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Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

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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Who would have guessed that some of the best restaurant food we’ve had all summer would be found in Western Massachusetts? Yes, we have traveled halfway around the world and back this summer, eating mango shaved ice and Shanghai soup dumplings to our heart’s delight, but it was a tiny little restaurant in a tiny little town that really wow-ed our gastronomical senses. (Not to knock the food in China — more to come on that, for sure!)

We headed up to Northfield, MA for a weekend trip in late June thanks to a groupon deal for an adorable bed and breakfast. The Centennial House is one of two accommodations in town, featuring charming rooms, a grassy estate with occasional sightings of wild bunnies, and a delightful innkeeping couple, one of whom is a former labor economist. The three-course breakfast included a fruit salad served in goblets, a hot carb-and-egg entree, and a rustic, fruit-based baked good. The first morning we had a strawberry-rhubarb galette, and the second morning we had an apple-pear coffee cake.

Western Mass is a “right to farm” community, which means both that it really values locally grown products, and that it has the right to deny nuisance suits against farmers. Our dinner at the Gill Tavern really showcased the former — much of the menu is locally sourced, including eggs and chicken and produce. The steak we ordered was from an organic, grass-fed cow farm out in California, and the mead was from a meadery just a few towns over. The food was phenomenal, easily comparable to any of our favorite places in New York. Gill is not, however, a destination town. It’s a town of just two public establishments — the Gill Tavern and a local library — and is easy to miss if you blink. If you do wind up in this part of the world, do stop by and visit, and enjoy a bottle of mead for us while you’re there!

Another phenomenal meal we had was at Bella Notte. Often, these restaurants with a view seem to really over-promise and under-deliver, and the food can be insipid and uninspired. Shockingly enough, Bella Notte over-delivered on both the view and the meal.  Based on the website photos, we imagined we’d be overlooking a small grassy field. Instead, we were greeted with miles and miles of hills upon hills, an incredible view of the moon, a setting sun off in the corner, and some playful tomfoolery between a fox (yes, a real wild fox!) and a rabbit. The food was also incredible — I had a salmon poached in white wine and lemon, with fresh artichokes and a medley of summer vegetables. We finished our meal off with pistachio gelato topped with chocolate, and a lemon sorbet drizzled with limoncello.

Things to do in Western, MA

Barton’s Cove — kayak and canoe rentals
Drive-in movie theater — sits on the border of MA and NH
Local ice cream
Hiking — extensive trail system with varying difficulties

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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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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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Baked Eggs

These working-from-home days are truly glorious. This morning I went out for a little scamper through the woods, saw a chipmunk, and had a leisurely breakfast of baked eggs and orange-banana smoothie (made in a Magic Bullet, a kitchen appliance deserving of its own post).

One of the best things about this egg recipe is that all of the ingredients, save the eggs, can be replaced with others. (It is a Mark Bittman recipe, after all.) We’ve done this with spinach, mushrooms, prosciutto, feta, toasted hazelnuts, the list goes on.

Baked Eggs

3 mini squash picked at Lyman’s
bunch of red Swiss chard
3 eggs (this is breakfast for two, after all)
rosemary

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter ramekins.

Chop vegetables to bite-sized pieces. Lightly saute and season with salt, pepper, rosemary. Divide vegetables between ramekins.

Crack one or two eggs in each ramekin (or more if you’re using larger ramekins). Bake for 15-20 minutes until egg whites are opaque and yolks are set. Keep an eye on the eggs and bake for longer if you prefer thoroughly cooked yolks over runny yolks.

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