Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quick French Toast

During the week, the Birchwood kitchen serves excruciatingly healthy breakfasts.  On's time for a treat.

(Heavily adapted from Devin Alexander's The Most Decadent Diet Ever!)

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • ¼ cup half & half
  • 2 tablespoons egg
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cinnamon and vanilla to taste
  • bourbon or other spirits (optional but highly recommended)
  • butter and syrup

Brew a large cup of strong coffee while you gather the ingredients

Beat egg and measure out 2 tablespoons, discard the remainder (1 large egg contains approx 3 tablespoons liquid, FYI)

Mix egg with half & half, sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla, and the shortest pour of the optional-but-recommended bourbon.

Pour mixture over bread.  If the bread is especially thirsty, as mine was, the mixture will be almost totally absorbed.  Turn bread and make sure it's uniformly covered with the mixture.

Heat a skillet on medium.  Spray skillet lightly with oil or a small amount of butter.  Cook bread approx 4 minutes per side, discarding any excess mixture.  While cooking, prepare bacon and heat a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of syrup.  Feel free to add the smallest amount of optional-but-recommended bourbon to the syrup.

Pour syrup over toast, top with a pat of butter, and bliss out.


This recipe started life as the "french toast with sauteed banana" recipe in Devin Alexander's The Most Decadent Diet Ever!, a genius cookbook of very basic, very delicious recipes.  The original recipe calls for fat free milk and egg substitute, approx 35 calories total.  I use half & half and real egg because I always have those ingredients on hand--but by doing so I'm boosting the calories by about 100.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lunchbox Enchiladas & Rice

There is nothing in this world that I love more than a good home cooked meal.

There is nothing in this world that I have less time for than cooking a good home cooked meal.  40+ hours of my week are spent locked inside an office, I sleep a good seven hours every night, get in those runs that allow me to eat baked goods most days of the week, and occasionally do laundry and light housekeeping.  And yet I eat three home cooked meals everyday.

A long time ago I adopted the bulk cooking method: make a entree with 8-12 servings, portion it into containers, and freeze until needed.  The special requirements are: must be so awesome that you'll never get tired of eating it and must freeze well.  This reduces the effort of  "cooking" to remembering to pull a container out of the freezer on my way out in the morning.

Let's take a closer look at one of my favorite lunchbox entrees

(Enchilada recipe from Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics, rice recipe from the Simple Dollar)

  • Enchiladas
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 large onion
    • 1 large zucchini
    • 1 cup frozen corn
    • 15 oz can pinto beans
    • 4 oz can green chilies
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 2 tablespoons cilantro
    • 1 ½ cups salsa
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • ¼ cup milk
    • 2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese
    • 12 flour tortillas, 6"

  • Spanish Rice
    • 1 ½ cups dry rice
    • ¾ cup salsa

Prepare rice, substituting the salsa for part of the water.  My preferred method for cooking rice is the microwave.  Set aside.

Dice n' slice the onion and zucchini.  The original recipe calls for a medium zucchini--not for me.  I always grab the largest I can find.

Saute the onion for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Add zucchini and cook 8 minutes more.  Add corn, beans, chilies, oregano, cilantro, and salt & pepper to taste.  Cook a few minutes more, and then remove from heat.  If the filling doesn't sound like anything special, you're wrong.  I'll forgive you if you munch on a few bites before continuing with the recipe.

Combine salsa, cream, and milk.  Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a greased 9"x13" pan.  The picture is not deceiving: a sauce made of red salsa and milk can only be pink.  But don't worry, it will cook into a macho tan.
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix one cup of the cheese into the filling.  Place a few tablespoons of filling into each tortilla.

Roll the tortillas and place in the baking dish.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolled tortillas and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Divide the rice among the serving dishes

Add a tortilla to each dish

Look at it--eleven home cooked lunches (plus the 12th serving eaten right away for dinner) in less than an hour!

  • Although I eat a lot of calories, I don't intentionally seek them out.  Like many of you may be thinking, I've tried to eliminate the heavy cream in favor of all milk or for half and half.  Don't do it.  Yes, there are 400 calories in the ½ cup of cream, but that's divided over 12 servings.  Forget it.  Go real or go to another recipe.
  • Another mistake I've made is using one of those fresh herb "tubes" of cilantro, which had a strong citrus back taste.  It didn't ruin the recipe, but it didn't help it either.  Go fresh or skip it.
  • How long can you leave these in the freezer?  I'd say six months.  But they're so good they'll never go uneaten that long.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vidalia Onion Quiche

A few years ago around Easter time, I saw a picture on a blog of a caramelized onion quiche...with NO RECIPE!  The blogger made us look at it, but gave us no means to make our own quiche.  How heartless can a person be?

This led to the Quiche Crusade of 2009 where I went in search of the world's best quiche recipes and honed my pastry making skills.  Unexpectedly, the winner was a non-caramelized onion quiche.  Sweet Vidalias sauteed in butter and baked with Swiss and tarragon.

(Recipe adapted from Carol Gelles's 1000 Vegetarian Recipes)
  • Single crust for 9" pie (I used my favorite pie crust recipe, and you should use yours)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced Vidalia onions (approx 1 large onion)
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper


    Prepare pie crust.  I used this recipe, eliminating the sugar for ½ teaspoon salt, and using lemon juice as the acid.  After rolling out the dough, place in fridge to keep cold until needed.

    Slice onions thin.  One large Vidalia onion will easily yield 3 cups of slices.

    Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Toss onions in the melted butter and cover pot.  Reduce heat to medium low.

    Stir onions occasionally and let cook for 20 minutes.  They will get soft and a little golden.

    Prepare the quiche filling.  Whisk eggs, milk, and spices together.

    Place cheese in pie shell

    Add onions and stir together

    Pour filling on top

    Bake at 350° (or 325° if using a mini oven like me) for 50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

    Let sit 5 minutes...and enjoy!

    Saturday, May 7, 2011


    These are a whole world of good...chocolate and pecans with butterscotch undertones, baked in muffin pans.

    Not only is this one of the best cookie/brownie recipes out there, but it gives me a chance to use my favorite kitchen toy, Mixie the Amazing Stand Mixer.

    I'd wanted a stand mixer for years, but was always put off by the price.  Then last fall, a super-duper big bucks Cuisinart model showed up on Woot for a price I couldn't refuse.  Mixie has exceeded all my expectations and dreams.  The stand mixer cuts the labor for a project like this down to practically the level of picking up baked goods from the grocery store...with that magic homemade taste.

     (Recipe from Bon Appetit)
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter
    • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 6 ounces chocolate chips
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

    Your butter should be at room temperature...but if like me you didn't plan far enough ahead, try the butter softening tip from Simply Recipes and roll the butter between sheets of wax paper.

    Beat butter on medium speed until soft

    Add the sugars and beat 3 minutes. (Those of you with hand mixers have to put in actual physical labor while starring at a stop watch...all I have to do is set Mixie's timer and walk away)

    Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.  Wonder why I cracked the egg into a bowl before adding?  Because I'm not a fan of eggshells in food, that's why!  Add the vanilla and beat just a little longer to combine.

    Add flour and salt gradually, beating on low until just combined.

    Add chocolate, nuts, and coconut.  Mix until combined.

    Spray muffin cups with butter spray.  Set the oven to 350°.

    Use an ice cream scoop to spoon batter into cups.  This recipe will fill 24 muffin cups.

    Press batter down...don't smush it down, just give it a light pat.  I'm using a leftover butter wrapper to accomplish this task.

      Bake about 20 minutes, until edges are set but centers are soft.  Take the trays out of the oven and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
    Use a knife to loosen edges and slide blondies out of muffin pan.

    Alternate method: bake like a normal brownie/blondie.  I haven't tried this, but for the traditionalists out there, use a 9" x 13" buttered pan, add ¾ teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda to flour, and bake at 325° for 40 minutes...another reason why I've never made it this way, because with a recipe this good, who wants to double the cooking time?