Sugar Rush

My morning coffee—and many other treats—will never be the same, thanks to the vanilla sugar we recently made. Recycling the beans used for our delicious homemade vanilla extract, we made two batches of the sweetener. One was made with standard granulated sugar and the other was made with raw sugar. I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, but I expect each one to carve out its own place in our kitchen. So far, the raw version has worked well to top muffins and french toast, while the granulated sugar works best when incorporated into baking recipes (like these brownies). Both give coffee and iced coffee a nice hint of flavor and I can’t wait to jazz up my summertime sweet tea (stay tuned) with a few spoonfuls.

Vanilla Sugar by

Vanilla Sugar by

Vanilla Sugar

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 cup sugar (granulated or raw)
  • glass jar
  • 3 vanilla beans (used is fine), split down the middle

1. Pour sugar into the glass jar. Trim the vanilla beans down to 2- to 3-inch segments so they’ll be completely covered by sugar once placed in the jar. Add to the jar, secure the lid tightly and shake until well combined. Set aside and shake the jar every few days. The flavor should develop within a week and will get stronger and stronger every day. I was happiest with ours after two weeks.

SWWU Tip 1: If you’ll be using previously used beans for this, be sure to let them sit out on the counter for a few hours to dry out. They shouldn’t be wet when placed in the sugar.

SWWU Tip 2: Using fresh pods for this? Split each down the middle, remove the seeds and add everything to the jar. Mix to combine. 

SWWU Tip 3: This can be a never-ending jar of sweetener. As the level gets lower, just add more sugar to the jar. If you notice the flavor isn’t as strong, swap in some new vanilla beans.

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Mini Baked French Toast Cups

Brian and I like to go all out when making breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Stuffed french toast, bacon-apple pancakes, the list goes on and on. But when Monday morning rolls around and we’re rushing to get out the door, yogurt and a quick bowl of cereal seems to be our go-to. In need of a little yumspiration during the week we whipped up a mini version of our breakfast strata. The personal-sized french toasts are baked in muffin cups making them the perfect bite to reheat for a quick and delicious mid-week breakfast.

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups

Makes 18 personal french toasts

  • 1 loaf challah
  • cooking spray
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 cup blueberries
  • turbinado sugar, for dusting

1. Cut the challah into 1-inch cubes and set aside to dry out (overnight is best, but I’ve let the bread sit for as little as an hour in a pinch).

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a muffin pan generously with cooking spray and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until they are well beaten. Add the milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup, salt and lemon zest; stir until combined.

4. Add the bread to the egg mixture and toss to coat making sure every piece of bread is well soaked. Mix in the blueberries. Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared muffin pan, making sure to pack the bread into each cup, so the base of each one is full. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until browned and crispy on the edges. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes, then repeat with remaining mixture. Serve immediately with maple syrup on the side if desired or let cool on a wire rack then store covered in the freezer.

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Hot-from-the-oven Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

SWWU Tip: These taste best when reheated in a 350°F oven for 7 to 9 minutes. In a pinch, you can warm one in a microwave, it only takes about 45 seconds.

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