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01 January 2009

French toast for 2009

French toast with sauteed bananas

Dear 2009,

My goodness, you years do seem to leap along, don't you?

A decade ago, I read this book by Paul Monette, one of my favorite writers, and something he wrote has always stayed with me. Melancholy about the passage of time, he asked one of his older friends if every year went faster.

"Only the summers," she said.

When I was in my 20s, that seemed true already. A high school teacher at the time, I felt most free in the summers, when I had hours every day to write. The list of expectations for my accomplishments was enormous then. Those warm months flew by like mammoth jets leaving trails that disappeared within a moment. How true, I thought.

Now, however, I know better. All the year long rushes by so fast that I can't even think of a simile for it. Every day now, the Chef and I look at each other, as we lie on the bed with our kicking baby between us, and say to each other, "How did it get to be the evening already? How is it almost time for her to go to bed?"

Our friend Alison and I looked at each other today and said, "Six months? How is she going to be six months old this month? That's half a year. How did that happen?"

I don't know.

All I do know is that Little Bean's giggles, ringing out from her car seat as I walked her around the grocery store, are the best sound I have ever heard. Her kicks, this time last year, were in my belly, jiggling me. Now, she kicks against the mat on the floor and propels herself backward. We once dreamed of her as we ate our meals, and now she is spitting pureed food out of her lips and laughing at it.

2008 changed me.

Without a doubt, this past year was the best one of my life, of our lives. Little Bean was born. Everything else feels small in comparison, even the looming manuscript deadline for my second book. Once -- all of two years ago -- a book deal seemed like the biggest deal in the world. Now? I'm thrilled to be part of this book (the evocative recipes are the Chef's, the photographs tell the story in a spectacular fashion, and my writing plays only a small part). I really want to share it with you all. But I think it will be a much better book for the fact that it's really not the most important focus of my life anymore.

A little girl who rolls over and giggles with her face planted on the floor, chases light with her eyes, kisses her stuffed animals, and smiles wide as the possibilities of her life when I enter the room — that's the focus around here.

It feels so damned good to not come first in my own life anymore.

And so, 2009, as much as we love you, already you feel small. Last year, I wrote a letter to 2008, hoping for great things. (To be fair, I already knew I was pregnant and hadn't announced it yet. Much of the letter is imbued with the hope that the little one would be born.) This time last year, I had so many hopes, a lot of plans, and a list of foods I wanted to create. Some of them happened. Most of them I had forgotten until I read the piece again.

This year is different. Oh, there will be big moments: two books to complete; two surgeries to endure; the Chef's eventual return to a restaurant; possibly a move; a paperback coming out. In fact, on paper, it's another enormous year.

But here's one way 2008 has changed me: I'm not thinking too much about any of them. I'm here, today.

In the mornings, I've learned to pour myself only half a cup of coffee. That way, when Little Bean needs me, unexpectedly, and the coffee goes cold, I don't feel I've missed anything. Those expectations of accomplishments I once had for myself? They're fairly well gone. Life has never been what I planned for, anyway. I just want to welcome it all.

And the other way 2008 — the year of shattering mortality questions and big-scary-adult situations -- has changed me? I don't want to meander my way through it here. Once, I filled giant black sketchbooks with my thoughts, every sentence important. Now, I write less and live more.

I'm not much interested in the future, other than hoping that the ones I love are in it. I'm only interested in now: the sound of Little Bean's hands grabbing the plastic rings above her seat and tossing them about; the Chef sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her, making faces; the mess on my desk that I have learned to embrace; the trees bare of leaves in the park across the street.

2009, all I want are long mornings filled with a kid with smooshed bananas on her bib and a husband with stubble who forgot to change his socks. It's not a bad way to live.

Some French toast might be nice too.


It's hard to go wrong with French toast. Sweet and milky, chewier than pancakes, love with crusts — this breakfast always makes me happy. Last week, with half a loaf of gluten-free bread left, the Chef turned to me and said, "Tomorrow, French toast."

Oh yes.

Our friend Tita taught us a trick to make the French toast puff up even more. When she told it to us, we thought she was crazy. But, as is always true, Tita was right. After you have soaked the bread in the eggy liquid, and browned one side, remove the slices from the pan and soak them again. When the bread returns to the pan, it will puff and swell pleasantly. More room for maple syrup, as far as I am concerned.

5 eggs
1/4 cup milk (soy or rice milk would be fine here)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 slices of gluten-free bread (we used this sandwich bread), at least 1/2 inch thick
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons butter

Preparing to cook. Slice the bread at least 1/2 inch thick. Mix everything from the eggs to ginger together with a whisk. Bring a large sauté pan to medium heat. (Not screaming hot, says the Chef. Just enough to be nicely warm.)

Soaking the bread. Soak the bread in the liquids for 3 to 4 minutes.

Browning the bread. Put in 1 tablespoon each of butter and canola. Lay 3 pieces of the soaked bread in the pan. Brown each on one side. Put the slices on a plate, browned side down. Add more oil and butter. Brown the last 3 pieces of bread. Lay those slices, browned side down, on the plate as well.

Re-soaking the bread. Place the first 3 slices of bread in the egg mixture and let them soak for 1 more minute. Lay them down in the pan and brown on one side, and then the other. When they are lovely caramel brown and tempting enough for you to eat, place them on a clean plate. Repeat the process with the last 3 slices of French toast.

Slather with butter and maple syrup. And if you want, you can sauté some bananas with butter and brown sugar and put those on top, as we did here.

Feeds 2 or 3.

Slather with maple syrup and butter.


At 5:51 PM, Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

You have a lot on your plate,make sure that you savor those special moments with your daughter. Those moments will add richness and perspective to the craziness of life. Much joy to you and your family in the coming year!

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Ms. George said...

Echoes of much joy and love to your family this year. You'll get through whatever is coming, as a family. I'm glad 08 is over as most of it revolved around supporting my mom and caring for my dad in the final stages of Alzheimers. He is at peace now. I would not have made it through 08 without my family...

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

I got some maple syrup for a gift and made my first gf French toast on Christmas day. It was heavenly!

I remember reading your "I'm kind of over bread" post last year. I was still struggling with my new gf lifestyle. I thought it was just your bravado that made you tired of bread.

Now, I get it! My taste buds and my needs have changed. That said, I will definitely make French toast again!

At 7:09 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

I love Monette's book, too! I think it's one of the most well written books around.

Anyway, I'm so glad to hear of all the joy in your life. Little Bean sounds like a cutie!

At 7:56 PM, Blogger confessionalista said...

Somehow , I have never quite been brave enough to put sweet stuff , on the eggy bread which I've made...
I might give yours a go though .The technique sounds quite different to my entirely uninformed efforts.
Thanks for sharing your hope, and love of life. It is certainly refreshing in these troubled times .

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

best wishes for the new year.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now THIS is the recipe I needed on New Years day! Hmmm... can't wait to make it.

Your reflection is beautifully put - particularly the line, "It feels so damned good to not come first in my own life anymore." You have such a way with words. Thank you for sharing them with us.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Lauren Denneson said...

Mmmmm...French toast is my favorite breakfast!
I hope the best for you and your family this year. It is indeed best to take each day as it comes...humans have the unique ability to worry about the future, but doing so can often cause unnecessary stress (says the psychologist in me!). Take care!

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A toast to you from the island... Beautiful post. You are like comfort food.

Hope to see you soon, much to catch up on... and I've made the bread three times now. It has become a staple.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger H.Peter said...

Great looking picture.
I love the banana idea as a topping.

Victoria just made GF French Toast this morning, using left over egg nogg and her Rasin bread. Different, but it tasted very good.

Recycling at it's best....

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog and as a parent watching her babies grow into children with what seems like the blink of an eye, I just wanted to wish you a very Happy New Year.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger katie stone said...

i saw the picture of this toast on your flickr account last week and my mouth has been watering ever since. i can not wait to make this. and redipping the bread?! that is genius!!!

this was a beautiful post, one of my's been a wonderful experience to read about the growth you've had this year, both emotionally, spiritually, gastronomically :), and in family-size. best wishes to you for 2009!

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

Every time I see the words "french toast" I giggle inwardly and remember the Conan O'Brien skit "In The Year 2000" (Dang, that seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?) where he predicted that french toast and french fries would disavow all ties to France and change their names to "egg bread soggies" and "greasy potato wedges".

So great that you're living in the moment. I have to stop myself all the time and tell myself to just chill out and deal with what I have today. And appreciate all of it. Especially the days with the little one, who will one day be an adult and not want to sit on my lap for story time. I have to just soak it all in now. Sort of the way bread soaks up all the eggs and milk and spices to make french toast!

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Marshamlow said...

Happy New Year. I hope this year brings you and yours great health and prosperity.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my mouth is watering.
happy happy 2009 to the three of you...

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year over there. I haven't missed a post in a year and just love your blog. I can't wait for the new book.

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surgeries? Move? You can't leave us hanging like that!

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Cove Girl said...

I have a technical baking question for you, maybe the chef will have an answer as well.

For Valentines Day, my friends and I are hosting a party for some people. There is going to be one big non-GF cake, and I've been requested to make a GF version of the big cake that will be made. My question relates to the icing.

As you know GF baked goods are not the same as the glutenized kind, and I'm wondering if the cake that I make will hold up if it's iced with fondant, like the big cake will be?

I'd like to make the smaller cake as close to the big cake as I possibly can, but if the fondant won't work I'd like to find out sooner rather than later. What do you think? Will I be ok with fondant, or should I stick to regular icing?

At 11:15 AM, Blogger alaina said...

Thank you so much for your optimistic outlook on life and on whatever it brings you. Your blog is very refreshing and inspiring to read. I have a one and a half year old boy with lots of food allergies as well as celiac disease myself and another baby on the way. Preparing food often feels overwhelming and I don't always have lots of time for cooking but I love your recipes whenever I get the chance.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, thank you for all the great recipes.

I can relate 100% about how we change when faced with life/death situations, especially that of your newborn child. My son was born 2 months premature in 2005 with a major heart malformation. After 11 months in the hospital and open heart surgery he is now the most amazing 3 (almost 4) year old. That experience changed my life, as Litle Bean's medical situation changed yours. I never realized that I could love anyone so much and how all that seemed so important in my life up to that point became so insignificant in the space of a second.

I still have to remind myself from time to time to slow down and watch him grow (as well as his 4 month old sister). For me NOTHING is more important than these present moments with the ones I love, they go by so fast and will soon only be magical memories that my children are creating for me.

Cherish these moments with the ones you love and have a wonderful year!

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Rosiecat24 said...

A baby changes everything, doesn't she? I'm happy that yours is healthy and thriving.

I LOVED that Paul Monette book! It is one of the saddest pieces I've ever read. I just cried my way through it. What a heartbreaker :-( But may we all find a love like his...

At 4:27 PM, Blogger MsJess said...

Oh how I love french toast! My grandfather used to make it with challah and called it Jewish Toast (since it was made by and for Jewish people) I might have to make a batch for my family when I visit them this weekend.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

THANK YOU so very much for the comment about pouring half a cup of coffee. The entire post was great, as usual, but with the birth of my first kidlet only 10 weeks away it is the tidbit about the coffee that I will remember for years to come. I can't quite tell you how much that resonated with me.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Lovebird said...

So nice to read another wonderful post from you. I always enjoy our writing. Happy New Year to you and your darling family.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Chris Mandeville said...

Dear Shauna,
I'm a writer and gluten-free, and reading your blog makes me feel like I've come home. Thank you for all your efforts to make gluten-free cooking tasty, earthy, satisfying and fun. And thank you for sharing your voice (as well as your recipes, recommendations and experiment results) with the rest of the world. You have already made 2009 a better year for me, and it's only January 5th--thank you. I wish you continued success, happiness and good fortune.
PS your peanut butter cookies are my favorite food this week.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any time you write about the Little Bean and an ordinary day with her, I am enthralled. 2009 sounds like it will be pretty good for you all, especially given your approach. I know it will be a great one for you all. I chuckled a bit at the half cup of coffee ... we, moms, think nothing of making such changes in our routines to better accommodate life with a little one--and that's the way it should be.

The recipe sounds divine. I may make it when we have overnight guests in a few weeks. I can't wait to check out your friend Tita's extra puffiness factor! (Of course, I'll use our honey as topping since we keep bees.) I have a friend who always called confectioner's sugar, French sugar. I suggested that perhaps it was because she always ate confectioner's sugar on French toast and that was it. LOL

All the best for 2009! Looking forward to reading about all your family adventures and always, your food (food, glorious food). :-)

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the french toast recipe!I was a little unsure of how re-dipping the bread would work- but trusting you and the Chef I gave it a try! AMAZING! We loved it! It was my boyfriend's first french toast since being diagnosed and he just LOVED it! From now on- this is how we make french toast! Thanks so much!

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

"It feels so damned good not to come first in my own life anymore."

What a beautiful line from a woman who writes many beautiful lines and creates beautiful food and beautiful pictures. But I didn't know you'd hit parenthood so exactly too. Sigh. .hands pressed together. Thank you.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Maureen "Hold The Gluten" said...

Happy New Year!! Thank you for letting us into your lives and sharing your wonderful stories! Living gluten free is just another chapter in this large book of life :) PS - The French Toast looks HEAVENLY!!!

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Pink of Perfection said...

I love the same line as Marcia. :) I look forward to that. I know it will change everything, in ways I can't imagine, and in the best ways possible.

Happy new year to Little Bean, Chef and you. What a great family.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the love of all that is gluten-free, encourage Lucy to follow other interests, too- and start now. It is never too early. Take her to museums. Show her art and the ocean and animals and flowers. Have her meet other kids and families who are different from your foodie friends. Get her moving and physically active. Read her books that aren't about food. Introduce her to non-foodie activities. Don't make her life ALL about food ALL the time. It's great that you want to share your other loves with her, but as someone who was expected to grow up loving all the same things as my parents, I can't tell you enough that it's a HUGE disservice to your kid. Get in the habit now so it's not hard on you later. You're smart people and I know you guys can do it! :)

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thanks to everyone for the comments. I hope this year is extraordinary for you as well!

For the person who asked about the surgeries and the move? Well, we're going to keep quiet about any possible move for awhile. But we wouldn't be going far. And it would be joyful. The surgeries are probably less joyful. Someone we love deeply is having a mastectomy made necessary by cancer. And Little Bean is headed for surgery in April, something big, but she'll be fine. We might tell you more closer to the time. Thanks for asking, though.

Cove Girl, the Chef says you should easily be able to use a fondant on a gf cake. If it's the right recipe, it will just be cake!

Pink of Perfection, Oh yes, it's definitely something to look forward to. You will love it, I'm sure.

Anonymous, oh heavens, are you serious? You really think the only thing in the world we are sharing with our five-month-old daughter is food? Don't be silly. This is a food blog. That's why I share only that thin sliver of her life here. It's the only part that applies. She has a full life, and her own interests. We want her to be herself. That's why I don't write about other stories of her here.

At 11:50 PM, Blogger amy said...

Shuana--you rock as a momma--a writer--a human. I love reading your words.

At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna: French toast (probably made with Wonder Bread) is one of the special Saturday morning memories of my childhood. Why should our GFCF little guy be denied an indelible memory like that? Unfortunately, though, despite several recent attempts to resurrect those cherished "french toast mornings", I've been less than satisfied with the finished product. I think the GF bread we use is just too dense to soak up the custard. First I'm going to make a batch of your sandwich bread, it just sounds so much lighter than others we've tried. Then I'm going to try your 'double dip' technique, I'm sure that will deliver what I've been searching for. Thanks so much for this. Too bad this will have to wait until Saturday!

At 11:30 PM, Blogger babalisme said...

Hi I just found your blog through blogging. I always search for a new way of french-toasting, thank you for the recipe!

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Gina Perry said...

Thanks to this recipe, I am now at peace with GF french toast! I'm 38 weeks pregnant and woke up Sunday morning with a craving for french toast. I had tried a few times years ago, and just resigned to never bothering again but I remembered this post and thought I'd give it another go. I used slightly stale GF pantry sandwich bread, but followed every other bit of the recipe and it was DELICIOUS! Next time I might cut it into sticks to get more french toast-y goodness in each bite - but otherwise, fantastic! Thank you so much.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger sheilahp said...

wow!I became gluten free in August and haven't tried gf bread yet....can't wait to try it.zi was so upset I could never have bread again... thinking nothing will ever compare to a piece of french bread with dinner:)Love your blog I am very impressed! Thanks!!!

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We your readers will send you love+strength for April. And some fast healing vibes for the little Bean.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger EddiE & Rosie Kourian said...

The way you enjoy your life is absolutely inspiring for me! And I thank you for reminding me how treasured it can be and what is the only right way to approach it - with absolute appreciation!!! You are a great blessing to me and to many more, I believe! Keep this joy forever! You are priceless! :)

Rosie Kourian


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