Spiced cinnamon sugar breakfast puffs

December 20, 2011 § 24 Comments

On the off chance that your holiday breakfast plan is not yet inscribed in stone; in case you aren’t already bound and determined to have a strata, or frittata, or sticky buns, or perhaps puffy pancakes or spoon bread; or maybe you’d like to just add some icing to your giant, decadent, multi-course holiday brunch cake; well then dear friends, may I venture a suggestion.

I actually feel a bit ashamed that I’ve been holding this recipe from you for so long.  It’s a recipe that may, in fact, deserve a little shouting from the rooftops.  And, it’s a recipe with a history, which means stories.

I didn’t know any of the stories when I first started baking the original version (this is a wholly different iteration, but we’ll get to that later), I just knew that I had the recipe copied down on an index card from my friend, and I had labeled it “breakfast puffs.”

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Peach crisp

September 5, 2011 § 8 Comments

This is going to be another short one as it’s been a long full weekend and I’m pretty beat.  We spent the last couple of days exploring Portland, Maine with friends.  It was wonderfully fun, with an abundance of walking, chatting, laughing, and eating.

At home now, I’ve spent the evening avoiding the work I need to get done for tomorrow morning by watching the sparrows.  They’re diving and swooping and snatching bugs right in an easy line of sight.  When swallows are flying low like that, it means that a storm is coming, or so they say.

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Simply (the best) raspberry muffins

July 20, 2011 § 16 Comments

Photo by James Ransom

This is the story of some muffins.  It’s a story I almost wasn’t going to tell you because these muffins disappeared almost as soon as they happened, leaving nary a crumb and certainly no trace of photographic evidence (that’s what morning and house guests will do to muffins, you see).  And it’s very rare I cook something twice, so if it’s gone, it’s gone.

Gone-ish.  Sometimes I jot down notes from the recipe.  Sometimes I share it.  And sometimes then, the dish reappears.  That’s what these muffins did.  They resurfaced, emblazoned with a badge of honor: “simply the best raspberry muffins.”

Photo by James Ransom

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Sweet potato ricotta gnocchi…for breakfast!

December 10, 2010 § 13 Comments

So, I just had a revelation.  Or at least, it felt like a revelation at 6 am, when I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes.  We’ll see how it stacks up now that I’m in a slightly more awakened state.  I was thinking about why I like eating breakfast in my PJs so much.  Even if I take a shower before breakfast, I have a tendency to put my pajamas – and usually a big fuzzy sweater – back on, then go and eat breakfast, and then finally get dressed and gussied up for the day.  This morning, I suddenly realized that while many people need the time it takes to shower, spruce up, and generally get ready to go to work before they can gather the where with all to grab breakfast, I need the time it takes to eat breakfast and sip a cup of coffee in order to work up the gumption to put on my clothes for the day.  Not particularly revelatory yet?  Well, wait, it gets better!  I also realized that one of the most relaxing parts of vacation, for me at any rate, is sitting for a long time at the breakfast table in my pajamas, browsing over the newspaper and making my way through a little too much coffee.  And, even if I’m not on vacation, if I wear my PJs at breakfast, I can still conjure up a little hint of that leisurely feeling, starting the day off on a more tranquil note.

We are heading due north into the season of laid back, drawn-out holiday breakfasts, and I can’t wait.  No, really, I can’t wait.  I’ve totally jumped the gun and have been cooking all manner of scrumptious, not your everyday toast, this is the most important meal of the day so why not seriously enjoy it, breakfasts.  Even though it’s still a couple of weeks until vacation.  (So, if I proceed to write a string of breakfast posts, that’s why.)  On this one, though, I outdid even my breakfast-obsessed self.  It’s simply so good, I’m not even sure what to do with myself.  I want to make it over and over and over again.  And I probably will.

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Cauliflower and cheddar souffle

November 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. Yes, souffle.  That torment of culinary sphere that leaves chefs quivering with apprehension, hovering by the oven door that they long, yet fear to open.  Oh the triumph of a towering puffed souffle, and the agony of defeat when you watch it collapse, slumping in the middle like a drunk at the end of a long night.  There’s a rather inflated mythology around the souffle (which, by the way, is French for ‘to breathe’ or ‘puff up’ – an appropriate name, I’d say), but in all honesty, I’d say it doesn’t deserve it’s reputation as a futsy, challenging, delicate or impressive process.  It doesn’t require a magic wand.  You don’t need to move your kitchen into an anti-vibration chamber.  It’s barely harder than making an omelet, actually (Of course, maybe that’s just because I’m horrible at making omelets.).  And who was it that said, “the only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.”?  I think it was James Beard.  Genius.  It’s totally true.  You can make a souffle!!!  You can even make a souffle without owning a souffle pan – I did.  The real question is, do you want to?  (Answer, yes.  If you make the right kind.  That kind being a cheesey one.)

Before being challenged to make a souffle this month I had made souffle twice before, both dessert souffles.  In college the boy I was dating and I decided to make an orange souffle with Grand Marnier.  We were pretentiously gourmet like that – everyone has their college phase 😉 .  However, oh the irony, neither of us owned a metal mixing bowl for whipping up the egg whites in.  So, we used a little aluminum cooking pot, and, well, it turned the egg whites an extremely unappealing shade of green.  We made the souffles anyway, but it was pretty hard to enjoy eating moldy-green slightly metallic-tasting souffles.  In spite of this, I tried again not too long afterward, whipping up some chocolate souffles for a dinner party.  I successfully managed to keep the egg whites white, however, this time I discovered that I don’t like my chocolate to be spongey and airy.  I like it to be dense and fudge-y or silky.  In short, I decided I really didn’t like souffles.

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Warm sweet and plain potato salad with brown butter dressing

June 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

We’re in a state of happy, contented, total exhaustion in these parts.  A string of days packed with hosting showers, brunches, general shenanigans, and then a big, beautiful tear-jerking wedding for your childhood best friend followed by eating, drinking, and dancing into the very wee hours of the morning will do that to you, it turns out.  It’s enough to make you completely forget Memorial day, except in a moment of passing thankfulness that you had the day off.  I know Memorial day is kind of a national mandate to grill things, and make every type of mayonnaise-dressed salad known to man.  But, in this neighborhood we all ignored that mandate.  The day was instead spent alternating between lounging cat-like (or maybe just catatonic) in the sun on the newly’s front porch, and giving bear hugs, choked up goodbyes, and bon voyages to all the friends we won’t be seeing again…until the next wedding.  So, sorry Memorial day, we didn’t mean to ignore you, but there’s only so much a human being can physically celebrate in one weekend.

However, I have been playing around with potato salads on my own time.  I don’t really like potato salad, and I’ve been trying to create one that does it for me.  This one is kind of fun.  Probably I like it in large part because I used sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes.  (Actually, I’m on the verge of giving up and just using sweet potatoes for everything because they are, quite simply, the bomb in the tuber world).  But, I’m also pleased with my decision to follow my brown butter obsession yet another step, incorporating it into the dressing.  I figured, if what you need in a dressing is a fat and an acid, why the heck not use butter?!  And if I’m going to use butter, why the heck not brown it?!  The result is a dressing that’s rich and nutty, with a pleasant and slightly sweet tang from the apple cider vinegar.  The shallots give it an onion bite.  And the thyme, well that’s just my go to herb, especially in something that’s buttery or creamy.  It spruces up the potatoes right nicely.  So here’s a potato salad, a day late and a dollar short…but maybe somebody can lend me a dollar. « Read the rest of this entry »

Brown Butter Rhubarb Cake

May 26, 2010 § 9 Comments

When I was just a wee thing, I had a wonderful children’s cookbook (British, I think) with life size color photographs of the recipes – each ingredient as well as the final product.  I would spend private afternoons carefully paging through this book, gazing intently at the cheese sandwiches with faces made of peppers and olives, the scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, the fish stew.  But, I would linger the longest on the cake recipe, a simple yellow sponge cake, decorated with icing and candies in the photograph.  This cake was special.  We almost never had dessert in my family growing up, unless it was a birthday or Christmas.  But, once a year when the little rhubarb plant nestled along the corner of the garden shed was ready, my mother would give the go ahead, and we would cut down a few stalks and bake them into this yellow cake.  It felt like Heaven, this dessert we got to make for no special occasion in particular, except that the rhubarb was ready and I had a cake recipe.

We’re in Minnesota again, at my parents house, for one of approximately 436trillion weddings that are happening this summer.  I went out to the garden yesterday morning to check…the rhubarb was ready.  I wanted to bake a cake.  I’ve moved slightly beyond my “Child’s First Cookbook” days, I’m slightly sorry to say, but I still wanted to keep it simple, to let the rhubarb shine through in a delicate moist cake.  Then again, I’ve also been becoming progressively more obsessed with brown butter (yes, I know that was totally two years ago, but better late than never, and it still tastes amazing, rich and nutty, even when it’s not one of Food & Wine’s foods of the year), and I had an inkling that browning the butter in the cake to give it a soft caramel undertone would buoy the tartness of the rhubarb to new heights.

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