Thanksgiving and Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast

A family Thanksgiving tradition: we host our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren for breakfast, gift-giving, watching the Macy’s Parade and the dog show.

In Thanksgiving days past I have made Sushi, Mushroom Spinach Quiche, and Croque Monsieur Breakfast Casserole.

This year we enjoyed Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast. YUM!

Reading from The New York Times:

“You only need a few everyday ingredients like milk, bread and eggs — plus a heavy dose of your favorite pumpkin spice blend — to make this warming breakfast for a crowd. The whole thing is assembled the night before, so all you need to do when you wake up is a few finishing touches before you pop it in the oven. If you don’t have a favorite pumpkin spice blend, there is one at the bottom of this recipe for you to try. Don’t forget the maple syrup — and potentially some toasted nuts or fruit — to serve.”

Ingredients

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

~3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
~2 cups/480 milliliters whole milk
~4 large eggs
~¼ (packed) cup/50 grams light brown sugar
~4 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin spice blend (see Tip)
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~½ teaspoon fine salt
~1-pound enriched bread loaf, like challah or brioche, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices (We used Multigrain Bread from Costco.)
~Maple syrup
~Chopped toasted walnuts or pecans or fresh berries (optional)

Preparation

  1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal, glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin spice blend, vanilla and salt.
  3. Dip each piece of bread in the milk mixture, then lay it in the prepared pan in slightly overlapping layers. Pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Gently press the bread into the custard, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees, uncover the dish, and gently flip each piece of bread, one at a time, so the side that is more saturated with custard is on the top. Rearrange the slices decoratively, as needed, so the rounded edges of the slices are exposed. Dot the top with the 3 tablespoons butter and cover with foil.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until lightly browned, slightly puffy in the center, and cooked through, 15 to 20 more minutes. Tent with foil if the top is browning too quickly.
  6. Let cool slightly before serving with maple syrup, and nuts or fruit, if desired. I put some homemade Granola on mine!

Tip

  • Make your own pumpkin spice blend by combining 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Makes about ¼ cup.

Photos from our celebration:

Thanksgiving Cheers; Prosecco and Chambord. Danielle and Bella. Emily practicing for The Nutcracker. Emily trying on her new dress. Freddy keeping his eye on me–making sure I am not drinking from the Prosecco bottle! Susan and Freddy. Matthew. Our Thanksgiving Dinner; Shetland Salmon with White wine, Lemon, Fennel and Endive, Mashed Potatoes with Fennel and Horseradish, Green Beans and Mushrooms. Me.

Who Are You?

"John The Baptist is one of my favorite people in scripture. He knew who he wasn't (I am not the Messiah) and he knew he was (I am a voice in the wilderness).

Every day I need to get clear in my soul who I am and who I am not.

Otherwise, I find myself living a life God never called me to.

~Rich Villodas
Rich is a Brooklyn-born Pastor and author of The Deeply Formed Life & Good.

Reading from my website:

Photography is my passion. Child of an Iowa farm girl and a Vaudeville tap-dancer, I believe I have been a gift from God. A gift for seeing beauty–-creating artful, remarkable, memorable photographs.

I specialize in portrait, nature, food, and documentary photography. I am also a published writer, art consultant, and gourmet cook. I love family get-togethers, and cats and dogs. And red wine. I live in Western Massachusetts with my wife, Susan, our dog, Freddy, a Mini Labradoodle.

Drawing on a degree in Art and English, inspired by Nature, a passion for telling stories and years working as a writer and photojournalist helps me to follow my heart–bringing a heightened sensitivity to all my photography: portraits, nature, documentary, food, interiors, furniture. I believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography.

Photos:

Some images from the past week. Click on image to enlarge.

Amaryllis sunrise in our sitting room. Freddy. Cheese Tortellini Soup with Kale and Kielbasa. Mushroom Apple Pizza with Pumpkin Squash Sauce. Me. My desk. Elephants, one a gift from Julia. Moroccan Orange Cake. Pasta with Tuna, Capers, and Green Olives. Sunrise in Living Room.

Chicken Sausage Gumbo

Every Christmas our son and his girlfriend return to Western Massachusetts from Denver to visit family and to celebrate the holiday.

Susan and I always prepare a special dinner for the two. One year we made their favorite; Chicken Piccata. Another year Pasta Putanesca. And once, Piccadillo.

Here I am at the stove making the Roux for the Gumbo. The recipe says to Stir, Stir, Stir. Do not stop stirring until the roux is the color of chocolate milk. This might take 45 minutes! And when you have a sore right shoulder it is work. At one point I did stop stirring, walked to the fridge, grabbed the container of chocolate milk so I could compare its color to the color of the roux. Close enough.
Chicken Sausage Gumbo.

Days later Susan and I had the leftovers for lunch.

Here is recipe upon which I based my Gumbo. Note: I baked two chicken breasts and once cooled cut them into bit-size pieces. I cooked bacon first, set it aside, and used the fat instead of oil to make the roux. I also used local Polish Kielbasa. And I added a can of chopped tomatoes to the dish. I didn’t have a green pepper so I used two seeded and chopped jalapeno peppers.

All Or Nothing At All

Susan and I recently watched the Alex Gibney documentary, “Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All.”

It is a two-part documentary and I recommend it. Great footage. Great music. Fascinating story.

Sinatra grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, and from an early age he was passionate about singing–and someday singing in New York City.

This passion, and dreaming of singing in the city across the river, has inspired me to look at my 35mm film negatives from when I lived in Hoboken and worked in New York City.

Here is a photo of people from my archives on Washington Street in Hoboken:

This is one of many that appear in my book Famous People Famous Places, forward by Lucy Sante. (Wikipedia entry) I am looking for a publisher for the book.

Here is a favorite photo from Hoboken, which I believe could have been taken when Sinatra was growing up in Hoboken or when I lived on Washington Street.

A Time To Bloom

A New Year. New Resolutions. New Alterations. A Time To Bloom.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
~Some of the most quoted words of the Bible are from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, verses 1-8

Reading from Unity:

This sacred list from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 represents all the seasons and the important changes of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain.

All of them are necessary for us to learn, grow, and evolve as spiritual beings. Their appearance is not by accident. If we look closely enough, each experience reveals a loving, divine purpose that we can learn to trust.

You can read about the lessons of these verses here.


Christmas Day 2021

Woke to light snow covering the ground and trees. Snow enough to warm our hearts and delight the children.

Before heading to our daughter’s home, Susan and I took our Rapid Covid tests; both negative. Everyone attending the Christmas dinner took a rapid covid test. Sign of the times.

As soon as we arrived at the party, our granddaughter ran out of her house, a new camera in hand, and exclaimed, “Pops! Santa gave me a camera!” Here she is camera in hand:

Here are a few other photos from the day:

Christmas Eve 2021

A blessing it was to host our traditional Family Christmas Eve Party a few short weeks ago. Last year we were unable to have our traditional Family Christmas Eve Party because of Covid.

Here is our menu:

Here are photos from the party (Click on photo to enlarge.):

Left to right: apple cranberry crisp by Susan; jalapeno corn muffins by Susan; Daryl looking at 2022 calendar of Rocky Mountain National Park photos by me; Julia and Daryl; Kate, Lauren and Owen opening presents; kielbasa; Lauren; Lauren and Owen looking at book of NYC photos by me; Owen and Lauren; Picadillo; sweet and spicy nut and pretzel mix; shrimp cocktail; Susan holding present from Julia and Daryl; new vinyl from Daryl.

A blessing and joy it was to get-together.