29 April, 2011

Baked French Toast

If you know a little bit about me, you know that I believe in a balanced life. Especially when it comes to food and nutrition. I strongly believe there is room in one's diet for dessert on a birthday, a beer after work, or an afternoon piece of chocolate. A wise person once said "life is too short to skip dessert and too long to have large amounts of it everyday". Wait, that was me! I am not well versed in the rules on quoting yourself. Can that be done?

I recently made a baked french toast recipe for a leisurely weekend brunch. I found the original recipe here on one of my favorite food blogs. It's an easy throw together and since it's baked you won't have to stand over the skillet while it cooks. I feel like I should mention that I tried making a double batch of this for my family during the Easter holidays and it bombed. I'm not sure what I did wrong but these things happen and we pout and move on. The recipe above is the one shown in the picture (yum) and it was scrumptious as it looks. So go on, pour a second cup of coffee and linger over your weekend.

Serves 2-4

5 pc of bread (I used Nature's Own 100% whole wheat, sugar free bread)
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups milk
1tbs orange liqueur
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp honey
1tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
berries and maple syrup

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a 8x8 casserole dish, lay out two layers of bread. You may have to break some pieces to make them fit. Combine eggs, milk, orange liqueur, vanilla, honey, sugar, and salt. Pour mixture into the casserole dish making sure to soak each slice of bread. Top with pecans and a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Bake until bread is puffed (see picture) and the middle is the consistency you like your french toast (wet or dry). This will take between 30-40 minutes and varies depending on the oven. If you happen to go too long the maple syrup will take care of the dryness. Top with berries and make someone smile (it might just be you).

23 April, 2011

Craving Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Shrimp

crave [kreyv] verb, craved, crav·ing
1. to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly 2. to require; need

There is a theory that people crave things because their bodies need it nutritionally. I take this theory a bit more seriously when I crave cabbage salad than when I crave dark chocolate covered peanut butter cups from Trader Joe's.  Although I am convinced there is room for both in a healthy diet.

Cabbage salad is like a fancy coleslaw with crispy veggies and without the watery mayo sugar juice lurking at the bottom of the bowl. Using olive oil and vinegar as a dressing keeps the cabbage crunchy and bright. Top it off with some spicy broiled shrimp and you got yourself a meal.

Serves 2
1/2 pound shrimp
1 tbsp olive oil
 salt, pepper, hot sauce (to taste)
1 bag shredded cabbage*
(*use any combination of fresh or bagged coleslaw mix or red and green cabbage)
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp olive oil
red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup peanuts

Peel and devein a 1/2 pound of shrimp. Marinate shrimp with olive oil, salt, pepper, hot sauce and set in the refrigerator. In a bowl, mix cabbage, red pepper, green pepper, peanuts, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Remove shrimp from fridge and put under the oven broiler for about 8-10 minutes flipping the shrimp halfway through.Top cabbage salad with shrimp and serve.

11 April, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pineapple Sandwich: How A Pizza Inspired a Sandwich

Someone in my family loves "Hawaiian pizza" and honestly it just bores me to tears with its processed little bits of ham and canned pineapple...until I met a pizza in Lubbock, Texas. I was fully expecting and had come to terms with having a mediocre meal at some chain restaurant and then West Crust Pizza happened. They had a veggie pizza on their menu but were serving a special this night with portabello mushrooms, jalapenos, cilantro, red onion, mozzarella, parmesan and fresh pineapple. I think that we must have been the first to order this dish because I heard the cashier reading the ingredients off the special's board to the chef as he prepared our pizza. And when the waiter put this delightful pizza in front of us he said "this is a special we are trying so if you don't like it please let us know and we will make you something else". We did not ask him to make us something else. I loved the taste of the sweet pineapple with the heat of the jalapenos together and that is a the long story on how a pizza inspired a sandwich.

I haven't done the "food dance" in awhile. This sandwich made me do the "food dance". Yeah, you know that little jig of the head or swing of the hips you do while proclaiming "oooweee" after you take a bite of something that you really like. Right, like you've never done it.

Serves 4
4-5 cups of cabbage slaw mix
1 or 2 jalapenos, finely diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 chicken breasts (I used thinly sliced breasts)
BBQ sauce* (recipe to make your own)
grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
one fresh pineapple cut into rings, Click here for instructions
whole grain ciabatta buns (or bread of your choice)

Mix cabbage slaw, diced jalapeno, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise in a bowl and set aside in the refrigerator. Rub chicken breast with grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and BBQ sauce. Grill for about 10 minutes on each side (will vary by chicken breast) and remove from heat when cooked. While chicken is grilling throw on the pineapple slices for about 3 minutes on each side and toast bread on the grill. Assemble sandwich with one or two pineapple rings, chicken breast and top with lots of coleslaw.

*If you don't want to take the time to make your own BBQ sauce but don't want all the sugar, look for Kraft Original Light. It has 3 grams of sugar compared to 12-15 grams in most BBQ sauces.

05 April, 2011

Road Trip Appetite, The Bridesmaid Dress and Veggie Lasagna

On mile 1 of 2354 I did not regret the decision to drive and on mile 2354 of 2354 I still did not regret the decision to drive from San Francisco, CA to Mobile, AL. I would call that a successful road trip. Flying would have been so uneventful. I enjoyed every stop and every bite; however I am elated to be settled into my new kitchen. Below I will share food highlights that I will be using for motivation in future posts. The experience ranged from enjoying quality local food in Santa Fe, NM to eating just for caloric necessity in Grand Canyon National Park. While the Grand Canyon is known for its scenery; I quickly learned that its not famous for produce or good food. We enjoyed everything from homemade tater tots to sushi, burgers, quinoa salad, chili relleno, fresh pineapple pizza, carrot cake french toast and back to sushi. And haunting every meal was the bridesmaid dress that I had to fit into at the end of the road trip.  I suppose it is also this bridesmaid dress I can give credit to for keeping my weight in check. (Thanks and Congratulations to you Dr. and Mrs. LeBert!) It was well worth the experience and the few pounds gained.

Peanut Butter and Jelly on the road:

Shopping trip to Whole Foods to recover from the Grand Canyon:


Cooking School in Santa Fe: blue corn pancakes, chorizo cottage fries, huevos rancheros, and spinach and goat cheese quiche:


Fresh pineapple, cilantro, red onion, feta pizza from West Crust Pizza in Lubbock, Texas:

Marry Me Roll (shrimp tempura, ginger cream topped with avocado and strawberry) from Piranha Killer Sushi in Austin, Texas

And now for a recipe...
A few months ago I posted the Back Pocket Lasagna with a promise to post a veggie lasagna. Right before leaving SF, I received my first actual request for a recipe so I will enthusiastically oblige. I am a bit hesitant as I have made several different variations of this lasagna but will settle on posting the most recent. This lasagna has a layer of zucchini in the middle that could replace one layer of your pasta if you are trying to lighten the dish or could be used in addition to the pasta. Another idea I thought of was to end with a top layer of zucchini instead of pasta. I think I will try that next time. So many lasagnas, so little time.

1 lb lasagna noodles
1 medium yellow onion
8 oz mushrooms
10-12 oz fresh spinach
2 zucchini
28 oz can diced tomato
8 oz can tomato sauce
3-5 cloves of garlic
2 cups ricotta
1.5 cups cottage cheese
16 oz mozzarella
salt, pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
grapeseed (or canola) oil

Cook pasta noodles until al dente (8 minutes), drain and lay out on paper towels to dry.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet, add onion and saute for about 5-7 minutes, add diced mushrooms and saute for about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic and once fragrant add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, salt, pepper and oregano.  In a separate skillet, heat oil and wilt spinach in handfuls. Add 1-2 cloves of garlic at the  and remove from heat when fragrant. Add spinach to tomato sauce and turn off heat. Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, 8 oz of mozzarella cheese and a couple pinches of salt. Layer a casserole dish with a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce to prevent pasta from sticking. Next make layers of  pasta, cheese mixture, veggie tomato sauce, zucchini slices and repeat until you run out of room in your dish. This will likely be two layers ending in your choice of either pasta or zucchini slices then the remainder 8 oz of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 25 minutes.