fruit

fruit-on-top baked french toast + making breakfast for company

You know you cook differently when you have company. It’s okay guys; the secret is out. Just admit it. No more nonsense. You’re not fooling anyone by waving off the inquisitive compliments of your friends and relatives, “Oh my goodness, this is so delicious.  Do you make food like this all the time?” No, is the answer. Only when you’re here, and I feel an alpha-dog-like need to prove my culinary prowess. But, “Aw, psh, it’s nothing,” you object, turning your head away so they can’t see your satisfied smirk.

It’s nothing? Yeah right. You know you rummaged around your neglected notecard filer for your grandmother’s secret recipes, flipped through your cookbooks for your most trusted dishes, and paged through dozens – no, hundreds – of food blogs online in the days leading up to the company’s arrival. You mentally planned out the meals for every day, arranging the best ones for the last few days, so you’d have some tasty leftovers to shovel into your mouth as you slump on the couch in exhaustion/depression after everyone has left. You stocked the fridge and freezer ahead of time, so when everyone arrived you could casually offer them exactly the beverage you know they’ll be wanting.  “Caffeine-free diet Dr. Pepper, anyone? Sure thing, we just had it in the fridge.”

Breakfast is always the trickiest. You can’t just offer cereal every day. That would be pathetic and not at all festive. You don’t even like cereal enough to wish that upon anyone else. But you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to whip egg whites – quietly, quietly now –  for waffles, nor do you want to permeate everyone’s clothes with the lingering smell of bacon and eggs more than one morning out of the week. You can make pancakes, but only once. Ummm, what else? You need something that can be ready when the first person gets up.

Enter baked french toast. It’s the solution to your problems. It’s easy, tasty, but impressive nevertheless. But there’s still that syrup dilemma  They’ll always be one person who wants real maple syrup, so you’ll have to get that. Then, what kind of artificial syrup do you get? The low-sugar? Sugar-free with aspartame? Ick. Butter flavor or not? Stupid American grocery stores with endless choices. They make daily quandaries even more difficult.

So, enter fruit-on-top baked french toast. It really is the remedy. It has all the ease and flavor of regular baked french toast, but doesn’t require syrup. The fruit on top – be it blueberries or peaches or whatever else is in season – melts into its own delightfully gooey berry compote or roasts to lightly caramelized perfection with just enough sweetness to satisfy even the most sugar-crazed child but not so much that people begin to wonder if you made dessert for breakfast. Throw everything in the pan the night before, set your oven to turn on nice and early, and enjoy a blissful night’s sleep. And when you awake with a start early in the morning, panicking about breakfast being ready for your guests, the warm smell of baking fruit will lull you back to sleep. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Got guests coming to stay for the Fourth of July? Give it a try!

baked french toast

Fruit-on-Top Baked French Toast

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-5 slices of sandwich bread
  • ~2 cups blueberries or other fruit
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

[Makes enough for one 8 x 8 pan. You’re going to need more than that for company.]

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch (or 9 x 9?) baking pan. Lay the slices of bread in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

In a small bowl beat together the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, nutmeg, 5 spice, and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Be sure that all the bread gets some egg mixture on it. You may have to move them around with your hands a bit to be sure.

Spread the blueberries (or sliced peaches or whatever fruit) in a single layer on top of the bread. Sprinkle cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly on top.

Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes, until the toast part has puffed and the fruit has softened (or burst, as in the case of the blueberries). Enjoy warm!

[To any friends and family members who have ever stayed at our house: the above post was written entirely in jest and should not be taken as a reflection of reality.]

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strawberry rhubarb fruit leather

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Garrison Keillor says it best, though I would add some strawberry to his equation:

“Yes, nothing gets the taste of shame and humiliation out of your mouth like Beboparebop rhubarb pie . . .”

“But one little thing can revive a guy,
And that is a piece of rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot,
Maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought.

Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.”

– Garrison Keillor on Praire Home Companion

I’m thinking in song today, and I don’t know why.

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Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man. Bake me some leather as fast as you can!

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Stew it . . .

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Puree it . . .

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Spread it on a pan . . . And put it in the oven for Claire and her friends!

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Then give it a few hours, and you’ll have perfectly sweet-tart fruit leather.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Leather

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries (either fresh or frozen)
  • 1 pint rhubarb pieces (either fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature it will go. That’s 170°F for my oven.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot and heat them on medium heat. Smash them a bit with a potato masher. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Line two rimmed baking sheets with plastic wrap. Spread the fruit mixture evenly on the baking sheets. If your baking sheets are large, you may have to spread the fruit on only one sheet. You want the puree to be about 1/8 inch deep. Alternatively, spread the puree on the fruit leather sheets of your food dehydrator. Dehydrate for 6 to 12 hours, until the puree is not tacky. The dehydrating time will depend on the temperature of your oven or dehydrator and how thickly you spread the puree. Once the fruit leather is done, cut it, roll it, and enjoy it!

inside-out vanilla peach crumble

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Ever since I made inside-out pear crumble way back when I first started blogging about food on here, I played with the idea of making something similar with peaches. But it was never peach season, and if it was, I was traveling somewhere. If there ever was a point when fresh peaches were sitting on our counter, I never had vanilla beans. And I was determined to make my crumble with real vanilla beans.

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Finally, at the beginning of last August the peaches and vanilla aligned. During our family trip to Italy, I purchased a little bag of vanilla beans at a spice shop in Sorrento. I also snagged some whole nutmegs; both spices cost less than half what they would have in the United States – reason number 2609 to love Italy.

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Once home from Italy, I threw myself into cooking again, attempting to fit in as much culinary bliss as possible before moving to my essentially kitchen-less dorm in mid-August. With my whole vanilla beans at last in hand, I wasted no time in concocting the dessert I had so long mused over: inside-out vanilla peach crumble.

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I combined a buttery crumble topping with the minuscule, caviar-like vanilla seeds. I supposed I could have ground the entire vanilla bean – an idea to which I was recently introduced from a post on Food Gawker by London Bakes who learned it from 101 Cookbooks – but I hadn’t heard of that at the time.

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Instead, I put the empty vanilla pod in a tupperware container of sugar, which gave the sugar a lovely vanilla flavor. I can’t remember where I read that idea, but it is clever, too.

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I spoon the crumble into the hollows of half of the peach halves, which I deepened a bit with a melon baller.
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Fruit for dessert is so wonderful!
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Roasting the peaches transforms their juicy flesh from luscious and firm to luxurious and succulent. The flavor of their sugars deepens and intensifies, melding with the savory butteriness and rich vanilla tone of the soft crumble filling. I only wish I had baked the peaches earlier in the day, so I could have taken advantage of natural light to snap a picture to do their deliciousness justice.

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Inside-out Vanilla Peach Crumble

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten free: use a gluten free flour mix of your choice or a combo of brown rice, millet, and oat flours like the on in my gf pancakes recipe)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 to 6 ripe peaches

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into small chunks. In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Slice vanilla bean pods in half lengthwise and scrape the insides of the pods with a knife to remove the minuscule seeds. Mix the vanilla seed scrapings in with the rest of the crumble mixture.

Slice the peaches in half. Remove the pits of the peaches. Using a melon baller or a small spoon deepen and widen the cavity inside of the peach just enough to remove the pointy flesh where the pit used to be. Spoon crumble filling into one half of each of the peaches. Place all the halves skin side down in a baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes. If you want the crumble to both soft and crispy as opposed to just crispy, at the 15 minute mark place the tops of the peaches on their respective crumble-filled counterparts. If not, just watch the crumble carefully to be sure it doesn’t burn. Enjoy warm – with vanilla ice cream, perhaps?

cherry lime frozen yogurt

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It’s the weekend! Know what that means? That means I have just as much homework as during the week, but I feel as if I have more time in which to accomplish it. Of course, that notions is absolutely false and deceptive. Nevertheless, it’s the weekend. So I give myself leave to blog. Once a week people, one a week. That’s my plan for the semester. I will blog once a week I will blog once a week I will blog once a week. I will! Hopefully.

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Of course, I typed all that last weekend. You can see how well my plan is going to work. Oh well. I try.

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Over Christmas break I typed up all a dozen or so recipes I have been meaning to blog. That makes it more or less simple for me to select and edit pictures, write up some sort of text like that which you are reading now, and throw everything together in the form of a post. Granted, that is the simplified version of the story of one of my posts, but you get the idea.

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So, without further digression, let me introduce to you this week’s recipe. Cherry lime frozen yogurt.

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I don’t like winter. Not one bit. Consequently, I like to pretend  it doesn’t exist. Shoot me for not buying seasonally and locally, but I eat salads all winter long. And sometimes I buy grape tomatoes. This frozen yogurt went right along with my winter-denial regimen.

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Its happy lime and contented cherry flavors are just the thing for a winter ice cream frozen yogurt.

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Plus, these are not unusual ingredients. I’m not calling for key limes or bing cherries here. Just plain old limes and dried cherries, which are not difficult to come by during the winter. I suppose you could potentially even use cherries you dried over the summer and frozen lime zest from whenever you had a bunch of ripe limes, if you were ambitious. I just snagged a bag of dried cherries and an organic lime from Harris Teeter.

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Rehydrating the cherries is what makes this tasty. You end up with a sweet, cherry-infused syrup to flavor the frozen yogurt and soft cherry bits to give it texture. I prefer it to just tossing dried cherries into the yogurt and having nearly inedible, solidified cherry chunks in your otherwise unflavored yogurt. No, rehydrate them and you get flavor throughout. Try it! It might be best to wait for a 70-degree day, if you’re lucky enough to live here in the Southeast.

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Cherry Lime Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag (5 oz) dried cherries
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cherry liqueur (optional)
  • 1 container (32 oz) full-fat plain yogurt [I like Dannon’s; it has no additives.]
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons lime zest

In a small bowl whisk the warm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Mix in the liqueur if you wish.  Add the cherries to the water and make sure they are submerged. Soak the cherries for at least 3 hours. Once the cherries have soaked, pour the liquid – which should taste like cherries – into a pot and set the cherries aside. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, to thicken it slightly. Allow the juice to cool completely. In a large bowl mix together the powdered sugar and yogurt. Add the zest, juice, and cherries. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and churn it until it is frozen. Either eat the frozen yogurt immediately while it is frozen but very soft or spoon the ice cream into a different container and place it in the freezer to serve later. Enjoy!

Submitted to Foodie Friday and Food on Friday

grilled bananas + coffee caramel sauce

The same night I made millet pancakes for supper, I decided we needed dessert, too. I have no idea why. It was a strange, strange, sugary evening. We were bouncing off the walls on a sugar high after dinner. Not really, but we should have been.

Most everything is better grilled. There’s nothing quite like that delicious, slightly singed, carcinogenic grill flavor to perfect any sort of cooked fruit or vegetable.

Between grilling and roasting and the wonderful tastes both methods produce on any sort of food, sometimes I wonder why I eat raw vegetables. Except tomatoes, of course. Tomatoes are excellent in any form.

Back to the bananas. And the sauce. Oh, the sauce. It’s very, very delicious. After I drowned my bananas in it, I poured it on my pancakes, ate it on toast, scooped it up with apple slices, and shoveled it into my mouth with a spoon.

Since it’s made with coconut milk rather than cream, there is an added dimension to the sauce; beyond even the coffee flavor, there is a hint of coconut. Bonus: it’s vegan.

Don’t worry, the bananas are vegan, too. Grilled, their texture changes from firm but smashable to tender and soft. Their sweetness compounds with their banana flavor and morphs into a super banana – ultra sweet and über banana-y. It’s good.

Combine the coconut coffee caramel sauce with the succulent grilled bananas? Perfectly delectable.

Grilled Bananas + Coffee Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 + 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 6 bananas
  • canola oil

For the sauce: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until sugar has entirely dissolved and solution has thickened. Stir in coconut milk. Simmer for 15 minutes more, until sauce begins to brown slightly and has thickened – stir frequently. Add instant coffee granules and stir until completely dissolved. If desired thickness has been reached, remove from heat; if not, simmer until sauce has thickened to your liking. Let cool a bit before serving.

For the bananas: Slice bananas in half lengthwise. Brush both skin and flesh of bananas with oil. Heat grill to medium heat. Grill bananas about 5 minutes per side, until soft, slightly caramelized, and grill-marked.

Serve bananas warm still in skin with flesh side up, drizzled with caramel sauce. Enjoy!

[Store extra caramel sauce in the fridge, and reheat it slightly before using to liquefy any crystallization.]