on and a folded picot edge. I could do the picot edge -- just some yarn overs -- but the whole provisional thing was throwing me for a loop. So, as you will see, I took the tedious route...

Instead of casting onto circular needles, I cast onto straight needles with waste yarn (the black yarn). Then, switching colours, I knit up 4 rows (in stockinette, 'cause it's on straight needles), did my row of yarn overs to make the picot edge, then knit 4 more in stockinette...

To fold the hem, I transferred all of those pink stitches that you can see in the waste yarn onto my dpns, then I could knit together one st from the live needle and one st from the dpn, thereby creating my beautiful folded hem...

Then came the humdrum task of carefully ripping out all of my waste yarn...

But when I went to join in the round, I realized my yarn was on the wrong side. DOH! I have to purl this entire hat from the inside? Grrrr.

I was a few inches in on this purling endeavour that I said SCREW IT! And started over with an easy-peasy rolled edge. I was a bit sad to see the picot go, but at least now I have a finished hat for little Reenie Roo (and one that I didn't swear while making).


linzer cookies

Let's be naughty and save Santa the trip.

~ Gary Allan

Holiday cookie time! Jeff and I wanted something festive to make and eat while we were trimming our tree and listening to our xmas tunes (He can't stand Boney M - can you imagine?!).

I got the recipe for these lovely linzer cookies from the Barefoot Contessa, who had modified a shortbread recipe of Eli Zabar, a New York foodie.

linzer cookies
makes about a dozen (I halved the original recipe, so feel free to double it)

12 Tbs unsalted butter -- it's important that the butter is at room temperature
1/2 C sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
1/8 teas salt
1/2 C raspberry jam
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment (I'm sure you don't have to use an electric mixture, but I won't bother to "translate" the instructions), mix together butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Dump onto a flour-dusted counter and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 30 mins.

Roll out the dough to about a 1/4-in thickness. The dough can be a little difficult to handle at this stage 'cause it's so crumbly, but I swear it is workable. Cut rounds. With half of the rounds, cut another shape from the middle of the round (I wish I had a fun mini cookie cutter for this...next time). Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 mins.

Bake cookies for about 20 mins, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool completely. Dust the top of the the cut-out cookie with confectioner's sugar (a flour sifter works well). Spread jam on the flat side of each solid cookie and press together with the flat side of the sugared tops.


tasty apple turnovers

This recipe is from the fun Barefoot Contessa (a.k.a. Ina Garten), who does a great job of improving on classic comfort food. For her apple turnovers, I tried adding a lot more apple filling than she called for (1/3 cup of filling just didn't seem like enough to me), but the results were a little difficult to manage -- lots of torn pastry and loose apples. I recommend using 4 apples instead of the 3 called for in her recipe (but not the 5 apples that I attempted) -- that way your turnovers will be bursting at the seams (but only figuratively) with apple-y goodness.

apple turnovers
makes 8

1 teas orange zest
3 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
4 tart apples (I used a combo of granny smith and empire)
3 Tbs dried cherries
3 Tbs sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 Tbs flour
1/4 teas cinnamon
1/8 teas nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed but chilled
1 egg beaten with a little water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400. Combine orange zest and juice in a bowl. Peel, quarter, and core apples, cutting them into 3/4-in chunks. Immediately toss the apples with the zest and juice to prevent browning. Add cherries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Flour a work surface and lightly roll out the sheet of puff pastry to 12 x 12 square. Quarter into 4 smaller squares. (Keeping the other sheet chilled until ready to use.) Brush edges of pastry with the egg wash and place some of the apple mixture on half of the square. Fold diagonally over apples and seal by pressing the edges with a fork (like a pie crust edge). Keep chilled while you finish filling the rest.

Carefully transfer turnovers to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and make 2 small slits (to let out steam). Bake for 20-25 minutes until brown and puffed. Serve warm. We had ours with ice cream, but just a dash of cream would be yummy too.


banana bread vs. banana cake

bread vs. cake

You have three over-ripe bananas waiting to be transformed. Are you going to make a banana bread or a banana cake? These two recipes will make the choice all the more difficult...

chocolate-y banana bread (from The New Best Recipe)
makes 1 loaf

2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C mix of chocolate chips and pecans or walnuts (the classic question of adding chocolate and nuts is kind of a no-brainer for me...I add both)
1/2 C sugar (use a bit more if you aren't putting in chocolate chips)
3/4 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
3 very ripe, mushy, darkly bananas, mashed
1/4 C plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
6 Tbs unsalted butter
1 teas vanilla

Put oven rack in the lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and dust with flour.

Whisk flour, sugar, soda, salt, and nuts/chips together in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Fold wet mix into the dry mix until just combined. The batter will be thick and chunky, but shouldn't have any streaks of white flour.

(bananas are disgustingly slurpy when you thaw them from a freezer!)

Bake until golden, and the cake test is clean (about an hour). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes or so before turning out unto a wire rack. And, as much as you hate to wait, the bread is better if you give it several hours to cool before you cut into it -- something to do with the flavours needing some alone.

Now for the contender: banana cake. This recipe comes from Joann, a.k.a. Max's mom. Apparently she wouldn't dream of wasting her ripe bananas on a loaf of bread. After partaking of her banana cake, I can see why -- I think I'm converted.

Joann's banana cake (from an ol' C&H sugar pkg)
makes a 13x9 sheet cake

1 1/4 C sugar
1/2 C butter
1/2 teas nutmeg
2 eggs
3 mashed, ripe bananas
1 teas vanilla
2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 C buttermilk*
1/2 C nuts -- optional

*To substitute for buttermilk, I used 1/2 C milk and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together sugar, butter, and nutmeg until nice n' fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in bananas and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients and beat into creamed mixture, alternately with buttermilk. Stir in nuts, if using. Spread batter in greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Cream cheese frosting is a great addition, but not really necessary --this cake is sweet enough without it.


magic beer bread

Beer: So much more than just a breakfast drink.

~ Whitstran Brewery

This recipe is some kind of magic. Some flour, a bottle o' brew, and voila -- bread!

whole wheat beer bread

makes 1 loaf

2 1/2 C self-rising flour*
1/2 C whole wheat flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 12-oz bottle of beer (any basic ale will do)
6 Tbs butter, melted

* Self-rising flour is really easy to substitute for. For every cup of self-rising, you can use a scant cup of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teas baking powder, and 1/2 teas salt. So for this recipe, use a scant 2 1/2 cups of plain ol' flour, 3 3/4 teas baking powder, and 1 1/4 teas salt.

Preheat oven to 375. In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, combine mix with beer. (The batter will be lumpy.)

Place dough in a greased loaf pan and pour 3 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough. Bake for 40 minutes, then pour 2 Tbs melted butter over the top of the bread. Continue baking for 10 more minutes. Pour over last Tbs of butter and bake 10 more minutes.

Remove bread from oven and let it sit in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool for about a half an hour before slicing off a piece. It's mmmm-good with cheddar or slathered in honey!

I packaged up the dry ingredients for some folks I know
may have an extra bottle of beer lying around. ;)


christmas calendar on a string

It's advent calendar season!

Remember my very first sock? It was the first of MANY -- twenty-four, to be exact. Now that the gift has been sent, opened, and hung with care, I can share...

In my family, the advent calendar was a source of daily sibling spats. We had a paper calendar with little doors that obscured details of a Christmas scene. And, even though there wasn't any candy included, we still tussled over whose turn it was to open the door. I hope that my niece and nephew continue the tradition for many years to come -- ahh, warm holiday memories of brother-sister bickering.

As for the project's nitty gritty details...I used the same basic pattern for all the socks. And for their calendar-ish-ness, I used silver numbered brads from Adornit.

A simple i-cord worked well to rope the socks together (I recommend adding loops periodically for easy hanging.) And last but not least, once it was all assembled, I stuffed each sock with fun treats -- a dirty job, but someone had to do it. :)


prosciutto palmiers

Some think you need a veritable party before you make finger foods, but our party of three (Glenda came to visit!) was excuse enough for these darn tasty treats. (If you're interested, link to her blog for the scoop.)

These appies are from my Hors d'Oeuvres cookbook (judging this book by its cover, I'd say they revised it since I got mine). You have to think ahead a bit in order to have a sheet of puff pastry thawed, but you can whip up these morsels pretty quickly.

prosciutto palmiers
makes 20

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp honey
2.5 oz (75 g) sliced prosciutto
freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk beaten with a dash of water

Unroll pastry to a rectangle (6" x 14"). Trim uneven edges, if necessary. Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl, then spread evenly over pastry. Cover with sliced prosciutto. Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of parmesan.

Roll up ends tightly to meet in the middle (looks like the game binoculars that Clay and I used to play when we were little...two little kiddies rolling up each side of a blanket). Refrigerate until firm (15 mins).
Preheat oven to 400. Brush egg wash on all sides, then cut into 1/2" or 1 cm slices. Place slices on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden (10-15 mins). Sprinkle with a bit of parmesan when hot from the oven. Cool on wire rack and serve warm or at room temp.


nifty magnets, take two

Remember my marble magnets? Well I've been at it again. This time, they are for a stocking stuffer for my dad, so I made them from picts of his kids and grandkiddies. ...I think they're all (and we're all) turning out to be pretty cute.

A word of warning though -- It took me several attempts to get the heads scaled down to be small enough for a little magnet -- a learning curve that turns out to be sort of spendy on a colour copier!


hoppy and bitter brew

We've been brewing again! It's time for bottling up our lovely hoppy ale. This batch is going to be quite bitter since we used double the hops and malt from last time. Bitter beer face for me, happy beer face for Jeff.

siphoning into the ale pail

filling the bottles

the fun bottle capper thingy

50 red-star bottles!
Now we just have to wait a few weeks to crack one open.


nubby green scarf

One gift down, several more to go!

This nubby scarf will be part of an xmas gift for the ma-in-law. She picked out the yarn -- she wanted something soft and non-itchy, and that would match her winter wares. (I wish the colour had turned out better in this picture -- it's really very green and navy.)


sticky sweet sesame chicken

Rice served with some sort of sticky goodness is always appealing to me. This recipe was inspired in part by the "sticky thai chicken" recipe from this Donna Hay book.

sticky sweet sesame chicken
for 2

2 teas sesame oil
1 teas dried red pepper flakes
1 Tbs grated ginger
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
3 Tbs oyster sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 chicken breasts, pounded and cut in half
sesame seeds

In two small bowls, prep ingredients: oil, red peppers, and ginger in one, and lime juice, oyster sauce, and sugar in the other. In a large pan over med-high heat, cook the oil/pepper/ginger mix for about a minute. Then, stir in the lime/oyster/sugar mix and cook for another minute.

Add chicken pieces and cook for 6-8 minutes, until almost done. Increase heat, turn chicken, sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook for another few minutes until it's sticky and golden (and cooked through).

It's yummy served with rice and steamed/sauteed veggies.


when life gives you lemons, make lemon pudding cake

Lemony desserts are so satisfying. The tart and sweet flavour always seem the perfect ending to any type of meal. This lemony dessert was inspired from Gourmet magazine (circa 2001 or 2002).

lemony pudding cake
makes 6

2 large lemons
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teas salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare ramekins by lightly buttering and sugaring, knocking out any excess sugar. Place in towel-lined baking pan.

Zest two lemons for about 1 Tbs of fine zest. Then, squeeze 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs of lemon juice.

Combine flour, salt, and 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar in a large bowl. Whisk together. In another bowl, whisk yolks and milk with the zest and juice. Add two mixes together until just combined.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. It's very meringue-like at this stage.

Whisk a little of the whites into the batter, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. (The batter will be quite thin.)

Pour mix into prepared ramekins.
Pour hot water into baking pan until about 1/2-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in the hot water bath until puffed and golden (about 45 mins). The sides will pull away from the edge. Remove from the bath and let cool on a rack. Wait a bit to enjoy them slightly warm or let them cool to room temp.

I inverted the ramekin
onto a plate so the pudding and cake layers were more visible, but it would taste just as good spooned out of the ramekin (with a little dusting of powdered sugar).