Cooking on Vacation

So I had mentioned in some previous posts that I got to cook in a pretty awesome kitchen with a beautiful view during the vacation I took with my family this past weekend.

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Me cooking in the kitchen, with my mom and step-aunt, Nola, doing something at the table. They got to try my strawberry crisp with basil ice cream desert this night.

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View from the loft above the kitchen/dining room area

ImageView from the windows in the great room/kitchen area. (Can I cook while looking at this every day?)

I also got a little experience to feel what catering was like when I went to cook the strawberry shortcake french toast again that I made on Day 2:

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All the kids seemed to like the dessert a lot… I mean it is topped with sugar, more sugar, and then a little more sugar so they better…

Just wanted to share a few pictures, today’s recipe will come soon!

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Day 6

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins Recipe

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Thanks to my mom’s co-worker Sue, who found this recipe, I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store to make it. Both Oatmeal and Strawberries are great ingredients for a muffin. Macerating the strawberries in sugar and balsamic vinaigrette made the strawberries great for baking, which is a good trick for the future.

The muffins tasted awesome but were just a tiny bit under cooked. I still haven’t mastered the art of knowing when something is finished baking. I love cookies and brownies under cooked but definitely am not a fan of a doughy undercooked muffins. Luckily these weren’t too bad.

I find baking a good amount easier than most other cooking, because you sort of rely on the oven to make the dough spread and rise, so presentation is less of a responsibility.

James let me go solo with cooking this recipe (and he’s leaving on Wednesday), which made me feel like I had to be an octopus to get everything done. He did take an awesome picture of this one though!

Simply Recipes Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1 Mix the oats and plain yogurt together in a large bowl.

2 Rinse and core the strawberries. Roughly chop the strawberries (I cut them in quarters lengthwise and then make one or two crosswise cuts). You should have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped strawberries. Place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with white sugar and balsamic vinegar. Gently stir to coat the strawberries with the sugar and vinegar.

3 Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by coating with butter or lining with paper muffin cups.

4 Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, finely ground black pepper, and cinnamon.

5 Add the eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to the oatmeal and yogurt mixture. Stir until just incorporated.

6 Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the flour mixture into the oatmeal. Stir until just incorporated and the flour is moistened. Do not over-mix! Or your muffins will end up rubbery. The batter should be rather lumpy, not smooth.

7 Gently fold in the strawberries, including any of the sugary vinegary liquid the strawberries have been sitting in.

8 Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tin wells or cups. Bake until the tops are browned and the muffin bounces back when you gently press on the top with your finger tips, about 20 minutes. A bamboo or metal skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool for a couple minutes in the muffin tin before removing to serve.

Day 2

Strawberry Shortcake French Toast

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(James wants everyone to know, he takes the pictures)

I now understand the difference between the French toast my mom used to make for me in the morning quickly before school and French toast you get at the friendly toast restaurant. The batter that you dip the toast in NEEDS to be more than just eggs. Just simply adding vanilla, sugar, lots of milk, and nutmeg makes a huge difference. James’s favorite part was the lemon zest and sugar topping on the strawberries. I think the quote he used was “too bad we can’t instagram smells.” The citrus in the lemon was a really nice addition to the maple syrup.

The soy yogurt topping with honey was my favorite, partially because I’ve forgot the taste of a milk/cream based topping on French toast.

I learned a few tricks that I had never thought of before from this recipe. Melting butter on the same frying pan as the French toast and using that as a topping saves the hassle of spreading butter. It also makes for an awesome mix with syrup. Additionally, frying and then baking French toast gives it the extra puff it needs.

I want to eat this EVERY day.

Food Network Magazine Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of milk (I used soy milk)
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon+3 tablespoons of sugar
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Lemon zest
  • 3 cups halved strawberries
  • 4 split English muffins
  • Yogurt (I used soy yogurt)
  • Honey- to drizzle

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, dip 6 thick slices white bread, challah or brioche in the egg mixture and cook in the skillet until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side, adding more butter as needed. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until puffed, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in the same skillet until browned, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the French toast with the browned butter and maple syrup.

Mix 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest with 3 tablespoons sugar; toss about a third of the lemon-sugar with 3 cups halved strawberries. Make the egg mixture for Perfect French Toast; add 4 split English muffins and soak, 5 minutes, then fry and bake as directed. Sandwich some strawberries and more lemon-sugar between the muffin halves. Top with yogurt, more berries and a drizzle of honey.