Challah French Toast with Homemade Apple Butter

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Saturday mornings. Steady rain against the window. Freshly washed hair. Warm coffee. Early morning Skype with friends across the ocean. The likes of Josh Garrels and Audrey Assad playing in the background. These are a few of my favorite things.

These kind of mornings are renewing for the soul because I think it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz and rush of life, even on breaks. There’s endless options on Netflix and Breaking News updates on CNN, and my smartphone always promises an anesthetic pleasure that never makes good.

But setting aside time to be slow, to stare out the window, to take my time writing a blog post or a lesson plan. That is important. I read a blog post on one of my favorite blogs, Storyline, which is run by Don Miller and his team. It talks about celebrating the small, and it’s got me thinking about what I consider small or ordinary. How are those things significant? What makes them significant? Why should they be significant? When did my glorification of the big and flashy begin?

So one of my slow things is to spend time in the kitchen, making food that will delight JD. His favorite food group is breakfast, which happens to be my favorite, too. I think it’s a lot of people’s favorites.

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This is challah.  It’s a braided bread eaten in many cultures, and you can buy a loaf at your local Whole Foods.  Hungarians know it as kalacs, and JD nearly fainted when he saw it for the first time in the States.  It has that effect on people.  It is typically made with eggs, so this is not a purely plant-strong meal.  But like I’ve said on the blog before, we do eat some non-plant-strong foods such as eggs and certain kinds of fish from time to time.  It’s just not our norm.

I’ve posted before about French Toast Casserole, and while that is a time-friendly, delicious option, it’s definitely worth it to stand by the griddle and dip my finger in the batter as I flip the challah slices. Even more than the warm heaven that fills my mouth and makes my taste buds sing “Hallelujah” is the joy that spreads across JD’s face as he sees the pile of French toast awaiting him. Husbands are such good food audiences.  And warm challah makes my stomach happy.

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This recipe below takes about 40 minutes altogether to make, and there’s enough time between flips that you could clean up the kitchen, read a blog post, or water the plants. Or you can sneak tastes of the apple butter and stare into the steam of cinnamon heaven and daydream. Your pick.

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Challah French Toast with Homemade Apple Butter
Makes 1 1/2 loaves of challah

French Toast Ingredients:
14-oz. package of silken tofu
2 c. soy/almond milk
4 tbs. honey or maple syrup
4 tbs. flaxseed meal
2 tbs. chia seeds
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla

1-2 loaves challah, sliced

Apple Butter Ingredients:
5-6 apples, sliced (leave the peel on!)
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 c. honey

For apple butter, dump all of the ingredients in a crockpot and cook it on low for 5-6 hours (I did it overnight).

In the morning, throw the mix in a blender and blend until smooth. That’s it!

For the French toast, heat the griddle at 350 degrees.

Blend all of the ingredients (except the challah). I use a hand blender, but you could put in a blender. If it’s not already, pour the mix in a bowl or pan big enough to dip the bread in.

Dip a slice of the challah in the mix until it’s completely covered. Then place on the griddle. Let it sizzle for 3-4 minutes. Then flip. It should be a golden brown. If it’s still tofu-y, put it back on that side for another minute or two. If it’s too brown, flip it earlier.

Once it’s done, scoop some warm apple butter on a piece of French toast and sink into your happy place.

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What’s your favorite French toast topping?

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A Chance to Practice Resolutions

Are people still using the word resolution in March?  Is it still a thing?  Or is it more of a seasonal flavoring like pumpkin?

Not only am I using a word that most (including myself as I think about my half-marathon resolution…) try to avoid in conversation by this time of year, but I am reentering the blogosphere after a brief hiatus.  My cheer year just ended yesterday, and I now have my early mornings and late evenings back for a few months.  Hallelujah for 5 AM alarms and quiet living rooms.

Though I took a break from writing publicly, my mind and kitchen have still been buzzing with stuff that I want to share, even if it’s a little late to be trendy with words like “pumpkin” and “resolutions.”  The following story is part of my lack of trendiness.

Recently, I was asked to speak briefly about my New Year’s goals during chapel at school. My stomach fluttered as I thought about what I would say, but I was genuinely excited. Being a teacher, hoping to be a role model, desiring to be a trustworthy adult to so many students comes with not only great responsibility, but also great joy.

So as I prepared my notes (I survive on sticky notes at school) during a vocabulary quiz, I decided to talk about being grateful and accepting of the moment I was in, which I realize now as I write this the irony of preparing my notes as my students took a quiz.  I wrote down how I felt overloaded with data at the end of 2013 because I read multiple blogs daily, listen to way too much NPR, checked my Facebook an embarrassing amount of times, and thought about “the next thing” endlessly. I did/do this because I felt like I was always going to miss something.

And I was missing something. The present.

I continued my notes for the brief talk, quoting Jim Elliot, pondering the “We’re human beings, not human doings” sentiment, and jotting down practical ways to be present in the moment I was given.

I sat backstage with the other speakers, who snickered at my notes as they were youth pastors and pros at saying something insightful on the spot. I thought about the students I should make eye contact with to keep my nerves from getting the best of me (I have the best students, by the way) and listened to the others as they related their goals.

But then the chapel organizer came up to me and the speaker before me and told us that there were 5 minutes left, so we needed to be fast. I hadn’t planned a long talk, so I felt fine. I could do this.

And then the bell rang during the other speaker. The organizer approached me with a distressed look on his face, and before he could say anything, I said, “It’s fine, I don’t have to go. Don’t worry about it. Thank you for asking me!” He apologized as he strode out on stage to lead the students in a closing prayer, and I walked away. Disappointed.

But as I walked to my classroom, I thought about what was on my little sticky note. Being accepting of the moment I was in. This was it. This was a chance to practice my resolutions.

It’s not the moment I planned for. It’s not the moment I wanted at that moment. But it was the moment I was in.

And I had a choice: to distract myself from disappointment or to accept the moment gratefully.

I wish I could say that every disappointing moment ended in me saying, “Thank You”, but I can’t. But that’s kind of the point of resolutions, right? To start doing things that we aren’t in the habit of already.

So I encourage you to revisit your heart.  Revisit your resolutions, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve acknowledged them.

May you choose to be filled with the moment you’re in, whatever it is, rather than seeking to escape. May you look around while you’re waiting rather looking at a screen. May you think about this thing rather the next thing. May you be who you are and not a filtered, best-foot-forward version of yourself.