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

Do More Of What Makes You Happy

Prior to last month’s shelter-in-place orders going into effect (aka: lockdowns, quarantines, or stay-at-home mandates re: Covid-19) I visited a lovely local shop and picked up several notepads for future gift giving. Not only did they offer upbeat sayings, they included a color-coordinated spatula. (Some folks call them “scrapers” — in this case a mini-scraper — but I still call them “spatulas” no matter what size.) Figured they’d come in handy for ekeing out the last of whatever folks were trying to use and was cheered by the postive message. Apologies to whoever coined the logo above; I’ve seen it a number of times so I figured it was “public domain.” May you reap your reward in heaven for such an uplifting thought! Thank you.

Little did I know how important that phrase would become in the coming months. These days we’re all trying to reduce/re-use/recycle bits and bobs at the bottom of the bottles lurking on our fridge shelves. Truthfully, they’ve escalated to even more importance than we ever could’ve imagined. One more ounce of flavor = another meal. For those suffering from food shortages, my prayers are with you. I feel entirely blessed to have enough (so far) and the means to splurge now and then. I also continue to donate to our local food shelf and I hope other folks do, too.

Mother’s Day came and went. My annual tradition usually includes making something with lobster (don’t I wish?) but it wasn’t meant to be this year. Frozen shrimp was the only seafood alternative. (Does anyone else dread going to the grocery store until absolutely neccesary like I do?) Still, I was overjoyed that they carried some sort of crustacean. I also had a recipe in mind…

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything)

1 large clove garlic (I used 1 tsp. refrigerated minced garlic)

1 T. Kosher salt (his recipe specified “coarse salt”)

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. hot paprika

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

15 to 20 medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveined with tails intact (I used the frozen/thawed equivalent)

  1. Mince garlic with salt until fine. Add both paprikas and blend well.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and EVOO to make a paste. (I transferred the above to a bowl before making the paste.)
  3. Add shrimp; mix gently to coat thoroughly.
  4. Allow to marinate for a few minutes or up to 1 hour.
  5. Preheat grill (or broiler) to high. Place shrimp skewers as close as possible to heat source.
  6. Grill (or broil) 2-3 minutes per side or until shrimp are pink.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

I added two skewers of veggies, too — mushrooms, onions, and grape tomatoes — before I tossed the shrimp on the grill (shown slightly “charbroiled” above by the time I got to ’em) but they were a delightful addition to my holiday meal. Bonus points for “Chili Lime Fish En Papillote.” (No recipe… just sprinkle fish filets with extra virgin olive oil, S & P, chili powder, and freshly-squeezed lime juice wrapped in foil.) YUM! The rest of the shrimp and veggies are headed for a batch of Jambalaya tonight along with some rice, smoked sausage, and chicken from my freezer. Reduce/reuse/recycle. And, do more of what makes you happy!

For me that involves cooking (or grilling) by the seat of my pants, letting nothing go to waste, watching Jeopardy (even the re-runs lol), reading books, practicing the piano, going outside to snap a photo now and then, writing letters, keeping “the castle” clean for TMOFW, and hopefully posting an upbeat message whenever I’m so inclined.

Be safe and well, my friends, xo.

Enjoying present-day life despite the ongoing restrictions,

~ Kim

Did I mention dancing?! What makes YOU happy these days?

Fried Rice and Another Flowergram

With everything that’s going on in our country right now, including food shortages, I’ve refrained from posting “foodie pics” until today. They just didn’t feel right under the present circumstances. (No offense to those of you who have — thanks for the recipe ideas, too.) I stopped counting Flowergrams after my recent post… the less “statistics” or advice the better.

However, since I’m faced with the same shortages as you are and know how to stretch a meal, I thought I’d share a supper: Fried Rice. (Chop sticks not included.)

Whatever brings you JOY and/or feeds you ‘n’ your family!

This particular batch involved water chestnuts, yellow onions, green onions, part of a red pepper (the rest was reserved for omelets), frozen peas (briefly steamed), and a scrambled egg seared in sesame oil. FYI, I used vegetable oil to start things out, so as not to overwhelm the final dish with the sesame oil flavor. A lil’ goes a long way! Feel free to add a splash of soy sauce and/or gluten-free tamari at will, too.

Rice has long been a staple of the world. Folks’ lives depend on it! Often paired with fish, Beans ‘n’ Rice is a favorite dish o’ mine, too. Gotta love cross-cultural cooking.

Ironically, I forgot to include any meat (supposedly on the endangered list, too, or so “they” say), but my hubby ‘n’ I didn’t miss it at all. It was hot, hearty, and healthy, plus it filled us up — and then some.

Last, but not least (and owing to the predominant color scheme of the day…) here’s a rose that bloomed despite our stormy weather.

Enjoying savoring blessings — foodie, floral, or otherwise,

~ Kim

Virtual Hugs Are Better Than None

Today I was thinking about hugs. (Something we’ve all been missing since Covid-19 invaded our lives.)

What are hugs exactly? A physical exchange of affection? Shows of affirmation? Encouragement embraced in two arms?

Although we’re not allowed the blessing of human touch at present, there are substitutes for relaying feelings when such means of contact are lacking — and/or ill-advised by the CDC.

The flowers above were planted by The Man Of Few Words to bring JOY into my life — and yours, xo.

Virtual hugs are popping up all over the planet: tele-songs from inspired muscians; humorous videos that allow us to laugh at our human frailties; heartfelt applause or banging on pots and pans from stay-at-home balconies; neighborhood dance parties; drive-by parades to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries; meals made with love and a lil’ bit of ingenuity; Flowergrams…

Yesterday this hand-picked bouquet showed up on our dining room table.

Even though I can’t touch you right now, I feel you!

(I love you and miss you, too.)

What’s been happening that made you SMILE (without involving hugs) to relay your JOY? Do tell.

Enjoying sharing virtual hugs,

~ Kim

Flowergram XI

Flowers are blooming around the lake so I thought I’d reinstate a former tradition: the Flowergram. (You can view the other ten by typing ‘flowergram’ into the “looking for something?” tab in my sidebar.) Too beautiful not to share!

Easter lillies were absent from our at-home holiday (Happy Easter, y’all!), plus it was the first time I didn’t play piano or organ for that church service in over 50 years. Yup, I’ve been at it for that long… and I miss it. Imagine my delight seeing an iris blooming against all odds to cheer me up. So delicate. So intricate. So aptly timed.

The world needs a lil’ cheering up these days.

So COLD for Oklahoma, too!

The weather took an “unseasonal” dip overnight (30-degrees with 30 mph winds) and I had to brave the elements to take pics this morning. I dressed in a hot pink bathrobe, black hooded sweatshirt, an old green raincoat, and my Wellingtons. (The Man Of Few Words has seen worse, lol!) So how’s your isolation wardrobe these days?

Despite my avant-garde attire, it was uplifting to see the earth adorning itself in beauty once again. There’s a lot of HOPE in that. Life goes on… despite the odds.

Whatever you wear, be safe! It’s a jungle out there.

Enjoying local flora & fauna,

~ Kim

Truth From The Lake

I’ve wept for worldwide losses. Smiled over simple joys. Felt blessed to make dinner despite shortages. Prayed for the less fortunate. Contributed to causes.

What more could I do while social distancing and staying at home, as “personally” as the internet allows? Make bread.

A lil’ lovin’ from the oven goes a long way — plus the store was almost out.

This is 2020, yes? What a different world we live in. But, back to the basics can be a good thing — a vital reminder to cherish life and change what you can, even if it means kneading dough after your arms are tired. (Imagine what it must be like for folks on the front lines… doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMT’s, police, firefighters, first responders, gas station/convenience store/ grocery clerks, etc. — God bless ’em all — and thank you.) Sometimes we need to start “from scratch.”

While I was pummeling dough, the song “I Need You” by America came to mind. (Probably because my brain accesses random trivia when I least expect it; remind me to become a Jeopardy contestant.) “I knead you, like the flour needs the rain.” [sic]. You get the idea. Hopefully you can access this link to their recording session, along with a few o’my own in bold blue. Some things bear repeating.

I especially loved the banter at the beginning wondering if they should do over and their producer’s advice: “Just keep going.” That’s where we’re at right now, America.  Just keep going! Stay inside, wash your hands, listen to/follow the CDC guidlines, and make the most of your time on the planet. Make bread and music if you can, too — you never know whose soul you might inspire, save, or feed. Keep it up!

Enjoying an introspective moment at the lake,

~ Kim

Catch Of The Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted a Northern or Walleye, let alone caught one.

Back in the halcyon days of summer vacations, Dad ‘n’ I would arise before anybody else (I’m talking 5:00 a.m.) and launch the resort’s Alumacraft fishing boat with its 25 hp Evinrude motor armed with a thermos of coffee and fishing poles from home in high hopes of catching a lunker. Some morning our outings yielded Northerns; other days walleyes. Both were wonderful.

So are the memories.

There’s nothing like casting a line and feeling a rebellious tug beneath the surface, except for eating it later. (Fellow-fisherman, you know from whence I speak.) One of the highest compliments my Dad ever paid me was: “Nice cast!” On that particular morning mine landed next to a weed bed where I subsequently reeled in a 5-pound Northern. I’ll never forget the sight of it breaking the calm surface of the lake with a defiant splash — or the proud look on my father’s face.

Afterwards we went back to the cabin to cook breakfast. While Dad cleaned our early-morning catch, I prepped potatoes, toast, and another pot of coffee. One of the best wake-up calls I’ve ever experienced was the aroma of fried potatoes and fresh fish fillets sizzling in a cast iron skillet with toast and freshly brewed coffee.

Plenty of butter was also a plus.

Recently I bought some Ghee — clarified butter with the milk solids removed — after attempting to make my own and researching numerous articles re: its compatability with dairy allergies. I miss butter! Some of them said it was a no-no, while others proclaimed it was lactose and “dairy-protein-free.” (The bane of my existence.) Ever the optomist, I opted for the latter. So far, so good, one teaspoon or “dunk” at a time.

Last weekend a couple from church returned from a fishing trip to Canada with two coolers full of fillets on ice intent on giving away their excess. Thank you SO much for your generosity! I was like a kid in a candy store in front of their tailgate in the church parking lot. After I got home I thawed a bag of Walleye fillets and made Walleye Almondine (or Amandine.) Sorry, no photos — it was gone in a flash.

The next day I made Poor Man’s Lobster (click on the link for the recipe): Northern fillets poached in a white wine and what-have-you broth. I added a few Court Bouillon ingredients ala Alton Brown — the more, the merrier — and broiled them to perfection later. Soooo grateful to taste that flavor again.

Enjoying the catch of the day and memories,

~ Kim