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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Fancypants Sunday

If you happen to be in San Diego this winter and you have a lady to impress, may I offer the following:

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Chris surprised me with this amazing meal last week at the Marine Room in La Jolla – you may have seen the restaurant when snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, because it’s literally sitting in the water. Every high tide this winter, they’re hosting a special weekend brunch.  The high tide provides the most beautiful perspective, as long as you can get past the fact that the place has been hit by waves that have busted through the windows (check out the pictures in the lobby).  The brunch itself was decadent without being obscene, delicious, romantic and beautiful. I felt like a fancypants queen every time the super attentive waiters came by to clear a plate or to top off my coffee and oj. We started with the seafood bar – fresh crab legs and shrimp, caviar and lox. Yum central. Moving on to the entrees (pictured here), I found my personal favorite in the Grand Marnier-flavored French Toast. Dessert was next, and we each enjoyed a bite of everything. Yeah, man. Dessert before 10am? Now we’re talking. Pace yourself – brunch is served until 10, so take your time and enjoy the view.

You’ve still got two more chances: December 22nd-23rd (for a pre-Christmas stomach-stretching exercise) or January 20th-21st (for those of you who are gearing up for a New Year’s resolution to eat more caviar. By the way, I salute you). Need more convincing? Here’s the full menu. Yowza.

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Ever get a song lyric in your head that just loops through on repeat, not allowing you the pleasure of completion?  How about this one:  A beautiful bunch a’ ripe baNANAs!  Anyone?  No?

A few months back, I bought a silicone mini-loaf pan, and it has seen much use.  I always had trouble with large loaves – they never consistantly cooked all the way through, they were a pain to de-pan, and we always wasted the last heels after gorging ourselves on bread for days.  The mini-loaf is ideal – split one now, and pop the remaining three in the freezer to be portioned out throughout the week.  This recipe makes enough for four mini-loaves plus extra for muffins. 

Carrie’s Day-O Banana Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs 
3 or 4 (a beautiful bunch) mashed ripe bananas 
1/4 cup plain yogurt 
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut (toasted coconut is good here too, if you’re so inclined)
1 Tbsp grated lime or lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°, and grease your loaf pan/muffin tins.  Cream the sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the bananas, yogurt and vanilla and stir to combine.  Add the flours, soda and salt, then fold in the coconut and zest.  Bake about an hour for a full loaf, 40 minutes for mini loaves or 25 minutes for muffins.

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About a year ago, Chris and I found a great old garden swing bench at a yard sale.  We couldn’t figure out why it was so cheap, until we took it home and it promptly fell apart.  Doh!

Never one to give up on a failing item (seriously, I’ve nursed our basil plant back from near compost food so many times), I somehow convinced Chris that it’d be worth our (ahem, mostly his) time to fix it, rather than looking for another.  Easy for me to say.

We spent about $30 on wood, and crafted a sturdier bench that looks fabulous, is more comfortable than the originals, and that brings us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Not bad!  Now, adding in the time spent on getting this puppy just right might not pencil out quite as well, but we won’t talk about that.

I love that the one picture we have of the process is of me doing my very small part (Look, Ma, black hair!):

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Yeah, tracing a line.  I’m a real carpenter over here.

Chris was the hero of the day with this one, and this is our reward:

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The first leisurely moment of my week – a lazy Friday morning with some good books, good coffee and fresh fruit with some garden basil.  And my cat Norman staring at me from the neighbor’s porch.  All is well with the world.

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My friend Tam is multi-talented.  She makes awesome gifts, is an amazing massage therapist, can dye your hair perfectly every time, and now I’ve learned that she can also roast her own coffee beans.  What can’t she do?

We decided to have a DIY adventure day, wherein I’d give mozzarella another shot (don’t ask), and she’d try to roast some coffee beans that a friend brought her from Ethiopia.  I whipped up some ricotta pancakes for sustenance, and we were on the case.  After traveling all over town looking for a hand-cranked stovetop popcorn popper, we settled on this electronic version.  Spirits were high when the “Stir Crazy” started working its magic:

Excitement soon gave way to boredom, as the beans slowly turned.  It was riveting.

At some point, maybe 30 minutes later, Tam took some beans and ground them.  It was exciting, because the coffee smell really started to emerge (the raw beans, we agreed, smelled like dirt). 

 

This just seemed to be taking a long time, though, so we tried another way.  Good old fashioned elbow grease brought these babies to a beautiful, oily black shine in no time.  Tam stirred so fast that she almost made the spoon disappear:

Success!  We let these beauties cool down in a colander, then shook them free of the chaff that had separated from the beans.  I wish you could smell this next picture – a well earned cup of the best coffee I’ve had in a long time.  Thanks for an awesome Sunday, Tam!  Cheers!

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Whoa.  What a day of eating that was.  I’m taking a break until at least 10am.  With all the whey left over from my cheesemaking adventure I’ve got some cooking to do, so I figured a good place to start was brunch.  I still have two more jars full, so I’ve got to find some more recipes that use lots of buttermilk.  Any ideas out there?

Anyway, yesterday was the sunniest day we’ve had this month – perfect for a day of relaxing, gardening, and eating!  I made a huge brunch, assuming that one or more of the neighbors would be around to share with us – everyone slept in, so Chris and I were left with a large food challenge, which we gladly accepted.  The smells of light and fluffy ricotta pancakes (to show off my homemade cheese!) with fresh blueberry syrup, egg scramble with garden herbs, rosemary and sea salt buttermilk biscuits, thick-sliced bacon, sliced strawberries and fresh brewed coffee filled the air – what a way to celebrate a day off.

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Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

1 cup blueberries

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk or whey

1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries and maple syrup and heat over a medium flame.  Cook until the blueberries start to pop, and transfer to a pourable container.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wets and stir until just combined.  Y’all can probably take it from here – cook like pancakes.  These don’t take too long, so you’ll want to watch them closely so they don’t get charred.  What a feast, huh?

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Easiest dinner side dish of all time, and it doubles as an amazing addition to eggs the next day for breakfast!  Any root veggies will work in this – I happened to have some turnips, red potatoes, garlic and carrots.  All you do is cut your roots into uniform pieces (so they cook evenly), combine in a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and some fresh rosemary if you’ve got it.  Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and roast at 400° for… gosh, I just realized that I have no idea how long this takes.  I just pop it in the oven and forget about it until an amazing smell fills the air.  At that point, they’ve reached golden perfection on one side, so I’ll turn them with a spatula and leave them for a little while longer.  Let your nose guide you to…

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Sunday Pancakes

I woke so lazily this morning – I ignored my 6:40 alarm, a remnant from yesterday’s volunteer project (which I can’t wait to write about, after I get some pictures back).  I vaguely remember a kiss on the cheek when Chris left to surf, and then driften back to sleep until a decadent 9:30.  I didn’t have too much to do today – two days of gardening has left me a little sore and lazy, so it seemed like the perfect day for some pancake experimentation.  I usually reach for Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for most things, and pancakes are no exception.  She has a recipe for cottage cheese and nutmeg pancakes which are so very rich and satisfying, but alas, no cottage cheese this morning.  I decided on a multi-grain variety.

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1 cup whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup wheat bran (you can also use white whole wheat flour, an amazing invention, but I wanted the nuttiness of the wheat bran today)

2 Tbsp sugar (adjust up or down depending on your sweetness specifications and the potency of your maple syrup)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg, I also added a heaping 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, as I’ve obviously been in the pumpkin spice mood

2 eggs

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil (you can use melted butter or canola)

1 1/2 cups milk (I didn’t have any buttermilk, so used regular milk and omitted the 1 tsp baking soda from the recipe.  If you’ve got it, by all means…)

1 tsp vanilla

Regular pancake instructions follow – beat the eggs with the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  For each pancake, drop about 1/4 cup batter onto a nonstick griddle or skillet set over medium-high heat.  Leave them alone until you see bubbles in the center of the pancake which pop on their own.  Flip them over and cook until browned on the second side, about 1 minute.  Refrain from patting them or turning them a second time as both actions will make the pancakes lose their lightness (and these grain-heavy pancakes have no lightness to spare)!  When done, you can keep them warm in a low oven until all are finished, or if you’re like me, let the rest of the batter sit covered in the fridge, throw ’em on a plate and enjoy.  I curled up with a book, a cup of decaf chai with steamed soymilk, and these hearty, nutty sweet cakes and had a lovely morning.  I suppose it’s time to get up now…

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Edited to add: after a couple of hours in the fridge, we cooked up another batch of these, and they were magically transformed to be much more fluffy and light!  As far as I can tell, it’s the same principle as refridgerating cookie dough for more fluffy cookies – I’d definitely recommend it with these grain-dense beauties.

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