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?


Sunday Morning Breakfast: Carrot Cake Muffins with Melting Coconut-Almond Icing

I woke up before the sun this morning to “Say a Prayer” by Aretha Franklin. I couldn’t help but be in a good mood.  I really feel like I have my life together when 1. I wake up to Aretha, and 2. I wake up as she sings “From the  moment I wake up…”

I read some of The Simple Path by Mother Teresa and how Jacob moved his whole life (again) to Egypt because he heard Joseph was alive.

I drank too much coffee and stared longer than I had time for out the window at the birds chasing each other and singing their Sunday song.  There’s not as much of that in a courtyard of concrete as there was in the tree-laden hills of Arkansas.

In these practices, my heart was quieted in the first few moments of daylight, and it was a true Sunday morning–baptizing, sacred, familiar, new.

After my first few Sunday morning rituals, I got up from my comfy couch nook, turned on the Sara Groves Pandora station and began making breakfast.

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A few weeks ago, I made zucchini bread, and I have made it a few times since. A few days ago, I accidentally put twice as much maple syrup in the batter and couldn’t figure out why the bread wouldn’t solidify. Then I realized my mistake and accepted that it was my brain telling me to eat more maple syrup. That had to be it. I accept, brain. You’re right.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before my obsession with the 5-lb. bag of carrots at Whole Foods. 5 lbs of organic carrots for less than $5, people! I don’t think Whole Foods has realized what it’s doing.

So I’ve been trying to find more ways of incorporating carrots in our diet because I’m not a huge fan of raw carrots or steamed carrots, which I realize is ironic. But 5 lbs of carrots for less than $5!  You can’t pass that up.

I found a vegan carrot cake muffin recipe, and I tweaked it to make it oil-free and smothered in coconut cream.

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The coconut cream is not true icing in that it doesn’t harden or even stay on top of the muffin. Once it hits a warm muffin, it begins to surrender to the carrot cake muffin and melt into happiness. It’s a celebration of vegetables and cream.  It’s a symbol of what happens to my cells as carrots enter swimming in coconut cream–they surrender, they accept.

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Carrot Cake Muffins with Melting Coconut-Almond Icing
Adapted from Beth’s recipe at Tasty Yummies
Makes 12 muffins

Muffin Ingredients:
2 c. oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
2 flax eggs (2 tbs. ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp. water mixed together)
1/4 c. pureed pumpkin
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. raisins
1 c. shredded carrot

Icing Ingredients:
2 5.4-oz. cans of coconut cream*
3 tbsp. maple syrup
Handful of roasted almonds, ground

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare flax eggs and set aside while you mix other ingredients together.

Combine first four ingredients in a big bowl. Then add coconut.

Mix wet ingredients, including flax eggs, in a separate bowl until completely blended.

Combine dry and wet ingredients and stir until blended. Add walnuts, raisins, and carrots.

Scoop into muffin pan and cook for 25 minutes.

While muffins are cooking, ground almonds and maple syrup together.

Scoop coconut cream (make sure you don’t scoop out coconut water) into a bowl. Add almond and maple syrup mixture. Whisk together until completely blended.

Once muffins are done, let cool in pan for a few minutes. Then take them out and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes.

Smooth icing** on top of the muffins and feed to groggy husbands.

*For best results, refrigerate the coconut cream the night before.

**Because of the nature of the coconut cream, the icing will melt a little bit over your muffin. If you don’t want that, don’t add the icing.

How do you get more vegetables into your diet?

Plant-Based Zucchini Bread

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Dessert breads have been the bane of my vegan existence. My mom used to make amazing banana bread growing up, and since we’ve transitioned into a plant-based lifestyle, it’s been very difficult to find a good bread recipe. It’s either been dense and dry, or runny no matter how long I cook it. I had almost given up.

But yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of breadlessness, I will fear no famine for He with me. Give us this day our daily bread.  Or something like that.

I have been a fan of zucchini for some time because it can be eaten raw (raw lasagna, anyone?), sauteed, baked, steamed, you name it. I’ve been looking for a good zucchini bread recipe for a few months, and I was delighted to find a vegan recipe for zucchini bread that didn’t use oil or vegan butter. It’s all plant-based ingredients!

This is not my personal recipe. I changed a few things from Will Cook for Friends‘ recipe, so check her blog out! This bread is moist, rich, and makes for an amazing breakfast.

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Zucchini Bread
(Adapted from Willow Arlen from Will Cook For Friends)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP ground flax meal (and 6 TBSP water)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. honey
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (approx. 1 1/2 medium-size zucchinis)
1/3 c chopped roasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350f.

Combine flax and water to make a “flax egg.”   Set aside to gel while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl.

Grate zucchini.  My zucchini wasn’t quite grated–it was cut into 1-inch slivers from my Salad Master.

Add applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to the flax egg, and whisk until combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix.

Add grated zucchini and almonds, and stir until completely mixed.

Pour into a loaf pan or an 8-inch cake pan, and bake for 50 minutes.  It will be done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Slice and serve to hungry husbands.

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What’s your favorite thing to do with zucchini?

Plant-strong French Toast Casserole

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When I was younger, my cousin Rachael and I were great friends. I would sleep over at her house on the weekends and we’d play Guess Who? until the wee hours of the morning. Then we would wake up and eat my Nonna’s French toast casserole and play Barbies until my mom tore me away mid-morning. It was childhood bliss.

I’ve been searching for a vegan equivalent to French toast for awhile because 1. I love French toast, and 2. There is this amazing Hungarian breakfast that’s like a salty French toast that I’ve been wanting to make.

I found a few different recipes and kind of merged them together one evening, planning to make French toast the next morning. Then I had a great idea! Why not make French toast casserole? It would take less time and nostalgically taste better. Bingo.

This recipe is a winner for a few reasons:
1. It literally takes no time in the morning because the minimal prep work is completed in the evening.
2. It tastes heavenly.
3. It’s good for you.
4. Leftover silken yogurt makes for some great berry yogurt (blend with some frozen berries and honey and voila!).

Plant-strong French Toast Casserole
Serves 6

1 c. silken tofu
2 c. soy/almond milk
4 tbs. honey or maple syrup
4 tbs. flaxseed
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 loaf of bread
Maple syrup and/or berry soy yogurt for garnish (optional)

The night before, blend all ingredients except the bread and optional ingredients until liquefied.

Halve slices of bread diagonally and fill up a 13×9 pan. You may not use the entire the loaf of bread.

Then pour over tofu mixture of bread and refrigerate over night.

The next morning, bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Drown it in maple syrup or yogurt and enjoy!

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What was your favorite breakfast as a kid?

Chocolate Scones with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing


We often joke that all it takes to get me out of bed in the morning is freshly brewed coffee, but JD requires a little more effort. There has to be breakfast made and on the table to get him out of bed, and I think the more dessert-like the breakfast, the faster he gets to the table. I haven’t timed it yet, but I’m fairly certain that my hypothesis holds true.

We love plant-strong desserts and breakfast food because we can eat so much of it and not worry about going into a sugar coma or gaining weight. In fact, the food is good for our bodies! So we tend to put a lot of chocolate in a lot of things, including breakfast scones.

I found this idea for a recipe when I was trying to make chocolate breakfast cake (there is such a thing) one morning, but I had added way too little milk. So I’ve tweaked it over the past year and added icing to it, and now it’s a Sunday Morning favorite. It is so sweet that it could pass as a dessert!

Chocolate Scones with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing
Makes 8 scones

2 bananas*, liquefied
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 c.+ 1tbsp organic soy milk
4 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Icing ingredients:
1 banana
2 heaping spoonfuls peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. honey or maple syrup

*The riper the bananas, the better your scones will bake, and the sweeter your scones will be. I typically go for bananas that are beginning to have brown spots.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the scones, mix together dry ingredients in a big bowl. Blend wet ingredients until completely liquefied. Then pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and mix well. It should be a little too wet to form a dough ball, but dry enough that it won’t run on a pan. If it’s too runny, add flour. If it’s too dry, add milk.

Pour dough out onto a circular pan (I used my stoneware) and smooth out with a spoon until it’s circular and evenly distributed. Then bake for 10 minutes.

While baking, use a hand blender to blend the icing ingredients. Add peanut butter to thicken it up and honey to thin it down.

When scones are done baking, spread the icing on the top and bake for 3 more minutes.

Slice it up and enjoy!






What’s your most dessert-like breakfast?

Sunday Morning Breakfast: Pumpkin-Pear Dutch Baby

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“What’s the name of that again?” said anyone I’ve ever tried to tell about this recipe. Truly, it is a hidden gem. If you know what a dutch baby is, please give yourself a pat on the back.

A dutch baby is a baked bread that has a consistency similar to tofu and pumpkin pie. I know, it sounds at best strange and at worst gross. But trust me on this one.


In our pre-plant-strong days, we were introduced to a wonderful recipe in Cooking Light by a friend called Pear Dutch Baby. It was half-nectar of the gods, half-earthy goodness. However, it requires a bunch of eggs, butter, and refined sugar.

I’ve tried to recreate it many times. Once, it was as thick as a fruitcake. Another time it completely dissolved in the pear mixture. But that’s because I hadn’t hit on the secret ingredient… the ingredient that would hold it all together: Pumpkin!

Of course, the best thing about fall.

The only thing you need to know about this recipe besides it’s awesome factor is that it needs to be eaten immediately (that won’t be a problem at all!). If you let it sit, it gets soggy. So eat up and enjoy feeling cultured with your newfound knowledge.


I listened to this while making it, and I think it made it even tastier.

Pumpkin Pear Dutch Baby
Serves 4 (makes one pie pan)

1 flax egg (1 tbsp. flaxseed+3 tbsp. water, let sit for 1-2 minutes)
6 tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 c. soy milk
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour (this can be found in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
4 tbsp. ground flaxseed
3 pears, peeled and finely sliced
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix first 4 ingredients with an immersion blender. Then add flour and additional ground flaxseed. Whisk until really smooth.

Lightly coat stone* pie pan or 8-inch round cast-iron with oil and pour mixture in. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.

Meanwhile, sauté last 4 ingredients in a cast-iron pan on low-medium heat on the stove.

When the baked mixture is done, pour pear mixture (liquid and all) over the baked mixture. Serve immediately.

*I’ve never tried making this in a glass or non-stick pan. I’ve always made it and seen it made in a stone or cast-iron dish.

What’s your favorite hidden gem of a meal?

Sunday Morning Breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Pancakes


I could say it all started on Instagram, but truly Sunday Morning Breakfast started long before that. 

I look back on Sunday mornings growing up fondly. I remember waking up to the smell of bacon or pancakes or cinnamon rolls, and that was enough to get me up and out of bed. My family would gather around the pan of cinnamon rolls or the plate of pancakes and for a moment, be peaceful. We’re all familiar with the chaos of Sunday mornings before church, right?

I’ve carried on this tradition in my home, and Sunday mornings are just as special. Now I’m the one waking JD up with the smell of whatever is cooking in the kitchen, and we value the time we spend every week sharing the maple syrup and getting our hearts ready for the church service.

I look forward to hearing little feet coming down the hall telling me that my kitchen is about to get messier. But until then, I want to have breakfast with you.

I had some leftover pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, and I certainly didn’t want anything pumpkin to go to waste! So of course I made pancakes. We live on pancakes and tacos around here.

If you have leftover pumpkin pie, here’s a recipe for you. Have breakfast with us!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
Makes 12-14 pancakes

2 1/4 c. of soy/almond milk
1 banana, mashed
1/2 pan of pumpkin pie (about 2 c.)*
3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3 tbs. maple syrup
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Heat griddle to 350 degrees.

Blend all wet ingredients with a hand-mixer. When using whole wheat flours, you really need to make your liquid as liquid as possible to make the pancakes fluffy. You could also throw all of the wet ingredients in a stand-up blender if you don’t have a hand-mixer.

Then add dry ingredients and stir until mostly smooth and there is no remaining dry flour.

Ladle on about 1/2 c. of mix onto griddle. When edges of pancake start to solidify, flip and wait 2-3 minutes.

Serve with fruit, maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, or whatever you like!

*My pumpkin pie was made from organic pureed pumpkin and cashews.

What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?