How’s your week been? Are you ready for some exciting prospects? I hope you are, because I’m about to give you some real treats.
I got a wonderful surprise in the mail this past week. I got a package containing $30 worth of products as a thank you for answering a 5 minute survey. Why, may you ask, haven’t I told you about this company before? Because I’ve never qualified for one of their surveys before. But I keep trying because I knew that the rewards would be worth it.
The survey company that I’m talking about is the L’Oreal Consumer Testing Program (LCTP), which you can sign up for here. Did you know that the same company that owns L’Oreal also owns Giorgio Armani perfume and cosmetics, Kiehl’s, Lancome, Ralph Lauren cosmetics, Garnier, Maybelline, Kerastase, Redkin, Shu Emura hair, Dermablend, La Roche-Posay, Skinceuticals, and Vichy? That’s a lot of high end and quality lines. If you qualify for surveys with the LCTP, they might send you products to test, but they also send products as a thanks for doing the surveys. Unfortunately for me, I don’t use a lot of makeup, so I don’t qualify for a lot of the surveys. I hope you get accepted and enjoy getting some amazing products.
Last Thursday, my husband decided to prepare some French toast for breakfast the next morning. Now, my husband has some quirks when he’s cooking. I have over 1,600 recipes, but if he decides to cook something, he wants to find the recipe himself. And although I think it’s quirky, he’s pretty good at it. The pretzel chicken I told you about a while ago, he found the recipe for it. He also found the recipe for the chili that took 3rd place this past February at our church’s chili cook-off. Well, he scored off the charts this time! The recipe came from a Williamsburg, VA B&B called the Cedars, and it is the most delicious French toast I’ve ever had. It’s baked and has a delicious creme brulee effect when it’s done. We are going to revisit this one for special occasions. As for it being breakfast “in bed”, I’m not very cooperative and got up before him, but he still did all the work which was a treat.
Baked French Toast (from Cedars of Williamsburg)
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
16 slice, crust trimmed off, white bread
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Combine the sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small, heavy pan. Stir over medium heat til the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Bring it to a boil, then pour it in the bottom of a 13×9 glass dish. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom and let cool.
2. Arrange the bread slices in the pan. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a bowl to blend. Pour this over the bread. Cover the pan and chill overnight.
3. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I also take the pan out of the oven so the chill comes off it. No one wants a glass pan to explode in their oven.) Bake uncovered til the bread is puffed and slightly golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Let the dish stand 5 minutes, then cut it into 8 portions. Invert each portion onto a plate so that the caramel is top side up.
For a recent game night, we tried some delicious Peanut Butter Brownies. The only problem I had with these is that I think the name brownie is misleading. To me, these are peanut butter chocolate chip blondies. But no matter what you call them, they are yummy and rich.
Peanut Butter Brownies (from Smitten Kitchen)
For the brownies:
1 c. softened butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. salt
For the ganache:
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. softened butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9x2 in. pan and line the bottom of the pan with buttered parchment. Beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high til light and fluffy, then add the peanut butter and beat til it’s incorporated.
2. Mix in 1 1/2 c. chocolate chip, then spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top.
3. Bake the brownies til deeply golden, puffed on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some crumbs on it, 40-45 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 hours.
4. Put the remaining 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour it over the chocolate chips and let it stand for 1 minutes. Gently whisk in the butter til it’s incorporated, the chocolate is melted, and a smooth mix forms. Spread the ganache on the cooled brownies and let stand til set, about 15 minutes.
Now, I know that I talk a lot about sweets and desserts on here, and I wanted to reassure you that they are sweet spots in a diet filled with plenty of savory, regular food. For some reason, I just rave about the sweets more. However, I did try a recipe today that deserves a solid spot in every cook’s repertoire. It is for a stovetop macaroni and cheese that is simple and easy. Now, the author’s intention was to get back to basics and make a plain recipe. While I think it is delicious that way, I see this as a base recipe that is infinitely adaptable depending on what you have on hand. Either way you look at it, it’s delicious.
Simple Stovetop Mac and Cheese (from Heat Oven to 350 blog)
14 oz. elbow pasta
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. shredded monterey jack
4 oz. shredded cheddar
1. In a large saucepan, bring some water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together, cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, mixing well til incorporated. Cook and stir the mix til thickened, 4-5 minutes.
3. Remove the milk mix from the heat and stir in the cheese til melted. Drain the pasta and toss it with the cheese sauce.
Well, it seems we’re at the end of our treats for today. I just want to leave you with a quote that really forced me to stop and think. It’s from C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy: “We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glory,’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He necessarily is than for any particular benefit He confers upon us; and so indeed we do and to know God is to know this.”