Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category
So, I’m back from my little spring break trip. I’ve been back for awhile, but this past week has consisted of (seemingly) non-stop writing for some very fast-approaching deadlines that are about to woosh by at any moment. But let’s not dwell on that just yet. I’d much rather like to take this pause from my studies to talk about how I spent last week.
It was the last spring break of my university career—and what I fear may be my last spring break ever (how do you people in the real world do it?!)—and two of my best friends and I spent 8 days visiting San Francisco and Santa Barbara. I don’t want to sound too cheesy, but it was magical. The weather was beautiful, everything felt so happy and whole, and it was all the perfect escape. It was one of those times when you feel that all is possible in the world and all your ideals matter and that every day is ripe with opportunity. I seriously wonder why I leave California every time I go there.
(If you happen to live in California and/or have some connections that you could extend my way in terms of potential post-graduation jobs, I would be eternally indebted to you. In return, I offer skills that include but are not limited to: reading stuff, thinking about things, and, if you really needed it, transcribing the product of those thoughts somewhat clumsily into a 40-ish-page long paper. Ahh liberal arts education, you’ve been good to me! (I’m joking about all of this, but only sort of.))
Anyway, my friends and I pretty much lucked out in terms of our trip. In San Francisco, we were hosted and showed around by a mutual friend of ours who was born and raised in the city. I got to walk through the Ferry Building during Saturday Market, with a clear view of the Bay Bridge. I ate a pistachio-cream-filled doughnut. I drank ginger lemonade while walking along the beach. I walked in general, a lot. In Santa Barbara, I ate some seriously awesome mexican food at this place. We lucked out by getting to stay at a very nice hotel that night with the view of the ocean and the tall palm trees (thanks Mom and Dad!). I laid in Dolores Park in on a sunny day (with what felt like just about every other person in San Francisco). Things like this make me happy.
As always, it was the seemingly insignificant parts that might end up being surprisingly memorable for me—both in terms of food and otherwise. An especially memorable meal was one we had at my friend’s grandparents home. Even though my friend’s granny said she “doesn’t cook,” we sat down, all around the dinner table, to a 3-course meal that consisted of cream of broccoli soup, quiche lorraine and a salad, and then fruit salad with a drizzle of cream for dessert. The quiches were frozen from a package, and the only thing fresh in the soup was some broccoli that was tossed in while it heated up, but it all tasted so good and it felt so special. It’s never bad to be reminded that what’s around the table is most often more important than what’s on it.
Sitting here with my impending deadlines, that evening and the whole trip in general feels like a world away. Although we spent a lot of time in the car driving from place to place within that week, the trip seemed to last something like 3 weeks long. Every day felt twice as long as normal! Although that is a good thing, to last me through these days—both in terms of how I would avoid famish and and an empty wallet—my friends and I packed a lot of goodies to munch on for breakfast, lunch, or throughout the days as snacks. You know, nuts, dried fruits, crackers, stuff like that. I baked up a batch of these “breakfast bars” from Deb’s new cookbook.
I don’t really understand why these are called “breakfast bars” as opposed to just granola bars—perhaps because these are one of the few times that granola bars are actually decently nutrious and healthy enough to eat for breakfast. What drew me to this recipe was that it uses no corn syrup or refined sugars; it is sweetened by honey and dates. Not only that, but instead of using some form of a vegetable oil, she called for olive oil (something I always have around). Plus, it featured dates and I had a whole lot of them on hand when contemplating which recipe I’d use.
I loved these bars. Without a doubt, they’re my new favorite homemade granola bars. And yes, that means they outshine that granola bar recipe (also curiously from Smitten Kitchen) that I made last year. The flavors of dates, orange, and almond were dii-vine. They are soft, chewy, and they don’t crumble apart. Well, mine started to, but to be fair, it was only about a week after I’d made them and that’s only because they sat jumbled in a ziploc bag in a warm car the whole time. (They were still delicious.) I’d love to see what these are like straight from the fridge—my guess is it only makes them more awesome. This exact recipe is what I’ll be using whenever I need to pack away some quick snacks, or better yet, when I go for a trip somewhere special again. I’m already dreaming about when that’ll be…
how do I keep me from moving/
I need a change of scenery
Date, Orange & Almond Granola Bars
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 16 bars
As I kind of hinted at above, I really liked this flavor combination. I guess you could substitute stuff in—coconut, walnuts for almonds, peanut butter for the almond butter, different dried fruits—but I’d be hesitant. Well actually, now that I think about it, that walnut substitution sounds pretty good… Whatever! Do what you will!
1 cup (150 g) dried pitted dates (preferably Medjool), chopped
1 1/4 cups (110 g) quick-cooking rolled oats
3 tablespoons (22 g) whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup (35 g) wheat germ
1/2 cup (55 g) almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (65 g) almond butter
1/4 cup (55 g) olive oil
1/4 cup (85 g) honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (about 1/2 the orange)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 8 baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the edges to overhang. Coat the aluminum foil with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the chopped dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, salt and cinnamon until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, honey, and orange zest until smooth and homogeneous. Pour the wet mixture onto the dry, and stir together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. This might take a bit of effort, and the mixture should be very crumbly. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan, and firmly press it down into an even layer, making sure to press the mixture into the edges and corners.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden brown along the edges and on the top. (The center will still seem a bit soft, and the bars will continue to set and mold together as they cool.) Let cool on a cooling rack until they reach room temperature. Place in the fridge to “set” before slicing into them, and once completely chilled, use a serrated knife to cut into squares. I stored these at room temperature in an airtight ziploc bag for about a week (they were still awesome!), but I think they’re best straight from the fridge.
Seriously! Look at that! The weather was b-e-a-utiful. I am told this never happens. When I was in San Francisco last August, it was nowhere near as clear or nice. San Francisco, you were trying to seduce me, weren’t you!
PS: This song will always remind me of this spring break trip. Icona Pop, you guys are goooood.
The past couple years, I’ve tried to usher a new tradition in with my family’s usual habits around the holidays. Now that the rest of my three siblings and I don’t wake up before 7 am on Christmas morning anymore, I’ve taken to waking up about twenty minutes earlier than everyone else to make a quick batch of cream biscuits. Once they are freshly baked, we spread the biscuits out on the coffee table along with butter and some jam, and spend a happy Christmas moment in front of the tree and presents and stuffed stockings. Only after we feel we’ve had our fill of breakfast indulgence do we then proceed to calmly exchange gifts with one another. It’s funny how as we’ve grown older it’s not really about the presents anymore.
I don’t feel any longing to go back to the days where all I anticipated were the mounds of presents on Christmas morning, but I do have a sort of nostalgia for the days during Christmas break back in that era of elementary and middle school where I would wake up early in the cold morning and find my sisters and brother already playing Zelda (ocarina of time, of course) of Sims or some such other video game of my generation. Feeling a little disappointed that they beat me to the game, I would cry that they would have to let me play in approximately one hour—that was the time limit my mom forced us to abide by when we all wanted to play the same game.
Luckily enough, I came out into the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas this year to find my now 24-year-old brother (who is an engineer) installing and playing SimCoaster on an old laptop. (I guess now would be an okay time to admit that just last night I spent a good hour or two on that SimCoaster thing. What? I’m graduating college in a semester?) Maybe the good things about family and being together never change—we’re all kids when we’re home, whether we’re not crazy about presents anymore or not. Still kids, with more mature tastes and an appetite for cream biscuits and jam over hungerly grabbing for our weighty stockings. I’ll take it.
Anyway, these biscuits are pretty perfect. They are as simple as can be: you add cream to a flour mixture, roll it out, cut out little biscuit shapes, brush a little butter on them, and bake them. They are most definitely simple enough to make Christmas morning, or really any morning at all. My poor brother has a birthday only three days after Christmas, and that morning I woke up just before him and, at the urging of my mother, made an impromptu batch of them to serve as his birthday breakfast (he really, really likes these biscuits). If you’ve got cream in the fridge, you’re good to go.
It’s important to draw a distinction about these biscuits, though. As Deb clearly states, these are not the sturdy buttermilk kind that you slather with pork sausage gravy or use to eat alongside some hearty stew or chili, but rather the kind you delicately eat with butter and jam. If I were being honest with you, this is my favorite type of biscuit, but I can so confidently assert that only because my sweet tooth tends to have more influence over my will than, say, my … savory tooth. (Really, why do we get a sweet tooth but not a savory one?) But I am that sure anyone would love to wake up to these, any morning of the year, but especially during the holidays.
I’ve made these using cutter-rounds ranging from a little less than 2 inches to almost 3 1/2. I like the smaller size, but I think that’s a personal preference. Whatever size you use, trust your instincts on taking them out rather than relying on a set time. If they’re about 2 inches, they might need no more than 9 or 10 minutes. If larger than 3 inches, they might take as long as 14 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl to combine. Add the cream and gently fold it in until it’s a cohesive mass. Do not over-stir; if the mixture is looking dry or unmanageable add a tablespoon or two more of cream.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, using your hands, begin pressing it together and out to form a thick rectangle. Gently fold over one half of the dough onto itself—this will create the layer in the middle of the biscuits. Re-pat it down to the thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Using about a 2 1/2-inch diameter cutter, cut out the dough into rounds. Gently gather up remaining scraps to make more rounds. Brush the tops of the biscuits liberally with the melted butter, and before putting them on the prepared baking sheet, brush a bit of butter directly on the parchment where the biscuits will be set down.
Bake until the tops of the biscuits are just golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. Serve warm, with butter and jam.
Don’t tell me you don’t like biscuits and gravy, because I wouldn’t believe you. After all, I used to think I was like you. It all started one morning after a sleepover at a friend’s house in elementary school, when my friend’s mom made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Biscuits, as in the kind from the can that you have to bang against a counter to open up, and gravy, as in that powdery stuff from a little aluminum packet that you add to water. Now, I wasn’t actively judging the quality of food at that age, but I just didn’t like that breakfast. Not one bit. And ever since then, the words “biscuits and gravy” have repulsed me a bit.
(I hope this doesn’t mean that I was already a food-snob in the making at the age of 8. Sigh, I guess some things are a long time coming.)
Anyway, I have stubbornly clung to that repulsion and have managed to successfully live out the last 13 years of my life avoiding a bite of any and all versions of biscuits and gravy. Everything changed last weekend, though, when I decided to make Waylon this recipe.
Waylon, so very unlike me, is not new to biscuits and gravy. He grew up on them, and he almost always orders them when we go out to a diner-like place for breakfast (which honestly is pretty much the only type of place we go to for breakfast). He loves biscuits and gravy. Yet when I told him I was going to make them for him, he responded by saying, “Okay, but I have to tell you, if I don’t like them it’s not one of those times that I’m going to keep eating and pretend that I do. Really, I can’t eat bad biscuits and gravy.”
Moving on from the fact that he said he wouldn’t “pretend” to like it (but seriously, pretend?), this made me get some doubts about how much I could succeed with this dish. Maybe it’s just one of those things best left to the professionals—or, in this case, the greasy line cooks. But he loved them. Loved them! And here’s the really surprising thing: I did too. It is salty and fatty and carby and everything good. We ate the biscuits smothered in the gravy alongside some homemade hashbrowns that Waylon made. Everything was so good, so much so that all I can say is please, make these—whether you think you like biscuits and gravy or not.
I should note, though, that I don’t think these are the type of biscuits to make if you just want some flaky, tender biscuits to spread some butter and jam on. These are pure wonder when paired with the gravy, especially because by cooking the biscuits in a buttered cake pan, the bottoms and tops get a salty edge to them (see aforementioned salt + fat praise). They give a waft of buttery-goodness when you pull them out of the oven, and are pillowy-soft when you break them apart for the gravy. But they would not be my pick for butter and jam (although they are of course not bad with it because c’mon, they’re biscuits). In that case I prefer a softer more delicate cream biscuit like these.
Oh! And one more thing! Just to try and convince you a little bit more, I think I need to point out how easy this all was to make. The biscuits come together in no time and with just one bowl, and the gravy cooks up in the time the biscuits are in the oven. Whole thing took no longer than 40 minutes. So no excuses.
One Year Ago: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Buttermilk Biscuits with Pork Sausage Gravy
Adapted from Saveur
Some important notes: First, I used salted butter here and I think you should, too. The melted butter that coats the pan the biscuits are cooked in leaves a salty, crusty taste on the bottom of the biscuits that is just too delicious to pass up. I’ve adjusted the salt content in the recipe to account for this–if you’re using unsalted butter, add about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon more in the biscuit dough. Also, I used 2% milk in the gravy, and it was great. Whole milk would be fine too though, I’m sure. I’m guessing nonfat might be okay, but you know, why would you have nonfat milk in your fridge anyway?
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, chilled and cubed, plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 ounces pork breakfast sausage
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
First, make the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with some of the salted melted butter and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using your fingers, rub the chilled and cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is in mostly pea-sized pieces. Add the buttermilk, and gently stir together until just combined. Transfer to a floured work surface, and gently pat dough into a rectangle. Fold one side of the rectangle over on top of the other side, and pat back down so the dough is a little higher than 1-inch thick. Dip a 3″ round cutter into a bowl of flour, and cut out rounds of dough. Press scraps together, and repeat with remaining dough until you have about 6 or 7 rounds. Arrange the biscuits in the already-greased pan, and brush the tops with the remaining melted butter. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
While the biscuits are baking, make the gravy. Over medium-high heat, cook the chopped bacon in a 4-quart saucepan, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 3 minutes. Add the pork sausage and cook, breaking it into the smallest pieces you can with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue to stir for about another 2 minutes, or until the flour starts to smell toasted. Add the milk and cream, and bring to a boil. Once a boil is reached reduce heat to medium to bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until gravy is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste–you’ll need to add about at least teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to combine.
To serve, split warm biscuits in half, and cover (liberally) with gravy.
I kind of have these ideas in my head of the type of kitchen-life I will lead when I grow up. The specifics change all the time, but the basic structure of it goes something like this:
(You are warned now that this is highly imaginary and most likely unrealistic. This is how I work.)
Each day of the week is designated as a specific day for prepping or accomplishing some major food thing. For example, we could say Monday is designated as “stock day,” and it’s when I use up all the extra vegetables, meat and bones (because obviously I’m going to be cooking up roast chicken at least once a week, right?), and churn out the highest quality stock to be used for soups and sauces throughout the week. Tuesday could be the day where I make creme anglais and maybe some fruit coulis, if some fresh fruit is available, to be used to top ice cream or any cakes. Wednesday could be for making some sandwich bread, or maybe batches of flatbread dough to be cooked up when the occasion demands. Each day of the week would have some culinary purpose. You get the idea? This all sounds incredibly fun if it were possible to play out in real life, but of course as is always the case in this sad life, you and I both know it’ll never actually happen. Nonetheless, still fun to imagine.
Anyway, in these idealistic visions in my head, one of the days of the week is always specified for breakfast-y things. I would make big batches of granola, bake up some healthy fruit and nut muffins, maybe even make some sausage egg breakfast burritos to keep in the fridge throughout the week. (Let’s ignore the fact that I have yet to even make this so-called breakfast burrito in my life. It’ll happen.) As of now, add these granola bars to that list. They’d be individually wrapped up in wax paper, just waiting to be snagged in the morning to eat as a quick breakfast or snack throughout the day. It would be perfect. Or should I say it will be perfect?
Of course, this is how the actual process of making these bars went: The morning after arriving home for my spring break, I mixed up all the ingredients, enough for a double batch, while my mom cleaned up the disaster-mess I was making as I went. Said double batch of granola bars exceeded the 8 x 11 glass dish I was putting them into and I had to divvy it up in another pan. Said double batch of granola bars was of course annihilated by my six-person family that seems to always compete for treats around the house when they are around. The leftover granola bars that weren’t eaten in the first two hours of their existence (of said double batch) were packed up to send off to my spring-break-ending brother and sister in Seattle. There were none left for individual wax paper wrappings. None are sitting in the cupboards waiting for an early morning to-go breakfast.
So whatever to my so-called perfect plans for my future in the kitchen. I kind of have an inkling of a feeling that how the process of these granola bars went this time is probably how it will always go. But you know, I think I’m okay with that. Because after all, the whole objective of all this baking-prepping-cooking is met—and that’s to make nice things that make people happy. A little vague and wishy-washy maybe, but at least that part is true and real.
A note about these granola bars, though: I’m going to be straight-forward with you and tell you that these were pretty awesome. I do realize that most people say that when they present you with a recipe, so I’m going to be a little more specific: if you want granola bars that taste like healthy, (far) less sugary and fatty versions of soft and chewy oatmeal cookies, these are it. They have a chew to them, and the pockets of nuts and dried fruit keep you always biting for more. These are not, however, crunchy or crispy, so if that’s what makes you happy when it comes to breakfast bars, these probably aren’t for you.
A few things — As mentioned above, I doubled the batch. However, due to the quirkiness of fitting it into baking sheets, as well as the honestly crazy amount of granola bars it made, I’m posting the single-batch version below. Also, the recipe calls for quick rolled oats, and I ended up just using the regular rolled oats. It was fine, but I think using the quick-version of the oats will lend to more cohesive bars with less tendency to crumble or break apart.
In terms of what to compose your granola bars of, this is really flexible. I’m posting below the combination of nuts and fruits that I used, but feel free to substitute any of them–the key is to try to get within 2-3 cups, or 10-15 ounces worth of goodies to add in. Other ideas than the combination below: dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots, almonds, seeds, chocolate chips, rice cereal, et cetera.
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (if using less dried fruit, add up to 1/4 cup more)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces), I used:
3/4 cup (3.2ish ounces) dried cherries
1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) golden raisins
1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) pecans
1/2 cup (1.75 ounces) walnuts
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides in order to create a “sling” that will make it easy to get the bars out. Lightly butter the parchment paper and the exposed pan.
If your combination of fruits and nuts is pretty chunky, like mine were, pulse in a food processor a couple of times to break them down a little bit, or roughly chop to get the same effect. Combine the dry ingredients all together, including the oats, oat flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and dried fruits and nuts. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, and liquid sweeteners until smooth. Toss with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly and coated. In the now empty bowl of what held the wet ingredients, whisk together the egg and water until even, and add to the oat-sweetner mixture to coat. I found this part necessary to encourage the mixture being moist enough and to make it more glued together. Spread mixture in the prepared pan, pressing in firmly.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and a little golden on top.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, lift up the “sling” to take the bars out of the pan, and using a serrated knife, cut the bars into squares. Store bars, at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s humid.