Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Breakfast - French Toast

French toast has been one of my favorite weekend breakfasts ever since I learned how to make it in high school.  I've always used a very basic recipe - bread, egg, milk - and honestly never put much thought into changing it.  Until I recently ran across several different recipes while looking for something to make for Mother's Day.  Recipes that called for cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon, and good crusty french bread.  After seeing these I knew I had to kick my french toast up a notch.

I liked the sound of this Lemon Brioche French Toast from The Kitchn, but felt it was too much for just the hubby and I.  So I moved on to this French Toast recipe from America's Test Kitchen.  It looked perfect.

I bought a loaf of French bread from the store and sliced it into thick slices.

Don't they kinda look like bunny rabbits?

Then I soaked them in a mixture of milk, eggs, butter, salt, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. 

Next, I heated up my griddle pan, melted some butter on top, and threw the bread on for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Until they were nice and toasty brown on both sides.

When the toast is done, I smothered it with some more butter and poured syrup on top.  And Oh. My. God.  This was the best French toast I've ever had.  It was sweet and cinnamony, but not overly so.  And the thick bread soaked up the syrup nicely. 

I think this recipe forever changed the way I'll make French toast.  And it's a perfect way to surprise your sweetie with breakfast on Saturday.  Maybe in bed?  Just don't spill the syrup!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

Here's a little story of how one recipe fail led to a delicious recipe success.

For Mother's Day I made this chocolate cake, minus all the dried fruit and nuts.  
My mom is a big chocolate lover so I thought it would be perfect.  

Unfortunately instead of looking like this...

It looked like this...

About half the size, burnt, and dry.  Not really what I had in mind.  
Maybe I didn't fold in the egg whites right.  
Maybe my mom's oven was too hot.  
Maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

It was time to move on to something better.  

I had a big tub of mascarpone cheese leftover from the cake recipe, 
and strawberries practically overflowing from the grocery store.  
So I did a search for a mascarpone strawberry tart 
and came up with this recipe from Simply Recipes.  
Looks so summery and pretty, right?

It started with a couple pounds of beautiful strawberries...

That were sliced and mixed with sugar and orange zest in a big bowl 
and allowed to rest for 30 minutes.

Next, mix the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, orange zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.  
Cover and put in the fridge for later.

After the strawberries have sat for 1/2 hour, drain them over a sieve into a bowl.  
Put the liquid into a saucepan with some balsamic vinegar, and reduce down to a syrup. 
Let cool.

Now, you may notice that I haven't talked about making the pastry shell.  
Yeah...there's a reason for that.  

I had decided to use the puff pastry method described in the recipe 
because I wasn't confident I could make a good pie crust.  

But I couldn't get the pastry rolled out to a big enough size.  

And I really wanted to use my new tart pan.  

So I ended up using a store bought pie crust.  

Can you forgive me?  Please?  Good.

Let's put together our tart.

Take your baked pie crust and fill it with the mascarpone cheese mixture.  
Arrange the strawberries on top in a pretty fashion.  
Brush the balsamic syrup over the top.

Put on a pretty cake stand, take a few pictures, then dig in and enjoy!

The lesson of this story?  
When life serves you burnt, dry, cake 
toss it in the trash and whip up a delicious strawberry tart instead!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fill In The Blank Friday

Me, circa 1979, on Venice Beach

Yay, it's another Friday!  I'm looking forward to a weekend of no plans, which means sleeping in and doing whatever comes to mind.  The cloudy sky has cleared up and apparently there are some huge waves off SoCal today, so we may be headed up to Malibu so the hubs can surf.  Hopefully he won't end up like this guy...

 Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / May 19, 2011

I think I'll make this yummy looking pizza one of these weekend nights.   Or maybe this one - BBQ chicken is a favorite around these parts.

And this spinach potato hash may make an appearance one morning. 

But since my scale showed a very disappointing, though not all that surprising considering what I've consumed the past week, number this morning I may have to subsist on fruits and veggies this weekend.  Good thing I have this handy guide from Chow to help me figure out correct serving sizes!

Anyhow....let's get on to Lauren's Friday Blanks, shall we?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

1.   People always tell me I look like      Claire Danes, especially when I was in high school.  I've also gotten a Nicole Kidman (huh?) and Dana Delaney (huh? again.)

2.  Friends don't let friends    spend the day with spinach in their teeth or their fly down.

3.  A sunny day is perfect for     going for a bike ride on the beach.

4.  My favorite accessory is   a scarf.  Love scarves!

5.  If I could afford it I would     have a massage therapist come to my house 3x a week.  And have someone to do my laundry.

6.  The cure for boredom is       Angry Birds!

7.  I am currently "in like" with       drinking Constant Comment tea in the mornings instead of coffee.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Married to Mr. Clean

My husband is a bit of a neat freak with a slight case of germophobia.  Which, 99.9% of the time is wonderful.  I mean, really, he makes the bed every morning, vacuums on weekends, and cleans the dishes every night.  A girl should definitely NOT complain.  However, it means our monthly sponge-scrubber budget is about $500.  The man goes through scrubbers as fast as he goes through Kleenex.  Which is ridiculously fast, trust me.  Let the evidence speak for itself...

This scrubber is 2 days old.  Two.  Days.  Before I met the mister I would have these scrubbers for weeks.  Months.  And they never ripped apart.  I don't know what he does with these things, but the fact that he scrubbed off the platinum lining of our new crystal glasses after our first time using them probably gives you an idea of how serious he is about clean dishes.  I think we should start investing in sponge scrubber stock!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fish Tacos with Citrus Slaw

I used to think that a fish taco sounded pretty gross.  I had grown up with ground beef, Taco Bell style tacos and just couldn't imagine that fish and tacos would go well together.  Boy was I wrong!  I remember eating my first fish taco (in Wisconsin of all places) and instantly falling in love with them.  The light, flaky, seasoned fish combined with a creamy sauce, cilantro, and avocado all wrapped up in a warm tortilla.  Dee.  Lish.  Ous. 

For this recipe, I combined a few different recipes I had found either online or torn out of magazines.  The slaw is adapted from Real Simple, the marinade from Bobby Flay.  These are pretty easy and quick to make - perfect for a weeknight dinner. 

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
handful of chopped cilantro

Citrus Slaw:
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
salt and pepper
1/2 bag of cole slaw mix (about 7 oz)
1 cup corn
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

3/4 to 1 lb tilapia fillets
corn tortillas
avocado, sliced
cilantro, chopped
green onion, sliced

1. Mix all ingredients for the marinade.  Place fish fillets in a shallow dish and pour marinade over.  Let sit for about 15 minutes while you make the slaw and chop the garnishes.

2.  For the slaw, whisk the orange juice, lime juice, yogurt, salt and pepper together until smooth.  Add the slaw mix, corn, and jalapeno and mix together until well coated.  Set aside to let the flavors combine.

3.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Put the tilapia fillets in and discard remaining marinade.  Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until it flakes easily with a fork.  Remove from pan.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.

4.  Wipe skillet clean.  Add a little bit of oil or water and warm up the corn tortillas a few minutes on each side.  This makes them less crumbly and less likely to break apart when you're eating the tacos.  We use 2 tortillas per taco.

5.   Fill the tortillas with tilapia, topped with citrus slaw.  Garnish with avocado, scallions, and cilantro.  Squeeze some lime juice over the top and ENJOY!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fill In The Blank Friday

I'm sure many of you have noticed that Blogger has been down the past few days, which has kinda sucked, but actually helped me not feel so bad about having no posts this week.   It also means that Lauren was unable to post her fill-in-the-blanks.  Luckily Courtney at
My So Called Denver posted her own blanks.  Phew!  What would a Friday be without blanks to fill in?!

Right now I'm sitting on my couch trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight.  I have a package of tofu that needs to be used, so I'm thinking of making this Stir Fried Sesame Broccoli by Dana Treat. 

I've also seen a lot of French Toast recipes lately (herehere, and here)  and am thinking it could make a great weekend breakfast.

Or maybe I'll make this cinammon pull apart bread.  Or maybe this one because it's easier!

I've also got almost a full tub of mascarpone cheese left over from a cake I made last weekend, and an abundance of strawberries available at the store, so I'm gonna try to whip up a strawberry tart.  I'll let you know how that goes!

Ok, enough rambling about food....on to the blanks!

1.   If  I had to use 3 words to describe why I am undoubtedly a  Mandich they would be  smart, impatient, and a wine drinker!

2.  Something that happened to me in life that initially seemed bad but turned out to be good was  leaving my old job, breaking up with my boyfriend, and moving back to California to live with my parents at 26.  Man, that was not a good time in my life!  But it all led to a career change and eventually my husband so I'd say it all turned out for the better!

3.  Something I inherited from my mom is  my strikingly good looks!  And probably my sarcasm, green eyes, and good cooking skills.

4.  Something I inherited from my dad is  my temper!  And more sarcasm, long legs, and a love of reading.

5.  My goal for this summer is   to relax and enjoy living a mile from the beach.  To catch up on my photo album.  To grow this blog more.  And to get back in a workout routine.

6.  The best thing about this week is     that it's pretty much over!  This week wasn't so bad, but it wasn't particularly great of inspiring either.  I'm looking forward to sleeping in, baking, and going to Disneyland on Sunday.

7.  Something I couldn't give up if I tried is  sugar and sweets.  I gave it up for a couple weeks while dieting for the wedding, but there's no way I could do it permanently.  Dessert is just TOO good!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

While at home this weekend, I dug through some of my mom's old photos 
and came up with some pretty amazing pics of my grandmothers and mom

Here's my mom's mom....Grandma Johnson, at a Michigan football game...

Grandma Johnson and baby Rachel...

My dad's mom and me...

My mom as a little girl...

My parents in Hawaii, which my dad informed me 
when I was in 7th grade was where I was made (uh, TMI?!) ... 
Love the shell necklace Dad!

My mom and dad, and me....
(one of my favorite photos!)

My mom drinking wine and rocking some serious sunglasses...

My mom and me at my doctoral graduation...

Thanks for always being there for me mom!
Hope you have a wonderful day!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Google University: How is a wine cork made?

 While sitting at our local little wine bar tonight, the hubs and I got to wondering....where does the cork come from?  How is it made?  Can it be recycled?

As he pondered these questions, I did what I normally do.  I googled it.  And this is what I found...

While most trees have an outer bark made of cork, it is the Cork Oak, or Quercus suber, is the main source of cork products.  The tree grows mainly in coastal Mediterranean areas where there's plenty of sunshine, high humidity, and low rainfall.  The counties producing the most cork include Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, France, Italy, and Morocco.

Cork is made of cells that are water resistant and protect the delicate inner bark of the tree.  It is rot resistant, fire resistant, termite resistant, soft, bouyant, and impermeable to gas and liquids.  This makes it the perfect material to plug up your bottle of wine.

To process the cork into your wine stopper it first must be stripped from the tree.  A cork oak has to be at least 25 years old for its cork to be harvested.  It is then stripped every 8-14 years for the life of the tree.  The cork slabs are then boiled, then punched out into bottle stoppers.  The scrap cork is then ground up, mashed together, and made into cork boards, flooring, etc.

Cork can be recycled, though it seems that programs are pretty limited.  I found a few sites such as where you can send your corks to to be recycled into cork tiles, sheets, etc.  I don't think that most city recycling programs can take corks but maybe it will become more popular as time goes on.  It seems that the whole process of making a cork, though, is fairly sustainable since the trees are only stripped, not chopped down.  They can continue to grow and produce cork for many, many years.

So that concludes tonight's lesson.   I love how Google can pretty much answer any question you can come up with!  Did you learn anything new?  Got any other burning questions that need answering?