Category Archives: breakfast

Cream Cheese Leeks on Cheese Biscuits

leek cream cheese

Lunch, breakfast, dinner. It matters not. Not for these. Something like a classic bagel topping, but lighter, greener, and a little cheesier.

I adore leeks. And as it is now fall (you can feel it in the air and see it in the brilliant trees), they are quite available, and looking for attention. Let them shine on top of a simple cheese biscuit, with plenty of cream cheese.

Something about the cold weather is making me crave cheese and butter and all I can think about at work is coming come to bake something fatty and delicious. Good job body, preparing for winter. (You should too)

You may be interested to learn that my style of no-recipe teaching recipes is somewhat of a trend, as it happens. I think it’s a good one—after all, you can learn how to follow rules all day, but eventually shouldn’t you eventually know why they exist, and begin to create your own? (We should probably all go into policy, following that prescription.) It is indeed not about the recipe, but engaging you to think about food: the way certain vegetables lend their flavor to other parts of a dish, the composition that blends to create a whole mouthfeel. Yes, there are some ingredients that need to be exact—baking is particularly stickling (hence the detailed measurements below)—but more important are the ideas. The Internet is awash with recipes; I aim to offer you not only ingredients and methods but a conception of a meal, a menu, a combination, at the very least.

If you ever have questions, let me know.

Leeks on cheese biscuits with cream cheese
Biscuits:
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 tsp salt 
1 Tbsp baking powder 
¾ tsp baking soda 
1/2 cup cheddar, or other hard sharp cheese, grated
8 Tbsp cold butter (1 stick)
1 cup yogurt 

Leeks (1 per person, assuming you like them)
Butter, salt
Cream cheese

Make biscuits: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Blend all biscuit ingredients except yogurt in food processor (or knife/pastry blender) until a sandy texture, with small nuggets of butter, similar to making pie crust. Stir in grated cheese without destroying the large grated chunks, then add yogurt and pulse; mix until almost forms a ball. Roll out on a floured board about 3/8 inch thick. Cut out circles (big or small, depending on the crowd and what you want—large size is better for topping with leeks) and place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, until golden on top. Remove from oven, take off baking sheet and let cool for a few minutes on a rack.

Slice leeks lengthwise and clean. Sauté with butter and salt over medium-high until soft, shiny, and slightly caramelized.

Cut biscuits in half, slather with cream cheese, and drape with leeks. Add a little fancy salt and pepper if you’re feeling decadent. If you want something heartier (again, lunch/breakfast/dinner, top with a fried egg, or some salmon (smoked or otherwise).

leek cream cheese

Advertisements

Fruit, Yogurt, and Oats: 5 Ways (including making granola)

P1040594

I would say 5 or 6 days out of the week, my breakfast consists of yogurt, fruit, and oats. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet, due largely, I suspect, to the variety of possibilities within that prescription. By changing up your cooking techniques, or even that fact that it’s cooked at all, and the types of fruit, you can make a whole new dish! (Nudge: this is true for other dishes as well (surprise surprise)).

Oats are super healthy, whole grains full of good fiber and antioxidants and all that. They’re also a fairly hardy crop, and are able to grow in places like… Maine! You can get them from Fiddlers Green, Maine Grains, Grandy Oats… sometimes even at your farmers’ market. I like them because of the texture and slight nutty flavor (which, again, depends on how you cook them). United with the sweetness of fruit and tangy creaminess of yogurt, it’s a perfect combo.

I’ll tell you about making yogurt sometime soon—it’s very easy, although does always tend to take a little more time than I want it to (hands-off time, but still). Or, if you want to get a jump start, look here.

By the way, if you’d like further advice on eating locally in Maine, here’s a piece on MOFGA’s site with some good resources.

I seem to like sharing info about tech changes in ag, and some of it is a little dubious, although also exciting (I’m conflicted about judicious use of technology, can you tell?), but here’s an article about some pretty great tech advances—mostly for helping reduce food waste. We do seem to place an emphasis on learning technology in schools, but we need to make sure to include ecology (through, say, school gardens) as well, to provide balance.

Oh, and don’t forget about the importance of politics (a reminder from our articulate Mark Bittman).

Now, back to breakfast. In order of ease (more or less. All are very easy): 1. Muesli 2. Oatmeal 3. Granola 4. Oat cakes 5. Smoothie.

P1040506

1. Muesli

Mix together raw rolled oats, berries (I suggest strawberries if they are in season (admittedly those pictured are not), or thawed blueberries), and yogurt. Let sit while you make tea, get dressed, prep lunch, etc. (you can also mix it up the night before, if you like it really melded together). Eat!

P1040508

2. Oatmeal

There are a bunch of method of making oatmeal. Pick your favorite. Mine is boiling water (which I do for tea anyway), and pouring it over a bowl with dried oats, prunes (also not local. Oh, well), cinnamon, and a little salt (it makes a difference, trust me). Cover with a plate to keep in the heat and let sit while you get dressed, prep lunch, etc. When you’re ready, uncover, cut up some of the prunes with your spoon, and stick it in the microwave for thirty-or-so seconds, just to heat it up again and get rid of any excess water. Stir, mix in some sweetener if you like (maple syrup!), and eat. Yogurt can be enjoyed on the side or mixed in, after the oatmeal cools a bit (yogurt and heat aren’t real friends).

P1040553

3. Granola (pictured at the beginning)

Make granola the night before, a big batch on the weekend, or the morning of if you don’t have time for any of that. Preheat oven to 350ºF or so (flexible). Melt a little butter in a large, rimmed pan or baking sheet with a large bit of honey (maybe 1/3 cup to every 2 cups of oats, depending on your sweet tooth)—I usually just put it in the pan in the oven to melt, although then you’ll have to be careful mixing it all around. Vegetable oil instead of butter is okay too, and you can do it in a separate pan if you prefer. Add a bunch of rolled oats, some cinnamon and other spices if you like (allspice, ginger), salt, and mix around. Add nuts, unless you have already toasted nuts (almonds or pecans are my preferred additions) and dried fruit, if you like. Stir around until the butter, honey, and spices are reasonably well distributed (if you have slivered almonds or other smaller pieces of nuts, add them later or they will burn before the oats get toasty). Put in the oven for 15 or so minutes, stirring every once in a while to make sure all sides get toasty. The oats should become nice and golden. Remove and let cool. Can be stored in an airtight container for a while.

When ready for breakfast, mix granola, fruit, and yogurt. Eat.

P1040473

4. Oat cakes

This was a bit of an experiment, and I was rather pleased! I often add oats to my pancakes, but haven’t really made purely oat-cakes until now. Mix an egg, a bunch of oats, and a little milk or water (and some salt). Let sit for a while while the oats absorb the liquid. You should be able to form it into patties; heat up a pan with butter, and do so. Cook at medium temperature until cooked through and golden on each side (flipping halfway). Top with fruit, yogurt, and maple syrup.

P1040514

5. Smoothie

More in the fruit-and-yogurt realm than also with oats, but turns out you can also add oats to your smoothie if you are thus inclined! In a blender (or a mixing cup with an immersion blender!), mix berries (or other fruit, like frozen mangos or peaches, peeled), a banana, and a couple large scoops of yogurt. Add a little extra yogurt whey, some tea, or whatever other liquid you have lying around (juice works fine. I just don’t have it around ever, and it can add too much sweetness). Add oats too, if you like. Blend until smooth, taste, add more yogurt/berries/sweetener and blend again, and enjoy (sipping, or with a spoon. Or both).

That’s a start! If you want to get fancier with your oats, fruit, and yogurt, make crisp (fruit and a sugar syrup, or just mixed with a little sugar and sometimes flour, then topped with oats mixed with flour, melted butter and spices; cook until golden), oatmeal pancakes, or even oatmeal apple cake. The possibilities here are only just beginning…

Happy breakfast!

Buckwheat Oatmeal Pancakes (and other variations)

P1030998
Oatmeal buckwheat pancakes, with blueberries and cranberry-applesauce

My pancake-making adventures definitely fall in the no-recipe realm. I started out working from recipes, sure, but at some decided it was more fun to just throw some ingredients together and watch them work their magic. Generally you can test a few and then adjust as needed (unlike with real cakes). Apart from that one time that I added way to much baking soda, it seems to work pretty well.

I really like buckwheat. It’s not actually wheat at all, and is therefore gluten-free for those with sensitivities. In addition to being delicious, it has many health benefits. And, it has a short growing period and grows happily in poor soils. It’s often used as a cover crop, which means replacing nutrients in the soil (although if you are plowing it under as a green manure (green as opposed to brown, i.e. animal manures) instead of harvesting it you don’t get to eat it. Still, I’m pretty sure buckwheat production is better for the environment than other grains/seeds that are used similarly). Buckwheat flowers are great for pollinators, too.

You can add it to all sorts of things. This time it was normal American pancakes, but you can also make galettes/crepes, soba noodles, even chocolate chip cookies (which I did make, by the way, and they were delicious. A little puffier than my usual cookie, but I’m a fan).

Make sure to pour on the maple syrup (the real stuff, obvs. The rest doesn’t bear mentioning. In college I would ask for molasses to put on pancakes rather than use the fake stuff, although we occasionally had real maple syrup (!)*). It may help make antibiotics more effective—although the article that mentions that suggests manufacturing some sort of extract, which I think is silly—why take medicine when you can literally eat a spoonful of sugar to accomplish the same thing?

P1040261
Cornmeal pecan pancakes! (trying to replicate my dad’s fabulous sour cream pecan waffles, without a waffle machine)

Also, I’m partial to small pancakes. When I lived in New Zealand we called them pikelets. If you want to make large ridiculous pancakes, do what you need to do (but these cook better).

As you get familiar with the amounts, you’ll be able to throw them together without measuring like I do. I usually mix it all in a measuring cup anyway, melting the butter first and then adding other ingredients as I go, which helps with guestimation.

Pancakes
3 Tablespoons butter or oil
1/2 cup yogurt or milk or milk substitute, plus more as needed
1 egg
Vanilla, or other (like almond) extracts
1/2 (+?) cup oatmeal (rolled oats, not quick cooking! Well, whatever you want really. Optional; use less flour if using)
3/4 cup flour: buckwheat, whole wheat, white, or a combination—whatever pleases you!
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional; use less flour if using)
1 tsp baking soda (if using yogurt or buttermilk) or baking powder (if using milk)
1/2 tsp salt
Extras: pecans, slivered almonds, chocolate chips, cacao nibs, fruit, coconut!
Mashed bananas are also good

Melt the butter in the bowl/large measuring cup first. Let cool for a bit, then add in yogurt/milk, stirring quickly so it doesn’t all seize/solidify, and your egg (you can add the egg right to the butter too but just make sure it’s not hot enough to cook the egg at all!). Mix in vanilla and other extracts, if you like (boozy pancakes, anyone?). Put in the oatmeal, if using, stir, and let sit for a little while to soften (you can also cook the oatmeal beforehand if you don’t want as much texture; not necessary if you’re in a hurry). Add in the flour, cornmeal if using, put the baking soda/powder and salt on top and mix it into the flour a little, then stir it all together. Add in any extras that you want, and mix until the flour is just barely wet (lumps are okay). It should be fairly liquidy and spongy; add more milk/yogurt/water as needed to get the right consistency.

Heat up a pan with butter (or oil) until quite hot over medium-high heat (I think our electric griddle at home was at 400 for pancakes, the highest setting). With a ladle, or small measuring cup (1/3 cup is a good size), measure out some batter and drop into the hot pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip. Adjust temperature as needed.

Flip onto a plate, cover with fruit and syrup and butter and enjoy!

P1020112
Ah, summer peaches… how I miss you

P1030343This I took out of fascination of the changing colors of blueberry juice…  Something to do with PH?

*Side note. This (!) is my new favorite punctuation mark. A subtle often ironic emphasis. I can’t figure out what it’s called though, shouldn’t it have a cool name like interrobang?!

Cranberry Apple Sauce

P1030355
Pictures while cooking kept steaming up my camera 

Who says you can’t eat local in Maine all year round? I was worried about getting enough fruit in the winter, but so far I am doing quite well. This is because a) freezers b) apples store ridiculously well (side note: I kept apples in my fridge in college for months and months after going apple picking, and used them up very gradually (not having time to bake), but they were still good, albeit a little wrinkly, after having survived the winter and numerous attempts by my dear roommates to throw them away. Wrinkly ones do requires some peeling and attention, but otherwise they remain delicious) and c) local fruit just keeps coming! Cranberries and pears are the latest crops, both of which keep well as well, and pears have to ripen for a long time anyway.

Breakfasts are where I eat most of my fruit, along with yogurt (remind me to write down my yogurt tasting notes sometime. I eat yogurt almost every day and have tried a fair number of them, never get sick of it. Definitely get the whole milk creamy-top version) and sometimes oatmeal, toast, granola, or some other baked good. In the summer I had fresh fruit, melons or berries, and now I usually have either some form of applesauce or I thaw some berries (usually blueberries, but if I want a smoothie I use a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries). Nom.

P1030406

Anyway the first time I saw cranberries at the co-op I knew I had to get them (and local cranberries, by the way and in case you hadn’t figured this out yet, are much more beautiful and delicious than the packaged grocery-store variety). I intended to make cranberry sauce but have not enjoyed adding a bunch of sugar to dishes lately, and most cranberry sauce recipes contain buckets of sugar. So instead of following a recipe, I threw a bunch of cranberries and apples together in a pot, added a little water (or cider, I don’t remember), and listened to them pop. Ended up with a delicious tart-and-sweet bright pink sauce that gets more vibrant as it sits. Vary the ratio of apples to cranberries per the occasion (Thanksgiving may be a more cranberry-heavy scene), and vary the cooking time depending on how soft and blended you like your apples.

Cranberry-Apple sauce
1/2 cup cranberries
4 apples, whatever variety you like to cook with, sweeter if you want a sweeter sauce
A few tablespoons of cider, tea, or water
Spices, if you want (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, etc)

Core and slice the apples, peeling only if you want a smooth sauce (I can’t be bothered most of the time, and I like having skins add to the texture anyway). Throw them with the cranberries, spices, and liquid into a pot (larger ones work a little better, but you can do a small one and just start with a smaller amount, adding more apples as you go. This will also create a varied texture, if you like that). Cover and cook on low heat for a good 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the elements are getting cooked.

Eat at least a few spoonfuls right away (for taste-testing purposes if nothing else), and put the rest in the fridge for breakfasts. As I said, the color will intensify as it sits.

P1030317

Also happens to be a good thing to have around when you discover a meal that needs just a little extra vibrant tartness. Such as rutabagas and fried beans.

Concord Grape Muffins

P1030019

I must admit, I’d never done anything with Concord grapes before now.

I think maybe they don’t exist in Montana, or at least I never came in contact with them there. Not that they are particularly easy to find in Maine—I didn’t really look for them at the farmer’s market, but I don’t remember seeing them. But someone in the office brought a bunch in, so I took them home, hoping the Internet could help.

Turns out the Internet is correct about Concord grapes, and that is that they take FOREVER to seed. Especially in the large quantity that I had. I had been warned and thus was mentally prepared, so I listened to about 5 episodes of Radiolab and called a couple friends and it really wasn’t too bad, but you must also be ready.

P1020995

I found a couple recipes for focaccia, and one for pie (which I made later), and then later made a grape-apple crisp, which I am currently enjoying A LOT. But I decided to start with muffins, based on the recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen.

Her recipe is a bit odd for muffins, honestly—it’s more like a scone recipe, cutting in cold butter, no eggs. I decided to add an egg to keep it moist longer and made a few other substitutions (brown for white sugar, yogurt instead of milk and therefore more soda and less powder, to balance the acidity). And I think they turned out quite well, thank you, not too sweet and with little sour juicy patches where the grapes are hiding.

Concord grape muffins
2 cups flour (I used 1.5 white, .5 whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup yogurt, as much whey (the liquid) as possible; you can stir in a little water to thin it if necessary
    Or, 1 cup milk; use more baking powder and less soda
A splash of vanilla
1 egg
8 oz seeded concord grapes

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter 12 muffin tins. If you want smaller muffins, you may need a few more—or do what I did, and bake the extra batter in a bowl.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter so there are small (pea-sized) pieces. Stir together yogurt, vanilla, and egg, then add to the dry ingredients, mixing just until the flour is moist. Finally, fold in the seeded grapes, including skins.

P1030017

Separate batter into the muffin tins, filling most of the way. Like I said, you may have a little extra; put it in a buttered bowl or small dish and bake it alongside the muffins.

Bake for around 20 minutes, until you get a clean toothpick and the tops are golden. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then gently slip a knife around the edge of each muffin to loosen it,  popping them out of the pans.

Enjoy warm, with extra butter if you’d like, and a nice cup of tea.