Tag Archives: breakfast

Everybody Else Is Doing It, and So Are We

16 Aug

Quinoa, long the province of stores in which patchouli figured prominently, has gone mainstream. There are now quinoa recipes in tons of magazines and on tons of cooking websites, and not just the “crunchy” ones. Quinoa is the It food.

Honestly, I only heard of it a few years ago, and another year or so passed before someone took pity on me and told me how to pronounce it. Which is nice, because it’s now making regular appearances in our kitchen. It’s easy to cook, has a better nutritional profile than rice, and has a mild, nutty flavor that blends well with lots of other foods. It’s the blank slate of proteins: we’ve tried it with salads, chili, stir fry, and a few other things I’m forgetting. Turns out it’s pretty tasty in baked goods too.

I’ve made at least four different kinds of muffins this summer, with varying degrees of success. (Did you know that blueberry muffins can go off? Not stale–off.) My husband has been fairly indifferent to my efforts thus far–he’s more responsible than me and usually eats oatmeal for breakfast. But he was the initial champion of quinoa in our house, so I was very happy to come across this recipe for quinoa muffins. Finally, a muffin recipe that might mean I wouldn’t have to eat the whole batch myself!

The original calls for raisins, but many of the commenters on the MS site reported success with dried berries, diced dried apricots, or chopped nuts. I was doing a mental inventory of our dried fruit stash, but then I read a comment that suggested using chocolate chips “so the kids will eat them.”

“Screw the kids,” I thought. “I like chocolate too!”*

So I biffed the “healthy” profile a little with the chocolate, but I did tweak the recipe to use less sugar, went with almond milk instead of whole milk, and I replaced half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat. My muffins look darker than those on the MS site because I decided to chop the chocolate a little, figuring that the tiniest bits of chocolate would melt when mixed with the still-warm quinoa. They did, so I ended up with a slightly chocolatey batter with larger chips throughout. I also ended up with muffins that I didn’t have to eat all by myself. Success!

Quinoa Muffins

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups flour (all purpose, or a combination of white whole wheat, wheat, etc. )
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mix-ins: raisins, dried berries, chopped nuts, or chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup milk (dairy or unsweetened almond)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or similar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour or place muffin papers in a 12-cup tin.

Bring the quinoa and water to boil in a medium saucepan. Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Measure out 2 cups cooked quinoa and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and mix-ins. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, egg, oil, and vanilla.

Gently stir to incorporate the cooked quinoa into the flour mixture. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl and stir until just combined.

Divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the tin for a bit before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes: These muffins freeze well wrapped in foil, and they’re excellent warmed in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. (The frozen muffins, that is. If you want warm unfrozen muffins, 15 seconds should do it.)

quinoa and chocolate chip muffins

* Warning: Parenting advice from a non-parent ahead…

In general, I think adding what is essentially candy to food “so the kids will eat it” is not an ideal habit, and, frankly, only seems necessary because the parents have established that precedent. “But SGL, you sanctimonious jerk, you used chocolate chips!”  you say. Yes, yes I did. And sometimes I have cheesecake for breakfast. I am enjoying my impressionable-young-child free days while they last.

So You Forgot to Eat at Your Wedding? Have Some Quiche.

9 Aug

One of my favorite parts of our wedding last summer was the backyard brunch my parents hosted the next morning. It was nice to have the chance to catch up with everyone in a more relaxed setting and while not wearing several pounds of lace. And there was food. Glorious, glorious food. See, I had made Bride Mistake #1, the mistake I never should have made, because it had been drilled into my head by every wedding magazine and every friend who had been through it: I didn’t eat at the reception. We had a cocktail reception, so there was no designated time for me to grab a plate and sit down. I distinctly remember my matron of honor offering to fix me a plate and I distinctly remember saying, “Oh, no, don’t worry, I’ll get my own in a few minutes.” Midnight found me eating stale Oreos from a vending machine in my wedding gown while my much smarter and not hungry husband looked on and shook his head.

I tried my best, then, to do the brunch justice. I parked myself at a table and did not budge until I had made up for the reception and then some. But try as I might, my mother was left with six or seven quiches–spinach and mushroom, cheddar and bacon, ham…Lucky for us, the quiches froze well. The next day my parents drove us, our wedding gifts, and several quiches back to Chicago.

We had two days in the city before we were scheduled to leave for the honeymoon. During those two days we lived off quiche, wedding cake, extra bottles of champagne (did I mention there was extra champagne too?), and trippy Nicholas Cage movies.

So in honor of our first anniversary, I decided to try my hand at quiche. My recipe is basically a mashup of advice from Michael Ruhlman (caramelize your onions! shallots!), Julia Child (naturally), and my own kitchen. Technically, my kitchen did not provide advice, but I am becoming more and more averse to shopping trips for a single ingredient. Hence the 2% milk rather than cream, and a parmesan topping rather than a softer cheese incorporated throughout. And really, this is comfort food, which should be simple and flexible. But if you feel the need to use French cuisine to make you doubt yourself and the very world we live in,  try one of these. Which I, arrogant little thing, did for French class when I was in high school. It went…it went.

But live and learn, and celebrate with quiche instead.

Rustic* Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Quiche

  • 1 pastry crust , rolled out large enough to accommodate the high sides of a springform pan
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • a few tablespoons of butter
  • salt
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (cremini or button)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 oz ounces baby spinach
  • 2 cups milk (2%, whole, or cream–pick your poison)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan

the crust:

Unlike pies and cheesecakes, you can’t get away with not parbaking the crust, so preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Foil the seam of your springform pan and place a parchment circle in the center. Gently place the rolled crust over your springform and press it to the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim any excess from the top edge. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

Now, if you’ve got pie weights, you’re smarter than me. I ended up making a contraption that mostly worked. I wrapped a round cake pan slightly smaller than my springform with folded strips of aluminum foil until the sides touched the crust. There were a few puffy spots in the parbaked crust where the foil wasn’t perfectly flush with the sides, but that didn’t seem to hurt the final product.

Bake the crust for 30 minutes; set aside while you prepare the filling. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees.

the filling:

First, the onions: Melt a little butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion slices, toss to coat, add a little salt, and put the lid on. Keep covered for 10 minutes–this will give the onions time to steam themselves and get the caramelization process rolling.

After 10 minutes, remove the lid and turn the heat down to low-ish (a 2 on my gas range, not the “low” setting). The darker the onion, the sweeter and more complex the flavor, so give yourself enough time to get the onions where you want them. I kept mine on for about 35 minutes, stirring more frequently toward the end to prevent sticking. If you have some on hand, deglaze with a splash of red wine. Balsamic vinegar works well too.

When your onions are done, remove them from the pot and set aside. Melt another tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots and a little salt and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms have reduced by at least half–they should be soft, but not floppy. One round of mushrooms cooperated very nicely, but another batch produced much more liquid than usual. I couldn’t cook it off without overcooking the mushrooms, so I simply ladled it out. You don’t want too much liquid going in with your filling.

While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk together the milk, eggs, a little salt, and thyme in a bowl or large (at least 4 cup) measuring cup.

When the mushrooms are done, turn the heat off and put the onions back in the pot. Add the spinach and mix everything together. The spinach will wilt a bit. Spread the vegetables evenly in the parbaked crust. Pour the eggs/milk over the filling. (Note: depending on how much your onions and mushrooms cooked down, you might not be able to fit all the egg/milk mixture; the crust should accommodate at minimum 3 1/2 cups, though.) Sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until the quiche is puffed and browned. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before removing the springform and slicing. (Don’t worry, it will still be warm to serve.)

* Why am I calling it “rustic”? Because I can. And “rustic” things seem to be in vogue, so maybe it will improve my SEO. But mostly because it’s not one of those pretty quiches in a fluted tart pan. Which have their place, of course, and I’m sure this recipe could be halved to accommodate such a device.

Here Be Monsters

24 Jul

I don’t really like vegetables.

I mean, they’re ok, and often quite good prepared certain ways, but I can’t say I get excited about them. I do see the irony in this, yes: a vegetarian blog by someone who doesn’t love vegetables? If I had my druthers, all the vegetable nutrition in the world would be contained in russet potatoes, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions. Carrots and celery are acceptable if they have been cooked long enough to take on the flavor of whatever they’re in–soup, pot roast–i.e., they must not taste like carrots or celery. My husband happily munches spinach straight from the bag. I kind of want to punch him.

I want to make it clear that I do not lead a vegetableless existence. I do eat salads, last night’s dinner had eggplant, asparagus is great in frittatas, and so on. But my vegetable consumption, especially greens, is too low for any reasonably health-conscious adult. So how could I get the greens without needing to sit dejectedly in front of a pile of kale?

Smoothie-making, and its cousin, Juicing, are getting a bad rap, and in some ways they deserve it. Sugar is sugar no matter how you slice it, and fruit has a lot of sugar. So, smoothies can be a glycemic disaster, and juicing is even worse, because you’ve lost the regulating benefits of fiber. And the fat content can vary wildly, in either direction: add fruit to frozen yogurt and you might as well have a milkshake; add only fruit to water and you’ll be hungry in an hour.

So how can you avoid a monstrous concoction that will give you nothing but trouble? Keep a few things in mind:

Is there fat or protein?
Fat and protein = full. Most smoothie recipes use banana to make them, well, smooth. But try avocado instead. Yes, it’s high in fat, but not that kind of fat, and it’s lower in sugar, which means you’ll feel satisfied longer. Avocados do require a little planning  to give them time to ripen, and once they’re ripe they need to be used quickly, but it is possible to freeze them for ease of use. Just puree in a blender with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per avocado, and then use an ice cube tray to freeze individual portions. The cubes should be good for about three months.

Plain greek yogurt or protein powder work well too–you’re unlikely to notice the “grit” that protein drinks made with water have. And for heaven’s sake, none of that Dannon or Yoplait stuff if you go the yogurt route. Avoid added sugar in whatever dairy or protein you decide to incorporate (plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, plain nut butters, etc.).

Is there fiber?
Fat and protein and fiber = a smoothie that will keep you going until lunch, or dinner, or whatever. Don’t forget that even a “good” smoothie has as many calories as a meal–they’re not snacks. (Unless you can allot 350 or so calories per snack, in which case you are probably hanging around the Olympic pool this week.)

Is there sugar?
Trick question. Unless you’re doing an all-veg smoothie, your fruit is contributing plenty of sugar. I do find that  some frozen fruit (pineapple, raspberry) is less sweet than fresh, so I sometimes add a little raw honey if I’m using a greens mix that is particularly…assertive. I can’t comment on things like stevia, as I haven’t branched that far into alternative sweeteners.

So, there are about a million green smoothie recipes floating around the internet, some good, some bad, but here’s what I’ve been drinking these days to help myself feel a little more like a responsible adult. Would I be better off with a salad? Sure. But what should happen and what is likely to happen, are, as we all know, two very different things.

color-coordinated green straw poking up Loch Ness style

Green Monster Smoothie

  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple bits
  • 2-3 cups greens (Trader Joe’s just came out with a kale, collard, and spinach mix!)
  • 1-2 cups water (start with one and add more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey

Roar.

What’s In the Cupboard? Muffins

7 Jun

As their name suggests, I didn’t set out to make these particular muffins. These muffins are a product of their circumstances, namely the presence of overripe bananas, leftover coconut from a failed macaroon project (which I might tell you about someday, once I recover), a desire to do a little more baking before it gets too hot, and an impulse purchase of almond meal.

These muffins are not flashy or fancy; they would not get your attention at the bakery or at brunch. These are the one-dish casseroles of muffins. I don’t like my pastries particularly sweet to begin with (give me a scone over a muffin any day, and please, leave off that glaze business) and these are a nice balance between a “traditional” muffin and the bran-heavy sort you feel noble for choking down but never enjoy. I hope you enjoy these.

What’s in the Cupboard? Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 12-muffin tin with oil (spray canola worked fine on my nonstick tin) or line with papers.

In a large bowl, stir together the banana, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and honey. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, almond meal, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Gently stir in the coconut and oatmeal.

Portion into 12 muffins cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before turning out of the tin.

On Breakfast

23 Apr

My husband and I recently sat down to talk about our eating habits. We both have weekday schedules that make sitting down to home-cooked, healthy meals a challenge. But after taking a serious look at our current roster of go-to meals, and the amount of money we spend on takeout, we decided to spend a few hours coming up with a plan.

I’ve always been the chef in the relationship. I’m good at it, and I love feeding people. But this year of graduate school has basically taken over my life, and I’m down to cooking an interesting meal maybe once every two weeks. My husband’s comfort zone ends at oatmeal, fried eggs, and guacamole (but the guacamole is fantastic). He is, however, dedicated to branching out. Basically, we had to come up with a system that allows us both to contribute to better diets in sustainable ways. For my husband, we started with identifying a handful of simple, healthy recipes that he can get comfortable with and put into regular rotation when it’s his night to cook. He’s already introduced me to quinoa, a food that I had never heard of until my mid-20s (let alone knew how to pronounce).

For my part, I decided to start with breakfast. I am a sucker for baked goods. I can leave a bag of candy alone all day, but a plate of brownies will be gone by bedtime. Plus, while the lemon poppyseed muffins from the coffee shop around the corner are tasty, they are huge and I shudder to think how many calories are hiding in there. So it seemed logical to look into baked goods that I could 1) eat knowing I’m getting a balanced amount of calories, fat, fiber, and protein, and 2) portion out in ways that will keep me from eating the whole batch. I found the answer in my latest indulgence in my cookbook-buying addiction: Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health.

So, without further ado, I bring you Banana Breakfast Muffins*

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used greek-style 2%)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats

Beat the wet ingredients until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the berries. Portion out into 12 muffin cups and sprinkle with oats. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

* Adapted slightly. Moosewood called for nonfat yogurt and wheat germ rather than flax, but I’m a big believer in adjusting to what I have on hand. I also added the oat topping, just because I love oats and I thought it would look nice.

* Second revision: I mixed in a heaping 1/4 cup of oats and added a scant 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, as I found the first batch just a little dry.

Enjoy!