Monthly Archives: February 2013

Barefoot Contessa’s Challah French Toast

I couldn’t get through a week of blogging about food without Ina or a week of blogging about breakfast without French toast, so today’s Post …

Challah French Toast, from Ina Garten

Look, it is so good it made the front cover!

French-Toast-11

“Family Style” is probably my favorite of her cookbooks; “easy ideas and recipes that make everyone feel like family” – gee, I wonder why? I love “Barefoot in Paris” but as I looked through this one this morning, I realized just how many of the recipes in it I have made and loved.

Until recently, I have always just intuitively made french toast, I mean “how hard can it be?” (Ina says that all the time if you didn’t know). Eggs, milk, bread, a griddle. No sweat. As I became a better cook, I started playing around, adding things like a bit of sugar, a splash of vanilla, a shake of cinnamon and a little orange zest. Precise, I know but the results were pretty yummy.

French-Toast-2

Then one day, I wanted to look up an exact egg to milk ratio – mostly out of curiosity – so I took a peek at this challah French toast recipe. I was excited to find that I was making French toast very similarly but the Barefoot Contessa always does it best. I now have the ratios right and have dropped the sugar for honey – which is far better. I’ve dropped the cinnamon but do like to grate in a little bit of fresh nutmeg, which she does not call for but I love. I also use a rustic artisan bread but will try it sometime with the challah – which I know will be amazing.

French-Toast-10

Click the highlighted link above and it will take you right to the recipe.

French-Toast-3

French-Toast-4

For me, the orange zest is what really makes this French toast something special.

French-Toast-5

Just like pancakes, a little butter on the griddle will give you a nice crust and a rich flavor.

French-Toast-7

Mmmmm, I can smell the perfume of the orange zest, nutmeg and butter right now. Of course, it is all in my head because I have been eating oatmeal and berries all week; a breakfast I do enjoy but it is impossible for me to write about this French toast and not dream about the scent of sizzling butter. Thankfully, dreaming is calorie free.

French-Toast-8

There are those turkey sausages again, which are made even better when they are nestled in a pool of warm maple syrup that has runneth over the French toast, a gooey rich cascading stream of sweet indulgence (sorry, all week – oatmeal and berries).

Is there anyone out there who does not like it when their sausage mingles with their maple syrup? Anyone? I can think of no one.

French-Toast-9

I will let you in on a little secret. I like to make this with the thinner sliced Italian bread because I always make enough for leftovers and then freeze them so they can be popped into the toaster for a quick kid breakfast on a busy morning. Sure makes for a happy kid!

Enjoy!

Breakfast Burritos Baby!

This past weekend, I whipped-up a Brewer breakfast favorite, Breakfast Burritos. What I love about breakfast burritos is not only are they super yummy (yes, super yummy – I live with a five-year-old) but they are so easy to make very healthy and to customize to individual tastes. They are incredibly versatile and just beg for you to change-up the ingredients and experiment a little.

Breakfast-Burrito-16

See, super yummy!

My intention with these particular breakfast burritos was to go healthy and lean and also to share with you a few of my favorite things – well, food things anyway.

Breakfast-Burrito-1

Eggs – I LOVE eggs! My family goes through eggs (and bananas) like other families go through milk and bread. I also love …

Tillamook medium cheddar cheese, from the block please, I’ll shred it myself thank you. Light sour cream – I can’t do fat-free anything; I’d rather not eat, and that is saying something. Frozen turkey sausage links – because they are lean and quick and easy and taste pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t pancetta or bacon or chorizo but they are a good lower calorie substitute. Smart and Delicious low carb tortillas are my favorite – well aside from the real thing, fresh from a traditional Abuela’s kitchen; but were talking low cal and healthy today so whole wheat, low carb, high fiber it is. Jalapeno slices, we eat so many in this house that we buy the giant jar from Costco and store it in the spare fridge where it waits to frequently replenish a smaller, repurposed jam jar. And Chollula, tangy and spicy and awesome (live with a five-year-old).

So, in the Brewer house, those are the beginnings of a just about perfect breakfast burrito.

Here’s what happens next …

Breakfast-Burrito-2

Scrambled eggs. For the five of us, I whisk together six eggs with about 1/4 cup of milk.

Breakfast-Burrito-3

I sprinkle in a few chives after the eggs are in the pan and have just begun to start setting up. Another favorite of mine are the Litehouse freeze-dried herbs, I love the fresh herbs from my garden but these are great to have on hand. Toss a pat of butter into the pan. Okay, I know we are talking healthy today but it is one pat for 5 people, just one tiny pat for f-i-v-e people. Did I mention butter is also one of my favorite things. Moderation. M-o-d-e-r-a-t-i-o-n.

Breakfast-Burrito-5

Now that the tiny pat of butter (for five people) has melted in a non-stick pan, pour in the beaten eggs and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat. DO NOT go past 4, don’t do it.

Breakfast-Burrito-4

Many a pan of scrambled eggs has been ruined on a burner that is just too hot. The other trick is to take the eggs off the heat just before they are cooked all the way through. They will finish cooking on their own and will come out silky and creamy instead of rubbery or possibly even crusty, which is what happens when you go past 4 and don’t baby them. When the are off the heat, season with a little kosher or sea salt and pepper.

Breakfast-Burrito-6

Silky and creamy. Baby your eggs, baby!

All that’s left is to make sure all of your filling items are prepped and ready to go and then,

Breakfast-Burrito-8

you can start building your burritos – or overstuffing them as is the case with me.

Breakfast-Burrito-9

I start with a warm tortilla and put a layer of cheese on first.

Breakfast-Burrito-10

Eggs next (heat from eggs makes cheese melty).

Breakfast-Burrito-11

Follwed by the turkey sausage – or whatever meat you decide (pick chorizo).

Breakfast-Burrito-12

Add the jalapeno pepper slices, remember there’s a big jar in the spare fridge so its okay to be generous.

Breakfast-Burrito-13

And finally, sour cream and Chollula – guacamole or avocado would be great too, I sadly didn’t have any on hand. Sniff. Roll it up and sprinkle it with a little more cheese, jalapeno and chives and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm through and make everything melty. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on the side and guacamole if you have it. Sniff.

Breakfast-Burrito-15

Such a happy plate. Enjoy!

Incidentally, if you noticed that my cooktop has a crack in it, you are a) correct and b) very observant. Glass cooktops DO NOT respond well when cast iron dutch ovens are dropped right smack in the middle of them. Sniff. Just one more reason I miss my gas cooktop. Sniff. Sniff. A replacement cooktop will be here soon and maybe, just maybe, someday gas lines will come to our little “ruralish” homestead.

A girl can dream.

David’s Delicious Breakfast Sandwich

I am late in posting today because I have been “tinkering” around on Facebook and have FINALLY added a “Welcome Company” fan page. It still needs some fine-tuning and tweaking but it is up and I am excited about it. I would be so happy if you would join me there by clicking the “like” thumb on the sidebar – right over there, to the right. Yup, that’s the one!

I am so thankful for the new friends I have made through this blog and look forward to having more conversation and interaction with you on Facebook. Thank you for reading and encouraging me – you are all such a blessing.

So, as I am running behind and because my sweet son asked me to feature his favorite breakfast on a post sometime, I have decided share with you this quick and easy breakfast sandwich. David will be so excited to come home from school today and see his sandwich immortalized on the internet.

I make this sandwich just about every morning as David must have it at least 4 out of 5 school mornings. He loves it and I love sending him out the door full of protein and sugar-free; so it is a win-win for both of us.

Breakfast-Sandwich-9

I know it looks simple, and it is, but the magic is in the egg …

Breakfast-Sandwich-1

Breakfast-Sandwich-2

Gorgeous, right? This is how my dad always made “fried” eggs. My mom is a phenomenal cook but my dad, he was the egg man. A little bit of butter in the heated pan, crack the egg in once the butter has melted and then add about a teaspoon of water, cover and seal tightly with a lid and just a few minutes later, on medium heat, you have the perfect egg. Soft and silky and scrumptious.

The next trick is the cheese, sliced perfectly thin for just the right melt.

Breakfast-Sandwich-3

This magical little tool is how you get the perfect slice of cheese. No more giant hunks lopped off with a boning knife. Perfect little gossamer strips of cheese. Fewer calories and all of the flavor, just something else to love.

Breakfast-Sandwich-4

I found this cheese slicer in Norway about 20 (gulp) years ago. Wow! 20 years; I’ll have to scan those pictures and write a Norway post or two one of these days. It is one of my favorite places on earth. You can get these slicers all over now but it might be fun to go to Norway to get one.

Breakfast-Sandwich-5

Now, here is where the sandwich is very specialized for David. Whole grain bagel, un-toasted, butter on both sides, cheese slices on the bottom.

Breakfast-Sandwich-7

Top the cheese with the egg.

Breakfast-Sandwich-8

Break the yolk and smear it around a little to spread out that rich yumminess and to avoid sudden splurts of bursting yolk with the first bite. Mom doesn’t need any additional shirts to wash or egg yolk to clean off of the dog, who is sure to be close by begging her boy for a bite.

Breakfast-Sandwich-10

And there it is, David’s Delicious Breakfast Sandwich (no, that is not how I normally serve it to him, that is just a pretty breakfast sandwich posing for the camera).

Breakfast-Sandwich-11A thumbs up from a happy kid. What other reason could I possibly need to make the same egg sandwich morning after morning?

Now, if this were my favorite egg sandwich, it would be on a toasted and buttered English muffin and would have just a little bit of Dijon mustard. My husband would have to add meat (ham or bacon) and jalapeno peppers.

Give it a try and let us know what you think and what favorite things you add to make it …

“(your name here)‘s Favorite Breakfast Sandwich”.

Thanks for visiting today – I’ll see you on Facebook!

Let’s Talk Pancakes

As I’ve thought and prayed about what I wanted to share this week, a number of things have come to mind.

I have a multitude of recipes tested and photographed and waiting in the wings.

I could do a follow-up on my earlier Lenten posts, one, two, and three. I could share the detox/cleansing diet I am currently on, Lent is all about “spring cleaning” after all; body, mind and spirit – but somehow that just seems to fall into the TMI/oversharing category. Truly, I already feel like I have said too much.

I could share the agony of the thousands of lunges the length of my back patio allows for; but honestly they are just to painful to speak of.

I could talk about the purging of every nook and cranny my home is undergoing – body, mind, spirit and craft room. My blog and family cookbook are now my creative outlet so every unfinished project and uncrafted craft must go.

I am so excited to share how God is leading me through the “One Thousand Gifts” devotionals from Anne Voskamp; but I am not quite ready. God is not tugging on those messages yet.

So, with all of that, what to talk about?

How about Breakfast. All week. Why breakfast? The only thing I can say is because I love it and keep thinking about it. It must be the resurgence of winter. And the cleanse. And the lunges. And the purging. Breakfast it is.

My mom was recently here with us for about a month, during which time we cooked our way through A LOT of family recipes. Another reason for the lunges and the cleanse. For something I didn’t want to talk about, cleansing and lunges sure seem to be coming up a lot. I am an over-sharer.

Anyway, one of the best and most interesting recipes we tried was for my grandmother’s pancakes; actually, hot cakes, as the recipe says.

Pancake-13

These hot cakes are unlike any I have had before, in my adult life anyway as I had them all the time when I was a kid, I just didn’t appreciate them as much as I should have. They are unique with an unexpected but delicious twang. I’ll explain later.

Hot Cakes

Ingredients

Pancake-1

  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar (twang)
  • 1 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt

Directions

Combine (whisk together) the beaten eggs, vinegar, milk and oil. Combine in a separate mixing bowl the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix well, either sift together or whisk.

Pancake-4

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined and smooth but do not over-mix; some lumps are okay. If you over mix your batter, it will get rubbery and tough. We want light and fluffy!

Let the batter rest for a few minutes (about 10-15) to allow the baking powder time  to form bubbles in the batter, which will make fluffier hot cakes. Don’t stir it again or you will deflate the bubbles.

After the batter has rested, use a 1/4 cup measure to ladle your batter onto a hot, buttered griddle (I just take a stick of butter, unwrap half the length of it and run it over the griddle). I set the temperature of my electric griddle between 325 and 350 degrees.

Pancake-7

Once the batter starts to develop popping bubbles, it is time to flip. But be patient, don’t flip too early – popping bubbles. No one likes an ooey-gooey hot cake.

Pancake-8

Pancake-9

Sorry for the blurry photo. Cardinal rule … always take more than one picture. Yes, even when you have hoards of (three – trust me it feels like hoards) small, starving people staring at you for pancakes.

Pancake-12

There, that’s better. Coating the griddle with butter before each batch of hot cakes will give them a golden, slightly crispy exterior and a lot of flavor – don’t skip it, you will eat oatmeal and berries the other six days of the week.

Pancake-10

Fried eggs, a little bit of melting butter, warm maple syrup and bacon … Saturday morning perfection!

Pancake-16

About that twang. The twang of the vinegar is interesting (deliciously so) and is definitely distinct. The flavor is offset by the sweet of the syrup and the combination makes for one heavenly stack of pancakes hot cakes.

As always, enjoy! And let me know what you think, I love hearing from you.

Family Dinner Favorite: Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

I can’t remember which dinner favorite number I’m on, so I’ve decided to drop that catchy part of the dinner favorite series. Suffice it to say that this hearty, healthy and insanely delicious soup is most definitely a favorite – even with the kids.

If you have read many of my recipe posts then you will not be surprised to learn that this recipe comes from …

Lentil-Soup-2

Right! The Barefoot Contessa. Oh to be “Barefoot in Paris” – well, not all of Paris but I’m sure there are some parts where it is safe to be barefoot – a park maybe? The Jardin des Plantes or the Champ de Mars (I totally googled those) or the Louvre – okay maybe not the Louvre. If you ever do go barefoot in the Louvre in Paris, you really do have to come back here and tell me all about it!

Anyway, all tangents aside, this soup is one of my all time favorite things to eat. In case you were starting to think otherwise, we really do eat pretty healthy around here; apple dumplings and fancy mac and cheese are treats, delicious heavenly treats, but not staples on the regular menu.

Like so much of the food I love, this soup holds special memories for me. One of the first times I made it was two years ago when my high school friend Tara came from San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with us. She flew in late in the evening, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, after a long day of work in the corporate jungle. I knew that she needed to walk into warmth and comfort, feeling welcome and at home and wondering what that amazing smell was coming from the kitchen. It’s my job to know, I’m her friend.

Tara's-Visit

After a big hug and a few tears, I invited her to settle into the guest room, put on her jammies and warm socks and relax by the fire; letting the stress of a hectic pace and demanding job begin to melt away (and be replaced by the stress of three wild, really loud little kids who all want “Auntie Tara’s” attention at the same time – never mind that, just think warm and peaceful thoughts; it helps). I made quite a few yummy things for her during that visit (including Thanksgiving dinner) but that first evening of catching up around a warm fire with a steaming bowl of this soup is what stands out most in my memory. I hope it does in hers as well. I love you my friend.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

Lentil-Soup-20

Yes, it looks delicious and it tastes even better.

Give yourself about two hours. The soup is easy to make but time-consuming with a lot of chopping and important steps that ensure proper flavor development. Take your time and enjoy the process, that is, afterall,  half the joy of creating a dish like this.

Lentil-Souip-1

Start with French Green Lentils

Lentil-Soup-4

I can only find them at one store (a specialty grocer) and they are pricey but Ina swears they are the most tender and flavorful of the lentils. Who am I to question? I will try it sometime with brown or red lentils though, just to see for myself.

Now for the chopping (which is very therapeutic if you didn’t know) …

Lentil-Soup-5

onions and leeks – sorry, I forgot to buy the leeks this time but the soup turned out great anyway.

Lentil-Soup-9

Lentil-Soup-11

Carrots, medium dice.

Lentil-Soup-8

Celery, medium dice as well – split the stalk lengthwise and chop; be sure to use the celery leaves too, don’t throw them away.

Lentil-Soup-7Thyme and garlic. Be still my heart.

Lentil-Soup-10

Saute’ the onions, leeks (if you remembered to buy them), garlic, thyme and seasonings first.

Lentil-Soup-15

Add in the celery and carrots. If you are a food nerd like me, you can tell me what the French term is for the carrot, celery, onion combo – I know you can, even if you won’t admit it.

Lentil-Soup-16

Then the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils.

Lentil Soup 12Use a good chicken STOCK, not just broth – it really does make a difference.

Lentil-Soup-13

Add in the Kielbasa – the lower fat Turkey Kielbasa tastes great in the soup and is better for you.

Lentil-Soup-14The recipe calls for a splash of red wine, so since the bottle had to be opened anyway …

Lentil-Soup-18A glass of wine, a slice of crusty bread,

Lentil-Soup-19all that’s left is to sit down with someone you love and make some happy, warm memories.

Enjoy!

Wicked … I mean, Fancy Mac and Cheese

She seems like such a nice woman.

Friendly, genuine, approachable.

She’s a loving wife and a great mom. A good friend.

She is kind to animals and loves dogs and horses.

She openly shares her life and her recipes.

My kind of girl.

But this, this is just too much …

She calls it “Fancy Mac and Cheese”. It sounds sweet and safe and wholesome.

FMC-15

It is not.

A few Saturday’s back, I watched her make it. Smiling innocently, sweetly, looking fabulous.

After the episode ended, I pulled out her cookbook to look “Fancy Mac and Cheese” up for myself.

FMC-2

Surely my eyes had deceived me. I must have imagined it. Five kinds of cheese, carmelized onions, bacon, roasted mushrooms, bechamel. It couldn’t be. No one has the nerve for such a thing.

FMC-1

But there it was. In print, before my eyes. Undeniable. In all its sinful, gooey, calorically off the charts glory.

Fancy. Fancy, nothing – this stuff is WICKED.

“Wicked Mac and Cheese”

When faced with such obvious decadence, what’s a girl to do? A disciplined girl would close the cookbook, back away and make a salad.

What did I do? I made Fancy Mac and Cheese.

That is my confession … I made Fancy Mac and Cheese. I MADE FANCY MAC AND CHEESE!

And then I ate Fancy Mac and Cheese, just a little bit but I still ate it. I ATE FANCY MAC AND CHEESE!

All I can say is … Holy it was worth it Batman!

If you are up for five straight hours on a treadmill, followed by a Jillian Michaels DVD, and far too many burpies, push-ups and mountain climbers, then you are a better woman than I and are safe to click the link below for the recipe …

The Pioneer Woman’s Fancy Mac and Cheese

Five kinds of cheese, nope I wasn’t kidding; gruyere, fontina, parmesan, gorgonzola and a nice hunk of goat cheese. I know. Just wait, It gets even better/worse.

FMC-4

There’s Bacon.

FMC-5

And carmelized onions. I’ll give you one guess as to what they were carmelized in.

Yup. And butter too.

FMC-6

And roasted mushrooms.

FMC-17

Next, the cheese sauce – a bechamel with the gruyere, fontina, parmesan and goat cheese.

FMC-7

Pretty much the perfect cheese sauce for macaroni.

FMC-8

Now the layering begins …

FMC-9

first onions

FMC-10

then the cheesy macaroni …

FMC-11

next the mushrooms, gorgonzola and bacon and then repeat the layers.

FMC-14

Bake for 20 minutes – just enough time to run a few laps around the back yard – and …

FMC-16

There it is, maybe the most decadent savory treat ever created.

I served it with a big green salad. You know, to make myself feel better.

FMC-12

And I shared – to spoil a friend, minimize leftovers and make myself feel better.

There, I have confessed.

If you need to make a Fancy Mac and Cheese confession, I am here for you. I understand.

Spring has Sprung; well at Least it had Yesterday

I think, finally, I can say that it is officially Spring around here. Finally. It is a little cold and rainy again this morning but I am going to stick with the idea that it is indeed, Spring.

Spring-1

I know, I know, if you are back east, in the midwest or up north, you don’t want to hear a southwestern girl complaining about the cold – especially today with yet another winter storm blowing in. I used to live with snowy long winters too but I have been in Arizona for a long time now and my blood has become very thin. VERY thin. I could never go back, I wouldn’t survive a real winter.

Even here, we have had an unusually cold winter with several nights of record below freezing temperatures – not fun for desert plants or desert gardeners. There were a few mornings of taking kids to school in 20 degree temps that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Heated seats are the only thing that saved me.

But it has been warming up and for about a month now, I have been crazy to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and on the pruners. We live on just over two acres of Sonoran Desert and I have fallen in love with cultivating this harsh but beautiful land. One day soon, I will tell you the story of how we ended up here but for now I will just share that we have put almost 3 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally – everything here has a thorn or a spike) into our spread. I know it is only two acres but there are days when it feels like 200.

Finally, with the warm weather and long weekend, we were able to spend four straight days working outside; which is also why it has been a few days since I posted. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We  planted a couple of new citrus trees and did a lot of pruning, clean-up and fertilizing and started working on our outdoor kitchen. We still have a lot to do but I am happy to report that everything seems to be showing signs of life – everything except my beloved Hibiscus but I haven’t given up or lost hope yet.

Yes, it is spring and I have proof …

Spring-6

The tall spiky branches of the Ocotillo are covered in green.

Spring-10

The landscape plants are starting to bloom.

Spring-3

The Lantana, which was hit hard, is starting to show signs of life and recovery.

Spring-2Soon there will be peaches,

Spring-4

and mandarin oranges,

Spring-5

and lemons,

Spring-8

and figs,

Spring-11

and tomatoes,

and Meyer lemons, navel oranges, limes, grapefruit and fresh herbs (the full vegetable garden is in the works for next year).

We have also had our first visitor …

Spring-9

found happily sunning himself stretched out on the back patio. I have come to an understanding with his kind. As long as they don’t have a rattle or venom of any sort, stay outside – let me repeat that STAY OUTSIDE, don’t startle me, don’t end up in the pool either dead or requiring rescue, don’t hiss at or threaten me or camouflage themselves in such a way as to startle me when I don’t see them, we are able to live in harmony or at least in tolerance. The rest of my family thinks these gopher snakes (who are around 5′ long when fully grown) are cool, awesome and “soooo cute” as Nathan says. As for me, I am just happy they don’t have fangs and a rattle.

So, now that Spring is officially upon us, I will be outside, A LOT, happily playing in the dirt. I may be absent from the blogosphere a day or two, here or there, but I promise I will be back with more stories of the land, the house, the family, the food and the savior that I love.

Come back for a visit tomorrow – I have a confession to make.

Happy Spring!

So about 9 hours after posting this, I am feeling the need for a “Post-Publication Edit”  …

Spring 14

Ariel view, taken today, of the ball fields where “spring” training starts next week.

Spring 13A view of the Loop 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, taken today.

In this part of Arizona, we do not get snow. Not ever. Okay, once in a million years and today.

I may be an optomist but it is a good thing I’m not a weatherman.