Savory French Toast with Tomato-Avocado-Basil Maple Syrup

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Last night I made my savory french toast with roasted red pepper-tomato maple syrup recipe, but with a slight modification. I omitted the red pepper and added diced avocados and fresh basil. Fantastic summer dinner!

Here’s the original recipe

https://cheflorelei.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/savory-french-toast-with-red-pepper-tomato-maple-syrup/

Quick Lentil Soup

In preparation for our big move, I’ve started to clean out the fridge. Perhaps it’s a bit hasty since we are here in Seattle for about 6 more weeks, but I’m getting excited! In the fridge I found a package of Trader Joe’s cooked lentils and a half eaten container of red pepper hummus, these got me thinking about my favorite curried lentil soup recipe by Molly Wizenberg. She adds pureed chick peas to the cooked lentil mixture right before serving, it’s a fantastic soup, I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post. So using her recipe as inspiration I made a quick lunch.

2C Cooked lentils

1/2C Hummus  (I used a red pepper hummus, but I bet most flavors would work well)

1 1/2 -2C Vegetable broth

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, stir together lentils, hummus and 1 1/2 C vegetable broth. Add more broth if you like a thinner soup. Season with pepper.

Optional: serve with lemon wedges and pita bread or chips.

Serves 2-3

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/12/curried_lentil_soup

Chicken Tacos

In the heat and humidity of summer I try not to turn the oven/stove on, so this means we end up eating a lot of large salads. Which is perfect for highlighting all the fantastic produce that’s available this time of year, but there comes a day when I want something hot. And since I don’t have an outside grill I generally turn to the crock pot. These easy tacos are a great way to use up any leftover produce, plus I can slip in a can of refried beans after the meat is done cooking and my husband is none the wiser!

2# Chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

1 1/2C Salsa (any and every kind will work-green, red fresh, jarred….)

1-2C Vegetables diced (onions, peppers, mushrooms, kale…whatever you have in your fridge)

2 Cloves of garlic, minced

1tsp Ground cumin

1 Lime juiced

Optional additions after the allotted cooking time- can of refried or regular beans, or corn kernels.

Put all the ingredients into a crock pot and give it a little stir. Set it on high for 4hrs or on low for 8hrs. After the meat is cooked, use a large wooden spoon, or two forks, to gently break the chicken apart. (If the mixture is too liquidy at this point ladle some of the juices out and pour it into a small sauce pan and place on a medium-high burner until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the reduced liquid back into the crock pot.) Taste the taco filling and add salt or some hot sauce if needed.

Place a few tablespoons in a tortilla and top with your favorite toppings: grated cheese, cilantro leaves, sliced avocados, sliced radishes, sour cream….

 

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Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

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Another one handed recipe! Just two, maybe three, things to do before you pick up that baby: crack the eggs, grease the loaf pan, and unless you are very adept open the can of pumpkin puree.  Feel free to play around with the spices in the recipe, I suggest 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon but you could use pumpkin pie spice, or your own mixture of ginger, nutmeg, cardamom…I’ve also mixed up the flours a bit too, occasionally I’ll replace 1/2C of regular flour with almond meal for a nice nutty flavor or replace up to 1C flour for the whole wheat pastry flour, when I feel like being healthier.

2 1/4 C flour

1 1/2tsp Baking powder

1tsp Baking soda

1tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1 Egg

1 Egg white

1 C Brown sugar

1 1/2 C Pumpkin puree

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Dried cranberries (soaked in warm water or cider for at least 5 minutes and up to 1 hour)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x5in loaf pan. Soak the cranberries and set aside. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl stir together the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, drain the cranberries and stir into the batter. Pour everything into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.

Roast Chicken Thighs and Silken Kale

Easy one pan dish, where the kale takes on a creaminess from braising in the chicken juices, but also the tops get super crispy almost burnt, but in a good way!

1 bag kale, washed and chopped (or 3 cups)
1/2 white onion, diced
1# chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (buy small thighs, usually organic chicken thighs are small)
1 T of your favorite herb or spice mix
2C brown rice
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the entire bag of kale and the diced onion in a 9×13 in baking dish. Evenly distribute the chicken pieces on top of the kale; any exposed kale will get extra crispy! Let this sit on the counter while the oven is preheating to slightly dry out the chicken skin. When the oven is hot, pat the skin dry with paper towels, and season with a little salt and the Tablespoon of herbs or spices and put the pan into the oven. Roast for 15 minutes  and reduce the oven temperature to 350, and cook until the meat is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile cook the brown rice following the package instructions.
Serve lemon wedges on the side allowing the diners to squeeze fresh lemon juice on the kale and chicken.
 
 

Holiday Entertaining Tips

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1. Pick a theme:

I find it easiest to pick a theme: Italian, Mexican, Indian, American,…..That way you are more focused when choosing recipes, all the food tastes good together ( you won’t have chips and salsa mixing into your sushi), often recipes from the same general area use similar ingredients (saves you time and money by not having a long grocery list and using 10 ingredients that you only need 1 Tablespoon of)

 

2. Room temperature is your friend:

When serving only appetizers try to have the majority of them able to be served at room temp, that way you aren’t running around the entire party trying to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, and your guests won’t have to be worried about food poisoning! Really a win win for all. Sample appetizer menu: Mini buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, Black eyed pea dip with carrots and cucumbers, Spicy kale chips, Watermelon kebobs, BBQ mini meatballs and lemon shortbread cookies.

 

3. For a sit-down Dinner, stews and braises are your friends:

If you are serving a sit down meal, make a braised or stewed entree. These dishes usually are very forgiving time wise and don’t need any last minute cooking on your part so you can enjoy your guests instead of all your time in the kitchen.  Sample menu: Butter lettuce and snap pea salad with orange mustard vinaigrette and sliced almonds, Coq au Vin served with crusty bread, and pots de creme)

 

4. Dress up your food:

Make the food look as pretty as possible, we eat with our eyes first. Generous sprigs of Italian parsley or cilantro tucked here and there on a platter looks beautiful, plus it’s cheap!

 

5. Arrange your buffet thoughtfully:

When arranging a buffet have plates at one end and napkins and silverware at the other, that way your guests won’t have to hold onto forks and spoons while they try to dish up a plate. Arrange platters at varying heights not only to create a more visually interesting buffet but it can also create more space of platters. Use cake stands, upside down bowls, a stack of books to balance a plate on etc.

 

6. Guests are happy that they didn’t have to cook:

Last of all remember its only food so relax! The majority of your guests will be so happy that they didn’t have to cook that they will be very lax on judging your culinary skills.

Savory French Toast with Red Pepper-Tomato Maple Syrup

Savory French ToastIn my house we always seem to have half a loaf of partially stale French bread laying around. I can only save so much for bread crumbs and since I was sorta in the mood for breakfast for dinner but didn’t really want something super sweet I came up with this.

Since having the baby cooking has become a little more challenging in that I don’t have as much time, or the use of both hands while cooking. So I’ve started developing one-handed recipes. These are very forgiving recipes where if you have time to measure ingredients great! But if not, just eyeball it and everything will work out. A dash of this, a sprinkle of that and dinner will still taste wonderful.

6-7 Slices French bread, slightly stale
3 Eggs
3/4 C Milk
1tsp Mustard, dry ground or prepared
1tsp Favorite herb (thyme, oregano, marjoram etc.)
1/2 tsp each of Salt and Pepper
Dash of Cayenne pepper

Arrange bread slices in a single layer in a dish, 9×13 pan works well. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over bread. Let it sit for at least an hour and upto overnight.

1 Tomato, diced*
1/4 C Red pepper diced**
1C Real Maple Syrup
1/4tsp Pepper

Put everything in a small pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat, add a little oil/butter. Place the soaking bread in the hot pan, turn over when the first side is golden brown. When the second side is golden brown transfer to a plate and serve with the warm syrup.

( I didn’t have and arugula or spinach in my fridge last night, but I bet the bitterness of the greens would be a nice foil to the sweetness of the syrup. So if you feel like trying it, serve this dish on a bed of greens. If you do try it, please let me know how it is!)

Serves: 2

*I used a fresh tomato, but I bet canned diced tomato would taste just as good, maybe better depending on the season and your location
** yellow, red or orange peppers can be used for this recipe. I’ve seen frozen bags of grilled sliced peppers that I think would taste fantastic here. Or frozen corn would be a good alternative too.