French Toast with Fresh Fruit

This family favorite is a weekend morning treat after a week of eating muesli. Although French toast made with half-and-half is rich and sublime, this lower fat version, made with 1% milk is really good. Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and piled high with fresh peaches and strawberries with a hint of maple syrup, it makes a satisfying breakfast.

Serves 3:

3 large eggs
¼ cup 1% milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Several shakes of nutmeg
8 slices of raisin bread
About 1 tsp butter
1 large peach
6 large strawberries
3 Tb maple syrup

 

Whip eggs with milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat a nonstick frying pan and move butter stick across it until it is coated with butter (about 1 tsp). Dip slices of raisin bread into the egg mixture so it begins to saturate the bread but not make it soggy. Place bread in the pan and fry over medium heat a few minutes until it turns light brown, then flip and fry again.

Serve with fresh cut peaches, strawberries or what’s in season. You can heat frozen fruit and serve as well. I like to spread the fruit on a plate and pour about 3 Tb of maple syrup over the fruit, then microwave for a minute. No need to add extra syrup to the French toast.

Vatrushka

These cheese-filled, sour cream dough pastries were one of my favorite treats as a child. I can eat these for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or as an appetizer. My mom, Sarah, baked hundreds of these as hors d’œuvre for our wedding. Now my kids and husband gobble them up as fast as I can make them.

We use the same filling as for Blintzes.  I changed mom’s recipe by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour she used, and mixing nonfat ricotta cheese with the farmer’s cheese to cut down on the fat. But I still top them with a bit of sour cream. The fresh strawberries I placed on top add just the right amount of sweet juiciness to balance the filling.

I got a  kick out of the comments or rather criticisms I got on this blog entry. Russians have got to be the most opinionated people on the planet! (I should know, being half-Russian myself).

makes several dozen, depending on the size

Dough for Vatrushka
1 cube butter, softened to room temperature
5 Tb sour cream
1 large egg
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and egg and beat well. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Knead on a floured board about 12 times, until it is no longer sticky. Roll into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for ½ an hour. Prepare the filling while the dough is chilling.

Cheese filling
1 1/2  cups farmer’s cheese
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
2 eggs
¼ tsp salt
1/2  tsp sugar

Mix ingredients together in an electric mixer until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350◦

Roll out the dough on a floured board until thin, and cut with a round biscuit cutter. For larger pastries, I made little balls and roll them out into circle shapes. The circles don’t have to be perfect as long as they can fold into a half-moon shape. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle, and fold it over into a half-moon shape.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have any parchment paper, spray the pan with canola oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦

Serve topped with sour cream and fresh strawberries.


Cheese Soufflé

I make this for Easter brunch and serve it with bunny biscuits (Light as a feather cream biscuits cut into bunny shapes with a cookie cutter).

My mom used to make this soufflé for dinner back in the day. I added some suggestions I found in my favorite cookbook, Joy of cooking

The key to this dish is timing. The soufflé must be served immediately or it will fall. Bake the bunny biscuits ahead of the soufflé, (wrap them in a dishtowel to keep warm), raise the temperature to 475′. then pop the soufflé into the oven so it will be ready to serve when the guests sit down.

Don’t pour the soufflé more than 1 inch from the top of the pan, or it will not cook thoroughly and spill over the top (I can tell you from experience!)

Serves 6

Nonstick spray

6 Tb butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese

1 large shallot

10 crimini mushrooms, well

6 Tb flour

¼  teaspoon salt

grind of black pepper

one shake of cayenne

1 shake of nutmeg

1 ½  cups milk (I use 1% to make up for all that butter!)

6 large eggs

a few shakes paprika

Preheat oven to 475’

Spray a round 8” by 3” straight-sided casserole dish (2.5 liters or 10 cups) with non-stick spray.

Grate cheddar and Parmesan cheese and set aside.

Mince a large shallot to make 2 Tb. Cut off stem ends of mushrooms and cut into quarters.

Heat 1 Tb butter in a heavy pan and cook shallots and mushrooms over medium heat until softened.

Make Béchamel (bay-shah-MEHL) sauce: Melt 5 Tb butter in a medium pot. Whisk in flour and salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and black pepper. Add milk and whisk well until thickened. Stir in cheese. Let cool.

While Béchamel sauce is cooling, separate eggs, pouring whites into a mixer bowl.  Whip egg whites until stiff glossy peaks form.

Whisk egg yolks well, then slowly whisk into the cooled Béchamel sauce. Pour soufflé base into a large bowl.

Stir a couple of tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the soufflé base to lighten it. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites by dividing the soufflé in half with a large serving spoon or plastic spatula, and folding one half over the other, repeating several times until the whites are incorporated.

Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika.

Run your thumb along the top inside of the casserole dish, making a 1” groove into the soufflé . This will help the soufflé to rise evenly.

Place on a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 475’. Lower heat to 400’ and bake for 20 more minutes. The soufflé should rise 3- 4” above the top of the casserole and have a golden crust. It should feel firm with only a slightly wobbly middle. Serve immediately.

What to do with all those eggshells? Dye them and stuff them with confetti, then glue pieces of colored streamers or tissue paper over the broken tops . You now have cascarones! When they’re dry on Easter afternoon, crush the eggshell over your loved one’s head and they will have confetti in their hair. But watch out, they may get you back!

Spinach Over Easy

Fresh spinach leaves fried with eggs over easy. Fresh chives add flavor to this easy breakfast treat.

Serves 2

4 chives, chopped

about ½ tsp butter

4 large eggs

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, stems removed

1 Tb feta cheese (optional)

I warm the eggs in hot tap water so the yolks won’t be cold in eggs over easy. Fill a large bowl with hot tap water. Place eggs in the water to warm them while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Pick through spinach leaves, removing stems. Chop the chives. Heat a nonstick skillet. Rub a butter stick over the hot pan until it is coated with about ¼ tsp butter. Lower heat to medium. Add chives and sauté for a minute. Crack eggs into pan, add spinach, and crumbled feta, if using. Cook for about a minute, then gently turn eggs over and making sure spinach wilts. Cook another minute, or until whites are mostly cooked and yolks are mostly loose. Serve with toast on the side.