quick and easy and fancy

Affogato. A dessert I never indulge in because I don't drink coffee. And though I've used Pero as a coffee substitute for many recipes, for some reason it never occured to me to use it in this simple application. So though I admit that this in not a from-scratch recipe (though now I'm tempted to post about homemade vanilla ice cream and how it really IS worth the time and money), I wanted to share. I made this for dessert last night and my kids loved it! My 3 year old asked for more. And my "I don't like bitter food" husband even liked it. Without any added sweetener of any kind. This is coming from a guy who wants me to add sugar to his hot chocolate, so I think it was definitely a success.

And here's how simple it is. 2 ingredients. Vanilla ice cream & pero. And since Pero acts like instant coffee, there's no brewing involved. And even if I'm all about the labor intensive process of food, I also like a quick fix once in a while. A good one. And this is. I feel like I'm far away in a tiny street café in Italy. Because, afterall, this is an Italian dessert.

Coffee-free Affogato
serves 4
1 C hot water
1 tablespoon Pero (I make it extra dark for this particular recipe. For drinking, I use 1 teaspoon)
4 scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream
  1. Place one scoop of ice cream in 4 seperate serving dishes. I like to use little cappucino cups for this, but any small dish will work.
  2. Stir the Pero into the hot water until dissolved and pour about 1/4 cup into each serving dish. Serve immediately.

breakfast kick

I guess I've been on a bit of a breakfast/brunch food kick, and it might be because my cute husband was home for 3 weeks over the Christmas break. It was so nice! Especially because he spoiled me and let me sleep in every morning that I wanted to. Which was most mornings.

And like I've mentioned before, he loves sweet food. So on the rare occasion that I got up with everyone else, I thought I should be sweet back and give him his favorite breakfasts. Hence the waffles from the other day, and now french toast. Although this french toast was after the break this morning. Either way, it's my way of showing my appreciation for my sweetheart. And it's fun to indulge once in a while.
And I have a pretty strong opinion about french toast. I think most people do. I think french toast is best made with quality bread. Challah and brioche are great, but honestly, my favorite is when it's made with a good crusty loaf. The crust gets the right kind of chewy, and the crumb absorbs the custard perfectly and develops a slightly crisp crust. It's the only way to do it. Just make sure your bread is at least a day old. And if it's a REALLY crusty loaf to begin with, slice it on the thin side and let it soak longer in the custard. Or you won't be able to cut through it too well. I always use my own homemade bread that I bake from my favorite bread book.

My French Toast
serves 4 (or less, if you have a big eater)
1 1-lb loaf crusty white bread, such as a simple boule, sliced about 1 inch thick

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine(as opposed to coarse, not quality) salt

butter for the griddle
  1. Preheat the oven to lowest setting and place an oven-proof platter in the middle of the oven.
  2. In a shallow mixing bowl (I always use a ceramic or glass pie plate), mix the eggs and cinnamon together. This encourages the cinnamon to properly get mixed into the batter as opposed to sitting on top. Add the milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until combined.
  3. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter on a griddle heated to medium-low. Soak 2~3 slices (depending on the size of your griddle) in the custard, about 10 seconds on each side. Let excess custard drip off and place each slice on the griddle in one layer. Once the first side is golden brown, flip it over and cook the other side through. Once cooked through, place the finished slices on the platter in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining slices.
  4. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Happy New Year!

We started the year at church, with a special Sunday brunch in the morning. My sister taught me this recipe for waffles a while back, and I've tweaked it a little here and there and added our new favorite topping to the mix. A little rich, maybe, but why not start the year with deliciousness, right? We did, after all, practically detox on all Japanese food for the following week. Japanese food is good for that.

And speaking of Japan and the New Year, one of my new year's resolutions is to be on here at least once a week. And at least one Japanese recipe a month. Hopefully more often, but gotta start somewhere when somehow I've lost some steam. I blame the pregnancy, but it's hard to use that as an excuse when I've been cooking a lot since the second trimester. Let's blame the major lack of sunlight in the Winter months instead.

I have a passion of my culture and food is so central to it. So why not explore it more and share it with you, my dear friends? So hopefully I still have supporters and followers and please continue to have faith in me. I'm back for real this time, so please frequent this humble little space on your interesting-things-online hunting from time to time.
Our favorite wafffle/pancake/french toast topping is a banana caramel sauce. I got the idea from a book I bought on clearance at TJMaxx one day--purely an impulse purchase. But not one I regret. The dark, rich caramel sauce coating each piece of banana is divine on top of a rich breakfast staple like waffles. And these oatmeal waffles are buttery and tender but crisp and that comforting oat flavor goes so well with it. So when you're feeling decadent and in need of an indulgence, have fun with this easy, probably mostly pantry ingredients waffles recipe.

Oatmeal waffles
makes about 6 large waffles, depending on the size of your waffle iron
1.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1.5 cups milk
1/2 c melted butter, cooled slightly
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla until combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined. 
  4. Preheat the oven to the lowest setting with a cooling rack resting over a baking sheet. Grease a preheated waffle iron and pour about 1/3~1/2 cup of the batter into it. Close and cook to manufacturer's directions. Place the waffle on the cooling rack in the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.
  5. Serve with banana caramel sauce (recipe follows), lightly sweetened whipped cream (to soft peaks), your favorite jam, pure maple syrup, apple butter, or fresh fruit.
banana caramel sauce
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 bananas, peeled and sliced thick
3 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Once melted, add the honey and sugar and stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer on medium-low until the sugar dissolves and starts to darken a little, 3~5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and bananas and stir until all of the banana slices are coated. Pour into your serving and let cool slightly before serving. (The starches from the banana will thicken the sauce as it cools so don't worry if it seems a little runny when you pour it out of the pan)