Coping: Battle of the French Toasts

(Gig Harbor, WA)  OK, enough of the serious stuff.  We need a break…

When one of the biggest news stories of the week is that Apple has reinvented the watch so that it can put further in debt – and this is hailed as progress – it’s time we put our feet down and get back to food-binging because that’s one of the few pastimes that actually makes sense, anymore.

Our “binge” will happen Sunday morning.  And the weapon of choice will be French Toast.

In the rush to do this & that, I haven’t gotten around to describing chef-daughter Allison’s incredible French toast.  It’s French toast stuffed with a cream cheese/apple sauce filling – and it’s to die for.

The way it’s built seems simple enough:  You mix up the batter (heavy cream and a couple of eggs will do).  Then you gently cook one side of two pieces of bread.

As these come up to a light brown, you spread the “stuffing mix” on the cooked sides. Slap ‘em together and cook the soggy outsides.

The stuffing is whatever suits your taste portions of cream cheese (softened to room temp) mixed with applesauce and into this you put a dash of nutmeg – and maybe cinnamon.  By varying the spices, you can cover a good portion of the spectrum from dessert all the way over to near pastry.

Whew…toss in a few slices of ultra-trimmed bacon and some link sausage, some high octane coffee and OMG…what a fine combination of octane-rush and blood-sugar explosion with enough protein to moderate the crash later on.

If you have other fruits, I can see them working, too:  Peaches or cherries come to mind.  I’m not so sure about cantaloupe or watermelon…something with less moisture would be a better fruit choice, but I’m not the culinary school grad.

(I did mention that we’re foodies, right?  It’s just that Elaine doesn’t look the part so in an act of selfless chivalry,  I do my best to make up for both of us…)

I’ve made a note to ask Allison if she pre-spread the mix on dry bread and then dipped and cooked one side only…seems to me that would work, too…just depends how crispy you want the finished product. 

So that’s one “contestant” in my Battle of the French Toasts (BoFT) due Sunday morning.

The other is my old standby: Bailey’s French toast.

This is a single-layer French toast which is made (as always) with a base of heavy (whipping) cream and a couple of eggs and whatever you have in the way of bread.

What’s different is that you use a hair less heavy cream than usual and make up for the thicker dip by adding a shot or two of Baileys Irish cream to it.  Or, in my case, the cheaper imitation stuff; St. Brendan’s and Carolan’s work with minor taste differences. Cooked slowly, (and getting the middle above 170) may drive out the alcohol.

Next, as you dredge the bread in the batter, you dust the top side with some nutmeg and put this face-down in the frying pan.  Then a second dusting of nutmeg to the side that is face-up – and you then cook and gorge to your heart’s content.  It’s a binge-day and calories don’t matter.

One of these days, I’ve got a variant of this kind of French Toast:  In stead of making it with Baileys (a half shot of Frangelico is nice, too, just cook slowly and well so it tastes pastry and isn’t about the booze. 

Another one “on the drawing board” is to put in a shot or two of Hiram’s Chocolate Mint liquor instead of the Baileys (haven’t shopped for it for years).  This would be made possibly without the nutmeg, as an afer Thanksgiving of Christmas toast where instead of maple syrup, you’d use Hershey’s chocolate sauce and wash down with a hot buttered rum or high octane coffee and some chocolate-coated espresso beans…

Other liquors come to mind: A cherry cordial or (years ago, showing my age) San Martin used to make an apricot wine (Aprivette) that would interesting with either fresh apricot jam or perhaps a cherry jam on it…again cook slowly and well, it’s not about the booze.

The third French toast nominee is to get a big loaf of French bread the day ahead of time.  Since we’re going to be seeing friends up in Poulsbo Saturday, we will probably drop by Sluys Bakery where I’ve been fueling up the Scandinavian side of my DNA since I was 12 and just learning to row a boat around nearby Liberty Bay across the bay from downtown.  (That was more than 50-years ago…dammit.)  A picture snagged off this website will put you in the mood.

So in this third method, what you do is take 2-inch thick pieces of French bread, soaking them good the evening ahead of time and refrigerated overnight.

I’m not sure what this does, exactly, but the results  when baked the next morning in a 350 (or slightly quicker) oven, is something like a near bread pudding middle with a French toast exterior and OMG, the whole thing is good.  Nutmeg dust before cooking, or overnight, depending on your heritage, though I think chili peppers would ruin it. Dash of white pepper for zing? Hmmm…

Serving in all cases is with real butter and with real dark amber Canadian Maple syrup; Canada’s contribution to global obesity issues.  If you even think about putting that high fructose crap on this kind of art, I’ll be mighty disappointed in you.  Corn should be real, saved for breads, breading, and the last 90-days of cattle’s lives but certainly not for cooking, as I see it.

We don’t eat much sugar – and maybe that’s a reason why we’re in such good health and look 10-15 younger than our ages.  Vices like sugar, tobacco, and corn syrup can’t really be good for you.  No more than one tablespoon of syrup per piece of French toast.  The idea is to taste the mixed flavors, not mask the flavor in sugary sensations. OK, three tablesppons…

If you want to read an interesting take on healthy eating and how to stay young/fit, I can’t think of a better starting point than the article “The Oiling of America .”

In this view of things, the more artificial crap you put in your body, the more those fats tend to turn into plaque rather than being returned to use as useful energy – and the more chance you rack up to lose the stent lottery held by your cardiologist.

When I find my doctor is asking about ‘drilling rights” in my body, usually six-weeks of watching the fatty food intake, plugging in the treadmill for a half hour (or more) per day, drops things back to fit and healthy.  Sometimes I walk on the treadmill while it’s running.  But the meter doesn’t seem to care if I fudge, or not.

When I do this, the doc shrugs, pronounces me alive and skips the speech on how I might use a cholesterol drug.  To my thinking, they’re the hydrogenated fats of blood chemistry.

There’s a couple of things that come from reading Paleo Diet kinds of books; the main one is about eating the natural mix for where your genetics came from. 

For me?  Scotland means oatmeal. Denmark means cream and eggs…so oatmeal cookies must be health food!  Thank you, T-6 haplotype.

I could write about food and beverage endlessly.  The one Dark Side of cookery that I haven’t yet mastered is portion control.  I figure when I croak, it will be a self-solving problem.  I promise to drop my portions to zero calories immediately after dying.

In the meantime, the battle of French Toasts seems a fine way to spend a lazy Sunday morning – the winner will be the one that tastes most like a perfect pastry without so much sugary stuff on it. Judging could last an hour, or so.

Elaine (a long-time personal trainer who’d be a gym rat even now if we were staying put long enough) points out, one of my character flaws is that I live to eat instead of following her counsel which is eat to live.

Since she rarely reads this morning’s column, I’ll let you know how she does with that eat to live stuff when confronted with a properly plated trifecta of pastry-like winners.

Them Lying Mother-Frackers/ Review Processes

Thanks and a tip of the hat to my buddy Howard Hill who spotted this dandy report which you need to read if you live anywhere near oil or gas potential areas that the oil industry is licking its chops to frack open:

Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania

One thing I’d draw your attention to on the cover of this little 28-page report on the National Institutes of Health website:  Dates.

Received: 17 October 2013
Accepted: 20 August 2014
Advance Publication: 10 September 2014

Now here’s my pet theory:  When a report comes out with some highly damning information about how the runaway oil and gas biz is playing…

a small study (492 interviews) of self-reported health issues
significantly higher skin problems and lung problems for the group less than 1 KM from a fracked well and those >2 KM from same)

…it strikes me as highly suspect that it takes so long to get the word out..  We’re talking a 28-page summary, remember?  I’m probably too prolific (this would be a 2-3 day project max for a writer/writer).  Not the kind of thing that should take more than  a month to wend its way through the review process.

Oh, wait:  Is it possible that (just like with earthquake and ground water pollution (for life) studies, the oil and gas industry has massive sway over “science?”  Well, oh damn, look surprised.

# # #

The food oil business and the fracking petroleum industry have a lot in common:  They are large industries where making a buck is more important than the local public health.  People are replaceable.  This quarter’s earnings are not, after all.

Let me remind you of the Wikipedia history of the dangerous fats in foods timeline:

As early as 1956 there were suggestions in the scientific literature that trans fats could be a cause of the large increase in coronary artery disease but after three decades the concerns were still largely unaddressed.[25][26] Studies in the early 1990s, however, brought renewed scrutiny and confirmation of the negative health impact of trans fats. In 1994, it was estimated that trans fats caused 20,000 deaths annually in the US from heart disease.[27]

Mandatory food labeling for trans fats was introduced in several countries.[28] Campaigns were launched by activists to bring attention to the issue and change the practices of food manufacturers.[29] In January 2007, faced with the prospect of an outright ban on the sale of their product, Crisco was reformulated to meet the United States Food and Drug Administration definition of “zero grams trans fats per serving” (that is less than one gram per tablespoon, or up to 7% by weight; or less than 0.5 grams per serving size)[30][31][32][33] by boosting the saturation and then diluting the resulting solid fat with unsaturated vegetable oils.

A University of Guelph research group has found a way to mix oils (such as olive, soybean and canola), water, monoglycerides and fatty acids to form a “cooking fat” that acts the same way as trans and saturated fats

The “Oiling of America” article appeared in 2000 – but the science was telling us the truth about transfats long before even that.  Our whole family went back to ‘real butter” after a 2-year use of Nuco back in the mid 50’s.

But look:  Even today, the FDA has been mostly reactive – and that’s due to the system of captive regulators.  Regulatory jobs are a key to a fat retirement position in industry.

The FDA (and the folks who should be protecting the public health and protecting ground water like EPA) have something in common:  They both are taking a lackadaisical ex post facto approach on the big problems:  “run over me with a car and kill me and then we’ll talk about traffic safety laws…” kind of thinking.

Instead they will bully the raw milk people and whine about cow farts.  And hassle the roadside vendors of home-grown produce.

That’s one reason we’re in the midst of losing our once Moral High Ground as a country.  Once upon a time we called out the bad guys.  But when you look, the processes by which we get there are terribly flawed. Nowadays, everyone’s a bad guy if they’re not a corporation.

Same thing with cigarettes, with asbestos, with radiation levels, with cell phone dangers, I could go through almost on an agency-by-agency basis and show how government’s lack of ability to see clearly is hosed in a serious way. WTF was internet slowdown day about?  Corpjacking of the ‘net, of course.

Ah…but now we get into a slippery slope discussion of how much government is enough.

Do you see it, yet?  That’s what the protests in Ferguson yesterday were about:  Why are we a month after a shooting incident and still weeks away from official reaction?  Isn’t the law to be uniformly applied?  ALL OF THEM?

We can make out a pattern here:  Where vested interests have a power or a money stake in how outcomes play, there’s one set of rules.  When there’s no money or power on the table, there’s a different set of rules that’s followed.

It’s a broad spectrum problem.  Fish rot from their head – and that means Washington.

The US Senate right now is looking at reforms that would roll back some of the corporate powers of recently granted corporations by the Citizens United decision.

Thing is, everyone in Washington knows that’s not going anywhere.

It fits the pattern I’m sketching out for you this morning, though:  Where there’s money or power on the table, government’s time-lag to reconciliation of a problem becomes hyper-extended.  We pay the Fools on the Hill how much (for them, staff, offices, pomp, and they skate on insider trading and all become filthy rich) and then they sit around in circle jerks like this pretending to fix shit?  Everyone knows this will never pass the Senate – so why the faux posturing?  Give us a break!

If the PowersThatBe don’t understand that their paradigm of power and control is breaking down thanks to the Internet, they’re even dumber than you thought.

But they are…which is why the headlines continue to reveal the patterns of structural inequality that cover the spectrum from fracking wells in Pennsylvania, to what goes on our French Toast, to how many smokers had to die before the reality of lung disease came long.  And Citizens United…don’t get me started on that…

America is living its greatest hazard:

The Rich get richer and the Poor get poorer.

It used to be just in money-related items, but in the past 60-years, or so, we’ve managed to extend the scope of malfeasance to formerly unimaginable extremes.

There…bet you could use some French toast about now, couldn’t you?

Write when you get rich