Top 10 Whole30 Tips

Because Whole30 alumni never stop talking about Whole30, friends and family are bound to get curious about this thing that you just can’t shut up about. Wasn’t that just a New Year’s Resolution? It’s March now, why are we still talking about this so much?

We had such a good experience with Whole30 that we want to keep living Whole30-ish. (Welcome back legumes, corn and rice! RIP dairy and most grains. Cheers to a little wine.) And now, it seems like some people around us are getting inspired to try it too. And I want to be helpful and share some of what I learned in the process, so here are my Top 10 Whole30 Tips! There are some links and recipe ideas throughout.

1. Buy the Book & Get Social

The Whole 30 book lays out all the rules, has shopping lists and meal plans, and lots of recipes. It’s such a helpful guide, and I wouldn’t recommend trying the program without it. At least a few days before your start date, study the rules, familiarize yourself with what is and isn’t compliant (your new favorite word), mark some pages for reference, and pick a few recipes that you want to try. My copy is full of post-its with notes and recipe tweaks, and I referred to it literally every day for 30 days. I checked in on the Timeline every day to see what to expect at each stage  – and I found it so helpful to know that feeling extra cranky or tired some days was just part of the program, and not just me. You will likely hate everyone and everything on Day 4, so try to plan accordingly!

There are also some great resources online, and I recommend bookmarking the Whole30 “Can I Have” list in your phone so that you can refer to it while grocery shopping or dining out. Also check out their official Instagram pages (@whole30recipes & @whole30). I follow a lot of food people (duh) and found that it helped when I unfollowed some of the more unhealthy food pages, you know, the ones that are filled with donuts and ice cream and pretty cupcakes every day. So I followed a few new Whole30/clean eating/healthy living accounts, and now that you can follow hashtags I also followed #whole30, #januarywhole30 and #iamwhole30 for some daily inspiration. The hashtags were a great way for me to find fellow Whole30 newbies as well as experts.

It really helps if you have a friend, partner, or coworker committed to doing the program along with you. Teamwork makes the dream work! Keep in mind that the first week is hard, and you’ll be tired. Support and camaraderie is nice. But once you get through that, you’ll start feeling better and better.

2. Purge & Restock

Purging your kitchen of the stuff that you’re eliminating for the next 30 days is a great way to get in the right mindset for your mission ahead. I ceremoniously trashed the sugar I used to put in my coffee every day (habit fully broken, by the way!), the bread, the cheese, the milk, the butter, and the tortilla chips while listening to Beyonce singing “Boy, Bye!” but the soundtrack is optional (encouraged, but optional!).

Check the labels on everything in your fridge and pantry. Sorry friends, but Sriracha has sugar in it. So do many mayos, mustards, salsas, and tomato sauces, and definitely ketchup. This is good practice for all the label reading you’ll be doing in grocery store aisles over the next month and probably for the rest of your life.

If you don’t want to trash some unopened stuff, at least hide it in the back of the cabinet. Then start replacing these things with compliant items, ideally the day before your start date so you’re prepped and ready for Day 1. I’ve heard that Whole Foods has an entire Whole30 section, so be on the lookout!

Some key staples always on my shopping list are:  eggs, chicken or salmon, sweet potatoes, avocados, broccoli (and all other favorite veggies), onion, garlic, baby spinach, coconut milk (canned 100%), coconut oil, canned diced tomatoes, bananas, green apples, almond butter, raw almonds, dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice), compliant hot sauce (ideally one that’s just peppers, vinegar, and salt), vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, and red wine are all allowed), and a range of spices (curry, chili, paprika, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric – you still need to check the labels on spices! Some contain corn starch or wheat).

3. Put an Egg on it

You’re going to wake up on Day 1 and be like ok what do I do now… and the answer is EAT, so it’s a good thing that you stocked your kitchen with compliant items! If you have time to wake up a little bit early and make yourself an easy easy egg breakfast, do it. You can even pre-chop some veggies like a red onion and a bell pepper the night before to make a morning scramble come together super quickly. If you know that you will absolutely not be cooking for yourself in the morning before work, prepare something the night before, like this frittata or just some hard boiled eggs that you can bring along with you (don’t forget the salt and hot sauce!).

As someone that doesn’t eat a lot of meat, eggs are a very easy protein source for me to keep around and throw on top of anything, breakfast or not. I do a lot of roasted vegetable medleys topped with a fried egg — that can be any meal of the day! An avocado and compliant hot sauce always pairs well with any of these egg dishes. When in doubt, just make some eggs.

A favorite discovery was this sweet potato egg dish: Just scoop out a baked sweet potato, mash it in a bowl with a little coconut oil and sea salt, and top with one or two over medium eggs and hot sauce. SO good.

4. Keep it Simple & Make Big Batches

You don’t get extra credit for making 30 new recipes during your 30 days. You’ll burn yourself out if you try to do too much, so my advice is to keep it simple. Find a few key compliant things that you enjoy making and eating, and stick with what’s working for you. Focus on some favorite proteins (for me that’s salmon or chicken), find an easy preparation method (I like to roast everything), pair proteins with fresh salads or roasted vegetables, and top with rotating dressings or sauces (see #5).

Top bite sized broccoli and cauliflower pieces with olive oil, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Roast at 400°F for 25 minutes. Repeat. Not pictured: line your pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Be sure to make everything in double batches. If you’re roasting a head of broccoli you might as well add cauliflower too and have leftovers the next day. It’s just as easy to roast a few big sweet potatoes as it is to prep one. Double your sauce recipes then keep leftovers in jars in the fridge. Make sure you have a tall stockpot for soups and chili, so that you can always max out the portions and have lots of leftovers.

My method for baking big sweet potatoes: quarter them, microwave for 5 minutes, then wrap in foil and bake in a 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes. Keep them in the fridge for a few days for easy meal additions!

If you’re getting bored or feeling motivated to try something new, seek inspiration from the recipes in the Whole30 book or their Instagram feeds and put something fresh in your rotation. Just try to make everything as easy as possible for yourself!

5. Get Saucy

A great way to mix up your meals is to get some staple compliant sauces going. One fantastic sauce to keep around is Tahini. Tahini paste is just sesame seeds, therefore compliant. To make it into a yummy sauce you add salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley or cilantro. No cooking required, just some mashing and mixing.

Get the full sauce recipe here, then use it to top chicken, salmon, roasted veggies, or as a dip for raw veggies like tomato and cucumber. Tahini is the new hummus (sorry, chickpeas are legumes).

Coconut Curry Sauce is another one of my favorites that  goes well with almost everything. It’s easy to make too. Check out my post with the recipe here.

There’s a recipe for Romesco Sauce in the Whole30 book that I also love. It has a nice texture with the nuts, and a really great zing to it with the spices and vinegar. Pair it with zoodles and shrimp like in the link, or try it on chicken and eggplant. There’s a whole sauce section in the book, which includes buffalo, ranch, and pesto, so pick out some faves!

7. You Can Whole30 That

You don’t have to stop eating everything you’re familiar with, but you may have to modify your old stand-bys. My first big Whole30 swap was my morning coffee, which I have always enjoyed with a lot of cream and sugar. The book has a good point on this subject, which is are you sure you actually like coffee? Valid, Melissa Hartwig, valid. I initially thought that I would give up coffee in the process because I probably wouldn’t really like it if I couldn’t have cream and sugar. Instead, I swapped in coconut milk and boosted the spices (turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon).

It took me a couple days to adjust to the different texture of it and to get used to the absence of sugar, but I have started to really enjoy it. I’ve always liked all the coffee drinks that end in “spice” and this combo of spices is a home run for me. And newsflash: coconut milk is delicious! Nut milks are also allowed as long as they don’t have any sweeteners in them.

Have some regular recipes or cooking methods you use that call for lots of butter? Just swap in ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil instead. If you want to make a soup (or curry, or anything) creamy, use coconut milk. Leave out the sweeteners and opt for herbs, spices, or a squeeze of fresh citrus instead. If you’re used to having grains as a side, try cauliflower rice, or make a potato-based dish instead. Try making a sauce you normally buy premade yourself so you get all the flavor and none of the junk. You’ll become a recipe and ingredient scanning pro, and be able to tell right away whether you can easily Whole30 it or not.

8. Snacking is Better than Failing

Snacks are discouraged on Whole30. Personally, I have always been a big grazer so I knew this would be tough. My goals for the program weren’t as much about breaking bad food habits as they were about evaluating the elimination of certain food groups, so I didn’t feel like having a snack would derail me as long as the snack components were compliant. This will be different for everyone, but in my opinion, snacking is better than failing. To be clear, I’m not talking about potato chips, paleo sweets, or pre-packaged snacks, which are clearly prohibited on Whole30.

Especially during Week 1, I felt like I needed more snacks while my body was adjusting to new fuel sources. It’s also important to always have something compliant with you, whether you’re on a road trip, at work, at the beach, on a plane, or at the movies. Sometimes, you just gotta snack! And better to have something compliant in your purse than break protocol in a moment of desperation and have to start over. My go-to compliant snacks are trail mixes of nuts and dried fruit, usually raw almonds with unsweetened dried apricots or apple juice-sweetened cranberries.

Now I’m going to tell you a little secret. Almond butter stirred with a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkle of sea salt is magical. Top a sliced banana or green apple with this stuff and you’ll feel like Whole30 hasn’t denied you anything. Don’t go overboard, because this could fall into the category of “food with no brakes”. But really, you’re welcome.

If you’re looking for something more savory, try hot sauce on raw almonds. Seriously, it’s like healthy hot cheetos. Or avocado sprinkled with hot sauce and sea salt. (Yes, my hot sauce consumption went way up during those 30 days!) Or cucumber and carrots dipped in Tahini.

9. Use Everything

I already mentioned that leftovers are precious. Think your leftovers all the way through. For example, if you roast a whole chicken at the beginning of the week, that one lil chicken can get you through the whole week with a little creativity!

Try this roasted chicken recipe with olive oil instead of butter. Slice some of the breast meat and put it on top of a fresh spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and balsamic for lunch. Have another portion of the chicken for dinner, with a side of baked sweet potato and roasted broccoli.

The next day you can shred some of the chicken to use in a salad with compliant mayo and other mix-ins of your choosing (try grapes, cilantro, and chopped nuts). When you’ve used all the chicken meat, save all the bones and start a batch of bone broth. Incorporate your home made broth into this big batch of chili. Refrigerate half the leftovers and freeze the other half. You’ll get a few days out of the chili, and have some frozen on hand in the future when you’re in a pinch.

When you start thinking like this, meal prep comes a lot more easily.

10. It Gets Easier

Week 1 is hard. Shoot, it will already feel hard on Day 3. You’ll be tired and cranky and want to eat all the non-compliant foods you can think of and go drink wine with your friends and throw your Whole30 book in the trash. It gets better and it gets easier. When you understand the reasons behind how you’re feeling, it’s easier to push through.

In the first week, your body is switching fuel sources. You’re used to running on sugar and carbs, and your body is used to burning those for energy. But when you deprive your body of the sugar and carbs it’s used to, it’s forced to find a new source of energy — fat. You want your body to burn fat, but you have to give it a chance to switch gears. In the meantime, you’ll feel tired and crave carbs. When you feel tired, sleep if you can. When you have cravings, eat something compliant instead. Then, your body will start using its new fuel. Suddenly, you’ll start to feel better, and then you’ll start to feel amazing. A fog lifts from your brain, you feel fully awake and switched on, and you have what feels like unlimited energy. Whole30 calls this Tiger Blood. It can come in a surge of motivation to check things off your to-do list, start a new activity, go for a run, or do jumping jacks in the middle of your office.

Get a calendar going and cross off the days as part of your daily ritual. A visualization of the countdown really helped me! Just get through the first week and your Tigers Blood will be around the corner. Then focus that newfound energy on healthy activities, exercise, and meal prepping. And the 30 days will be up before you know it. Over time, your cravings will literally be turned off. You’ll find it’s easier to pass on the wine and the bread, and you may not even want dessert by the time you’re allowed to reintroduce it. It’s an empowering change, and it only takes a month to achieve it!

Bonus Tip: A Word on Socializing

You CAN eat out in restaurants during this month. But you will be kind of annoying when you do. Make sure you’re well educated on what you can and can’t eat before you go out. If possible, preview the menu online and figure out how to Whole30 it. Don’t make it the job of your server to tell you everything that’s Whole30 on the menu – that’s your responsibility. Keep your “Can I Have” guide handy, and Google is your friend when you come across something you don’t know on the menu. What’s in chimichurri again? A quick Google search for a recipe will tell you it’s compliant.

Usually ordering sauces and dressings on the side and swapping sides of grains or fries for veggies or salads is a pretty safe bet. If you wind up with a plain piece of meat or pile of vegetables, you can always ask for balsamic, an easy way to jazz it up that most restaurants should have on hand. You may also be able to get away with bringing a compliant sauce with you. Channel Beyoncé and have hot sauce in your bag (swag).

Also try different ideas for socializing other than dinners and happy hours to make avoiding alcohol easier. Suggest going for walks, bike rides, hitting the beach or pool, or something else around town you’ve been meaning to try. You may surprise yourself with all the new things you can accomplish in a month without alcohol and hangover days. I think you’ll find that good friends will be supportive, and you might end up re-evaluating some friendships if anyone isn’t. If you can’t hang out with someone sober…are you really friends?

Now pick your start date, commit, and start counting down to the Tiger Blood! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if I missed a topic you’re curious about. Also check out my previous Whole 30 posts for more thoughts on the subject:

Halfway to Whole30
Whole30 Squash-Stuffed Peppers
Whole30 Sweet Potato Chili
Whole30 Coconut Curry Sauce
Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata
The Whole30 (or 45)

You got this!

© Cook it Pretty 2018

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Make Thanksgiving Easy Again: Easy Turkey

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

Two years ago I hosted my first Thanksgiving without parental supervision, and I did a lot of research on turkey roasting techniques. The combination of all the tips and tricks I found resulted in a successful approach that I’m ready to confidently share with you.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

You’ve probably seen blogs and magazine articles telling you to do everything from turning the turkey upside down to cooking it straight out of the freezer. Cover it! Don’t cover it! Baste it! Basting is over! Stuffing will kill you! Flip it! Change the temperature 10 times! Buy a million gadgets you’ll only use once a year! Hosting a big meal is stressful enough without all this conflicting information. I’ve boiled everything down to one tip for you: DO LESS.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

The only thing that is difficult about being in charge of the turkey is that you have to do some pre-planning. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, my guess is you already know that you have some planning in your (very near) future. In Dubai I only have access to frozen turkeys so I do not get a lot of choice in the matter and the following tips and techniques are for frozen turkey. Some thoughts to get you started:

  • Buy your turkey as early as possible. If your turkey is frozen, you’ll need to allow for 3 days of defrosting in the fridge. But people, this isn’t hard! All it does is sit there and take up all your fridge space for a few days.
  • Don’t double-brine. Did you know that most frozen turkeys are already in brine? Check the labels and you’ll likely see something about the ingredients including salt or salt water – that means it’s been in brine. So lucky you, you do not need to brine it again.
  • No special equipment required. As long as you have a roasting pan that is big enough for your turkey, you’re good to go. While things like roasting racks can be nice, you don’t have to have one. My method doesn’t require a baster either. One thing that’s nice to have is a meat thermometer, in case you’re anxious about things like serving your loved ones undercooked meat (raises hand).
  • Plan around oven space. Turkeys take a long time to cook and will dominate your oven on Thanksgiving day. Plan any other dishes you’re making around the idea that your oven will be in use most of the time. Things like pie can be easily made the day before to avoid conflicting oven time. Stuffing can be prepped the day before and baked after the turkey comes out. Consider vegetables cooked on the stove top, such as sauteed green beans, rather than a roasted dish that requires oven time. Or farm out your other oven dishes to guests, potluck style.

So you have your turkey defrosted and your suitably sized pan, your other holiday dishes under control, and you’re ready to go. Where to begin? Read on!

Easy Herb Roasted Turkey

Defrosted Turkey
2 Onions, halved then quartered (you want big pieces)
3 Celery stalks, chopped into 2-3 inch sections
Butter, softened
S&P
Herbs of choice (I like rosemary, sage & thyme)
1/2 Orange, quartered

Calculate your cook time
Cook time = 15 mins x #lbs. For example, a 15lb turkey will take 225 mins or 3 hours 45 mins. Preheat your oven to 325F.

Prep the pan
Place the onion and celery chunks in the bottom of the roasting pan, reserving some onion to be later placed inside the turkey. These will serve as your roasting rack, raising the bird off the bottom of the pan. They also provide a nice flavor to your drippings, which you can later use for gravy.

Prep the bird
Check the neck cavity and main cavity for little bags of gizzards, removing everything. Keep them if you like to include them in your stuffing or stock or if you’re like my mom and cook it up for the dogs. Toss them if you’re like me and get grossed out by everything I just said (it’s hard for me to even type the word gizzards). Place the turkey in the roasting pan on top of the chopped onion and celery. Fold the wings underneath the body of the turkey – this prevents them from getting dried out or burned, and it just looks better.

Give it a rub
Take the softened butter in your fingers and rub it all over your turkey, including the legs. Sprinkle everywhere with generous amounts of salt and pepper, including some inside the cavity. Add your herbs, like rosemary, sage, and thyme everywhere as well.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty
Get aromatic
Put remaining onion and orange pieces inside the cavity. I’ve seen this called “aromatics” – you won’t be eating them, but they add juice and flavor to the meat from the inside. Don’t stuff it too full or it may affect your cook time, a few pieces of each will do.

Tie the legs, or don’t
This is a purely aesthetic choice. If you want a pretty picture, there’s something that makes the tied up legs just look better. But if you don’t care and just want it easy, skip this because you’ll just be removing the tie later. I skipped it last time and it looked a little awkward, but who really cares because it tastes the same!

The do-nothing part
Now put it in the oven and set your timer according to the cook time above. THEN DO NOTHING. Don’t baste it or change the temperature or use tin foil on anything. Just ignore the turkey for the next 3 hours or so. Do your other prep and stove top cooking. Have a glass of wine. Study up on making gravy so you can put the pan drippings to use. (I can vouch for this method from The Kitchn).

Check the temp
Many frozen turkeys have a pop-up plastic thingie that tells you it’s ready. I’ve heard it’s best to double check this with a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh. Make sure it’s in the 165-180F range. The skin should be browned and crispy. Then it’s done! You roasted a whole turkey all by yourself!

Let it rest
Let the turkey rest at room temp for at least 30 minutes before carving. This is a good time to make your gravy, in which case you’ll need to remove the turkey from the roasting pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Put gallon-sized ziplock bags over oven mitts in order to safely grab the hot turkey without ruining your mitts. Be careful, turkeys are heavy and hot!

Carve it up
I’m lucky because my husband is amazing at breaking down the bird. I have never attempted this myself. But here’s the video from NYT that he watched before doing it the first time, and he knocked it out of the park. I like this method because it’s much easier to serve than carving it at the table, and you can break it up into dark and light meat platters.

You did it! Wishing you a juicy and delicious turkey to share with loved ones this Thanksgiving.

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

In Dubai they sell eggs in containers of 6, 15 or 30. It’s weird to remove “a dozen eggs” from your grocery shopping vocabulary, but it’s really just as arbitrary. I had 15 of these brown freckled beauties and now that Easter has passed, I know you’re looking for ways to use up all those hard boiled eggs.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
I like the idea of sweet & spicy, and most any use of figs, so I updated this deviled egg recipe using fig preserves and curry powder. My curry powder happens to be Pakistani, but I think any type would do! I underestimated how long it takes to peel 15 hard boiled eggs, but after a while the repetition was almost therapeutic. I add salt to the boiling water and then transfer the eggs to ice water,  both things that are supposed to help make the eggs easier to peel. Does it actually do anything? I don’t know. I still ended up with a few tricky/ugly ones (aka tasters), but most of them were pretty smooth.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
When the man got home, he asked me two rapid fire questions: “Why did you make these?” *eats one whole* “Why are they so good?” I made them because I felt like it, and they’re so good because I had plenty of tasters and kept adding more flavor to them. They ended up savory, spicy, and a little bit sweet.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

12-15 Hard boiled eggs
1/2 c Mayo
2 Tbs Fig preserves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Stalks green onion, sliced into rounds
Handful Cilantro leaves for garnish
Sprinkle paprika for garnish

To boil the eggs, place them in the bottom of a large pot and cover with 1-2 inches of salted water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn off heat but leave the pot covered on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready and transfer eggs from the hot to cold water and chill for a few minutes.

Carefully peel the eggs and halve each one with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks and add them to a mixing bowl. Smush the yolks and then add remaining ingredients. Use the less-than-perfect whites to taste the mixture and add more spice, salt, or sweet as desired. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites (you can also transfer the mixture into a large ziplock bag and cut a corner off as your method for refilling the eggs). Garnish with cilantro and paprika. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Risotto for Beginners

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto | Cook it Pretty
It is possible to make risotto without crying or getting eliminated from Top Chef. Take it from me, someone who has made risotto all of three times in my life. Two of the three were successful, so I feel like those odds are pretty good. I’m pretty sure that other time was the recipe’s fault for not including cheese.

Which brings me to my first tip: choose a risotto recipe with cheese involved. After all the work you put in, you’ll be happier if you’re rewarded with creamy cheesy goodness.

Next tip: Look to the experts for a solid base recipe, and add whatever ingredients you like. I chose one from Biba Caggiano, an Italian chef whose food our family happily consumes as often as possible in her Sacramento restaurant. Her book, Italy al Dente, contains more risotto recipes than I could make in a lifetime. The recipe she says she used to teach her daughter the basics of risotto, Risotto alla Parmigiana, seemed like a good place to start. (Watch Biba be charming and make risotto in 3:30 in this cute video).

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto | Cook it Pretty

I got my next tip from the author of A Cozy Kitchen: Prep everything in the recipe before you even fire the stove. Having everything measured and ready to go will ensure you don’t overcook something while you’re chopping something else, and you’ll feel like you have your own cooking show once you get going.

Finally, making risotto is all about stirring and patience. So take my friend Seriously Yum’s advice and have a glass of wine for yourself handy so you feel better about being chained to the stove. (Chair optional). Maybe this is why everyone messes up their risotto on Top Chef! They need wine. Ready? Give this one a go:

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto

6 c low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbs butter
1/2 c yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c white wine + a glass for the cook
2 c broccoli, chopped to bite size
1/2 c Parmesan, grated
Salt & Pepper to taste
Red chili pepper flakes optional

Measure and prep all your ingredients. Steam the chopped broccoli until very tender and set aside. Add 3 Tbs of the butter to a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion once melted. Stir about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir 2 minutes until it is coated in the butter and appears translucent. Next add the wine and stir until it’s mostly absorbed. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, each time stirring until the broth is almost fully absorbed. This process may take about 20 minutes, this is the part where you’ll want that wine to sip on. Once you’re through the stock, add the reserved 1 Tbs butter and most of the Parmesan, stirring to combine and melt the cheese. Stir in the steamed broccoli. Taste and add salt, pepper, and chili flakes if desired. Top with the remaining grated Parmesan. Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2015

How to up Your French Toast Game with One Ingredient

  French Toast is delicious. French Toast is easy. I’ll share my secret to extra special French Toast: vanilla. That’s it! Add a little splash of vanilla (or almond!) extract to the egg/milk mixture. I like a little cinnamon in there too. Bam. Your breakfast will taste so fancy, you may be inspired to add a mimosa and call it brunch.