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Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

pumpkin pancakes

Dave loves fall. Besides feeling cozy and the pretty leaves, he gets excited about two things – candy corn, which he can and will eat until he’s sick, and pumpkin pancakes. Not that there’s anything keeping us from eating pumpkin pancakes year-round, except for my stubbornness. If we eat pumpkin pancakes in June, what will we have to look forward to in October? I guess I enforce seasonal eating even when it involves canned ingredients.

I’ve played around with my pumpkin pancake recipe for years. The first recipe I tried made pancakes that were a little too thin, too sweet, and not pumpkiny enough. I spent a few years trying to perfect that recipe, and then eventually gave up and started adding pumpkin and spices to a regular pancake recipe. But that wasn’t as easy as it should have been either, because I only recently found a pancake recipe that I’m completely happy with.

Because pumpkin puree has a viscosity pretty similar to pancake batter, I haven’t had any problems adding it to pancake recipes without changing the flour to liquid ratio. I also like to replace the white sugar with brown sugar, and of course I add some spices, but overall, it’s a pretty straightforward transition from plain to pumpkin pancakes.

I do have one caveat about this recipe. I’ve been using powdered buttermilk for the last few months, which is much more convenient than buying liquid buttermilk and then struggling to use it all up before it goes bad. But I think it’s thinner than liquid buttermilk. If you’re using liquid buttermilk instead of reconstituted powdered buttermilk, you may need to add a little more liquid.

This is, finally, a tried and true pumpkin pancake recipe, and one more great reason to look forward to fall.

Pumpkin Pancakes (adapted from Cathy Lowe’s Simple Homemade Pancakes, found through My Apples and Oranges)

Serves 2-3

1 cup (5 ounces) flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ nutmeg
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
½ cup pumpkin
1 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil for the pan

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the butter, pumpkin, and buttermilk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps. Let batter rest while pan heats, at least 5 minutes.

2. Heat non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour pancake batter onto hot griddle. When pancake is golden brown, flip to cook other side. Keep warm in oven heated to 275 degrees.

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I’ve been on the lookout for a pumpkin quick bread recipe for a couple of years. I like quick breads to have some textural contrast with add-ins, but I couldn’t think of anything that seemed to fit with the flavors of the pumpkin. Of course Dorie could, as Kelly’s choice for this week’s TWD recipe made evident.

Dorie adds raisins and walnuts (or pecans) to her pumpkin muffins. Like I almost always do, I replaced the raisins with something else; in this case, dried cranberries. I wasn’t sure if the flavors would get along – they’re both common fall ingredients, but I don’t often see them together. I topped the muffins with pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds. I’m not sure why Dorie calls for sunflower seeds; pumpkin seeds seem so perfect for these muffins.

The muffins were good. The walnuts and dried cranberries were fine as additions. However, shortly after I made them, one of my friends told me about a pumpkin muffin recipe she makes that has a lot of ginger in it, and then it occurred to me that the perfect add-in for pumpkin muffins is crystallized ginger. Now I’m looking forward to trying this combination.

Dorie’s recipe is posted on Kelly’s blog.

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This recipe has a lot of ingredients in it, and I wasn’t sure how well they would all go together. Cheddar and parmesan and spinach and red peppers and marinated artichokes don’t seem like natural compliments. But I wanted to make a strata, and I had some spinach and scallions and cheddar to use up.

Typing up the recipe now, it really doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but it certainly seemed so at the time. Stratas are supposed to be convenient because you can make them the night before and just pop them in the oven in the morning. However, I’m rarely in the mood to make breakfast the night before. On the weekends, I’ve usually just made an ambitious dinner and probably dessert, and the last thing I want to do after enjoying that is go back into the kitchen and make breakfast.

I made a third of the recipe in a loaf pan, since it was just for me and Dave. I used fresh spinach, sautéed for a few seconds in the same pan the red peppers had just been removed from. I had the spinach leftover from something else, and I’m not generally a huge fan of frozen spinach anyway – too stemmy. I used Country Crust bread, which is my favorite recipe anytime white sandwich-type bread is called for.

The strata exceeded my expectations. All of the flavors meshed quite well. I had also been concerned that it wouldn’t be rich enough, since my other favorite strata recipe uses half and half instead of milk, but the texture of this one was great. It’s a fairly healthy, and very tasty, take on a breakfast strata.

Spinach, Artichoke, and Red Pepper Strata (from Vegetarian Classics, by Jeanne Lemlin)

JL notes: Choose a firm homemade-style bread such as sourdough, a Tuscan-style chewy bread, or a day-old loaf of Italian or French bread. Avoid very soft packaged bread. Make sure the strata is cooked enough when you remove it from the oven. Test it like a cake. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips 2 inches long
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
9 large eggs
3½ cups milk
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper
2½ tablespoon butter, softened
9 slices firm white bread
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
3 cups (12 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat and sauté the red pepper until tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

2. Place the thawed spinach in a strainer and press out all of its liquid with the back of a large spoon. Set aside.

3. Thoroughly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the spinach, milk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4. Using ½ tablespoon butter, grease a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. With the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, coat 1 side of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 9 cups of cubed bread.

5. Place half the bread cubes in the baking dish. Sprinkle on half of the red peppers strips, 1 jar of artichokes, and half of the scallions. Ladle on half of the spinach mixture, then sprinkle on half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat this layering and end with the cheddar cheese.  Cover the dish with place wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.

6. Remove the dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and firm in the center. Let the strata sit 15 minutes before cutting it into squares.

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Deb from Smitten Kitchen recently recommended the cake that Michelle chose for TWD this week, and since I’m a Smitten Kitchen junkie, I’d been wanting to make it since then. I didn’t even realize it was Dorie Greenspan’s recipe at first, so I was excited when I saw that it was the assigned recipe. Plus, I just happened to have all of the ingredients the day it was chosen for TWD, including a bunch of plums. That never happens.

I baked the recipe in a muffin pan because muffins are more convenient to store in the freezer and grab before going to work. And I overfilled the muffin cups because I have an annoying lazy tendency. I put what seemed like an appropriate amount of batter in each cup, but I could tell after I pushed the first plum into the batter that the cups were overfilled. How hard would it have been, really, to re-portion the dough into extra muffin cups, especially considering that I only used 10 sections of the 12-cup muffin pan, and I had extra plums. And then I would have avoided making a mess of some of the muffins/cupcakes.

Not that I minded those broken bits. They gave me a great excuse to snack on cake while I finished making breakfast. I thought the cake was really good. I used lemon zest and cinnamon, but I think orange zest would be a lot better. I’m still fighting fall, but this was a good compromise between late summer and fall flavors.

Michelle has posted the recipe.

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Up until very recently, whenever someone mentioned Elvis’ favorite sandwich, I thought to myself “well, no wonder he died young!” Once I actually took a moment to consider it though, the sandwich really isn’t so bad. The basic Elvis sandwich is just bananas and peanut butter, fried like a classic grilled cheese. I’d say that the grilled cheese sandwich is far worse for you. Oh, except sometimes Elvis liked to add bacon, which, okay, is a little over the top.

I realized a few months ago that I like bananas a lot more if they’re served with a bit of peanut butter (or Nutella). That reminded me of Elvis’s favorite sandwich, but I wasn’t interested in pan-frying it. Instead, I thought it would be great as French toast.

I had never made stuffed French toast, but there are plenty of recipes for different versions of it, so I was confident that it would work. First I made the basic sandwich by smearing one side of each bread slice with a thin layer of peanut butter. I wanted peanut butter on both slices so it would glue the bananas to the bread, keeping the sandwich together. I recommend a very thin layer because peanut butter can be overpowering, as well as sticky in your mouth. I used my favorite French toast recipe for the batter, but made it a little thinner because it would only be absorbed through the non-peanut butter side of the bread slices.

It worked out pretty well. I should have let the sandwich soak in the batter a little longer, and I should have cooked them on higher heat, but the flavors were really good. And there’s really nothing unhealthy about it except for a bit of butter to fry the sandwiches. I’m guessing the drug dependency was a bigger influence on Elvis’ early demise than banana sandwiches.

Elvis French Toast (adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s French Toast recipe)

4 slices sandwiches bread (I used Country Crust Bread)
2 tablespoons peanut butter (approximately)
1-2 bananas, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon butter

1. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place slices of banana in a single layeron peanut butter-covered sides of two bread slices. Top with the remaining bread, peanut butter side down.

2. Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat egg lightly in shallow pan or pie plate; whisk in milk, vanilla, sugar, and salt and salt, continuing to whisk until smooth. Soak sandwiches without oversaturating, about 1 minute per side. Pick up bread and allow excess batter to drip off; repeat with remaining sandwiches.

3. Swirl 1 tablespoon butter in hot skillet. Transfer prepared sandwiches to skillet; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on first side and 1 minute 15 seconds on the second. Serve immediately, dusting with powdered sugar.

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I haven’t made plain pancakes in a very long time. I guess, to me, it’s like eating bread – sure it’s good plain, but it’s so much better with Stuff. For pancakes, that Stuff mostly involves fruit. You could make lemon pancakes and put the blueberries right in them, but why not do something different with those blueberries and make a syrup out of them?

This is another Emeril breakfast recipe, and this one, I made more complicated instead of simplifying it. Emeril’s blueberry syrup is just a combination of blueberries and corn syrup, which I think sounds too one-dimensionally sweet. I have a recipe for blueberry syrup that I’ve been making for a long time that I’m really happy with, so I made that one instead, even though it involves a few more ingredients.

You can see that my pancakes came out a little thin. I’ve been experimenting with Saco powdered buttermilk, since I don’t generally keep liquid buttermilk around. The recipe uses the same ratio of flour to milk that most pancake recipes do, so I don’t think the pancakes are thin because there’s too much liquid. I think the powdered buttermilk reconstituted with water as per the instructions on the container create a thinner liquid than regular buttermilk.

But I don’t mind thin pancakes, and you really can’t go wrong with a lemon-blueberry combination. The syrup is great – the sweetness is balanced by a spritz of lemon juice and pinch of salt, so the flavor of the blueberries can shine.

Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup (adapted from Emeril Live)

Serves 3-4

Pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest, finely chopped
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into 10 equal slices

Blueberry Syrup:
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 cup blueberries
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

For the pancakes:
In a small mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg, and butter until fully incorporated. Add the sifted ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk until it is slightly smooth, but still has some lumps. Fold in the lemon zest and allow the batter to sit for a couple of minutes. Lightly grease a griddle over medium heat. Cooking in batches, pour ¼ cup of the batter onto the hot griddle for each pancake. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the batter bubbles and is golden brown, flip over and continue to cook until golden brown. Repeat the above process with the remaining batter. Stack the pancakes on each serving plate. Place a pat of butter between each layer. Drizzle the pancakes with the syrup and garnish with the confectioners’ sugar.

For the syrup:
Bring ½ cup water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons water and cornstarch until cornstarch dissolves. Add cornstarch mixture to sugar mixture and stir to blend. Stir in blueberries and boil over medium heat until berries start to pop and syrup turns blue, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and butter.

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Hey, look at that, more eggs on stuff. I made this because I wanted hash, but something different from corned beef hash. I just love the idea of egg yolk dripping into browned crispy potatoes and salty breakfast meat and flavorful sautéed vegetables. Sausage and peppers sounded like a great base to go with potatoes and eggs.

Looking now at the recipe I think I was using, I apparently simplified it quite a bit. That’s the thing about making an Emeril recipe in the morning – chances are it’s going to get simplified. First I replaced chicken and apple sausage with standard breakfast sausage, and then I eliminated all of the spices and herbs that Emeril calls for, assuming that there would be enough seasoning in the sausage.

What I ended up doing was following my standard hash method of browning the meat, then cooking the vegetables in the rendered fat, then adding parboiled potatoes and cooking until they brown. Then I break eggs over the mixture and cover the pan, cooking until the whites are set and, if all goes well, the yolks are warm and viscous but not solid.

You really can’t go wrong with these ingredients combined in that method. The onions are a little caramelized, the peppers are soft, the potatoes are crispy, the sausage is peppery – everything is at its best, and then it’s taken one step further with a perfectly cooked egg on top.

Sausage and Red Pepper Hash (substantially adapted from Emeril and from Cooks Illustrated)

The potatoes can be parboiled the night before and refrigerated.

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ -inch dice
Salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound breakfast sausage
4 large eggs
Ground black pepper

1. Bring the potatoes, 5 cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook for 4 minutes, drain, and set aside.

2. Place the sausage in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the fat is partially rendered, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and browned, about the edges, abut 8 minutes. Mix in the potatoes and lightly pack the mixture into the pan with a spatula. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes, then, with a spatula, invert the hash, a portion at a time, and fold the browned bits back into the hash. Lightly pack the hash into the pan. Repeat the process every minute or two, until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, about 8 minutes longer.

3. Make 4 indentations (each measuring about 2 inches across) equally spaced on the surface of the hash. Crack 1 egg into each indentation and season the egg with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the eggs are just set, about 6 minutes. Cut the hash into 4 wedges, making sure each has an egg, and serve immediately.


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I ate Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread, for the first time just about a month ago. I’d been hearing great things about it for years, but I never got around to trying it until a friend sent me some. (Along with a jar of Marmite, which is so good.) I can see what all the hype about Nutella is for – this stuff basically tastes like milk chocolate, so of course everyone likes it!

I’ve been putting it on all kinds of things, but mostly I eat it on bananas to break up the monotony of my daily banana. And how much better would bananas and Nutella be if they were wrapped up in a crepe?

Crepes are one of those recipes that seem scarier than they really are. I’m always hearing stories about how the first crepe will have to be thrown out, and they’re so delicate, and all these things, but I’ve never had any problems cooking crepes. Maybe that means I’m doing something wrong, like making them too thick, but since I’m happy with the way they turn out, I see no reason to change anything.

I used Jess’s crepe recipe, as she describes her family as quite the experts in crepe-making. But, I didn’t trust the 100% whole wheat flour idea, so I used half white and half whole wheat. I also had to make them tiny, because I was between medium-sized nonstick pans at the time.

This seems like a great crepe recipe! The bananas and Nutella were really good, and I sprinkled over some hazelnut praline I had leftover from the filbert cake. I’m eager to see what else I can come up with to put in crepes. Sweet variations are almost too easy, and I know sausage and maple syrup are delicious in crepes. What about savory options? I need to do some exploring.

Whole Wheat Crepes (adapted from hogwash)

Jess implores her readers to eat the crepes as soon as they come out of the pan, but I didn’t. I stored them in a 200 degree oven until they were all cooked, so that Dave and I could eat together.

6 servings

2 cups milk (plus more, if needed)
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1½ tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1⅔ cups (8⅓ ounces) whole wheat flour (or a mix of white and whole wheat)

6 bananas, sliced
6 tablespoons Nutella

1. Combine the milk, eggs, melted butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup flour in a blender, and whirl until smooth, scraping down the sides of the glass, if necessary. Add all or most of the remaining flour, a bit at a time, until the batter has roughly the consistency of drinkable yogurt (very thin for pancake batter, but not runny). Let the batter sit at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. (Bring the batter back to room temperature before continuing.)

2. Before cooking, thin the batter with a bit more milk, if it seems substantially thicker.

3. Preheat a crepe pan or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, grease with a dollop of butter (using a stick of butter to smear some directly on the skillet works nicely), and add enough batter to coat the skillet in a thin, even layer when you swivel the skillet around in your hand. Cook for a couple minutes, until you see bubbles in the center of the crepe and the bottom side is nicely browned. Flip carefully and cook another couple minutes on the other side. Fill as desired (in this case, with the sliced bananas and Nutella) and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter.

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fruit bruschetta

Lately I’ve been on a major breakfast kick. It seems like I want to try something different every weekend morning. This fruit bruschetta is definitely different – it doesn’t even fit into my simple sweet versus savory categorization of breakfasts. (Obviously it’s a sweet option, but it isn’t the standard pancakes/waffles/French toast offering.)

The bruschetta are easy to make. Toast and butter bread, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and broil until the sugar caramelizes, top with fruit and yogurt. And except for the bit of sugar and butter, it’s actually healthy. As much as Dave loves the croque-madame, I think if it was up to him, we’d eat breakfasts like this far more often.

I used the last loaf of pain a l’ancienne for the brushetta. I noted when I made the pain a l’ancienne that the crust was too thick, and that, combined with maybe overtoasting it a bit, caused my bruschetta to be way too crispy. That’s an understatement – I worried for my teeth, eating this. But if you’re using normal bread, I’m sure you won’t have the same problem.

I think these would be perfect for a brunch. They can sit at room temperature for a while without a problem, and they’re easy finger food. They’re simple, they’re fairly healthy, and they’re certainly an original option.

Peach, Strawberry, and Banana Bruschetta (from Gourmet August 1994, but really epicurious.com)

Bridget note: I used vanilla yogurt to drizzle over the toasts instead of plain yogurt, so I skipped the honey and sprinkled lemon zest over the yogurt instead.

Makes 16 bruschetta

16 ½-inch-thick slices crusty Italian or French bread
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons cinnamon, or to taste
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and cut into fine dice
½ banana, cut into fine dice
8 large strawberries, cut into fine dice
3 to 4 tablespoons plain yogurt
honey for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Arrange bread slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Brush toasts with butter on one side. Toasts may be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container.

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over buttered side of each toast. Broil toast about 5 inches from heat under preheated broiler 30 seconds, or until tops are bubbling, and cool.

In a bowl stir together fruit and remaining ½ tablespoon sugar and mound about 1 tablespoon on each toast. Top each toast with about 1 teaspoon yogurt and drizzle with honey.

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In my mind, there are basically two kinds of breakfasts – there are savory breakfasts, which are generally based around eggs, and then there are sweet breakfasts, which include pancakes and waffles and the like. The best savory breakfasts involve potatoes in addition to the eggs. And bacon of course, unless you’re saving the bacon for BLTs and have to use sausage instead.

This skillet scramble is a simple but tasty example of a savory breakfast.  I did make some changes to the recipe here and there. Like most Betty Crocker recipes, this one tries to trick you into thinking it’s easier than it is by calling for cooked bacon in the ingredient list, rather than including the instructions for cooking bacon. Like I’m going to have cooked bacon laying around, just waiting to be sprinkled over breakfast. And why would I brown the potatoes in butter when there’s bacon fat right there?

Still, this recipe for a great savory breakfast is not complicated. You pretty much cook some tasty breakfast meat, then brown some par-boiled potatoes and add beaten eggs, cooking until they set. Easy though it might be, it involves most of my favorite breakfast ingredients – eggs, meat, and potatoes – and thus makes for a delicious and classic meal.

Country Egg Scramble (adapted from Betty Crocker)

Serves 4

1 pound (6 to 7) new red potatoes, cubed
6 slices (6 ounces) bacon (or breakfast sausage), chopped
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
4 medium green onions, sliced (¼ cup)

1. Place potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt in 2-quart saucepan. Add water until it reaches 1 inch above potatoes. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook for 6 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

3. Beat eggs, milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the green onions with fork or wire whisk until it’s a uniform yellow color; set aside.

4. Cook potatoes in bacon fat over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned. Stir in reserved bacon.

5. Pour egg mixture into skillet. As mixture begins to set at bottom and side, gently lift cooked portions with spatula so that thin, uncooked portion can flow to bottom. Avoid constant stirring. Cover pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until eggs are thickened throughout but still moist.

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