Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but Nutella and shoes seem to run a close second.
~ David Alejandro Fearnhead
I can’t believe Thanksgiving is almost here! It was always one of my favourite holidays growing up as we always got the Thursday and Friday off school. This wasn’t/isn’t a typical occurrence in Dublin, but thanks to having an American Mam made a lovely difference to our winter term. I remember how jealous my fellow-students would be when we would swan out on Wednesday evening for a nice long weekend. It was even better when my sisters and I were in boarding school (not as interesting as it sounds!) as we usually only came home every other Friday night, arriving very late and leaving fairly early on a Sunday, as in those days there weren’t many trains on a Sunday and we had at least a 4 hour journey ahead of us. So, when we got to come home on a Wednesday night (and I think one year at least on a Tuesday night), it made it even better. 4 glorious days at home, tons of good food on top of a break from the drama that is secondary school. However, over time, due to different siblings being in college where the stakes are higher, my Mam moved Thanksgiving to the weekend so we could all be together to celebrate it.
The day itself was full of food – lime jelly salad (it’s one of those things that sounds gross but it actually amazing), date roll, sherry cake, several different kinds of potatoes, stuffing, and so much more besides! There would be the nine of us plus a minimum of two other guests. The year my sister got married was a huge gathering – our family, my brother-in-law, his parents and siblings on top of our usual 3 guests. One thing that I always liked was that we never had a separate table for the younger ones. Instead, our tables were in a long row with the guests sprinkled among family. I always loved hearing the stories about extended relatives and how so-and-so was related to us. One of my Mam’s friends was a public servant and knew tons of scandal about all the politicians. We learned so much about the on-dits that were rocking Ireland’s political and social domains.
When I moved to Korea, I didn’t really think about Thanksgiving too much or the fact that I wouldn’t be celebrating with any family. When November rolled, someone always organised a dinner for the community as most of my expat friends were American. And, somehow, using limited kitchen space and utensils we would prepare feasts – one of my friends used to secure an actual turkey two years I was there and cooked them to perfection (the other year we roasted a turkey breast in my toaster oven). Our meals would have tons of traditional food – from green bean casseroles to sweet potato dishes and pumpkin pies. We’d also have other foods more typical of our life in Korea – fried chicken, sometimes kimchi or japchae or my least favourite side – pickled radish (it comes part and parcel with fried chicken). It may not have been a Thanksgiving with our lifelong family and friends but that didn’t stop them from still being huge fun and an important part of my expat existence. In fact, I will admit I think I’m going to miss the gathering this year.
However, this year is my first one with my family in three years! It’s also the first one I will have ever celebrated with my nephew and nieces. My nephew was living in America at the time of my last family Thanksgiving (and his first) so I didn’t get to celebrate it with him. So, already this Thanksgiving is looking up and for the first time in donkey’s years it is actually happening on Thanksgiving day. My Mam usually makes all the deliciousness that is needed and my contribution usually is pumpkin pie (my sister makes the pie crust because hers is absolutely perfect) but this year I’m not quite sure what other contributions I will make. Maybe my cider will be a nice contribution for the kiddos as well as the adults, minus the alcohol, of course? We shall see.
However, in my family November is not just Thanksgiving month – we have two birthdays (my sister, Mary Ann, and my older niece) as well, and this year we also had the baby’s christening. The recipe that follows would make a good brunch during the holiday weekend – plus with the raspberries, blueberries and cream cheese you have a not so subtle nod to the American flag. I made it for my niece’s birthday brunch and these roll-ups weren’t just a hit with the kids but the family all-round, especially her parents. In fact, with the leftover cream cheese filling I made a whole new batch yesterday for them again.
I originally made this recipe after being inspired by Jhuls from The Not So Creative Cook. Her Nutella French Toast Roll-ups are altogether jaw-droppingly good and I decided I wanted to adapt them for 4th July. Which I did, using almost the same recipe as below. Even a friend who doesn’t “do” desserts really enjoyed them. They are simple and more than likely you have most of the ingredients on hand. Further, this is a very forgiving recipe: it’s easily doubled or halved, the cream cheese filling can be adjusted to your own personal taste buds, and you can mix up the fruit or leave it out as per your own choosing. I used cherries when I was in Korea and raspberries in Ireland. As the French toast cooks, not only do the chocolate and cream cheese melt into a marriage of decadent delicious delight, the fruit becomes a little jammy and adds that extra level of tastiness to an already amazing French Toast
breakfast dessert. Yep, technically this is a brunch item but really it’s a rich, satisfying fried bread and chocolate yumminess that you can eat at either breakfast or for dessert. So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Additionally, you might want to check out these recipes to enhance your own Thanksgiving:
French Toast Roll-ups: Nutella, Cream Cheese and Fruity Goodness
- Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 cup cream cheese
- 1 cup icing sugar*
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 26 slices white bread, crusts can be left on or removed**
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup raspberries or cherries, halved
- ¾ cup shredded coconut, toasted (optional)
- 4 eggs
- 6 tbsp milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 -2 tsp cinnamon
- Soften the cream cheese with a fork.
- Sift the icing sugar into the cream cheese and mix it and the vanilla into the cream cheese.
- Put aside and chill. You can make this ahead of time up to 48 hours in advance. I usually make it at least 24 hours in advance as I find it spreads a bit better when nicely chilled.
- Combine the milk and eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside.
- Combine the sugar and the cinnamon together on a plate and set aside.
- Meanwhile, flatten the bread using a rolling-pin. It does flatten better without the crusts but to waste less bread, I left them on when making my most recent batch and the still worked really well.
- Spread some Nutella on the bottom half of one slice and then the cream cheese filling on the top half.
- If using, sprinkle about a tsp of the toasted coconut on top of the Nutella and cream cheese.
- Place a mix of the blueberries and raspberries/cherries in a line at the bottom of the slice and then roll the bread to close over the filling until it forms a tube and set aside
- Repeat steps 6-9 until each slice of bread is rolled with the fillings.
- Melt the butter over medium heat and once melted, roll each slice of bread into the egg mixture and then transfer to the frying pan, seam side down.
- Cook until browned on each side and then transfer and roll in the sugar mixture.
- Eat as is, or serve with maple syrup and whipped cream. You can also serve as a side dish with eggs, sausages, pudding and rashers/bacon. Alternatively, serve it with any remaining cream cheese filling and fruit.
*I recommend equal amounts of icing sugar to cream cheese, but you can use ½ cup instead.
Leftover Fruit: Pile the roll-ups into a pyramid and then top with the remaining fruit for a pretty display.
Bread Crusts: If you are making this on Thanksgiving day, you could remove the crusts from the bread and then use them for stuffing.