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Vanilla Chai-Infused French Toast; or, One of the Best Ideas I've Ever Had

Friends, Readers, Countrymen/women -- I am today going to share with you one of the best ideas I ever had in the kitchen: How to make Vanilla Chai Tea-Infused French toast.

This is what happens when I cook/take pictures in a well-lit kitchen! Not bad, huh?

BUT FIRST: Did you know my friend Daphne has an awesome kosher food blog (or rather, is the food editor of a fantastic all-things-Jewish-parenting site) called Challah Crumbs? No? Well YOU DO NOW. You should a) check it out, then b) VOTE FOR Daphne/Challah Crumbs as one of the best kosher food blogs on the web!

Ok. The genesis for my vanilla chai french toast, as with so much of what I cook, may be found in my haphazard approach to dish development and my poor memory. As they say, it's better to be lucky than good -- and now and again I get to be both.

Some months back I was set on making brunch for Jen and her family, and as I was deciding what to whip up, I thought to myself, "How about that awesome thingy I ate at Open City?" which is a pretty super little restaurant/diner not far from my home in Washington. While I've only been for brunch, the place offers a large menu with a diverse array of options, including creative twists on classics -- such as their chai tea waffle.

(The adventure continues after the break!)

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This is What Way Too Many Latkes Looks Like; and Maybe I Should Buy a Food Processor


This is, by weight, approximately ten pounds of latkes, and making them entailed the grueling and forearm-building process of hand-grating every last ounce of potato. That's just how much I like my friends (who needs a Jewish mother for guilt when there's Hungry Sam?).


The following is a list of things I learned last Saturday in the context of the Chanukah get-together I was hosting and feeding (after the break):

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How to Improve Canned Chicken Noodle Soup

I've been sick the last few days. It's felt a bit as though some sort of demon virus was trapped in a little cage in my throat, tearing at my vocal chords in an effort to break free. Or something.

Accordingly, I've been eating/drinking a lot of chicken noodle soup. And, as Hungry Sam, I've put what little energy I've had into experimenting with improvements to an often bland, texture-less experience!

As my base, I've been using Epicurious' favorite canned chicken noodle soup, Progresso Traditional 99% Fat Free Chicken Noodle Soup:

Yeah, I know it's not the 99% fat free version.

Having eaten six cans in the last two days (truly I was sick, else I would have made some soup from scratch) and experimented with each one, here are my findings and suggestions (after the break). Also, apologies in advance for the totally unnecessary Star Wars references.

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For the Vegans: Lemon-Nutmeg Acorn Squash

This one is for all the vegans out there.

Cue the Barry White. Probably something like "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."

Hey there. I know you don't eat meat, and you don't consume animal byproducts at all. I know that sometimes, it feels like Hungry Sam doesn't care. But I do. And I want to make it up to you.
I've been trying, you see. I showed you who to make a pretty super brussels sprouts salad recently -- but that had cheese. I gave you my recipe for shakshuka, but that has cheese AND eggs. I know you, as a vegan, need something else, something special.
So here's an easy, simple, tasty recipe I whipped up last night -- literally. Adapted from a recipe in this month's Everyday Food, here's Lemon-Nutmeg Whipped Acorn Squash:

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How to Make Brussels Sprouts Not Taste Terrible

Caught on film: Brussels sprouts tasting...decent.

I like most food. Some readers have noted that it seems as though I'm positive and excited about almost everything I eat, which I am; in fact, I tend to be positive and excited about most things. I'm just an enthusiastic sort of guy. (Epic tale AND recipe continues after the break!)

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How to Herb-Roast Turkey Breasts and Conquer Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for chefs. On one hand, it's a moment in which skills can shine and new and creative versions of traditional dishes can be crafted. On the other, the person(s) in charge of planning and executing the menu fight two uphill battles only tangential to ability in the kitchen:

  1. Thanksgiving inspires in many Americans a series of clearly-defined expectations (e.g. "THAT's NOT THE WAY MY MOM MADE YAMS!!!"), and
  2. Thanksgiving is an organizational nightmare.

To the first issue: there's almost no overcoming the "expectations" challenge, unless everyone around the table has had similar lifelong Thanksgiving experiences. So, instead of leaping over the hurdle, I say bust right through like the Kool-Aid guy crashing through a wall. Instead of being subtle and mixing recipes up just a little, do something different enough to circumvent expectations. No, I'm not going to provide you alternatives for every dish, but how about we start with one strategy you can employ with the Turkey?


 NOTE: I say "Turkey" with a capital "T" (which rhymes with P which stands for pool) because Turkey is the centerpiece of any (non-vegetarian/alternative) Thanksgiving. Have you ever seen a Thanksgiving spread without a shining, golden, monumental KING Turkey perfectly centered among the sides?

Anyway, one still-impressive but rather easy way to jazz up the Turkey is by herb-roasting a few breasts. I suppose this only works if you're feeding people who tend to prefer white meat; however, the method I'm about to elaborate includes a little dark as well.

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Emergency Pumpkin Muffins

It's happened to all of us -- you're headed to a "Tastes of Fall" brunch party, and you remember 30 minutes out that it's a potluck. You COULD be lame and simply purchase a six pack of pumpkin beer or the like, but somehow you've acquired a reputation for being a decent cook. It might have something to do with your food blog.

So, in less than 25 minutes start to finish, you whip up Emergency Pumpkin Muffins!

Recipe below!

These are not health-food pumpkin bran muffins with whole wheat flour and oats; instead, these are slap-dash, fast-and-dirty pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins -- nothing healthy about 'em.

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