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Cranberry orange baked french toast casserole

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Cranberries and oranges have long been a part of many family Christmas traditions and they are still a fun way to inject a little history into the celebration.

According to The Kitchen, for instance, oranges have been used as special treats for centuries. Great-grandparents today might be able to tell stories of the Great Depression and the incredible gift of sweet oranges on Christmas Day.

According to Colonial Williamsburg, meanwhile, cranberries were often used during the holidays because their bright red color was the perfect addition to decorations. It was common to see them strung alongside popcorn on Christmas trees. Slow to spoil, cranberries keep well throughout the winter season and will likely be available for many holiday treats.

Here is a recipe, courtesy of the Taste and Tell blog, that incorporates both oranges and cranberries into a delicious breakfast casserole that is perfect to make ahead. Pop it in the oven on Christmas morning to avoid the hassle of extra prep on a day already full of festivities and activity.

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries, divided
1 (1 lb) loaf white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups milk
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
powdered sugar, for serving

Directions

1. Pour the melted butter evenly into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cranberries over the top of the brown sugar. Add the cubed bread to the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cranberries over the top.

2. In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, orange zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and orange extract (if using), and beat lightly to combine. Pour the mixture evenly over the top of the bread in the baking dish. Press the bread down into the liquid mixture if needed to make sure all of the bread is soaked. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate overnight, at least 8 hours.

3. Bring the dish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the casserole, still covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, another 15-20 minutes.

4. Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve topped with powdered sugar.

Food

Top food trends to look out for in 2019

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The best chefs are always innovating. Here are just a few of the trends that will be popping up in eateries around the country this year.

• Plant-based dining. Meat alternatives that were once relegated to a few specialized restaurants are now taking center stage in a variety of dining establishments. Expect to see vegetables and proteins like tofu, lentils and quinoa become the star of your plate.

• Meals in bowls. Pretty enough for your Instagram feed and healthy to boot, meals in a bowl are more popular than ever. From smoothie bowls at breakfast to Asian inspired noodle bowls for dinner, there’s one for every meal.

• Upscale comfort food. The burgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese once reserved for the kids’ menu have been given a makeover. Restaurants that specialize in upscale comfort food are now offering childhood favorites made with premium ingredients.

• Insect protein. People have been eating insects for thousands of years. Now, thanks to the high amounts of protein in insects and the sustainability of insect farming, chefs in North America are boldly exploring ways to use this ingredient.

This year, try local restaurants featuring these and other food trends. You may even find a new favorite spot to eat.

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Food

Update your bedroom with new curtains and bedding

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Does your bedroom need an upgrade? Change the look of the room with new curtains and sheets. Here’s how to choose the perfect new linens for your room.

Curtains
When selecting curtains, think about the look you want in the room and then find a fabric that corresponds. Linen and cotton blends are more casual and cheerful, while silk and velvet are refined and regal.

Next, think about the color and pattern you’d like. You can match your curtains to the color of the wall and use pattern and texture to make them stand out. Alternatively, you could hang a multi-colored pattern and make them a focal point.

Bedding
You don’t need to match your bedding to your curtain, but they should coordinate. You can pull a color from the pattern on your curtains or use a contrasting colors. If you’d like to use different patterns for your curtains and bedding, stay in the same color palette.

When buying your sheets, invest in high-quality, natural fabrics. Egyptian cotton is classic and comfortable, while silk feels luxurious and has the added bonus of being gentle on your hair and skin.

By changing the linens in your bedroom, you’ll wake up feeling like you’re somewhere new.

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Red Pepper Falafel

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Falafel is an interesting blend of chickpeas, vegetables, and spices that are chopped up together, rolled into balls, and deep fried in vegetable oil. When asked today, people from many countries such as a Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, and Israel would probably tell you that they are responsible for inventing falafel.

According to History Today, however, Egypt is the likely origin of the falafel that people are familiar with now and it might not be as old as you think. It was first mentioned in Egyptian literature as early as 1882 and seems to be linked to the British occupation of that time. As the troops had found a taste for fried vegetable croquettes in India, it is likely that their search for a replacement led to the locally-sourced chickpea falafel.

Ingredients

8 ounces dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained

1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2.5 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon baking powder
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 8 cups)

Directions

1. Take the soaked chickpeas and pulse them in a food processor, scraping as necessary. After about one minute, they should resemble finely chopped nuts. Scrape everything into a large bowl.
2. Pulse the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in the food processor, until coarsely chopped, about one minute.
3. Add the chopped mixture to the chickpeas and then mix in chickpea flour, cumin, salt, coriander, smoked paprika, Hungarian sweet paprika, and baking powder. Mold mixture into ping-pong-sized balls.
4. Pour oil into a large pot – to at least three inches in depth. Heat the oil up to 330 degrees. Cook the falafel in small batches, turning occasionally, until deep brown and crispy. It will take about five minutes.
5. Transfer the finished falafel to a paper towel to drain.

These are great served alongside a bright cabbage slaw, tahini sauce, and pita bread!

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The misunderstood Brussels sprout

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Don’t you love it when the kids find out you are serving Brussels sprouts for dinner and they run to the table and demand a big helping?

Nah. That doesn’t happen.

Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation for being bitter, mushy little veggies.

But, according to the gourmets and foodies, this is all because they are cooked incorrectly. If they are boiled too long or otherwise overcooked, you get the mushy foul-smelling gunk that everyone hates.

But if they are cooked properly, the cute little cabbage buds turn bright green and slightly crisp with a nutty and sweet flavor.

You can lightly steam them whole for five minutes. Or they turn out well when cut in half and oven-roasted with butter and garlic at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. For a pan saute, halve the sprouts and, over moderate heat, cook for 15 minutes with butter and garlic until lightly brown.

Sprouts are members of the cabbage, broccoli and kale family, but don’t hold that against them. Brussels sprouts have been the little heroes of European civilization. Okay, that might be a bit strong, but they were frequently the last greens available during winter for the Romans in the 12th century and the Belgians and Germanic peoples in the 13th century and later. And since they are loaded with Vitamins C, K, and A, they deliver excellent nutrition,.

Sprouts actually grow as little buds on a cabbage-type plant stalk. They have a long growing season of about 100 days and they are extremely frost tolerant.

Last, but not least, they are an excellent choice for a low-carb diet. They have about 9 carbs per cup, but 5 carbs is all fiber, bringing the net carb total to 4 per cup.

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Start the new year with this light, nutritious sprout salad

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Change gears from the traditionally sweet and heavy holiday cooking with this fresh and bright Brussels sprout slaw.

According to the Food Network, these tiny cabbage buds get their name from their supposed cultivation in Belgium as early as the 13th century. They bring a nutty or earthy flavor to a variety of dishes whether they are cooked or raw. Rich in vitamins A, K, C, and B6, be sure to add Brussels sprouts to as many dishes as possible before they go out of season at the end of March.

Here is a delicious recipe by Martha Stewart:

Brussels Sprout Slaw

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives (or 1/4 cup scallions)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
1 small head of radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, vinegar, sunflower seeds, and oil. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
2. Add shredded sprouts and sliced radicchio to the mixture.
3. Finely chop chives and add to the mixture.
4. Mix thoroughly with tongs and enjoy immediately or place in fridge to let the flavors marinate for an even better experience!

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Discover the benefits of veganism

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Strict vegans often have ethical or environmental motivations to avoid consuming, wearing or otherwise procuring animal products. But studies show that a plant-based vegan diet also has many health benefits including the following:

  • It provides more nutrients. A vegan diet includes eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and soy products. People following a healthy vegan diet have to eat a larger variety of foods to acquire the recommended daily caloric intake. This translates to consuming more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • It prevents disease. When you adopt a plant-based diet, you lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and many types of cancer. You’ll also likely lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • It encourages weight loss. Going vegan will help you lose weight and avoid gaining it back. You’ll lower your body mass index and have more energy. In addition, your skin and hair will look healthier.

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to adopt a vegan lifestyle. If you’re thinking about going for it, make sure you eat a varied diet to guarantee you get the right amount and kinds of protein, vitamins and minerals. Ask you doctor for guidance when making the change.

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