For Sundays That Carry The Weight Of The Week On Their Shoulders
When your days end with a sweet paste of moistened powdered sugar packed into your cuticles and splotchy stains of pastel food coloring inching up your forearms, sweets are usually the last things you crave. When dusty flour finds its way into places you could have sworn had been covered with layers of clothing and chocolate is discovered behind your ear in the bath, five days in a row, your weekends are usually spent avoiding a kitchen, at all costs. Particularly the sweeter side of a kitchen.
Well, I can tell you that whipped cream flecked my forehead for a good hour on Monday, rainbow sprinkles found their way into my shoes on Tuesday, I accidentally sat in frosting on Wednesday, Thursday, cake batter splotched my jeans and on Friday buttercream, in every shade of the rainbow, cloyed my palate as a result of too much quality control.
And while Saturday was decidedly savory, today, on the seventh day of a very sweet week (one of many sweet weeks spent in the world of deserts meant to surprise and delight as many millions as possible) I found myself craving the sweeter offerings of brunch fare. Pancakes, to be precise.
But, honestly, I couldn't bring myself to pour yet another measure of sugar into a bowl, or to sift bleached, stark white flour into a milky batter. Not after a full week of it. This morning, I needed naturally sweet. I needed sweet that would tint my glasses rose, to match my still-stained, candied fingertips.
Now, I've made two-ingredient banana pancakes before (look 'em up - so good!), but today I wanted something with a little more substance. A pancake that was light and fluffy, but packed full of protein and flavor. I mean, if you're opting for pancakes over eggs, you need to kick 'em up a notch.
These babies are healthy, delicious and they'll keep you going, even when all you want to do is bury yourself in the generic cushions of your IKEA couch and binge watch every happy ending Netflix has to offer. (You can still do that - no judgement - just fill up on these first.)
Mash your bananas to the consistency of baby food, then whisk in the eggs and coconut milk until well combined.
Add the almond flour, rice flour and baking powder and whisk until incorporated. Finally stir in the extracts and salt.
Grease a pan set over low-medium heat with coconut oil (or butter) and spoon about 2 tablespoonfuls of batter per pancake, onto the pan.
Since these are gluten-free and have a lot of moisture from the bananas in them, they will take a little longer to cook, so keep the heat relatively low and cook them for about 2 minutes per side, until golden. Just like regular pancakes, they are ready to flip when little air bubbles pop on the surface.
I heated up some wild blueberries with a little honey in a pan and poured them over-top.
After a week that had me willingly take a needle full of vitamins to the gluteous medius and a bath (or two) in sugar-syrupy water, these pancakes still hit a spot I didn't know I'd want to hit again, any time soon. Bananas, right?
Comfort Food You Can Feel Comfortable With
When all the Holiday lights are turned off and the frantic hustle and bustle dies down, our chilly and dimly lit evenings could use something delicious to keep us satiated and satisfied. Believe it or not, during this health-crazed start to the year, pizza may be the answer. Cauliflower pizza, that is.
January, perhaps more than any other month of the year, calls for comfort food. While October through December seem to have the market cornered on all things rich and indulgent, given the onslaught of Holiday cheer, cold, gray and quiet January could use a little help. A month rich with resolutions, restrictions and post-Holiday-regret, needs a healthy dose of feel-good food.
While pizza certainly checks the 'comfort food box', I bet you didn't think it could make it onto the 'healthy' list, as well. But you see, when you substitute a traditional pizza crust for its cauliflower alternerative, you're ticking more boxes than you may have thought possible.
As opposed to a standard, white-flour pizza crust, which really offers very little nutritional value (albeit delicious), a cauliflower crust is low in carbohydrates and packed full of all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants this cruciferous vegetable has to offer. In fact, one serving of cauliflower contains over 75% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C, not to mention lots of good fiber to aid in digestion. Pizza's starting to sound like a really good idea, right?
While many cauliflower crusts claim to be a healthy alternative to 'the real deal', they also seem to be packed full of more cheese than most standard delivery pizzas wear on top. Sure, they're gluten free, but 'healthy' may be a bit of a stretch.
This simple rendition goes easy on the cheese, without sacrificing flavor, and makes for a meal you'll feel really good about.
Just because it's January, doesn't mean you need to sip every meal through a straw - you can have your pizza, and eat it, too.
For the pizza crust:
For the toppings:
Set your oven to 400*F.
In a food processor, process the cauliflower into an even crumb. Once it looks a bit like quinoa and has a fine, granular texture, turn the machine off. Alternatively, you can use a hand-grater, if you don't own a food processor.
In a large bowl, combine the processed cauliflower, almond meal and cheese, and mix well. At this point, season it to taste with salt and pepper - remember, there's a fair amount of salt in the cheese, so season gradually.
Once you're happy with the level of seasoning, add in your eggs and mix well to combine.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cake ring in the center of it. Now, scoop the cauliflower mixture into the ring and pat it out evenly. Try to give yourself a bit of a raised edge around the outside, by gently pushing the mixture ever-so-slightly up the sides of the ring. This will ensure that the egg stays on the pizza when you add it later.
Using a paper towel, blot any excess moisture from the pizza crust by pressing into it gently. Cauliflower contains a lot of water, and you want to get rid of some of it, before you bake it.
Remove the ring and bake the crust until golden around the edges, about 30 minutes.
While the crust bakes, add the olive oil to a pan, over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for one minute, then add the tomatoes and sauté until blistered and soft, about 5 minutes longer. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Top the baked crust with the cooked tomatoes and the remaining 2 tablspoons of cheese, then crack the egg into the center of the pizza.
Set the oven to broil and bake the pizza for a further 6 minutes or so, until the egg white is set, but the yolk is still runny.
Finally, top the pizza with the arugula, and drizzle it with a finishing touch of olive oil.
*Real Pecorino cheese is made from sheep's milk, which I find easier to digest than cow's milk. If lactose isn't a problem for you, you can by all means substitute Parmesan cheese here.
Listen up, ladies and gentlemen, because we're talking melty, dark chocolate, buttery, rich panettone and just a kiss of sweet, aromatic bourbon, baked in a custard and served warm, drizzled with more chocolate. Do I have your attention? (Personally, I'm riveted!)
I have always been a bread pudding kind of girl. It's one of those desserts that I just can not pass up. Even when I really, really have no interest in something sweet at the end of a meal out, I'll order it, if it's being offered. 'Yes, I'm totally stuffed, but by all means, please bring a big bowl of bread soaked in an egg mixture and bathed in some sort of vanilla cream sauce - I'll find room.' (Everyone knows there's an extra pocket inside, specifically designed for dessert - biology 101, y'all.)
Of course there are good bread puddings and there are bad bread puddings. Too little custard and too much bread, results in a pudding that's dry and heavy. Using a bread that's too dense, results in a pudding that's stodgy and feels, well, a lot like a brick plummeting straight through dinner, to the bottom of your stomach.
But a good bread pudding...well, a good bread pudding is pretty much bliss. Day-old bread, that's airy and light, is transformed into comfort on a spoon - transporting you straight back to childhood. The flavor of toasty, nutty butter, caramelized sugar and vanilla-y custard soaks deeply into every crevice, and the light, eggy base puffs what once was bread, into pillows of moist, mouthwatering dessert. (Sometimes I think the line between Harlequin romance novels and food writing, is very fine, indeed.)
With the intent to make a blissfully good bread pudding, I picked up a dark chocolate chip panettone, the other day. (Trader Joes has one, and it's yummy!) In case you're not familiar, panettone is a sweet Italian bread, that is both eggy and buttery, and is traditionally made around Christmas. It is often studded with raisins or candied orange zest, but can sometimes be found laced with dark chocolate chips. Its airy texture makes it perfect for a lighter rendition of bread pudding, and when left to dry out for a day or two, it serves as the ideal sponge for a rich and decadent custard.
If you can't find a panettone with chocolate already in it, simply add about 1/2 a cup of dark chocolate chips to your soaking bread.
Cut your panettone into 1-inch cubes, add them to a large bowl and mix in 2 tbsp of sugar and the melted butter. Give it a good toss and then set it aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the eggs and remaining cup of sugar, and whisk with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy - about 3 minutes.
Then add in the milk, cream, salt and vanilla. Mix that well. Finally, add the bourbon and mix until fully incorporated.
Pour the custard over the bread, mix it gently to combine everything, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for as little as 2 hours or up to overnight.
Heat your oven to 325*F. Butter an 8-inch round, 2-inch high cake pan liberally, and pour the bread and custard mixture into it. Pat everything down gently, to make sure you have an even bread pudding, and bake it for about an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. You want the pudding to be slightly springy to the touch and golden brown, but you don't want to see any liquid remaining.
Let the pudding cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes and then flip it out. Drizzle it with melted dark chocolate and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Be sure to serve it warm - and hey, if you wanted to throw some vanilla ice cream on top, I wouldn't call you crazy.
Yes, it's dessert, but it's full of eggs, milk and bread, so it's technically breakfast, too! Christmas morning, anyone? You know a day spent in pj's with your entire family and all the chaos...umm, I mean joy - all the joy that brings, could use a few tablespoons of bourbon at the start of it. (Perhaps followed by the middle and end of it, too!)
Because Sweet Potato pie isn't the only game in town
Have you ever arrived home, to find a big, beat-up box of sweet potatoes perched on your doorstep? No? Well I'm sorry, but you're missing out! That's exactly what I discovered the other day, and I've been reaping the sweet rewards ever since.
A dear friend from Atlanta, GA took it upon himself to send both me and my sister, some of the best sweet potatoes the southeast has to offer, and since the day I opened the box, they've appeared in almost every meal I've made, served and eaten. I'm convinced that, by this point, the blood in my veins must be running sweet and orange to the tune of Alabama's 'Song of the South.' Just bring me peaches and call me Scarlet, dammit - it's all 'y'alls' and big hair over here.
From curried sweet potato and peanut stew, to sweet potato and gruyere gratin, to rich and creamy pie that proved a welcome respite from its pumpkin-y relative, I've found myself sneaking this highly nutritious and stupidly delicious root tuber into as much as I possibly can.
But you know, there comes a certain point, when you look at the last four sweet potatoes lying in a basket on your kitchen floor, and your mind draws a total blank. With whiskers quietly but certainly beginning to sprout, and skin puckering ever-so-slightly at either end, it's only a matter of time before what once was a complex carbohydrate, turns into a compost carbohydrate, and the sweet indulgence of a box shipped with care, turns decidedly sour.
Scrolling through my internal Scandinavian-meets-Southern girl index, I recalled a recipe I stumbled on not too long ago, and thought 'heck yes, y'all - that's it!'
Though the recipe I found for butternut squash muffins, was a great jumping-off point, I felt it could use a few tweaks - and given my current produce inventory, one such modification was staring me right in the face. With the addition of a crumbly nut topping, significantly less oil and the abandonment of butternut squash, these gluten-free, dairy-free muffins are light, airy and totally delicious.
(Recipe adapted from Paleo in PDX)
Yield: About 8 muffins
Set your oven to 350*F and line a muffin tin with cupcake/muffin liners.
Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, coconut flour, 1/3 cup coconut oil, honey, baking soda, salt, eggs and extract in a bowl and mix until a smooth batter has formed.
Using an ice cream scooper, for evenly-sized muffins, fill the liners almost all the way to the top. The muffins won't rise a great deal, so don't worry about them spilling over.
Mix together the brown sugar, chopped nuts and remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to create a crumbly topping, and divide it evenly over the muffins.
Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean when inserted.
So, next time you find yourself with a big box of Mississippi reds (or any other sweet potato, for that matter), break out the mixing bowl, muffin tin and Southern drawl and get to it. You'll be glad you did.
Y'all come back now, y'hear!
For chilly mornings that need a little something extra
It's the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and it's cold and grey beyond the panes of my window. As a matter of fact, the rain is coming down in droves, and when I finally swung my legs out from beneath the covers and onto the bare wooden floor this morning, I promptly pulled them back up and safely under the covers. It's chilly, y'all!
Finally, after weeks of prematurely dressing for the season of cable knits and densely wovens, I find myself reaching for a sweater and scarf out of necessity, and not a feeling of confused obligation. It's the moment I've been longing for! Not only because, as a southern California resident, I crave seasons like a plant in dry soil craves water, but also because it signifies the beginning of days spent with family, of Holiday parties, and of efforts being made. It's the time of year when we find ourselves going the extra mile and speaking our hearts more freely. And, perhaps because of the cold, we find comfort and warmth in our friends and family as mush as we do in the balls of thick yarn that cloak us.
I'm three days away from going home, and I've already checked out. My bag is mentally packed (though not physically, of course - that'll happen at 2:00am before a 6:00am flight on Wednesday, at which point I'll undoubtedly forget underwear, my toothbrush and anything that actually comes together as an outfit, but hey, family doesn't care), I've stopped grocery shopping, and I find myself in an emotional holding pattern, just waiting to join in the fun. I'm already sat on the bed, late at night, gossiping with my sister and watching an episode of something scary that will inevitably have her passed out long before I dare close my eyes. (Cue the gentle nudging and the 'hey Alex, you're still awake, right?') I'm already listening to the clinking sound of my dad making the tiniest Manhattans in the biggest glasses, to which the follow up is a chorus of the popular tune 'let's have another!' And I'm certainly already elbow deep, seasoning the cavity of a turkey that'll feed an army, while my mother holds its legs unceremoniously in the air.
So, in an effort to tide myself over and indulge in a morning perfect for caramelized custard and syrupy apples, I whipped out my cast iron skillet and the scraps left over from an evening that ended before the baguette ran out, and made myself French toast. Because, why not.
And because it's the Holiday season, I threw in bourbon. (It's a three hour time change, after all, so even if it's not yet five o'clock here, the rest of my family is certainly breaking out the jiggers and shakers, and I'll be damned if I'm not participating, even if in the abstract.)
For French toast:
Heat your cast iron skillet to low-medium and add the coconut oil and butter to melt. Then add the apple slices, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla and salt to form the custard.
Dunk your baguette slices in the custard and submerge them fully, allowing them to really soak up the liquid. Set them aside, momentarily.
Once the apples are soft, stir in the cinnamon and maple syrup, and cook for a further minute. Then move the apples to the sides of the skillet, add another tablespoon of butter, and place a couple of slices of soaked bread in the center.
Cook the toast until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Serve with more maple syrup and a little powdered sugar, and then enjoy the heck out of it!
No, I'm not yet able to join in the family fun, but I do take a little pleasure in knowing that the onslaught of bourbon French toast and the like, doesn't happen until I get there. So, as much as I'm looking forward to going home, they're most definitely looking forward to having me.
BEcause When you're having one of those weeks, you top your sister's pancake recipe with sautéed blackberries and pears
Let me start out by saying that pancakes and I have a funny relationship (I realize, of course, that any relationship with a pancake is, in and of itself, funny, but never mind that). The thing is, I crave, adore and admire them, but I'll rarely commit to making or ordering them (come to think of it, that does actually sound a lot like a relationship. Ugh).
Let me clarify that statement, though. When I say pancake, I am specifically referring to an American-style pancake, not a European-style pancake. When it comes to the French and Scandinavian varieties, I'm all in, in that 'til death do us part' kind of way. But when it comes to the thicker, weightier, and more substantial American rendition, I've always been a little fickle (try not to read to much into this...pancakes, people, we are talking pancakes.)
This does not reflect a deeper, inner battle waging between my dueling Scandinavian and American loyalties - I went to an international school, for goodness sake. I'm all about 14 different takes on the same three ingredients at a multinational bake sale, raising funds for a multinational production of The Crucible, in a setting straight out of Disney's 'It's a Small World.'
It's just that I'm so often disappointed by a stack of good ole' American flapjacks. They hold so much promise - that golden color, those crisp, browned edges, the height, the knob of butter balancing on top, and the (real) maple syrup, oh the syrup that oozes down its sides and pools, warmly at its feet. There's a reason that, other than bursting, runny egg yolks, they're possibly the most frequently posted 'food porn' on Instagram. I mean, I wake up in the morning, reach for my phone, and immediately feel the need to go all '1950's housewife' on my kitchen, whipping out the blueberries, syrup and a general sentimentality that pancakes seem to conjure up. But more often than not, I take one bite and realize that the apparent hope for a better tomorrow, isn't found in a heavy, stodgy round of pan-cooked cake.
I want crispy edges and fluffy, flavorful insides! I want a pancake that really tastes of something. And I want to have a bite and actually feel the need to have another. Rarely are those needs met.
So, this morning, I woke up exhausted and reeling from an intense week of post-vacation catch up, and an exciting venture into food videos for a company I'm totally inspired by, and I thought 'I just want to make something that makes me feel good.' No, not in that healthy, virtuous, 'I'm totally satisfied by kale' kind of way, but in that 'I'll probably feel super lethargic and regret this later' kind of way.
With a brain too tired to come up with anything on its own, I texted my sister for suggestions. 'Pancakes!' She said, 'you love pancakes! I have the best recipe for apple cider pancakes.' I thought, for a moment, of the disappointment that may very well lay ahead of me, if I ventured into the land of underwhelming hotcakes, and then, like the girl who still orders bourbon, even though she knows it'll give her a headache, decided to give them a whirl.
Oh boy. Ladies and gentlemen, she may be three years younger, but man, my little sister knows more about a good pancake than her older, hitherto-sheltered sister could have possibly imagined. These babies where everything I could have hoped for, and above all else, equal parts fluffy and flavorful. The cider flavor is subtle, and creeps in at the end, and the addition of the yogurt makes them perfectly tender. I consider myself thoroughly schooled in the art of our domestic varietal.
Make. These. Now.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and give them a good whisk to combine. Then, dig a little well in the middle.
Into the well, add the cider, yogurt, egg and butter. Then, using your whisk, combine all the ingredients, but do not over mix. It's ok if there are a few little lumps left in the batter - they will cook out. If you mix too much, you risk a tough pancake, and who likes a tough pancake? Not I.
Once the batter is ready, get working on your fruit. I used my cast iron skillet for this, because, well, I always feel like a real pro when I break out the cast iron - but you can use any pan you like.
Melt the butter at medium heat and add your pears and blackberries, then add your honey. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the pears are soft and the blackberries have released a good amount of juice. Keep an eye on things though, as the honey can burn quite easily. Just keep things moving around the pan.
Cook your pancakes in a pan over medium heat, using a little extra butter, for a couple of minutes per side. You'll know they're ready to flip, when you see bubbles bursting in the center of the pancake.
Serve them topped with the fruit and its syrup and, of course, a little (or a lot) of maple syrup drizzled on top.
The reality is, I'll probably continue to date crepes and Swedish pancakes - I mean make, make crepes and Swedish pancakes, but my eyes have certainly been opened to a breakfast cake with a little more substance. And hey, as long as it has maple syrup poured all over it, who can really tell the difference anyway?!
* For the lightest, fluffiest pancakes, use regular AP, however, if you're gluten intolerant, you can certainly swap it out for your favorite GF variety (I like Cup 4 Cup). Spelt flour, even though it still contains gluten, is a little easier to digest and manages to render the same result as AP.
** Plain, cow's milk yogurt is great here, but I'm a little sensitive to it, so I used goat's milk yogurt instead. It gave the pancakes a really lovely, savory undertone that paired really nicely with the sweet cider.
Because I'll jump on a bandwagon, when the bandwagon's been running since the stone age
As I’ve mentioned before, California is a hotbed for the latest in dietary neurosis.
From those who are simply restrictive, to those who follow full-on philosophies on food, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t adhere to some doctrine of diet here. In fact, I could probably count the people I know who don't 'eat a certain way' on one hand (honestly, maybe half a hand), and I admit that I am no exception. To eat with abandon, has become a thing of the past, and the intent to simply bring the needle on the gauge from empty to full died years ago.
‘Man, I’m starving! I’d eat anything', actually means something more along the lines of, ‘Man, I’m starving! Let’s go get vegan, dairy free, gluten free protein patties, with a side of kale chips and a bottle of fermented liquid that still contains remnants of its mother at the murky bottom!’ Because nothing says satiated like a belly full of good bacteria.
I understand that this level of extreme conscious consumption is an act of rebellion against a very recent history of utterly unconscious ingesting and an indication of the acknowledgment that you can't polish off a can of red food dye 40, in lieu of actual, real red fruit, without serious consequence. But man, don't you miss the days of ordering something off the menu, just because it sounded good, and not because it was good for you? 'I'll have the #10, just as it comes, please!' Words that disappeared. (Along with menus that were numbered, for that matter.)
One particular diet that has been quite popular for a few years now, is known as the 'Paleo' diet. For those of you who are not familiar with the ins and outs of eating 'paleolithically', they're fairly straight forward. The idea is to eat a diet similar to that of early man. Meat, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are all acceptable - grains, processed foods and dairy are not (except eggs - eggs are ok, even though they technically fall under the umbrella of 'dairy'.if you're nit-picking). Basically, if you can’t hunt it, pick it or find it, you can’t have it.
Of course I smile at the thought of stone age women running around in yoga pants, with faces full of filler, talking about how their diet makes them feel 'whole' and like they're living up to their fullest potential - but when you think about it, eating food in its most basic form, kind of makes sense. I mean, I’ll grab a handful of real almonds over a ‘healthy’, processed energy bar, any day of the week. If those almonds happened to be covered in chocolate - even better. (I'd like to venture a guess that even the women of the Paleolithic era had a craving now and again, and that, had chocolate been an option, clever manufacturers would now be stamping 'Paleo' on packaged chocolate bars, alongside today's other prerequisite for consumption, 'Gluten-Free.')
So, have I decided to go completely old school and strictly adapt my diet to that of early, early man? No. The thought of giving up on noodles and a really creamy piece of Humbolt Fog is just too terrible. But I'm absolutely down to throw a paleo recipe into my routine, now and then. A recipe like this nut 'bread', for example. I found it while spending a few blissful weeks in Denmark, cooking up a storm for my family, and reaping the rewards late into the light, warm summer evenings.
Recipe adapted from Mad for Livet
Turn your oven to 320* F.
Grease a loaf tin thoroughly and set aside.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and mix really well. You want everything completely incorporated. Don't worry about chopping up the nuts! I know you'll want to, but leave them whole - the bread will still slice beautifully.
Pour the 'batter' into the prepared tin and bake the bread for an hour.
Allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing it with a serrated knife. Keep it, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
I love this bread smeared with butter (I know, not technically paleo, but most Vodka isn't technically gluten-free either, so let's just say everything in moderation and leave it be), and sprinkled with just a little sea salt. Almond butter, honey and pomegranate seeds make this a perfect afternoon snack, too.
I mean, if it tastes good, feels good, and actually has you craving more, I don't care what diet it falls under, i'll take two! As long as I still get kale chips. Kale chips are key, apparently.
Sure eggs are flashy, but the true test of any breakfast joint is what they can do without them
When it comes to breakfast, eggs seem to have cornered the market. Poached, scrambled, fried, boiled and baked, these babies get all the love. And whether they're smothered in butter, cheese, cream or the like, it seems that these days, the more over the top you go with them, the better.
And though breakfast is meant for consumption, in today's Instagram-able world, it's also meant for picture taking. Chefs may as well serve their food cold, because the reality is, by the time table 42 finishes with the photoshoot bound straight for the glossy pages of, umm, Facebook, the only heat left at the table is radiating from the back of an iPhone, struggling with storage issues. (#nomnom and #meltinyourmouth only apply if you ate the food while it still really was 'nom nom' and before it actually melted on your plate.)
It seems that for eggs in particular, it's all about the close up shot. Yolks oozing, omelets browning and edges crisping in butter, render pictures so salacious, it's no wonder the term 'food porn' was coined, because eggs are, in fact, the porn stars of breakfast. And they will always smile for the camera.
When you're dining at a restaurant, chefs know this - that's why the egg dishes get all the attention. Even the decidedly unsexy egg-white-only dishes get names like 'The Warrior Omelet' and 'The Personal Trainer Scramble', because eggs, no matter how they're served, are where it's at.
You know where it's not at? Oatmeal. Glance at a restaurant's breakfast menu and you'll find it listed somewhere between granola and the '20% gratuity included on parties of 6 or more' line, as just that, 'Oatmeal'. And more often than not, it's really poorly done. Dry, lumpy and under-salted, oatmeal seems to be the red headed stepchild of AM dining. But you know what? I find that a bit of a cop out. If you can't make something as simple as a bowl of boiled oats taste good, then you can keep your big-busted, camera ready eggs - we all know how much butter it took to get them to look like that anyway.
This is why, the first time I dine at a restaurant for breakfast, more often than not, I order the oatmeal. I consider it the litmus test of a place, and if it passes, well then maybe we can talk oozing eggs next time.
Add the coconut oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the apples to the skillet and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Cook the apples for about 10-15 minutes, until soft, stirring in 1 tablespoon of honey, 5 minutes before removing them from the heat.
Meanwhile, bring your water to a boil in a small sauce pot, add the oats and salt (salt is absolutely essential! Unsalted oatmeal is a crime), cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. If you're using 'quick cook' oats, your oats will cook in as little as 5-7 minutes, but for regular steel cut oats it will take considerably longer. Read your packet for cooking instructions. If you notice that the water is evaporating too quickly, add a little more as needed. You want your oats soft, cooked through and not dried out.
Whisk the remaining tablespoon of honey into the greek yogurt.
Spoon your oatmeal into a bowl, top it with the apples and yogurt, and sprinkle over some pomegranate seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with a little extra honey, if you're so inclined.
Sure, it seems silly to extract yourself from the depths of your warm, comfortable bed on a weekend morning, drag your tired bones all the way to a restaurant, inevitably stand in line for far longer than the food actually warrants, and then order oatmeal - I know that. I'm tellin' ya though, when you bother to perfect the simple, everything else is just icing on the cake.
As a bachelor, my dad had a trick or two up his sleeve.
My father, native of Yonkers, New York, former Pan Am captain and Marine Corps veteran for life, knows a thing or two, about a thing or two.
Dad could fly 288 passengers safely from New York to New Delhi, rocket down the double blacks of Austrian, snow-capped mountains, and solve almost every cantankerous calculus problem my sister and I encountered. (We're still working on things like navigating Instagram and programming the iPhone, but hey, that's what daughters are for!)
Though no son or daughter likes to speculate too much about 'life before mom' (what life before mom?!), it's pretty clear to me that a career as an airline pilot for the world's most glamorous airline, Pan Am, may have come with a few perks. Perks like flight attendants and free travel. Or was it free travel with flight attendants? I'm not sure. I won't ask. In any case, my dad was either in uniform or a bomber jacket. You get the idea.
As a happy bachelor, who literally traveled the world, dad was armed with three things: A moustache (it was the 70's, after all), a passport and a recipe - Breakfast soufflé.
The significance of this recipe didn't really become clear to me until later in life, but I get it now. Any man who can whip up a soufflé, is ahead of the game. He actually scoffs at the game.
So here you have it, in his own words, as emailed to me by my father...
"Tess, this actually has a name. It is affectionately known as the 'I had you last night, breakfast soufflé' - perhaps that should be left out.
Put the butter in the soufflé dish and put into a 425*F oven until the butter melts and starts to bubble, about 10 minutes. Watch it! The minute you turn around, it burns!
Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, flour and salt until smooth.
Throw the mixture into the bubbly butter as soon as you take the dish from the oven.
Return the whole thing to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Sweeten your fruit as you think necessary and dump it into the center of the soufflé.
Since his days of bachelor-dom, dad has expanded his repertoire to include a few other recipes, including bolognese, damn-fine chili and an oh-so-fancy scallop dish with fried sage, but this sweet number is just a little legendary. It truly is delicious. I mean, it would have to be. Mom was a flight attendant. The rest is history.
If you can pull off a Casual masterpiece the morning after, you're totally 'that' girl
As a single girl, it's always good to have a small arsenal of moves in your back pocket. Being able to get out the door quickly, being totally into the new Star Wars movie, and making an impressive breakfast like it was nothing, are all in your favor.
Of course, the reality may be a little different. You set your alarm for 6:00am, so you could perfect the "Sure! I can do 10:00am breakfast! I'll just roll out of bed and meet you"-look (meant no girl, ever). You're still making your way through the original Star Wars, in very small, increments. (Sorry, I just can't.) And when it comes to casual, sleepover breakfasts, you know you planned that meal a week ago, sourced the best ingredients, and prepped everything yesterday so you could say, 'I'll just whip something up - lemme see what I've got!'
The latter may just be me, but I'm guessing (hoping) there are more of you out there!
My breakfast of choice for moments like this, is carrot 'pancakes' with eggs. I can prep this the night before, and not break a sweat the next morning. Hurray for tiny victories!
These pillowy little medallions are not sweet pancakes, however. They're savory, carroty and delicious, and pair perfectly with poached or soft-boiled eggs.
In a food processor or using a hand grater, grate the carrots finely. I just pop mine in my Cuisinart and 30 seconds later, the job is done.
To your grated carrots add 1-2 egg whites. This depends on how big your carrots are. You want enough egg white so that all your little shreds are coated and sticking together. This is the only binder you get, so if you're worried about it, just add two - better to have a little extra, than not enough.
Add the flour, chili flakes and salt and pepper to season. Mix everything well - you want to make sure the flour is evenly distributed. This can be made the night before, and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Turn your stove to low-medium heat, melt some butter and drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter in the pan. I like to use my hands to shape them into little patties, before dropping them into the butter.
Cook the pancakes 2-3 minutes per side, until golden and slightly crisp.
Serve them up with eggs and avocado.
As a matter of fact, I just happen to have a batch of this in my refrigerator right now - how fortunate! And though there's no one here to share it with at the moment, I'm about to seriously impress myself.