Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Happy Waffle Day! I know…it sneaks up on me every year too. This Swedish holiday coincides with the annunciation – that’s right, Christmas is exactly nine months away. What do waffles have to do with a virgin in the Middle East that got pregnant two thousand years ago? Nothing actually, other than they are spelled similarly in Swedish, which may be how the two got confused. Vårfrudagen is Our Lady’s Day and Våffeldagen is Waffle Day. Close enough for me.

I love any and all waffles, but these thin, heart-shaped waffles are the ones that I most associate with my Scandinavian roots and make year-round. I associate them more with Norway, where my relatives serve them with sweet, brown goat’s milk cheese, called gjetost, as a midday snack. Or with jam and cream for dessert after lunch or dinner.

Egg Waffles

120 grams (a scant cup) flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, separated
2 1/12 deciliters (1 cup) whole milk
50 grams (about 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder and set aside. With an electric or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft and foamy, nearly to the soft peak stage. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and milk together. Add flour/baking powder mixture and beat until smooth. Don’t over mix. A few little lumps are OK. Add the melted butter in a slow steady stream and mix until incorporated. Fold the egg whites into the batter until no more white appears. The trick is to not deflate too much of the air from the whites. Be gentle.

Using a heart-shaped waffle iron (like this one) cook the waffles until golden. Serve warm or cold, topped with jam & whipped cream. Or cheese.

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I am a big fan of road trips. I love prepping the car, packing snacks and diversions and mapping out the route. The mister and I are on vacation for the next week, on a trip from Seattle down to Northern California. We are going to hit some wineries, visit family and enjoy some of the sunshine that never seemed to make its to the Northwest this summer. We generally like to get from point A to point B, so instead of stopping for a meal en route we pack along lunch and find a good rest stop for a picnic along the way.

When we were in our 20s (and driving a 1976 VW camper van), road food was cheap and easy: hoagie rolls, pepperjack and cheddar cheeses and a bottle of Dijonaise. The Dijonaise was really the key ingredient. It elevated a simple cheese sandwich to something really special.

A few years ago, we got into wraps. Turkey, bacon, cheddar wraps with ranch dressing was the flavor of choice and they were, and still are great road food. More recently, we’ve been making calzones. The night or two before leaving on a road trip, we’d make homemade pizzas and then use up the leftover dough and all the remaining toppings to make a couple of calzones. These are an easy and filling road food that taste great cold and have the bonus of using up food in your fridge.

For this trip, I again wanted to use up food in our fridge. We didn’t have too many perishables left but there were eggs, cream, half an onion, and cheese. We also had some spinach and bacon in the freezer plus a small disc of tart dough.

Last week I bought a copy of “Around my French Table,” the latest cookbook from Dorie Greenspan. It is enormous and packed with typical French food without all the fuss and French names of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’ve had my nose buried in Dorie’s book all week so after assessing available ingredients, I knew I’d be making her spinach and bacon quiche.

Quiche is great any time of day, cold or at room temperature, which makes it great road food. I decided on making mini quiches since the mister doesn’t eat vegetables, so I could make two minis with the spinach and two minis without. Plus, making the quiches small would mean a greater crust-to-filling ratio and that my friends, is always a good thing.

Mini Quiches
(Adapted from Around my French Table, by Dorie Greenspan)

1 disc tart dough (see below)
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed (optional)
3 strips bacon
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Tart dough (courtesy of Fine Cooking)
This is technically a galette dough, but it works well for the quiche and I am sure it would work fine for a pie as well.
11 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) ice water
1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry cutter, cut in the chilled butter until the butter is evenly distributed but visible in small, pea-sized pieces. Add the chilled water all at once to the mixture. Mix the dough until it begins to come together. Gather the dough with your hands into two disks. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour. You can freeze the other disk for about a month well-wrapped in plastic and foil. If you are making a full-sized quiche, you likely need all the dough.

Prepare the filling:

Wrap the spinach in paper towels or a dish cloth and wring out as much excess moisture as possible. Chop finely and set aside. Dice the bacon and sauté in a non-stick skillet on medium-high until crisp, 5-8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour off most of the bacon grease from the pan and wipe out any brown bits. Turn the heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp of butter and melt until the foam subsides. Add the diced onion and sauté until soft and lightly browned, 5-8 minutes.

Like Dorie, I like roll out my dough between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper or plastic wrap. Working from the center out, roll away from you and rotate the dough clockwise every 2-3 rolls. Roll out to about 1/8 thick and 12-14 inches in diameter. If you are making mini quiches, cut the dough in fourths.

Melt 1-2 Tbsp butter and brush it liberally on the insides of a 9-inch spring form pan, 8-inch pie plate or 4, 4-inch mini spring form pans. Even if your pans are nonstick, they need to be buttered. Transfer the dough to the pan(s) and gently press it into the edges and up the sides, taking care not to stretch it. Dorie says to trim the top edges evenly, but I like to leave them rustic-looking. Poke the bottom of the dough with a fork a few times. Place the pan or pans in the freezer for one hour, no less. Reserve any remaining melted butter for the foil.

When the pans have been in the freezer for about 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When one hour is up, it’s time to bake the crust. Use the remaining butter to butter one side of a sheet of foil (or 4 small sheets). Line the dough with buttered foil and press it into the edges. For mini pans, I find it easier to preform the foil around a cup or mug first. Fill with pie weights (dried beans or rice work fine, thought make them unusable in other way after that). Bake for 15-20 minutes (less for mini pans). Remove the foil and bake another 3-5 minutes until the crust is golden. You don’t want them completely cooked, since you’ll be baking them again when they are filled. Let the pan(s) and crusts cool completely.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until well-blended.

Assemble the quiches:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Evenly distribute the bacon, onions, cheeses, and spinach in the pan or amongst the pans. If someone doesn’t like spinach (like someone I know), give them more bacon and cheese. Pour the egg mixture into the pan(s) slowly, allowing time for the liquid to seep into the crevices around the filling.

If using spring form pan(s), place them on a cookie sheet in case they leak.

Bake for 20-30 minutes (less for smaller pans), until the filling has risen slightly in the middle, doesn’t jiggle and is lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and let cool before either removing from the spring form pans or slicing and serving. My preference is to pack up the mini quiches or leftover slices of quiche and hit the road!

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Over the years, I have acquired some great kitchen appliances, pans and other gear from my Mom. And by acquired, I mean stolen. OK, not exactly. But she loans them to me and then I “store” them for her. My parents’ house is only five miles away from mine, so if she wants something back (or needs to “borrow” it from me) it isn’t a big deal. The bonus is that I have access to items I wouldn’t necessarily buy and am able to put them to good use if the mood strikes me.

This week, I was in the mood for bundt cake. OK – I was craving it. I must have spotted the bundt pan in the basement recently. Or maybe I was tempted by a piece of bundt cake at the coffee shop. Either way, I couldn’t stop thinking about bundt cake. After a quick inventory of my fridge, I realized I had some excess blueberries that needed to be used up. Blueberry bundt cake was in the cards.

I found an easy recipe by just doing a quick search on Epicurious. Side note: I have the Epicurious app on the iPad the Mister gave me for my birthday in May. This has become my constant cooking companion. I prop up my iPad on its little stand in the kitchen whenever I am cooking and have access to all the recipes I have bookmarked online or on the Epicurious app.)

I modified the recipe below only slightly. They called or orange zest, but I only had lemons. Blueberries and lemons seem like a better match to my palette anyways. I just used a little less than they called for, as noted below. I also glazed the cake with a simple icing rather than dusting it with powdered sugar like they suggested. I think it made a prettier cake in the end.

Blueberry Bundt Cake
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon zest, or 1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh blueberries

½ cup powdered sugar
½-2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 10-inch-diameter Bundt pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 2/3 cups sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in orange peel and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Fold in blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted near center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Make the glaze: Whisk ½ teaspoon of lemon juice into the powdered sugar. Add more lemon juice drop by drop until it is the consistency of thick syrup.

Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely. Place a plan under the rack and the glaze over the top. Once it is done dripping and the glaze has hardened a little, transfer the cake to a plate and serve.

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I come from a family that believes in breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, you know. Today, I am still a strong believer in starting out the day with a good breakfast. I am very much a morning person and wake up each morning and think, “what’s for breakfast?” Of course, that is then followed by “what’s for lunch?” and “what’s for dinner?” But that’s another story.

For children growing up in the 70s and 80s, I think you came from one of two camps in regards to food: the processed food camp or the natural food camp. Even though my mom baked her own bread, canned and cooked a lot, I would say we were from the processed food camp. We loved Velveeta, sugar cereals, ding-dongs, and yes, SPAM.

I didn’t know people turned up their noses at SPAM for a long time. It wasn’t something we ate often, but when my parents sliced it thin and fried it up crisp, all I knew was that it was delicious. Sure, it isn’t the healthiest food, but if you look at the ingredient list (pork, water, salt) it isn’t nearly as bad as some other processed food.

I think my parents struck the right balance of letting us have processed food occasionally, but sticking to real food and homemade cooking the majority of the time. If not, I would be way worse of a junk food junkie. Now, I just indulge every so often in my need for a processed food fix.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about SPAM. Marination Mobile – a mobile food truck in Seattle – offers SPAM tacos and local chef Tom Douglas made his own version of SPAM recently, but what I have been thinking about were SPAM breakfast sandwiches.

Somewhere along the way my mom got inspired to make homemade Egg McMuffins, but with SPAM. These were a popular breakfast choice throughout my middle school years. I have mostly fond memories of these cheesy, salty, eggy sandwiches, though one memory, while not a very favorable endorsement, stands out more than all the others.

One day in 7th grade, my neighbor and friend Leslie came over for breakfast before school. Leslie was going through a bit of a rough patch since her dad had accepted a transfer with his firm to Tokyo, and Leslie learned that the whole family would be moving to Japan at the end of the school year. My mom made us SPAM sandwiches, perhaps thinking that canned ham heals all wounds. And who wouldn’t think that, right?

After breakfast, my mom dropped us off at school and we met some of our other friends to walk to class. My SPAM sandwich was treating me great, but Leslie was looking a little pale. Sure enough, she threw up right in front of us all on the school lawn.

OK, so that isn’t a really solid endorsement for SPAM but you can see that there were other factors in play, right? Regardless of my one bad memory of SPAM, I still remember it fondly. So much in fact, that I recently made mom’s SPAM breakfast sandwiches.

SPAM breakfast sandwiches
2 thin slices of SPAM
1 thin slice of cheddar cheese. Or, a Kraft single if you want to be seriously retro.
1 English muffin
1 egg

Fry up the SPAM over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until brown and crisp. Set aside on paper towels.

Next, fry up the egg. My mom always used one of these little molds to make the egg the shape of the English muffin. This is obvioulsy optional, but since she gave me one as a stocking stuffer a few years back, I use one. Also, I like to keep the yolk runny even though this makes for a messier sandwich.

And finally, toast the English muffin lightly. Top with the cheese, SPAM and fried egg. Enjoy.

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What have I become?

My first job was at a deli counter in a small gourmet grocery called Brodeens. I made $3.35 an hour. We sold lots of stinky cheeses whose names I couldn’t pronounce and cured meats of all shapes and sizes. I started the summer after I turned 14 and quit just before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t bare the thought of handling whole, raw turkeys. Raw chickens were bad enough.

The affluent little suburb where this grocery was located (and where I grew up) was filled with desperate housewives. The owners of the store flirted with them endlessly and those of us in the deli had to fulfill all of their very specific requests. The worst was when someone ordered Prosciutto. “I’d like it sliced VERY thin,” they’d demand. I’d roll my eyes and lug the large leg of ham over to the meat slicer. I had nightmares about that fucking meat slicer. It was terrifying. Slicing the Prosciutto thinly, AND evenly, was no easy task. I never mastered that task in my brief tenure at Brodeens.

I thought my parents were pretty worldly, especially when it came to food. They were European. At least they cooked. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s meant that most of my friends had two working parents, the microwave was a relatively new invention (and therefore a novelty that must be used AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE) and many people subsisted on frozen dinners and hamburger helper. Margarine, Velveeta and bologna were other household staples.

Although my parents cooked a lot and always grew their own veggies and fruit, their diet was limited to mostly Scandinavian food. Norwegian’s have their own version of Prosciutto, but my dad left it hanging in the garage with a knife stabbed into the flesh, ready whenever he – or any visitors – wanted a snack. There was blood sausage, liver pates, potato dumplings, and salted cod. The flavors leaned far into the mild category. I won’t say bland, because there was definitely a lot of flavor. There just wasn’t much spice. Let me just admit right here that the first time I had pizza – at about age 10 – I spit it out. It burned my tongue.

It didn’t help that I was a supremely picky eater. I loved fruit, sugar, dessert, and juice. We ate a lot of fish – a Scandinavian thing, but also a Northwest thing – and with the abundance of salmon in those days we had what you’d call an embarrassment of riches. There were many nights my brother and I would whine and complain, “Salmon…AGAIN?!” My mom cooked most things from scratch, even making homemade macaroni and cheese, even though what we really wanted was the stuff with the powdered cheese.

It wasn’t until I started traveling – on my own – that I got more adventurous with food and flavors. Visiting markets in Italy, France and Turkey opened up my palate to a lot more interesting flavors. I had an interest in cooking early on, especially baking (for the sugar, of course) and by my mid-20s I really wanted to challenge myself. If I ate a good meal in a restaurant, I wanted to try and recreate it at home. Returning from 6-8 week trips in Europe, I tried to recreate the food moments I experienced there.

On the spectrum of foo-fooo. Foood…Oh, I can’t say it. On the spectrum of food enthusiasts, I am pretty novice. I only buy Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, organic milk, and try to stick to produce in season. But, I still love me some junk food. You can take the girl out of the 80s but you can’t take the 80s out of the girl. I still devour the cheese dip my mom makes with Velveeta, have bought Tang in the last five years and can’t be trusted around a can of Pringles.

So having said all of that, I have come to a point in my life, that I when I shop for food – at a Farmers’ Market, mega market or deli – I know what I want. I am undyingly loyal to my favorite brands of olive oil, dried pasta and Dijon mustard. I scrutinize wedges of cheese for freshness and pepper butchers and fish mongers with questions. But when I go to the deli counter, I always pause and think hard about what I am going to do and say.

When I step up to place my order at the deli, the young man who is generally working behind the counter recognizes me instantly, and not in a good way. I usually stop by for some sliced ham or turkey, but every few months I buy some Prosciutto and I swear he sees me coming and thinks, good Christ she’s gonna demand some thinly-sliced Prosciutto again. And you know what? He’s right.

The thing is…I now understand and appreciate the mouth-watering appeal of fresh, thinly sliced Prosciutto. The pre-sliced stuff just doesn’t compare. And, if the Prosciutto is sliced too thick or too uneven, it just isn’t the same. If you are cooking with it, you can fudge it a little bit, but for wrapping around fruit, vegetables or breadsticks…thin is the only way to go. And really, for $27 a pound I can be a little demanding can’t I?

I have had this recipe floating around my kitchen for at least a year. My friends in Copenhagen sent it to me, knowing I would love it. They were right. Eggs are obviously a staple we have in abundance. Red-ripe tomatoes (grown by my parents) have been lining my windowsill for weeks. And Prosciutto, well all I need to do is visit my favorite deli man. I’m sure he’s missed me.

Parma Bowls with Egg and Tomato
Serves 2

2 big slices Prosciutto di Parma (thinly-sliced, natch)
2 Tbsp diced tomato
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 cups in a muffin tin. Line the cups with one slice of Prosciutto each, forming it into a tight little cup. Sprinkle Prosciutto with chopped tomato. Crack an egg into each cup.

Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the tray and sprinkle with the cheese (optional). Bake another 3-6 minutes or until the eggs are set to your liking.

Gently remove the Parma bowls onto plates and sprinkle with basil.

I think the general concept of this dish could be adapted with other ingredients. A sliced meat with plenty of fat is key for making a nice crispy crusted bowl, but ham may work. If tomatoes are out of season, caramelized onions or roasted red peppers would work great. Thyme or tarragon sprinkled on top would work well too. And for the optional cheese, you can’t go wrong with Velveeta…

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Apple Cup

We’re on our way to Stevens Pass for some Spring skiing. On the highway up, in the town of Sultan, there is a little bakery that sells something called an Apple Cup. It is basically a cross between a cinnamon roll and an apple fritter. Nothing short of delicious!

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2009 is off to a great start, even with friends getting laid off left and right, and my own job less than stable. I’ve been able to stick to at least one of my New Year’s resolutions, which is (other than being a record!) to live more frugally.I’ve added a few new words and concepts to my culinary repertoire. They include ‘budget’, ‘frugal’ and ‘no waste.’

OK, I’ll be honest. My idea of frugal and your idea of frugal may not be exactly the same thing. I’m still living pretty high on the hog compared to most. There has been such a trend in newspapers (R.I.P Seattle P.I.), magazines and blogs towards frugal cooking, that I have been inspired. I am trying to cook out of what’s in the pantry (lots of dried beans and grains), waste less food and be mindful of sales and deals.
It is a really good discipline to get into, since it is preparing me for the worst case scenario.

I came across a great blog called The Simple Dollar because of their great breakfast burrito idea. The concept is that you can make really tasty breakfast burritos – in bulk – for freezing and reheating later.

With these breakfast burritos in the back of my mind, I continued with my plans of cooking out of the pantry (supplemented by the bi-weekly basket of organic produce we have delivered) and not wasting what we have in the refrigerator.

It started with the cheese. We’ve been working through a big block of mozzarella that we bought for a party a few weeks ago. The cheese would NOT be wasted! There are almost always cans of black beans and corn in the pantry and eggs in the refrigerator. All I needed to buy were some tortillas and salsa. I had a red pepper and an onion left from our produce basket that I sauteed up with plenty of salt and pepper. I probably could have spiced it up even more. Or, I could have skipped this altogether or subbed in fresh scallions. I had the pepper and onion though, so I used them.

Assembly line style, I lined up the tortillas and topped them with cheese, beans and corn, and the pepper/onion mix.
For the eggs, I scrambled one egg per burrito. You could less or more depending on how many of the other ingredients you have. You could even substitute in some egg whites, if you are into that sort of thing. I undercooked them a bit, as Simple Dollar recommended. Then, I spooned the eggs and some tasty salsa on top of the rest of the ingredients and was ready to roll.

Each tortilla was simply placed on a piece of plastic wrap and rolled tight. I wrapped them in a
second layer of plastic wrap just to be safe. All the the burritos were then placed into a ziptop freezer bag and into the freezer.
Reheating the burritos is simple. I’ve already had two and they tasted great. The key when you microwave them is to wrap them in a paper towel. You set the microwave on the defrost setting for about 2 minutes (I turn the burrito over halfway). Then, zap them on high for another 1-2 minutes, unwrap and eat.

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