Sunday, October 14, 2018

Apple raisin cinnamon French toast casserole

Love French toast but don't have the time to make it in the mornings? Then try this overnight French toast recipe - complete with fresh apples and raisins. This casserole is sweet enough that it doesn't need any maple syrup!

When I visited New York City in August for a friend's surprise birthday party, my friend's husband prepared brunch for us the next day. He served us quite the feast - bacon, fresh fruit and a version of this apple raisin cinnamon French toast casserole.

We appreciated the kind gesture, as everything gave us enough energy to venture into Manhattan and spend a few hours there before the festivities started. I was impressed that my friend's husband was able to make this casserole with two young kids. The trick was that he made it overnight and simply popped it in the oven the next morning.

I decided to recreate a version of this when I returned. My husband usually isn't a fan of French toast because he thinks it's too soggy, but he really enjoyed this version. The recipe below uses a traditional French baguette, and the overnight soak softens the bread just enough so it's soft enough but not mushy.

I really enjoyed this French toast and appreciated that it didn't need any maple syrup. The brown sugar cinnamon soak sweetened the dish enough that no additional syrup was needed. This is a fantastic dish to make for any overnight guests. All you need to do is bake it in the oven the next morning and you're set.

Apple raisin cinnamon French toast casserole
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 loaf French baguette, cut into 1" slices
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Generously grease a 13"x9" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, apples and raisins and toss well, making sure each slice of apple is coated. Transfer this to your prepared pan and spread it out evenly across the bottom of the pan.

Place the bread in a single layer on top of the apple mixture.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon together.  Pour this over the bread, making sure that every single part of each baguette is soaked.

Cover with aluminum foil and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, remove the pan from the refrigerator. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake, covered, for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until the top starts to turn golden brown.

Allow the casserole to stand for another 5-10 minutes before serving.

Leftovers should be stored, covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: One 13"x9" pan; about 8-12 servings

Source: Genius Kitchen

Friday, October 12, 2018

Skating Fridays

Positive Affirmations

I don't know about you, but I do a lot of negative self-talk. Perhaps it was from the environment I was raised in, or the activities that I chose which required perfection (gymnastics, flute, skating, baking!). All of those things combined together formulated my "I can do better" mentality.

Something that I am working on for figure skating is learning to be nicer to myself. Training my mind to think positively and being 'in the moment' has been a long and difficult journey. And I'm not sure if I'll ever make it to the place where everything is puppies and rainbows and my nervousness and anxiousness disappear. But I can try.

A technique that many sports psychologists and self-help books teach is the art of the positive affirmation. It requires you to rewire your brain and turn a negative thought into a positive one.

For example:

  • Negative affirmation: I am horrible at the backspin.
  • Positive affirmation: I enjoy working on the backspin. It will help me with my air position on my jumps.
  • Negative affirmation: I'm not good enough to compete in this group.
  • Positive affirmation: I belong here. I passed all my tests, and my coaches, family and friends all believe in me. I believe in me too.
By flipping the negative affirmation upside down and turning it into a positive one, we can train our minds to be happier. In turn, this should translate as becoming more confident, which should reflect in our skating.

Of course, this technique works for just about anything else so don't limit it to skating.

Do you engage in negative self-talk? If so, how could turning into a positive affirmation help you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Baked spaghetti pie

A wonderful baked spaghetti pie that's loaded with fresh roasted cherry tomatoes and eggplant. This updated twist on a classic spaghetti will be a great rotation to your dinner routine!

My spaghetti game is pretty boring. I am lazy and usually use the jarred tomato sauce and very rarely make my own from scratch. Occasionally, I get "fancy" and add some meatballs. As you can tell, I am not an expert when it comes to spaghetti.

When we received our latest issue of Bon Appetit, my husband noticed this recipe. I liked that there were roasted vegetables in it and that the spaghetti was baked. It was definitely worth a try.

We weren't able to find cherry tomatoes at the store so I used grape tomatoes and they took a little bit longer to roast. The pie came together quite beautifully, and I was thrilled to be able to use the basil from my little indoor plant.

I baked this one lazy weekend and chilled it overnight to serve for the following evening's dinner. All we did was slice it into wedges and reheated it.

This baked spaghetti pie was a wonderful (and welcome) addition to our dinner menu. Addison didn't even really notice the eggplant, which made this a huge win for me.

Baked spaghetti pie
  • 1 medium globe eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for skillet
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 ounces grated parmesan, divided
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup torn basil, plus a few whole leaves
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. In a large ovenproof skillet (preferably a cast iron pan), mix the eggplant and tomatoes together with the olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Roast in your preheated oven for 25-35 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and the tomatoes have blistered. Let the vegetables cool while you prepare the spaghetti and turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.

Cook the spaghetti in a salted pot; then drain (do not rinse). Put the spaghetti back into its original pot. Toss with some olive oil so it doesn't stick together.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, tomato paste and about half of the parmesan. Set aside briefly.

Add the cooled vegetables to the pot of spaghetti and toss. Add the egg mixture and mix well. Add the 1/2 cup of basil.

Clean the cast iron skillet and drizzle with some additional oil. Transfer the spaghetti mixture back to the skillet and flatten the top. Then add the remaining parmesan and additional whole basil leaves.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is browned. Allow the spaghetti to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Leftover spaghetti should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 8 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2018 issue

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pumpkin butterscotch muffins

It's officially fall, which means it's time for pumpkin! And what better way to kick things off than with these fabulous whole wheat pumpkin butterscotch muffins?

Happy Fall! Can you believe that the summer is over already? Now that the weather is starting to cool down and school is in full swing, this only means one thing... BRING ON THE PUMPKIN! Whoo hoo!

I know some bloggers out there started sharing pumpkin recipes in August (!!!), but I decided to wait until it was officially fall to start with my pumpkin baking. This whole wheat pumpkin muffin recipe is full of the traditional fall spices and contains some of my favorite baking chips - butterscotch!

The muffins are soft and fluffy, and the ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice give the muffins an intense, fall flavor. If you want, you can throw in some chocolate chips with the butterscotch morsels for a fun and chocolate-y twist.

I doubled this recipe because I knew it would be a hit with my family, but you can certainly keep the recipe as-is below.

Whole wheat pumpkin butterscotch muffins
  • 1 and 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 package butterscotch morsels
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin puree and applesauce. Mix well. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and gently fold together until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the butterscotch morsels until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, portion out the batter into each well, filling each about 3/4 full. Top with additional butterscotch morsels if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out  clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored, covered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 12 muffins

Source: Adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Friday, October 5, 2018

Skating Fridays

Another Double Salchow Video

Can you tell I'm obsessed with this jump? Ha ha!

Here is a recent double salchow attempt. I've been working diligently to stay tight throughout the jump and particularly on the landing. While I wasn't able to save the landing on this attempt, I did land solidly on the 1/4 mark. If I had a gracious judging panel, they might have given me full credit on the rotation but negative GOE overall. It's progress, so I will take it. And to top things off, my jump coach said that this was my best attempt to date!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

White chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake

A copycat version of a national chain's white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake - so light and fluffy and full of creamy white chocolate and swirls of raspberry!

My sister-in-law was coming to visit us, and I asked her what kind of dessert she wanted me to make. Sadly, she mentioned that she was on some kind of diet, so I got sad. Then she mentioned that she could "cheat" for a few days so my eyes perked up again.

When I asked my husband what I should bake for his sister, he told me that she has always been a big cheesecake fan. I know she loves pumpkin cheesecake, but I am aware that my husband doesn't. So, I dug deep into my memory and remembered that one of my favorite cheesecakes from a national restaurant chain was their white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake. I've already made Patty's white chocolate cheesecake for her and her family many times, so adding a raspberry swirl into it would be a logical next step.

I made a new cheesecake recipe and was weary about the technique - it had a LOT of butter in the crust, a layer of non-melted white chocolate, a liquid raspberry "sauce" that was more water-like, and a strange baking temperature (475 for 12 minutes and then down to 350 for another 50-ish minutes). Nevertheless, I tried it, and the resulting cheesecake was an epic fail. Butter overflowed beyond the lip of my cheesecake pan and made a large puddle on the bottom of the oven, which caused my house to smoke up, so we had to open all the windows. The white chocolate part burned and tasted horrible, and the top of the cheesecake was crisp and gross. There was nothing good about the cheesecake.

I had to redeem myself, and do it quickly. The next week, I went back to my tried and true white chocolate cheesecake and just made a few additions.

Anyway, this cheesecake was HEAVENLY. And it cost a lot less than a slice of the same thing at that national restaurant chain (and was way better than the failed version)!

White chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake
  • 16 ounces chocolate cream cookies, crushed
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, optional
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserves, heated in the microwave for about 30 seconds and then stirred
Preheat your oven to 270 degrees F. Line the outside of a 10" springform pan with aluminum foil. Mae sure you wrap it well. Place it on a baking sheet and set aside.

Make the crust: Combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter together in a medium sized bowl. Transfer to your springform pan and press it into the pan and about halfway up the sides. Set aside.

Make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and Greek yogurt together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until everything just comes together. Add in the melted butter and white chocolate until just incorporated. Do not over mix or else your cheesecake may crack.

Add about half of the cheesecake batter on top. Add the raspberry preserves on top and swirl it with a knife. Then add the remaining cheesecake batter on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 90 minutes. Turn the oven off and crack the oven open and allow the cheesecake to sit in the oven for another 30 minutes. Then remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool on the countertop. Then transfer to your refrigerator and allow to cool overnight.

Once the cheesecake is completely cool, slice and serve. Feel free to garnish with whipped cream, shaved white chocolate, additional raspberry sauce (if you saved some) or chocolate curls. Leftovers should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 10" cheesecake; about 8-12 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Patty's White Chocolate Cheesecake


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