Feb 032013

Eggs are magic.

Many food cultures seem to agree and have come up with their own version of savory eggy dishes. Omelets and quiches are pretty well-known, but have you ever had a frittata?

The Italians dreamed this one up. Envision a crust-less quiche without the usual addition of cream to the filling and you’ve got the measure of this bit of deliciousness. These things, like omelets, can be as simple or as fancy-pants as you’d care to make them, which makes them ideal for situations when you’re short on time but don’t want to sacrifice the yum-factor — no matter what time-of-day you’re cooking for. They go as effortlessly from the dinner table to delicious left-overs warmed-up for breakfast.

I’ve been making this version of frittata for years. I like it because I nearly always have the ingredients on hand, prep is done in five minutes, and about twenty minutes after that, I’m pulling dinner (or breakfast/brunch/lunch) out of the oven. Feel free to add and subtract ingredients to suit your whims. Nearly anything goes, so next time that carton of eggs in your fridge challenges you to a staring contest, show it who’s boss and whip up a frittata!.

Spinach and feta frittata

Click for the recipe →

Jan 132013

Overnight apple-cran steel-cut oats

Let’s face it: very few of us have tons of time in the morning to cook breakfast. Sure, many of us would love to have a hot breakfast in the morning, but the reality is that when push comes to shove, what we actually would prefer to do is to slap the snooze button a few more times.

Until recently, breakfast was a huge priority. I would always cook something, usually involving left-over veggies scrambled into an egg with some home-made toast and beans. I would still love to be doing that because it’s an incredibly delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast, but with a baby in the house now it’s just not realistic. However, I’m not willing to turn to cereal because I just don’t like it and it’s not remotely filling.

To my happy surprise, I discovered that steel-cut oats and slow-cookers are totally BFFs. This is happy because I can make a week’s worth of healthy and flavorful breakfast for a total time investment of about five minutes, which is how long it takes me to measure everything out, chop up the apples, stir, and turn on the slow-cooker. I haven’t historically been a fan of this appliance, but something like this could totally change my mind.

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Dec 192012

Mugsy's gingerbread mini-muffins

There are quite a few food associations of mine that are inexorably linked to the holidays: beef burgundy, Danish pastries, sand-tarts (elsewhere called Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cookies), and rum cake all come to mind. These gingerbread mini-muffins are certainly make the list as well. This recipe comes to me by way of my maternal grandmother. Grandma (or Mugsy, to everyone else) had a way with baking and was damn good at it (her pie crusts remain legendary), but honestly, she was such a force of sheer kindness and goodness in this world, that her prowess with the oven has been eclipsed in my mind by the warm and gooey feelings that I remember when I think of her. The recipes that she left behind are all that serve to jog my memory in the baking-department.

So I love when I come across memories that have been written down on her recipes. It’s plain that my mom has been eating these spiced delights on or around Christmas every year since she can remember — and thus, they’ve woven their way into most of my memories as well. Sadly, it had been several years since I made them myself, but I found myself with an excellent excuse to dust off tradition and make them again this year (as holiday pot-lucks are an ideal venue for mini-muffins). And even though The Bun won’t be eating them this year, it’ll be nice to know that I started baking them again the year she joined our family.

So here’s to passing a family tradition down to the next generation: perhaps these can find your way into your own family annals too!

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Sep 042012

Kentucky bourbon French toast with bourbon-triple-berry coulis and bourbon whipped cream

There’s something I discovered about The Hubs’ family last year: they really love bourbon. And really, they have a point: there is something extremely compelling about the scent alone that evokes all sorts of warm and woodsy mental images.

So, last summer, there was a family reunion out at one of his relative’s houses in Kentucky, just on the outskirts of bourbon country. We took some time to visit the Maker’s Mark distillery, which was the point at which I discovered The Hubs’ and his dad’s mania for good bourbon. I kind of fell in love with the stuff myself: I could pitch a tent in the aging room with all the barrels and live there quite happily for years, methinks. I wouldn’t need food or water or anything else in particular, really: I could just live off that aroma.

So here’s where my dirty little secret about bourbon comes in. I don’t particularly like to drink the stuff. I really, really wish it tasted as good as it smells, but for me it’s just like Scotch in that I’ll happy sniff up that aroma all day but wouldn’t think about, say, drinking it straight. The lone exception is the time my parents and I found ourselves in the midst of a twenty-car pile-up on the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson in the middle of a giant you-can’t-see-six-inches-in-front-of-your-face dust-storm known as a haboob, narrowly escaped death and/or serious injury three separate times, and somehow managed to get out of that version of hell without a scratch. Once we got home, you bet your ass I poured myself a generous helping of Maker’s straight-up. But I digress.

You may be wondering how I am able to enjoy the scent so much when you can burn your nasal passages pretty well when you go in for a sniff. I learned this trick at the Maker’s distillery: put your nose in the glass and then inhale through your mouth, not your nose. This has allowed me to enjoy that amazing aroma to my heart’s content and has been especially helpful during my pregnancy, since it’s not really cool to drink massive quantities of bourbon when one has a bun in the oven.

Cooking with bourbon is ideal for someone like me: it burns off that ouch-burning alcohol but leaves the warm, vanilla-y, woodsy flavor behind in whatever you add it to. So when I discovered at the end of August that September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and that someone had compiled a list of recipes that used bourbon, I got really excited. I wasted no time planning out the first of our forays into a bourbon-soaked menu, and this amazingly delicious breakfast was the result. We’ll see how long we’re able to keep this up, since the end of my pregnancy is going to mean the end of cooking for a while, but hopefully we can get another couple of recipes made before that happy event!

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Feb 262008

Note: While I have decided to leave this recipe on here for posterity’s sake, I really can’t endorse it anymore. This was posted six years ago, and I’ve since decided that low-fat diets are bad juju. If I were to make it again today, I’d replace fat-substitutes (such as the applesauce) and processed fats (such as the canola/safflower oil) with whole-foods ingredients and natural fats. Vive real food! — Stacey, April 2014

Muffins get a bad rap, and none more so than bran muffins. See, regular muffins are sugar-and-oil fests, full of empty calories, and most bran muffins are healthy but, well, made of twigs. Can there be a happy medium between these two extremes?

Of course there can be! Enter my breakfast-on-the-go juggernaut, the 150% whole grain banana nut muffin! Now, you may be asking yourself how the hell something can be 150% whole grain, and here’s your answer: grains are made up of the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. White flour and other processed grains get poo-pooed (and deservedly so) because the nutritious and tasty germ and bran are removed, leaving behind the starchy endosperm which, while semantically being a complex carbohydrate, is treated by your body just like sugar, a simple carbohydrate. While most muffins are made of only white flour, this recipe is made up of whole-wheat flour (germ, bran, endosperm), oats (again, germ, bran, endosperm), wheat germ, and oat bran. Lots of good-parts-of-the-grain yumminess, see?

Muffins like ducks in a row

An astute reader like yourself may have picked up on the fact that while a couple of those ingredients are the fiber- and nutrient-rich parts of the grain, they do not in fact contain all three parts. So I guess it’s not technically whole-grain, but really, when you’re only removing the bad stuff and keeping the good stuff it’s easy to see that it has way more of the good stuff than the bad stuff, so it’s like an endosperm with twice the bran and twice the germ, and hence, 150% whole grain! Don’t argue with me on this one, I majored in math and I’ll come up with some convoluted argument to prove that It Is So.

So that’s enough science geekery, let’s stop talking nutrition and start talking yumminess!
This recipe is awesome because it manages to be low-fat without tasting overly low-fat. Yes, when you bite into these muffins you can tell that they are healthy and nutritious, but they are still wonderfully moist and flavorful. That’s because applesauce, oil’s favorite understudy, has gotten its chance to shine in this recipe, and when it teams up with the bananas you get a moist, remarkably un-twig-like consistency. When you add in things like toasted pecans, flax, raisins, and the grains, you get a complex flavor profile that keeps your tastebuds happy.

These are ideal for early-morning athletes and snooze-button-hitters since they are easy to take with you and eat, ensuring you get those morning calories your metabolism needs to function properly throughout the day. I always eat one on the way to swimming in the morning and if I think there’s a chance I won’t get to eat my daily oatmeal I always bring along a couple extra to tide me over until lunch. That’s another benefit to this muffin’s ingredients: in addition to being flavorful, they also keep you full for a long time. So what’s not to love? Skip that chemical delight breakfast you were going to grab on your way out the door and eat one of these instead!

Be wary of pretty muffins my Dad makes, but I swear these are good!

Click for the recipe →

Jan 242008

There is something about baking a pastry – a real, from-scratch, layered bit of flaky dough – that makes you feel like a total badass.

Let’s face it, pastries have a pretty formidable reputation. They’re certainly not in the “if you can boil water you can handle this” category. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for croissants, but there is another indulgence – the humble Danish pastry – that has a special, sentimental significance to me.

If there was ever a recipe for me to cut my pastry chef teeth on, this one had to be it.

Follow the yellow butter road
Nikon D50

See, this is another recipe that is near and dear to my heart. Like beef burgundy, my family has been eating these delicacies around holidays since I can remember. Perhaps even more significant, my Mom has been eating them ever since she can remember. When she was a kid, her next-door neighbor (the eponymous Mrs. B) would bring them over each Christmas Eve so that their family could chow down on them the next day. Before my parents’ wedding, my Mom had a kitchen shower where the guests brought treasured recipes to give to her. Mrs. B brought this.

Dough coiled and ready to rise
Nikon D50

So when, as I mentioned earlier, Cory and I were in the midst of forging our own traditions, these little gems were so in. I made my very first batch sans supervision this last Christmas (my previous foray being the year before when my Mom was visiting for Thanksgiving) and on the morning of Cory and I ate like royalty, feasting on the light, fluffy, and delicate (both in flavor and texture) yumminess.

Pastries glazed, baked, and cooled
Nikon D50

I will warn that this is not the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted. In fact, if you lack the proper patience it’s probably actually the hardest I’ve shared thus far. So with that in mind, use a light hand when folding the dough – you don’t want to tear it. If it happens, don’t hesitate to pinch the dough closed and put the dough in the fridge since it will start oozing butter. So take your time, enjoy being a real-life badass pastry chef, and enjoy the end result even more!

A pastry close up
Nikon D50

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Jan 152008

Who doesn’t love a good scone for breakfast? It’s like a waffle that way. Most of us have probably had blueberry or chocolate or maybe even cinnamon chip scones, but how common is a savory version?

Scone, edge on: I challenge you to a duel!
Nikon D50

I had run across this recipe about six months ago, and it sounded so unusual and so delicious that I tucked it away, ready to be pulled out in the right occasion. That occasion came around when I planned my Thanksgiving menu. Breakfast has a history of being all too often overlooked on that certain day, so on this Thanksgiving, my first un-adult-supervised one, I decided to start it off right.

These were perfect for the occasion – hearty, but not overly so, they satisfied without stuffing. And the bacon/smoked cheddar/scallion/fresh-ground pepper combo was fantastic and bold. Try them next time you have overnight guests – they’re a very welcome surprise.

No leisurely breakfast is complete without a cappuccino
Nikon D50

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Nov 292007

I’ll tell you a dirty little secret:

Alaskans eat Rudolph.

And he is delicious.

There are lots of things that one can do with reindeer sausage, like serving it as an appetizer, putting it in a soup, or… eating it with breakfast! My favorite way to have this particular bit of Alaskan fare is in an omlet or breakfast scramble. This is a great way to use the stuff you have in your pantry and vegetable drawer and makes a satisfying savory breakfast that will leave you smacking your lips, savoring the deliciousness. In fact, it’s a variation of what I call my pantry scramble because it’s something delicious you can make without having to make a special shopping trip for it. Because it’s so convenient and delicious, I always make this when I have overnight visitors.

If you don’t have reindeer sausage where you live, I suppose you could substitute another ingredient in (after all, this is a pantry scramble, it’s made of whatever you happen to have on hand) like chicken or a different type of breakfast meat. Which brings to mind that one of the joys of this dish is that it will be different every time you make it.

Reindeer scramble

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Aug 042007
Pumpkin waffles

When I woke up this morning i was craving something yummy and delicious and different than my usual oatmeal. Pancakes were sounding pretty delicious, but despite my large collection of health food and whole grain cookbooks, I failed to find a recipe that met my criteria whole ingredients I already had in my pretty well-stocked pantry and fridge (curses on forgetting to buy milk last time I was at the market!) exactly what I was looking for. Then I remembered a recipe that I had discovered around last Thanksgiving.

I’m, well, a pumpkin fiend, and this recipe had some whole grains in it, so it was looking like a strong contender. And luckily, it called for soy milk (something I always keep on hand for oatmeal) instead of the from-cow variety. We have a winner!

Now might be a good time to expound on the flour I used. No, white whole-wheat is not in any way related to the nutritionally devoid all-purpose flour or flour used to make white bread. It is an honest-to-god whole grain flour with all the bran and germ, but made with a different variety of wheat. Most flour comes from red wheat, which is a more strongly wheaty-tasting (and more bitter or sour to some tastebuds) flour when ground in its whole state. White whole-wheat flour is more mild and can be more readily substituted into baked goods. So when I was making these waffles in which I use a fairly heavy hand with the pumpkin pie spices, I wanted the pumpkin and the spice flavors to shine, not the wheat. Since I didn’t want to sacrifice the nutrition, white whole wheat was the clear choice.

White whole wheat flour is a little more difficult to find but it is gaining in popularity since at least a few Americans want to use more healthy grains but aren’t gaga over the way whole-wheat flour tastes. I use King Arthur Flour’s variety, but Hodgson Mill and and Bob’s Red Mill also produce it.

The flavor results of the flour substitution? Undetectable. This recipe definitely hits the spot.

Pumpkin waffles

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Jul 042007

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

I’m normally a fan of healthy breakfasts — y’know, oatmeal, whole-grain low-fat muffins, or multi-grain pancakes or waffles. Every once in a while though, an indulgence is so much fun.

The first time these pancakes got busted out was a couple of weeks ago when a new bunch of people was assigned to me. I thought a good icebreaker would be a big breakfast feed, so everyone signed up to bring an ingredient. I nominated a couple of trusty helpers and we went down to the kitchens to cook this meal for thirty people.

These pancakes were certainly yummy, but I had a sneaking suspicion I wasn’t doing the recipe justice. See, the recipe has you fold in beaten-into-peaks egg whites and I could tell that by the time the batter met the griddle — hours after everything had been mixed together — the volume was definitely lower. I was pretty sure these pancakes could be even lighter and fluffier.

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

This morning, I tested that theory. The result has me pretty well convinced I’ll never order pancakes in a restaurant again. Why would I, when I could make these at home??? They’re so sinfully delicious, so light and fluffy. And the aroma as the batter is mixed is indescribable.

The next time you feel like treating yourself — or someone you love — make up a batch of these. I know I’ll be making these for my favorite person when he comes to visit in ten days! (squeeeeeeeeeeee!)

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

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