Waffled French Toast With Sautéed Apples, Walnuts and Maple Syrup

Since retiring my mornings have become a time to ease into the day without the rushing that work mornings were filled with. I still have some rush mornings, days that I volunteer I don’t have the luxury of easing, but there are more days of easing than rushing and the mornings I do rush I am definitely OK with it because in just a little while I am going to be doing something I really love and with people I really like. You can’t always say that about work, at least in my past experience that was oft times true.  Easing is definitely something I look forward to practicing. A great habit I wish I had picked up long ago.

A morning of easing can bring about creativity, like this morning. I’ve put off going to the grocery store for over a week now so choices are becoming scarce, food wise. I almost went to the market yesterday when I was out and about but it didn’t happen. And so it was that I found myself this morning wondering what I could put together for breakfast, my favorite meal.

After foraging around in the refrigerator I came up with; an apple, a spoon or two of greek yogurt, a bit of soy coffee creamer, an egg and a heel of seeded bread. I keep a supply of different kinds of nuts in the freezer so I grabbed a hand full of walnuts when I got out the coffee beans, yes I keep them in the freezer too. The menu would be waffle style French toast with sautéed apples, maple syrup and walnuts, topped off with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Apple, walnuts, syrup

A while back I saw an article on making french toast using a waffle iron and I have adopted that idea in preference to just making french toast in a skillet. The toast cooks much faster, since you’re cooking both sides at the same time, and there are all those little indents that are wonderful for holding syrup or butter or what ever you decide to put on top.

To prepare the toast, I use 1 egg with 1/2 egg shell full of milk or in this case coffee creamer, for each piece of bread. Beat the egg and milk/creamer together then pour the mixture over the bread and let it soak in. Turn the bread in mixture at least once so both sides coat well.

DSCN6884Peel and core the apple then cut into 1/4” slices and sauté in a little butter until slightly browned then turn to brown the second side. When the apples are just browned on the second side drizzle a little maple syrup over them and add some chopped walnuts and let bubble a little to caramelize the nuts. Keep warm.

DSCN6888Cook the egg soaked bread in a preheated waffle iron until done. Place on serving plate, top with apple, syrup walnut mixture, top with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The odds of getting this lucky again tomorrow are right around slim and none so I think a trip to the grocery store today will be high on my “to do” list today.

More French toast ideas can be found at Camp Toast with Maple Syrup Poached Fruit and Trou Pain Perdu.

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Carrot Zucchini Cupcake Tailgate Snack

Mexican Free-tail bat flyout at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Recently two grandmas and five grandchildren headed west looking for adventure. We had reserved spaces at Yolo Basin Foundation’s Bat Walk & Talk, a presentation by Corky Quirk, the renowned “Bat Lady” of Northern California, followed by a trip out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to watch thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats emerge from their daytime sleeping space under the Yolo Causeway and fly into sunset tinted skies.

Corky’s presentation was about 45 minutes long it’s content great for both adults and kids. It’s informative and fun and towards the shared up close projected images of three different live bats showing us their differences. She even fed one mealworms and we watched it munch them down.

Now it was time to load into our cars and caravan out to the Wildlife Area to see the bats fly into the night sky where they would spend their time hunting moths. We followed the line of cars, led by Corky, to a spot far on the eastern side of the property. There we parked and gathered at a place not too far from where the bats would emerge from under the causeway. We stood and waited and then they appeared, thousands of little Mexican Free-tailed bats flying in a long ribbon like formation into the evening sky. It was a beautiful sight.

muffin tail gate party

Carrot Zucchini cupcake tailgate snack

Since there are literally thousands (estimated to be around 250,000 at last count) of bats that need to emerge, the flights come in waves and there can be some time in between where no bats are visible. Just the perfect amount of time for boys of 8 & 9 and girls aged 6 to become totally distracted and start looking for something to do. During one of these breaks I had the kids follow me back to our car for a little tailgate snack; homemade Cream Cheese frosted Carrot Zucchini cupcakes and a glass of pineapple/mango/passion fruit juice. Since I had a few finicky eaters, when asked what kind of cupcakes they were, I just said carrot cake; no sense complicating the veggie issue by mentioning that there was also grated summer squash in them. Two of the kids decided they loved the icing, which they licked completely off of the cupcake before returning it to me to say they didn’t like the cake part even though they didn’t even try it. The other three grandkids and the grandmas ate theirs without complaint and in fact, we found them to be delicious.  After our snack it was back down to watch more bats and a peregrine falcon that had come to see if it could catch a few snacks of its own. It was pretty exciting to watch it cut through the ribbon of bats and snatch one.  The excitement of the evening over we caravanned back through the wildlife area listening to the sounds of the frogs and seeing lots of Black-crowned Night herons flying around, also out hunting. It was deemed a good adventure by all and one we would recommend to all that have not had a chance to see this amazing spectacular.

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe I used for the cupcakes was a modification of Carrot and Zucchini Bars with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, published by Real Mom Kitchen, Aug, 2011 a recipe she adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe. I omitted the ginger and instead added the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon. I didn’t put any zest in the frosting only because I didn’t have any more lemons. This is a great little recipe that I’ll be using again and again.

You can find other cake-like recipes where I have used zucchini on the following links:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A California Gal Makes Hawaiian Muffins

A Tangelo and a Zucchini Met One Morning

Spring Musings

I follow a considerable number of blogs, many of them on food, others on nature; its mysteries and wonder. To me they are all related for they all have one thing in common, earth and all that it has to offer, nutritionally and visually. But the earth like anything else can throw me a curve now and then offering up trying scenarios.

This weekend has been rainy and windy, encouraging me to deny my urge to get outside and instead stay inside and finish my income taxes and some other chores I have been procrastinating about. Thankfully, I completed those yesterday.

Those chores done, I have one more glorious day to myself. This morning my itch to get outside hasn’t lessened. It is the first day of Spring but unfortunately it is still very wet and very windy, so to ease the itch I donned my raincoat and headed out to take myself to breakfast, then over to the Farmers’ Market, which considering the weather was surprisingly well attended by both vendors and customers although I noticed a considerable lack of “easy-ups” because of the wind. We are lucky that our market is situated under an elevated part of the freeway so there is some shelter from the elements. Not the most beautiful location but definitely functional. This morning I bought Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, a small sized acorn squash, shitake mushrooms, Fuji apples and Purple Haze carrots, the subject of today’s post.

If you have never seen Purple Haze carrots you are missing a truly beautiful vegetable. Their wine colored skins encase bright orange cores that retain their color when lightly cooked or used raw. They are not only beautiful to look at they are heavenly to eat having and earthy sweet taste and crisp texture.

When I researched them I found several interesting facts:

1. Purple carrot varieties are actually one of the first originally cultivated varieties among all carrot colors. They can trace their origins back to the 10th century in what is modern day Afghanistan.

2.  Carrots are the second most popular vegetable in the world, second only to the potato. In my book they are above the potato.

3.  The hybrid variety, Purple Haze, was named after the 1967 song of the same name by Jimi Hendrix.

Now as far as facts go the last fact was definitely the most interesting fact that I dug up. If you, like me, are curious about what the connection might be you can read more about the song and its inspiration here. I’m still not sure I get the “why” of it but I definitely think it interesting.

I did several things with this bunch of carrots; I shredded some and mixed them with equal amounts of shredded Fuji apple, roasted walnuts and just a hint of mayonnaise for a salad and the balance of them I used in a recipe for a coconut carrot muffin another nice way to eat your veggies!

Coconut Carrot Muffin and a cup of hot ginger tea

Coconut Carrot Muffins with Mascarpone and Toasted Walnuts

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (½ cup for muffins, ½ cup for topping)

1 cup oat flour (you can use whole wheat if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup buttermilk

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

¾ cup sugar

½ lb carrots, washed and shredded

½ cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil muffin pan (I used a Texas sized pan that makes 6).

Roast walnuts on baking sheet until just browned. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until mixed. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Stir in the carrots, walnuts and coconut. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until springy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

After the muffins were cooled I just barely warmed some Mascarpone cheese, then liberally topped each muffin and sprinkled them with chopped toasted walnuts. It’s best to serve these immediately after adding the topping. The muffins, without topping, will store for several days if kept in an airtight container.

As I sit here typing I keep thinking about getting outside. There seems to be a storm inside as well as outside, one minute I’m ready to put on some rain garb and join mother nature and her blustery wet weather. I could fill the bird feeders and check on the section of fence that blew down last night, make sure there’s not more.  The next minute I decide to stay inside for a little longer, hoping for a break in the action, I enjoy my hot ginger tea and muffin.

Sunday Afternoon Gift Baking

A few weeks ago I ran across a recipe for Cranberry Walnut Bread in an online San Francisco Chronicle article and thought it would be the perfect thing to bake for office gifts.  So today, after going to the Farmers’ Market for my weekly fruit and veggie shopping, including oranges and walnuts for the bread, I put on some classical music and started gathering up my ingredients; fresh cranberries, oranges, buttermilk, wheat and unbleached flours, sugar, walnuts and spices. I chopped, measured and mixed and soon I had six little pans ready for the oven.

Thirty-five minutes later I had six beautiful little loaves of bread.

The only modifications I made were to add the zest from one orange and to use Turbanado raw sugar with the spices and nuts for the topping. I like the crunchy texture of the Turbanado sugar. The only thing I would do next time is add more chopped nuts to the topping mixture. I think it would look better.  For those of you who are, or have folks who are, allergic to walnuts I think pecans would be a terrific substitute.

The recipe easily made six mini loaves.

One of the comments on the Chronicle article said this bread was really nice toasted and buttered. Humm, I might just have to try some for breakfast tomorrow since I have one loaf that isn’t marked as a gift.

Did you bake or make gifts this year? If so, what did you make?

Your Farmers’ Market is a great place to do holiday gift shopping!

These are just a couple of ideas I found while walking through my Farmers’ Market today.  Many markets have hand crafted items and some even feature live and fresh cut Christmas Trees during December.

Beautiful holiday wreaths.

Gift baskets of herbs and edible flowers.

Personal products with an herbal touch.

Almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios; natural, spiced, salted, unsalted, and candied.

Jams, jellies, special sauces, local honey, olive oil and dried herb mixes

Natural soaps and lotions.

What ideas for gift giving did you find at your Farmers’ Market?

Dried Fruit and Nuts = Healthy Fruit-nut Bars

A post, last month, by David Lebovitz caught my eye. It was called Fruitcake Bars. While I’m not a fan of conventional Fruitcake I do like breads that incorporate dried fruits and nuts and this particular recipe was mostly dates, which I love and toasted nuts, which I also love. It sounded incredibly easy and I had all the ingredients so I gave it a try. After I tried it the first time, and loved it, I tried it again using a little different combination for both the fruit and nuts. Here’s the basic recipe for what I now call Fruit-nut Bars:

Grease two small loaf pans and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325° F and position the rack in the center of the oven.

Chop 2 cups of toasted nuts. To toast the nuts bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°, or until just starting to brown. I used walnuts and pecans this time.  Chop 2 1/2 cups dried fruit. I used dates, apricots and cranberries.

In a large bowl, toss together 6 tablespoons almond flour (or wheat flour), 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons packed, light or dark brown sugar, the nuts and dried fruit. Use your fingers to mix, separating any pieces sticking together.

Beat 1 large egg with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until every-thing’s coated.

Spread the mixture into greased baking pans and press gently to even out. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the tops are golden brown and have pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan Cool on racks, in the pans. Remove from pans when completely cool.

A heavy sharp knife, such as a bread knife, is best for cutting the Fruitcake. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, if it lasts that long. Mine were usually gone in one to two days. Individual cakes can be wrapped in plastic. Try serving slices with Mascarpone. It’s delicious.  I have plans to make a slightly different version again next week. Depends on what fruits and nuts I have on hand or what interesting fruit I find at the market this weekend.  They’re a nice snack to have around. Healthy too.

When you’re shopping at the Farmers’ Market purchase: dried fruits, nuts, and eggs. Some markets will also have almond flour.