Fab French Toast

IMG_1595Hi breakfast friends–  Found this recipe in the Food & Wine Best of the Best year end cookbook.  It was labeled “Fabulous French Toast.”  And happily it lived up to it’s name!  It’s a little more work to start the night before– but if you have houseguests or friends coming in for breakfast, then half the work is done when you hit the kitchen in the morning.  I loved it’s sweet custardy texture.  You might want to give it a try…

FAB FRENCH TOAST
6 eggs
1/2 cup suar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups half & half
6 slices of sourdough bread, cut 1″ thick
butter for cooking & then for serving
maple syrup (of course)
berries, optional

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Then add in the half & half and whisk it all together.  Place the bread in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and pour the egg mixture over the top.  Turn the bread over once to coat both sides.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge overnight.

The next morning, heat your skillet and add in a bit of butter.  When it’s melted, cook the slices of soaked bread 2 to 3minutes on each side until they are nicely browned.  Then settle the bread slices on a cookie sheet sprayed lightly with cooking spray and put them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes.

Arrange the french toast on plates and serve with mounds of butter and dribbles of good maple syrup.   Then dig in!

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Good Times in Big Bear

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Taking a break on our hike along the town ridge trail, overlooking the lake. 

Hi all– just back from a long-ish weekend in Big Bear with some of our kids.  And-yikes!– I took too many pictures.  Here’s a bunch to remember the good times together–  Monumental hikes, water gun fights, picnic dinner by the lake, reading on the back deck under the pine trees…

Warning: I’m about to test your limits of endurance on how many photos should be loaded onto one post.

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Brian and little Jobay lead the hike.  Charlotte at the trailhead ready to climb.

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Ani and Brian start up the trail with Harry.  Brian the rock climber!

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View from the top of Castle Rock (This is Jodi’s picture– I did not made it that high!)

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Three little mountain goats and their Dad.  Grandpa Larry & Charlotte point out the trail!

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The whole group together at the end of the Castle Rock Trail.  (Do we look beat?  We are!)

Of course, we had some good eating together –our favorite pastime.
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Gr. Larry serves up the pizza at Saucy Mama’s & grills burgers to eat out on the porch.

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The last night we all ran through the grocery store to pick up an impromptu picnic for dinner under the pine trees by the lake.

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Jobay has something to say to her dad– and french toast back at the cabin for breakfast.

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And, of course, you can’t have too much ice cream on vacation!!

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And we celebrated Chinese “Dragon Boat Day” with an afternoon lesson on how to make sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves– followed by a luscious (& spicy!) Chinese feast at a place M&J like in Big Bear.  Ganbei!

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We spent a sunny morning out on the lake in paddle boats– lots of splashing and crashing and an occasional high-five  going on.

And mostly we just hung out around the cabin–
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The girls pushed their way through the rose thicket to “explore” behind the cabin, gathering pine cones and picking wild flowers.

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Brian hanging out on the back porch– and the last spring wild roses blooming in the yard.

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There were screaming rides for 3 grand-girls on the swing!

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And ferocious water gun fights with Aunt Ani —  and a tranquil view off the back porch.

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Good times at the Big Bear Cabin for Larry, Jodi, Brian Jobay, Ani, Maryann, Micah and Charlotte.  So glad for the days there with them all.

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So thanks you all for making the trek up to Big Bear.   It was just grand!

P.S.– Thanks bunches Ani & Jodi for all the photos I stole from your Facebook page.

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Walnut Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache

IMG_1496Hello all– If you’re as nutty about nuts as I am, you’ll love this cake– plus there’s banana and there’s chocolate.  But the cake is loaded with walnuts and has candied walnuts up on top.  It’s a crunchy, banana-y, fudgy delight.

WALNUT BANANA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE

Cake:
3 very ripe bananas
1  1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tab. butter
8 oz. chocolate chips (1  1/3 cups)

Nuts on top:
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sugar

IMG_1502Smash the bananas with a fork until they are thoroughly smushed.  Then stir in the sugar, oil and eggs.  Next mix in  the flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold in 1 cup of chopped walnuts.

Spoon the batter into a 9″x13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (–or I used a 10 1/2″ springform pan so I could serve it out of the pan)

Drop into a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is even browned and firm to the touch.

Take the cake from the oven and let it cool.

Ganache:

To make the ganache, bring the cream and butter to a low simmer in a heavy pan on the stove top.  Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until they melt.

Beat the mixture for 3 or 4 minutes to bring out the gloss.  Then spoon the ganache over the cake.

Sugared Nuts:

In a heavy skillet, mix together the 1/3 cup sugar and 1 cup walnuts.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar completely melts and turns a pretty caramel color and coats the nuts.  Keep stirring the whole time or it may burn!

Turn the nuts out of the pan onto a piece of foil, separating them with your spoon as they land on the foil and let them cool.

When they are cooled sprinkle them over the cake.   Bon appetit!

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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

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Hello Reader Friends–

My reading buddy Carole left this on my doorstep last week along with her hearty recommendation– and it was every bit as delightful and intriguing as she said it would be.  Thanks Carole!

The deftly crafted tale, sweeps you off from New York to a remote village in Burma (Myanmar).  It begins as a successful lawyer, Tin Win, tells his family he off to a meeting in Boston and never returns.  Four years later his daughter, Julia, finds his love letter to a woman who lives in her father’s native village in Burma.

So she sets off to the village and finds U Ba, waiting to tell her the story of her father’s early years, weaving a tale of tenderness and resilience.  Tim Win was deserted by parents as a young boy and eventually becomes blind.  He blossoms under the tutelage of a monk in the village monastery and there meets the young girl, Mimi.  Compensating for his blindness, he develops the “art of hearing heartbeats” and the poignant relationship that ensues between the two young people is a story of perseverance and a sweet love that transcends time and place.

As Julia sits and listens for days to the story of her father, she comes to finally know him and the hardships and culture that shaped him.  It’s a magical, mysterious sort of story, almost an eastern fairy tale.  Through the twists and turns of the story, you find people you can admire and a story you take with you. Perfect summer read.

 

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Ricotta Meatballs

IMG_1199Hello Spaghetti & Meatball fans–  Made these scrumptious little meatballs when our parents came for lunch on Sunday.  It’s always always fun to cook for my father-in-law Stu.  He so kind. He’ll rave about anything you make.  And so I was pleased when he asked how these little meatballs turned out so tender!  (it’s the ricotta).  So glad you liked them Stu!!

RICOTTA MEATBALLS
1 large yellow onion, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tab. olive oil
2 eggs
2 1/2 pounds ground beef (80%)
1 cup parmesano romano
15 oz. carton of ricotta
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tap. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
Marinara sauce
Pasta

Pour the olive oil into a hot skilled and them drop in the onion.  Cook it 4 or 5 minutes until it begins to brown.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Take it off the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, beef, parmesan, ricotta, bread crumbs and basil. Add in the cooked onion and garlic.  This isn’t the time to politely mix with a spoon.  You really need to squish it all together with your hands until it’s thoroughly combined.

Then take a rounded tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a cute little meatball and place it on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Continue making meatballs with all the beef mixture– you should have about 80!  (you can freeze part of them after they are cooked).

Bake them in at 350 degree oven for 20 -22 minutes until they are nicely browned.

While that is happening, warm your favorite marinara sauce (homemade or in a jar) and cook up your preferred pasta.

Layer it all on a plate and set it on the table.  Delish!

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Blueberry Frozen Yogurt & Cream Cake

 

IMG_1443Hi friends–  When the kids were little and Larry and I were thinking about going out to get ice cream cone we had a little code — “What do think about going out for some frozen dairy dessert?”  –so we could talk it over without kid’s opinions on an ice cream outing added into the conversation.

And this summer dish is a perfect plate of “frozen dairy dessert”– without the ice cream.

The minute I saw this creamy frozen cake in an old magazine, I knew I just had to put one together as soon as it felt like summer around here.  So last week when my young moms group came for dinner, I had it tucked away in the freezer.  Oh, the sweet berries, the coolness on a warm night, the tart yogurt underneath and the cream. I do love cream.  And the lovely thing is that it’s rather large, so we’ve been nibbling on slices all week since.

BLUEBERRY FROZEN YOGURT & CREAM CAKE

Crust:
2 cups vanilla cookie crumbs*
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Frozen Cake:
2 1/2 cups blueberries (plus a bit more for garnish)
1 cup sugar
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, divided in 2 parts
2 cups unflavored or vanilla yogurt (16 oz.)
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Crust:
In a large bowl combine the cookie crumbs, walnuts, and brown sugar.  Stir in the butter until it’s all well coated.

IMG_1472Turn the mixture into a 10″ springform pan (any 10″ pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray  Set it into the freezer.

Frozen Cake:
With a food processor or stick blender, puree the 2 1/2 cup blueberries and the sugar.  Set it aside.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese for about 3 minutes until it’s creamy.  Then beat in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and yogurt.  Add the blueberry & sugar mixture and fold it in as well.

In yet another bowl, beat the whipping cream with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

Then fold the whipped cream into the blueberry mixture.

Spoon it all into the prepared curst and pop it bake into the freezer for at least 4 hours.

When you’re ready to serve it, take it out of the freezer for about 10 minutes to thaw just a bit.  Garnish with safe leaves** and more berries.

Warning:  I had to cut this with a butcher knife because it was still pretty frozen– that’s OK, it was super delicious and lasted nicely on the plates.

*For the cookie crumbs, I just bought a 69 cent package of Maria cookies and went after them with a rolling pin!
**I used leaves from the berry vines in the yard.  Mint leaves a bright a pretty too.  Just make sure they aren’t a poisonous variety if you’re extracting  them from your yard, like I tend to do.

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Parmesan Herb Encrusted Salmon

IMG_1415Hello you all–  Here’s a quick middle of the week supper that we’ve enjoyed lately.  It can be ready from start to finish in 30 minutes and there’s enough “in the oven time” to allow you to set a table and make a salad.  I think you’d like it too!

PARMESAN HERB ENCRUSTED SALMON
1 pound (more or less) salmon filet
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tab Italian parsley (of basil or marjoram), chopped fine*
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
dash of salt

Place salmon skin side down in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Put it in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.

While that’s cooking, Mix together the garlic, parsley, salt and parmesan in a bowl.

After the 10 cooking minutes, sprinkle the parmesan mixture over the fish and put it back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fish).  –or until the internal temperature is 135 degrees.

Serve it up with a platter or rice of pasta and a bright green salad.  Dinner ready!

P.S.– I used marjoram, since we have it growing in the side yard– going to try rosemary next time.  The recipe I worked from called for Italian parsley.

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