Category Archives: Breakfast

On Fear and Beignets

The kitchen is the one place where I have no fear. Nothing intimidates me and I am fully confident. When people act like I am doing something crazy, I rarely give myself any credit, because how could you be scared of things like oil or yeast? I reserve my fear for things that can kill me. You don’t want to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving yet you get on airplanes and enjoy riding through the Lincoln Tunnel? I’ll handle gizzards over the Lincoln Tunnel any day.

And as I was rolling beignet dough this morning, I happened to think that during a time of my life when I am the ultra-stable force in my kids’ lives — the one putting them to bed, washing their clothes, cooking the meals, helping with the homework — cooking is also my travel. My husband has the demanding job, does the travel, meets the cool people, and finds professional inspiration all over the place. I go to the grocery store and search for inspiration (because the part of you that needs that never goes away) in places and times that make bleeding a stone look easy. Child rearing can be mind-numbingly boring, but it’s in your personal boredom that your kids find stability and security.

I don’t look at either my husband’s job or mine and think one is more important. Sure, we’d be really hungry and cold without his, but it is so incredibly difficult to have both parents intently focused on career at all moments and travel the country and change the world. Someone has got to wipe the asses and provide lessons on multiplying fractions. It is a choice we make when we decide to have kids — even if we don’t realize we are making it at the time.

So today I went to New Orleans with my kids. And we ate beignets and sipped on coffee and hot chocolate. The yeast was fresh and rose the dough into puffy little pillows, the oil was at a steady 350 degrees and browned the beignets perfectly, and we laughed at clips of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd as the Two Wild and Crazy Guys. It’s often easy to feel bitter about being the one watching “Kindergarten Cop” on a Friday night while your husband is on 6th Street in Austin. And trust me, I have plenty of those moments. But, when I get to be the one hearing my kids laugh at Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “It’s not a tumor!” and having a picnic lunch on my boy’s 6 1/2 birthday on our first spring-like day, I try to step back and live in the now and in the positive.

I try to remember that there will be days in my future when I will be sitting in New Orleans eating beignets and sipping chicory coffee. And I am fully aware that, when that time comes, I will be wishing I were at my kitchen counter watching YouTube clips with powdered sugar covered babies.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Beignets (Epicurious)

Butternut Squash and Apple Muffins with Pumpkin Seed Streusel

I have received one butternut squash and one dozen eggs every Tuesday for the last three weeks from my CSA.  Up until yesterday, I had exactly three butternut squashes on my counter and three dozen eggs in my refrigerator.  I always like to kid myself and say things like “When fall gets here and the kids are back in school, I will finally organize their baby books.  Or clean out the storage area.  Or have that yard sale I’ve been meaning to do since June.”  Instead, I am confronted with back to school nights, violin shopping, supply acquisition, homework helping, pick ups and drop offs, driving, soccer, snacks, and maintaining some level of personal hygiene.

(Memo to my kids: I really have tried with your baby books.  Although I am very sentimental and keep things like your baby teeth and dried up belly button stubs, I am very poor at organizing these items into beautiful volumes for you to treasure one day.  I really hope it is OK that everything is crammed into a baby book with a cracked spine, papers falling out, and notes written in any color pen (or pencil) I had handy.  I do love you.  But not enough to scrapbook.)

And this entire month has been consumed by the Bloomsburg Floods.  We have the luxury of not being in the epicenter of the destruction and our busy schedule is pretty trivial compared to what the residents are going through.  But it has meant a lot of back and forth travel — which means bags that don’t have a chance to get unpacked before they are being packed again. Whirlwind is how some describe it, I think.  But as I talk with friends who are having their homes condemned, I am pretty sure a whirlwind would be a welcome feeling.  Never mind the “problem” of having all of your children’s baby book items in a box, rather than in a muddy heap never to be looked at again.

This whirlwind seems to blow cooking and eating rules out the window.  The grown ups have eaten a lot of Thai takeout. The kids have eaten way too many pasta dinners and lots of dessert.  It was the boy’s 5th birthday too, which seemed to provide an endless supply of cookies, rice krispy treats, cakes, and cupcakes.  But no more!

I turned on the oven yesterday (and it still worked!) and I made these muffins in an attempt to make a relatively healthy treat or breakfast that the kids would enjoy.  They are whole grain, quite low in sugar and fat, and filled with both butternut squash and apples.  They were a nice fall treat and used up one whole squash and 4 eggs.

Only two squash and 32 eggs to go.

Butternut Squash and Apple Muffins with Pumpkin Seed Streusel

Makes about 18 full size muffins

Muffins:
1 1/2 cups of cooked butternut squash (I like to halve mine, scoop out seeds, and slow roast for about an hour at 325 degrees Fahrenheit)
4 eggs
1/4 cup of dark brown sugar (can use more — up to 3/4 cup for a sweeter muffin)
1/3 cup applesauce
6 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 medium apple, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Streusel:
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (can use more here too if you like)
1 t cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped and toasted pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients by whisking together cooked squash, eggs, dark brown sugar, applesauce, and vegetable oil.

3. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients by combining salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and whole wheat pastry flour.

4.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined.  Stir in chopped apples.  Spoon into greased muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full. (You can use cupcake papers if you like.)

5.  Combine streusel ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin seeds) and sprinkle a nice spoonful over top of each muffin before baking.

6.  Bake muffins for about 15 minutes until just done and a tester comes out basically clean.  Let cool a few minutes in tins and then remove muffins to a cooling rack.  (I had to use a knife to loosen them before removing.)

 

 

 

 

Aunt Cherry’s Rhubarb Cake

This has been a week for appliances and household items to take a shit.  Our air conditioning broke during a heat wave (of course). Now we find out we need a new furnace and heat pump.  Our new washing machine began to leak and created a nice little flood in our laundry room (on the upside, the floor has never been cleaner!).  Our way too expensive, professional quality steam iron decided to leak water through the cord (that seems a bit unsafe).  Our clock stopped working.  Our thermostat broke.  After turning on the outdoor hose bibs for gardening, we realized that this is the year for them to start leaking incessantly (they’ll need to be replaced).

Oh, and now that I think of it …  one of our window blinds broke the other day.  On the same day that my daughter fell off a swing and broke her arm.  WTF?  I’m starting to scare myself.

So, when I recently saw a puddle of murky water in the refrigerator, I was pretty sure that it was the next thing to go. But alas, it was just a puddle from some decomposing rhubarb that I hadn’t used up — because I never use up my rhubarb.  I guess I just don’t see the point of eating something that requires five cups of sugar just to make it palatable.  I cook it down, make rhubarb applesauce or the occasional strawberry-rhubarb pie or crisp, but there’s always a never ending supply.  And then even more in the freezer from last summer.

I decided to take a tried and true, delicious recipe, Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake, and see what some rhubarb would do to it.  It was very good, but not surprisingly, because nothing could really mess up Aunt Cherry’s cake.  It is a sticky, oozy mess of a dessert that you can eat for breakfast.  And the rhubarb version makes a delicious dessert with some whipped cream or ice cream, but I also served it as rhubarb coffee cake for breakfast with guests.

I’d like nothing more than to bake one right now, but I must go down a rabbit hole into customer service and extended warranty and “we’ll be there between 2 and midnight” hell.  Oh, just a moment.  This is shocking.  I just went to enter a warranty claim for my washing machine and guess what?  The system is down.

Aunt Cherry’s Rhubarb Cake

Makes one 9 inch by 13 inch cake

Cake:
1 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 eggs
2-3 cups of diced rhubarb

Topping:
1 cup pumpkin seeds (or other chopped nuts), toasted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup of milk
6 T butter, melted
1 t vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut (not sweetened)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together dry cake ingredients: oats, white sugar, brown sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Make sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

3.  Add boiling water to dry ingredients.  Using an electric mixer, beat in softened butter (1 stick).  When incorporated, beat in eggs one at a time.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into greased 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.  Stir in diced rhubarb.

4.  In a small bowl, mix together topping ingredients:  pumpkin seeds, brown sugar, white sugar, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and coconut.  Drop in small dollops all over the unbaked cake batter.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.

 

 

Spiced Whole Grain Pumpkin Seed Biscotti with Cranberries and White Chocolate

As I sit here watching the footage of the Chilean miners being rescued, I am struck by my own limitations (BTW, I generally like to focus on myself during situations like these).  I joked with several people today that I couldn’t even stand to be in that rescue pod for 15 minutes *above ground.*  And if there were a psychological test administered before you were allowed to go underground, I’m quite sure checking the box that says “sometimes I get panicky in the check out line at the grocery store” would disqualify me immediately.

I am just not the type of person you want around in a crisis.  Actually, I’m not the type of person you want around during a mildly stressful flu shot.

But perhaps it’s not just OK, but necessary, that some people run the race and some people bake cookies for the finish line.  Perhaps this is the reason that the rescuers have the strength to strap themselves into a cage and go thousands of feet below the ground into a caved-in mine, while their wives clutch the children and pictures of the Virgin Mary (The heathen I am, I generally clutch a Bloody Mary).  And here in the land of the soft, perhaps this is the reason that my husband flies all over the country, talks in front of hundreds of people with ease, and I stay home and bake biscotti.  In short, my husband is a tremendous risk taker and I am a tremendous risk averter.

It’s not that I’m not brave or strong (I gave birth to two children, you know) nor do I think that women are incapable of strapping themselves in and rescuing 33 miners.  Hell, some of us might like to go down that hole simply to get some quiet time.  The issue has more to do with roles than it does with gender.  Once you have children, doesn’t it just seem that both parents can’t simultaneously go balls to the wall anymore?  Doesn’t it seem that someone has to be the rock while the other person is in the hard place?  Children demand routine and stability and comfort.  So when one parent is down a mine shaft or on a plane to L.A., the other one has to be pouring the cereal at 8:00 AM sharp and reading the favorite two (OK, three) stories at 8:00 PM sharp.

Maybe I am risk averse because that’s who I have to be.

Or maybe that’s how I justify the fact that I enjoy eating biscotti and hate enclosed spaces.

Spiced Whole Grain Pumpkin Seed Biscotti with Cranberries and White Chocolate

Makes 15-18 biscotti

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 star anise pod
1-1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (about the size of a nickel, or 1/4 t pre-ground)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 1 t vanilla extract)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (hulled and dry roasted or toasted)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt.

3.  Using a clean spice or coffee grinder (I have a second coffee grinder that I use exclusively for spices), grind the star anise pod, the cinnamon stick, and the piece of whole nutmeg until they are a fine powder.  Add this spice mixture to the flour mixture.  (If you like your biscotti extra spiced, double up on the spices. Alternatively, if you don’t want to grind your own spices, just make a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices like anise seed to equal 1 t.)

4.  In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Split the vanilla bean in half and, using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds from both sides of the pod.  Add seeds to butter and egg mixture and beat to incorporate.

5.  Add the flour/spice mixture to the butter mixture in two additions and beat until just combined.  Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir to make sure the flour is incorporated.  Stir in cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

6.  Turn dough onto parchment lined baking sheet and pat into a long loaf, approximately 3.5 inches by 15 inches.  Bake loaf for about 35 minutes, until just golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

7.  Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut individual biscotti from the loaf — each about 3/4 inch.  Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the parchment lined sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and flip.  Bake 10-12 minutes more and remove from oven (about 20 minutes total for the second stage of baking). Remove biscotti from sheet and cool on racks.

8.  Place chopped white chocolate in a double boiler to melt.  You can also use the microwave at about 50% power.  When biscotti are completely cool, drizzle with melted white chocolate.  Place in refrigerator until chocolate is hardened.  Remove from refrigerator and store biscotti in a tightly sealed container.

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

When my husband is traveling on business (which seems to be way too much lately), I usually keep the cooking to a minimum.  I hate having a big mess to clean up when I am the only one to clean it.  And combined with homework, baths, and bedtime routines, sometimes it just seems like more than I can handle — especially when he is on a long trip.  Single parents have my ultimate admiration.  If parenting with help is exhausting, parenting solo sucks your every will to live.

On those nights, we usually do some simple pasta or soup.  A big pot of soup made at the beginning of the week can feed you for many days.  I love making chicken noodle soup — by the end of the week, the noodles have soaked up so much of the delicious broth that they are a meal on their own.  But our other favorite thing in Daddy’s absence is breakfast for dinner — eggs, omelets, pancakes — you name it.  The kids are guaranteed to love it and the cooking/cleaning load is much easier.

Lately, the kids have fallen in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches — a great combination of a grilled cheese and french toast.  It’s just as easy as the two component dishes and can be mixed and matched with lots of different fillings and dips.  Today we made Apple and Fontina Monte Cristos, but you could easily add ham or turkey, use any kind of cheese, and dip in anything from maple syrup to grainy mustard to whipped cream.  Quite honestly, I think you could make a version of this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

You might even be able to get through a whole week of travel with nothing but Monte Cristos.  Next time he goes to California, I guess.

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

Makes 2-3 sandwiches

Note:  Simple dishes like this are best with simple, fresh ingredients.  In my case, I am extremely lucky to have the wonderful Gemelli Bakery as my challah source.  Use the best bread and cheese you can find.

Half loaf of Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced about 3/4 inches thick
6 ounces Fontina Cheese, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1/8 t cinnamon
Dash of salt and pepper
Butter
Maple Syrup
Grainy Mustard

1.  Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt/pepper in a wide pasta bowl or deep plate.

2.  Place one slice of bread on cutting board.  Make one layer of Fontina slices.  Follow with one layer of apple slices.  Top with another piece of bread.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  If you like, you can spread some grainy mustard right on the bread before cooking (my favorite, not the kids).

3.  Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan or griddle on medium low heat. Hold the sandwich together carefully and dip it into the egg batter on both sides.  Make sure it is coated nicely, but not too saturated.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

4.  Place sandwiches in saute pan or griddle and cook until golden brown.  Flip, press sandwich down a bit, and cook until golden brown on second side.  If your bread is extra thick, you may need to keep flipping for awhile in order to get the cheese to melt (the frequent flipping prevents the bread from becoming too brown).

5.  Remove from pan, cut in half, and serve with maple syrup or grainy mustard on the side.

6.  Pour yourself a tall glass of wine to get through the rest of the evening.

Gluten-Free Chewy Granola Bars

So, I guess I could really title these as gluten-free, wheat-free, nut-free, egg-free, and potentially dairy-free chewy granola bars.  But that seemed a little long.  I could also add that they are quite low in sugar and could potentially be made with no added sugar at all.

Can you tell I have made some New Years resolutions?

If I could advertise that these granola bars were alcohol-free too, trust me, I’d do it.  Because it’s been that kind of a holiday.  Which is to say that it was a great holiday.  One filled with at least twelve pounds of butter (and I’m not exaggerating), two Christmas celebrations which I hosted — first for my wonderful 20 person strong family and then my husband’s much smaller crew, my daughter’s Christmas birthday celebration, a New Years Eve party, lots of little dinner parties in between, and more filled recycling bins than I would ever confess to.

I seriously should have given the recycling crew a Christmas present.  They go around our little circle and spend about 30 seconds at each house taking their two milk containers, nicely bundled newspapers, and a few cans of Diet Coke.  They get to my house and they need to call in freaking reinforcements from neighboring counties. As much as it’s cool that my three year old gets to have his own, feature-length recycling truck show, I start self-flagellating just a tad.   Which is to say I berate myself without hauling out the ropes and switches.

So, yes, I have made some resolutions.  Getting back to normal eating and drinking habits is at the top of the list.  But, I’ve also made the decision to eliminate gluten from my diet for a bit.  There are a variety of reasons, but I have a hunch it is causing me issues — so I am going to get rid of it for at least a month and see how I feel.  I did this once before and I only lasted about four days — and when I lapsed (I baked chocolate chip cookies for the kids and sampled one), I felt lousy, got a headache, and wanted to take a nap.  Back in the old days of low carb diets, I always wondered why they made me feel so fantastic (full of energy, less stressed, more rested, with far fewer upset stomachs).  Maybe the lack of gluten was the reason.  So I am going to do a little experiment and see what happens.

I created these granola bars to have around for a quick breakfast or snack that the kids would enjoy.  You could easily remove the butter and substitute with all coconut oil (or dairy-free margarine) if you wanted them to be dairy-free.  And if you want to cut all the added sugar out, you could eliminate the honey and use only agave nectar.   Feel free to subsitute nuts/seeds/fruit/etc.

And I am going to consider it a little moral victory that there is no booze in this recipe.  Much unlike everything else I have made or consumed in the last month.  (BTW, Recycling Dudes, I owe you big time.)

Gluten-Free Chewy Granola Bars

Makes about 24 (a 9×13 pan)

2 cups old fashioned oats (make sure they are gluten-free if you are watching)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 t sea salt
1/2 cup sunbutter (or other nut butter or soy butter)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 T butter (replace with either coconut oil or dairy free margarine to make dairy free)
3 T coconut oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan. Mix together oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, coconut, and salt.  Spread onto a sheet pan and bake for 14-15 minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) until the mixture is just golden.

2.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine sunbutter, honey, agave nectar, butter, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until everything is fully melted, combined, and just beginning to bubble a bit. (about 3 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in dried cherries.  Set aside.

3.  When oat mixture is golden, remove from oven and pour it into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in warm sunbutter mixture and thoroughly combine.  Pour into greased pan and pat down completely.  Let cool and cut into bars.

Super Fluffy Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

I usually steer clear of pancakes.  They are just not my bag, baby.  I am sure when I was a child that was different — as children tend to subsist on the “elven” food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup).  But now that I am older, I am quite happy with an egg and a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast.  Of course, the kids still clamor for pancakes frequently.  They just don’t see the beauty of an over easy egg.

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So I make them quite often.  But I have rules.  First, you must only use real maple syrup.  The other stuff is disgusting and not at all maple.  And I am *not* sorry if I just offended you.  We probably wouldn’t have been close anyway.  (OK.  So I am sort of joking.  I love lots of people who use fake maple syrup.  But I would love them more if they didn’t.)  Second, they must be whole grain.  If we are going to have dessert for breakfast (come on, you know that’s what it is), it is at least going to be a little healthier.  Third, pancakes do not come from a boxed mix.  Seriously, by the time you measure it out and add liquid, you could have made them from scratch.  Maybe Beef Wellington might benefit from a convenience mix.  But pancakes??  And fourth, they will not be made of lead.  Even white flour pancakes tend to be heavy and make you feel like you need a nap.  So, what we make is going to be fluffy, dammit.

Re-reading that last paragraph makes me sound like the Pancake Nazi, doesn’t it?  It’s true enough, actually, because I do support health care reform.

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So, this is our go to recipe for whole wheat pancakes.  It was modified from a recipe in the landmark cookbook by … Strawberry Shortcake.  Yes, the cartoon character.  I am not sure if cartoon characters require attribution, but I’m going to play by the rules.  In this version, we made banana pancakes.  You could just as easily leave the bananas out, add chocolate chips, use apples or blueberries, etc.  However you make them though, they will puff up and come alive like Frankenstein (who also supports health care reform, I believe — however his take is different than Stalin’s because he is a proponent of a triggered public option).

Enjoy.

Super Fluffy Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Serves 4-6

2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
5 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 T sugar or honey
2 eggs
2 cups of milk
3 T melted butter
Sliced bananas (or other add-ins)
Vegetable oil or butter to grease your pan or griddle

1.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a medium bowl.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Add in the melted butter.  (If you use honey instead of sugar, add it here with the wet ingredients, rather than with the dry ones.)

3.  Whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time — until the pancake batter just comes together.  Don’t over mix.

4.  Pour a ladleful of batter onto a preheated and greased griddle (at about medium heat — each pancake surface is different and you know what temp is best probably).  Lay a few banana slices on pancake batter and allow pancake to cook until golden on the first side.  Flip and and cook until golden on second side.  And as anyone who makes pancakes knows, the first batch is usually the worst.  Save those for the people who don’t like real maple syrup.

5.  Remove pancakes from heat and stack on plate while you cook the remaining ones.  Serve with plenty of butter and REAL maple syrup.

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Whole Grain Dark Chocolate and Dried Cherry Biscotti

If I were to make a list of things that change when you have kids, trips to the coffee shop wouldn’t even make the top 25. Because pretty much every thing you do as a human being during the course of a day is impacted by children.  Eating, sleeping, working, cooking, going to the bathroom, vacations, cleaning, driving, restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, shopping, exercising … the list could go on for, umm, days.  I really wish someone would have told me that children change everything.  Oh wait, they did.

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But I do think back to those unencumbered trips for a cup of coffee when I could read the newspaper or think about a project without breaking up fights and cleaning up spilled hot chocolate.  And I have come to realize that your fellow coffee shop patrons will dread the sight of you walking in with children because their blissful, quiet newspaper reading is about to come to an end.  And so, you have four options:  1) Say “I don’t effin’ care” and take the kids anyway, 2) Give up trips to the coffee shop, 3) Only patronize coffee shops with drive thrus (I’m a big fan of coffee shops with drive thrus), or 4) Bring the coffee shop home.

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Number four makes sense, actually.  At home, the cost of the coffee is actually in line with, umm, the price of coffee — as opposed to some sort of liquid golden petroleum that cures cancer.  Your kids can run free around the house and watch Dora or color on your walls — so no dirty looks from the kidless crowd.  You can use fair trade, organic coffees with local or organic milk.  You can use your own wireless for free.  You don’t have to pretend to enjoy that random Latin Jazz artist.  And you can make your own biscotti where you control the ingredients!

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So, while I still have no ability to make a heart in my foamed milk, I can make a pretty decent biscotti.  This one is whole grain with additional wheat germ and ground flax, lightly sweetened with honey, and studded with dark chocolate and dried cherries.  I don’t like my biscotti to make me feel like I am going to break a tooth, so I keep mine more on the tender side.  But if you like them harder, you can cut them thinner and/or bake them longer.

I can’t promise you that the coffee experience will be the same as the days before kids, but the biscotti will be a lot better.

Whole Grain Dark Chocolate and Dried Cherry Biscotti

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (from about 6 oz. of chocolate)
3-4 oz. additional dark chocolate, melted (optional for dipping after biscotti are cooked)

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, ground flax, wheat germ, salt, and baking powder.

3.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together butter and honey for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one a time and mix until incorporated.  Add vanilla extract and mix.

4.  Mix dry ingredients (flour, etc.) into butter mixture in about three separate additions.  Mix until just combined and then switch to a wooden spoon or spatula.  Stir in cherries and dark chocolate.

5.  Shape cookie dough into a flattened 4 inch by 12 inch log.  Try to square it off on the ends and keep it uniform in thickness.

6.  Bake the log for 30 minutes until just golden.  Remove from oven, slide log (on parchment) onto a cooling rack, and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

7.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.  Carefully transfer the log to a cutting board (Man, I wish I could come up with a better term than log.  It is starting to seem obscene.).  Using a very sharp knife, slice into 3/4 inch biscotti and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Arrange on baking sheet with the cut side up. (You should end up with about 16-18 biscotti).  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  (Slightly longer baking times will produce crunchier biscotti.)

8.  Remove from oven and transfer biscotti to cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely and drizzle with melted dark chocolate (if desired).

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Whole Grain English Muffin Bread

The popularity of backyard gardens, it seems, has skipped a generation.  I am now thrilled to drive around town and see so many vegetable gardens all over town (more this year than I have ever seen).  And I have been even more pleased to see how many young families are getting into gardening — from a small plot with some tomatoes and herbs to entire front yards devoted to beans, corn, broccoli, and peppers.   All of a sudden, it seems like the local food and community farms message is catching on.

But clearly this is not such an impressive feat.  My great grandparents’ generation saw the backyard garden as a necessity for feeding their families.  My grandparents’ generation had more luxuries when they were in young family mode (in the form of more easily available groceries and produce), but many of them continued with gardening for necessity or for hobby.  But somewhere in our search for convenience — and probably because of major prosperity — my parents’ generation never thought much about the idea of a vegetable garden.

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In my family, both sets of grandparents maintained beautiful gardens.  And my grandmother, at 95 years old, still asks me every time I see her what goodies were in our CSA box that week.  We  talk about what she was successful growing and what she remembers eating as a child — everything from clabbered raw milk to plum jam.  We have so much to learn about food from this generation.  I truly believe we have been wandering around like nomads buying processed groceries from all over the planet and avoiding eggs or carbs or butter or whatever the bad food of the year is.  Our grandparents knew that we needed to eat whole foods, with the seasons and, quite simply, not so much.  (I should add that my grandmother graduated from college with a degree in nutrition.  When eggs became unwelcome on our plates because of cholesterol, she protested QUITE loudly.  And she was correct in the end.)

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She has some wonderful recipes and what I am sharing with you today is one of them.  It’s a well-known recipe, but when a friend reminded me of it the other day,  I had to share because I haven’t heard it talked about in years.   I remember eating toasted english muffin bread at her house throughout my childhood.  With some butter and homemade strawberry jam, I couldn’t think of a better breakfast.  I have vivid memories of her toasting and buttering entire loaves to put on a platter — because we always had a seated breakfast in the dining room.

This is a super easy bread that combines both yeast and baking soda which gives you a slight “nook and cranny” texture when sliced and toasted.  It’s an easy stir together recipe with only one rise and no kneading.  My kids absolutely LOVED it.  And it freezes beautifully after it is baked.  My version uses white whole wheat flour (either all WW or half WW/half all purpose flour), but feel free to make it with entirely all purpose flour if you want the original.

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I’m going to make a batch with all purpose flour sometime soon to see if I can replicate my exact memories, but I think I will fail because I can’t replicate the surroundings that made it all so wonderful.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to take my kids back to those places — to those houses with barns and cousins and berry patches and rows of corn, all begging to be eaten and explored.

Whole Grain English Muffin Bread

Makes two loaves

2 1/2 cups of white/all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
2 packages of active dry yeast
1 T sugar
2 t fine sea salt
1/4 t baking powder
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of water

1.  In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of white AP flour, 1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

2.  Heat milk and water in a small saucepan until very warm (about 120-130 degrees F).

3.  Stir liquids into flour mixture with a whisk.

4.  Add one additional cup of white AP flour and one additional cup of white whole wheat flour and stir in well with a wooden spoon.  You will end up with a very thick batter (or a loose dough, however you want to look at it). (Alternatively, you can use all white whole wheat flour or all white AP flour if you like — 5 cups total.  If you use all white AP flour, you may need an additional 1/2 cup).

5.  Butter two metal loaf pans and sprinkle all over with cornmeal.  Tap out excess.  Divide dough into two equal portions and pat into prepared pans.  Sprinkle tops of loaves with additional cornmeal.

6.  Cover pans with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. (I use the proofing setting on my oven).

7.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake loaves for 20 minutes until golden.

8.  Loosen loaves from pans and remove immediately to cool on racks.  Slice and serve toasted.  (Loaves can be tightly wrapped and frozen.)

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Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam

I’ll start this by blaming the alcohol and the heat.  And my family.  Last week we were on vacation with my parents, siblings/spouses, and kids/cousins in Orlando.  And it was hot.  Like 100 degrees hot with stifling humidity.  We went to Sea World and I nearly melted.  Don’t believe me?  Ask my husband.  I have no tolerance for discomfort.  And dropping hundreds of dollars to walk around a crowded theme park in 100 degree heat is pretty much my idea of pure pain.  And at the end of the theme park days, my siblings and I all agreed that our kids were much happier at the pool with their cousins.  I am pretty sure they will have better memories of swimming for hours on end (with their best buds in the whole world) than they will of trudging around theme parks and waiting in lines in practically dangerous heat.  Or that is how we justified it.

My memories, however, will be a little dimmed.  Because we sat around the pool in the heat, and my goodness, how could we not have a cold drink?  It was HOT, remember?  OK, maybe one cold beer with lunch.  Or a frozen layered daiquiri with a rum floater.  Or a mojito.  Or three mojitos.  Once it hits the lips, you know?

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We had an absolutely fantastic time and I am sad today thinking of how hard it is to get the whole family together any more — as the kids get older and the distances get further and the schedules get busier, I realized that this was an almost once in a lifetime opportunity.  So you will forgive me for not feeling like writing up recipes while I was away, won’t you?

And I realize that most of us are now past strawberry season.  Frankly, I was lucky to get any jam made in the flurry of the last week of school, packing, and getting ready to go.  So, if you have some strawberries left, give it a whirl.  Otherwise, wait for raspberries or blueberries.  I bet they would work equally well.  I set out to create a batch of jam that used honey — because the standard recipe for strawberry freezer jam requires four cups of sugar.  FOUR CUPS.  Are you kidding me?  That scared me off right away and I can’t believe I hadn’t given it a second thought before.

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And I do freezer jam because I am still too scared to can.  I am pretty convinced I’ll give my family botulism and everyone will make fun of me on my deathbed.  “I can’t believe she didn’t sterilize the jars for 10.2 minutes.  What was she thinking?  It’s just so sad.”

So, here’s the recipe.  Now I am off to take a run and detox from excessive alcohol and french fries.

Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam

Makes about six 8-10 oz. jars

4 pints of strawberries (about three pounds of berries)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cup of water
1 package of No Sugar Needed Pectin
1 T lemon juice
1 cup of honey

1.  Clean and stem berries.  Mash one layer of berries at a time in a large bowl until all berries are mashed.

2.  In a small saucepan, whisk together apple juice, water, and pectin.  Bring to a hard boil and boil for one minute.

3.  Add honey and lemon juice to berries and stir well.  Add in hot pectin mixture and stir well again to make sure everything is combined.

4.  Ladle into clean jars (glass is fine) and screw on lids.  Let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to set up and then transfer to the freezer to store.

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