Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bagels with Lox and Cream Cheese



This is a super easy breakfast or lunch and a great crowd pleaser.  It's nice because you can serve this buffet style with all the fixings and let everyone prepare their bagels to their liking.  If you don't want to go to the extreme of making homemade Gravlax you can typically find lox next to the meat and seafood department in your grocery store.


Bagels
Cream cheese
Red onion, sliced thin
Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
Gravlax AKA Lox or smoked salmon, sliced thin
Black Pepper
Capers
Caper and parsley cream cheese spread (recipe to follow) (optional)
Dilled cucumbers (optional)

Slice the bagels down the middle.  Toast the bagels slightly on each side...not too toasted because you want them still soft on the inside.  Spread the cream cheese on top of your bagel slice to your liking. I like about 1.5 - 2 TBSP per bagel side. Add slices of smoked salmon or lox gets piled on top of the cream cheese.  Top with a combination of tomato, onion and dilled cucumber slices if you so desire. Grind fresh pepper on top and then sprinkle with capers if you like them.




Caper and Parsley Cream Cheese Spread:

3/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Make a spread by placing the cream cheese, capers, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mix to combine. 

Dilled Cucumbers:

1 cucumber, peeled, split lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Seven-Chile Texas Chili





Here's another one of Lisa Fain's recipes from her cookbook and blog, "The Homesick Texan."  Lisa's cookbook was recently published and would make excellent Christmas gifts for all of the foodies in your life.  


I love everything that goes into preparing food.  Starting with researching recipes, to searching out all the funky ingredients, to the final result...enjoying the home-cooked meal with our family and friends.  


Now that the temperatures are cooler here in Dallas I couldn't wait to try a new chili recipe.  I came across  Lisa's recipe and knew this was the one to try.  Her pictures are so inviting and the ingredients are very different from the chili I usually make, it greatly intrigued me.  My search for ingredients began at Whole Foods, then Tom Thumb, then Central Market, then Fiesta.  Finally I found all the dried chiles I needed at a little Mexican market on Greenville Avenue called La Michoacana Meat Market, which is a family owned business and has locations all over Texas in most big cities.  I did find the Mexican hot chocolate at Central Market and couldn't believe the different varieties, from coffee, to jalapeno, to vanilla flavors and more.  The following morning I brewed up a nice pot of coffee on a crisp and cool, fall day, perfect for cooking up a big, piping-hot, pot of chili.  In my research I've learned that true Texas chili doesn't have beans in it, which I always like beans in my chili, but this was a recipe I wanted to follow to the "T."  I did heat up some chili beans to have on the side if anyone opted for them.  The house smelled amazing with all of the combinations of spices and chili peppers.  It was hard to wait the full five plus hours to eat, although, it was well worth the wait!  


To me, this is a very sophisticated version of chili.  I really liked the thought of steeping the dried chiles and ultimately pureeing them instead of using chili powder at all.  The smokiness from the dried chipotle was nice and subtle.  Sometimes I find canned chipotles in adobo sauce to be too overpowering with their smokey flavor.  I did add a couple of cups of beef broth to help tone down the spiciness a bit.  Also, I shredded my meat towards the end with two forks, so as to not have such big chunks of meat, which some people prefer.  I served our chili with Fritos, saltine crackers, chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro to garnish.  I was very pleased with how the chili turned out, although so different from mine, I didn't miss the tomatoes or the beans at all.  The variety of chiles added such a wonderful combination of flavors and nice texture.  It was a huge hit with the family.  We made chili dogs with the leftovers the next day, which are a good sinful treat every so often.  


Right about the time dinner was to be served, UPS delivered a package from Amazon with David's name on it and he handed it over to me and said, "This is for you."  Much to my delight it was Lisa's cookbook that he had ordered a week prior, not knowing I was making her chili or much less even thinking about it.  What great timing that was!  Nicely done, my Love!  AND the added bonus was that Lisa was going to be having a book singing the very next day at a store 5 minutes from my house.  It was a pleasure to meet Lisa and her family.  Congratulations again, Lisa to all of your success!  I look forward to the next cookbook and experimenting with many more of your recipes!  =)

6 dried ancho chiles
2 dried pasilla chiles
2 dried guajillos chiles
2 dried chipotle chiles

4 dried chiles de arbol
4 pieces of bacon
4 lbs of chuck roast, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 large onion diced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of brewed coffee
1 bottle of beer (preferably Shiner Bock or a Mexican brand such as Negro Modelo)
3 cups of water
1 TBSP ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp Mexican hot chocolate tablet, grated

1 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 dried pequin chiles

1/4 cup masa harina
Grated cheddar cheese, lime wedges and chopped onion, for serving

Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chiles.  In a dry skillet heated on high, toast  the ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, guajillo chiles, chipotle chiles, and chiles de arbol on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they star to puff.  Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chiles.  Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, fry up the bacon. When it's done, remove from pan and drain on a paper-towel lined plate.  Leave the bacon grease in the pot, and on medium heat, cook the beef on each side until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  (You may have to do this in batches.)

Remove the browned beef from the pot.  Leaving the heat on, add the diced onions to the pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add the beef back in the pot, crumble in the bacon, and add the coffee, beer, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, clove, allspice, cayenne, chocolate, 3 cups of water, and salt. Turn the heat up to high.

While the pot is coming to a boil, make the chile puree.  Drain and rinse the chiles then place them in a blender along with the pequin chiles (you don't need to presoak these little chiles) and 1 cup of fresh water.  Puree until nice and smooth and then pour the chile puree into the chili pot.

When the chili begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste it once an hour and adjust seasonings. If it starts to get too dry, add more water.  After 5 hours, scoop out 1/4 cup of broth out of the pot and combine with the  masa harina.  Pour the masa harina mixture into the pot and stir until the chili is thickened.  Let the chili simmer for another 30 minutes or so. When done, serve with cheddar, lime wedges, onions and tortillas.

Note: If you can't find all of these chiles, I would just use the more readily available anchos and chipotles. I'd use 6-8 anchos, following the same soaking and pureeing method, and two chipotles.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Braised Short Ribs, Stout and Potato Potpies


Short ribs slow-cooked in Guinness make up the filling of this delectable, Irish meat pie, while crisped potatoes form the crust on top.  Or, you can top with mashed potatoes to make a Shepard's pie.  Both are really good and worth the time this takes to prepare...a perfect project for a fall, weekend day.  As a side note, when making again, I would use more potato slices to top the pie than pictured above.


Makes eight mini potpies or one 12-inch potpie.





This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Living Magazine.


For The Filling:

5 - 6 lbs bone-in short ribs
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 TBSP safflower oil
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bottles (12 ounces) stout, preferably Guinness (3 cups)
4 rosemary sprigs
1 lb cipollini onions, peeled

8 carrots, sliced
2 packages of McCormick's Brown Gravy


For The Topping:

6 medium russet potatoes (3 1/2 pounds)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the filling: 



Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Dredge short ribs in flour, coating all sides. Transfer to a large plate. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Working in batches, brown short ribs, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a large plate using kitchen tongs.

Reduce heat to medium. Add yellow onion to Dutch oven, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Return meat to Dutch oven. Add stout and rosemary. Bring to a simmer. Cover, and transfer to oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours.

Remove Dutch oven from oven, and add cipollini onions and carrots. Braise until meat is tender and onions are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Shred meat using 2 forks, saving the sauce to make a gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Divide filling among eight mini (1-cup) pie plates, or transfer to a 12-inch (8-cup) gratin dish.



Strain the braising sauce and transfer to a saucepan, gradually whisk in the 2 packages of brown gravy.  Stirring frequently, cook on medium heat until gravy comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.  Gravy will thicken upon standing.  Ladle about a 1/4 cup of gravy over each pie.

Make the topping: 



Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees. Peel potatoes, and very thinly slice each (preferably on a mandolin). Arrange potatoes over meat to form tight concentric circles, working around the edge and overlapping each potato by three-quarters. Brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes for mini potpies (1 hour for large potpie).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Migas





I absolutely love cooking breakfast.  I think it's my favorite meal to prepare, especially on the weekends and during summer when all the kids and their friends are here.  To me, there's something so comforting about hearing the sounds of the hash browns, sausage and or bacon sizzling and popping away in their respective skillets.   Of course the coffee is brewing to add to all the fabulous aromas melding together, wafting throughout the house eventually awakening all the sleepy heads.  Having a home cooked breakfast together is a great way to start any day and makes me a very happy and content Mom.  =)


If you're not used to cooking with authentic Mexican chorizo, be aware that it takes awhile to cook and has a very different consistency than bulk sausage like Jimmy Dean's.  I often times substitute the chorizo for Jimmy Dean's Spicy Pork Sausage.  Refried beans would be a good side dish even though this is typically served for breakfast.


Hash brown potatoes (recipe to follow)
1 - 16 oz package chorizo sausage
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
8 corn tortillas, or semi-crushed tortilla chips
vegetable oil
8 eggs beaten
1/4 cup milk or half and half
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
4 green jalapeno peppers. chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup cilantro, chopped
flour tortillas
salsa
pickled jalapenos, sliced




Cut the corn tortillas into thin strips.  Fry tortillas in a small amount of oil until crisp.  Set aside.  Pour oil out of the skillet and add the sausage and onion.  Cook until sausage is brown.  Drain the fat.  Add the peppers, garlic and Worcestershire and saute' for a minute.  Add the hash brown potatoes, mixing well.  Mix the eggs and the milk together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Pour eggs into the skillet with sausage/hash brown mixture.  When the eggs are almost done add the fried tortilla chips and cheese.  Garnish with cilantro.  Serve with warm flour tortillas, salsa and jalapenos.



Hash Brown Potatoes:

2 - 3 large russet potatoes
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning to taste
Pepper to taste

Prick the potato with a fork about half way through and cook in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Let the potatoes cool; dice and peel.  Saute' the potatoes in oil that has been heated in a frying pan.  Cook*, stirring frequently until golden in color.  Season and serve hot.

*If cooking bacon or sausage, we sometimes add a little of the drippings for added flavor.




Sunday, October 9, 2011

Banana Bread


Cassidy and I've been wanting to make banana bread and all of my kids begged me to get Lee Poole's recipe, because we all agree it's the absolute best.  Lee and Bryan are our friends and neighbors and when we're all "porchin' it" together usually the topic of conversation is food.  We love, Lee and Bryan, that you two are fellow foodies and we're always looking forward to hearing about what you guys have conjuring up in the kitchen across the street.  Thank you Lee for sharing another favorite recipe with us. 

PS  I don't know why blogspot puts all of these huge gaps in my posts that I can't fix.  Please try and overlook that and know it's not intentional.

1 - 3/4 cup flour
1 - 1/2 cup sugar







1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe banana's, mashed
2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk + 1 TBSP
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts, like pecans or walnuts (optional)

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add eggs, bananas, vanilla and oil; mix well. 

In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk and baking soda together.  Add to the flour mixture; mix well.  Fold in nuts if including or place on top of the batter prior to cooking.

Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

James C. McCormick's Last Speech For "Dallas Acts Kind Week"










Today would've been my beautiful Father, James C. McCormick's, 87th birthday.  It's hard to believe he has been gone for almost 17 years! 

With the recent passing of our beloved Carlos Morales, I've been thinking a lot about my Dad.  The last week of Dad's life, he was in charge of the huge undertaking of "Dallas Acts Kind Week."  Cassidy was just 3 days old when my father passed away...she was very lovingly referred to as 'The Kindness Baby."  My sweet Mom was with David, Avery (17 months) and me in West Palm Beach, eagerly awaiting Cassidy's arrival...she was a few days beyond her due date.  My Dad strongly encouraged my Mom to go be with us for this blessed occasion.  Of course, my Mom had no idea the end was so near or she would've never gone to Florida.  Although, now looking back, I think my Dad knew exactly what he was doing by sending my Mom away.  I believe he sensed his passing was near and wanted to spare my Mom all of that trauma.  My sister, Patti was left to help my Dad at home and she and Mike were with him until the very end....God Bless them all!  My Dad was determined to get through "Dallas Acts Kind Week," which he did and with so much grace and dignity.  

I miss Dad so much each and every day!  In honor of his Birthday today I post his last positive message of many that he delivered to hundreds of people only a couple of days before his passing.  What an inspiration he continues to be to so many!  Here's the last speech my Dad wrote...

DALLAS ACTS KIND: February 12-19, 1995


WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE ... BE KIND TO EACH OTHER 

                                                                  -- James C. McCormick

I BELIEVE THAT DEEP INSIDE EVERY HUMAN BEING THERE IS A GNAWING, UNQUENCHABLE THIRST TO LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE BY VIRTUE OF HAVING LIVED.  I KNOW THAT THIS HAS BECOME AN OVER- RIDING PASSION IN MY LIFE -- SINCE I CAME FACE TO FACE WITH MY OWN MORTALITY.  THOSE WHO KNOW ME, KNOW THAT I AM, BY NATURE, AN INCURABLE OPTIMIST. A SIGN ON THE BACK OF MY WHEELCHAIR PROCLAIMS, "LIFE IS TERRIFIC". BUT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, I HAVE BEGUN TO HAVE DEEP CONCERNS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR BELOVED COUNTRY.  WE SEEM TO BE DESCENDING DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO A SINK- HOLE OF CRIME, FALLING MORAL STANDARDS, SENSELESS VIOLENCE, DRUGS, STEADY ERADICATION OF THE TRADITIONAL FAMILY -- DEBASING OF OUR LANGUAGE, A COARSENESS OF LIFE, A PERVASIVE MEDIOCRITY.  WHERE IS INTEGRITY, CHARACTER, UNDILUTED HONESTY, FIDELITY, STYLE, GRACE?  WHERE ARE HEROES?  WHERE IS SIMPLE KINDNESS?  THE STREETS OF SOME OF OUR MAJOR CITIES ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN THE STREETS OF CALCUTTA.  THERE ARE MANY REASONS, I'M SURE, FOR ALL OF THIS, BUT I BELIEVE THERE IS ONE OVER-RIDING REASON THAT WE SEEM NOT TO BE
FOCUSING ON.  IN THE MID 1960'S OUR ELECTED LEADERS DECIDED THAT THERE WERE MANY INEQUITIES IN OUR SOCIETY.  THEY WERE CORRECT.  BUT ONE OF THE GREAT TRAGEDIES IS THAT IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE WAY TO CORRECT THE UNFAIRNESS WAS THROUGH LEGISLATION.  IN SHORT IT WAS BELIEVED THAT GOVERNMENT COULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM.  ONE OF THE REAL IRONIES OF OUR CENTURY IS THAT MOST OF THE STEPS THAT WERE TAKEN TO CORRECT THE PROBLEMS ACTUALLY EXACERBATED THEM.  SOME OF THE LEGISLATION, LIKE VOTING RIGHTS AND DESEGREGATION LAWS, WERE BADLY NEEDED AND LONG OVER-DUE.  A SIGNIFICANT SEGMENT OF OUR POPULATION HAD BEEN DENIED THE BASIC RIGHTS THAT WERE GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION.  THIS WAS SHAMEFUL AND IT WAS WAY PAST TIME TO DO WHATEVER WAS NECESSARY TO CORRECT IT.  THE CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION WAS IMPERATIVE, MORAL AND GOOD, BUT OUR SOCIAL LEGISLATION WAS DIFFERENT.  WHAT WE DID, I THINK UNWITTINGLY, WAS TO "INSTITUTIONALIZE" KINDNESS.

ALLOW ME TO SHARE WITH YOU WHAT THE WORLD WAS LIKE IN THE 1930'S AND EARLY '40'S WHEN I GREW UP IN ENNIS, TEXAS.  I LIVED ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE RAILROAD SHOPS, THE LARGEST EMPLOYER IN TOWN.  THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN THE NATION WAS MORE THAN 30% - IN ENNIS, EVEN LARGER.  IN THOSE DAYS FAMILIES HAD ONLY ONE WAGE-EARNER. WOMEN DIDN'T WORK UNLESS THEY WERE WIDOWED.  THIS MEANS THAT A THIRD OF ALL HOUSEHOLDS HAD NO INCOME.  THE DIRE ECONOMIC STRAIGHTS WERE DRAMATICALLY EVIDENT IN OUR END OF TOWN.  EVEN AS A YOUNG BOY I WAS A WITNESS TO THE HORROR AND PAIN ALL AROUND ME.  A PALPABLE HOPELESSNESS HUNG HEAVY IN THE AIR.  OUR SECTION OF TOWN - "THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS" - WAS HALF WHITES AND HALF POVERTY STRICKEN BLACKS.  THE WHITES WERE BARELY, IF ANY, BETTER OFF.  THERE WERE UNSPEAKABLE HARDSHIPS.  EACH FREIGHT TRAIN THAT CAME THROUGH WAS FILLED WITH HUNGRY HOMELESS HOBOS - MEN, WOMEN, AND EVEN BABIES.  THEY WOULD JUMP FROM THE TRAINS AND SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD LOOKING FOR WORK.  


"IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN DO FOR A PIECE OF BALONEY BETWEEN TWO SLICES OF BREAD--?  CHOP YOUR FIREWOOD--,!  WEED YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN--?  CLEAN UP YOUR WOODSHED--,?" THEY WOULD ASK.  

I'VE SEEN MY DEAR MOTHER ALLOW HOBO FATHERS TO BUILD CARDBOARD SHELTERS BEHIND OUR HOUSE AND TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES WITH HALF OF WHATEVER SHE HAD IN HER CUPBOARD.  I'VE SEEN HER TENDERLY MINISTER TO THE CHILDREN'S OPEN SORES WITH "CLOVERINE" SALVE.  HER GENTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS WERE NOT UNIQUE.  EVERY LADY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD DID THE SAME THING.  I'VE WALKED BAREFOOT IN THE HOT SAND BESIDE MY MOTHER AS SHE TOOK SIX POTATOES AND DISTRIBUTED ONE TO EACH OF OUR POOREST NEIGHBORS WHO HAD NOTHING TO EAT.


THERE WERE NO GOVERNMENT SOCIAL PROGRAMS.  THE CHURCHES DID WHAT THEY COULD BUT IF A NEIGHBOR HAD A PROBLEM...HUNGER...ILLNESS...SORROW OF ANY KIND...THE ONLY HELP HE WAS LIKELY TO GET WAS FROM ONE OF HIS NEIGHBORS.


SOME OF THE BLACK HOMES HAD DIRT FLOORS.  NO HEAT--IF THERE WAS NO FIREWOOD.  IN THE BLACK AS WELL AS THE WHITE HOMES THERE WAS ONE THING THAT WAS SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT FROM TODAY.  PRACTICALLY EVERY HOUSE HAD A LIVE-IN FATHER WHO SEEMED TO FIND INGENIOUS WAYS TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE -- JACK RABBITS, OPOSSUM, BIRDS, AND SQUIRREL FOR MEAT -- WEEK-OLD BREAD FROM SCHINDLER'S BAKERY AND DISCARDED VEGETABLES FROM BEHIND THE STAR-CASH GROCERY STORE.  BUT YOU COULD FEEL THE PARENTAL KINDNESS WHEN YOU ENTERED THE LITTLE UNPAINTED SHACKS.  THERE WAS LOVE.  THE CHURCH WAS THE CORNERSTONE OF PRACTICALLY EVERY FAMILY.  FATHERS WERE AWARE OF THEIR AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY.  CHILDREN WERE CAREFULLY TAUGHT THE BASIC VALUES...HONESTY...RESPECT...WORK FOR WHAT YOU GET.  THE "GOLDEN RULE" WAS IN EVERY CLASSROOM..."DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU."  CHILDREN WERE NURTURED AND LOVED.  I NEED NOT TELL YOU THERE WAS NO TELEVISION.  

THE SOCIAL LEGISLATION OF THE SIXTIES WAS ENACTED, IN AN HONEST BELIEF BY THE LIBERALS OF OUR COUNTRY, THAT SWEEPING NEW LAWS COULD WIPE OUT THE NEED, THE HARDSHIP, THE HUNGER OF ALL THE UNFORTUNATE PEOPLE ACROSS OUR LAND. 

INNOCENTLY AND UNKNOWINGLY WE INSTITUTIONALIZED CARING!  WE INSULATED OURSELVES FROM OUR NEIGHBOR'S PAIN.  IF THE NEIGHBOR HAD A PROBLEM-- IT WAS NO LONGER OUR PROBLEM.  THERE WAS A GOVERNMENT AGENCY TO FIX IT.  WE QUIT BUILDING FRONT PORCHES TO SIT ON AFTER SUPPER AND GREET THE NEIGHBORS WHO WALKED BY.  WE LOCKED THE DOORS, PULLED DOWN THE SHADES, WENT INSIDE AND WATCHED TELEVISION, THE NEWFOUND INTELLECTUAL SEDATIVE.  THE WORLD WAS STILL GOING ON OUTSIDE BUT OUR VIEW OF IT BECAME WHAT WE SAW ON "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER". 

THE WHOLE FABRIC OF OUR SOCIETY HAD BEGUN TO GO TO HELL BUT WE
STILL BELIEVED THAT IT WAS AN "OZZIE AND HARRIET" WORLD OUT THERE.  LATER OUR EIGHTEEN INCH WINDOW ON THE WORLD BEGAN TO MAKE US BELIEVE THAT MOST BLACKS WERE CRIMINALS-- THAT ALL BLACK CHILDREN WERE DOPE HEADS -- THAT ALL JOBLESS WHITES WERE JUST SHIFTLESS - THAT ALL WHITES WERE RACIST IN THEIR HEARTS.  THE INSULATION FROM OUR NEIGHBOR'S PAIN WAS GROWING THICKER AND THICKER. AND HATRED OF ONE GROUP AGAINST ANOTHER GREW AND GREW BECAUSE WE HAD ONLY A TELEVISED OR NEWSPAPERED VIEW OF WHO "THOSE PEOPLE" WERE.  THE GREAT IRONY WAS -- THAT WE AT THAT TIME, WERE STILL BLIND TO AND LARGELY IGNORANT OF THE FACT THAT THE MASSIVE LAWS WE HAD CREATED TO ERADICATE SUFFERING NOT ONLY WERE NOT WORKING, THEY WERE SUBSTANTIALLY ENLARGING THE PROBLEMS THEY WERE DESIGNED TO CURE.  FOR A LONG TIME WE FELT WE WERE JUST NOT SPENDING ENOUGH.  WE ENLARGED AND EXPANDED THE PROGRAMS AND THE PROBLEMS GREW IN DIRECT RELATIONSHIP TO WHAT WE WERE SPENDING TO CORRECT THEM.  THE ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH RATE, DIVORCE, CRIME, DRUG USE, VIOLENCE, SPOUSAL AND CHILD ABUSE WERE GROWING AT AN ALARMING RATE AND NOT JUST MINORITIES-- THE WHOLE SOCIETY.  THOSE WHO COULD AFFORD IT INSTALLED ALARM SYSTEMS - MANY BOUGHT GUNS FOR THEIR HOUSE AS
WELL AS THEIR CAR. WOMEN BOUGHT PISTOLS AND MACE.  MORE RECENTLY, WE HAVE BEGUN TO REGRESS TO THE MIDDLE AGES BY BUILDING WALLS AND GUARD GATES AROUND OUR COMMUNITIES.  WE SEEM TO BE GROWING EVER-CLOSER TO THE TIME WHEN OUR WALLS WILL HAVE GUARDS WITH MACHINE GUNS.  HOW LONG BEFORE ALLIGATOR-FILLED MOATS AND DRAW BRIDGES?  WE CLOSED OUR DOORS, WINDOWS, AND HEARTS, EVEN TIGHTER TO SHIELD US FROM THE MEAN AMERICA THAT WE SAW ON THE "TUBE" AND
IN OUR NEWSPAPERS.  WE SAID..."LET'S GET TOUGHER, LET'S BUILD MORE PRISON CELLS, LET'S ELECTROCUTE MORE PEOPLE."  THE HATRED OF GROUP AGAINST GROUP GREW, BECAUSE THE ONLY VIEW WE HAD OF OUR NEIGHBOR WAS WHAT THE MEDIA PROVIDED US WITH. THIS NEW COLLECTIVE ATTITUDE CREATED POLITICIANS WHOSE NUMBER ONE
7 PLATFORM PLANK BECAME, "I CAN BE A HELL OF A LOT TOUGHER AND MEANER THAN MY OPPONENT," AND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES WHO FEEL COMPELLED TO MAKE MEDIA EVENTS OUT OF GOING OUT WITH SHOTGUNS ON OPENING DAY OF DOVE SEASON OR CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS WHO HURL ANGRY, MEAN-SPIRITED INVECTIVES AT EACH OTHER IN CITY HALL MEETINGS.  WE CAN CONTINUE TO BUILD JAIL CELLS UNTIL WE BLEED OURSELVES INTO BANKRUPTCY AND WE CAN ELECTROCUTE PEOPLE UNTIL OUR NATION BECOMES UNIQUE IN THE WESTERN WORLD AS A MONSTROUS KILLING MACHINE, AND THE PROBLEMS WE ARE TRYING TO CURE WILL GROW FASTER THAN WE CAN CURE THEM.


WE HAVE GOTTEN FAR AWAY FROM THE BASIC, IRREFUTABLE PREMISE THAT WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS.  THIS IS ONE OF OUR MAIN PROBLEMS.  WE HAVE CREATED A NATION IN WHICH MANY OF US ARE CONVINCED THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS TO BLAME FOR OUR ABERRANT BEHAVIOR..."MY PARENTS DIDN'T UNDERSTAND ME"..."I AM POOR"..."IT'S SOCIETY'S FAULT".  THIS ATTITUDE HAS BECOME PERVASIVE THROUGHOUT OUR CULTURE--POOR, WEALTHY, BLACK, WHITE, BROWN, YELLOW, RED.  IT IS REFLECTED IN JURIES WHO MAKE THREE MILLION DOLLAR AWARDS TO SOMEONE WHO CARELESSLY SPILLS HOT COFFEE ON THEMSELVES.  OR JUDGMENTS AGAINST COMPANIES WHOSE SKYLIGHTS ALLOW BURGLARS TO FALL AND INJURE THEMSELVES.  IT SOMETIMES SEEMS WE HAVE EVOLVED INTO A STATE OF NATIONAL INSANITY.  

WE MUST SHOW EVERY CITIZEN THAT HE OR SHE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.  BUT MOST IMPORTANT, WE MUST FACE HOW WE GOT WHERE WE ARE...WE MUST BEGIN AGAIN TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN WHAT MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME, THAT IF I SOAKED MY BRAINS WITH ALCOHOL OR DRUGS - IF I REFUSED TO GET AN EDUCATION - IF I HARMED SOMEONE, THAT I WOULD SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.  THAT TEACHING MUST BEGIN VERY, VERY EARLY IN A CHILD'S LIFE.  IT MUST START IN THE HOME.  A HOME IS NOT JUST A HOUSE.  A HOME IS A FAMILY, WITH AT LEAST ONE LOVING PARENT, WHO RECOGNIZES THEIR SACRED RESPONSIBILITY WHEN A CHILD IS BROUGHT INTO THE WORLD, TO DEDICATE THEIR LIFE TO NURTURING AND TEACHING THAT CHILD TO BE A DECENT AND HONORABLE HUMAN BEING, TO TEACH THAT CHILD THERE ARE BASIC, UNCHANGING VALUES OF RIGHT VERSUS WRONG.  THE SCHOOLS CANNOT DO THIS, GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS CANNOT DO THIS, AND ABOVE ALL JAILS CANNOT DO THIS.  IF A CHILD IS NOT TAUGHT THESE BASIC VALUES AT HOME, AT A VERY TENDER AGE, AN UNPARDONABLE CRIME IS COMMITTED AGAINST THAT INNOCENT CHILD, AND THAT CHILD WILL - AS A PARENT - CLONE HIMSELF, AND HIS CHILDREN WILL CLONE THEMSELVES.

HOW DID WE TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER?  WHAT CAN WE DO TO SHOW OUR FELLOW HUMAN BEING THAT WE CARE ABOUT HIM?  WE USED TO CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER. I REMEMBER WHEN WE DID.  I SAW IN MY GROWING-UP DAYS -- THAT IT WAS IN MOST MEN'S GOD'S-GlVEN INNATE SOULS TO BE DECENT -- NOT MEAN.  TO LOVE, NOT HATE, EVEN IN THE FACE OF THE MOST UNSPEAKABLE SUFFERING AND NEED.  POVERTY IS NOT THE REASON FOR OUR CRIMES AND VIOLENCE TOWARD EACH OTHER.  MY GOD, IF POVERTY WAS WHAT CREATED OUR PROBLEMS WE WOULD HAVE BEEN IN TOTAL ANARCHY IN THE 1930'S!  WE DIDN'T EVEN LOCK OUR DOORS IN THOSE TRAGIC TIMES OF HARDSHIP.


YES, THERE ARE MANY REASONS FOR OUR EVER-GROWING SOCIAL CHAOS, BUT THE MOST OVERLOOKED REASON IS THAT, THREE DECADES AGO, WE DECIDED WE COULD ELIMINATE OUR PROBLEMS THROUGH GOVERNMENT ACTION.  AND NOW WE DESPERATELY NEED TO GO BACK TO MAN'S INHERENT HEART...KINDNESS.  WE HAVE TO RELEARN TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER, TO INDIVIDUALLY CARE ABOUT OUR BROTHER'S AND SISTER'S PAIN.  GOVERNMENT, IN A SINCERE DESIRE TO HELP HAS INADVERTENTLY CREATED A CRUEL MONSTER WHICH CAUSES MILLIONS OF YOUNG WOMEN TO HAVE MORE AND MORE BABIES OUT OF WEDLOCK, PARENTS TO DIVORCE OR TO NOT MARRY BECAUSE GOVERNMENT WILL REWARD THEM TO NOT LIVE TRADITIONAL LIVES, AN I.R.S. CODE THAT PUNISHES COUPLES WHO MARRY, FORCING SOME TO SIMPLY LIVE TOGETHER.  MEN AND WOMEN WHO FIND IT MORE PROFITABLE TO REMAIN IDLE RATHER THAN WORK.


BEFORE THE BROAD NEW SOCIAL LEGISLATION IN 1960 ONLY SIX PERCENT OF WHITE BABIES AND TWENTY-TWO PERCENT OF BLACK BABIES WERE BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK.  THERE WERE ONLY A FEW THOUSAND ABORTIONS AND CONTRACEPTIVES WERE NOT YET WIDELY AVAILABLE.  ONLY TWENTY-FOUR PERCENT OF MARRIAGES ENDED IN DIVORCE.  TODAY MORE THAN TWENTY PERCENT OF WHITE BABIES AND SIXTY-EIGHT PERCENT OF BLACK BABIES ARE BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK.  NEARLY TWO MILLION WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS EACH YEAR AND HALF OF ALL MARRlAGES END IN DIVORCE. 

THIS INSANE SYSTEM HAS HURT US ALL--BUT NO ONE MORE THAN THOSE IT WAS DESIGNED TO HELP. EACH OF US, IN OUR HEART, KNOWS THAT THERE IS RIGHT AND THERE IS WRONG...THAT THE OLD TRADITIONAL VALUES OF HARD WORK, HONESTY, AND HONOR ARE RIGHT AND GOOD.  SURE, THIS IS THE NINETIES, NOT THE THIRTIES, BUT THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT ARE UNCHANGING THROUGH TIME.  NO ONE NEEDS TO TELL US WHEN WHAT WE ARE DOING IS WRONG.  WHEN WE LIVE OUR LIVES CONTRARY TO WHAT OUR HEART TELLS US IS RIGHT WE COME TO DESPISE OURSELVES.  WHEN A HUMAN BEING IS ROBBED OF THE DIGNITY OF SELF- RELIANCE, PRIDE IN HAVING A JOB, THE JOY OF LEADING A DECENT, HONORABLE LIFE, HE IS ROBBED OF SELF-ESTEEM, THE MOST IMPORTANT POSSESSION HE HAS IN LIFE.


DOES WHAT WE ARE SAYING SUGGEST THAT THERE IS NO ROLE FOR GOVERNMENT IN SOLVING THESE PROBLEMS?  OF COURSE NOT.  BUT WHAT GREATER EVIDENCE DO WE NEED THAN WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE - THAT THE PATH WE HAVE BEEN ON FOR THREE DECADES IS THE WRONG PATH - THAT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING HAS GEOMETRICALLY ENLARGED OUR PROBLEMS. 

WE MUST PAUSE, REEXAMINE GOVERNMENT'S ROLE.  WE NEED TO START ANEW -- COMPLETELY REINVENT GOVERNMENT'S ROLE. 

BUT WE MUST REALIZE, THAT NO ACTIONS BY GOVERNMENT ALONE WILL WORK!  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL WORK UNTIL WE CHANGE OUR HEARTS AND OUR ACTIONS TOWARD EACH OTHER.  IT HAS TO START WITH EACH AND EVERYONE OF US.  IT HAS TO DO WITH OUR ATTITUDES, AND STARTS WITH OUR THOUGHTS.


WE HAVE TO RELEARN HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MANY OPPORTUNITIES WE HAVE EACH DAY TO COMMIT GENTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS TOWARD OUR FELLOW MAN.  WE HAVE TO REMIND OURSELVES THAT WE ARE ALL GOD'S CHILDREN, WHETHER WE ARE DIFFERENT COLORS...WHETHER WE ARE BAPTIST, CATHOLIC, MUSLIM, HINDU, JEW, OR BA'HAI.  LOVE IS DEEP, SOMETIMES ALMOST HIDDEN, IN THE HEART OF MANY OF US AND WE HAVE TO START AGAIN TO SHOW OUR BROTHER AND SISTER IN GOD THAT WE CARE ENOUGH TO ERASE THE MALIGNANCY OF HATE FROM OUR HEARTS.


IT IS MUCH EASIER THAN YOU THINK.  WATCH THE MANY OPPORTUNITIES YOU HAVE THIS VERY DAY TO COMMIT RANDOM, BUT PURPOSEFUL, ACTS OF KINDNESS. LITTLE BITTY THINGS...A KIND WORD...A HELPING HAND.  WE'VE GOT TO CHANGE OUR ENTIRE ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE...AND THE MAGIC OF IT ALL IS THAT IT IS UNBELIEVABLY INFECTIOUS.  EVERY KINDNESS YOU SHOW IS LIKE THROWING A PEBBLE INTO A STILL POND, IT IS RECIPROCATED AT INFINITUM.


THERE ARE BEGINNING TO BE WONDERFUL SIGNS OF HOPE ALL AROUND US -- THE COMPLETE AND ABSOLUTE FAILURE OF COMMUNISM AND THE FALL OF THE EVIL BERLIN WALL - RABIN AND ARAFAT SHAKING HANDS (WHAT A COURAGEOUS ACT ON THE PART OF EACH) - NORTHERN IRELAND'S CEASE FIRE - THE CRUMBLING OF FREEDOMLESS CUBA - SCORES OF RADICAL NEW ATTEMPTS BY INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS ACROSS THE NATION TO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE.  HERE IN DALLAS, DR. BOB SMITH'S GENEROUS GIFT OF A MILLION DOLLARS TO BUILD "BETTER KIDS - A BETTER DALLAS" - A CHRISTIAN MEN'S MOVEMENT WHICH BEGAN IN COLORADO (THAT OUR SON IS INVOLVED IN) WHICH HAS AS ITS OBJECT THE REDISCOVERY OF THE MALE ROLE AND SACRED OBLIGATIONS TO HIS WIFE, HIS CHILDREN, AND TO SOCIETY.  ALREADY THIS YEAR THIS NEW GROUP HAS FILLED TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FOUR THOUSAND STADIUM SEATS WITH EAGER, CHEERING, DEDICATED MEN; FARMERS IN OVERALLS, STOCKBROKERS IN THREE-PIECE SUITS, ALL COLORS, ALL RELIGIONS.


IT IS INTERESTING THAT MOST OF THESE ZEALOUS DISCIPLES OF CHANGE ARE PRODUCTS OF THE YUPPIE, THE POT SMOKING, THE DROP-OUT, "GOD IS DEAD" GENERATION.  NO SINGLE GROUP IS AS PASSIONATE AS DEDICATED TO TURNING THIS WORLD AROUND AS IS THAT GENERATION OF AMERICANS. 

I HAVEN'T SEEN IT AND DON'T PLAN TO, BUT THE REVIEWS SAY THAT OLIVER STONE'S NEW MOVIE, "NATURAL BORN KILLERS" REPRESENTS AN ABSOLUTELY NEW LOW IN VIOLENCE AND HUMAN DEGRADATION.  BUT HOW ENCOURAGING IT IS THAT "FORREST GUMP", A HIGH-RISK PICTURE OF KINDNESS AND VIRTUE, IS CLIMBING TO AN ALL-TIME MOTION PICTURE BOX OFFICE HIGH.


THERE IS EVIDENCE ALL AROUND US THAT WE ARE BEGINNING TO PASSIONATELY SEARCH FOR A BETTER WORLD -- THAT WE ARE REDISCOVERING OUR INNATELY GOOD INSTINCTS -- THAT WE ARE FINDING GOD IN OUR LIVES.  WE ARE YEARNING TO CHANGE.  THE SIGNS ARE ALL AROUND US.  THE EARTH IS BEGINNING TO QUAKE WITH CHANGE.  THERE IS A DISTANT AND GROWING RUMBLE OF HOPE.


I REMIND US ALL THAT PRACTICALLY EVERY GOOD THING THAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF MAN BEGAN WITH A SINGLE, SIMPLE IDEA.  MY ALL-TIME HEROINE (ASIDE FROM MY OWN MOTHER) ROSA PARKS, DECIDED IN 1955 IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, THAT SHE WOULD NOT MOVE FROM HER SEAT IN THE FRONT OF THE BUS - NOT GO TO THE BACK WHERE TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF TRADITION DEMANDED THAT SHE SIT.  SHE WAS NOT BELLIGERENT - JUST A GENTLE, SWEET, BLACK LADY WHO DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO CHANGE - TO TAKE A STAND.

MRS. PARKS WAS SIMPLY SEEKING EQUALITY AND FAIRNESS.  SHE KNEW IN HER HEART THAT IT WAS WRONG FOR SCHOOLS, RESTAURANTS, PUBLIC TOILETS, AND EVEN WATER FOUNTAlNS TO BE SEGREGATED.  SHE WANTED THE RIGHT TO SIT WHERE IT WAS CONVENIENT ON PUBLIC CONVEYANCE. SHE WAS MERELY SEEKING THE BASIC CIVIL RIGHTS THAT OUR CONSTITUTION GUARANTEED HER.  I SINCERELY DOUBT THAT SHE WAS ASKING FOR THE SOCIAL LEGISLATION THAT CAME IN THE WAKE OF THE SORELY NEEDED CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION.  SHE WAS NOT SEEKING SPECIAL TREATMENT.  SHE SIMPLY AND WITHOUT RANCOR SOUGHT FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY.


LET ME SHARE WITH YOU SOMETHING I HAVE LEARNED IN JUST THE PAST FEW YEARS.  I SPENT THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS OF MY ADULTHOOD SO IMMERSED IN MAKlNG A LIVING AND BUILDING A CAREER, THAT I DIDN'T DEVOTE MUCH TIME TO THINKING ABOUT ANYONE EXCEPT MYSELF AND MY OWN FAMILY.  I HAVE LEARNED IN RECENT YEARS THAT THE HEART HAS A FINITE CAPACITY.  I HAVE DISCOVERED THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO FILL THE HUMAN HEART SO FULL OF LOVE THAT THERE IS NO ROOM FOR HATE.  I STILL SEE CIRCUMSTANCES AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR THAT IN THE PAST, WOULD FILL ME WITH ALMOST UNCONTROLLABLE RAGE.  WHEN I DO, HABIT TEMPTS ME TO FIND A PLACE IN MY HEART FOR HATE TO RESIDE AND FESTER AND POISON MY SOUL.  BUT THERE IS NO SPACE LEFT -- NO PLACE IN MY HEART FOR THAT HATE TO OCCUPY.  I DO NOT FEEL HATE ANY MORE.  I FEEL SORROW AND COMPASSION.

I HAVE EXPERIENCED A CHANGE IN MY OWN LIFE THAT HAS ALREADY AFFECTED MY WHOLE FAMILY AND MANY OTHERS WITH WHOM I COME IN CONTACT, EVEN STRANGERS. IN THE PAST YEAR I HAVE BEEN THE GIVER OR RECEIVER OF HUNDREDS OF SIMPLE, EVERYDAY ACTS OF KINDNESS.  IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE AND I BELIEVE THAT MY NEW ATTITUDE HAS ALREADY MADE, AT LEAST, A TINY DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.  IT HAS BECOME A WAY OF LIFE FOR ME.  IT CAN WORK FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.  DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT IT --- DO IT!  NO ONE WILL BE REWARDED MORE THAN YOURSELF.


RESURRECT YOUR HOPE.  IT ALL MUST BEGIN WITH EACH OF US. GOD IS BEGGING US TO DO IT.


REFLECT ON WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR WORLD EACH DECEMBER AS THE HOLlDAY SEASON BEGINS.  WE CHANGE OUR ATTITUDES TOWARD EACH OTHER.  WE BECOME MORE CARING, KINDER -- NOT ONLY TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS, BUT TO PEOPLE WE'VE HELD GRUDGES AGAlNST, AND STRANGERS WE PASS ON THE SIDEWALK.  OUR FACES CHANGE FROM A SCOWL TO A GENTLE SMILE.  WE LOOK FOR WAYS TO BE FRIENDLY TO OUR FELLOW MAN. DO I NEED REMIND US HOW INFECTIOUS IT IS?  WHY DOES ALL OF THAT HAVE TO CHANGE ON JANUARY FIRST?  LET'S MAKE THIS JANUARY 1ST DIFFERENT.  LET'S DECLARE A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION...TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER.


MAYBE THIS ALL SOUNDS TOO SIMPLISTIC, PERHAPS EVEN NAIVE. LIKE A, "HAVE A NICE DAY" OR PUT ON A "HAPPY FACE" CAMPAIGN.


I DON'T MEAN TO SUGGEST THAT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT IS A FORMULA TO SUDDENLY END WHAT SEEMS TO BE A STEADY SLIDE OF OUR NATION INTO A SINKHOLE OF HATE, VIOLENCE, AND UNCARING.

WHAT I DO SUGGEST (TO BORROW FROM ANOTHER OF MY HEROES, WINSTON CHURCHILL) IS THAT - WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT, "MAY NOT REPRESENT AN END TO OUR PROBLEM, PERHAPS NOT EVEN THE END OF THE BEGINNING.  BUT IT CAN BE THE BEGINNING OF THE END."

BEFORE ANYTHING IMPORTANT CAN HAPPEN THE HEARTS OF MAN MUST CHANGE, AND IT MUST START TODAY WITH YOU AND ME.  WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.  WE NEED EACH OTHER.  WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE...WE MUST MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.  LET'S BEGIN TO BE DECENT AND KIND TO EACH OTHER...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup


Sooo good!  A cross between a cinnamon bun and bread pudding...a real decadent French Toast.  This dish is perfect for a large breakfast crowd.  Next time I serve brunch I will definitely include this on the menu along with Melba's Egg and Cheese Casserole.  Very easy and will be our next Thanksgiving and Christmas breakfast, being-as-how you make this a day ahead of time.  Make extra copies of the recipe because this is one you'll be handing out.  Kids especially love this.  


You could turn this into a fantastic bread pudding by cubing the bread, letting it dry out spread on cookie sheet in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 - 20 min.  Eliminate the maple syrup and make a bourbon sauce to serve it with.  Bourbon sauce: 1 stick melted butter, 1 cup sugar - over low heat until dissolved, remove from stove and add 1/4 cup bourbon -serve warm over pudding.



Gotta love Paula Deen anything...this is another one of her recipes.  



1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping (recipe follows)
Maple syrup

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:


1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 TBSP light corn syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kung Pao Shrimp


Here's a fabulous recipe that everyone devoured.  Dylan loves shrimp and for him this dish is right up there with shrimp scampi, which is his all-time favorite.  =)


Add any veggies you have on hand.  Another great dish to help clean out the frig.  


This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light's.



3 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 TBSP red wine, divided
3 tsp cornstarch
2 lbs peeled and deveined medium shrimp
2 TBSP peanut oil

2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
2 TBSP minced peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 - 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp salt

a squirt or two if Sriracha (optional)
4 TBSP green onion strips

1 cup bean sprouts
2 cups cooked white rice or rice stick

Combine 1-1/2 TBSP soy sauce, 1 TBSP wine, cornstarch, and shrimp.  Heat
 oil and butter in a wok over high heat. Add peanuts, ginger, garlic and red pepper; stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in celery and bell pepper; stir-fry 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add shrimp mixture; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add remaining soy sauce, wine, broth and a squirt or two of Sriracha to add a little more heat. Bring to a simmer; cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and salt. Top with onions and bean sprouts.  Serve over cooked rice or rice stick.



Creme Fraiche



Here's another one from Michael Chiarello's "Bottega" cookbook.  



You can buy creme fraiche in high-end grocery stores, but it's the easiest thing to make.  It's simply just a matter of combining cream and buttermilk and letting them sit on your countertop at room temperature for up to 24 hours.  That's all there is to it.  Live cultures in the buttermilk react with the cream, creating a light, thin version of sour cream that's delicious.



1 - 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 TBSP buttermilk


Whisk together the cream and buttermilk and pour into a glass jar.  Cover it with two layers of cheesecloth and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours.  After that, seal the jar with plastic wrap and refrigerate if you don't plan to use the creme fraiche right away.  It will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.