Strawberry French Toast/Cheesy Fries
By Amy Story
Loaded Strawberry French Toast
1 lb. strawberries (1 pint), hulled and quartered
3 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (can use half of each)
1 loaf challah, brioche, or French bread (about 16 ounces), cut into 1-inch cubes
8 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 c. strawberry jam, divided
6 large eggs
2 c. half-and-half or heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for serving
> Place the strawberry sauce ingredients in large bowl and stir well until combined and berries are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
> Arrange middle rack of oven and heat to 350°F.
> Place bread cubes in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
> Coat 9×13-inch or 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of bread to baking dish and spread an even layer. Arrange cubed cream cheese evenly over bread layer. Dollop half the jam evenly over bread.
> Arrange remaining bread in even layer over the jam.
> Place eggs, half-and-half or heavy whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl, whisk until combined. Pour over the bread, then gently press down to make sure all bread gets saturated. Dollop remaining jam evenly over top of the casserole.
> Cover baking dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
> When baking, arrange rack in the middle and heat to 350°F. Remove baking dish from the refrigerator and let it sit while the oven is heating.
> Uncover and bake until the casserole is set, puffed, and the top is golden-brown, 40 to 45 minutes.
> Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes. Right before serving, stir the strawberry sauce and evenly spoon over top of casserole. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
Note: Growing up, anything strawberry was seasonal, a rarity and a delicacy of sorts to a household of sisters who each had a sweet tooth. That made me crave and love the berry even more. Strawberries meant something special, and getting one seemed to mean you were something special.
I recently got a chocolate dipped one as a bonus when purchasing a soup and salad from a local restaurant. It was ridiculous the amount of exulting I did over something so simple. Like a child with a gold star on her forehead for doing something good, I wanted to tell perfect strangers, “Hey, I just got a strawberry. Yeah, chocolate dipped. For no reason at all. It was free with my soup.” I am so turning into my mother.
Copycat T-Bell Cheesy Fries
1 lb. Ore-Ida™ Extra Crispy Frozen Fast Food Fries
16 slices American cheese
1/4 c. milk
1 Tbsp. liquid from sliced jalapeño jar
2 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Pinch of black pepper (optional)
Pinch of granulated sugar (optional)
> Stir together seasoning mixture ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
> Fill a saucepan with the oil to at least 3 inches deep in the pan and heat the oil to 350 degrees F.
> Cook fries in hot oil for 6-8 minutes or until crispy. Then move fries to plate lined with paper towels to soak up extra oil.
> Unwrap cheese and tear slices into smaller pieces.
> Place cheese and other cheese sauce ingredients into microwave safe bowl.
> Microwave mixture uncovered in 30 second intervals, stirring between each until cheese has melted and is well combined with other ingredients.
> Place fries in a large mixing bowl and toss
with seasoning blend.
> Serve fries with the cheese sauce on the side
Note: When my three children were teenagers, they had a rather strident stepdad (long gone) who abhorred junk food. Which was why we took great delight in doing random junk food runs, midweek on school nights. All three or four of us would be schlepping around in our pajamas or sweatpants (which said strident stepdad never, ever wore) when we’d suddenly get the ten p.m. urge to hop in the car for a junk food run. We’d come back with mini tacos, burgers, seasoned nacho fries that filled the very air in the house with carbs and fat. The Strident One would shut himself in the bedroom to prevent inhaling what to him was pure poison; which made it that much more fun for the four of us.
Sloggy dispositions and sore tummies in the mornings? Sure. Nagging stepfather saying, “I warned you?” Yep, amongst our evil, non-repentant giggles. Totally worth it? Definitely.