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Posts Tagged bread

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks – and a Book Review!

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks | Gorging George

Many (many) months ago, I was asked by Owlkids to review a new book they were publishing … and to be honest, I’m not exactly a pro at reviews of any sort. And clearly not a timely person when it comes to caring for a wee baby … However, the book, Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking written by Sarah Elton and beautifully illustrated by Jeff Kulak, is definitely worth recommending, and I have been attempting time-and-time again to write this post. Writing reviews won’t be a common occurrence on the blog (and I have not been compensated financially by Owlkids; I was only given an advance copy of the book), but if I’m asked to review something that I legitimately like, and I truly believe you may too, then I will be passing on my raving thoughts.

Starting From Scratch

Although Starting From Scratch is targeted at children who are starting to be curious about food – where it comes from, how to cook it, etc. – I would say it is a great book for young adults who were never previously educated on cooking or food. The writing style is easy for young readers to understand, yet it’s not so juvenile that I didn’t enjoy reading through the entire book. Starting From Scratch covers everything from the science of taste (did you know that artichokes make sweet food taste sweeter?); to how differently people eat around the globe (there is an amazing section mapping out different chicken dishes eaten in various countries); to how “recipes” are developed (an education on how baking, especially, is all math or ratios); through to setting up a kitchen with the essential tools and of course, food and cooking safety. The book takes you on a journey that leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of where your food comes from, why and how you perceive food tastes the way it does, and ultimately, the importance of preparing as much of your food from scratch (would you have guessed that from the title??).

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks | Gorging George

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks | Gorging George

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks | Gorging George

I believe that one of the most important things we can teach our children and ourselves is to be conscious about the food we eat and about the enjoyment and pride that comes in cooking that food yourself. My brother and I were lucky to be raised by parents who encouraged us to always try at least one bite of everything; and gave us each the duty to prepare 1-2 dinners a week as part of our “chores.” This has instilled the deepest appreciation for food in both of us – now we fight about who gets the offal at Thanksgiving dinner over any of the other meat; and we scour the depths of the internet, cook books, grocery stores and markets for inspiration for what to cook and eat next. In the words of Anthony Bourdain: “it is a good and noble thing to cook well.” And while Starting From Scratch only contains a few basic recipes at the end, it would assist any child with learning how to sustain themselves with real food rather than resorting to take out and frozen dinners all the time. Whether you know everything about food and cooking, or you don’t have a clue about how to feed yourself, this book would make an excellent addition to your child’s (or a child you love) library.

Now how about a kid-friendly recipe to wash down that review?

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks | Gorging George

Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks

Clearly, you can save some time and skip the “sticks” part of this recipe. However, cutting your bread into the sticks makes it a little more fun for kids and, to be completely honest, helps reduce the amount you consume since you feel like you’re eating so much more. Let the littles do as much as you, and they, are comfortable with – maybe it’s simply dipping the sticks in the batter; or maybe you’re up for letting them flip the sticks while they are in the hot pan. Either way, get them involved in the kitchen as much as possible and you’re helping pave the way to a lifetime of cooking and eating happiness. 

8 slices thick (Texas-style) bread
butter (to cook the toast in; about 2-4 Tbsp)
4 eggs
1/4 cup half & half cream
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp peanut butter
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Using a serrated knife, cut the toast into 4 even slices vertically and set aside. Prepare the french toast batter by whisking together the remaining ingredients (eggs through salt) in a large dish. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a non-stick pan or griddle. Working in 2 – 4 batches (depending on the size of your pan – you don’t want to crowd the pan), dunk the bread sticks into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and then place into pan with melted butter. Cook the sticks on one side until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes), then flip and cook on the other side until golden. Continue with remaining batches of bread (melting an additional Tbsp of butter in between each batch). Serve warm with or without maple syrup.

Makes 32 sticks.

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Baked Caprese “Salad”

Hello, Hello! Time to get back on the blogging horse. I’ve been busy with life things for a while, and I realized I was spending a lot my “free” time watching TV shows on DVD that we got for Christmas. While entertaining, I could spend my time doing more productive things. Plus my wonderful sister-in-law just started a new (hilarious) blog – kcoope – documenting her daily challenges from “This Book will Change Your Life.” I realize it’s not a food blog, so I wouldn’t normally put things like this on here, but check it out. She’s inspired me to get back to blogging. (Disclaimer: Her blog may not be suitable for all readers)

I recall I promised some Comfort Food when I returned. I also have heard from many that it’s “diet,” “lose-weight,” and/or “get-back-on-track” time. Well here’s a recipe for you: Baked Caprese Salad. It’s from Giada de Laurentiis, and I swear this is called a salad. And I also swear to you it does not much resemble a salad, and is total comfort food. There are tomatoes and some basil – 2 of the 3 major ingredients in a Caprese salad. However there is also big slices of crusty bread and thick pieces of mozzarella that get baked and cripsy and oozy and ohmygod I have to go make this again.

I admit that I  fell for the “salad” portion of the title the first time I made this. I served it with a giant pile of spaghetti and bolognese. Big mistake. Well not really – it was delicious – but my butt yelled at me a little later that night for the extra carb load that I sent it. This side dish would be best served with a protein – chicken, fish, or shrimp would be good. And if you’re not headed to warmer climates (a.k.a. Lands of Less Clothing) then why not serve this as a side to pasta. It’s damn good.

Baked Caprese Salad

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

This recipe is a bit different from the link – I saw Giada make it on her show, and the recipe online seems to be different. But either way you make it, this is very delicious. This recipe is reduced to serve 2 people. 

4 thick tomato slices
balsamic vinegar
4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and peppper
2 thick slices sour dough bread

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Arrange tomato slices on a baking pan in a single layer. Drizzle the slices with balsamic vinegar (approximately 1 Tbsp). Top the tomato with the mozzarella slices, then sprinkle each slice with garlic and basil. Drizzle everything with some olive oil and sprinkle the mozzarella with salt and pepper. Top two of the tomato/mozzarella slices with one slice of bread, do the same for the remaining two slices, and drizzle the bread with some more olive oil. Bake the “salads” for approximately 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Serves 2.

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Mac-&-Cheese

Clean Eaters, Weight Watchers, and Calorie Counters beware: this post is not for you. Other than the calcium you will get from the milk and (copious amounts) of cheese, there is little nutritional value to this dish. Just unadulterated mac and cheese. White pasta, White bread, White full fat cheese. Clean Eaters of the world are cringing as I type. And no, I do not want to hear all the “fun” ways you can make this healthy (“use whole wheat pasta!” “use skim milk cheese!” “use whole grain bread … or no bread at all!”). Please keep your tainted thoughts to yourself, because one change no longer makes this the ooziest, creamiest, most decadent mac-and-cheese you’ve ever tasted. It would just become blah pasta with blah cheese. Keep your blah blahs away.

And I will apologize to all those trying to watch their waistlines…this is too good not to try. But also far too good to be kind to your body afterwards. However, I promise it’s all worth it. We just made the dish last night, and I’m drooling thinking about heating up some more for dinner tonight. My butt will get over the additional weight added by the end of this weekend – one little sacrifice for the taste buds!

This meal (minus some steamed broccoli, to please our bodies a teeny bit) was a combination of two mac-and-cheese recipes. One from Martha Stewart (the bread topped mac) and one from Tyler Florence (pea and bacon topped mac). Basically I just made Martha’s mac-and-cheese and we served it with a side of peas and bacon, instead of putting Tyler’s topping on the mac. As much as I love bacon, I didn’t want to lose any of the crunchy butteriness from the bread “crumb” topping on the pasta. As creamy and cheesy as the macaroni is, one of our favourite parts of the dish was the crispy croutons on top of the pasta. The bacon peas were a great compliment to the mac-and-cheese, but glad we didn’t risk making the bread soggy by adding them on top.

So, as long as you’re not planning on strutting your stuff on sandy white beaches anytime soon, I’d suggest you’d warm up your oven and make this now. PS – I used a 1.5 quart dish for this…it fit all the mac-and-cheese prior to baking, but I was left with a big mess when the cheese sauce boiled over! Definitely make sure you use at least a 2-quart dish.

Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Original Classics

Note: before you bake this, it’s going to look like you have too much cheese sauce. I promise you the macaroni will soak some of it up, and you’ll be left with an oozy baked pasta that is heaven in every bite.

3 slices white bread, crusts removed & diced into 1/4″ cubes
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 3/4 cups milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups (about 9 oz) old white cheddar, grated
1 cup (about 4 oz) gruyere, grated
1/2 lb macaroni

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish, set aside. Place the bread cubes into a small bowl – then melt 1 Tbsp of butter in the microwave, and pour over the bread, stir to combine.

Cook the macaroni for approximately 8 minutes or until slightly underdone (about 2-3 minutes less than the cook-time stated on the box). Drain with a colander.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 Tbsp of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s bubbling, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Continue to stir the milk, cooking it for about 8-10 minutes or until thickened (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Add the salt, nutmeg, peppers, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar, and 3/4 cups of the gruyere to the milk mixture and stir to melt the cheeses. Add the pasta to the cheese and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cheddar and gruyere and then top with the buttered bread crumbs. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.

Serves 6.

Peas with Bacon

Adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into strips
1 small onion, small diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
approx. 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cups frozen peas, thawed in cool water (do not cook!)
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 5-8 minutes to cook the onion and crisp up the bacon. Toss in the peas, and lightly stir to combine. Season the dish with salt and pepper.

Serves 6 – over or with mac-and-cheese.

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Grilled Bread with Salmon & Avocado

A couple months ago I was reading through Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? cookbook and came across an appetizer recipe that I had to try during the summer months. Bread drizzled with olive oil and grilled, then rubbed with raw garlic and topped with prosciutto and smoked mozzarella, then given a quick turn back on the grill to melt the cheese. It sounded like a perfect start to any meal. Heck, it sounded like a meal in and of itself – especially when I’m alone and cheese, bread, and charcuterie is all I need.

I made this exactly as Ina instructs. However my grocery store didn’t have any smoked mozzarella, and I wasn’t going to race around town for one ingredient. Luckily smoked Gouda was in the deli, so I picked up a wedge and breathed in the smokey scent – it would work just fine. The bruschetta-esque starter was served before a family meal of beautifully crimson red salmon fresh from BC. The fish traveled all the way from Vancouver Island along with Kyle’s mom and step-dad who were visiting us while in town for a sailing race (that lasted over 2 days!). This recipe is a must for feeding hungry mouths, on the brink of starvation and barely containing themselves before dinner. One piece suffices to quell the growling stomachs … however, no one would say “no” to another. You can find the recipe online here. On the Food Network site, the title of the recipe is slightly altered, so if you’re looking for it in your copy of How Easy is That? it’s called “grilled bread with prosciutto.”

I was inspired after eating this recipe to try some more ingredients on top of garlicky grilled bread. One night there was a basic snack, where garlic was rubbed on the grilled bread, followed by rubbing a cut tomato on the rough toasty surface, leaving the juices and seeds to be devoured. That was delicious – I suggest you make a quick version of this right now: toast some bread, drizzle with olive oil, rub with garlic, rub with cut tomato, eat. Now thank me.

I then utilized the leftovers from the aforementioned salmon meal to make a quick dinner-for-one that I devoured greedily – Sorry Kyle, you missed out! The coral salmon was reheated in our handy-dandy toaster oven and piled onto a few grilled bread slices, then topped with creamy green avocados. It was divine and I as so consumed by the flavour party in my mouth that I forgot I was eating alone. What are some of your favourite toppings for grilled bread?

Grilled Bread with Salmon & Avocado

You can serve this with cold or warm/hot salmon. Whichever your preference may be. I served mine slightly hot.

2 thick slices good Italian or French bread (preferably from a boule)
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
4 – 6 oz salmon, cooked
1/2 avocado, sliced
salt and pepper
fresh chives, chopped

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Drizzle the bread with olive oil. Grill the bread for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, until slightly charred. Remove from grill and rub one side vigorously with garlic. Top both slices evenly with the salmon (place salmon on garlic-rubbed side). Top salmon with slices of avocado. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and shower your dinner with the freshly chopped chives.

Serves 1.

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