Saturday, August 12, 2017

Make Ahead Toaster French Toast

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Okay, so this is a horrible name for a post; but how else could I convey what in the heck I was trying to explain?!  First of all, school for most folks has started back; and if it hasn't, you are probably in a mad dash to get things done before it does.  Secondly, we are all so dang busy, that it's sometimes really hard to get a good a good breakfast for yourself and your people!  Thirdly, some of you live alone and don't really want to mess up the whole kitchen every time you want something to eat.  Well this recipe is perfect for all of those things.  I figured out that it doesn't take any longer to make the batter for 8-9 pieces of french toast than it does for 2-3, so I may as well spend a little extra time on a day when I do have a little more time and make a large batch.  

My kids have lovingly agreed on several occasions to be the guinea pigs for this experiment, and have gleefully agreed that the toasted, frozen french toasts taste nice and fresh.  We tried this a few times over the summer in preparation for the busy school year ahead.  We thought this would be a great "grab-n-go" toaster breakfast if everyone got in a time pinch.  You should probably know that they have tried the commercially prepared frozen french toast and turned their noses up at them.  Sure, they were convenient, but since I've made theirs fresh their whole lives... I guess those just didn't measure up.  (giggle)  

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Ingredients: (8-9 pieces of french toast)
  • 8-9 pieces sliced whole wheat bread
    • or bread of your choosing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup or so of milk
  • A splash of good quality vanilla
    • I use clear Mexican vanilla 
  • Lots of good quality ground cinnamon
Extra stuff:
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • cooling rack
  • waxed paper
  • zip top bag and sharpie permanent markers
*my recipe is pretty touchy feely.  Feel free to add more or less of whatever you'd like.  If you have a favorite recipe for this, by all means use it.  I am really passing along the concept of what I'm doing with the french toast.  

Step-by-step:
With the exception of the bread, obviously, add all of the custard ingredients in a shallow bowl.  I typically use a pie plate, but whatever works best for you is fine.  
4 large eggs

1 - 1 1/2 cups milk (I'm sorry, I never really measure)
*I'm using 2% milk.  You can make this more or less rich depending on the fat you use in milk.

1/2 cup sugar
These aren't super sweet, but they are sweet enough that if you had to take them "on the run," you wouldn't need anything extra on them.  Feel free to play around with the level of sweetness.

A nice splash of good quality vanilla.  I like the clear Mexican vanilla.

LOTS of cinnamon
Whisk thoroughly to really break up the egg.  If a fork works better for you than a whisk, try that.  If there are still clear pieces of egg white, they will show up on your toast.  Kids don't like that.
Whisk thoroughly!

Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I'm using a non-stick skillet today.  I find that to be easiest (especially when my little girl is helping me cook). 
Non-stick cooking spray
Immerse both sides of bread into the batter until wet but not too soggy.  Add to skillet.  Depending on the size of the skillet, you can do multiples.  Cook on medium heat until medium - medium golden brown. They will cook a little more in the toaster at the end.

Allow them to cool on a cooling rack so that air can circulate both over and under them.  Don't be surprised that you only end up with a few at the end, but that's part of it.  *These also make great snacks.  Try them with a bit of peanut butter.
Somehow I never end up with 8-9.  I may have a thief lurking somewhere!
After they are cool (read as:  you've cleaned up the kitchen, fed the dog, made the beds, etc.), you can package up the leftover ones in the freezer for a day when you perhaps don't have time to make a hot breakfast.  Grab a piece of parchment or waxed paper.  I'll show you how I used one piece to wrap up to five pieces at once.  We want to do this so they won't stick together.

Two pieces side-by-side

Fold it over

Add a piece in the middle.  That makes three.

Now you can add one piece on each side.  So you can separate up to FIVE pieces of french toast with one piece of paper!
Now just label your zip top bag and pop them in the freezer.  
PLEASE date and label everything that goes into your freezer! 

In they go! 
 Now on a busy day, let's give this a try! You can see that they are fully frozen.
Remove frozen french toasts.
Pop them into the toaster.  Be aware, they may take two cycles.  (But I'm like that with everything.  I want my stuff hot, y'all!)  This gives you time to grab some fruit and make some bacon.  Or at least tie somebody's tennis shoes and find a backpack, right? 
Pop them into the toaster.
 This is what they look like naked out of the toaster.  Good as new.
Now if you really want to act like you just made them (I mean, you don't have to tell anybody that you just took them out of the toaster)... make them all pretty!  Voila!
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I hope you enjoyed this recipe!  Here are some others I think you'll like:
Spicy Sweet Potato Hash  -  A great, healthy breakfast to fuel up for your day! #paleo #glutenfree
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Short Cut Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Better than the one at Olive Garden, and you know what's in there!  So easy and comforting!  #familyfavorite #easyrecipe
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BLT Buffalo Chicken Wraps - What to do with those leftover chicken tenders your kids bring home!
#recipehack #brownbaglunch #easyrecipe
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Thai Chicken Salad Wraps/Cones - when you want something different but healthy for lunch!
#easyrecipe #healthylunch #brownbaglunch
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Creamy Chicken Piccata - so easy to make at home, why wait until you go out for this?
#familyfavorite #easyitalian #dinnerpartyworthy

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To order the Menu Musings Cookbook, or just to get more information about it, click the link. 
**If you know a kiddo going off to college and moving to an apartment of their own, this makes a great gift!  The same thing goes for newlyweds! 


Written Method:
With the exception of the bread, obviously, add all of the custard ingredients in a shallow bowl.  I typically use a pie plate, but whatever works best for you is fine.  Whisk thoroughly to really break up the egg.  If a fork works better for you than a whisk, try that.  If there are still clear pieces of egg white, they will show up on your toast.  Kids don't like that.  

Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I'm using a non-stick skillet today.  I find that to be easiest (especially when my little girl is helping me cook). 

Immerse both sides of bread into the batter until wet but not too soggy.  Add to skillet.  Depending on the size of the skillet, you can do multiples.  Cook until medium - medium golden.  They will cook a little more in the toaster at the end.  

Allow them to cool on a cooling rack so that air can circulate both over and under them.  Don't be surprised that you only end up with a few at the end, but that's part of it.  *These also make great snacks.  Try them with a bit of peanut butter.

After they are cool (read as:  you've cleaned up the kitchen, fed the dog, made the beds, etc.), you can package up the leftover ones in the freezer for a day when you perhaps don't have time to make a hot breakfast.  Grab a piece of parchment or waxed paper.  I'll show you how I used one piece to wrap 4-5 pieces at once. 

Now just label your zip top bag and pop them in the freezer.  

Okay, let's see how well these frozen ones turned out.  

Pop them into the toaster.  Be aware, they may take two cycles.  (But I'm like that with everything.  I want my stuff hot, y'all!)  This gives you time to grab some fruit and make some bacon.  Or at least tie somebody's tennis shoes and find a backpack, right? 

This is what they look like naked out of the toaster.  Good as new.

Now if you really want to act like you just made them (I mean, you don't have to tell anybody that you just took them out of the toaster)... make them all pretty!  Voila!  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Orange Chicken

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Sometimes literally all it takes is a suggestion to make you crave something, right?  Is anyone's hand up? One day recently we got back from the beach and my husband said something like "We could just grab some Chinese food or something."  Well it turned out that I had something else planned to cook for the evening, but boy, oh boy... that thought planted itself in my brain!  Before you know it, I was making myself a grocery list later that week of stuff to buy for Chinese Orange Chicken!  

Orange chicken has to meet certain requirements, right?  The chicken needs to be juicy and have that nice crunchy coating.  It needs that sticky, glossy, luscious sauce. It needs to be somewhat sweet, but not too much so.  There needs to be some pieces of orange peel in there, which counters the sweetness.  Face it, there's a lot going on when you order takeout from Panda Express or where ever your favorite neighborhood Chinese delivery place is.  And for me, there needs some veggies in there somewhere to balance everything out.  That said, after trying a few times with results I was less than satisfied with, I really think this one hits the mark for my family.  Maybe it will for your's, too!

Print this Recipe

Ingredients: (serves 6 - 8, we have a large family) Ha!

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
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    • use boneless skinless thighs if you'd prefer
  • 1 (18oz) jar sweet orange marmalade 
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
    • use more if you'd like more of a kick
  • Juice of 1 orange (~ 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onions 
    • + more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • ~ 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/3 cup flour
    • can sub additional corn starch for gluten free
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/4 cup water to make slurry
  • Canola oil for shallow pan frying 
  • Black and white sesame seeds for garnish
Step-by-Step
I started by making my sauce.  *Tip* Let me also say that you could make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, or even make it in a larger quantity and freeze a portion of it.  This will definitely speed up your food prep time!

This marmalade is a great base because it's a mix of sweetness and bitter orange with the inclusion of the orange rind pieces.
1 (18 oz) jar sweet orange marmalade
Now we will cancel out some of the sweetness and add savoriness!
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
3/4 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
Before you juice your orange, zest it first.  We will use the zest later.

Add orange juice to the sauce, and then it's complete!   *At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce if you need to.
Juice of one large orange (1/4 cup fresh oj)
Now set the sauce aside.  It's time to get everything else prepped. 
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
3/4 cup corn starch
1/3 cup flour
*use 1/3 cup extra corn starch, omitting wheat flour to make this gluten free*

Notice I have already cut up my chicken into large chunks, making note to make them as equal as possible.   You don't want them in small pieces because they tend to overcook and become dried out.  

When ready to cook, first dip the chicken into the seasoned egg mixture.  

Next, add each "eggy" chicken piece into the corn starch mixture and coat thoroughly.  

Here we go!  Let's cook them up!  
Add some oil (I'm using sunflower oil today.  Use what you like.), allow it to get HOT.  You want to hear that chicken sizzle when you add it to the pan!  
light flavored cooking oil
Do leave some space in between the chicken.  You want them to sizzle.  You want them to SEAR. But if you don't leave space in between them, they will just steam.  Once you put them down, do not move them around.  Resist the urge to mess with them.  They will release naturally/easily when they are ready to be turned.
Add chicken pieces
Try to get all the sides a pretty brown color.  GBD!  Golden Brown & Delicious!   This will probably take multiple batches if you are doing all 3 pounds of chicken.  That's okay.  Just set the seared ones aside on a plate while the others are cooking.
After all the chicken is cooked, I wiped out my pan to make the sauce.  Here we go again with the hot pan, hot oil.
 We will "fry" up our aromatics.  Add in the fresh ginger.
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
Minced garlic.  Okay, I actually do have fresh garlic in the kitchen, but I have to admit, this stuff is SO convenient!  And none of the stickiness and time.  So maybe shame on me, but you know.  Feel free to use fresh garlic if you prefer.   Just be sure to not let it burn!
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
Now to add a bit of heat, I'm going to "fry" some crushed red pepper flakes for a minute or so in this hot oil.  Feel free to add a bit more if you'd like.  I have some heat sensitive peeps in my family.
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
When everything is nice and fragrant, go ahead and carefully add in the orange sauce you made.
Stir to incorporate the seasonings.
Now add in the fresh red and yellow bell peppers.  We want to give them time to soften and cook.  I was going for tender crisp.  I didn't want them to be mushy when I served them.
1/2 yellow bell pepper + 1/2 red bell pepper
Bring sauce to a boil.
Once sauce is boiling, add in the seared chicken.
Now while our chicken is cooking in that sauce, let's make our cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
1/4 cup water + 1 Tbsp corn starch
Add the slurry to the chicken and sauce.  You need to bring this back to a complete boil for the slurry to take effect.
corn starch slurry
Okay, so while that's happening, let's finish this.  Add the orange zest you made earlier.
zest of large orange
Add the chopped green onions.  Can you see the sauce thickening?
2 Tbsp chopped green onions 
Now plate all that loveliness up!  Serve over steamed jasmine rice.  Garnish with additional chopped green onions and sesame seeds.  Some additional Sriracha may be in order for those who enjoy a little extra spice!  Some steamed veggies make a great fresh compliment to this dish.
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I hope you enjoyed this recipe!
Here are some others I think you'll enjoy:

Zuppa Toscana - our knockoff recipe of the Olive Garden favorite.  SO yummy!
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Funky Monkey Morning Smoothies - need something fast before work and school?
menumusings.com

Ritzy Cheddar Baked Chicken - a fun, easy, weeknight recipe that's so family friendly.
menumusings.com

Honey Maple Granola - an easy to make, healthy snack that you'll be happy to pack in your kid's backpack.
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Creamy Italian Sausage and Tortellini - easy, one pot meal for fast weeknight meal that everyone loves!
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Click the link to order the Menu Musings Cookbook!
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Written Method
I started by making my sauce.  *Tip* Let me also say that you could make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, or even make it in a larger quantity and freeze a portion of it.  This will definitely speed up your food prep time!
Add marmalade through orange juice to make a sauce.  Before you juice your orange, zest it first.  We will use the zest later.   Now set the sauce aside.  It's time to get everything else prepped. 

Cut chicken into large chunks, making note to make them as equal as possible.   You don't want them in small pieces because they tend to overcook and become dried out.  

When ready to cook, first dip the chicken into the seasoned egg mixture (egg plus salt, white pepper).
Next, add each "eggy" chicken piece into the corn starch mixture and coat thoroughly.

Let's cook them up!  Add some oil, allow it to get HOT.  You want to hear that chicken sizzle when you add it to the pan!  Do leave some space in between the chicken.  You want them to sizzle.  You want them to SEAR. But if you don't leave space in between them, they will just steam.  Once you put them down, do not move them around.  Resist the urge to mess with them.  They will release naturally/easily when they are ready to be turned. Try to get all the sides a pretty brown color.  GBD!  Golden Brown & Delicious!   This will probably take multiple batches if you are doing all 3 pounds of chicken.  That's okay.  Just set the seared ones aside on a plate while the others are cooking.

After all the chicken is cooked, I wiped out my pan to make the sauce.  Here we go again with the hot pan, hot oil.  We will "fry" up our aromatics.  Add in the fresh ginger. Minced garlic.  Now to add a bit of heat, I'm going to "fry" some crushed red pepper flakes for a minute or so in this hot oil.  Feel free to add a bit more if you'd like.  When everything is nice and fragrant, go ahead and carefully add in the orange sauce you made.  Stir to incorporate the seasonings.

Now add in the fresh red and yellow bell peppers.  We want to give them time to soften and cook.  I was going for tender crisp.  I didn't want them to be mushy when I served them.   Bring sauce to a boil.

Once sauce is boiling, add in the seared chicken. Now while our chicken is cooking in that sauce, let's make our cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.  Add the slurry to the chicken and sauce.  You need to bring this back to a complete boil for the slurry to take effect.

Okay, so while that's happening, let's finish this.  Add the orange zest you made earlier. Add the chopped green onions.  Can you see the sauce thickening?  
Now plate all that loveliness up!  Serve over steamed jasmine rice.  Garnish with additional chopped green onions and sesame seeds.  Some additional Sriracha may be in order for those who enjoy a little extra spice!  Some steamed veggies make a great fresh compliment to this dish.  

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