I have a lot of respect for French Toast. Sure it's crazy good but it's also a really ingenious (and efficient) use of ingredients. What else am I going to do with my leftover bread? Make croutons? Make bread crumbs? I do both of those things but I don't feel like either of those is the best use of my stale bread. I prefer to dip my stale bread in an eggy custard, brown it in butter and drench it with sweet maple syrup. The only thing better than having stale bread is having an overripe banana that I can turn into banana bread to go with it.
My only issue that I have when I make french toast is that I can't seem to make enough of it at one time. My largest skillet only holds 2 pieces of bread at a time so when I'm make french toast for any more than two people, we have to eat in shifts. That was until I ran across this recipe for Sheet Pan French Toast. This is genius. 8 slices of hearty, delicious, eggy french toast baked at the same time to perfection in the oven.
Sheet Pan French Toast
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
8 slices hearty sandwich bread
Breakfast is served.
Great things never come from our comfort zone. Do you agree?
I'm the kind of girl who likes to live with familiar and comfortable routines. Don't we all really? I prefer a predictable and reliable lifestyle. Why mess with a good thing? But great things usually happen when I'm OUTSIDE my comfort zone and not living my comfortable and predictable life.
Travel is one of the best ways that I've found for me to stretch my boundaries and get outside my comfort zone. I get accustomed to viewing the world from my own front door. My little circle of existence gets very small when I spend too much time without leaving it. It doesn't take a long or expensive vacation to broaden my perspective and get me out of my comfort zone though. A day trip to the mountains, a hike through the forest or an afternoon spent on the lake can really reset my navigational beacon. It's not in my normal routine to do any of those things but they really are great ways to expand comfort zone.
I also have a cooking comfort zone but today I'm going to challenge myself to get just a little bit out of my culinary comfort zone. Adding a new grain or a new kind of olive into my diet can be just the thing that I need to break myself out of my comfort zone cooking. Pulling out the slow cooker, picking up some farro and Castelvetrano olives and putting together this uber-tasty chicken dinner for tonight. Great things happen when I break out of comfort zone cooking.
Mediterranean Chicken and Farro
2 Tablespoons oil
4 split chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked farro
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 pitted Castelvetrano olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Garnish with additional parsley.
The beige pictures of this chicken dish don't really do it justice. The briney olives, the bright lemon zest, the crunchy almonds, the spicy red pepper and the fresh parsley all work together beautifully to create a dish that is absolutely bursting with flavor. I love the way that the farro perfectly compliments the chicken and visa versa. And the fact that you can toss it all in your slow cooker and walk away for 8 hours is just an added bonus.
If you follow my blog at all - you know that I am a workout junkie. I probably averaged 10-12 hours a week of workout time for the past couple of years. I estimate that 70% of that time was spent on cardiovascular exercise and the rest was strength and flexibility work. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I LOVE to workout, but I do love the feeling and benefits that I get when I am FINISHED with a workout.
I've been doing the same series of workouts for the past few years. I ride a stationary spin bike almost every single day and I have a collection of workout DVD's that I follow 5 days a week. I've been putting some of these DVD's in the player for over 10 years now and believe me when I tell you that I can recite them word for word - even the really terrible Tony Horton jokes. I've added new videos to my collection throughout the years but I've definitely been feeling like my workout schedule was in need of some changes.
At the beginning of January, I found a new collection of Barre workout DVD's to add to my workout circuit. When I tried to incorporate these new workouts into my already full schedule, I realized that I needed to revamp my workout schedule so that I could workout smarter instead of longer. I'd been doing the same workouts for so long that I didn't even realize that my workouts weren't meeting my exercise needs anymore. Over the years, I continued to add workouts to my schedule without taking the time to really assess what I wanted to get out of my exercise time.
My exercise goals have changed as I've gotten older. I'm more focused on my strength and flexibility today than I was 10 years ago but over time, I had phased out all of my yoga and strength workouts. It was a decision that I made based on efficiency. Spending an hour on flexibility felt like a waste of my workout time when I could be doing something to work my heart AND my muscles at the same time. I know, I know - wrong thinking. The good news is that I've finally come to realize the importance of adding these workouts back into my schedule.
My revamped workout schedule actually involves LESS workout time per week. My new schedule has 7 hours of workout time per week. 3 of those hours are devoted specifically to strength training. (arms, legs, core, abs, back) 1 hour is spent doing yoga or other similar flexibility workouts. The remaining 3 hours are spent doing some sort of cardiovascular exercise. I have to say that I'm super excited about this much more manageable workout schedule. It was just the shake up that I needed to get inspired to workout again.
It wouldn't make any sense for me to start a new workout program without pairing it with a healthy diet. No matter how much or how often I work out, my weight is more influenced by my diet. Creating healthy, pre and post workout meals has become more of a priority as the workout itself. One of my favorite post workout meals includes this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It's nutritious and loaded with great fuel for tired muscles and bodies.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Cold, rainy January days are perfect squash soup days. A big bowl of this is just the thing that I need to warm me from the inside out today.
Happy New Year!!
Anyone else feel like they need a sugar detox after overindulging over the holidays? I normally do a complete pantry clean out during the first week of the new year to get rid of all the excess sugar in the house but quite honestly, there isn't a whole lot of sugar left for me to throw away today. Apparently, I was anxious about the impending sugar pillage because I consumed all of the sugar last month without leaving anything to chance. Obviously, I'm in need of a sugar detox now more than ever. It's not going to be easy but I'm ready.
A few months ago I decided to go cold turkey and completely eliminate sugar from my diet. It was kind of a disaster. I was grumpy, irritable and I craved sugar 24/7. You can ask my family - they'll attest to the fact that I (and consequently everyone else) was miserable. This time, I'm taking a more reasonable approach. My plan is to reduce my ridiculous consumption of white sugar and replace it with smaller amounts of more natural sweeteners like maple syrup and molasses.
My plan is to trick my brain into thinking that I I don't need sugar by eating lots of foods with big, bold flavors. This Apple Walnut Quinoa Salad is really tasty and the touch of maple syrup in the dressing adds just enough sweetness to satisfy my overactive sweet tooth.
Apple Walnut Quinoa Salad
1/3 cup olive oil
Whisk together dressing ingredients. Combine salad ingredients in large bowl.
Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat.
Did you do a pantry clean out this week? What things did you throw away? What did you buy at the grocery store to replace the things that you threw away? Send me a comment with your thoughts.
No matter how hard I try, I can never out-bless my parents. They truly are one of the great blessings in my life.
When they found out that Ben and I were planning a trip to Hawaii, they offered to travel 700 miles to our house in Georgia and dog sit our crazy Weimaraner for the week and a half that we were gone. That in and of itself is a full time job but while they were here, they also tackled house and yard projects that had been on our to-do list for quite a while. At the end of our fabulous trip, we came home to a sparkling clean home (and driveway) and an extremely exhausted pooch.
In preparation for their house/dog sitting visit, I put together a couple of simple casseroles and soups for my parents and put them in the freezer. I had no idea that while we were away, my mom would restock our freezer with her own amazing food for us. There's nothing like coming home from vacation to a well stocked refrigerator and a homemade apple pie and homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs in the freezer. Did I mention that it's impossible to out-bless my parents?
Even when I'm not expecting house guests, I like to make quick breads to keep in my freezer. One of my favorites is this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. I love this bread because it's dairy free but it's rich in wonderful warm Fall spices and flavors - and chocolate chips!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
14 ounce can pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
This recipe made one big loaf and two mini loaves of breed. My large loaf of banana bread sunk in the middle as it cooled. That is usually an indication it's underbaked and could have used a few more minutes in the oven. That certainly didn't stop us from eating it though.
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