Recipe: Mother’s Day Treat (Freezable) French Toast

French bread soaked in egg mixture, ready to be frozen

Frozen French Toast, before...

After... Delicious French Toast!

I was going to put a post about the cold noodle salad with strawberry vinaigrette, but I need to push it back a bit.  Because…

Mother’s Day is coming.  I have a great recipe to share that allow Moms in the world to be treated well — and easy for the family.

Even moms that love to cook sometimes need a break. They get their wish come true on Mother’s day – Daddy and/or Children take her out for brunch, or even better, make a home-cooked meal!  Nice!

Here’s an easy freezable French toast trick I found in a Japanese cooking magazine. You can make a large batch this weekend, eat some and freeze the rest to have your family bring to your bedside from on Mother’s day (and beyond).

Mother’s Day Treat (Freezable) French Toast

  1. Slice French bread in 1” thick pieces.  Place all of them cut side down in a flat container.
  2. For 8 oz French bread, mix 2 eggs,  2-4 TBS sugar, 1 C milk, a little bit of vanilla essence or cinnamon, and pour it all over the bread.  Let the bread soak up the egg mixture completely (5-10 min), turning it once.
  3. For portions that will be frozen: Wrap individual portion with plastic wrap, with cut side down (if wrapping two or more together, make sure it’s wrapped side by side like on the photo, not on top of each other).  Put them on the cookie sheet with sides to avoid leakage, and freeze.
  4. For Mother’s Day, or whenever you want to have your family make this it for you: : )  Remove the plastic wrap, melt 1-2 ts butter in a skillet at low heat. Place frozen French Toasts and cook for 4-5 minutes with lid on. When it’s golden brown on the bottom, flip them, place lid again, and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with maple syrup.
  5. If they are not frozen, just cook with butter, without lid until golden brown.

We didn’t have any French bread, nor maple syrup, so made it with ciabatta, ate it as it is without syrup.  It was chewy, yet moist and delicious!

So go ahead and make some this weekend, and have the frozen version ready to go for your family to treat you to breakfast in bed later on Mother’s day.

As in this recipe, save some basic things you cooked previously, things like various sautéed vegetables, vegetable and meat mixtures etc. and give your family some written instructions.  Your sous-chef of the house (husband and children) will be able to assemble meals when you are away, busy or you need a break!  Look under “batch and fridge” or “batch and freeze” categories on my blog for ideas for food to keep on hand, and what you can do with them.  As a matter of fact, when I got pneumonia last fall, these batched items in our fridge and freezer literary saved our lives, and upgraded my husband’s status as a Kitchen Wizard. Because of that incident, when I was still in Japan about a month ago, but he was back in the US, I didn’t have to stock up food before I left as usual.  What a treat!

In case you are wondering, my husband never really cook much in the past, so if he can do it, your husband and/or children can do it too!

Talking about batching,  if you have that strawberries and radish from the last post sitting around, it may be a bit limp and jammy…  Actually they are quite good with these French Toast as a topping.  If you cannot stand the idea of radish with the French toast, just pick them out.  You won’t even notice.

So what do you do with leftover egg mix in the container?  How about making an easy dessert?

Stay tuned for the easy bread pudding recipe…  Click “ Email Subscription” on the right column, so that you won’t miss it!

The Japanese noodle salad with strawberry soy dipping sauce will be posted after that…

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Batch & Fridge/Split: Curry Base

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

L to R: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

One of my (many many) favorite cuisine is Indian food.

It’s really fun to go to Indian restaurant with whole bunch of friends and share various curries and tandoori dishes.  (OK, I love sharing and trying various dishes with any cuisine, and am known to get really disappointed when some people don’t like that idea. (Maybe they are worried that their share will be mostly end up in my stomach?)

I cook curry periodically.  One of my dilemma had been this — when I cook curry at home, I only made one kind.  If I wanted some other curry, I had to wait until next time I felt like eating it, which in our household, well over a month later.

Now I figure out how to cook various curries easily all at once, so our single curry days are over.  Just like at the Indian restaurants — at home.

Do you want to know the secret?

It’s pretty simple. You just make a large batch of curry base, and then split it and cook with any cooked vegetable or meat you have.  For example, one will become Keema curry, one with eggplant, one with potatoes, one with spinach, one with cauliflower…  The choice are endless, only limited by, pretty much what else you have in your fridge, ready to go and your imagination. If you use leftover blanched or sautéed vegetables like I did, it shorten the process significantly.

So today, I’ll explain how to make the base.  Later this week, I’ll share the recipe on how to make other kind of curries.

Curry Base: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil – 2 TBS
  • Garlic (minced) – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (minced) – 1 inch/2.5 cm
  • Curry Powder – 2 TBS
  • Cumin powder – 1 ts
  • Garam masala – 2 ts
  • Onion (chopped) – 1 large
  • Tomato (chopped) – 2 large, or 1 small can chopped tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add minced garlic, ginger, and once it becomes fragrant, add the spices, stir briefly until the mixture becomes fragrant with the scent of curry spices.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until soft (and a little browned, if you have time), stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture gets a bit “pasty”.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can keep this in the fridge for a few days.

Be sure to check back for curry recipes you can easily make with this…  Or simply choose one of the subscription options (email, RSS feed, or Networked Blogs Face book app) so that you will not miss them!

Recession Forces Americans to Eat Less Meat… Have You?

The economic downturn may have a positive effect on the meat-heavy American diet??

Something exciting to hear by Louise McCready, in her gourmet.com article titled Recession Flexitarians.

According to the article, “Fifty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the American Meat Institute say they have changed their meat purchasing relative to the economy. Despite the recent increase in home cooking, the average family only prepares 3.9 evening meals that include a meat item, down from 4.2 meals last year.

Andrew Gottschalk, an independent analyst at the agribusiness market-research website HedgersEdge.com, reports total beef demand is down 7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008—the equivalent of the entire metropolitan area of Atlanta becoming vegetarian. And farmers across the nation, anticipating continued low demand, are planning to cut their production of beef, pork, poultry, and milk, along with corn, wheat, rice, and peanuts.”

This is a great trend, in my opinion! Even though it might have been caused as a reaction to the recession, it’s great that average Americans finally are eating less meat, and now they know there are many other choices than meat, that are healthier and tastier, let alone cheaper.

As a native Japanese, I’ve noticed that typically people in the US eat twice as much meat, and half the amount of vegetables, compared with those in Japan. If you compare the same type of recipes, it’s quite obvious why.

Watch a cooking show – it’s all meat and carb dishes in the US, whereas in Japan, it’s mainly vegetable based dishes with a bit of meat (or of course, fish and rice).

That’s probably reflected in the obesity rates in the US vs. Japan. (30% vs. 3%). The good news is now Americans too are learning to "stretch meat" by adding minced veggies in burgers, etc., which force people to eat more plant-based food!  And by adding more flavors, people tend feel satisfied faster with less food, compared with just a large piece of meat with a single flavor.

This will be huge! I really believe those who change their eating habits to "less meat and a more plant-based diet" will be become healthier and thinner.

This shift is really important for baby-boomers. At least in the US, you can’t quite rely on Medical Insurance to take care of you when something happens, so each one of us need to be fully responsible to make the necessary changes to prevent any health crisis.

And the biggest benefit is for kids who start eating this way, thanks to the parents’ wise decision to change their eating habits so they will not have to worry about obesity.

I hope you will join this healthy trend, by tweaking your recipes to include more vegetables, and stretch your dollar and dinner, and extend your life span.

Have you joined this trend?  If so, how? 

No? Why?  Are you planning to in the future?

I’d love to hear your opinions. : )

How to eat more vegetables, easily Part 2: Provencal Stuffed Vegetables

stuffed veggies

Here’s the recipe for Provencal stuffed vegetables I promised to you last time…

The version we had in Nice was stuffed with ground veal, but since our objective here is to increase the vegetable intake, may I suggest you make the stuffing with sautéed mirepoix.  If you’ve been reading my blog and implementing the tips, you might already have some in your fridge or freezer! With that on hand, it’ll make things so much easier!

The best thing about this is it’s very versatile – meaning you can use things you find in your fridge or freezer and end up with a delicious dish.

For the delicate flavor of squash blossoms, I like the mixture of rice, chicken sausage, grated cheese or ricotta cheese, lemon zest and parsley. The other vegetables have a more assertive flavor, so you can stuff with couscous, breadcrumbs, cheeses, ground meat, cheeses, chopped nuts, pesto…

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed mirepoix or sautéed mirepoix and meat mixture
  • Seasonal vegetables of your choice: Here I used tomato, zucchini, squash blossom, eggplant and yellow pepper.
  • Cooked meat, cheese, chopped nuts, herb for flavor
  • Rice, breadcrumbs, couscous etc.
  • Beaten egg

Directions:

  1. Combine rice, sautéed mirepoix, meat, etc. and egg.  Season and mix well.
  2. Cut vegetables in half and scoop out the seeds. If large, slice in 1/4” thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper and drizzle inside with a little olive oil. If using squash blossoms, remove the stems and stamens, just rinse it gently with water and pat dry.
  3. Chop tomato and zucchini seeds (if small), and add to the mixture.
  4. Stuff the vegetables with mirepoix mixture. Optional: Sprinkle with grated cheeses.
  5. Bake at 400F or pan fry both side – stuffed side first on a non-stick skillet, until the top is golden brown and cooked through.

Tip: It’s really fun and easy to make different stuffing and compare. These veggies on the photos have 5 different combinations, all with sautéed mirepoix with chicken sausage.  (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo before I fried them.)

  • pepper: couscous, pesto, ricotta.
  • zucchini: tomato flesh, pecorino Romano
  • Squash blossom: as above with ricotta
  • tomato: zucchini flesh, rice, pecorino Romano,  pesto
  • eggplant: panko, lots of pecorino Romano

If you made too much stuffing, make it into small balls, fry/bake them as a snack!  It’s a cook’s treat.

Squash blossoms are easy to grow at home. Given that they are really expensive (50c per withered flower) and hard to find, I grow them just for the flowers.

In my next post, I’ll share the a little more about this summer delicacy, and the tips on how to keep them fresh longer… So stay tuned.

Zucchini Flower on Foodista

Need a break from cooking from time to time – even after your Mother’s Day break?

Even moms that love to cook sometimes need a break. They get their wish come true on Mother’s day – Daddy and/or Children take her out for brunch, or even better, make a home-cooked meal!  Nice!

How many of you actually would like to have a break like that more often?

Even if your husband or child is not an avid cook – you can do it.  And it actually tastes good!

By saving some basic things you cooked previously, things like various sautéed vegetables, vegetable and meat mixtures etc. and give them some written instructions, your sous-chef of the house will be able to assemble dinner when you are away, busy or you need a break!  Look under “batch and fridge” or “batch and freeze” categories for ideas for food to keep on hand, and what you can do with them.

Here’s an easy freezable French toast trick I found in a Japanese cooking magazine. You can make extra, eat some and freeze the rest to have your family bring to your bedside from time to time.

Freezable French Toast

  1. Slice French bread in 1” thick pieces.  In a flat container with sides, place all of them cut side down.
  2. For 8 oz French bread, mix 2 eggs,  2-4 TBS sugar, 1 C milk, a little bit of vanilla essence or cinnamon, and pour it all over the bread.  Let the bread soak up the egg mixture completely (5-10 min), turning it once. 
  3. For portions that will be frozen: Wrap individual portion with plastic wrap, with cut side down (if 2 or more, make sure it’s wrapped side by side).  Put them on the cookie sheet (with side, in case of the leakage), and freeze.
  4. For when you have your family do it for you: : )  When you are ready to eat, remove the plastic wrap, melt 1-2 ts butter in a skillet at low heat. Place frozen French Toast and cook for 4-5 minutes with lid on. When it’s golden brown on the bottom, flip them, place lid again, and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Serve hot with maple syrup.

We didn’t have any French bread, nor maple syrup, so made it with ciabatta, ate it as it is without syrup, and it was chewy, yet moist and delicious!

So go ahead and make some this weekend, and have the frozen version ready to go for your family to treat you to breakfast in bed later.

So what do you do with leftover egg mix in the container?  How about making an easy dessert? 

Stay tuned for the bread pudding recipe…  Click “Subscribe to ‘Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard’ by Email” above the calendar, so that you won’t miss it!

 

 

 

Less than 5: Fennel and Cucumber Coleslaw

Fennel and cucumber coleslaw

Fennel and cucumber coleslaw

This is a great summer salad, inspired by coleslaw that accompanied a salmon sandwich I had in this chic-chic sandwich place in downtown San Francisco. 

It’s a snap to make if you have a mandolin, slicer or food processor.  If not, use vegetable peeler. Fennel is really fibrous when raw, so make sure to slice it paper thin.

Fennel and Cucumber Salad

  1. Slice about equal amount of fennel and cucumber as thin as possible.  Paper thin is ideal. Cut them in about 2” pieces.  (I used half bulb of fennel and 1/3 of English cucumber.) Mix a little salt and drain water from vegetables.
  2. Slice about 1/2 of lemon. Cut them in smaller pieces.
  3. Add mayonnaise, dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, more lemon juice if desired. If you are using miracle whip, do not add sugar.  Mix well.
  4. (Optional) Cut some fronds of fennel leaves and mix.

Tips:

  • If your slicer cannot make paper-thin strips, try daikon radishes in stead of fennel, and slice both daikon and cucumbers in thin strips.  Use a little bit of mustard instead of sugar. It tastes different, but it’s great, especially with canned, shredded scallops.
  • You can add boiled, chopped seafood, such as scallop or shrimp.
  • If you plan to eat this in sandwich, make sure to squeeze out water well.
  • Leftover fennel can be sliced (1/4- 1/2 inches), grilled, or blanched for salad or braised dish.
  • Save the fennel stalks for making fish stock later.

Batch and Fridge: Whipped Up Sweet Potato Pudding

Sweet Potato Pudding

Sweet Potato Pudding

Would you like a dessert recipe for weeknight that you can whip up in about 20 minutes while you are eating dinner or doing dishes, largely unattended?

I thought so.  Especially if you can use some pre-cooked left over ingredient from dinner. (Don’t worry, I won’t use anything savory.) Once of very few sweets I actually make and eat is flan.  I love sweet potato version more than regular egg and cream version.  It’s healthier too.

What you need is grilled or steamed sweet potatoes left over from dinner before. Make sure it’s cooked tender. With these and hand blender, the prep will be done in a minutes.  Then all you have to do is steam and wait for it to set.

Whipped Up Sweet Potato Pudding

  1. Place 2 peeled, cooked sweet potatoes (about 2/3 lbs), equal amount of milk and cream, or half and half, and puree until smooth with stick blender. 
  2. Add 3 TBS sugar, 2 beaten eggs, and a dash of cinnamon. Mix well.
  3. Strain the sweet potato mixture through a small sieve into heat-proof cups. (It’s filling, so use smaller cups.  It also takes less for them to set.)
  4. Steam about 10 – 15 minutes (depending on the size of the cup) until set. Or place cups in a oven-proof pan filled with hot water (to about half of the height of the cups)and bake in toaster-oven (faster) or oven until set.

Optional:

  • Use soy milk if you are watching calories.
  • Decorate with whipped cream on top.
  • If you have extra time, caramelized sugar before pouring in the sweet potato cream will make it even better. (Make sure to apply some butter all over the inside )especially at the bottom first for easier clean-up.
  • You can use the same filling for sweet potato pie. You may want to use more egg or less milk, since this pudding is pretty loose.
  • To be honest, I thought the sweet potato cream before heated was quite tasty…  If you want to just use it as dessert, be my guest. : ) 

So next time you grill, make sure to bake some extra sweet potatoes… You can eat some for dinner, and you now have an easy dessert later in the week!

Kitchen Wizard to a Rescue: Cheese Grits with Langostino and Leeks Dinner

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

Last Friday night a few minutes before 7 pm (the days are lighter these days, so I forget that it’s time to cook dinner), I realized that there’s not much in the fridge.

We’ve been eating up the Kitchen Wizard stuff (or KW for short), and because of the convenience, I don’t have to go grocery shopping as often as I used to. My husband just came back from running starving. And it was Friday, so he would be expecting something nice. (Especially because I declined his suggestion of going out for dinner.) I needed to fix something while he was taking shower.

What am I going to do?

Here’s what I found in our kitchen.

  • Instant Grits
  • Frozen Langostino
  • Serrano Chili
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • KW: English Cucumber (chopped)
  • KW: grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
  • KW: sautéed rounds of zucchini
  • KW: tomato sauce
  • KW: frozen sautéed leeks
  • KW: Vinaigrette

Again, not so exciting…   BUT we’ll see…

15 minutes later, here is what we had on our dinner table… Cheese grits with langostino and leeks,  Zucchini Soup, and Red leaf lettuce salad with cucumbers.

Are you interested in having that for your dinner, at Kitchen Wizard speed?

Here are the recipes.

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

  1. Sautee minced Serrano chili in EVOO. Add leeks, frozen langostino and white wine.  Cook until they are heated through and sauce is reduced a bit.
  2. In the mean time, cook grits, and (optional) mix grated cheese into grits. Serve hot with langostino sauce on top.

Tip: Sauteed leeks are really great for “batch and fridge”-ing or even “batch and freeze”ing.

There are 3 main reasons.

  1. They are often sold as bundle (or cheaper that way), yet has short shelf life.
  2. It takes time to trim, properly clean, and chop, let alone time takes for sautéing.
  3. Leeks add great flavor to many things – soups, stews, tarts, pan-sauces, stuffing, etc.

I didn’t use them much in the past, just because it was such a pain to prepare so I let it spoil.  Now I started to sautee them all at once, I use them all the time!

Zucchini Soup

  1. In a medium pan, add sautéed zucchini, tomato sauce (canned tomato or chopped tomatoes without skin will work too) and chicken broth or water. Heat at medium high. (If your sautéed zucchini doesn’t have any garlic, sauté garlic until golden brown first, then add zucchini and tomatoes.)
  2. Puree the soup, and adjust the seasoning.

Salad

  1. Wash lettuce leaves, tear, and top with chopped cucumbers. Dress with vinaigrette or choice of dressing.

To make the dinner more romantic, add a bit of candle-light and wine – voila!

As you continue with Kitchen Wizardry, you too can whip up a dinner like this in 15 minutes! This is so much easier and more fun, I seriously cannot go back to the old way of cooking!

Please share your success stories!

Leftover Make-over: Base Recipe – Swiss Chard and Potatoes, Part 2

We made Lidia Bastianich’s “Swiss Chard and Potatoes” (click her for the recipe), and there’s still a lot left.

So what to do with the leftover?

It’s time for Leftover Make-over!

  1. Eat as it is
  2. Potato and chard soup: Add some water/broth and puree with immersion blender – (Optional: add other boiled/sautéed vegetables, cream, mustard etc for variation.)
  3. Spanish omelet (photo): Add beaten eggs, S&P. Cook both sides of the egg/potato/chard mix in small non-stick skillet until egg is set and golden brown.
  4. Frittata: Add beaten eggs, S&P. Cook the mixture in an oven-proof skillet, cook one side on the stove, then put the skillet in the oven to finish it up.
  5. Traditional Omelet with potato and swiss chard: cook beaten eggs, S&P in a non-stick skillet. When the eggs are set, add the potato/chard mix on one side. Flip the other side of the egg to cover the veggies.
  6. Gozleme (Turkish Quesadella): Spread the potato/chard mix and feta cheese thinly on Tortilla. Cover with another one and trill both sides.
  7. Quesadilla: Spread the potato/chard mix, and shredded cheeses on Tortilla. Cover with another and grill both sides.
  8. Grilled Pita Sandwich (photo): Spread the potato mixture, and sliced cheese between half cut pita and grill or pan-fry both sides.
  9. Potato and Swiss Chard Curry: Sautee grated ginger, garlic and chopped onions (faster when you use batched sauteed onions).  Add chopped tomatoes, curry powder and spices and cook down a bit. Add Potato and Chard mix and cook until hot.
  10. Potato and Swiss Chard gratin:  Top the vegetables with shredded cheeses and bake.
  11. Come up with your own recipe and share it with us!

Do you feel like a Kitchen Wizard now?