Heart-Shaped French Toast for Two: Valentine’s Day Blog Swap!

heart shaped french toast - photo 1Valentine’s Day is almost here! As a special treat, today my humble little blog is being visited by my good friend Amy of Foods For the Soul!

Amy is a stellar photographer and baker, and has me salivating over every post with her healthier takes on meals and desserts. Not only does this girl have some serious blogger style, but we were also friends in high school! We had a lot in common then, and after a recent reconnection, have found that we still do. Back in the day, we looked up funny words in the back of our French textbooks, roomed together during at least one marching band trip, and even dated the same guy (but not at the same time). Nowadays, we share a love of running, baking, and food blogging.

Without further ado, I bring you my sweet friend Amy of Foods For the Soul and her heart-shaped french toast for two!

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After dessert, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I have a huge weakness for the baked treats—blueberry scones and cinnamon rolls and streusel-topped coffee cake. What girl wouldn’t, with a sweet tooth as big as mine?

But then there’s my guy, who skips breakfast nearly every day. He prefers eating a second lunch or extra savory snack, unless I toss him a fresh bagel as he heads out the door. Even then, it better not be sweet! Try poppy seed, onion, or—for the indecisive days—an everything bagel.

So I thought it’d be impossible to cook a breakfast we could both enjoy for Valentine’s Day (let alone have it be romantic!). But when I cracked eggs into a bowl to make french toast last weekend, he moseyed into the kitchen and snuck a taste while I flipped the second round of bread in the pan. He even asked me to pass the maple syrup when I handed him a plate!

February 14th just might start out on a sweet note after all!

heart shaped french toast - photo 2Heart-Shaped French Toast for Two
serves 2

You can make French toast bites out of the extra bread! Just slice into rectangular shapes and cook like normal.

6 slices wheat bread
1 whole egg + 1 egg white
¼ c. skim milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

  1. Cut each slice of bread into a heart shape using a heart-shaped cookie cutter or a knife. Set aside.
  2. Lightly coat a large pan with nonstick cooking spray, and preheat for 1-2 min on the stove over medium-low heat. While the pan heats, whisk together the remaining ingredients (egg through nutmeg, if using) in a pie tin or bowl with a flat bottom.
  3. Dip both sides of one slice of the prepared bread in the egg wash, and cook for 2 min on each side in the preheated pan, or until browned. Repeat with the remaining bread. Serve hot with butter, syrup, jam, or powdered sugar.

heart shaped french toast - photo 3Mrs. Webb says…

If that doesn’t have you frantically heating up a skillet and digging out your heart shaped cookie cutters, I don’t know what will! For more sweet and healthy treats, I recommend checking out Amy’s Fudgy Beet Brownies and her Peanut Butter Nutella Popcorn Balls, the latter of which I actually got to taste!

Oh, and be sure to check out my Valentine’s guest post on Foods For the Soul today, where I show you how to make Truffle Stuffed Strawberries- a fun spin on a classic dessert!

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Potato Chip Sandies

chipcookies1For last week’s “Fancy Friday,” I brought you dressed up peanut butter cookies. This week, I’m not sure if my featured dessert is a classy cookie dressed down, or an average cookie dressed up. Dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with crushed potato chips? Is your head exploding like mine was when I stumbled across this recipe?

Make these, and I assure you that your doubt will turn to sheer delight upon first bite! (Swear I didn’t mean for that rhymeage to happen. Rhyme- age. Totally a word.)

These are pecan sandies with a fun twist. My husband, who is known for proclaiming his dislike for a food based on his knowledge of a strange ingredient, loved these. After he had eaten two, I revealed the mystery ingredient, and he still loved them! Winner.

I may have mentioned before that sweet and salty is pure addiction to me. I cannot buy chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels for fear that I will eat the entire stock of it in one sitting! Thus, these cookies sent my tastebuds into an outbreak of the Hallelujah chorus and left my waistline begging for mercy.

This is why I am a runner…

chipcookies2Potato Chip Sandies
makes 10-12 cookies
recipe originally found at Keep It Simple Foods.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate for melting (I like Ghiradelli bittersweet 60% cacao!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Cream together butter, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix to combine.
  3. In a food processor, process potato chips until fairly small but not like breadcrumbs. A little texture is magical! (you’re going to start with a couple large handfuls of chips to get 1/2 cup crushed) If you don’t have a food processor, throw those chips into a large Ziploc and crush them with your hands!
  4. Add pecans and 1/3 cup of chips, and mix to combine.
  5. Divide dough into ten to twelve balls, roll in the remaining sugar, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
  7. While cookies are cooling (on a cookie rack would be nice), melt your chocolate according to instructions on bag.
  8. When cookies are cooled, dip cookies halfway in chocolate and generously sprinkle remaining potato chip crumbles on top.
  9. Let chocolate cool to harden, and try not to eat them all in one sitting!

Grapefruit Mini Scones for Two

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For as long as I can remember, my Dad had a grapefruit with his breakfast daily. Cut in half and sprinkled with a little blue packet of Equal, it was a part of his morning ritual and a fond memory of my childhood.

Occasionally, he would prepare one for me the same way as he prepared his, except he would sprinkle real sugar on top rather than the imitation stuff. If I wasn’t having a grapefruit of my own, he would sometimes squeeze a bit of the juice at the end into a large spoon and let me drink it. The best part, in my opinion!

All grown up and in my own kitchen, I still eat grapefruit occasionally. Today, I decided to do so in the form of a scone. Last year, I posted a recipe for a small batch of strawberry scones. Over the year, not much has changed: Mr. Webb still doesn’t love breakfast, but he will get out of bed for a scone (or three!).

Grapefruit Mini Scones

makes 6 mini scones

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. grapefruit zest
  • 1/6 cup COLD butter
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeeze grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 T fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. grapefruit zest
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Sift together the first six ingredients, and then cut in the butter using a pastry blender or a hand mixer on low speed. The butter should be combined into the dry ingredients only to the point where the texture still looks coarse and there are still pea-sized chunks of butter.
  3. Combine the remaining three wet ingredients, and mix into the butter mixture just until everything is wet. Do not over-mix: I usually do this step with a spoon rather than a hand mixer to ensure that the dough does not become too smooth. The beauty of the scone is the flaky, buttery texture that is a result of the butter not being fully incorporated.
  4. Form the dough into a 3/4 inch tall disk, and then cut into six triangles. Spread the triangles out onto a parchment-covered sheetpan, and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Whisk all glaze ingredients together, and after the scones have cooled for about five minutes, drop a spoonful of glaze onto each.

Peanut Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies!

pbcookies2Mmm… double. Double can be good, double can be bad.

Double scoop of ice cream? Good. Double shift at work because someone called out sick? Probably bad. Double date? Well, that’s just awkward…

Throw aside any and all preconceptions you carry of things that are double, and allow yourself to embrace the peanutbutter on peanutbutter goodness that is these little sandwich cookies!

pbcookies1Inspired by these cookies, I’ve scaled down the size of the cookie and swapped out the marshmallow creme for a luscious peanutbutter buttercream found in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. I normally stay far away from buttercream, as it tastes a little too much like pure butter for my taste (imagine that! buttercream tasting like butter! ha!), but I could not stop stealing swipes of this stuff straight from the bowl.

To sum this cookie up further, all I can say is: good thing I run!

This is the first of my Fancy Friday posts. And I had so much fun doing it! True, peanut butter cookies are probably the least fancy dessert I could have come up with- but that’s the beauty of these babies. They are simple at heart, but the filling takes them to the next level. Be sure to read my note about these cookies the very bottom of the page before you are ready to make them!

pbcookies3Peanutbutter Cookies*

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used natural, worked great)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine all ingredients using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Or, if you’re old-school, mix with a large wooden spoon until incorporated.
  2. Make 48 balls of dough, about 10 grams per piece. Spread out on a couple of cookie sheets, and press down with a fork.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 F, or until edges are crispy. Mine were done at ten minutes.

Peanutbutter Buttercream Filling

  • 1 egg white (from an extra large egg)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 T + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 T water
  • 4 oz butter (at room temp)
  • 1/2 cup + 3 T creamy peanut butter
  • dash of salt
  1. Place the first measurement of sugar in a saucepan with the water. Stir to moisten the sugar, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  2. While sugar water is simmering, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with its whisk attachment. Start whipping at medium speed, and gradually add the remaining sugar. Whip until the whites are beginning to form loose peaks.
  3. (back to the stove!) When the sugar has dissolved into the water (should be at 248 F), remove the pan from the heat and begin adding the syrup to the whites, whipping on medium-low speed. Be sure to add the hot syrup slowly and to add it between the side of the bowl and the whites- so as not to cook the egg!
  4. When all the syrup is added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and allow to whip for 15 minutes, or until the whites are holding stiff peaks.
  5. Add the butter, in cut pieces, a few pieces at a time while the mixer is on medium speed.
  6. After all the butter is added, turn it up to top speed for a few second until it looks emulsified.
  7. Scrape all of the buttercream into a smaller container, and then measure 1 cup + 3 T back into the mixer bowl. Add the peanut butter and the salt, and use the paddle attachment to combine.
  8. Pipe the finished peanutbutter buttercream on top of the underside of one cookie and sandwich another half on top. Enjoy!

*Note: Mr. Webb and I agreed- this cookie was better the second day after spending the night at room temp in a covered container! They got softer overnight, preventing the buttercream from squishing out between the crispy cookies and making a mess. If you are going to bring these to a party or to a friend’s house, make them ahead!

Vegan Banana-Cornmeal Muffins (that won’t ruin your New Years resolution!)

bananacornmuffin5Hello blogging world! It’s been a while.

Last time I showed my face around these parts (three weeks ago now!), we were all in the midst of holiday joy and the accompanying holiday gluttony. I don’t know about you, but it is now mid-January, and I refuse to give up on my “starting off the New Years right” health kick.

I buy an insane amount of bananas at one time- a habit that began sometime last year when I realized how wonderful they were for freezing and adding to smoothies (and my Costco membership allowed and encouraged me to buy everything in bulk). When I leave the store with four large bunches of bananas, I often think about what I would assume about myself if I was the onlooker… poor girl who got picked to supply snack for the kids in her Sunday school class and can only afford bananas? Far too young mother of five children? Chimpanzee trainer?

I don’t know what it looks like to strangers, but it is for sure that I end up looking like a madwoman to my friends who come over and spy heaps of brown bananas sitting on the counter. However, I know that they are actually at their sweetest when they are almost entirely brown. When my sweet tooth began to tingle on a cold day in January, I decided to utilize their browned, sweet perfection for a basket of muffins instead of confining them to the freezer as usual.

I cannot believe how moist these turned out to be despite their typically dry whole grains and lack of added fats. The texture is definitely on the more dense side of the muffin spectrum, but the somewhat gritty feel of the cornmeal suits this very well. This is a serious breakfast muffin that will leave you full and happy and your sweet-tooth satisfied without making you feel as if you had digested rocks for breakfast!

bananacornmuffin3Vegan Banana Cornbread Muffins
makes 9-12 muffins, depending on preferred size!

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 medium bananas (12.5 oz), mashed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 T flaxseed meal mixed with 3 T water
  • 3/4 cup light soymilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F, and line a muffin tin with 9-12 muffin liners.
  2. Whisk flax and water together, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Mash bananas (should be 12.5 oz out of the peel), and combine with maple syrup, flaxseed “egg”, and soymilk.
  4. Combine cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda, and then add to the banana mixture. Combine just until all is incorporated, being sure not to over-mix.
  5. For 9 muffins of the size pictured, drop muffin batter into each liner until it is almost level with the top of the liner.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick!

According to caloriecount.com, each muffin (if making 9) has only 150 calories. I preferred these at room temperature and thought that they were actually better the second day! Make sure you keep them in an air-tight container to prevent from drying out!

Ina Garten’s Maple Oat Scones

mapleoatsconesDo heart-shaped baked goods make your heart as happy as they make mine? In my book, it doesn’t even have to be February to bust out the heart-shaped cookie cutter and go to town! A delicious recipe and a loved one to share it with is reason enough for me.

My love for Ina Garten and her style of cooking began back in college, when I had five roommates and one television. Most of the time, majority ruled and the TV was dominated by Sixteen and Pregnant, Gossip Girls, Days of Our Lives, and other shows that I didn’t care for. Once in a while, I would somehow gain access to the remote control for a minute and flip it to the Food Network- naturally, my station of choice. We were a silly bunch of girls that liked to laugh, and when I got my roommates to watch with me, it was 75% poking fun at the cheesy celebrity chefs, and 25% drooling over the recipes. I secretly loved every minute of watching the ease at which these chefs seemed to talk about and execute their craft. Ina Garten, in particular, conveyed a true understanding of what it meant to love both people and food with her incredibly simple and comforting yet stunningly elegant dishes.

I feel like these scones are the embodiment of her cooking style: made with simple ingredients, invoke feelings of love and comfort at first bite, and styled beautifully enough for a photo shoot. While the butter inside these would not allow me to call these a healthy breakfast, they are laced with whole wheat flour and oats to give you a bit of lasting power until lunch. Paired with a platter of fruit and some coffee or tea, these would make a gorgeous addition to a fancy brunch or would be great for a weekend morning with your sweetie.

Do you think if I had offered these as a bribe during college my roommates would have surrendered the remote more willingly? 😉

mapleoatscones2

Maple Oat Scones
For the scones:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup cold buttermilk*
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Combine flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl (with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, if you have one).
  3. Blend (or cut in, if no stand mixer) in the cold butter with mixer at lowest speed until butter chunks are the size of peas.
  4. Combine the buttermilk, syrup, and eggs, and add all at once to the bowl. Combine just until incorporated.
  5. As the dough will be sticky, heavily flour a surface and turn the dough out onto it. Roll or pat out (I patted) the dough until it is 3/4-1 inch tall. Lumps of butter are ok to be in the dough. Cut out 7 to 9 scones, using whatever biscuit cutter you have handy or think is cute! My heart was about 3 1/2 inches across and I got nine, but a plain 3 inch round biscuit cutter should work just fine as well.
  6. Leaving an inch of space between each scone, place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Use a pastry brush to egg wash the biscuits, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Tops should be golden.
  7. Meanwhile, use a little whisk or fork to beat the glaze ingredients together. After the scones have cooled for at least five minutes, drip a tablespoon of glaze onto each scone. Garnish with a sprinkling of dry oats!

*as I had no buttermilk on hand, I used the old lemon juice combined with milk trick to make faux buttermilk. I just squeezed a half tablespoon worth of lemon juice into a 1/4 cup measuring cup, filled the rest with regular milk, and let it sit for five minutes before I incorporated it.

Gingerbread cake with molasses-lemon cream cheese frosting.

gingercake4Have you heard? Ginger is the new black carrot. Ginger is spicy, sassy, and the perfect vehicle for luscious cream cheese frosting. I believe that ginger, although seemingly usurped by other seasonal flavors (I’m looking at you, peppermint and eggnog!), deserves a spot amongst the best of the Christmas-time desserts.

So why should ginger, such a regal and bold spice, be confined to boy and girl cutouts?

If you’ve never had crystallized ginger, let this cake be the reason you finally try some out. The little spicy, tan-colored jewels were actually the inspiration for this cake. Chatting with a coworker about how we liked to pop them like candy, I suddenly envisioned a cream-cheese covered cake studded with nuts and surprising bits of spicy crystallized ginger. And I could not get the idea out of my head until the cake was sitting on the counter in my kitchen!

This cake is definitely a rip-off of carrot cake with a seasonal spin. But a rip-off never tasted so good!

gingercake1

Gingerbread Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 cup milk

Molasses-lemon cream cheese frosting/garnish

  • 8 oz cream cheese (can come straight from refrigerator if butter is soft)
  • 5 T butter, room temperature
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 1 cup each of pecans and walnuts, measured and then processed/chopped smallish
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, measured and then chopped, plus extra whole for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray and flour an 8-inch springform pan (which I did), or a 9-inch cake pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each egg. Add molasses and lemon zest, combine.
  4. Add the milk and flour mixture alternatively, mixing after each addition, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake, checking at 45 minutes. Mine took over an hour, probably because of the tall 8-inch pan.
  6. Meanwhile, in a new bowl, cream together the butter, softened cream cheese, molasses, and extract. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.
  7. When cake is turned out of pan and completely cool, torte the cake (slice it in half horizontally.) Spread frosting in between the cake layers and sandwich back together; frost the entire cake. (If cream cheese frosting is difficult to work with, microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring after each 15 seconds, until consistency is spreadable and workable.)
  8. Combine the chopped pecans, walnuts, and ginger. Press into the side of the cake, and sprinkle onto the top center. Garnish with large chunks of ginger.

Enjoy, from my kitchen to yours! ❤