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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Fall is upon us here in Connecticut, and we are entering into the most magical time of year in the Nutmeg State. This weekend, Greg and I took a long drive on our way to the annual Celtic Festival in Hartford, and the display of foliage was just spectacular.  The Celtic Festival featured a  “weight over bar” event in the Highland Games and samples of traditional Welsh cookies.  If the two namesake festivals are any indication, we learned that Celtic and Asian cultures differ tremendously.

We have a surfeit of overripe bananas on our counter these days, and smittenkitchen just posted a new “crackly” banana bread recipe a few days ago. Though I have my long-standing go-to banana bread recipe, the raw millet added in this version caught my fancy. Millet is one of the staple grains around the world, but in the U.S. is primarily used as birdseed. The protein content of millet is roughly equivalent to that of wheat four, and it has a nice fluffy texture that is similar to that of couscous.

I made a number of adjustments to the smittenkitchen version of this recipe. First, I eliminated all additional sugars. The recipe called for brown sugar and maple syrup, but bananas are really sweet enough on their own. Additionally, after seeing this horrifying infograph recently, I decided we don’t really need to contribute to our lifetime intake of processed sugar.

The other big adjustment is that in place of whole wheat flour, I used a homemade almond-oat flour.Wheat flour is delicious and inexpensive, but we’ve found that almond-oat flour just adds a nice touch of extra flavor and nutrients. 1 part almonds, 2 part oats — grind it up in a food processor or Magic Bullet or blender, until it is finely ground. A few small chunks of almonds may remain, and for most baking purposes, a bit of extra crunch is nice.

Our version also is a bit more heavily spiced than smittenkitchen’s. I can also envision this being delicious with some ground cardamom or dark chocolate chunks. Enjoy!

Crackly Banana Bread (original from Smitten Kitchen)

3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup melted butter or oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
1 1/2 cups almond-oat flour
1/4 cup uncooked millet

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until virtually smooth but a few tiny lumps remain. Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar and syrup. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then millet.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

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As part of our current “diet,” we’ve begun to really indulge in our morning meals.  Our omelettes overflow and we’re blending an embarrassing amount into our smoothies.  Thankfully, what’s kept us from feeling like we’re sliding into gluttony is remembering that our breakfast still has fewer calories than lunch or dinner–which maybe should change.  If there’s any meal of the day to indulge, it’s breakfast.

Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast regularly has been linked to increased longevity, higher metabolism, longer attention span, and sustained energy. It’s also a great opportunity to add some much-needed fiber, fat, and fruit to a body starved of nutrients after an 8-hr hiatus.

That said, it’s amazing what the packaged-food industry has done to this most essential meal! Rather than promoting good health through eating real foods, the food industry has taken over breakfast with its promise of rainbow-colored treats and cocoa crispies. Even the standard run-of-the-mill store-bought granola will contain a deceptively high amount of fat and sugar under the guise of healthful eating. Most granola recipes will contain half a stick of butter or a cup of maple syrup, and scaling back will lead to pitiful flakes of lightly toasted oats, barely resembling the substantial clusters found in store-bought varieties.

Enter the avocado. Hailing from Miami, Greg’s mom was in town last week with a hostess gift of two of the most ginormous avocados we’ve ever seen. Seriously, if you’re born and raised on Haas avocados, these South Florida beauties will knock your socks off. The two that we received were at least as big as pineapples, covered in a bright green skin, and sometimes called alligator pears. (I thought they were bowling-ball sized, but Greg insisted they weighed less than 8 lb. each).

Now a quick plug on avocados — they are high in monosaturated fat, which can improve heart health and keep cholesterol low. They are also bursting with vitamins C, E, K, folate, and fiber. Avocados, along with extra virgin olive oil and some nuts, are often considered to be among the best fats that a body can take in, in moderation of course.

Avocados work surprisingly well in granola because of their fatty content (remember, good fats) and their smooth, spreadable texture. Unlike the aforementioned granola recipes I’ve tried, which rely on bad fats and bad sugars to achieve desirable clusters, avocados are an incredibly healthy substitute. And because we typically eat granola with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, there was no need for an additional sweetener. The vanilla, cinnamon, and toasted coconut gave it enough aroma and flavor that no sugar was needed. This recipe is by far the tastiest and most guilt-free granola recipe I’ve ever made! (And would you believe I dreamed it up in my sleep?)

Coconut Avocado Granola

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1 T natural peanut butter
2 c rolled oats
1/2 c coconut flakes, unsweetened
1/4 almonds, slivered
1 t cinnamon, cardamom, or other spice of your choice
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Blend avocado, peanut butter, vanilla, and cinnamon until well-combined and smooth. There should be no clumps. Stir in rolled oats, coconut flakes, and slivered almonds.

Spread evenly on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally for even toasting. Let cool before storing. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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As the East Coast is getting pummeled by Irene this weekend, we’re sitting anxiously in our hurricane-prepped home, hoping these 100-year old doors and windows hold fast in the fury of the storm.

We’ve consulted with a number of disaster guidelines and hurricane preparation checklists and have a few more food-specific tips to offer. (Whether or not these are good tips will be determined in the next few days.) If your biggest fear, as ours is, is the loss of power for a few days, consider the following:

  1. Water water water. Standard guidelines recommend at least one gallon per person per day for one week. Apparently, Hurricane Gloria left New Haven’s water sources contaminated 26 years ago, and access to clean drinking water was difficult. (Speaking of safe drinking water, check out IPA’s work here.) For the two of us, we’re currently stocked with 3 crates of individually-bottled water, 5 Nalgene-sized bottles filled, 1 empty milk gallon filled with water, a bathtub, and a watermelon.
  2. Non-perishable food items. Canned foods we have on hand include an assortment of cooked beans and anchovies. The anchovies weren’t really purchased in preparation for Irene, but they are packed with protein and flavor, and our list of canned foods is short. I’d also recommend canned soups (Amy’s is delicious). Additionally, we have quite a supply of oats, granola, peanut butter, granola bars, oreos, and the like.
  3. Perishable food items. If there’s potential to lose power for a few days, it’s obviously best to not go into and out of refrigerators and freezers multiple times a day. So as to access our fridge only once a day, we packed up two cooler bags full of food, divvy-ing up milk, yogurt, and juice between these two bags, each one estimated to last a day. And to our great delight, cheese is also extremely perishable, so we’ve packed up our whole supply of goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and marinated mozzarella. Yes, we live the hurricane life luxuriously.
  4. Cooked foods to prepare. If you, like us, are a bit snobbish about food and would really rather not dig into the supply of unadulterated canned foods, consider how much time you have to prepare for disaster. Irene is pretty slow- moving, so we’ve had ample time to cook up some whole wheat penne, which we plan to toss with some spinach and store-bought jarred sauce as an additional supplement to our cooler-bag preparations.
  5. Special treats. After picking a two-foot long zucchini this last week at Lyman’s, this seemed like the perfect time to bake up a monster amount of zucchini bread. We put one in each of the coolers, one in the freezer, and one off to Megan (who just moved in to Yale!) Zucchini bread with peanut butter seems like the perfect diaster food — containing oats, whole wheat flour, vegetable, and protein, it’s got quite a bit of nutritional punch and is delicious too!
For those of you in the hurricane with us, enjoy the show and keep us posted. For everyone else, we’ll see you on the other side!

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This may not come as much of a surprise given the Manhattan-centrism of this blog, but I have a bit of a complex relationship with most of the U.S. See, with the exception of the Northeast, I have no real desire to live anywhere else. Now though this preference may seem fairly simple, it is significantly complicated when faced with the job market for econ PhD graduates. The U.S. has quite a concentration of top tier schools in the Northeast, but quite a few other schools decidedly not in the Northeast. It’s a rather large country, you see.

So in the process of converting me one state at a time, Greg recently brought home a large, delicately packaged box of fresh California calimyrna figs. In doing so, he planted the tantalizing fantasy in my mind of a mystical fig tree in our backyard that could produce figs at our . California figs are “succulent, aromatic and naturally sweet”, “environmentally friendly”, “the perfect fruit choice for summertime noshing”, and “a virtual powerhouse of nutrition”. (Additional propaganda found here.)

We’ve been savoring these figs a few at a time, since “sweet, savory, fresh or dried, sliced, diced, baked, puréed or sautéed – there are a lot of ways to enjoy simply beautiful, simply delicious California Figs.” If you find yourself with some fresh figs on hand, one of our favorite preparations of figs so far is halved with a drizzle of honey or balsamic creme. Another favorite preparation is chopped figs with maple-nut granola and Greek yogurt for a low-fat, heart-healthy breakfast.

Maple-Nut Granola

3 c rolled oats
1 c nuts (chopped hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
1/4 c maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine oats, nuts, and maple syrup. Mix thoroughly to combine maple syrup with other ingredients. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until granola is browned.

Additional modifications:

Maple syrup can be replaced with honey, agave nectar, molasses, or other liquid sweetener.

Dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, coconut flakes can be added with no modifications to the other ingredients.

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Well, I certainly think it’s a milkshake, no sort-of about it.  This is a discovery that keeps on giving: a healthy, quick and easy, delicious shake, perfect for breakfast or dessert or snacking because you’re hungry and dinner is just far enough away to warrant eating something now.

So what makes it a sort-of-milkshake?  Well, there’s no ice cream, for one.  No ice, either.  The cheat: frozen banana.  Blend a frozen banana and milk and you get the texture of a true ice cream shake.  The banana adds both richness and creaminess.  And it’s cheap and healthy to boot.

Frozen bananas are a great trick.  Impossible as it seems, a frozen banana really does have the consistency of ice cream.  And it requires nothing more than just a little forethought and planning.  Peel a banana.  Put it in a container (or put several in one container).  Put in freezer.  That’s it.  Definitely peel ahead though; peeling a frozen banana isn’t quite the same as peeling a fresh one.

You need little more than milk and banana to make this work–the more banana, the thicker and creamier, of course–but why stop there?  This shake pictured above has been our staple: banana, oats, peanut butter, milk (and when feeling decadent vanilla and cinnamon, too).  Blend blend blend.  I use a full banana, a large scoop of PB, and fill maybe 1/2-1 cup of oats.  Don’t be scared by the oats.  They get plenty ground up and add both body and healthiness (word?) to the shake.  Okay, they’re a little “gritty,” so if you hate them leave them out.

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We did it!! We successfully replicated a honeymoon staple!! Lemon-infused nutella, first mentioned here. You may remember, we were devastated to leave Amalfi without jars and jars tucked away in our bags, and this combination has since inspired many a torte and cookie.

But before I get too far ahead of myself… We’ve discovered recently that crepes are delicious, a great way to use up condiments, and also incredibly easy.  The batter is essentially a wetter pancake batter (from memory, I believe it’s 1 cup flour, 1.5 cups milk, pinch salt, optional tsp sugar).  Heat pan, butter pan, pour batter, swirl around.  When the top is dry, flip, wait 30-60 seconds.  Voila.  They have a short half-life, though, and really should be eaten immediately.  And when the kitchen is the place to congregate anyway, this doesn’t pose a problem.  What is a problem though is the stomach ache one gets from eating so much cheese and chocolate for breakfast.

Speaking of chocolate, we threw a crepe party two weeks ago for our very good friend and best man at our wedding Martin who had come a-calling for the 150th anniversary of the Yale Glee Club. We set up our crepe station at the stove with two varieties of cheese, two varieties of jam, and a heaping bowl of lemon-infused nutella.

Nutella is remarkably easy to make. It really just involves a bit of patience and the right equipment (a good food processor). A mini food processor or a Magic Bullet won’t quite cut it, but any standard good-quality food processor will do wonders. This will probably be equally delicious with peanuts or cashews in lieu of or in combination with hazelnuts. Because there are only a few ingredients involved, you’ll probably want to use the best quality of ingredients you can.

Lemon-Infused Nutella

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
zest of half a lemon
2 T canola oil

In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, liquefy the hazelnuts. Yes, liquefy. The hazelnuts pretty quickly go from cheery round things to finely ground nut-flour, but it takes quite a bit longer for the hazelnuts to be ground to the point of emitting fats and oils into true liquid form. At this point, an extra tablespoon or two of peanut oil or some other neutral oil will also help.

Add cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, and lemon zest. Continue to blend until all ingredients are well mixed and the texture is similar to a nut butter.

Serve with crepes, on bread, in oatmeal, on pretzels, in heaping spoonfuls, etc.

* Note: confectioner’s sugar is very important in this recipe. Granulated sugar leaves a granular texture, whereas confectioner’s sugar blends much more finely with the other items.

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Yet another snow day!

We’ve been pummeled by snow here in New Haven this winter. This is the third big blizzard in the last three weeks — the first came conveniently when my snow-hating sub-tropical parents came for a visit for Christmas! Merry Christmas, parents!

This morning we woke up to about 15 inches of accumulation outside. Not quite knowing yet whether classes would be canceled (they were), Greg and I got up bright and early to begin the shoveling work. Let me rephrase, Greg began the shoveling work, and I began the breakfast work. Funny, the conventional gender norms I so actively resisted in the past I now actively embrace when they mean I get to stay warm and dry and bake!

Side note: I’ve come to realize that the biggest hazard of snow days in my life is not slippery sidewalks or falling branches, but rather an oafish, occasionally clumsy husband. Despite countless promises to take good care of me, this morning he accidentally elbowed me in the face! Yes, bruises and swelling galore, and you might notice an extra bump or two on my nose the next time you see me.  Needless to say, my husband feels worse than I do.

Also, our camera broke over the holidays and now we’re working on recycled, old cameras–does anybody have suggestions for a proper camera to purchase?

Blueberry-Banana Oat Muffins

3 T olive oil
1 egg
2 ripe bananas
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oats
2 T brown sugar
3 t baking powder
1 c frozen blueberries
milk, as needed

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners (ours had seasonally-appropriate snowmen on them) or lightly grease the tin with olive oil or butter. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix olive oil, eggs, and bananas until bananas are completely mashed. (Without a stand mixer, mash bananas first, then whisk together with olive oil and eggs.)

Add in the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. Fold blueberries into the batter, adding milk as needed if the batter looks dry.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes until a knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

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