Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

I love potatoes in pretty much any form. When I was a kid, my dad made “Susan fries,” which were pan-fried slices sprinkled with paprika. (Susan’s other big culinary contribution to my life: butterscotch chips in brownies. Seriously, try it.) Homefries made in a skillet were one of my first truly excellent dishes, and when I finally decided mashed potatoes weren’t against my religion, I fell hard and fast for them. But sometimes even I want something other than starch at breakfast or brunch, which is how we got to these Southwestern homefries.

southwest homefries

The addition of beans and cheese makes these a little more balanced and substantial. They were inspired by a dish I love at Sylvester’s in Northampton. Their version features onions and peppers, too; mine is simpler and requires you to chop only the potatoes.

Southwestern Homefries

4 medium-to-large potatoes (about 2 lbs)
Olive oil
2 c. cooked black beans (or one 15-oz. can)
2 c. salsa (one 16-oz jar)
About 2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Wash the potatoes and then dice them, aiming for about a one-inch dice. Spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in pans. Add olive oil and toss to coat; I usually use 2-3 T. Sprinkle with salt, then put in the oven.

Let them roast for 20 minutes without stirring, and then use a spatula to turn them. Add more olive oil if the tray is getting dry, and roast for 20 more minutes. Then check to see if they’re cooked all the way through by sticking a toothpick in one piece. If it goes through easily, they’re done. If not, continue roasting until they are. Depend on how small you cut them, they could take up to 20 more minutes.

(To make something that comes together quickly in the morning, you can do the above steps ahead of time and keep the roasted potatoes in the fridge. You’ll want to reheat them in a foil-covered pan at 350 until hot, about 10 minutes, before proceeding.)

Transfer the roasted potatoes to a square baking dish. Drain and rinse the beans, and then top the potatoes with them and the salsa, and finally the cheese. You can adjust the amounts of any of these to taste. Turn on your broiler and stick the pan in under it. Stay nearby and check frequently; it should take about five minutes for the cheese to get melted and bubbly.

Serves four.


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Bran muffins

I have breakfast issues. I’m allergic to bread and the texture of eggs makes my tongue want to cry. And then it’s winter a lot here, which makes it hard to think about lovely summer breakfasts like melon or smoothies or yogurt.

bran muffins

Thank goodness for muffins! The genius thing about muffins is that you can freeze them. So that means you can make an enormous batch and then defrost them as you want them. You can do this by thinking ahead and laying them out on the counter overnight, or you can pop them into the microwave. Or, if you are as toaster-oven-happy as I am, you can just split them before freezing and then pop them into the toaster oven straight from the freezer, which makes them even warmer!

These are not very sweet — you could add some granulated sugar if you preferred them sweeter — but are a flexible base that’s open to a lot of additions. I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom, but I also love them plain, split and toasted and buttered.

Bran muffins
Adapted from Farmgirl Fare

2 eggs
2/3 c. milk (I use whatever’s in my fridge; low-fat and whole both work fine)
2/3 c. plain yogurt or sour cream (again, low-fat works fine)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. molasses*
1/3 c. honey*
1 t. vanilla
2 c. wheat bran**
1 c. oat bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
generous pinch of salt
Additions as desired (see below!)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Grease or line your muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, yogurt or sour cream, oil, molasses, honey, and vanilla until they are combined. Add the dry ingredients — wheat bran, oat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt — all at once. Mix just until combined. If you’re adding any extras, stir them in after the dry ingredients.

Fill muffin cups three-quarters full and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. I usually bake two pans at a time; if you do this, rotate them halfway.

When they come out, allow them to cool slightly before removing from the pan. They’ll keep for a few days on the countertop or for months in the freezer.

Additions I like:
*half a cup of shredded coconut
*1 cup of chocolate chips
*half a cup of chopped crystallized ginger

I hear the kind of people who like fruit in their muffins especially like blueberries in these.

*It’s actually possible to use a wide variety of sweeteners here, including cane syrup, agave, or all honey. All molasses is a bit strong for my tastes, but works. I haven’t yet tried maple syrup; if you do, tell me how it goes!
**I found Quaker-brand wheat bran in my regular grocery store, labeled as “unprocessed bran” on the front but clearly identified as wheat bran in the ingredients. If you have access to a store with bulk bins, you’ll almost certainly save some money by buying the bran that way.

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Granola muffins

I post a lot of breakfast recipes because I have breakfast problems. I like to eat it, but I’m a pickypants about traditional breakfast foods: I don’t like eggs, I only eat oatmeal under select circumstances, and the yeast in bread gives me bellyaches. In the winter, it seems too cold for yogurt, my usual breakfast staple, so I do a lot of breakfast baking.

granola muffin with butter

These muffins are made with granola right in the batter. The granola is softened by soaking it in milk before adding it to the muffin batter, and the resulting muffins are very moist and only slightly sweet. Like many muffins, I like these best split and buttered; I often put mine in the toaster oven in the morning to help get them to a butter-melting temperature.

Granola Muffins
Adapted from the New York Times

1 c. granola*
1/2 c. milk (whatever you have is fine)
2 eggs
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease or line twelve muffin cups. Put the granola in a bowl, pour the milk over it, and let soak for at least 20 minutes.

soaking granola

Mix together the eggs, honey, yogurt or sour cream, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and stir just to combine, then fold in the granola.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because they are so moist, it’s a good idea to let them cool for ten or fifteen minutes before removing them from the pan, especially if you’re not using liners.

granola muffin

*I think any granola would work here. I used the stuff I make myself, which starts off pretty chewy. If you use a really crunchy store granola, you might want to soak it a little longer.

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I have recently learned that there are some people (and by “some people” I mean “my mother”) who have never eaten latkes. I find this pretty much inconceivable. The two women I remember my mother doing social things with when I was small were both Jewish, and latkes have pretty much jumped the Jewish shark anyway and now can be made even by goyim like me.


I read a whole bunch of latke recipes, and they all pretty much agree on the critical ratio: about one pound of potato per egg. I used all-purpose flour and a relatively large quantity of onion, and made my latkes small so that there would be a lot of crispy per pancake. And they were pretty good: beautifully browned, crispy all over on the outside without being too mushy or eggy in the middle. If I had a Jewish grandmother, I like to think she’d be proud.

Potato Latkes

2 lbs potatoes (Russet are usually recommended, but I only had Yukon Gold and they worked fine)
1 large or 2 small onions
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Peel the onion and potatoes and grate them, either on the coarsest holes of a box grater or in a food processor. I just grate them both into one pile without worrying about keeping the potato and onion apart.

Now you want to get the moisture out. You can do this by putting them in a colander and smushing them down with your hands or a spoon, but the easiest way is to wrap them in cheesecloth and just twist away on the top as the water drips out the bottom.

potato squeeze

Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix them with a fork to break up the yolks. Then add them to the potatoes, followed by the flour and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well so the flour gets evenly distributed.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet with a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Peanut oil is traditional — it takes high heat well — but canola works too. While you’re waiting for it to get so hot it shimmers, line a plate with paper towels.

When the oil is hot, drop the latkes in and flatten them slightly with the back of your spoon or a spatula. Don’t pack them in too tightly or they’ll be hard to flip later. Cook until they’re golden brown around the edges.

fry fry fry

Then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown before removing to the paper-towel lined plate.

I like them best fresh out of the skillet, but they can be reheated in the oven or toaster oven, either directly on the rack or by placing a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and the latkes on top of that. Bake at 400 F until hot and crisp.

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Parsnip spice muffins

I am now in the middle of my winter CSA, in that kind of scary part in the middle where you’ve gotten 2/3 of the produce but have only cooked 1/4 of it. Sure, a lot of it stores well, but it’s a pretty intimidating mountain of produce.

parsnip muffins.jpg

Every year, I find a few produce stumpers: things I have no bad feelings about and can think of ways I could cook, but for which I can’t come up with any way I’d really want to cook it. They usually end up in a big pile of roasted root veggies, where sweet potatoes can take away their sting.

Parnsips are one of those stumpers for me, but this recipe turned into something I was delighted with: moist and rich with the same spices you’d use in pie, but not overwhelming for 8 am consumption. Don’t be scared off by the quantities of spices: through some kind of parsnip-based alchemy, nothing is overpowering in the final mix.

Parsnip spice muffins
adapted from Epicurious

3 large parsnips
3 eggs
1/2 c. canola or other vegetable oil
1/2 c. milk (I used low-fat, which is what I keep around)
1 t. vanilla extract, divided
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. ground allspice
3/4 t. ground cloves
pinch salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts*

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease your muffin pans if you won’t be using paper liners.

Trim the ends off the parsnips, and then peel and grate them. Using a food processor is not cheating. You want to end up with about two packed cups of grated parsnip.

Mix the eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla in a bowl until blended. Add all of the dry ingredients — flour, sugar, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and salt — and mix just to combine. Avoid overmixing, which can make quick breads tough. Stir in the grated parsnips and walnuts.

parsnip muffin batter.jpg

Spoon into muffin tins, filling each about 3/4, and bake 18-20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. If your oven doesn’t heat evenly, you may want to rotate the pans halfway through.

ready to bake.jpg

Makes about 18.

*Walnuts can often be bought in pieces, which is handy for just these occasions, but you can also totally use your chef’s knife to make pieces by piling the nuts up and rocking your knife back and forth across them, then re-piling, turning your knife 90 degrees, and repeating until they’re appropriately fine.

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I love to bake in the morning. I find it tremendously satisfying to have something warm from the oven with my morning coffee, and getting dough under my nails before 8 am often seems to improve the quality of my day. Of course, I can usually only manage this on lazy weekend mornings, so that might have something to do with it, but I’m sure most of the magic is in the butter.

before baking

I’m the kind of person who will get up and make coffee cake, content to wait a couple of hours for a really good breakfast, but for those of you without that kind of time — if you wake up starving or are intrepid enough to cook before heading to the office — there is an answer: scones.

The beauty of scones is that they can be in your mouth just about half an hour after you think “hey, scones!”, usually without any need to run to the store, even if you had no plans to bake. These are light and mapley and, on top of everything else, will make your kitchen smell wonderful.

Brown Sugar Scones
Adapted from Vegan Visitor

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. brown sugar (preferably dark) plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter (in this case, cold is better)
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. milk (I used skim because I had it, but pretty much any milk — including soy — should work fine)

Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. (Seriously. It is nearly always true that when someone says to do this, you can manage without it, but this is not a good time for that unless you like scrubbing caramelized sugar off your stuff.)

Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and salt with a fork in a large bowl.

Cut in the butter. This means you can plop the whole stick into the dry ingredients, and then, using two butter knives, the tines of a fork, or even a pastry cutter, break it up into little pieces. Once I get it into rough chunks, I usually start using my hands, rubbing the butter between my fingers until it’s thin, then throwing it back into the flour mix to get coated. (In fact, this process is also sometimes called “rubbing in the butter,” I assume for this very reason.) You’re aiming for the texture of damp sand — fairly uniform, although a few bigger chunks won’t ruin anything in scones.

like damp sand

Like so.

Once you’ve achieved this, you can pour in the maple syrup and mix. Add half the milk, then add the rest a bit at a time as needed until it it forms a dough.

Pat the dough out on a lightly-floured surface until it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut it into eight wedges using a sharp knife (I like my paring knife for this), and put them on the baking sheet.

cutting scones

Sprinkle with brown sugar (this is why you need that parchment!) and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just golden. (Or if you’re me, you could accidentally turn the oven off when setting your timer, in which case they might take a bit longer.)

If you’re used to baking with white flour, watch extra carefully, as the whole wheat flour makes the dough tan enough to throw off your game. They’ll sound hollow when you tap on the bottom.

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You know how it goes: you eat all that food on Thanksgiving, and the next morning, there are all the leftovers in your fridge. If you’re intimidated by the idea of yet more cream on Friday morning, this whole-grain pancake recipe should be right up your alley.

pancake stack

Don’t be scared off by the whole grain thing: the word “hearty” — which pretty much means “heavy” when we’re talking about whole grains — does not apply. Instead, these are light and fluffy, with a tiny bit of crunch from the cornmeal.

Harvest Pancakes
Adapted from Food o’ del Mundo

1 c. oats
3/4 c. walnuts (pecans would also work; I’m dubious about oilier nuts like cashews)
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornmeal
1 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
pinch salt
2 eggs
1/4 c. (half a stick) butter
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
Extra butter for cooking

Put the oats and nuts into a blender or food processor and whir until they’re mostly smooth. A few little pieces of nut won’t hurt you, but you want it mostly flour-like in consistency.

food processor

Add the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir to combine. You can do this part the night before, but if you do, you might get some funky lighting in your photo.

dry mix

Stick the butter in a Pyrex measuring cup and put it in the microwave to melt. Add the eggs to the dry ingredients and just combine. (This won’t be anywhere near enough liquid to make a batter.) Now would also be a good time to start preheating the griddle or skillet you’ll use to cook the pancakes.

adding eggs

Add the cold buttermilk to the melted butter in the measuring cup. The butter will form little droplets in the milk, which is exactly what you want. (I know it looks creepy, but it’s the secret to fluffy pancakes, I swear.) Pour the butter/buttermilk mixture into the other ingredients and stir to combine. The resulting batter will be very thick.

Grease the griddle, and make sure the heat is no higher than medium. Use a 1/4-cup measure to scoop out the batter. Because the batter is so thick, I ended up using the bottom of the cup to pat it down into a more pancake-like shape.

Cook on the first side until you see little bubbles in the center. The pancakes are cooked when the bubbles rise and pop (yes, you can help with your spatula), and the little holes they make remain open. When that happens, you can flip them. Trust me on this: if you flip them before this stage, you’ll get “squishy” instead of “fluffy.” The second side will cook more quickly, as it just needs to brown; it will do so most evenly if you flip the pancake onto a greased part of the griddle.

Eat these with maple syrup* (and more butter, if you’re that kind of pancake person). You can store any extras in your refrigerator or freeze them, separated by layers of wax paper, for an easy (if slightly less crispy) breakfast later.

*I love grade B maple syrup, which has a more intense flavor than the lighter stuff. Check your health food store or your farmer’s market for it.

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