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

An Ode to 2020 and Beyond

Today I come to you with 365 posts to my credit. A whole year’s worth of blogging. (Never mind it took nine years to do it.) Frankly, I thought I’d have a best-seller under my belt by now, too, but life goes on and goals get revised.

Living life well is my most important priority this year.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is to keep writing even if you hit the “delete” button more often than “publish.” The ability to detect B.S. is also an acquired skill. :) Write everything down. Your thoughts matter — so do mine and everybody’ else’s — read them with an honest heart and an open mind. Edit and/or delete as needed.

When you give thoughts the space they need, you’ll also be able to discern whether to take them seriously or not. Use your time wisely. To those who have the gift of posting regularly, I applaud and admire you. Eventually I plan to emulate you. Thanks for the inspiration! Well-written thoughts tickle my soul. Meanwhile…

Eat well to sustain yourself.

Pictured above are two cooking creations o’mine: Neopolitan Meatballs with Ragu (courtesy of Milk Street magazine‘s Jan/Feb 2020 issue) and Brandied Mushroom Pate’ pasta — the result of repurposing leftovers from a beloved dish after sharing the original pate’ with pals at a pre-holiday gathering. (Click on the links for recipes.)

Life is better… tastier… when you share it with the ones you love.

Noodles are such a comfort food for me — evidence of my Czech heritage, too — even if I have to eat the gluten-free version. FYI, these are photos of my hubby’s serving — my GF noodles fell apart, but they tasted good, even if they didn’t photograph well. Cook what your heart and stomach crave and you’ll live a much happier and fulfilled life. Punting is allowed! Do what works for YOU.

Mostly, I just wanted to say hi and Happy New Year. Love y’all!

Are you living life WELL this year and beyond? Do tell.

Enjoying “2020 vision” at the lake,
~ Kim

Triangulated (A Tasty Trio)

I must live in the Bermuda Triangle.

Every day I chart my course, set sail, and end up somewhere else. The phone rings, a text demands urgent attention or an email requires immediate action, and whoosh there I go. So much for goals! (I suspect you’re in the same boat.)

Thankfully, I love triangles.

My fascination with three-sided shapes hearkens back to high school Calculus  — mostly because the words ‘Pythagorean Theorem’ intrigued me — and by some quirk of fate, I ended up in advanced math. (Insert chuckle and/or Bermuda Triangle here.) Despite my  verbal affinities (and/or innate proclivity for naivety, lol), I managed to pull an A. But, just because I fared well grade-wise doesn’t mean I knew what I was doing. (I still don’t.) Welcome to my life! :)

Some folks assert there’s an alternate reality, but I say: this is reality. Do the work, even if it’s not what you planned. (Surprise!)

There are greater forces than our “to-do lists,” but ya never know what God (or the Universe) has planned for you to “do” on any given day. The trick is to fit your dreams between interstellar cracks wherever and whenever  you can.

Which brings me to three unexpected flavors.. Good things come in 3’s, yes?

Tapenade on Toast Triangles 2

Bermuda Triangle Tapenade

(Adapted from 3 recipes: Wolfgang Puck’s Black & Green Olive Tapenade, Real Housemoms Three Olive Tapenade, and Olive Crostini by Simply Recipes.)

1 baguette sliced in 1/2-inch rounds, or triangles made from gluten-free bread, brushed with EVOO — or excess chive oil from this post. Waste not, want not.

1 c. Kalamata olives, pitted (if need be), halved

1 c. large green olives stuffed with pimentos (I used Mezzetta’s Martini olives marinated in Vermouth)

1 c. large black olives, pitted and halved (ditto on “if need be”)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

2-3 Tbsp. capers, drained (I tend to lean towards 3 Tbsp. :)

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1/2 Tbsp. dried basil (fresh is best, but still workin’ on my herb garden)

1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

A dash or two (or three!) dried ground oregano and thyme

3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400º F. Place baguette rounds — or bread triangles — on an ungreased baking sheet lined with foil for easier clean-up. Bake 10 minutes or ’til lightly browned. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Pulverize all but the EVVO in a food processor until chunky. (Resist the temptation to over-process.) The same applies to life; we often over-process or overthink. No need!

Drizzle in EVOO until mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. You’ll know “when.” (If not, it’ll still taste good.) Slather tapenade on toasted bread or baguette slices. Enjoy!

Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week. Or, mix ’em with marinara and a bowlful of al dente pasta for a fab side dish or main meal before then. Salad & bread optional.

Crab Cakes and Marinated Asparagus Salad

The other 2/3’s of this Trio (even if they aren’t triangular!) are Chef Dennis Littley’s “My Famous Crabcakes and Kevin Lynch’s Grilled Asparagus with Marinated Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Kalamata Olives ala salad shown above — one of Kevin’s many alternatives. Thanks, gentlemen, xo! My taste buds were SO tickled — and yours will be, too, after you click on the links.

FYI, I scaled down all three recipes to meet TMOFW’s appetite (and mine lately) with our ongoing HOT streak. (100º+) Sorry for not including the conversions, but as I tell my kids when they’re facing life-altering decisions: “Do the math!”

Enjoying isosceles living,

~ Kim

Smoked Salmon Extravaganza

Biscuits and Smoked Salmon

Black Pepper Biscuits with Smoked Salmon

First of all, I want to reassure you that I don’t plan on posting quite so frequently as I have been lately (I admire those of you who do, but that’s not my cup o’ tea), however after a long, cold winter away from home ( 3-1/2 months to be exact), I was ready for some hedonistic pleasure and writing. For me, that equated to some unbridled cooking, smoked salmon, and the word “extravaganza.” (Gotta love it!)

Spring arrived around mid-March in the Northern hemisphere, but such was not the case in Minnesota. It was 40 degrees when I left Oklahoma and 40 below zero when I arrived in Minneapolis in January… plus, it snowed eight out of the first ten days in April. Such fun!

I haven’t written much (or at all) about that experience — mostly because it pertained to Mom’s medical issues, a stove that didn’t work, two blizzards, and 60-years’ worth of “downsizing” (plus my sanity), but suffice it to say that I’m ecstatic to be back at the lake. (And Mom is settled in her new home at last.)

In the month that’s ensued, I’ve been treating myself to these simple, yet extraordinary appetizers (in lieu of full meals) to appease my soul. Oh my, yes! Sometimes you have to eat what appeals to you, never mind the “recommended daily allowances.”

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Generally I concoct my own creations, but I arrived home with my mind in a mess, and my soul and stomach in sore need of Googling a recipe or two. What a treasure trove exists in cyber space, and how grateful I am for it. (And you!)

Briefly, I reconnected with my Irish (and Bohemian) roots while I was away — a combination of nostalgia and heritage (hence the Kerry Gold butter in the first photo) and a true appreciation for my ancestors and the “story tellers” in my life. (Thanks, cousin Fred — your writing continues to inspire me.)

As for the flavors, oh my goodness! Take your taste buds on a flavor picnic and TRY some o’ these… I’m so glad I did.

Smoked salmon toasts

Smoked Salmon on Mustard-Chive and Dill Butter Toasts

The compound butter in the canape above blew me away. (Bear in mind, butter is a rare treat and I’m still on the fence about “dairy” and ifs effects on me, but all in the name of trial and error.) Live and learn.

The “crunch factor” combined with creaminess… so worth it, swoon!

Re: the Smoked Salmon Mousse below…  I hesitated to pulverize part of my precious smoked salmon stash, but I couldn’t resist trying a new “texture.”

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Smoked Salmon Mousse

FYI, I subbed goat cheese for the cream cheese and cut the lemon juice by half to compensate for the “tang” — plus it sets up slightly stiffer than “mousse” — bring to room temp first. (Just sayin’.)

For a photo of my resulting appetizer with cucumber slices, see my previous post.

And if you run out of cukes, you can always make more deviled eggs. ;)

Smoked Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs

Smoked Salmon Mousse “Deviled Eggs”

Here’s the links (with heartfelt gratitude):

Goat Cheese and Black Pepper Biscuits with Smoked Salmon

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon on Mustard-Chive and Dill Butter Toasts

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs “self explanatory” (reserve yolks for egg salad sandwiches or potato salad)

Enjoying culinary freedom at HOME — at long last,

~ Kim

Simple Shrimp Boil

Old Bay mug

Most shrimp boil recipes include corn and potatoes (and sometimes sausage), plus they make enough to feed an army. But, I was cooking for one (that’d be me) and I just wanted the “flavor.” The simpler, the better.

Recently I acquired this Old Bay mug (don’t ya love finds like that?) and I knew all I wanted to fill it with were shrimp and rice. (I’ll save the corn and potatoes for company dinner.)

In the time it took to cook the rice, the shrimp were prepped, simmered, and done — nothin’ else to do except spoon a dollop of each into my mug and eat!

Simple Shrimp Boil

(adapted from recipe #262 in 365 Ways to Cook Fish & Seafood by Charles Pierce… and Old Bay, of course)

3 sprigs fresh parsley (save some for garnish)

2 bay leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half

2 strips lemon peel

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

1 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 lb. large shrimp in the shell, deveined with tails intact

1 cup cooked jasmine rice (prepared per package directions)

1-2 green onions, including tops, thinly sliced

Place parsley, bay leaves, garlic, lemon peel, peppercorns, and Old Bay seasoning in a piece of cheesecloth (hint: I used a coffee filter) and tie with kitchen twine.

Bring water, wine, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add seasoning “bag”; reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook until pink and just beginning to “bend.” (Beware of cooking them until they curl into an “O” — it stands for overdone!) Drain well and discard seasoning bag.

Serve shrimp atop cooked rice. Garnish with green onions and parsley. Feel free to add a salad or steamed veggies and warm French bread for a complete meal.

Old Bay seasoning

FYI, I peeled the shrimp before serving and shared half with my hubby. (They made a flavorful shrimp fettuccine Alfredo, but he ate the evidence!)

‘Twas the least I could do after he constructed this to make my life easier.

Simplicity reigns at the lake. Ahhhhh…

Ramp.JPG

Enjoying shortcuts to happiness,

~ Kim