A Little Bit of Sweetness

French ToastIt has been a little while since I have had the chance to talk about cooking and I have a wonderful reason why. Things change rapidly when you have a five month old living in the house and we are having a blast with our new foster baby. Mostly hobbies get put on hold and all your attention is now focused on something much better. There is just something especially sweet about a little one falling asleep in your arms, thinking that you are the only one that matters and that they are safe where they are. Who knew happiness could be so wonderful. Looking into the eyes of my wife holding my “boy” is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Babies are also very exhausting though and many times you just want to do something simple so that you can relax for the evening. That is if you get the chance. I haven’t forgotten cooking. In fact, things have been done that I would like to blog about, but time is of the essence. In other words time is limited. It was once said that children spell love “T-I-M-E” and I want to make sure that he gets the most of it. That means that FOOD has to be much quicker and simpler. Like spaghetti instead of a four course meal.  

This is why I decided to talk about “French Toast.” I know that it is not really anything special, but it is something that any beginning chef to a professional can enjoy. I found a really easy recipe that does not take a lot of time and tastes exquisite. A little bit of Fruit or powdered sugar can make any French Toast have some appeal and this one is no exception. Use some Texas Toast and it will be thicker and fluffier. I would do it again and again; in fact, I have.  Add a little bacon and eggs and you have a wonderful start to a new day.

With a five month old, simple is always the best way to go. Even if that means Kraft Mac-n-cheese, spaghetti, and Chef Boyardee.  Just remember, “A little bit of sweetness can go a long way with your kids.”

Check it out here: http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/168641/french-toast

Orange Cranberry Scones

Orange Cranberry SconesScones are just not something I thought that I would really enjoy. My only experience with them has been at the local Starbucks, and I just assumed that they were supposed to be hard and stale. Not that Starbucks Scones are like that, but I had one, and it was not a very memorable experience. So I stick with my Lemon Loaf, Banana Nut Bread, or an occasional Cheese Danish at Starbucks. However, I have now experienced what a fresh, beautifully baked scone is supposed to taste like.

Recently, a friend of mine had a milestone birthday. (I can’t very well tell her age now, can I?) Her husband, my wife, and I decided to throw her an old-fashioned Tea Party. We thought that it would be an elegant way to celebrate and have a delightful time with someone who loves tea and is elegant in her own way.

In searching for some treats for the party, I discovered Orange Cranberry Scones and Raspberry Shortbread Cookies (coming next week). And yes, they are as delightful as they sound. Maybe not “Harry and Sally” famous restaurant scene good (just think excitedly good), but extremely close.

These babies are easy to make, but you will need a food processor, a way to zest an orange, and an 8″ round cake pan. This gave me a chance to buy something that I have long wanted, expanding my abilities in the kitchen. After all, if you put a blade on a motor, it is as much a power tool as a skill saw or a miter saw might be! I can hear Tim Allen grunting now. I know Tim Allen and Tea Parties are a weird combination, but I still say MORE POWER!

Orange Cranberry Scones

Mixing everything together is just a one, two, three process that doesn’t take very long to accomplish.

Oddly, the recipe said something that I didn’t understand, “Don’t Over Mix!” What does that mean to someone who has never made this thing anyway? I guess that if you over mix the batter with the milk, the texture will not come out right, but don’t over think it. My batter was moist, but it still had some powdery areas. Once I pressed it into the Saran Wrap covered pan, the moisture blended with the remaining crumbling areas. As long as you follow the recipe, I think that you will be fine either way. Experiment a little, and enjoy a delightful treat.

We made them the night before, and some the day of the party. They kept very good (in an air tight, sealed container) for a few days even after the party. Of course, they didn’t last long enough for them to even think of going bad!

So remember to, “Rethink your scone. Bake it at home.”

Check out the recipe below, and I will post the Shortbread Cookies next week.

Orange Cranberry Scones

Photos are the Property of "The Cooking Carpenter" Copyright ©2012

What a Crepe Morning

Berry Good CrepeI think that a Blue Jay was singing out the window this morning, figuratively speaking anyway. You know, one of those days you wake up and it just feels like it’s going to be a wonderful day. That is how I felt this morning.

We have a ministry going on at our church, and I got to cook for the group that is involved in that ministry. Not something that you think would brighten up your day. After all, cooking is a lot of work. However, I actually like to cook, and this morning I got to cook with a group of people whom I adore and have fun with. We met together and started cooking around 8AM, and we were supposed to be ready by 9AM. Let’s just say we missed our mark.

We cooked eggs, bacon, Cajun potatoes, and Berry Crepes. I was like a head chef for a day! People were cutting potatoes, cooking bacon, and preparing the fruit, music was playing in the background, and we just enjoyed putting everything together. Friends definitely make cooking better. Then you get to eat what you make. MMMMMMMM!

Crepes are not really all that hard to make either. One at a time I mixed the ingredients together: Eggs till it frothed, milk, salt, sugar, flour, and butter. Then I got to flip them in a pan. I felt like a professional cook today, without all the stress that is involved.

These crepes turned out awesome. The recipe called for fruit filling with cherries and strawberries, but I am not a big cherry person, so we used raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. It also called for mixing sour cream with confectioners’ sugar as a topping. I thought it was a weird combination, but it was great with the fruit and the crepes. Once I tasted it, it didn’t crepe me out anymore. (Sorry I had to add the pun.)

I recommend this one. It is easy, fun, and enjoyable to eat. Remember, “Cooking with friends can turn an ordinary day into a crepe day!”

Berry Good Crepes:
Crepe Ingredients:

2 Eggs
1 Cup of Milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:
1 Cup Strawberries
1/2 Cup Raspberries
1/2 Cup Blackberries
1/2 Cup Blueberries
3 tablespoons of Sugar

Topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/3 Cup Confectioners’ Sugar

Directions:
1) Beat eggs in a medium bowl until foamy. Add milk, salt, sugar, flour, and butter; whisk until smooth. Cover bowl; let stand for 10 minutes. Grease a small skillet with cooking spray.
2) Meanwhile, for filling mix berries in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar; stir to coat. Let stand. For topping mix sour cream and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
3) Heat skillet over medium heat; add 1/4 cup batter. Quickly tilt skillet to spread batter. Cook until the edges lift easily. Turn; cook until bottom is lightly browned, about 30 seconds.
4) Remove crepe to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. To serve, place 2 tablespoons fruit mixture into crepe. Fold and roll tightly to enclose filling. Add topping.

Banana Foster French Toast

Banana Foster French ToastThis weekend was one that I will never forget. My wife and I decided to host the middle school girls at our house for our church’s Disciple-Now weekend. That is 11 middle school girls, a female (College Student) group leader, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my wife, and then there was me – the Lone Ranger (man). It was going to be survival of the fittest in this wild jungle of estrogen. At least I have two male cats – who by the way were cowering beneath the table.

D-Now (as they call it) is basically a weekend slumber party for the different age groups with Bible study and group projects. They went to a Bhutanese Refugee camp, had worship, and enjoyed a quality Bible study time at the house. Joking aside, it was a wonderful experience, and I was impressed with the quality of our youth and their leader. The weekend was a blast!

I decided to find a French Toast recipe to make for the girls with some bacon and scrambled eggs. This way they could start the day with a nice meal. I thought only teenage boys ate like that. WOW!

I found a Betty Crocker recipe for Banana Foster French Toast. The title alone made my mouth water. The truth is that it was just alright though. There were definitely things that could have made it better.

First you spray a 13″x9″ glass dish with baking spray, cut the cinnamon bread into cubes, and place it in the dish. Then you mix the ingredients, (minus bananas, walnuts, some syrup, and the rum extract). These items will be used later – about 8 hours later. All in all, this is an easy dish to make.

As good as it sounds like it should be, it was just average. The bananas did not really add anything to it, and I am still trying to figure out the foster part. I guess that was the rum-extract mixed with the real maple syrup. The maple syrup (liquid gold) could have been cut in half as well.

My wife said that she loved just the French Toast part (no fruit), and my mother-in-law called it a glorified bread pudding. Most of the girls really enjoyed it, and our friend the college student wanted the recipe. I think that it was a hit for the most part. The best part is that it is really easy, and you make most of it the night before.

Instead of adding the bananas and rum-extract infused maple syrup (which cuts the cost in almost half), I think that a raspberry or blueberry sauce could have added a lot to this recipe. Either way it was worth the effort and the ease to make, but ultimately was just an average dish. 

The basic french toast portion of this dish, provides a great foundation for a different recipe. You need to try it for yourself to really know, and remember “Just because it sounds good, doesn’t make it any more special. It is the guests that make it special!”

Click here for Recipe: Banana Foster French Toast