Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oatmeal French Toast

Yesterday my dear friend asked me a personal question. We were at play. The curtain hadn't opened: okay there was no curtain. The lights hadn't yet dimmed and we were small talking, surrounded by people, and she asked me if I'd ever had a notebook moment.

A notebook moment?

Yeah, like in the Notebook, were it's all super romantic and they're intensely in love (she trails off).

I look around. This is a high-school play. The thirteen year-old girl on my right beams at me.

I Hiss: Yesss. Of course.

I look around.

She nods. I knew it, she says.

The night before, Thursday night, my husband gave an artist talk at the community college. In this talk he read poetry. Poetry. Of course I've had Notebook moment.

Although, I do believe things like lingering breakfasts of hot coffee and french toast with home-made jam make all the difference.

We love breakfast. And french toast. Now, I didn't come up with this recipe entirely on my own. Chef at Home definitely had something to do with it.

Oatmeal French Toast for Two

1/2 a cup of milk
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
a dash of vanilla
4 pieces of soft bread (I used a poppy seed lemon bread and it was a winner)
1/4 cup oatmeal, or more as needed

Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, vanilla in a shallow bowl. Scatter the oatmeal on a large plate. Dip the bread in the egg mixture then dredge it through the oatmeal. Fry in a hot pan until crispy on both sides. Top with your favourite breakfast condiments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Soup Sundays

If you've been sitting in proximity of the Campbells at Heartland Fellowship on a Sunday this fall, you might have noticed a particular smell. It's not a bad smell, in fact in context it's lovely, but just not something that we're striving for in our daily hygiene. We smell like soup. From Mike and I, to our trendy Korean teenager, right down to baby, you can't miss that soupy scent. Ironically the soup-link is not from our name, Campbell; it is actually a side-effect of my Dutch heritage, and given the amount of Dutch blood in Chilliwack, I can guarantee we're not the only ones with this particular eau de cologne.

The love of soup is, along with the love of a good deal, in the Dutch DNA. A Sunday, just isn't a Sunday without a piping post-church bowl. When we first started scouting out Chilliwack as our future home, we were introduced to the soup of an expert soup chef, none other than my Dutch Soup-Nazi Uncle, Jan Van Wyk. It was at a post-church lunch that Finn first learned, from one of my triplet cousins (Mark), the art of slurping the final soup dredges from the side of the tipped bowl.

At our house Grace has labeled my beef-vegetable soup as Sunday Soup, alas, that recipe is difficult to transcribe as I have a different variation each Sunday depending on my vegetable crisper and particular whims. The soup that I have been feasting on lately is a simple lentil soup. The key to this soup is to combine your veggies, lentils, and broth and to let the whole mixture simmer for a few hours. This results in a thick and lovely soup, reminiscent of a dahl. This is actually a riff on my pea soup recipe, when I was out of split peas I substituted red lentils and added a shot of cumin. Delicious. There is no way to get an attractive picture of this soup, so I've included my little soup-eater in the shot. I made a batch of this soup on the weekend and have heating it up for lunches during the week.

Lentil Soup
(A flexible recipe, you can play with the quantities and types of veggies depending on your preferences and what you have on hand)

1 cup red lentils
3 chopped carrots
3 chopped stalks of celery
3 clove minced garlic
1 chopped onion
1/3 cup tomato paste OR several chopped tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock (I use Epicures chicken base)
1 tsp salt
good pinch pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Combine ingredients, bring to a simmer and then simmer at low for as much time as you have - 2 - 3 hours is ideal. The soup should be nice and thick. Taste for seasoning, if it is a bit bland add salt, a pinch at a time until you get it right. Note that if you use chicken stock with sodium then I would decrease the amount of salt in the recipe.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rice Pudding: My Cozy Food

Okay, so it's been a few months. Things happened: I moved and acquired deer for neighbors. Became an Aunt eight times over. Learned to make pea soup with a ham hock. Befriended two giant poodles. Got a temp teaching computers.

Anyone who knows me is shocked by the last admition. It's true. I'm now a Word and Excel specialist.

I also ran a half marathon. If you read Haley's last post, you've seen me in my glory. That was weeks ago. I'm wearing a tank top. Now I'm wearing a Russel hoody--the hood is actually over my head. A blanket is tucked over my lap. Times have changed. The running has tapered. Okay, pretty much stopped. I'm starting to knit. I like hot chocolate at night. Comfort has become my mantra, which leads me to the rice pudding.

Rice pudding is mostly memory for me. An early memory of raisins and creamy whiteness, of a time when this delicious mush meant rice. Stir Fries had not yet made their debut in my mother's kitchen (which they would with a fury) and rice, in my mind, was in no way connected to vegetables. Therein lay it's beauty. Tonight I recovered this delicacy. I have no idea if this rice pudding is at all like the one my mom use to make. I think, most likely, it is not. This particular pudding starts on the stove and finishes in the oven, rendering it both simple to create and extremely creamily delicious.

The recipe is from Marion Cunningham's The Supper Book (which is a super book, by the way) and I only altered it slightly. Marion uses one cup of cream in her recipe, which I replaced with two percent milk. The reason being that Marion serves her pudding for dessert, whereas I was feasting on mine for dinner. You might consider using part half and half cream, but my rice pudding was plenty smooth, rich and delicious.

Rice Pudding (serves 6)

1 cup water
1/2 cup white, short grain rice
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (here Marion uses heavy cream)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup plus 2Tbsp sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350.

Bring the water to boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the rice. Cook on low for ten minutes. Add the milk and salt. Cook on low for ten to fifteen more minutes. The rice should be tender. Combine the remaining sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl. Remove the rice from the heat and add the egg mixture to the pot. Whisk to combine.
Pour the mixture into a square baking pan. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Put the pan in a larger pan and fill the larger pan with boiling water one inch high. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until almost set. Let the pudding cool slightly, and firm up in doing so, before serving.