Posts tagged breakfast

banana-date bread

Before this year, I have had relatively few experiences with food so delicious that my vision blurs and I simply bliss out for a few minutes, heedless of what others at the table might be saying.  This year, I already feel I’ve had more than my share, what with beef wellington at a local French restaurant so good I think I actually teared up; guacamole with mango, papaya, and pomegranate seeds at a Mexican-style grill in Baltimore; and a pork belly bun at another local, farm-to-table restaurant.  These are the experiences I live for, that make me wonder endlessly why I didn’t pursue food writing as a profession (reason: I don’t like exercising enough to eat that many calories).

Before anyone gets too excited, this bread does not fall into the category of one of “those” experiences.  But, Medjool dates, for me, do.  I don’t recall ever really having a date as a kid, with the exception of one or two of those dry, cubed things you found in dried-fruit mixes.  When I bit into a Medjool date around this time last year, I was bowled over by the intensely sweet, brown-sugary, caramel-like flavors.  Fast-forward to this year, and I purchased a type of date that was a bit cheaper than the Medjools, which can be quite pricey.  Turns out those other dates are nothing like the ethereal experience of a Medjool, but not wanting to waste food, I wanted to find a way to use up the less-delicious dates in a way that might make them more worthwhile to me.

I wasn’t too sure about this bread from the batter, which tasted a bit, well, bready, to me.  But, the end product was very tasty – good, slightly chewy texture.  Obviously, I recommend it.

Banana-Date Bread (makes 1 loaf)

When I was making this bread, I accidentally left the batter on the counter while I set the oven timer.  So, I don’t know that letting it sit for an extra half hour did any good, but feel free to try it!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. dates
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Pour boiling water over dates and let sit about half an hour, or until water has cooled to room temperature.  Pulse mixture in a food processor briefly until dates have been chopped up but not completely smooth.
  3. Add sugar and olive oil to date mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.  Add eggs and beat in one at a time.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients alternately with mashed banana.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes.  Watch for over-browning and place a sheet of foil over the top if need be to bake fully without burning.
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ridiculousy easy meyer lemon marmalade

The past few months have been for me an experiment on change and perseverance.  I’ve tried to learn when to let things go, and when to fight for what I need.  I’ve faced having to give up a job I really enjoyed for one that would make more money, and deciding how to let go of that job for what could be “the” career opportunity I’ve really never quite had.  I’ve faced almost getting kicked out of a school program, but ultimately passing classes by studying more than I ever have before in my life (except for taking the GRE – whew!).  I’ve experienced minor but persistent illness, periods of utter despondency and repeated loss of motivation.

Through this, I’ve relied a lot on my husband of six months (as of Saturday), with whom I’ve now spent four years of my life with.  It also helped to have the love and advice of two wonderful parents, the best kid brother anyone could ask for, great friends and extended family.  I don’t mind admitting that I found another source of comfort in learning to let go.  Although I take pride in finding a way to accomplish any kitchen task I set my mind to, sometimes it’s practical to admit that someone else has already perfected it, and it’s worth it to purchase what you need.  Case in point: chicken broth – sure, I’ve made it, but was it really worth it?  Not for me.  Bread is another one – bread-making can be great fun, relaxing, and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.  Yet there are over a dozen delicious loaves I can pick up from local bakeries at the grocery store, and it’s much easier when making bread seems more than a chore than like fun.

What is almost always worth it to me?  Jams and pickles.  I make refrigerator pickles, meaning that I make a hot brine and pour it over fresh or blanched veggies.  It’s easy because just a few small changes in spices can make for tasty new pickles.  I find fresh, homemade jams to taste better than the jarred stuff, with only a few exceptions.  When I made jam from Concord grapes last summer, it was a revelation.

This year I was lucky enough to get a bunch of Meyer lemons from an acquaintance of mine, and I couldn’t think of just the right thing to do with them, so I finally decided to preserve them.  Recipes for marmalade I often found very involved and had so many steps, I almost gave up.  Instead, I decided to simplify.  Forget separating pith and peel from fruit and boiling in changes of fresh water, and so forth.   Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter and more floral than regular Eureka lemons, so if you like a somewhat bitter marmalade, it’s best to just go the simpler route of putting it all in together.  Plus, tiny slices of lemon look excellent suspended in the yellow jam.

Easy Meyer Lemonade (makes about 6 c.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. Meyer lemons
  • 5 c. water
  • 5 c. sugar

Directions:

  1. Wash lemons and cut them into tiny slices.  I did it this way: halve lemons lengthwise, then each half lengthwise again.  Cut each quarter crosswise in 1/8″ – 1/4″ inch slices.  Seeds will essentially come loose from the flesh of lemon as you proceed.  It might be useful to cut on a cutting board with a channel to catch the lemon juice that will be produced.
  2. Place all lemon slices and collected juice in a large pot or dutch oven.  Measure out water in cups until they just cover the lemons.  Add an equal amount of sugar to the pot.  I needed 5 cups of water to cover the lemons (and thus added 5 cups of sugar) – your mileage may vary.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat, and simmer until the mixture gels.  Recipes I read suggested a temperature of about 220F, but I still used the “wrinkle test.”  Basically, you take a spoonful of jam and place it on a plate in the freezer.  After a few moments to let it cool, push the pool of jam with the tip of your finger.  If it wrinkles, it’s ready to be jarred.

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English Muffins, Take One

These English muffins were puffy and tasty, but they didn’t really feel like the traditional English muffin in that the texture was very much like regular bread.  It wasn’t spongy, and there were none of the characteristic “nooks and crannies.”  Still, they were easy, tasty, and best fresh out of the pan.

English Muffins, Take One (makes about 16)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c. melted shortening
  • 6 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, warm milk, water, and sugar to about 110 degrees.  Let cool several minutes, then add yeast and stir until dissolved.  Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer milk mixture to a bowl, and add shortening and half of the flour.  Mix until smooth.  Add salt and remaining flour, or enough to make a soft dough.
  3. Knead until gluten has developed and dough is only slightly sticky, 5-10 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise one hour or until doubled.
  4. Gently press down to remove excess air bubbles, then roll out to 1/2-inch thick.  Cut a piece of wax paper or parchment and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Cut out English muffins and place on wax paper, sprinkling with additional cornmeal.  Cover and let rest an hour, or until puffed up significantly.
  5. Heat a greased griddle or cast iron pan over medium-low heat.  Gently transfer English muffins to griddle and cook 7-8 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.

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Breakfast Pizza

Dinner for breakfast… for dinner?  Breakfast pizza seems to be experiencing its “15 minutes,” so to speak.  I became obsessed with the concept of trying it out after I saw a breakfast pizza mentioned on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” by some chef or another.

Entertainingly, this pizza didn’t even come out quite like I meant it to.  I was planning on having provolone cheese, canadian bacon, regular bacon, shallots, tomatoes, and eggs.  I was so exhausted last night that I completely forgot about the shallots and tomato, and the regular bacon was still in the deep freeze.  So it was more a ham, egg, and cheese pizza, but still totally delicious.

I’ve heard that most people don’t have problems with their eggs running all over the place, but I sure did!  This time I tried anchoring them by putting slices of cheese over the eggs, but I’ll have to work something out next time.  I might use shredded cheese and try to create little “nests” for the eggs, or a bell pepper ring, an onion ring, something.

Breakfast Pizza (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-16 oz. ball pizza dough (I used whole-wheat from Whole Foods, and when I find a nice, chewy, whole-wheat recipe, I’ll share it)
  • 1 c. your favorite pizza sauce
  • 6 oz. thinly sliced or shredded Provolone (or your favorite)
  • 4 oz. Canadian bacon, cut into large pieces
  • 4 oz. bacon, cooked and cut into pieces
  • 1 onion or 8 shallots, sliced thinly and briefly sauteed
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450, or heat up the grill.  Roll out pizza dough and lay on a baking sheet.  Spread pizza sauce over the dough.  Place two-thirds of the cheese over the pizza sauce.
  2. Evenly spread Canadian bacon, bacon, shallots, and tomatoes over the cheese.  Crack the eggs directly onto the ingredients.  Add the remainder of the cheese.
  3. Cook in the oven 10-15 minutes, or until crust has browned, eggs are cooked, and cheese is melted.
  4. If you’re going to grill the pizza, roll out the dough, oil lightly, and place on the grill for about 7 minutes.  Flip the crust over and lay out the ingredients as specified above, then close the grill over and cook another 7 minutes or so.

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Multigrain Blueberry Pancakes

I wanted pancakes this morning.  Actually, I wanted bacon, but knew that I would need something to go with the bacon.  Then, I ended up using some of the bacon for the bacon and leek pasta earlier this week and figured it might not last until Friday, so I froze the bacon… and then forgot to thaw it out in time for breakfast.  So, it was just pancakes on the menu.

Fortunately, this version was appropriately hearty and we didn’t really need the bacon.  Though to be sure, it would have been a nice addition.  Probably, this is a recipe where you can be flexible about the exact measurements of the different grains and which grains you use.  For me, I wanted it to be about half cornmeal, for a corn pancake flavor, half wheat to increase the fluff and volume of the pancakes, and with some oats to balance the flavors and add a little tenderness.

Multigrain Blueberry Pancakes (serves 3-4, about 12 5-in. pancakes)

Delicious with maple syrup, fruit compotes, and jam.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. oat cereal (or take rolled oats and give them a brief spin in the food processor)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. blueberries

Directions:

  1. Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and heat over medium heat.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk butter, buttermilk, and eggs until combined.  Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  4. Using about 1/4 c. of batter, drop pancakes on griddle.  Sprinkle some blueberries on the surface of the batter.
  5. Normally, you would wait until you see bubbles on the surface of the batter, but this batter is too thick for that.  It will be ready to flip in about 1 1/2 minutes.  Wait until the edges of the pancake have puffed up and the bottom is browned.  Then flip, and cook for a minute or so on the other side.
  6. Keep in an oven set to 200 until all pancakes are done to keep them warm until you are ready to serve.

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Sugar and Spice

A while back, I discovered that I was yearning for cinnamon rolls.  Not liking the calorie count of most recipes I found, I turned to one of my favorite and most trusted recipe sources: Cook’s Illustrated magazine, this time Spring 2008’s “Light Recipes.”

This was the second time I had made cinnamon rolls, and I have to admit, I find the process really satisfying.  Creating a soft dough, kneading it, waiting for it to rise, and then rolling it out, spreading a sweet and spicy filling, then rolling, slicing, and baking.  I really think it’s one of the easier things to make that results in semi-professional looking baked goods.

That all being said, I guess I would say that I found this recipe only “pretty good.”  I’m not even blaming the recipe.  After all, the author of the recipe specifically mentioned that she got a “soft, pillowy texture.”  Mine were much closer to the texture of bread than what I would consider a cinnamon roll, and I’m not quite sure what I did to achieve that.  Possibly too much kneading?  Too much flour during the kneading process?

Still, I’m pretty sure I’ll be making these again.  I definitely agree that the flavor was great, just that I need to work on the texture.

Guilt-Free Cinnamon Rolls (12 rolls, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 c. warm skim milk (110 degrees)
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 1 pkg. rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 tbsp. light cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. FOR THE DOUGH: Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  When preheated, turn it off.  Grease large bowl with nonstick cooking spray.  Coat 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix milk, syrup, and melted butter together.  Mix flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl.  Make well in flour, then add milk mixture to well.  Stir until dough becomes shaggy and difficult to stir.  Turn out onto heavily floured work surface and knead until dough forms cohesive ball and is smooth, about 10 minutes.  Place into greased bowl.  Cover and let rest in warm oven for 10 minutes.
  3. FOR THE FILLING: While dough is resting, mix sugars, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter in medium bowl until incorporated.
  4. TO MAKE THE ROLLS: On lightly floured work surface, roll dough into 18 by 12-inch rectangle with long side facing you.  Sprinkle sugar mixture over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border along edges, then lightly press sugar into dough.  Starting at edge nearest you, roll up dough.  Brush border with water, then press dough to seal.
  5. Using knife, slice dough into 12 rounds, then place in prepared pan with cut side up.  Cover pan with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and return to warm oven until rolls have nearly doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap and bake until rolls are deep brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  7. FOR THE ICING: Whisk confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla together in small both until smooth.  Remove pan from oven, turn rolls out onto rack, and flip them right-side up.  Cool 10 minutes, then spread icing over rolls.  Serve hot or warm.

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