my baby…she’s “free”

it happened. on sunday. she turned 3. every year, i ask myself. how does this happen? you think i’d learn by now.

but really…how does it happen? it goes by so fast. when you ask her how old she is, she says “i’m free!!!”. i ask her a lot, because it is so cute.

we didn’t have a major party this year. just a few friends at the park. i didn’t even get good photos…too busy playing hostess.

i will be taking some big 3 year old photos this week. hopefully she will oblige.

happy birthday, my sweet stella. we love you!

french toast…tower cafe style

we have a restaurant in town called the tower café. they are well known for their breakfast…specifically the french toast. i haven’t confirmed this, but rumor has it that they soak the bread over-night in the custard mixture.

are you still with me?

it’s amazing…truly.

i decided it was time to try and replicate this famous french toast at home.

this recipe is not for the weak. it has half & half and eggs and butter and more butter.

you’re still with me, right? ok. good.

i think if i’d had the patience, i would have let the bread harden another day and i would have tried to soak the bread over-night. old bread – that’s really where french toast came from…did you know that? true story.

ok, back to my french toast. here it is in all its glory…recipe below. enjoy!

tower cafe inspired french toast


1 loaf french bread (day old is best)
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 teaspoon good vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional)


take the loaf of bread and slice on a diagonal to get about 8 1″ slices.

next crack the eggs and pour half & half into a large backing dish (i use a lasagna pan to fit all the bread in one). whisk to combine the eggs and half & half. next add the vanilla (and orange peel if you want) and stir to combine. you should have a custard-like mixture.

now comes the fun part. place all of the slices of bread in the custard mixture. let them soak for a minute and then turn them all over to get the second side coated. leave the bread in the pan for at least 15 minutes or so. go make some coffee and bacon to go with your french toast. let it hang out in the mixture to get nice and soaked up in custard.

heat a griddle or skillet (or sauté pan) to medium-high heat. smear butter to coat the pan. place bread slices on the pan and let them cook for about 4-5 minutes until nice and golden brown. flip the slices and cook until golden brown on the second side (probably about another 4-5 minutes, it just depends on your pan.)

remove slices from pan and serve immediately. i like my french toast with just butter and powdered sugar sprinkled on top, but you can put syrup on there too.

i should warn you, this meal is known to put you in a food coma for the rest of the day, so make sure you have no plans!


sliders…in ‘n out…animal style!

it’s not as dirty as it sounds. if you’ve never had an in ‘n out burger, please go and find one and eat a single with cheese. if you are a veteran in ‘n out junkie, you are probably familiar with their “not-so-secret” menu. animal style has some very specific characteristics that start with a basic single with cheese, but the main difference is that the patty is grilled with mustard, and topped with grilled onions and “spread” on the sandwich.

i’ve been wanting to try recreating my all-time favorite burger at home for a while now and since sliders are sort of the trend these days, why not make them cute and bite-sized?

i was recently sent this link to a recipe for making a double double animal style. close enough. there’s not much to this recipe but the “spread” is key. and this recipe is pretty darn close to the real deal!

the onions are key too…you can’t rush. it takes a good 15-20 minutes to get them good and caramelized. so you know what to look for, here’s my onions in process:

here are a few more photos of the cooking process…

for the patties, i like to use a 1/4 cup scoop and then form them in my hands – put a little thumb print in the middle to avoid the “burger bump.”

put the mustard on one raw side while the first side is cooking. (i used my griddle…i think this is the closest i’ll ever come to flipping burgers!)

here is the delectable finished product. i served mine with some sweet potato fries.

here’s the recipe…enjoy!

in ‘n out animal style sliders
recipe yields 16 sliders


2 lbs ground beef
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
2 onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
kosher salt
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
16 dinner rolls
black pepper
dill pickles chips
roma tomatoes – sliced
ice berg lettuce
1/2 cup yellow mustard
4 slices american cheese
cooking instructions

heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt to skillet. reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally until onions are well browned. this process takes about 15-20 minutes – be patient, it’s worth the wait! when the onions start to sizzle add about 1 tablespoon water to skillet and stir. continue cooking until the water evaporates and onions start sizzling again. repeat this process, until your onions are nice and brown. remove from pan and set aside.
you can make the “spread” while your onions are doing their thing. combine mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, sugar, and vinegar in small bowl. stir to combine and set aside.
form your patties using a 1/4 cup scoop. flatten to about 1/2″ and then make a thumb print in the middle. season generously with salt and pepper. add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil to pan, swirl to coat, and heat over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. add burger patties and cook without moving until well browned and crusty on first side, about 3 1/2 minutes. while patties are cooking, spread 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard on raw side of each patty with a spoon. flip patties with a thin spatula so mustard side is down and continue to cook for 1 1/2 minutes. top each patty with a slice of cheese (1 quartered american cheese slices.) spoon about a teaspoon of the onion mixture over the cooked patties. slice the dinner rolls and pop them under the broiler to give them a nice golden brown toast. prep each bottom bun with spread (i actually put spread on the top and bottom bun – but do what makes your skirt fly up), one pickle slice, 1 slice tomato, and lettuce. place the patty on the bottom bun. top with top bun, and serve immediately!