Sunday, February 22, 2015

And we have a winner!!!

I have found my go-to French Toast casserole recipe!

Well, I've innovated it. I had to combine two different recipes to get here, but now I can sleep secure knowing that, should I ever need to serve brunch to people, I know precisely how to put the French Tioast casserole together.

I combined the most fragrant of the custards (let's be honest, with really excellent vanilla, the Pioneer Woman's Baked French Toast has a nice, basic custard base) and the best topper (the caramel on the Skier's French Toast Casserole is...mind-shatteringly fabulous) and made the French Toast Casserole la prima.

Here it is:

Surly Knitter's Super Duper French Toast Casserole

You will need: 9 x 13 baking dish, oven, and a spoon to get it from the bowl into your mouth. You will definitely want to get it there efficiently.


For the caramel:
1/2 cup butter -- one stick, for Americans playing at home
2 Tblsp corn syrup, light or dark
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

For the custard:
8 whole eggs
2 cups whole milk (2% will suffice)
1/2 cups heavy cream (I used half and half, it works)
3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract -- buy the best one you can afford; I accidentally bought a $6 bourbon vanilla that's organic and free-trade, and I'd willingly pay that again, even if I only made $6 an hour

One loaf of crusty bread, sourdough or white, dealer's choice. Cut or torn into bite size squares/cubes.

The night before, make the caramel. In a sauce pan on the stove, melt your butter on medium to medium-low heat. When the stick is melted, stir in the corn syrup and dark brown sugar. Stir occasionally and let simmer lightly until the sugar is completely melted into the butter and no crystals remain (it takes a bit, be patient).

Meanwhile, grease your pan. Use butter or spray stuff, it's up to you. When the caramel is ready, pour into the bottom of the pan. It's not going to like the spray stuff or butter that you used very much, so you may have to spread it out with your spoon. Let set aside.

Mix the custard ingredients (I prefer to whip the eggs and sugar together before adding the rest of the ingredients, but last night I put them in as I could get to them and it turned out really well). Spread the bread bits on top of the caramel in the baking dish, using them to spread the caramel a little more. Pour the custard on top of the bread, making sure to get all the top pieces wet (unless you like chewing on broken glass, which is sort of what baked stale bread feels like in the mouth).

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, rise, shine, get a cup of joe and preheat your oven to 350 F. Pop the casserole in for 40-45 minutes (checking at the 40 minute mark for done-ness). Bake longer for a drier texture, less time for a more squishy bread pudding experience.

Remove from oven. Nosh. You don't need (nor will you want) maple syrup. Sausage is a good pairing, although bacon is always welcome in my home.

I promise you, this one is the best possible French Toast Casserole. At least, by my reckoning. Here, have some pictures:

 I wasn't home when it came out, and if you could smell it, too, you'd understand why half of it was gone before I even got here.

 Close up of the lovely, lovely custard and goo.

In my bowl, on the way to in my belleh.

You can be sure I'm already on to my second serving. This stuff is excellent.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Awesome new toys

I went to my local art museum today. They're talking about charging an entrance fee come spring, so I'm trying to get my visits in now

I'm looking to decorate my "modular work station", and it is my favorite place to find decor. So I toddled around for a little while, enjoyed my favorite pieces a bit, then hit the shop. And got myself some super awesome new toys.

The MoMA Modern Play House and MoMA Modern Play Family.

Aw, yeah, baby!

I think I'll have a hard time on Tuesday when I go back paying attention to actual work. Look at these things:

Both sets, people, I now own both sets! 

I'm going to clear my shelves, put all my pretty tchotchkes on display and hide the stuff I need for work in my closed door cabinet. It doesn't lock, anyway, so I can put my statues and stuff out and it's no safer or more endangered than it is inside the cabinet. We have a kick-ass cleaning crew, anyway. They don't take things. Heck, my boss left cash-money on top of her filing cabinet the other day, and they dusted around it. 

Those are some honest people, yo.

The best part of it all is that I used to be addicted to Colorforms, and these are basically glorified Colorforms in a swanky, modernist design structure. 

I'm going to have so. much. fun.

I can't wait to put them together and put them up on my shelf. They will go so great with my little plaster skull in a tiara (called Gertie, aka, Queen Gertrude), ceramic cat and turtles and plant. 

All that color! It will go fabulously with my various art postcards/magnets!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Well, it's pretty, that's for sure.

I took a commission from a friend a month ago, to make an infinity scarf. It is taking a blue forever, for reasons I've whined about before.

I love Rex, I really do.

Anyway, I bethought myself to finally take a picture of it. I screwed up the night-time knitting project (the one I keep in my bedroom to knit on before I go to bed) and will need the assistance of my knitting group to repair it. So this project, herewith called "Water Melons", has been promoted from knit night knitting to bed time knitting. I'll work on both of them, alternating, until one of them is finished. Or I'll go crazy and eat my own yarn, one or the other.

Here is a picture of Water Melons:

The stitch pattern is called "melons", and I found it in my favorite yarn porn book evar: Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby.

And I just about fainted when I looked up that link. The book is now under $10 cash American. I won't tell you what I paid when it was brand new, but I'll tell you what, just looking at the pictures is worth every penny.

Anyway, the yarn is Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Pearl in the color "Blue Lagoon" -- hence, Water Melons.

Hey, I've been getting more and more tired lately, all my wit and humor burned off well before I get home, and all that's left over is the burnt out husk of a woman who used to be absolutely clever on this blog. Cut me some slack on the stupid puns, ok?

I probably need more protein. And maybe some exercise. And to be not dehydrated (why oh why can I not keep myself in the habit of drinking water? Yes, I know it's bland -- I mean, duh, it's water -- but you'd think I would remember how tired and headachey and miserable I get when I don't drink it and my duty to myself, you know?)

Anyway, Rex is looking a bit sheepish. He knows I've outed him for his luxury yarn fetish.

You'd think it would be a point of common ground between us, wouldn't you? If only he'd leave my stash alone, it probably would.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February is here! Huzzah!

I hate January. But it's over for the year, and boy, howdy, did it feel like it took forever. But now we are on to the shortest month of the year, happily it's also a winter month, because if any season of the year should be short-changed on days, it should be winter, and as a bonus it involves chocolate. What more can any growing girl want?

Anyway, on to my French Toast challenge. You may notice that I have been silent on the Taste of Home French toast. This is because my mother taught me that if I have nothing nice to say, I should say nothing at all.

And I'll be honest, at first I blamed the sharpness of the cream cheese for my intense dislike. The custard was so bland that all you got was a mouthfull of sharp, cheesy goo. Icky. But then this week, I used the Shop 'n Save Blueberry Surprise French Toast casserole recipe. It, too, has cream cheese, and I was hesitant. But I wasn't feeling the walnuts of Mr. Breakfast or the plain, sugary nature of the Skier's French Toast recipe, so I got some blueberries, bought way more cream cheese and went for it.

It crisped up nicely, although it looked nothing like the picture on the recipe website. But I figure that's because I haven't got a food stylist, and just got on with it. I tried it first without maple syrup on top, and it's alright. I mean, there's some syrup inside, so there's a hint of that flavor to begin with. But then I just went insane:
Sorry for the blur. My camera is, I believe, slowly but surely going down. It's almost 20 years old, so should anyone be surprised?

Anyway, that there is my first serving, which should tell you something, as I barely made it halfway through the Taste of Home version before chucking it and getting myself a bowl of cereal.

Anyway, the blueberries sort of cut the tang of the cream cheese (although, in the interest in honesty, I used Philadelphia's Neufschatel instead of actual full-fat cream cheese -- cream cheese was on sale 2 for $3, so they were out of the regular), and the whole blended with the sausage and maple syrup beautifully. And as a bonus, you get to say you got some vitamins. Not many, but blueberries. Don't certain overly-simplified nutrionists say that makes it health food?

I can see how this could be altered to include lots of other fruits and inclusions. You could carmelize some bananas in dark brown sugar and use that instead of both blueberries and cream cheese -- or just add it to. You could find a different berry that flipped your skirt up faster than blueberries and sub that. Go crazy.

This one is a serious contender for my Go-To Recipe.