Pumpkin French Toast with Caramelized Apples

At the risk of sounding completely basic, I will admit that I absolutely love pumpkin. Every year, when September rolls around, I’m like:

I even wrote a whole post devoted to all the different things you can do with leftover pumpkin.

This was not one of them but obviously should have been.

And since my other BAE is brunch

I thought why not marry the two?

What about….. PUMPKIN FRENCH TOAST!!

I decided to top it with some caramelized apples because I went apple picking in Caledon last weekend (and by “picking”, I mean stood around directing Colin to get all the high ones) and have about 30 left to use. Plus, isn’t the best way to enjoy fresh, seasonal fruit smothering it in butter and sugar?

For the caramelized apples I used a slightly modified version of this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butt-aaaah
  • 4 apples cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used mostly MacIntosh. Some recipes say to peel them but I enjoy the skins)
  • 2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Next, add apples, brown sugar and spices, stir to blend and sauté until tender (about 10 minutes).

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aww yeah

Now set aside that delicious noise and move on to the toast.

For the French Toast (makes about 8-9 pieces): 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond because I am a weight-conscious yuppie but you could use any variety)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix- use the real sh*t) 450
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp of Pumpkin pie Spice (recipe here)
  • 8 pieces of bread (I used day-old egg bread, similar to Challah)
  • Butter or margarine for the pan
  • Maple Syrup to top

First, pre-heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat (or griddle if ya nasty) and butter that sh*t. Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and Pumpkin Pie Spice in a bowl until well combined. Pour into a shallow dish.

Next, dip the bread into the egg mixture one piece at a time, coating both sides (Tip: use your hand to dip the bread. I initially tried to do it with a spatula and it was a hot mess). Transfer to the skillet and cook until golden brown on one side, then flip to the opposite side and cook until golden brown as well.

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Guys, this smelled SO GOOD. I had to hold myself back while cooking.

Once done, transfer to plate and top with caramelized apples. I also had some leftover toasted hazlenuts because I am basically Martha Stewart so I threw on a few of those as well.

Serve warm with real maple syrup. No Aunt Jemima bid-nass up in here. (I also made some turkey bacon on the side. If you close your eyes really hard it ALMOST tastes like regular bacon.)

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Voila! Oh MAN. Let me tell you,

The only thing missing?

Question of the day: What is your favorite breakfast food? 

Featured post

How To Make The Perfect Grilled Cheese

The ironic thing about my last post (get it? IRON-ic??) was that the majority of you seemed to just breeze right past my laudable domestic accomplishment, and instead focus solely on the photo of the delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

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I can’t say I blame you.

In fact, I was actually pumped you guys asked, since this particular sandwich involved serious time, effort, and months (yes MONTHS) of planning.

Let me start by saying that those of you who found my last post “too domestic” might want to turn back now. Also, this is not your typical, Kraft Singles noise, so you grilled cheese purists also might want to sit this one out.

But if you’ve got an adventurous palate and like eating delicious things, then read on to see how it’s done.

And when it’s finished, I PROMISE you will say:

 

1. The Bread

We used a nice sourdough from BlackBird Baking Co. in Kensington Market here in Toronto:

but  you can really use any artisinal or store-bought variety you want, provided that:

  1.  it’s not too holey (you don’t want to lose any of that sweet, cheesy nectar); and
  2. you don’t slice it too thick (otherwise the cheese won’t melt. Duh)

2. The Cheese

There are times in life when one should exercise restraint. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Feel free to pile on as much cheese as humanly possible. We used a combination of old cheddar, and habanero havarti.

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I briefly considered adding a third cheese, but then I thought

Each cheese needs its moment in the sun. (And by that I mean, in my mouth)

3. The Bacon

Oh yah. I went there.

We fried up some applewood smoked bacon for a little extra flavour and it was DELICIOUS.

4. The Tomatoes

In a rather unconventional move, we added roasted tomatoes to the mix.

We made these guys a while back using a recipe similar to this one,  using beefeater tomatoes from the farmer’s market. After roasting them for 5(!!) hours, were planning to preserve them in olive oil, until we heard that can cause botulism

so we froze them instead.

If this roasting tomato business seems way more effort than it’s worth (trust me, I had that thought too)  then you could always use store-bought sun-dried tomatoes instead.

5. The Spread

We used fresh pesto from Saint Lawrence Market, but again, you could also use store-bought. I honestly never met a pesto I didn’t like.

6. The Assembly

Heat up a heavy pan (we used a cast iron skillet) with a bit of oil. When that’s ready, take the bottom slice of each sandwich, and spread generously with butter (if you’ve made it this far, you’ve given up on being heart-healthy long ago). Set the bread butter-side down on the pan until it is evenly browned.

Make sure you watch carefully. We had a few casualties on this step.

Next, load up the cheese tomatoes, and bacon. We took another unconventional step here and broiled cheesy bread in the toaster oven for a few minutes.

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One the cheese begins to melt, remove from toaster oven.

Then, take the top slices of bread, and spread generously with butter on one side, and pesto on the other. Place butter-side down on the pan.

Once browned, flip over and place pesto-side down on top the sandwich.

Press down gently, and behold the delicious ooey gooey goodness.

If you really wanted to, you could probably do another flip of the whole sandwich on the pan- but ours were melty and delicious enough already.

So There you have it- a deconstructed, pesto and roasted tomato grilled-cheese on artisinal sourdough.

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Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Food Network lately?

We paired ours with tomato basil soup (I can’t remember the brand but we bought it at Loblaws) and some pickles and olives on the side. Perfection.

Like this aerial shot? Ive got mad photog skillz
Like this blurry aerial shot? I should totally be a full-time food blogger

 

Now, for once on my blog I can finally say- you guys should ABSOLUTELY try this one at home. And make one for me too while you’re at it.

Question of the Day: What are your tips for the perfect grilled cheese?

Featured post

A Million and One Things To Do With Leftover Pumpkin

I was deep in the middle of my Saturday morning routine (painting my nails and watching PRV’d weight loss shows), when my boyfriend announced he wanted to make pumpkin muffins.

“Great!”I said, “Love pumpkin muffins!”

“Want to help?” he asked

My immediate reaction was:

 

…but, in an effort to be more domestic, I decided to bite the bullet. Plus, he has  been watching a lot of Pioneer Woman lately, and I’m starting to develop a bit of a complex.

Damnit, Ree Drummond! Stop making the rest of us look bad!

“Sure” I responded, Tis the season right?

Since canned pumpkin just “wouldn’t do”, step 1 was  heading to the market to pick up an actual, real-life pumpkin. There, I entertained myself by taking autumnal instagrams

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while my boyfriend agonized over the perfect gourd. Since they were all $2, we ended up walking away with the biggest pumpkin we could find. Literally, it was like, country fair-winning, radioactive isotope variety.

It could happen.

With the help of a wheelbarrow, some patience, and a LOT of complaining on my part, we eventually got the beast home and set about de-gutting the thing.

“You want to do the honors?” he asked me

In my head, I was like:

But deep down I knew that the Pioneer Woman wouldn’t be afraid of a few pumpkin guts. She’d get her strong, ranch hands in there and tear those guts out with her award-winning southern smile. So, I got myself a rubber glove, and was like:

Suffice to say, it was not pretty- but in the end, we got the thing cleaned out, and used the pumpkin flesh to whip up these delicious muffins:

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Only problem was, even after making the muffins, we still had about 98% of the mutant pumpkin left.

“So, what are we going to do with the rest?” he asked “We can’t just throw it out”

Both my patience and will to live were severely compromised at this point, but instead of getting down, I thought to myself: WWRDD – What Would Ree Drummond Do?  B*tch would get in there and whip up some more delicious pumpkin specialties.

“Of course we won’t throw it out!” I choked, “let me Google some ideas!”

I found a website devoted to “50 things you can do with leftover pumpkin” and my mind was literally blown. Up until that point, my experience with pumpkin was  limited to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte, if I was feeling frisky. This website had everything from pumpkin risotto, to pumpkin flavored margaritas.

I found a recipe for lamb and pumpkin stew that sounded delicious, and decided to attempt it. Guess what? It turned out AMAZING.

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Next, I roasted the pumpkin seeds with some olive oil, smoked paprika and cumin:

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But despite these two further recipes, we had still barely made a dent in the pumpkin. I knew I had to take drastic measures, so I decided to roast the remaining pumpkin and make pumpkin puree.

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At this point, I was starting to get really into it.  I had become obsessed with using every last inch of the pumpkin – even the peel. My boyfriend looked at me with shock and awe as I peeled off the skin of the roasted pumpkin for later use.

“It’s for facials,”  I said, “Did you know pumpkin is amazing for your skin?”

“I think I’ve created a monster,” he replied.

With the pumpkin sufficiently disposed of, the only question remaining was: what to do with all of this damn pumpkin puree?

Um.. smoothies obviously!

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I started with this pumpkin pie smoothie recipe and it was damn delicious.

Ree Drummond better recognize!!
Ree Drummond better recognize!!

Things were going so well, I decided to try another smoothie- this time a “Green” variety. This one included pumpkin, spinach, frozen banana and almond milk.

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Uhhhh… guys- do not try this one at  home.

When I told my best friend about all of this, she couldn’t believe my domestic prowess, and challenged me to use the leftover pumpkin for her birthday cake.

Even though I had never baked a cake in my entire life , I’m not one to back down from a challenge- so I got my apron on and set to work.

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I won’t lie that the process was a little touch and go….

 

But with a LOT of help from my boyfriend, we did it:

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A three-tiered, pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting:

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The cake was a big hit at the party (mostly because I forced everyone to eat it while repeatedly yelling “Can you believe it?? I MADE that sh*t!!” in their faces) – and thankfully I have used up most of the remaining pumpkin (I was seriously starting to worry I was going to turn orange there for a while).

Do I have a future in food blogging? Probably not- but I’d still like to think I could give the Pioneer Woman a run for her money.

Question of the Day: What is the most ambitious thing you’ve ever cooked?

Featured post

5 Hipster Food Terms Deconstructed

If there’s one thing we humans have in common, it’s that we all gotta eat.

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And since I have yet to master the art of cooking anything beyond a can of soup and the occasional Toaster Strudel, for me this means eating out. A lot.

Seriously. It's that bad.
Seriously. It’s that bad.

Lately, I’ve  been noticing some strange menu items on my pilgrimage across the many hipster bistros, brasseries and gastro-pubs of this fair city. Obscure ingredients, pretentious food-related adjectives, you name it.  So much so that I have often had to consult Google, and on more than one occasion have been reduced to simply pointing at dishes I dare not pronounce.

This, my friends, is embarrassing. And extremely damaging to my hipster cred. So to save the same fate from befalling you, I thought I’d share with you all a few hipster menu items I have successfully decoded.

1. “Heirloom” Tomatoes

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While I have since come to love these multi-coloured, misshapen delights, the first time I saw “heirloom tomatoes” on a menu, I had a number of questions. Like:

  1. Who keeps a vegetable (fruit?) as an heirloom?
  2. Won’t it go bad?
  3. Were these tomatoes bequeathed to the chef personally? Or were they purchased at auction? (and if the latter, why haven’t I seen a TLC show about this yet?)

…. And, most importantly:

4. How much is this sh*t gonna cost me?

My fears of mouldy $300 tomatoes, were, however, dissuaded by a quick Google search, which informed me that heirloom fruits or vegetables are actually old varieties of plants that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture today. The seeds of heirloom tomatoes, in particular, have been passed down through generations due to their distinct color and sweeter taste.

Huh. Who knew?

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2. “Massaged Kale”

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When I’m too lazy to make my own lunch (aka: every day) there’s this yuppie salad place in my office building I sometimes like to go to. It’s one of those Organic/Wheatless/Meatless deals, where everything on the menu somehow involves Tempeh or Quinoa, and the motto is “Substitutions Welcome!”

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Anyway, recently, they introduced a new $14  “seasonal hot box” which featured “Marinated Sesame tofu, served over a bed of massaged kale”.

Uhh.. massaged what now?

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Apparently, however,  kneading kale in your hands for a few minutes prior to preparation helps the tough cellulose structure break down, which turns the coarse, hard leaves soft and silky (and easier to eat without breaking a tooth). The pronounced bitterness also mellows, and the kale reveals some sweeter flavours.

Man, no wonder this place is so expensive.  They have to pay some mustachioed hipster just to stand out back and rub kale leaves all day! (I picture him listening to Bon Iver while he does it. He might even close his eyes).  Oh well, that sh*t is delicious so I guess what I really mean is, massage on hipster gentleman – massage on.

3. “Artisan” Bread

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about/have eaten “Artisan Bread” recently.

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The image of a young minstrel in medieval attire springs to mind; whipping up loaves of designer ciabatta in one hand; strumming a lute with the other.

As it turns out,  “artisan” is really just a fancy word to describe bread that is crafted, rather than mass-produced. In theory, artisan bread differs from prepackaged supermarket loaves in its lack of preservatives, fresher ingredients, and a special attention to detail.

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Given the number and variety of places offering these loaves, however, I’m guessing this definition hasn’t been strictly adhered to.  ‘Cause while I’m sure your local Subway Sandwich artist likes to think of him/herself as an “artisan”, I have my doubts.

4. “Craft” Beer

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The first time I saw the word “Craft” on a beer menu, I didn’t think much besides:

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But as I started hearing it referenced more and more in popular culture, my interest was piqued.

Craft beer, or “microbrew” as it’s sometimes called, is any beer with a distinctive flavor, produced in small quantities and distributed in a particular region. (Generally by bearded,-plaid shirt wearing men who also specialize in witty Facebook statuses, amateur furniture making and liking everything “before it was cool”)

Ok so I can’t back that last part up. But it’s probably true.

 5. “Deconstructed” Anything

Recently, I attended a work dinner where the dessert course was a “Deconstructed S’More“. This consisted of an “organic graham cracker”, “house-made marshmallow” and a block of semi-melted Valrhona chocolate.

While it was delicious, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I mean, isn’t the whole point of a s’more, it’s entire essence, in its construction?  That ooey-gooey, sticky handed goodness?

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Alas- I’m going to have to deal, because deconstruction- the idea of breaking apart ingredients traditionally combined together to make a dish, and serving them separately in a unique way- is a trend I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately.

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Deconstructed cakes, deconstructed sandwiches, you name it.  Someday soon I fully expect to be buttering a plate of yeast and enriched flour and calling it “deconstructed breadrolls”.

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Mark my words.

Question of the Day: What Hipster and/or Pretentious Food Trends have you noticed lately?

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If you Can’t Take the Heat…. Well, you should probably just get out of the kitchen anyway.

So after admitting to all 3 people who read this blog last week that my go-to meals on weeknights include either (a) cereal or (b) something you can unwrap and put in the microwave,  I decided it was probably time to get my act together. So I went grocery shopping on Saturday and picked up  some fresh salmon, veggies, and all the ingredients for a rice pilaf with the intention of making a lovely, romantic dinner for one on Sunday night.

But you know what they say about good intentions. Hell is papier mached with them… or something like that. Sunday came along, and after indulging in a few too many diet cokes the night before, I had no desire to cook whatsoever. But as I lied semi-comatose on the couch watching a marathon of Millionaire Matchmaker, my guilt about the $85 dime-sized piece of salmon sitting in my fridge (effing inland province) just kept increasing. I could almost hear it taunting me from the fridge…  “coook meeeee BreezyK” It said. “Coat me with your sweet sweet marinade and have your way with me”. It eventually got so bad that I couldn’t even focus on Patti’s sage advice (the penis DOES do the picking) so I pulled myself together and prepared to get my Rachel Ray on.

Slowly but surely, I preheated the oven, marinated the salmon and chopped up some vegetables… by all accounts, things were moving along. Granted, the only similarities between me and Rachel Ray were a muffin top and an incredibly annoying voice… but you take what you can get. The last step involved boiling some water for the pilaf. And this my friends, is where I made a grave, tactical error.  After nonchalantly flipping on the burner, I proceeded to immediately become distracted by the Disney movie Prom that had just come on the movie network. I know. I can’t  even handle how cool I am either. So engrossed was I in the fact that all of the prom decorations had just been destroyed in a random act of vandalism (what was Nova going to DO??) that it took a good few minutes before I noticed a funky smell emanating from the kitchen. Hmm… That smells like………. plastic, I thought. I looked up from my place on the couch to see that the room was slowly beginning to fill with a black, putrid smoke. I ran over to the stove to investigate and discovered that ( DUN DUN DUN…..) I had turned on the wrong element.

Yeah. This happened.

There sat my pot of water, undisturbed and cool as a cucumber on the front element… while on the back burner, what was once a plastic-handled steak knife, now sat a soupy mess of black plastic.  Immediately I rushed for an oven mit to scoop it up.. but it sort of felt like I was trying to pick up a melted marshmallow. (Cause I do that all the time) Just as I got hold of the remaining exoskeleton, the smoke alarm began to ring. And ring. And ring. I quickly opened my patio door and threw the remnants of the knife onto the cold concrete, next deciding what to do about the smoke alarm.

I tried fanning it with a dishtowel- to no avail. Next I took my fan out of my bedroom and positioned it on the floor right underneath it.  But still, the little white dome continued to shriek at an ear-blistering decibel. It would not rest, it seemed, until everyone within a 10 mile radius had been informed of my idiocy. Finally, I decided to open and close the front door of my apartment rapidly, attempting desperately to create some sort of cross-breeze. Of course as soon as I do this, my next door neighbour, who I HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE, decides to come out into the hallway to investigate. “Don’t worry!” I shouted, over the alarm. “There’s no fire! Nothing to see here!” You know, except for these incredibly sexual and glamorous (read: ratty, stained and oversized) pajamas I’m wearing. But whatever.. no time to be sexy. I just needed this death machine to STOP SCREAMING.

Finally, it turned off and I stepped back into my apartment to avail the situation. The thick black smoke still penetrated every corner… and the smell. Oh good god the smell. I would liken it to burning garbage meets a homeless convention. My counters were covered with sticky black tar like substance, and the sulphur lingering in the air had rendered everything that had been sitting out on my counter inedible- including the salmon that I had recently taken out of the oven.

Admitting defeat, I googled the nearest Thai delivery place. Ordering in, at least, was guaranteed not to burn my house down. I enjoyed my lovely MSG laden cashew tofu while watching Nova and Jesse rebuild  the prom decorations- and at the same time, their relationship- and  was making my way to the fridge to put my leftovers away when I felt a waft of heat. That’s right friends. I had left my god damn oven on.

I ‘m starting to think it’s more than culinary ineptness. Maybe I just have a death wish.

Question of the Day: Are you a good cook?

Have you had any misadventures in cooking lately?  

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