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Easy Perfect French Toast

January 6, 2014

   easy french toast

Remember last week when we brought back Sunday lunch? Well, one of the great bonuses to Sunday lunch is that you can serve fancy sugary breakfast foods and no one complains. At our last Sunday Lunch gathering, we ate a lot of salad and fruit, half of a lemon meringue pie, and some scrumptious French toast.

French toast is one of those breakfasts that is a bit deceptive . . . it looks easy when you watch an expert whip it up. But when I first made it a few years ago it turned out soggy and gooey instead of cinnamon-y, crisp, and golden-brown and I began to wonder if I was missing some kind of insider information.

It turns out that I was indeed. A few years and a lot of batches have taught me the tricks of the trade. But I’ll save you the time and provide you with a quick, classic recipe that will carry you safely past any amateur mistakes.

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Fabulous French Toast

A loaf (or half a loaf) of very dense, heavy bread. None of the sandwich bread stuff.

2 tbls butter

1 1/2 cup of milk

1 egg

A sprinkle of cinnamon

A dash of vanilla (1/4 tsp)

REAL old-fashioned maple syrup, like this

Powdered sugar

Thinly sliced strawberries

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Slice the bread into thick slices, about 3/4 inch each. Select a large frying pan or panini pan. Turn the stove on to a medium-low flame and allow the butter to melt and spread over the pan while you whisk the egg, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla together in a bowl. When the pan is warm and the pan surface is thoroughly buttered, douse a piece of sliced bread into the milk-and-egg mixture and place it on the pan. Repeat until the pan surface is covered in bread slices. Turn the flame up to a strong medium.

Sear each side of each bread slice until the bread is a deep golden brown. Arrange on plates and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Top with sliced strawberries.

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For expert tips on your next Sunday Lunch of French Toast, check out the following:

7 Most Common French Toast Mistakes from Bon Appetit

4 Tips from Mountain Mama

And a multitude of varieties from Food52.

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How To Host A Simple Sunday Lunch.

January 3, 2014

   

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Remember that part on the 2014 bucket list about starting a new tradition? One of my goals this year is to start a few. Sunday Lunch is our first foray into Household-Tradition-Setting.

Sunday Lunch is a sacred tradition in the South, where I went to college. When I was in school, after church services, we would pile into cars and head to the house of some kind couple who had taken pity on the poor cafeteria-fed home-starved college students in the congregation and generously opened their doors. If pity and open doors were short that Sunday, we would head to McAlister’s Deli for soup and absurd quantities of sweet tea.

Fast-forward a few years. I moved to D.C. and starting attending a church that only met in the evenings and promptly forgot about Sunday lunches, those glamorous, relaxed affairs that were now only a vague memory. And then suddenly, things changed again. Mark and I found ourselves once again at a morning service. Home by 12:30, we would bask in the luxury of a long Sunday afternoon with no place to be. And suddenly one day it occurred to me. “Sunday Lunch! We can bring it back!”

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And so we squeezed 8 people around our dining room table one Sunday and ate eggs and sausage and mimosas and cupcakes. It’s now officially my favorite way to have people over. It is low-stress because I don’t have time to fret or plan before people show up at our house immediately after church. It is less frantic than dinner because it is the middle of the day and nobody is actually dying of hunger.

It is relaxed because it’s Sunday afternoon and nobody has anywhere else to be. It gives me lots of room to be creative since there aren’t a lot of rules about what one can and can’t eat for a weekend lunch (carrot cake cupcakes, anyone?). Our Sunday lunch have been fun and cozy and full of ridiculous stories and lots of laughter. And now it’s a thing. Sunday Lunch is back.

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Here’s some tips for hosting your own glamorous, relaxed Sunday lunch.

1.The goal of this endeavor is low stress. Relax. Nobody expects your house to be perfect on a weekend. They all know you were at church before lunch, not slaving in the kitchen. Your guests don’t expect a Baked Alaska or some complex homemade pastry. (True story: last weekend I fed my lunch guests half of a leftover lemon meringue pie. It was utterly consumed and nobody complained.)

2. Serve breakfast foods. Sausage, eggs, rolls . . these can be cooked and re-warmed quickly while you’re chatting and distracted. The cooking of eggs and sausage can also be easily delegated.

3. Share the love. Be willing to ask friends to contribute. Your guests will be happy to participate by bringing the fruit or the juice and your life will be easier.

4. Simplicity is the key to success. It’s lunch, not a 7-day feast. Don’t try to create 10 complicated courses. A simple salad, generous fruit, some yummy bread, some version of eggs, and cookies for dessert will set you up for success.

5. Make whatever you can ahead of time. I normally make the dessert on Saturday afternoon or evening. I also try to prepare the salad before we head out the door to church. If you are especially ambitious, cinnamon rolls or coffee-cake can easily be made Saturday evening and re-heated at lunch-time.

6. Delegate. As guests arrive, ask one to scramble the eggs (everyone is better at scrambling eggs than me anyway). Ask someone to set the table and someone else to toss the salad. Everyone will have fun assembling the meal together in the kitchen.

7. If you are limited on space or unless you have a lot of extra help, limit your numbers. Our table size limits us to between 2 and 6 guests in addition to Mark and me. Ask a few friends or two other couples over at a time. The small number of guests will make the atmosphere cozy. The beauty of Sunday Lunch is in the simplicity and ease. If a lot of guests stress you out, don’t feel guilty about limiting your numbers. It’s far better to host 2 people every weekend than to try to host 15 people one week while totally overwhelming yourself out of ever hosting Sunday lunch again.

8. Enjoy the process. At Sunday Lunch, half of the joy is in setting up and cooking together. Enjoy simply being together and don’t worry about rushing . . . . the afternoon is before you!

Be bold. Bring your own Sunday Lunch back. You won’t regret it.

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Here is a list of a few recipes to get you started as you plan your first Sunday lunch:

Craving some more inspiration for new family traditions? Sally Clarkson’s The Life-Giving Home and Dinner: A Love Story are both full of ideas for home traditions.

Curious about how simplicity and celebration can be part of your home? Send me an email! There are few things I love talking about more. 

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Meringue: A Recipe and Some Tips

October 28, 2013

Lemon Meringue Title

It all started Friday afternoon, as I desperately fought the late-afternoon jet lag that threatened to settle over me. In an attempt to ward off sleep for a few more hours, I set out to make a lemon meringue pie.

Just short of a year ago (coincidentally just a few hours before Mark proposed!), I attempted my first lemon meringue pie. The pie was yummy but the meringue was a total failure. Instead of the towering peaks of my imagination, the meringue was mostly flat and dense, with just a hint of a wave.

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Determined to overcome my former flop, I gathered a few recipes, did some preliminary research, and set to work. My first batch of meringue was another total failure. I beat the egg and sugar mixture for what seemed like forever before I realized that the shiny sweet substance in the bowl was definitely not planning on peaking.

Undeterred, I did some more research and then set out again. Folks, I get excited about food a lot. But sometimes I get really really excited when I’m cooking. This was one of those time. My meringue peaked perfectly. The egg and sugar mixture  fluffed and poofed and crested like pretty waves. Hooray for culinary successes!

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I realized something else during this experiment. Meringue is actually so much easier to make than I thought. You just have to use the right technique. Really, a successful meringue is the work of a mere few minutes.  So here’s my recipe and some tips:

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A Happy Meringue

6 egg whites

1/2 tsp. white vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Whip the egg whites in a Kitchen Aid mixer or with a beater for 4-5 minutes on medium-high. The eggs should begin to froth. About halfway through the beating, add the vinegar and salt. Once the eggs begin to form soft peaks (the froth should begin to stiffen and stiff curves should start to form in the mixture), slow the beater down to medium and add the sugar gradually while the beater continues. Add the vanilla. Beat for about 2 more minutes until stiff peaks have formed. Voila! Use the meringue as a delicious, dreamy pie or curd topping.

Some Tips:

  • Separate the egg whites into a bowl while the eggs are cold. Then cover the egg whites and let them warm to room temperature, ideally for several hours before beginning.
  • Don’t stop the beater if possible while adding the vinegar, salt, and sugar.
  • Don’t overbeat. Once the sugar is added, only beat for 1-2 minutes more. The meringue is more dense than it looks!

 

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