French toast (ish), aka EoMEoTE#10

Week before last, I was totally craving french toast. I don’t know what the deal was, but I just really wanted some. So, every so often, I’d ask P. to make me some, and he would in turn laugh at me. I had recently proclaimed (once again) my determination to eat more healthfully, so he wondered where the french toast would fit in. I said that I could make it low-fat. He laughed again. I took that as a personal challenge. He doesn’t even like french toast, so he’s suspect anyway. Who doesn’t like french toast?

One weekend morning, I decided to attempt some low-fat, low-tech french toast. I thought about baking it or stuffing it with cream cheese, but in the end, I was pretty lazy. It was a Saturday morning, after all.

I mixed together some egg beaters and skim milk and added a bit of cinnamon and vanilla extract. I heated up some low-fat butter in a skillet. I used the Sara Lee Delightful bread, which is pretty good bread for being only one Weight Watchers point for two slices. I soaked the bread in the egg mixture in the usual way and then cooked it for several minutes on each side. Once both sides were crispy, I added a little more of the low-fat butter, poured a bit of low-calorie syrup over it (the fat-free stuff doesn’t even taste like food, so it’s been relegated to the very back of the cabinet), and sprinkled just a teeny bit of powdered sugar over the whole thing.

I admit, it was not as good as your full-fat french toasts. But it was pretty tasty. I’ll be more adventurous and try a baked/cream cheese version on a Saturday when I’ve had more coffee.

After eating my fantastic breakfast, I got to thinking that hey, eggs? bread? This just might qualify for Cook Sister’s end of the month egg on toast extravaganza! However, I haven’t participated lately, despite it being just my kind of thing (with no rules or deadlines) and I see that things have turned literary. Dr. Suess? Well, alrighty then!

French toast I wanted, “No!” said P.
“What about your healthy plea?”
“I have some tricks here up my sleeve,
I’m not on Weight Watchers leave.”
P. just laughed, but I’d show him.
I’d eat it all and still stay slim.
I could not have them with whole diary.
No yolks either? That was scary.
I could not have french crusty bread.
The light would have to do instead.
I could not have full butter fat.
What if the bread ends up too flat?
But it was great when it was done.
So, P. can laugh, and he’ll get none.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Reserve Syrah (Columbia Valley, 2002)

I used this in the Manicotti I made the other night, and we drank the rest with the meal.

It smelled great, but then I generally really like the aroma of Syrahs. It had a nose of blueberry and cherry. It tasted toasty and spicy, which muted the fruitiness of the palate. It had a long, nice finish. P. said it was “chewy” and “chunky”, which was his way of saying it seemed to have been aged in new oak. At 14.1% alchohol, this isn’t a timid wine, but it’s not overpowering. It was great with (and in!) the manicotti.

From the winemaker:

distinguished by dark complex fruit aromas of fig, black cherry, and rasberry with spice notes of cinnamon, clove, and a hint of cedar in the backround. The wine is substantial in the mouth but remains well-balanced. It finishes with subtle chocolate notes from the barrel.

Aged for 22 months in 34% new French and 53% new American oak barrels, and 13% older French and American oak. 3,000 cases produced.

Herb pairings: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary

As for price? wine.com has the 2001 for $32.99, discounted to $24.99. I’m not sure what we paid for this 2002. I think we got it as part of a wine club selection.

Restaurant Wine gave it a score of 4.0:

Excellent: supple and intensely fruity (nearly sweet to the taste); a full bodied wine which is long and persistent on the finish. It tastes of blueberry, pepper, lavender, toast, and plum

If you like toasty Syrahs, this one is worth checking out. (However, I don’t know that I would seek it out solely for the “subtle chocolate notes” as those are quite subtle indeed.)

manicotti: maybe more low-fat than usual

I made a kind of manicotti last night. I meant for it to be low-fat, although I don’t know how successful I was. I probably should give up trying to stuff pasta, and just make these kinds of dishes lasagna style. They end up that way in the end anyway.

This ended up pretty tasty. I bet I can spice things up a little more next time.

Marinara sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1+ cup chopped mushrooms
olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes to taste
chopped fresh thyme and oregano
8 (or so) chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
splash red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
sliced fresh basil

I cooked up the onion, garlic, and mushroom in some olive oil. I added the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and herbs. Then, I added the tomatoes and let everything simmer for a couple of minutes. I added the wine, red wine vinegar, and sugar and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes. Near the end, I threw in the basil leaves. I found that I needed a lot of salt. I added it throughout the process.

Shells
Before I started the filling, I boiled a pot of water and then added 12 manicotti shells and let them cook about halfway, then drained them.

Filling
dash of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground turkey
chopped fresh oregano and thyme
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
16 oz low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg white, beaten
1/3 cup grated parmesan

I cooked up the onion, garlic, and turkey with the herbs and spices. Once the meat was cooked, I added the rest of the ingredients and stirred it all together.

Topping
Sliced low-fat mozzarella
Chopped basil
grated parmesan

Baking
I preheated the oven to 325. I put a layer of the sauce in a bakin dish, then stuffed the shells with the filling and placed them in the baking dish. Well, mostly I accidentally split open the shells so they ended up being more like tortillas with the seam side down, but same idea. Then, I poured the rest of the sauce over the whole thing, placed the mozzarella, parmesan, and basil over the top, then covered the baking dish with foil. I baked it for about 30 minutes, then took the foil off and baked it another 10 minutes. Then, I took it out of the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

I had with the red wine I used in the dish (a Syrah that I will write up shortly). If only I had thought ahead and made some garlic bread…

Friday afternoon at work: wine and cheese tasting

A couple of Friday afternoons ago at work, we had a wine and cheese tasting. A couple of coworkers came up with some great pairings and some really interesting wines.

Fromage with Ken Forrester Petit Chenin 2004
This Chenin Blanc ($9) is from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. I was excited to try a South African white wine, since my only other experience with South African wine was for Wine Blogging Wednesday, when Cook Sister gave lots of great information about South African wines.

It was very tart and acidic. My first thought was green apple, although I’m not sure if that’s quite right. Definitely fruity. Wine Spectator gave the 2003 87 points.

Rich and forward, this plump Chenin sports honey, nectarine and star fruit flavors, with a full, round texture and finish. Lacks Chenin’s bracing edge, but solid.

Wine Squire found it to taste more the way I found it (maybe the 2004 is fairly different from the 2003?):

Yet another fine example of what Chenin Blanc can become as interpreted through South African terroir. A bright, crisp spring and summer quaffer! Aromas of orange blossoms, key lime zest, and watermelon rind transform into clean flavors of young apricots, kumquats and straw with a citrus zingy acidity. Great for grilled seafood, fava bean salads and light poultry dishes.

Cantal with Vila Marija Pinot Grigio
This was my first experience with Slovenian wine. Slovania is very near Italy (in fact, one of the write ups I found for this winemaker situated the vineyards in Italy) and some of the vineyards are quite old.

I found out some information about this wine ($10) here. And I found a cached page from the Athens Banner Herald that:

The Vila Marija Pinot Grigio 2003 is not subtle and creamy on the palate as is the previous wine. Instead, it screams volumes from the glass as it is poured. By its color and concentration, one can see this is no ordinary Pinot Grigio. This wine is fresh and vibrant yet golden in color, atypical for young Pinot Grigio. Cool and fresh aromas of lemon, pineapple, orange and tangerine literally scale the inside slopes of the glass and scream, “I am no overwrought insipid white wine, I am what Pinot Grigio can be.”

These mesmerizing, crystalline flavors of pure fruit, bright sunshine, cool winds and glacial soils are captured solely by fermentation and bottled only in minute amounts.

And I found out a little more about Slovenian wine here:

Slovenia, a winemaking region since Roman times, is wedged between Austria and Croatia, sharing smaller borders with Hungary and Italy. It is along that Italian border, just north of Slovenia’s tiny seacoast on the Adriatic, that father Mirko and son Ales Kristancic make their marvelous Movia and Vila Marija wines.

If you like Italian whites but are looking for something a little different, give Slovenian wine a try! (My coworkers got this wine at Whole Foods, so it’s readily available.) We had with cantal cheese, which is a French cow’s milk cheese.

Ossau with Tres Ojos Old Vine Garnacha 2003
This Italian Grenache (about $9) comes from 50ish old vines and is aged in steel vats for 12 months. It’s spicy and fruity with hints of rasberry and pepper. Wine Advocate gives it 87 points. We had it with Ossau cheese.

St. Agur with Block 45 Petit Syrah
This California wine is, according to Whole Foods, “full-flavored with spice, blueberry and plum on the palate, finishing as smooth and polished as you would expect. ” We tasted it with St. Agur blue cheese from France. This was a fantastic pairing.

Parrano with Memo Sangiovese
This Italian wine (about $10) is very fruit-forward , which makes it a great pairing with the parrano.

thanksgiving dinner in summer

I’ll just come clean right now. I really hate that “semi-homemade” show on Food network. It’s the one Food network show I can’t have on even as background noise. That said, I really felt like I had stepped into the world of semi-homemade a few nights ago when I made dinner. But how else was I going to make turkey and stuffing on week night?

The turkey was more not at all, not even a little, homemade. I picked up a roasted turkey breast from the grocery store deli. I highly recommend that actually, if you’re ever craving those day after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. But anyway, what really worked was the stuffing. Everything else was just OK. As a whole though, the meal was pretty tasty.

mashed potatoes
I’ve finally faced that I really don’t like skins in my mashed potatoes. I tried to like it for a while, but I really only like skins that have been roasted in the oven: baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, roasted potatoes. Skins boiled and then mashed? Not so much. It’s too bad, really, because it’s pretty convenient to peel a couple of russets, cube them, and then halve a bag of those teeny red potatoes and throw it all into the water. Which is what I did for this. Next time, I’ll get the larger red potatoes and peel them first. Anyway, I boiled the potatoes, drained them, mashed them a bit with a potato masher, then added salt and pepper, along with some melted butter, milk, and sour cream. My standard mashed potatoes. They were fine other than the whole skin issue.

sauteed chard
I just chopped this up and sauteed it in some olive oil with a few cloves of minced garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and honey. And I added a little maple syrup at the end because the greens tasted a little bitter. Greens are so good with mashed potatoes, seriously.

gravy
I don’t even want to talk about it. This didn’t turn out at all. It tasted great and it served the purpose it needed to — that is, to make my open-faced sandwich not so dry, but it didn’t thicken at all. I think I needed more flour in my roux. All I did was melt some butter and add an equal part flour, and a little salt and pepper (and a few spices: maybe some poulty seasoning and some garlic powder… possibly a few other things). I stirred it all together and let it cook for a few minutes, then whisked in a couple of cups of chicken stock. I let it simmer a bit and then added a touch of milk at the end.

stuffing
I sauteed a chopped sweet onion, several cloves of garlic, minced, and a couple of Italian chicken sausage links with casings removed in a bit of olive oil. I added in some sliced mushrooms and let that cook until the mushrooms were soft. I also added in some herbs and spices: salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, celery salt (I could have added actual celery, but I really don’t like the consistency), chopped fresh parsley, sage, and rosemary. Once everything was cooked, I added a couple of cups of chicken stock. Then, I added a boxed stuffing mix and some french bread I had toasted and cut into small pieces. I mixed everything together and added a bit more chicken stock until there was a bit more than could be absorbed by the bread. I let them simmer on low heat for several minutes, then I transferred everything to a baking dish and let it bake at about 350 for 20 minutes or so (just until it was crisp on top).

I served it thusly:

french bread roll, split
layer of stuffing
layer of turkey
layer of mashed potatoes
poured gravy over the top
greens on the side

So, semi-homemade, but it only took about 40 minutes and I had Thanksgiving dinner!