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Posts Tagged ‘great French toast recipes’

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Watching glimpses of Melania Trump’s speech on the morning news, I can’t help but wonder if her poised and calm appearance secretly housed an inside full of fear and dancing butterflies. Beautiful enough certainly to exude confidence in most any arena, still the woman surely had never been asked to give a politically motivated speech viewed by millions prior to stepping up to the podium this week. This would make a mouse out of many a lion.

Public speaking, so experts say, ranks higher than death among people’s fears. I know it’s right up there on my list. However, faced with choosing between standing before a firing squad or delivering a speech, I believe I would spit shine my writing skills and get on with whatever topic was at hand.

So terrified was I in high school of speaking before my peers, I would read whatever book was assigned for an oral book report, write the paper, and when called on to give my report claim I hadn’t done it. I know. I was a shy kid in those days. For people who know me now I realize this concept seems a stretch, but it was an accurate description of the younger version of myself. Miss Payne, my sophomore English teacher, was an unmarried lady of some years. At the age of fourteen I viewed anyone over twenty-five as having one foot in the grave, but her nickname was “the purple lady” due to her bluish gray hairdo so I would guess her to have been in her late fifties. Miss Payne brooked little resistance from her charges, and due to her iron rule received little. Many times we watched in horror as some poor kid caught breaking a Payne rule of behavior got their knuckles whacked soundly with her ruler for whatever transgression they had perpetrated. The second time I’d admitted not having a book report ready she had me stand in front of the class. For the allotted ten minutes I stood before them reading clumsily from a massive book of Shakespeare. King Lear has never been so sorely abused. I’m sure my words were drowned out by the loud knocking of my bony knees and the incessant drop, drop, drop of sweat beads on the wooden floor. Not good, not good at all.

Ten minutes can be eternity when you’re snared by fear. Once I took a ten minute typing test and my elbows were literally locked in place when on the downhill stretch. There was a boy in our class blessed with a nasty stutter. Talking to him required extreme patience. Each word he uttered struggled to be born and when it emerged was often accompanied by spitting and bizarre facial contortions. The wait between statements often became uncomfortable for both the speaker and the listener. As if this wasn’t enough of a social disaster for a teen, he had also been blessed with a terminal case of acne making the circle of his awkwardness complete. I was talking to my daughter the other day about the fact life is rarely fair. Recalling this kid would have been a great example to use. Hopefully like many social pariahs in high school, he went on to run a huge technology firm or try cases in superior court. High school kids can be a cruel lot, pouncing like pack animals on their weakest members culling them from the herd for ridicule and shame. I can only imagine what goes on with social media at their fingertips these days. Back then they were at least limited to their own turf.

Miss Payne trucked no rebellion in her English class. Everyone participated reluctantly or not. This boy, I wish I could remember his name, sat in the back row. His chin seemed to perpetually to be pointed in the direction of his feet, while his nervous hands worked ceaselessly at the craters on his face. When his name was called to do his report, several cooler kids groaned and snickered making his walk toward the front of room probably as long as an inmate taking his last walk along death row. Standing in front of his taunters wrinkled paper twisted in his fingers he began a report which was to eat up an entire class period. The boy sitting behind me began snoring as this boy worked to get through the torture. Looking back I’m sure Mrs. Payne thought she was doing what was best for him, but to me it felt like some kind of retribution aimed at all the men who had passed her by during her life. Poor guy.

After that day it became somewhat easier for me to appear in front of people. Let’s face it if a kid with a humiliating speech impediment and a face full of pimples could get through it, what had I to fear? These days I rather enjoy basking in the soft glow of the spotlight. Never would I be interested in public speaking, however, or appearing on TV or the stage. That light would be a little too strong for my tastes. People poking their cameras in every facet of your life would have no interest for me on any level. No amount of money or fame is worth losing my privacy.

One of the recent mega lottery winners in California recently stepped forward to claim their prize. The first thing coming to my mind was how life as they knew it was about to change drastically. Media attention, family members crawling out from under the rug, charities pursuing them, and changes in living, working and family situations. Whew. Lottery god if you’re tuning in it is not that I’m adverse to dealing with all this (my ticket is in my wallet if you’re waving your wand), however, I do acknowledge it might be a bit daunting. I’m just sayin.

I do have to say going back to my original thought that Melania Trump’s speech certainly had a familiar echo to it. No matter how much back pedaling their campaign managers do they cannot take away from the startling similarities to Michelle Obama’s speech. Ah well, kudos to her for doing it. This by no means is a political affirmation or nod to the Trump campaign, simply a casual observation about the speech itself.

This is my version of something I saw on a cooking show. Rick gave it an A. I prefer to let the bread rest a day or two so it’s not too fresh and soft.

Brie French Toast with Raspberry Sauce

4 slices Artisan bread, sliced thick
3 eggs
3 Tbsp. 2% milk
1 1/2 tsp. brandy
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. French Brie cheese
Confectioner’s sugar

Whisk together eggs, milk, brandy, vanilla, and cinnamon. One at a time soak bread in egg mixture. Melt butter in skillet over high heat. Place soaked bread in skillet and cook until golden brown. Turn over. Place two slices of Brie on top of two slices of bread. When bread is brown on the bottom side place the two slices without cheese on top of the bread with cheese and reduce heat to medium low. Turn over once until Brie is melted. (Like a grilled cheese sandwich). Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Place 1 cup raspberries in food processor with sugar. Puree. Push through fine sieve and discard solids. Add remaining raspberries, brandy and lemon juice. Serve over toast.

Serves 4

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Well, my tree is half up and my Thanksgiving dinner came off without a hitch.  I’m about to put up my feet and take the morning off. With Thanksgiving arriving long into the month I’m feeling the push to put up my Christmas decorations before it’s time to take them down.

“Ridiculous” is the word Rick uses when referring to the amount of Christmas boxes we brought in. Humbug is his mantra and he sings it loud and proud.  Actually, he loves Christmas but it’s the hectic pace of it that wears him out. Most men in my life over the years have chosen to take a back seat when it comes to decorating, so I shall hum along to Christmas music making a happy afternoon for myself bringing the holidays to life in our living room. Not long after we brought in the boxes I spotted Rick up on the hill deep in animated conversation with a male neighbor. Arms waving, both men were shaking their heads and nodding. When I asked what they were discussing, he said our neighbor’s wife had pressed the poor man into service putting up the outside lights. Flogging is too good for the woman. I feel neither of us ladies fared well in that conversation.

As much as I love all the things associated with the holiday season, the holidays come with all the little family undercurrents as well as the flickering lights and tinsel. If you take a look at the majority of the movies made on the subject, Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter, for example, or Christmas Vacation, families are not always depicted seated around the dinner table in a Currier & Ives pose.  In most families there’s Uncle Bert who is overly fond of his gin, or Cousin Gwen who tirelessly offers cooking advice, though never cooking anything herself not originating at Stouffer’s.

I love our family, with all their delightful imperfections. Dysfunction, so they say, breeds good writers and artists.  That being said, my name should be on the best sellers list any day now, or my paintings hanging in the Louvre.  My daughter says coming from an eclectic family such as ours prepared her for whatever came her way in life.  Ahhh, at last a legacy. I must say I believe, if you’ve never experienced a ripple in the water you’re probably not going to be prepared to handle a hurricane. Susie’s pearls of wisdom.

Over the years I’ve left my mark when hostessing. I’ve cooked the turkey with the giblets tucked inside. I’ve written about the year my cocker spaniel stole the turkey carcass off the bread board, dragging it in a greasy line down the hall carpet to be finished off under my son’s bed.

When living in the Bay Area in the 1980’s I had twenty plus coming for dinner on Christmas.  An hour after putting the bird in the oven I opened the door to find nothing but a lot of cold and a mighty pale bird. Quite sure family and friends were anticipating something more exciting than a tuna sandwich, my frantic phone calls to neighbors yielded an offer of an oven two blocks away from friends going out of town. It was a blustery day at best. Outside my kitchen window houses and livestock floated by in the torrential downpour. Pajamas and raincoat on, I loaded the bird in the back of the station wagon and chauffeured it to its new home. Every half an hour following I hopped in the car and drove off down the street to baste it. This scenario was repeated with the green bean casserole, my mother’s favorite, the rolls, and the pies. The microwave and the oven top were used for the rest.  By the time I sat down to enjoy the beautiful meal I looked like I’d just medalled in the breast stroke.

Another time, I had the mashed potatoes in a large stock pot to keep warm. My sister-in-law popped in to help. Tasting the potatoes she said they needed a little salt. Up to my neck in sweet potatoes, I pointed in the direction of the salt shaker. Giving it a vigorous shake the top came off depositing the entire contents of the shaker liberally atop my freshly whipped potatoes. Now, I’ve put potatoes in soup or stew to absorb the salt, but never put salt on the potatoes to absorb the potatoes. Gravy makes everything better, believe this.

In fourth grade my family was invited to dinner by a lady who I referred to as Aunt El, though there was no common blood between us. Never married, El was a rather eccentric retired lady who shared her sprawling single level home with three beagles and a talkative mynah bird. The general aroma of the dwelling reflected it’s inhabitants.  El had been a proficient legal secretary in her time and a woman not shy about offering her opinion on just about any subject. Housekeeping not her strong suit, my mother hesitated at first. El’s crusty exterior hid the huge heart beating below the skin, and as her younger brother, Al, was having his turkey that year with other inmates in state prison, and his daughter finishing off a stint in rehab, my mother finally capitulated. Our family was kind of being sent in as fifth quarter subs so El wouldn’t have to share her turkey with Winken, Blinken, Nod and Lady Chatterly (that would be the mynah bird). It was an interesting dinner to say the least. A self professed disaster in the kitchen, she didn’t make a herself out to be a liar. The inner temperature of the turkey was questionable at best, but nobody died from it thankfully. Frozen peas were the vegetable of choice, which would have been a fine choice had Eleanor managed to actually cook, or at a minimum defrost the peas before serving. Trying to capture one with with a fork was like trying to ladle soup with a slotted spoon. Dinner over, rather than placing the dinner plates in the dishwasher, she set them on the floor for the anxiously waiting beagles to lick clean, undoubtedly a practice she’d done many times before.  I can’t swear to it but I believe my mother actually sprayed her mouth with the small bottle of Lysol she’d been liberally sprinkling about.

I’ve been privy to others mistakes when responsible for dinner along with my own.  There was the time we arrived several hours early for dinner at a first time hostesses home. Women will most times grab an apron, and pitch in.  It’s the nature of the beast. A woman in distress in the kitchen sends out pheromones to those of her kind like a brave signalling another village with billows of smoke. Is that politically incorrect? Probably.  If so, I apologize. At any rate dinner lingering about an half an hour out, and growling stomachs being heard across the room the novice cook casually inquired when she should put the potatoes on. Eight hands went into motion at the utterance of that statement and somehow potatoes were peeled, boiled, and mashed as quickly as a Disney Studio special effect. In the end it was a beautiful meal.

No matter how it turns out, our families are part of us with all the angst and love that entails. So, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving wherever and whomever it finds you with!

Croissant French Toast and Ice Cream Custard Sauce

Ice Cream Custard Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 scoops ice cream (vanilla, butter pecan, almond flavors or my favorite sweet and salty caramel pecan)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Combine flour and sugar in large saucepan. Stir in cream until smooth consistency. Cook, stirring constantly, over med. heat until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat and cook for 2 mins. Remove from heat.

Whisking constantly add small amount of hot filling to egg mixture. Add the rest of egg mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture reaches 160 degrees on instant read thermometer. Remove from heat and fold in ice cream until melted. Cover and cool. Serve over French toast.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp. sugar

Combine blueberries and sugar in saucepan. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 mins. Allow to cool.

French Toast

2 Tbsp. butter
4 croissants (staled slightly), split
4 eggs
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Powdered sugar

Whisk together eggs, half and half, cinnamon and vanilla.

Heat butter in large skillet or griddle of med-high heat. Dip croissants in egg batter. Brown on both sides. Dust with powdered sugar.
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finalEaster is now in March.  In my mind it should be in April but the powers that be shift things around regularly so one never knows where a holiday falls any more.  I hope Thanksgiving is still in November.  I hate slaving over a hot stove in the dead of summer. If they switch it, I’m just going to put the turkey in a lawn chair next to me by the pool hand it some olive oil and let it baste itself.

Thinking of Easter as a child it brings to mind fussy, frilly dresses replete with itchy under slips to bell the skirts and chafe my chubby legs. Shiny Mary Janes and white socks banded with bunnies or ducks were worn on my feet, accessorized with dainty white gloves. To add to my humiliation, my grandmother insisted on securing a straw hat festooned with flowers or bows atop my head, held fast by an annoying elastic band Flowers 0007under my chin. I’m sure I bore the same look as dachshunds you see in Halloween pictures dressed up as hot dogs in fabric hot dog buns slathered with mustard. After services on Easter Sunday my cousins and I poked beneath shrubbery and under the seats in the gazebo in the yard for brightly colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.  Following the egg hunt we ate glazed ham dotted with cloves accompanied by dishes filled with thin wedges of potatoes floating in cream and green beans topped with slivered almonds.

In my sixteenth year, deemed to be an age far beyond egg hunts or chocolate bunnies, my mother and my step-father decided to introduce some culture into my young life.  To this end, the Saturday before Easter tickets were purchased for a local theater avant garde production written by an up and coming writer.  At that age I would have preferred being dipped in flour and fried in hot oil to spending an evening with my parents, but no escape route in sight we left the house together at 6:30 for an 8:00 curtain call.

Never would I have admitted it, but I found the excitement inside the theater rather contagious.  Colorful, arty people milled about the lobby talking and laughing while exchanging greetings with familiar faces. Ladies in long shimmery dresses sipped daintily at pink champagne cocktails while spirals of smoke drifted lazily through the air from cigarettes held in long delicate holders between their fingers.  Men in evening wear greeted one another with hearty pats on the back. Some men gathered around the bar, and could be seen inserting their fingers under their collars as if wishing to remove the tie threatening to cut off their air.

Lights blinked in the lobby. Mother whispered this was a signal showtime was imminent. We lined up behind other theater goers waiting for red vested ushers with flashlights to check our tickets and guide us to our seats. Soon the lobby emptied out into the theater itself. People already seated, began removing their coats and getting settled for the evening. Our seats were in the second balcony, nosebleed seats I call them.  Three seats together, one situated almost directly behind a large ornate column virtually blocking visibility to the stage.  This seat, I was informed, was to be mine.  (This was back in the day where your parents told you when you grew up you would get the good seat and you could make your children sit behind the one with the column.  Ah yes, I remember it well.)

Not long into the first act, I realized the only thing that could improve my not being able to actually see the stage would have been if the price of my ticket had also included ear plugs.  What a stinker.  People were stumbling over each other in the dark trying to sneak out between acts before intermission was announced.  My stepfather, not one to either admit he was wrong or spend a penny that he didn’t get his money’s worth out of, insisted we sit through all three acts.  Perhaps he viewed this as an act of atonement, seeing as it was Lent.

This was to prove to be my introduction to a lifelong love affair with the theater.  Over the years I’ve sat transfixed during Equus, A Little Night Music (that one on Broadway –  most memorable), swelled with appreciation during The Phantom of the Opera and developed a true appreciation for viewing live productions.

Naturally there have been other stinkers thrown in for good measure.  Balance in all things.  In the late 70’s I saw Camelot at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in L.A.  I won’t mention names, but the lead was so drunk he almost did a header down the castle stairs having to hold on to the side of the set to keep from falling on his face.  Not my most memorable evening at the theater.  My other half and I saw a  less than distinctive production of To Kill a Mockingbird in Ashland, Oregon.  I must say in their defense the young woman who played Scout made it almost worth the price of admission.  So good was she.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll bore you with it again, Harper Lee’s account of life in the deep south is quite possibly one of my most beloved pieces of literature, other than The House at Pooh Corner. Pooh, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Tigger and Christopher Robin were, and still are, the best. Piglet, well what can you say about Piglet, Piglet is my idol.

I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit. “No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. I’t’s just that something happened to it along the way.” – Winnie the Pooh

Harper Lee had such a gift for description.  When I read the paragraph below I became immediately immersed in the picture she painted for me as if I was fanning myself while sipping a chilled glass of lemonade.

“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning; ladies bathed before noon, after their 3 o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go and nothing to buy… and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself… That summer, I was six years old.”

I wish you a happy and blessed Easter with your baskets filled with family and smiles.  This French toast is gooey and delicious.  Give it a try.

Be an Original, smile broadly, sing loudly,
paint your rooms in bold colors,
search every rabbit hole for a magical white bunny,
have caviar for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner,
wear a purple coat with a red hat, dance lightly with life.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Caramel Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Cinnamon French Toast

2-3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. white sugar
12 pieces bread (artisan, potato, Country French, Texas Toast)
Powdered sugar
Maple syrup

In small mixing bowl whisk milk and cream into 1/4 cup flour. Add remaining ingredients except bread and whisk until well mixed.

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Melt butter in large skillet over med-high heat. Immerse bread into egg/milk mixture until well coated. I use tongs for this so bread doesn’t tear. Working in batches brown bread on both sides.

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Transfer to heated plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve with gooey caramel apples and whipped cream (if desired).

Gooey Caramel Apples

2 Tbsp. butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
6 tsp. brown sugar
8 tsp. Caramel ice cream topping plus 1/3 cup, divided
1 2 1/2 oz. pkg. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray bottom of 9″ square pan with cooking spray. Dot bottom of pan with butter. Layer apples on top of butter.

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Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.

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Top with 8 tsp. caramel ice cream topping and then nuts. Bake for 45 mins.

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Remove pan from oven and pour 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping over all. Return to oven for 10 mins. Serve hot over French toast. Yum.

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