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Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

Well, here I go again, promising to update this site more regularly and then waiting more than a week to add a new post.  Sigh.  Baby steps, right?

But you should be excited about today’s recipe because it’s easy, healthy and so, so good.  It’s become my favorite granola recipe, and I try to bake a batch every few weeks.  The recipe began as the “Quick Omega-3 Granola” I ripped from a Bon Appetit magazine a year or two ago, but over the years I’ve tweaked it here and there, and now I think it’s even better than the original.

I love granola sprinkled on yogurt or eaten right out of my hand, but my #1 favorite way to eat this granola is sprinkled on vanilla ice cream.  I know, I know — that sort of defeats the purpose, right?  Well, the way I see it, I’m just making dessert a little healthier.  Because I’m eating dessert, healthy or not, so it might as well have a little fiber, right?  Right.

I like to make a big batch and keep a small tin in the cupboard and the rest in a large Ziploc bag in the freezer, which prevents the nuts from going rancid and — horror of horrors — the granola from getting soggy.  Every time I reach the bottom of the tin, I refill it with a little more from the freezer.  Works like a charm.

Homemade granola also makes a great host/hostess gift when you’re tired of bringing wine or feel like bringing something a little different.  It’s the kind of thing your hosts will tuck away for later, only to email you as soon as you get home to say they’ve already eaten half the bag.  With granola this delicious, who could blame them?

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Let me tell you about a little place called The Bunnery.

Two summers ago, when Roger and I were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we decided to grab breakfast at a local restaurant just off the Town Square called The Bunnery. The line spilled out onto sidewalk, but their breakfast came highly recommended, so I couldn’t pass it up. As we know, when it comes to breakfast, I don’t mess around.

When we finally snagged a table, I opened the menu and discovered I was in breakfast heaven. There was the Bunnery Benedict, the Teton Breakfast Burrito and, among other things, several items with the letters “OSM” in front of them: OSM pancakes, OSM waffles, OSM bread.

osm-bread

Come to find out, OSM stands for “oats, sunflower, millet,” a blend of grains that has become The Bunnery’s signature. I love whole grains; I love breakfast. As soon as I discovered what this OSM business was all about, all I could say was “Sign me up.”

I ordered the OSM pancakes, and they kiiiind of rocked my world. I also tried Roger’s OSM toast, which was pretty great too. Later, I discovered that aside from their pies and their breakfast, the rest of The Bunnery’s offerings were a little “feh,” but the OSM goodies placed me firmly in the pro-Bunnery camp.

At the checkout counter, I saw that The Bunnery sells an OSM pancake and waffle mix, but I figured I’d do one step better; I’d buy their cookbook and make some OSM treats of my own.

Unfortunately, the only OSM recipe in the whole cookbook is for their OSM bread, and the recipe is a little verkakte. However, determined to recreate the OSM bread at home, I fiddled with the recipe and think I’ve come up with a pretty excellent rendition. It’s soft, slightly sweet and wholesome, with a lovely crust.  It’s also a good keeper and will last on the counter top for a number of days — that is, if you don’t finish it in a single sitting.

osm-bread-2

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There are probably three foods that, with a single bite, can transport me back to my childhood à laRatatouille”: scrambled eggs, buttered macaroni and, perhaps my favorite, hot Cream of Wheat cereal.

The first two of those foods I instantly associate with my grandmother. I now know it was her generous use of butter that made the scrambled eggs and macaroni so memorable. After all, gobs of fresh butter will make pretty much anything taste good. Of course my memories, much like Anton Ego’s, are wrapped up not just in the food but in the experience of eating that food: sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, having her listen to my seemingly endless monologue, feeling like prettiest, most interesting girl in the world. Thankfully I had a younger brother who would keep that developing ego in check.

But Cream of Wheat, that I associate with my mother. She’d whip up a big pot on fall and winter weekends, doling out generous bowls for my brother and I, topping them with swirls of maple syrup and some milk or a pat of butter. My brother and I would fiendishly stir the toppings into our cereal while my parents read the weekend paper, and we’d dive in eagerly with our spoons. To this day, I still think of those mornings with even a single taste of that velvety, maple-scented porridge.

I’ve often thought of Cream of Wheat (also called farina) as a poor man’s breakfast polenta, since it has the same silky texture as its corn-based cousin but cooks more quickly due to its finer consistency. So when I saw a drool-worthy recipe for breakfast polenta with maple and mascarpone, but noticed that it required almost 30 minutes of cooking (way more time than I have on a weekday morning), I decided to give the recipe a whirl using Cream of Wheat instead.

And boy am I glad I did. A small dollop of mascarpone gives the cereal a touch a richness without making it too rich, and as far as I’m concerned, maple and farina are a perfect pair.

When it comes to childhood comfort foods, you can never be sure if it’s the reassuring familiarity that makes the food taste so damn good, or if it’s the food itself. In this case, I think it’s a little of both. I was bound to love this recipe, given its provenance. But my English husband’s eyes opened wide like saucers when he tried a spoonful for the first time, which makes me think that even if you never ate Cream of Wheat as a child, you’ll love this too.

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I’m not exactly sure when my love affair with ricotta cheese began, but I’m pretty sure it dates back to my infancy. Occasionally for breakfast, my mother would whip up a mixture of ricotta cheese and powdered sugar, and by all accounts, I used to wolf the confection down like an eating machine. Can you blame me? She was basically serving me a baby-proof cannoli for breakfast.

As I grew older, I somehow shifted my affections from sweet ricotta recipes to savory ones, most of which involved pasta and red sauce: ravioli, manicotti, my Aunt Robin’s stuffed shells. Make no mistake: My family is not Italian. We are, apparently, a bunch of ricotta loving Jews. But ethnicity aside, I loved the taste of the soft, mellow cheese up against the tangy tomato sauce.

Many years later, I’ve returned to my sweet-ricotta-for-breakfast roots. But seeing as I now have teeth, I’ve updated the recipe. It couldn’t be simpler, really: fresh, crusty bread topped with ricotta and drizzled with honey. I like to use bread that’s chock full of goodies, something like a cranberry walnut loaf (if you’re in DC, get thee to the Penn Quarter farmer’s market) or this homemade granola bread.

The recipe for this bread is of the no-knead variety, which makes it a snap to throw together. Yes, the no-knead concept has become a little gimmicky, and I will never jettison old school kneaded bread, but just because something is gimmicky doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Studded with granola and perfumed with honey and cinnamon, this bread smells divine as it bakes. Throw some fresh ricotta and honey into the mix and Installment #2 of the “Breakfast Series” might be one of my favorite weekday breakfasts ever.

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Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t eat breakfast” or “Breakfast isn’t really my thing,” I think a small part of me dies inside. You see, I love breakfast. It is, without a doubt, my favorite meal of the day. I could eat breakfast foods at every meal and, save the occasional craving for sushi, I would be perfectly content.

This probably comes under the category of Too Much Information, but I often start thinking about breakfast before I even go to bed. Permission granted to think that I am super weird. But I can’t help myself. Oatmeal, yogurt, granola, toast: knowing I will consume some of my favorite foods in just a few hours is enough to make me giddy.

But it isn’t just the food that I love; it’s the ritual of breakfast and what that ritual represents. Breakfast heralds the start of a new day, with endless possibilities before you. The world is yours for the taking — at least in theory.

And these days, a ray of light first thing in the morning is most welcome. I basically spend my entire work day talking and writing and thinking about the financial crisis. Uplifting? Not so much. These days, when I wake up I’m greeted with news that (a) some major financial institution has failed, (b) Asian and European markets took a nosedive overnight, (c) the government is committing another XX billion dollars to get us out of this mess, or (d) all of the above. But at least with my breakfast bowl and a warm cup of coffee in front of me, there is something comforting and reassuring at the beginning of my day.

So in the spirit of all that breakfast represents, I am beginning what henceforth shall be call the “Breakfast Series.” Consider it my way of adding a little variety to your breakfast routine.

First up: a kickass muesli recipe. Saveur published a heavenly version of muesli in their recent “Breakfast Issue” (which I snapped up as soon as it came out, bien sur). But their recipe was a little rich, even for me. I’ve tweaked it a bit and posted that version here, but you can find the original on the Saveur web site.

Toothsome, filling and bursting with flavor, this muesli will keep you going until lunch time and will wrap its arm around your shoulder like an old friend as you scan through the day’s news. These days we need to take comfort where we can get it.

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Pile of Muffins

*chirp, chirp*

*chirp, chirp*

Are those crickets I hear? Yes, the blog has been a little…how shall we say…”quiet” lately. Believe it or not, I have been cooking. But I’ve also been working and planning and traveling and…well, lots of other “-ings.” And all of those other th”ings” have thrown the proverbial wrench in my plans to blog. Drat.

I realize I may have entirely lost anyone who, at one point or another, read my blog. Alas, that would be very sad indeed. So in the hopes of recruiting people back to POTP, I give you…Homemade English Muffins.

English Muffin

Remember when I made that sourdough starter all those weeks ago? Well, I found an excellent use for the leftover starter, replete with Nooks and Crannies. Oh. Yes.

The recipe is super easy, as long as you have a starter going (and if you don’t, starting one is super easy too). I made my muffins with 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 regular flour because, well, you know me. I likes me some whole grains.

So my apologies for my absence — both on this blog and all of yours. I assure you that once I’m a Mrs. in less than two months (!!), the nooks and crannies between my blog posts won’t be so large…

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There’s a living thing growing in my refrigerator…and I’m loving it!

This weekend I tried my hand at cultivating a sourdough starter, the yeasty, bacteria-laden joy of bread bakers around the world. For bread baking enthusiasts, sourdough starter is serious business. Given my newbie status to the Sourdough Club, I decided to wade into the shallow end of the pool rather than dive in head first. I didn’t make bread; I made pancakes. How could I run into trouble with pancakes?

Growing a starter indulges all of my nerdy impulses. In college I majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. (Why didn’t I just tattoo “NERD” on my forehead, right?) I spent hours in the lab, toiling with bacteria and the occasional radioactive isotope. I didn’t mind lab work — in fact, sometimes I found it relaxing — but in the end, lab work wasn’t for me. Too solitary, not my style.

But given my interest in science, the idea of growing a colony of something that I could ultimately eat thrilled me. I already make my own yogurt on a regular basis (a nerdy but hugely satisfying process, and one that I highly recommend), so why not give a sourdough starter a try?

Now, minor disclaimer: I don’t think the starter I created is “authentic” as far as starters go. Traditional sourdough starters are basically just a mixture of flour and water that you let sit for an extended period of time, discarding some of the mixture and feeding the remainder with flour and water. Fresh flour contains yeast and bacteria spores, so as you feed the mixture, the water breaks down the flour’s starch into sugars, the yeast feeds on the sugars, and the bacteria feeds on all the stuff the yeast produces in that process. The cycle goes on and on as long as you keep the mixture alive.

The starter I used combines flour, water and a dash of yeast to get it going. Then you let it sit for 12-24 hours, at which point you use most of it but keep a half cup in the refrigerator for future use. And that’s it. No feeding, no multi-day schedule — and you even cheat by adding a little yeast at the beginning. But the recipe came from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, two people who know their bigas from their poolishes. Surely they wouldn’t lead me astray.

They didn’t. The pancakes — enormous, and easily a half-inch thick — charm the tongue with that characteristic sourdough flavor. As someone who likes her pancakes sweet, I was worried they’d be too puckery, but their yeasty, hearty flavor won me over. They soak up warm maple syrup like sponges, but I also imagine they’d be wonderful slathered with warm jam and whipped cream.

So now the question remains: What do I do with the remaining 1/2 cup starter living in my fridge? I could always make another batch of pancakes, but as resident scientist, I was hoping to experiment…

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