Perfect French Toast

Wow! What a year it has been. It’s hard to believe it’s been over 10 months since I last posted. Here’s the obligatory explanation and apology, before we get into the meat of the post:

As you may have read somewhere in my About, my profession is a professional wedding photographer. I own my company, and I have been growing exponentially. (Yay!) I also made the decision to go back to school for my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and that started up last January (2014). Both of those things by themselves are big time commitments. Both of those things TOGETHER took up nearly all of my free time while I adjusted to dealing with the two coinciding. I let Sweet, Spicy, and Neat tragically fall by the wayside as I determined how to allot my time and remain successful, and for that I deeply apologize.

With that being said, I can’t promise updates as frequently as I was once posting them. However, this little blog was a great source of happiness for me, and I loved reading comments from people who were excited to try the recipes! I will be doing my best to pick it back up with a moderate amount of frequency. You may have to bear with me for a while as I get back into the swing of things, but the best way to encourage continued updates is to FOLLOW and COMMENT and LIKE! šŸ™‚

And now, onto the real reason you’re here!


Folks, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s only a WEEK away! Hopefully you already have your evening plans set in stone with your Valentine, but I’m hoping this post might give you an idea toĀ start that romantic day a little bit earlier! (Hint: No woman ever turned down breakfast in bed…)

Of course, this little gem is good for more than Valentine’s Day. It was written partly out of my sheer exasperation at the plethora of sad, flimsy, flavorless, and otherwise pathetic versions of French Toast I’ve had the misfortune to be exposed to throughout my adult life. Now, I get it.Ā Kids don’t care. Give ’em good ol’ Wonder Bread dipped in eggs and milk, and to them, that’s the breakfast of the gods. My four year old cousin will easily 4 pieces of that all by himself. But we’re all adults here. And darn it, it’s time for some decent, ADULT French Toast.

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Now, don’t be intimidated. It’s really not hard. It’s just that the devil is in the details here. French toast is a really basic staple breakfast dish. And it’s time we stop insulting it and start giving it the reverence it deserves.

The first step in your journey to French toast nirvana is ditching the Wonder Bread. It practically dissolves in your mouth. It just doesn’t have the stability and stamina to stand up to truly good French toast. Instead, grab yourself a loaf of unsliced Italian bread. You know, the kind your grocery store makes every morningĀ in their bakery.Ā Little tip: usually, a loaf of bread from your grocery store’s bakery is far cheaper than your favorite sliced loaf from the big companies.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Make your slices about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, and cut the bread with a long serrated knife.

Since I’m gearing this for Valentine’s Day, this recipe will be set for two people, but it’s very easy to double to make more, if needed. So, cut 4 slices of bread and set them aside. Then, in a shallow dish, whisk up your egg batter.

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This batter is everything. This is a huge part of what makes this French toast so good. Whisk together 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and a shot of spiced rum.

Yes, rum. It’s distilled from sugar cane, and then aged and spiced. What part of that DOESN’T sound like it belongs in French Toast?? Bacardi Gold or Captain Morgan are my favorites, but you can use whatever spiced rum you prefer.

So, once your eggs are all broken up and it’s looking pretty consistent (see photo), it’s time to start cooking! Put a griddle pan over medium low heat and melt a 1/2 tablespoon of butter on the pan. Yep, we’re using good old butter. No canola oil or cooking spray here! It’s all about FLAVOR.

Once the pan is heated, soak each piece of bread one at a time in the egg mixture, making sure to let each side really soak up the egg. (Read: don’t just dip it in and move on! Take your time with it. If you get to the end of your four pieces and you still have a lot of egg left, you did it wrong.) Lay each piece in the pan, spacing them accordingly. Now, here’s the really sweet part of the deal: liberally sprinkle the top side of each piece with cinnamon sugar, while the egg is still wet.

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For those of you doubters wondering why there was no cinnamon in the egg batter… this is why. If you put cinnamon loose in the egg mixture, it all floats on top. Consequently, your first piece of French toast is nice and cinnamon-y, and your last piece gets totally shafted. Not so nice!

Since your pan is on a nice medium low, they should cook nice and evenly. Let them stay on the first side for 3-5 minutes, and then flip them over.

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They should be a nice golden brown! Now, here’s where the magic happens. Once you flip them over, that cinnamon sugar caramelizes with the butter on the hot pan and fuses into the egg. Let them cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove them from the heat and serve them cinnamon side up!Ā If you’re feeling really fancy, slice up a large banana and cover the toast in bananas before drizzling with syrup and sprinkling with powdered sugar.

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There you have it, folks. Doesn’t get any better than that for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast! Also, just a disclaimer: I know IĀ sometimes talk about healthy ways to eat, and I’ve even done some posts where I post nutrition info. However, there are some things in life that just shouldn’t be messed with, unhealthy as they are. French toast is carbs dipped in cholesterol and fat… let’s just let it do its thing, and not try and slim it down!

Full recipe:

Perfect French Toast

Yield: 2 servings (4 pieces)

Total time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

Four 1-inch slices good Italian bread
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 shot spiced rum
1/2 tablespoon butter
Cinnamon sugar, to taste
1 large banana, sliced into 1/4 inch coins (optional)
Maple syrup and powdered sugar, for serving.

Process:

1) Whisk up eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and rum in a shallow bowl until eggs are well beaten.

2) Melt butter on a griddle over medium low heat. Soak both sides of each piece of bread in the egg mixture and lay on the heated pan.

3) Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of each piece while the egg is still wet. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

4) Serve cinnamon side up and top with banana, syrup, and powdered sugar. Enjoy immediately. šŸ™‚

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Barbados Sunrise

The temperature is slowly creeping back up, but I’m still wishing for summer, so here’s a super-fab summer drink for you all! (Tune in on Monday for some St. Patty’s Day themed drinks!)

This is a layered drink, so it does take a tad bit of skill, but once you get the hang of it, layering is pretty simple!

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I love tropical drinks, and I especially love “sunrise” drinks, so this is like the epitome of perfection for me! Start off by mixing 1 ounce of Bacardi Rum and 3/4 ounce of blue curaƧao in a small glass and set that aside. (I have little parfait glasses that work perfectly for holding 2 ounces or so of liquid.)

Fill a collins glass (or other tall glass) with ice and then pour orange juice about 2/3 of the way up. (The amount will vary, of course, based on the size of your glass, but it’ll probably be about 6-8 ounces.) Ā Then, slowly pour about 1/2 an ounce or so of grenadine syrup into the middle of the juice. Since it’s heavy, it will settle to the bottom.

Now comes the tricky part! Take your small glass of rum and blue curaƧao and slowly pour it over the back of a spoon so it flows slowly into the glass and sits on top of the orange juice. Ta-da, that’s it! You’re done!

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Of course, all the liquor is on top, so you’ll want to stir it before drinking, but just be aware that it looks like horrible dirty dish water once it’s mixed!

Full Recipe:

Barbados Sunrise

Yield: 1 drink

Ingredients:

1 ounce Bacardi rum
3/4 ounce blue curaƧao
6-8 ounces orange juice
1/2 ounce grenadine

Process:

1) In a small glass, mix rum and blue curaƧao. Set aside.

2) Fill a Collins glass with ice and pour in orange juice, then slowly pour grenadine into the center so it settles to the bottom.

3) Carefully pour theĀ rum and blue curaƧao mixture over the back of a spoon so it slowly pours on top of the orange juice. It is lighter than the juice, so it should sit on top of it. Serve immediately!

*Valentine’s Week* Chocolate Mousse

Okay, so I’m breaking the Valentine’s rules here a little and doing a recipe that isn’t for exactly two servings, but this mousse is so good you might just eat it all between the two of you anyway!

There aren’t many more decadent, Valentine-y desserts than the sweet, dark, rich concoction that is chocolate mousse. And sure, you could buy one of those little boxes from the store where you just add milk and whip it up, but this is sooooo much better, and doesn’t require all that much work!

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Start by putting your mixing bowl and beater(s) into the freezer to chill them. (This is important, trust me!)

What makes this mousse so chocolatey is the fact that it uses real melted chocolate for the bulk of its flavor – NOT cocoa powder! So, start by melting 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave. (30 seconds, stir, 30 more sections, stir. If it still isn’t all melting together after that, do another 15 seconds, but remember that the heat from the melted chocolate will help to melt any remaining chunks as you stir it!)

Melted Chocolate

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: The better the chocolate, the better your mousse. Nestle semi-sweet chips are great and work fine, but if you really want to kick it up, use a brand like Ghirardelli or Godiva.

Once your chocolate is melted, stir in 2 tbsp instant coffee and 2 ounces of RumChata (or a dark spiced rum). Set this aside so it cools a bit.

Take 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream in a glass measuring cup and add 1 teaspoon of raspberry gelatin powder to it. (You could use unflavored gelatin as well, or orange flavored, but I really feel like the slight hint of raspberry gives great depth to the finished mousse!) Let this stand for about 10 minutes on the counter, and then microwave it for a minute or so to heat it up. (Make sure the cream doesn’t boil!)

Gelatin

Stir the cream & gelatin together to combine, and then fold this mixture into your melted chocolate and transfer the new chocolate mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Take your bowl & beaters out of the freezer and add 1 cup of chilled heavy cream. (If you’re using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.) To the cream, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and 2 tbsp powdered sugar. Put the mixer on a medium to high speed and whip for about 2 minutes or until the cream has solidified to stiff peaks.

Whipped cream

**Fun fact, this by itself is simply a chocolate whipped cream and is fabulous on top of a myriad of desserts, from hot chocolate to ice cream to cake!**

Once the cream is done, carefully fold it into your melted chocolate mixture in 3 batches.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: “Folding” is done by using a spatula; you move it down into the chocolate, across the bottom of the bowl, and then back up out the top. This allows the mousse to remain airy and fluffy. You might still have a few streaks of the cream visible, but that’s okay – you don’t want to over-work it!

Once you have everything folded together, spoon it into 6 dessert dishes and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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Between the coffee, rum, and raspberry gelatin, this mousse goes from good to fabulous! It has so much depth, so even though it takes a little bit of work, it’s very, very worth it!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Mousse

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 ounces RumChata or dark spiced rum

1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp raspberry gelatin powder

1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Process:

1) Put a mixing bowl and mixer beater(s) in the freezer to chill. (If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.) In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Then for another 30 seconds, and stir again.

2) To the melted chocolate, add 2 tbsp instant coffee powder and 2 ounces of RumChata or dark spiced rum. Set aside to cool.

3) To a glass measuring cup, add 1/4 cup heavy cream and raspberry gelatin powder. Let stand for 10 minutes, then microwave for about 1 minute. (Don’t allow the cream to boil.) Stir to combine.

4) Fold in the cream-gelatin mixture to the melted chocolate.

5) Remove your chilled bowl and beaters from the freezer and attach to stand mixer. To the bowl, add 1 cup chilled heavy cream, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

6) Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 3 doses. (Don’t overwork it.) Spoon the mousse into 6 dessert glasses and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

*Valentine’s Week* Chocolate Parfait with Rum Whipped Cream

Happy Valentine’s Week! This week is dedicated to decadence and romance, since Valentine’s Day is this Friday! These recipes are of course good the rest of the year, too – but for a day that practically worships chocolate, I’m focusing on that delightful sweet dessert ingredient all week!

I’m kicking things off with a recipe that can actually prove to be very versatile, as the two components of the recipe (the chocolate cake and the whipped cream) can be used by themselves elsewhere, or together in other combinations than what I’ve given here.

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I truly feel like I’ve stumbled onto a gold mine with this mini chocolate cake recipe. It’s just enough batter for two light, fluffy, and moist cupcakes – and it’s decadently dark and rich!

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and putting two cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk. Slowly pour in melted butter, whisking steadily while you’re pouring. Once this is combined, switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in your flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Once it’s combined, pour into the two cupcake liners.

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If you’re like me and can’t resist having a bit of the batter while you’re mixing, it should fit nicely into two cups. If you do have a little extra, then just bake three cupcakes instead of two!

Bake them for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Once they have cooled, take a serrated knife (a steak knife works great) and slice each cupcake into 3 even layers.

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Place the layers on a dish lined with parchment paper and pop them in the freezer, along with your stand-mixer mixing bowl and whisk attachment, for ten minutes or so.

Once your bowl and whisk are chilled, attach them to your stand mixer and a 1/2 cup of chilled heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and one tablespoon of RumChata (or another favorite rum). Beat this on a high speed for a minute or so, then add 1/3 cup powdered sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form.

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Once the whipped cream is done, you’re ready to assemble! Make sure your glasses are wide enough to accommodate the width of your sliced cupcakes. Start with the whipped cream, add a layer of cake, and then topped with whipped cream. Continue until both glasses have 3 cake layers with whipped cream at the bottom and the top. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve!

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If you don’t wan’t to be so fancy, you could also just make the cupcakes and frost them with the whipped cream, or even pipe the whipped cream inside them!

*You could also make chocolate whipped cream by swapping out the rum for chocolate liqueur and adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the powdered sugar!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Parfait with Rum Whipped Cream

Yield: Two parfaits

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cupcakes:
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp RumChata
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with two cupcake paper liners.

2) Melt butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.

3) In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

4) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Slowly pour in butter, while whisking continuously.

5) Once wet ingredients are combined, switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in flour mixture to wet ingredients.

6) Pour finished batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7) Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

8) Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut them with a serrated knife into 3 layers each and place them on a parchment paper lined dish in the freezer, along with your stand mixer’s bowl and whisk attachment, for 10 minutes.

9) After the 10 minutes has passed, attach the bowl and whisk to the stand mixer and beat heavy cream, RumChata, and vanilla on high for about a minute, then add powdered sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form.

10) Layer whipped cream and cake layers in parfait glasses, so there is whipped cream on the bottom, top, and between each cake layer. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bacardi Rum Punch

I think I’m going to go ahead and start posting drink recipes every Friday – mainly because these will probably be the most likely things to cause people to run to the store and buy something to complete the recipe, and the weekend typically provides ample time to do that! I’ll try and mix it up between non-alcoholic and those containing liquor!

Today’s is definitely a liquor drink – I made it for a large group of friends and everyone was demanding the recipe, so here it is! Rum has long been my liquor of choice – there aren’t many drinks made with it that I don’t like – so this is naturally one of my favorite drinks of all time. The best part is that you can make it ahead of time and then serve it later!

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In a large pitcher, combine 8 ounces Bacardi rum, 8 ounces triple sec, and 4 ounces raspberry pucker. Raspberry pucker is a pretty off the wall liquor, I know, so if you don’t have it and feel like you’ll never use it again if you were to buy it, you can either skip it entirely or use another red-based liquor. 2 ounces of grenadine would work, too. But I have to confess, I was even a little leery when I bought my bottle of raspberry pucker and it didn’t take it very long to get almost gone!! It’s fabulous for giving a little extra flavor to almost any tropical based drink.

On top of the liquor, add 4 cups of Pineapple-Orange-Banana juice. The kind I buy is by Dole and it’s usually between $2-3 for a 59 ounce bottle. Pineapple Orange Banana is basically the most awesome base for tropical drinks, especially because it works with drink recipes that call for either pineapple or orange juice. Using the combo gives a slightly different flavor but it’s still fabulous! (There’s also a ton of tropical drinks that call for both pineapple AND orange juice, which this is also, obviously, excellent for.)

Stir everything together and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, add 4-5 cups (or 3 cans) of any clear soda. I really like Black Cherry Citrus Fresca for this, which has a ton of flavor, but you can use Sprite, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, or any other clear soda you prefer.

Serve it over ice in your favorite glasses!

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Full Recipe:

Bacardi Rum Punch

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients:

8 ounces Bacardi White Rum
8 ounces triple sec
4 ounces raspberry pucker
4 cups pineapple orange banana juice
3 cans Black Cherry Citrus Fresca

Process:

1) Combine rum, triple sec, and raspberry pucker in a large pitcher.

2) Stir in pineapple orange banana juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3) Add Black Cherry Citrus Fresca, stir 1-2 times (just enough to mix flavors without removing the carbonation) and serve over ice in your favorite drink glasses.