French toast had me at "Hello" back when I was a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the 20th century, my mom made it with white bread, white eggs and whole milk, and we drizzled the treat with store-bought syrup and teamed it with bacon and homemade squeezed orange juice. It was a special treat that I liked in the past, but now I simply love it with its more sophisticated appeal.
French toast, also called "eggy bread" is a popular breakfast of bread dipped in an egg mixture and fried on a skillet. In the 21stcentury, I often add a healthier twist to classic dishes, including this bread dish. I'm talking a redo with natural ingredients, spices and fresh fruit, such as strawberries for romance in February, to make it a special food that tastes good and is good for you, too.
Several years ago, when I was neighborly with the former guy next door, on V-Day we woke up to snow-covered ground and trees, a real super dumping of fresh powder, like a picture-perfect Lake Tahoe post card. During my anti-cooking phase, instead of making a scrumptious hot breakfast, I offered, "Like a cup of instant coffee and toast?" After a pregnant pause he answered, "Nah, I'll pass." I was a bit hurt that he didn't stay for the no-cook continental Callie's special. I devoured it and spent the morning shoveling snow and making trails for me and my dog. But now I, the Food Network groupie, get it. If I brewed a pot of fresh gourmet coffee and whipped up a yummy, hearty dish that's easy on the eyes, I may have enjoyed the company of a two-legged breakfast companion.
Strawberry Spice French toast
2 brown eggs, beaten
1 cup 2 percent low-fat organic milk
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
4 slices wheat sourdough bread
2 tablespoons European style butter
1 cup fresh, sliced strawberries
All natural maple syrup
In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, spices, vanilla and sweetener. Melt butter on medium heat in large frying pan. Dip bread in egg-milk mixture. Cook till golden brown. Serve on plates and top French toast with strawberries. Drizzle with syrup, dust with sugar, and add a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 2.
So, this Valentine's Day, I'll probably cook up Strawberry Spice French toast and pair it with a large mug of hot flavored java. I tried it this week and it works like a charm with berry sweetness for a cold winter morning on the South Shore. True, there isn't a neighbor to cuddle up with but this year I've been blessed by cupid early. A new Aussie 10-week-old puppy will be snuggling me and my cat Zen and Brittany Simon. It's sweet enough for me and the French toast will make the morning that much sweeter!
Motto: Sometimes relationships don't work out the way we want them to but if we take an alternative route it can be sweet.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com.