Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast

The long holiday weekend is almost upon us and I’ve been pondering what to make. Company is outlawed and trips to get groceries have been few and far in between. Thankfully, strawberries are in season and I remembered a recipe from the days of yore… 2011. (Yup, “a little lunch” has been around that long.)

Feel free to peruse the archives in my side bar anytime.

The following is one of my favorites, re-edited. It’s almost the weekend ‘n’ all.

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Ever notice how breakfast tastes better on a weekend morning?

I’m not much of a breakfast-eater during the week, but on Saturday mornings I’m in the mood for something decadent — not your ordinary breakfast fare.

The solution to my decadent dreams was Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast.

Filled with strawberries, sweetened mascarpone, cream cheese, and a hint of spice, it elevated plain ol’ French Toast into something extraordinary.

Quick to make, too — unless you happen to be out of Mascarpone cheese — in which case, you start the night before.

(Skip ahead to the Stuffed French Toast recipe if you have Mascarpone on hand.)

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

(Adapted from two tarts’ recipe on Tasty Kitchen)

1 c. heavy cream

1/4 t. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk together heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water. Using a wooden spoon, stir until it reaches 180° F. Add lemon juice and stir 5 minutes more; remove from heat.

Set top part of double boiler on a pot holder; let stand undisturbed for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl; line sieve with cheesecloth. (In a pinch, use a coffee filter — same principle.)

Slowly pour the cream mixture into the sieve; let stand 20 minutes or until cool enough to refrigerate. Wrap sieve (bowl and all) in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

In the morning, scrape the fresh Mascarpone cheese from the filter — it doesn’t stick — and discard the liquid in the bowl.

Prepare to be amazed.

I’ll never lack for Mascarpone cheese again.  Or, Stuffed French Toast…

Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast

6 slices French bread, approximately 2″ wide each

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. Mascarpone cheese, softened (homemade or store-bought)

1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, plus additional for serving

1 pint ripe strawberries (reserve some for garnish)

1 c. milk

3 eggs

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. butter, divided

Create a pocket in each slice of bread by slicing through the middle without cutting through the crust; set aside.

Mix together softened cheeses and confectioners’ sugar until well blended.

Rinse and hull strawberries; pat dry and slice into 1/4″ slices.

Spread a generous portion of cheese mixture in each French bread pocket. Layer with sliced strawberries; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, spices, and salt.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter on a griddle over medium heat.

Meanwhile, dip each stuffed French toast into egg batter covering both sides; drain slightly.

Fry three pieces at a time. When underside is golden brown, flip over and fry until golden on both sides. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven until remaining pieces are cooked. (Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to griddle before frying the rest.)

Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and garnish with whole strawberries.

Weekend French Toast

This weekend treat your family (or yourself) to breakfast. You’ll be glad you did!

Remember to honor those who made it possible, too, xo.

Enjoying freedom and Stuffed French Toast,

~ Kim

My Ideal Day II

Boy Bouquet

It’s been nearly six years since I posted “My Ideal Day” (for a glimpse of my former frolics click here) — maybe because every day has been close to ideal? Not that life has been all fun and games since then, but I’ve done my best to prevail with a SMILE. Do what makes you happy. Pictured above is the “Boy Bouquet” I gave my beloved. :)

A kiss good morning and a cup of coffee are all I need to ignite my day. 

Make that three kisses. That’s been our tradition ever since TMOFW & I got married 17 years ago and the same applies to “goodbye.” Establish your comfort level for affection early on and don’t settle for less. Take care of yourself!

I’ve been doing just that since I arrived home again after two weeks in Minnesota. (Thank you all for your condolences.) The other night I made “Giada’s” Asparagus & Tomato Fritatta; the next day it was a wilted Chef’s Salad ala “moi.” Healthy eatin’, one day at a time.

I’m grateful for such a peaceful place to regroup, too. Every time I look out our front door, I smile. Ahhh…

Deck sitting has been mandatory. View Out Our Front Door

Getting back to my recent Ideal Day… it involved time to write, think, coffee, and a glass of wine or two.

(And a cute sun dress.)

I also promised TMOFW that I wouldn’t pluck his two prized early blooming beauties below to make Fried Green Tomatoes. :) Patience…TMOFW's tomato plants

Life’s been good at the lake lately.

Actually, it’s been dang near ideal every day. (Thank you, God!)

Enjoying re-booting once again,

~ Kim

2015 in review

This past year has been pretty “hit or miss” on this forum — mostly due to re-evaluating my priorities, dealing with “what is” (or was), and re-grouping as a result. (Gotta love LIFE!) Press on…

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. Thank you, “helper monkeys”… even though I envision (quirky as I am) the infamous Wicked Witch of the West’s troops swooping off to capture Dorothy et al in the Wizard of Oz, lol! Sometimes “help” comes in the least likely forms.

However, I’m delighted to know that the majority of my notoriety came from Down Under (LOVED your comparison to the Sydney Opera House… here’s to a “sold out” crowd in 2015), but I also have heart-felt appreciation for everyone (from everywhere!) who took time to notice, read, and comment on this space.

I’m doin’ the best I can and I know (and love) that y’all are, too. Again, thanks! Okay, on to the rest of WP’s “report.” (Buying time until my “next” post, LOL!)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What’s In A Name? (Sneaky Sauce)

Salmon with Sneaky Sauce

Recipe titles are so descriptive now. When I first started cooking, they were pretty generic. Roast Beef. Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. Corn. These days, dinner goes through metamorphosis before I even step in front of the stove.

Initially, I was a bit put off by prolific titles, especially ones listing Every. Single. Thing. (Blame it on bacon, Nutella, and SEO.) But, over the years I’ve come to appreciate their point-blank accuracy. I tend to carry around a mental inventory of my fridge and pantry (anyone?) and ‘specific’ recipes allow me plan dinner more efficiently. Very helpful.

I also like the ‘fun’ ones. “Moroccan Meatball Marvel.” “Killer Chocolate Parfait.” Names like that leave something to the ol’ imagination.

In a fit of introspection, I wondered if a recipe title mindset could be applied to my ‘goals’ for 2014? I’m not much of a goal-setter (which explains a lot of things) and up until now I’ve been content to float along in a sea of nondescript to-do’s: Write a book. Compose a song. Take some photos. Clean house…

Truthfully, I’m more proactive than that. Being laid back has its merits, but time has a way of sneaking up on (or away from) me. I need to write a specific recipe for my life — or at least an imaginative title.

Progress Mixed With Playfulness.

By the way, I wasn’t trying to be sly making reference to ‘Sneaky Sauce.’ There really is such a thing. (Well… that’s what we call it at our house.) I’ve slathered it on everything from pork chops to pan-seared salmon with rave reviews!

For a truly tasty BBQ sauce with a lil’ sneak-up-on-you heat, The Unorthodox Epicure has just the thing: East Texas Smoky Barbecue Sauce. (Thanks, Adam!)

Sometimes the name says it all.

Enjoying kitchen evolutions,

~ Kim

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Sauce

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Sauce

After driving 3,000 miles a week during the trucking years, driving 3 miles to the grocery store is a delight.  Plus, the merits of shopping local cannot be overstated.

The idea of pomegranate sauce began teasing my foodie imagination when I saw a lovely display of crown-topped orbs in the produce section. I’d never eaten one before (better late than never), so I brought one home and munched on a few arils while I sieved, pressed, and extracted. I soon discovered that one pomegranate doesn’t yield much juice. Back to the store for another one.

But, those intriguing ruby-like gems had worked their magic on me and I found myself eating more than I was extracting. After a third trip to the store, I came home with a bottle of Pom Wonderful. (Those folks do a marvelous job of getting juice out of those lil’ buggers!) Homemade is my preference, but I come from the “whatever works” camp, too.

Then I simmered and savored until success (and sauce) was achieved. The cake is a good ol’ standby from 30+ years ago — source unknown and recipe considerably tweaked since then. And, trips down memory lane don’t require any driving either.

Flourless Chocolate Cake 3

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 c. baking cocoa (I used Nestle’s Toll House Cocoa)

6 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 Tbsp. whiskey (*see note below)

2 Tbsp. strong coffee, cooled

3/4 c. heavy cream

2 extra large eggs

Pomegranate arils for garnish (if there are any left)

(*May omit whiskey and increase vanilla to 1 tablespoon.)

Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter the bottom of a 9″ cake pan. Have a baking sheet with 1″ sides and a kettle of boiling water at the ready.

In a heavy saucepan, combine cocoa, butter, sugar, vanilla, whiskey (if using), and coffee. Whisk over medium heat until sugar  dissolves; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in cream until blended; set aside to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer for 4 to 5 minutes or until color is pale yellow and volume is tripled. Gradually whisk eggs into cooled chocolate mixture.

With a spatula, scrape batter into prepared cake pan. Set cake pan on the baking sheet, place in the oven, and pour boiling water onto the baking sheet to a depth of one-half inch. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until cake is set.

Remove cake pan to a cooling rack (I leave the baking pan/water in the oven); cool completely. Refrigerate cake (covered) for 4 hours or overnight. Slice into wedges and drizzle with Pomegranate Sauce.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Flourless Chocolate Cake 1

Pomegranate Sauce

(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 c. pomegranate juice

1/2 c. red wine (I used Briar Patch Black Cherry Wine; see below)

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

1 Tbsp. honey

3″ stick cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low.  Simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half and is thickened and syrupy. Cool to room temperature before serving.

About the Black Cherry wine…

We’re fortunate to have a small local winery with a huge sense of humor nearby. (Click on the photo below or like their FB page here.) Stop by the Briar Patch and say hi to Jim and Linda. Good folks, good fun, good wine!

Black Cherry Wine

Well it’s time to enjoy a slice of cake, so I’ll leave you with two words:

Shop local!

Enjoying pomegranate success (at last),

~ Kimby

Solar Hugs

Nutmeg Honey Butter

I love those golden, glowing days of midwinter when sunlight streams through the windows, embracing you in warmth.

Solar hugs, so to speak.

– – – – –

That was the beginning of my post before our furnace gave out (sometime between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.), leaving me wondering why the thing wasn’t kicking in overnight. (!)

Thankfully, the “intro” still applies.

Handmade quilts (thanks, Sis) and Oklahoma’s moderate temps sustained us until the coffee was ready.  Never mind that it’s supposed to get down to 27° tonight — a temporary cold spell — I’m savoring the gorgeous sunlight that streamed through our windows this morning.

Warmth is a state of mind and I can’t help but feel cozy.

Definition of irony:  We bought a wood-burning stove this weekend.  It’s still sitting in the driveway. :)

– – – – –

Getting on with things, I love fruitcake almost as much as I love solar hugs.  (Please don’t stop reading.)

For those of you who despise the much-maligned holiday treat (especially if you’re petrifying it into a doorstop at this late date), this isn’t a tortured how-to.  My favorite fruitcake recipe can be found in Christopher Kimball’s The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook — a sunny-looking tome, if you’re so inclined.

What I do want to share is Nutmeg Honey Butter.

Golden orbs of goodness…

Golden Orbs of Goodness

Sunshine in truffle form. :)

Sunlight Truffles

Nutmeg Honey Butter

1/4 lb. quality butter, chilled  (I used Hope Butter)

2 tsp. honey

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Using a small scoop, shape butter into truffle-sized balls.

Place on a decorative plate.

Drizzle with honey.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Serve on bread, pancakes, waffles, or yes… the dreaded fruitcake.

Fruit Cake with Nutmeg Honey Butter

Here’s to sunshine and warmth in midwinter, especially when your alternative heat source has yet to be installed.

(I’m calling the furnace guy tomorrow.)

Enjoying solar hugs,

~ Kimby

Back To The Basics II

Back to the Basics

It seems that my body and soul (and stomach) need to do a “regroup” about every six months or so.  In my first Back To The Basics post, I’d just “retired” from a job outside the home, which — while, philanthropically fulfilling — didn’t meet my need to write, cook, make music…

Here it is, six months later and I’m at it again… what shall I do with this life o’mine?

Frankly, I feel blessed to ask that question!

I also feel blessed to be the recipient of some fabulous gifts, aptly timed to arrive during the holidays.  (Who doesn’t love extra presents under the tree?!)  Actually, they were the only presents under the tree, lol.  ‘Tis better to give than to receive…

Anyway, these gifts fulfilled the basic need to treat myself

Thank you so much, to Robin from Simply Southern Baking:

And Christine Lamb from Christine’s Pantry:

And Shirley, from Luxury Haven:

(Yes, I know “eye liner” doesn’t have one whit to do with cooking… but in a way it does!  The more glamorous you feel in the kitchen, the more you can “treat yourself”  — and your special folks — right! ;)

In case you aren’t familiar with the aforementioned lovely ladies, please click on the links in this post — or on my blog roll any time you wish.  You’ll be glad you did!

(And hooray for Random Number Generators!) xo

Getting back to treating myself

As of right now, the house is “undecorated.”  Life is simpler.  Time seems slower… or more basic.

And there’s nothin’ more basic, to me at least, than bread and jam. :)

Recipes forthcoming in following posts… after January 7th!  Until then, I’m taking a much-needed hiatus.  Happy New Year, everybody!

Enjoying time off,

~ Kim