Bike Riding, Farmers Markets, Pumpkin Crafts & Beautiful Weather

I’m sitting in one of my go-to spots, ChopShop Co., enjoying an açaí bowl. The pleasant notes of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” dance around the shop as patrons walk in and out, letting a flood of sunlight pour in with each cling of the opening door. The floors at ChopShop are a rustic pale wood, with iron shelves along the perimeters, the walls made of brick with an accent wall of deep grey.

This has been one of my favorite weekends in a while. It was so wonderful in every way. Because the weather here in Arizona is finally starting to cool down, Brayden and I got to go on a date we’d been wanting to go on for a while now.

On Saturday morning, we stepped out of our home, where the crisp morning dew and the rain from the night before still lingered on blades of grass, large droplets on our cars, and puddles in the street. The night before, we had rode around on our bikes at dusk looking for frogs near the water. I picked up every single one we found, with the exception of a particularly big froggy dude. (Psst, I really love frogs! I had way too much fun searching for them).

Back to Saturday though, our plan was to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies we had so been hoping for. We live right against a park called the “Greenbelt” that spans from north Tempe to north Scottsdale in a long, thin stretch. The bike paths in the park take you anywhere you want to go, provided you’re going a significant way north/south. We also live just a few miles from Old Town Scottsdale, the lively, cultural district of South Scottsdale. We ended up riding our bikes along the pathways of the beautiful, lush green park to catch the Old Town Farmers Market.

At the Farmers Market, we sampled tons of different locally grown/made foods. Side note: I’m really proud of Brayden for stepping out of his comfort zone and trying some things I know he normally wouldn’t want to try. We picked up some organic Jonagold apples to make an apple pie with some time soon. (We have a rad, homemade apple pie recipe I’ll definitely be sharing!)

Brayden holding an apple at the market
Brayden holding an apple at the market.

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After we had finished walking around the market, we sat down for breakfast at a place called the Daily Dose, where I got a ridiculously delicious plate of Nutella french toast (um, yes PLEASE).

Spending this time with my best friend and favorite guy in the whole world, exploring outside in this gorgeous weather–it really struck me with a deep sense of gratitude for what I have. Even though it can be easy to continuously want more and more things, I’m so thankful for the things that are already in my life.

To top it all off, we just had to complete our autumn day with a pumpkin-related craft. We picked up a few pumpkins from the grocery store and spent the rest of the daytime painting them. Brayden painted a “Goomba” face from Super Mario. It’s so adorable.

Brayden's Goomba pumpkin and my mini
Brayden’s Goomba pumpkin and my mini “Day of the Dead” and gold pumpkins.

And here’s where I end up at this current moment, sitting in ChopShop on a Sunday morning, awaiting Thursday when Brayden and I fly to Seattle for our four-year anniversary. I. Can’t. Wait. ❤

xo

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Banana Nutella Crêpes (and a Homemade Strawberry Jam of Sorts)

As most of your favorite foods do, these crepes have a story behind them. It’s pretty easy to see why I love this particular dish—I mean, everyone knows that strawberries, bananas and Nutella are the three perfect, godly flavor combinations. And when you pair that creamy, hazelnut cocoa with warm, fresh-off-the-pan crepes and a bit of cream cheese icing drizzled over the top, it’s practically heaven.

Banana Nutella Crepes

It’s a simple yet wonderfully delectable breakfast (or dinner), but there’s more to it for me than just it’s delicious minimalism. I kind of hold these crepes dear to my heart because they evoke the memories of a tradition my mom and I started together.

Back when I was a teenager still living under the roof of mom and pop, every Wednesday night was “Crepe Night.” My dad taught business courses at a local college on Wednesday evenings, and he’s not really the breakfast-for-dinner type. My mom and I saw that as a glorious opportunity to make whatever we wanted, and our mutual love for crepes seemed to stick. It became this very special time for both of us. We knew that no matter what was going on that week or how little we may have gotten to really sit and talk, every Wednesday we would prepare and cook our breakfast-dinner together, sit down just the two of us, and hang out.

Those were wonderful memories and we still try to bring the tradition back to life sometimes when we see each other for dinner (side note: If you’re within driving distance of your parents/kids or anyone you love and haven’t seen in a while, go share a meal with them!).

Banana Nutella Crepes

So recently I went to the parental units’ home and we cooked up some crepes (Dad wanted in on it this time so it became a wonderful little family dinner affair). We also thought it’d be fun to make some homemade jam to go with it as well, but since it was last minute and we did not quite have all the tools to make true jam, we simplified it and made more of a strawberry sauce with agave syrup and chia seeds for good measure. I am planning to try my hand at canning fruits and making jam, so be expecting an entire post about that sometime in the future.

Banana Nutella Crepes & Strawberry Jam

Banana Nutella Crepes & Strawberry Jam

I think this is something we’ll do forever, no matter how much time in between. It’s kind of our thing, and I really cherish that with her. My mom is a beautiful person to be around.

Banana Nutella Crêpes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

4 large eggs

1 tbs sugar

In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine the milk, eggs and sugar and beat well. Then, simply add the flour and beat with a whisk until all clumps are gone.

After that, heat a large, shallow frying pan over medium heat with coconut oil or a nonstick spray. Before you add the batter, take the pan off of the heat. Crepes are meant to be thin, so add only about a 1/2 cup of batter to the pan and make sure the mixture distributes across the entire surface so you get an even crepe. If you need to add a bit more, go for it. Taking it off the heat for a moment allows the batter to spread out across the pan rather than start cooking right away in one spot. We don’t want clumpy crepes!

If you have a tool that allows you to distribute the batter evenly over the pan, then by all means use that. Then, just watch for one side to barely begin to get a golden hue to it. Crepes should be a little on the softer, more malleable side, so don’t let them get too crisp.

Once it looks thoroughly cooked, set it onto a plate and adorn it with all of the scrumptious fillings you can imagine. We, of course, love thinly sliced bananas, a generous amount of Nutella and a bit of whipped cream. We also put a bit of our “strawberry jam” in them along with fresh berries and it. was. wonderful.

Other Topping Suggestions: Toasted pecans or walnuts (crushed), cream cheese icing, caramel sauce, dark chocolate, blueberry coulis… Ahh the list could go on and on. And we’re just talking sweet crepe ideas–imagine how the world will open up when we explore savory options. ❤ 😍

Glazed Baked French Toast

This breakfast just feels like cozy. It feels like happiness. It’s warm, sweet, crunchy on top and absolutely melts in your mouth.

Warm Glazed Baked French Toast

Quite a lot of my love for it has to do with the memories associated. On my first white Christmas and the first holiday spent in Utah with my boyfriend Brayden’s family, we had baked french toast for breakfast. His grandma had made several pans and invited everyone over to her house for a Christmas brunch. Family, chatter, clanking of kitchenware and all of the wonderful breakfast smells of cinnamon, syrup and honey-cured ham.

One of my favorite parts of that day was simply sitting on the couch with a hearty slice of baked french toast, looking out the window at the falling snow. Since then, I’ve wanted to create a baked french toast that invoked that same warm, comfy, happy feeling.

This recipe is so easy to make–the hard part is waiting around while it bakes in the oven. Have fun! And be sure to invite lots of people over to share it with 💛

Warm Glazed Baked French Toast

Glazed Baked French Toast

For the French Toast Mixture:

1 loaf french bread, or other crusty bread you like

6 eggs

1 3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

3 tbs butter, cool

For the Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tbs milk

1 tsp heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350ª and butter a 9×13 inch pan.

Rip the bread loaf into medium-ish pieces and toss them into the pan. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and cover it with foil, then set it aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In the mean time, start making the crumble topping by cutting the butter into small pieces and setting in a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and mix with a fork until everything becomes nice and crumbly.

After the bread has had a bit of time to soak up the mixture, uncover it and sprinkle the cinnamon crumble over the top. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden brown. You can cook it for slightly less time (around 45 min) if you want it to have a more bread pudding-like texture.

Once it’s finished, give it about 5 minutes to settle, then drizzle the glaze over the top. And of course a generous amount of hot maple syrup is always the way to go.

Warm Glazed Baked French Toast

The Best Ever Homemade Brioche French Toast

I love taking simple dishes and bringing them to another level, maintaining that fantastic simplicity but heightening the taste. French toast has always been one of my favorite breakfast foods–the crisp, buttery flavor of bread dipped in a sweet cinnamon custard and griddled just right so it has those crispy swirls and designs. As you bite into it, the thickness of the bread has soaked up the eggy mixture, giving it that moist, fluff-like texture. Pour hot maple syrup over the top, add fresh berries, Nutella, bananas, whatever you like, and it’s hard to imagine any other meal quite so perfect.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

Brioche, a buttery, eggy French bread, is one of the best breads to use for french toast, as it’s thick, dense texture and slightly sweet flavor holds its own really well when dipped in the milk-egg custard mixture used to make this popular breakfast dish. So, I decided rather than going out and trying to find brioche at a bakery or grocery store, what better alternative than making my own bread?

With that, I set out to make my own brioche from scratch, then used that bread to make the best french toast ever. 

Homemade Brioche French Toast

I definitely encourage you to make this bread yourself. Although it takes all day and you will have to wait until the next day to have that glorious breakfast, it’s worth the time and effort (not to mention you’ll have a ton of fun doing it). I had a blast making this bread, and it was such a relaxing, peaceful way to spend my day off. If you don’t want to worry about making the bread or just don’t have the time, simply scroll to the bottom for the french toast mixture! Buy a loaf of thick sliced french bread, brioche, Texas toast or any other bread you like.

*Be forewarned: this entire dish calls for a lot of eggs, so make sure you have plenty on hand!

Let’s get started! I used Julia Child’s brioche recipe from Baking with Julia, and the french toast mixture is my own.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

Brioche 

The Sponge

1/3 cup whole milk, warm (about 100-110º F)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

The Dough

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

4 eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

Put the milk, yeast, egg and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. (If you don’t have a large mixer, you can still do it with your hands. It’s tough, though!)  Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, just until everything is combined. Sprinkle the rest of the flour over the sponge and set it aside for about 30 minutes.

You should notice that the flour sprinkled over the top will start to crack.

Brioche Dough

Add the sugar, salt, eggs and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer attaching the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute, until the ingredients start to come together. Continuing mixing, add a 1/2 cup more flour. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 15 minutes. Scrape the bowl and dough hook as needed. If you are kneading with your hands, be sure to douse your hands in flour, as this dough is super sticky.

As the dough is mixing during that 15 minute period, the dough should start to come together and slap against the sides of the bowl.

Now it’s time to add the butter. Rather than microwave the butter to soften it into submission, take a rolling pin and pound it down until it’s flattened and soft, but not melty or warm. Put the mixer on low-medium speed and add a little bit of butter at a time.

After all of the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute or so, then reduce the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. If after a few minutes, the dough is still not coming together and is still quite sticky, add a tablespoon or two of extra flour. When you’re finished, the dough may still be slightly sticky and soft. This is perfectly fine.

First Rise: Move the dough to a large, buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 2-2 1/2 hours.

Second Rise and Chill: Deflate the risen dough by placing your hands gently underneath and working around the perimeter so that it sinks back down. Again, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, during which the dough should almost double in size for a second time.

Once the dough has finished rising in the fridge, there are a number of ways you can go about preparing the bread for baking. I divided the dough into balls that fit snuggly in a buttered 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, placing eight balls into a pan (2 by 2 by 2 by 2). You should be able to get at least two loaves of bread in total.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly brush each loaf with egg wash (1 egg and 1 1/2 tbs of water), making sure not to let the glaze drizzle into the pan, as this will inhibit the dough’s rising ability while baking. The egg wash gives the bread that shiny look. With a knife or scissors, make a cross in each ball of dough. Bake the loaves for about 28 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 200°F. Cool to room temperature on a rack.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

French Toast Mixture

3/4 cup milk

3 eggs

1 tbs heavy cream

1/2 tsp cinnamon (+ more as needed)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Dip each slice of brioche (or any thickly sliced bread) in the mixture and hold for at least ten seconds on each side. The brioche is very dense and will need a while to soak up all of the custard. Then, fry them up on a large frying pan or griddle at medium heat with a generous amount of butter.

I love adding a bit of hot maple syrup and berries to my french toast. Enjoy enjoy enjoy!

Homemade Brioche French Toast