Tag Archives: Breakfast

Dutch Baby & Focaccia

Dutch Baby

A genuine Dutch Baby.

For Sunday breakfast yesterday, I made a Dutch baby. This is a kind of pancake that is cooked in the oven so it puffs up like a giant popover. Once you take it out of the oven, it deflates quickly, but it is very light and sweet, delicious with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries. I’ve made something like this before, but I didn’t realize then that its real name was Dutch baby.

For my Sunday afternoon baking project, I made rosemary focaccia. I love focaccia and will eat it for breakfast, sandwiches, snacks, anytime. It’s like pizza without all the stuff. The recipe I tried was from Cooks Illustrated and called for a potato. I’m not sure it was the best recipe for focaccia out there, and I would like to experiment with other takes on it before committing to a go-to recipe.

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Couscous for Breakfast? Pasta and Potatoes?

So when you’ve forbidden yourself from buying packaged cereals, granola, English muffins and bagels, what do you eat for breakfast? Mark Bittman has some unusual suggestions in his book Food Matters. Today I tried one of them: couscous. Why not? It’s a cereal, and it’s fast and easy to prepare. I dressed it up like I would oatmeal. Bittman also suggests treating bulgur or leftover cooked grains like rice the same way. Polenta would be good too, I’d bet.

Speaking of Bittman, I tried an unusual but very tasty recipe of his from How to Cook Everything last night. It combines pasta with potatoes. I wouldn’t normally build a meal based on two starches, but the resulting dish is very hearty and satisfying. It starts with a little minced bacon crisping in olive oil. Add some garlic and red pepper flakes for flavor; then add diced potatoes and let brown. Next, throw in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of water and about half a box of cut pasta. Let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or so, adding more water if necessary, until the potatoes are cooked and the pasta is tender. The resulting mixture should be a little soupy. This was definitely a “go back for seconds” type of dish.

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Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Dice bacon. Saute until crisp and remove to a paper towel. Dice onion. Saute in the bacon fat until browned. Dice sweet potato. Add to the onion with salt and a small amount of water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or so. Uncover and raise heat. Boil away the remaining water and brown the sweet potatoes. Remove to plate. Top with bacon and a fried egg. Umm, breakfast for dinner.

Cranberry Scones for Breakfast, Chicken Stew for Dinner

Occasionally, I like to bake, but I don’t like to have large batches of leftovers sitting around tempting me. A while back, I picked up a cookbook called Small-batch Baking, a collection of recipes for 2 or 3 servings of a variety of baked goods. The recipes I’ve tried have been either hit — very successful — or miss — total failure. Since baking is so precise, I suppose it’s not easy to scale down recipes. Making them is sometimes not easy either; how exactly do you measure 2 teaspoons of cold butter?

Yesterday, I felt like doing a little baking, so I made the Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Scone recipe from Small-batch Baking. This recipe was a hit. It produced two large, crumbly, hearty, tender oatmeal scones dotted with dried cranberries. I think the recipes that don’t need to be so precisely measured definitely work better.

I also felt like having a proper dinner, so I made a chicken stew in the slow cooker. First, I browned cubed chicken with some onion on the stovetop. Then, I added that to the slow cooker along with some whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf and thyme. I finished with 1 part sherry vinegar to 2 parts chicken stock, just enough liquid to almost cover the chicken. I cooked it on low for 4 hours and served the chicken with a little of the sauce over linguine. The chicken was fork-tender and nicely flavored.

To go with it, I made some simple but decadent peas with bacon. I boiled frozen peas for about 2 minutes. In the meantime, I sauteed a little chopped bacon in some butter. When the bacon was starting to crisp, I added some diced onion and continued cooking until the bacon was done. Then I reduced the heat to low and stirred in the peas to warm them. I finished with a little lemon juice. Delish!

How to Make an Omelet: Tips & Tricks

an omelette

Image via Wikipedia

I decided not long ago that I was not a multitasker, and I wasn’t even going to try. This may not sound like such a momentous decision, but since it seemed like multitasking was in my job description,  it felt like a big deal. I noticed, though, that when I tried to do more than one thing at a time, I became flustered, unfocused and generally did a poor job of it. Now I concentrate solely on the single task I am doing until I am done, and I have to say that I find most tasks more pleasurable as a result.

A recent study validates my anecdotal evidence, not just for me, but for everyone. Guess what, multitaskers? When you try to do too many things at one time, you don’t do anything well. I think is particularly true when you try to send text messages while eating a meal with me, one of my personal pet peeves.

I bring this up because when it comes to making omelets, multitasking is not an option. Many people think making a proper omelet is beyond them. Actually, an omelet is a very simple thing to make, but it requires focus and singlemindedness. The good news is that it also requires very little time, and at the end of it, you have an elegant dinner that you can eat while surfing the Internet.

Here are some very useful techniques I’ve learned that enable me to turn out a pretty good (if not perfect) omelet every time:

  1. Select your filling first, if you plan to have one. I suggest keeping the filling to a minimum, no more than one or two ingredients. Good candidates are a small amount of shredded cheese, minced herbs, a little salsa or a bit of leftover cooked vegetables, warmed in some butter. For a sweet breakfast omelet, think berries, sauteed bananas or apples, or a little jam and cream cheese. Prepare your filling and have it ready to go.
  2. For each omelet, beat 2 eggs with salt, pepper, a teaspoon of fines herbes if you want it and — here is the secret — ½ tbsp. cold, cubed butter. Adding some butter in with the eggs imparts a lovely richness to the omelet.
  3. Heat an 8- or 9-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat with a little more butter until it foams. Add the eggs. Leave the pan alone for a few moments, just until the edges of the omelet set.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir the eggs gently in a circular motion until slightly thickened. Lift the edges of the omelet and tilt the pan slightly to allow the uncooked egg to run to the edge of the pan until the top is barely set.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the filling over the bottom third of the omelet.  Cover the pan and let it sit just a minute or so, until the top is no longer wet.
  6. Fold the lower third of the omelet over with a spatula. Loosen the eggs from the pan and fold over again. The bottom of the omelet should not be brown.

Note: If I am making omelets for 2 or 3 people, I usually don’t bother to make them individually. Rather, I switch to a 12-inch pan and make one large omelet, using the same technique. I then cut the folded omelet into halves or thirds to serve.

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How to Make Granola

Granola is not something I ever thought of making for myself, even though I eat it with yogurt almost every morning. It just seemed like something you buy, rather than something you make. But when you think about it, there are several advantages to making your own granola. First, it’s cheaper to buy the basic components of granola in bulk. Second, you can put whatever you like in there. And you can also cut down the amount of sweeteners typically used in processed granola. Finally, it keeps pretty much indefinitely in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen, so you can make up a big batch and snack on it for a while.

For my first attempt, I used Mark Bittman‘s recipe from Food Matters. Making granola is much easier than I thought it would be. Bittman’s recipe does make a huge amount — it calls for 5 cups of rolled oats — but I think you can safely cut down the amounts as long as you maintain the proportions (and it might fit better in your baking pan). I also thought the cooking time of 30 minutes was a bit too long, and resulted in a more toasted granola than I normally like, so I would reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes or so. Keep a good eye on it as it cooks and take it out of the oven when it looks and smells done to you.

Now that I have successfully made a batch of granola, I think I will be experimenting with different grains, nuts and seasonings. I definitely won’t go back to buying my own granola!

Basic Granola

Time to make: ~30 minutes
Yields: 9 cups

  • 5 cups rolled oats or other rolled grains
  • 3 cups mixed chopped nuts and seeds — I used sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon or baking spices
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup honey, or to taste
  • 1½ cups dried fruit of your choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Combine all of the ingredients but the honey and dried fruit in a large bowl and toss well. Spread the mixture over the baking sheet. Drizzle the honey over and toss again. (I found it much easier to mix in the honey this way than in the bowl, as the original recipe calls for.)

Bake 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and toasted to your liking. The darker it gets, the deeper the toasted flavor and the crunchier the granola.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack to room temperature. Put the granola in an airtight container or plastic bag and mix in the dried fruit. Store in the refrigerator or freeze any extra amounts. Snack on it as is or mix with yogurt and fresh fruit for a yummy, healthy breakfast.

Recipe adapted from Food Matters by Mark Bittman.

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg

This sandwich makes my husband lose his senses. I only make it for him once a year, on Father’s Day, which I’m sure you’ll understand once you look at the recipe. It’s not exactly the most healthy of breakfasts, but it is delicious!

The recipe comes from Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking, but the recipe is so simple that you’ll probably memorize it after making it once. There are a lot of steps, though, so make as much ahead as you can, and then assemble and grill the sandwiches right before serving.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg

Time to make: ~30 minutes
Yields: 1 sandwich

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices any kind of bread
  • butter
  • cheddar cheese, sliced

Fry the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

Fry the egg in the same pan as the bacon to desired doneness. It is best to leave the yolk a little runny, as it makes the sandwich that much more delicious.

Heat a flat griddle over medium-high. Butter one side of each piece of bread. Assemble the sandwich with the cheese, egg and bacon, buttered sides out. Place the sandwich on the hot griddle and cook until well browned. Flip carefully and cook the other side. Serve right away.

Notes: If you are making several sandwiches, you will have to lower the heat between sandwiches or they will start to burn before the cheese gets melty.

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