I’m just going to lay it out there: These muffins are like having cheesecake for breakfast minus the guilt. Why no guilt? Because the bananas (fruit) negate the cream cheese (and sugar), making these muffins actually “healthy” for you! I play that kind of magical thinking game with food all the time. You know, the one where you focus on the healthiest part of whatever you’re eating — the part that might actually negate all potential health benefits if you really thought about it, which of course you’re not going to — and that enables you to keep on eating as much as you want. Strawberry ice cream, for instance, has strawberries and calcium, which are good for you, so….ipso facto, strawberry ice cream is actually better for you than, say, Oreos (which, while they probably have no redeeming health benefit are decidedly still a required food group multiple times a year. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and the junk food that goes with it). Anyway these muffins are tasty and light, thanks to the whipping of the cream cheesey insides. Hope you enjoy them!
I love, love, love eating breakfast out. It’s an oddity of sorts because it’s not like I make a big breakfast at home. No, I eat — and have eaten — yogurt just about every day for, oh, decades. (I used to only eat one kind — Dannon coffee, still my yogurt of choice — but I have expanded my repertoire to include Stoneyfield organic in recent years.)
Anyway, my second favorite breakfast thing is brunch. Maybe it’s because, like breakfasts in restaurants, brunches are slower. You’re not supposed to do anything but sit there for a while, talking, relaxing, maybe even having a bloody Mary or two. You give yourself permission to slow down and that’s a wonderful way to start the day.
Peter’s cousin and husband, Kerry and Hal, stopped by last weekend for a quick visit after dropping their daughter back at college. They were slated just in time for brunch so brunch it was.
I tossed together some fruit salad, brewed up a batch of coffee and made some delicious scrambled eggs (with shallots, lox and a little 1/2-and-1/2, delicious!). And we topped it off with this terrific blueberry crumb coffeecake from the Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook. Regular readers know I’m a BC fan. It’s rare one of her recipes fail me. If you’re looking for an easy coffeecake that will win rave reviews, try this one. And have a mimosa for me.
Blueberry Crumb Coffeecake
ingredients for the streusel
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups flour
ingredients for the cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
For the streusel, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. I used a hand mixer, but BC recommends using an electric mixer with a paddle on high for 4-5 minutes until light. Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Then fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula until completely mixed.
Spoon the batter into the pan. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake 40-50 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar (if you want. I didn’t; it seemed like overkill.)
Ok- so when i eat i stuff my face. STUFF MY FACE. Every time i sit to eat my intention is obliterate all semblance of my appetite. I get nervous before i eat that there will not be enough food for me. This is not rational. i was never oliver twist asking meekly for more please. I grabbed and stuffed my way though hundreds if not thousands of pizzas and breadsticks( in case the pizza alone left me wanting). I have never gone without food or been forced to make do with just enough. Which brings me to my topic today, just enough.
But first a little more about me. I have been practicing zen meditation for around 11 years. only recently have i gained the courage to attend berkeley zen center’s morning sittings and service. On saturdays the schedule includes breakfast in the zendo. I was told that i would have to ask the vice abbot for instruction on the eating ritual. this made me nervous. I have to talk? Not only did i have to talk but i had to remember the name of the ritual, oryoki for a week until the following saturday. would i say origami? karaoke? i went home and googled it immediately so i wouldn’t forget. Oryoki translated means just enough. a great idea…. eat just enough, but was i up to the task? I sat zazen the following week, asked the vice abbot for instruction (i remembered the name…phew) and was on my way. After the instruction i went back to the zendo found my spot with my borrowed bowls and began the process. Starting with a wrapped package of three nesting bowls, a spoon, chopsticks, a small spatula and three cloth napkins the package is unwrapped and arranged in front of me. the food comes one dish at a time and a mutual bow is exchanged between the server and the served at every delivery. We ate cornmeal grits, mango smoothy and a tofu scramble silently and delicately until we were all finished. we used to spatula to scrape the bowls clean and eat the scrapings. After the licking clean a person comes around and pours hot water in the first bowl. Using the spatula we cleaned the bowl and then poured the water into the second bowl where we washed our other utensils and scraped that bowl clean. The third bowl is much smaller than the others so only a little water is transfered, the rest we drank. after the third bowl is cleaned the water is poured into a large bowl as an offering. the bowls and utensils are now clean and stacked and the oryoki set ends just as it started.
This was the first time i ate a meal mindfully. i was satisfied, felt recharged and certainly not about to pass out from a gorging. i will not eat every meal this way but i will at least once a week.
Since I started back at school I’ve become a serial boxed cereal eater. I’m sure I’ll return to the glory days of granola baking, but for the past several months the name of the game has been ease. Needless to say, breakfast is a little less exciting when it’s poured straight from a box, particularly when it’s the same box day after day, week after week.
The excitement–the feeling of self-tending–then, comes in the little details.
I love vintage Pyrex. Love it, love it, love it. Durable and kitschy, it’s something I can get behind on a number of levels. Over the years I’ve been making this interest known and have managed to accumulate what is surely becoming a respectable collection. Over our visit to Connecticut my mom added to our stash, gifting us with cereal bowls (and the original primary-colored storage containers…*swoon*) which brought the collection into tableware, a kitchen arena that up until then was devoid of any Pyrex save a lonely butter dish.
Now every morning I pour my unexciting and super healthy boxed cereal into a vintage Pyrex cereal bowl. It makes me smile a little bit and think of my mom and it makes breakfast feel just that little bit special which, I think, is an excellent addition to the start of a day.
Your post about going out for breakfast as a treat to yourself certainly rang true with me. For some reason eating breakfast out is more special to me than eating dinner at a restaurant (although don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that as well). I think part of the reason is because I love breakfast food — omelets, , bacon, pancakes, bacon, eggs Benedict, waffles, bacon (oh oops did I say that already?) — but I NEVER make anything like that for myself for breakfast. Ever. And I hardly ever partake of those goodies even when I make them for other people in my very own kitchen.
What is up with THAT?
Not only that but, as you very well know, I have eaten the very same breakfast for just about every day of my adult life: Dannon coffee yogurt and granola. As a committed Weight Watcher, I now only allow myself coffee yogurt a few times a week and instead eat Stonyfield organic non-fat yogurt with granola the other mornings.
While having habits isn’t a bad thing per se, I suspect that a counselor might smile a bit and nod her head knowingly if I told her this little scenario and ask something like, “Why don’t you allow yourself to eat something you enjoy and that, by the way, is good for you?”
Or something like that.
Food for thought….
Rachel here: Ok, so I’m back. Get excited. For my first post this week I made waffles. To be honest, though, I really made waffles three times. I only photographed them the last time, though, when I made them for John’s birthday breakfast (along with eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese and slices of apple). The first two times I made them were for myself last week. Those times I used leftover pancake batter (things with which one can eat maple syrup have become umm…important to me as of late…like, really important) figuring they would yield slightly lesser waffles, but delicious ones (and ones with maple syrup on them) all the same.
I was wrong.
The waffles I made last week using pancake batter were totally better than the ones I made for John’s birthday breakfast (sorry, sweetheart). While the waffles I made for John (and which are photographed above…clearly they were still edible) were adequate, they grew tough quickly as they cooled (not the case with my pancake batter waffles). And so, though I have a few leftover and I will absolutely dutifully eat them, below I am going to post the waffle batter recipe from The Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated in addition to the pancake batter recipe I adapted which, to my taste, worked out much better.
Also, I should confess that part of my waffle making frenzy was the result of a desire to make some and freeze them for down the road. And yet, three batters later, there are still no frozen waffles in my house. Oops!
Oh! One more thing. If savory’s more your schtick, check out my ma’s egg casserole down below. She didn’t have a photo, but it sounds absolutely fantastic (as in, I want it for dinner). Enjoy!
makes 4-8 depending on size of waffle iron
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. cornmeal (optional…I opted…it was only sort of noticeable)
1 tspn. salt
1/2 tspn. baking soda
2 eggs, separated
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
4 T. butter, melted
First, get your waffle iron going. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks and buttermilk. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff 2-inch peaks. Add the yolk/buttermilk mixture to the dries in a steady stream while mixing gently with a rubber spatula. Do not over mix. Towards the end, add the egg whites, folding them in until just incorporated. Batter should be lumpy and thick. Scoop batter into waffle iron and cook to desired crispness. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Pancakes Batter That Works for Waffles
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tspn. sugar
1/2 tspn. salt
1/2 tspn. baking powder
1/4 tspn. baking soda
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. milk
1 large egg
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
Turn waffle iron on. Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine buttermilk, milk, egg and butter, mixing well (don’t add butter when it’s super hot or it will cook your egg). Pour into dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into waffle iron (or onto a skillet to make pancakes–just oil the surface first!) and cook to your desired crispness and color. Enjoy!
Janet here: This casserole will feed an army, so it is perfect for brunches or, as in the debut of this particular casserole, for a baby shower or some other kind of brunchy event. I have made it with sausage, bacon, grilled veggies and lox — all to rave reviews. Oh, yes, and it’s simple.
Susan’s Egg Casserole
9 slices of white bread, crust cut off, and cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 cups milk
6 scallions, diced
1/4 cup chopped, drained pimentos
2 lbs. sausage, cut up (or bacon or smoked salmon; your choice of meat goodies. I’ve done all of them at various points.)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
The trickiest part is just remembering you have to do this the night before cooking. Toss it all into a bowl. Mix. Put into a 9″ X 13″ casserole pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day pop it into a 300-degree oven for 60 minutes and get ready to listen to the oohs and ahhs.
Rachel here: One of my major pregnancy cravings is oranges. I like the fruit, I like the juice, I like the artificial flavor…you name it, if it tastes even remotely orangey I probably want it (and I also probably don’t particularly care to share). This is odd to me because in my entire life up to this point oranges have never held much sway over my taste buds. I’ve never been anti-orange per say, just never been one to seek an orange out. And now, seriously, I need to eat an orange (or orange-related something) on a daily basis or I am simply just not quite satisfied. This is a deliciously strange shift in my eating patterns.
Anyway, this orange-centric eating pattern I’ve developed leaves me desiring new and interesting ways to bring the orange into my daily diet. I’m also trying to eat healthy so that our baby grows big and strong and whatnot (and because, generally, eating healthy really appeals to me). And so, I ventured into the kitchen and concocted my very own mini-muffin recipe to try to satisfy both of these interests.
The muffins I developed are little things and are sort of like the runt cousins of pretty, super sugary and floury muffins. They are absolutely scrumptious, though, and I’ve been throwing a few in my bag each morning on my way out the door to nibble on when I get a little peckish. They’ve really been hitting the spot. Plus, I’m always just amazed when I generate my own recipe and the food actually comes out remotely resembling what I was thinking of, so I’ll admit to cherishing these little nubbins a little extra on that count.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the recipe. If orange isn’t your thing you could use lime or lemon zest instead. I’m also a fan of using clementines, but I didn’t have any around when I was baking. Also, know that you can go lighter on the zest depending on how strong of a citrus flavor you’re looking for. Obviously, per my incessant orange cravings, I went as heavy as I dared and these are certainly quite orangey as a result.
How do you incorporate your favorite fruits into your food (besides the topnotch way of whole and raw)?
Mini Orangey Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins Bites
4 T. butter
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 tspn. vanilla
1/4 tspn. salt
1 tspn. cinnamon
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tspn. baking soda
zest from 1 large orange
1 c. blueberries
demerara sugar (for tops, optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin. Beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add buttermilk, egg and vanilla and mix (this will be very wet). Add salt, cinnamon, flour, rolled oats and baking soda and mix until just combined. Fold in zest and blueberries. Fill muffin tin and sprinkle demerara sugar on top. Bake, rotating halfway through, 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool on wire rack before removing.
Janet here: Without a doubt, my favorite meal to eat out is breakfast. At home, I eat basically the same breakfast day in and day out — yogurt with granola, the only variation being the kind of yogurt I eat. Breakfast is something to be done with, to get over, so I can start my day of running around and busyness.
But eating out means stepping outside the breakfast box and allowing myself the pleasure of eating a decadent meal that is far beyond anything I would ever contemplate making for myself. It means slowing down and savoring. Because it’s so unusual, it seems so much more special. I mean, people meet for dinner but how often do we meet for breakfast (and I mean as in meet, not as in agree to have coffee to discuss some kind of business idea)? The answer, simply put, is not enough.
So we were intrigued to discover Simply Breakfast, a blog devoted to this much-maligned meal. Not only is it devoted to just breakfast, but it’s also basically just photos of breakfast: beautiful photos that make me want to sit down to that table wherever it is and eat the wonderful goodies Jennifer Causey has meticulously created and then lovingly photographed.
Rachel here: My mom suggested making scones for this post (stay tuned for a future post featuring these), but I desperately wanted to make granola and so here we are. I’ve been eating it on-and-off for breakfast for years and, for about the last month, combined with some plain yogurt and fresh fruit, it’s been my breakfast of choice. Anyway, there’s really not much to say about it except that it is significantly better when homemade. And speaking of homemade, though the specific recipe posted below is my own concoction, it is very closely related to the granola I learned to make while working at the Homemade Cafe (they don’t have a website, but if you ever find yourself in the Bay Area make your way over to 2454 Sacramento Street in Berkeley for a breakfast that most certainly won’t disappoint…if you’re lucky, John will be cooking). Enjoy!
4 c. rolled oats
1/4 tspn. salt
1/4 tspn. cinnamon
1/4 tspn. all spice
1/8 tspn. cloves
1 c. walnuts (broken)
1/2 c. almonds
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. whole ground flax seed meal
3/4 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Heat honey and oil on the stove until combined and pourable. Pour over bowl of dry ingredients and combine well (this will get stuck in your rings, so definitely take them off if you care about them at all). Spread evenly over a cookie sheet (I put my silpat down first, which makes cleaning up a non-issue). Place in oven, removing and stirring to redistribute granola every 10 to 15 minutes. If granola starts to brown before it is dry, leave oven door ajar. Remove granola once dry feeling (it won’t feel completely dry, but will finish this process as it cools). Let cool. Add dried cranberries (or any other fruit you like) to taste. Personally, I like a lot so I threw in several generous handfuls. Place in an airtight container. Yum!
Janet here: I have basically been eating granola just about every day for, oh, decades. I mix it with yogurt and I am ready to start the day. I had never made granola, however, until today. I just assumed it was very complicated — all those ingredients! — and figured it was just something hippy dippy people did. I was a little nervous about making this, too. Again, I just thought it was going to be complicated and a flop.
I was wrong.
Simply put, I may never eat store-bought granola again. This homemade version is so superior it’s like I don’t even know what I was eating all those years. I created this recipe after trolling around on the web. It’s a conglomeration of things I read on Chowhound under Best Homemade Granola and my go-to cooking goddess, The Barefoot Contessa.
4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2-2 cups nuts (I used sliced almonds, pecans and walnuts)
about 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
a large handful or so of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
about 1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup or so of dried fruit (( used blueberries, but I could see adding cherries, apricots, bananas, etc.)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Toss all the ingredients into a large bowl except the fruit. Heat the oil and honey in a pot and whisk together. Take it off the heat; add the vanilla, and then pour the liquid into the bowl and stir everything together. Place in two large roasting pans on one layer. Cook for about 40 minutes until golden brown, turning every 10 minutes or so. (I set the timer so I wouldn’t burn it.)
After you take it out of the oven, mix in the dried fruit. Let cool. It will crisp up as it cools. Store in an airtight container. Delicious!
Janet here: We’re kicking off this week’s blogs with, appropriately, a breakfast item. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not make it something just a little special? I’ve been eating yogurt — usually Dannon‘s coffee flavor, although Stoneyfield‘s organic non-fat yogurt has been a staple since I did Weight Watchers — for decades. My husband and son S, meanwhile, are cereal eaters. All kinds of boring, don’t you think? And that’s the joy of muffins. Bake up a batch on the weekend, and you have instantly made breakfast a cheerier meal for the rest of the week.
Muffins’ ability to bring cheer hit home with me last year after my mother-in-law died. My father-in-law was understandably bereft losing his help and soul mate after 56 years of marriage. She was also a good cook so the loss was a double whammy for a man who enjoys a good meal. So I started making these muffins. I made them week after week after week — so regularly, in fact, that he started calling me the Muffin Queen. We all got just a bit tired of them, but he didn’t and so I kept baking, bringing just a bit of sunshine to a life that was all shades of gray.
This particular recipe is from one of my favorite culinary ladies, Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa. I have five of her cookbooks and I refer to them all the time. (Indeed there will be another recipe of hers featured later this week; stay tuned.) This one for triple berry muffins is from The Barefoot Contessa at Home. I amended it to just use blueberries and raspberries; I’m pretty sure Ina would approve. I also make my muffins in large tins rather than the regular size. Why scrimp when muffins are so special?
Triple Berry Muffins
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (the ingredient that really gives these pizazz I think)
1 1/4 cups milk
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. (FYI, I don’t sift. Ever.)Stir with your hand to make sure ingredients are combined. In another bowl combine milk, eggs and butter. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. There will be some lumps; don’t overmix the batter. Add the fruit and sugar and combine gently.
Use a 2 1/4 ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the liners. Bake 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are brown.
Rachel here: So, my partner and I are in the process of moving. We have the good fortune of having two apartments this month and, with that luck, the accompanying difficulty of remembering what is where at any given moment. Seriously, the only thing I own whose location I am positive of these days is my bed. Anyway, needless to say, this created some err….fun…baking escapades this morning.
The plan was to spend the day at the new apartment, unpacking what we could and generally getting things going in the new space. So, after our coffee this morning, I dutifully packed up my cookbook, butter, a spatula, and other muffin making necessities, checking items off of the list I’d developed in my head. No sooner had I preheated the oven (oh, and what an oven it is…it’s an O’Keefe and Merrit a la photo number 6) then I realized I had brought no measuring spoons NOR did I have a single spoon in the house, I had fewer muffin/cupcake paper wrappers than I needed AND I had neglected to bring the paddle to my KitchenAid mixer. Grrr…
My partner was adamant I could still pull these muffins off. This optimism irritated me until I decided that, if not, it would at least make a good story and, most likely, a pretty yummy mess. And so, instead of creaming my butter and sugar into a wonderfully fluffy goo, I threw them in my Cuisinart (which, of course, I only had the sharp metal blade with me for) and turned them (along with the eggs, banana and yogurt…which I also didn’t bring enough of) into an unpromising liquid. At this point I had strayed so far from the recipe’s orders that I was convinced there was no way in hell these muffins wouldn’t come out like little boulders. Instead, in some freak incident I’m sure (because if not following the rules always works this well than my entire world will be turned upside down), my muffins came out just fine. WEIRD. OK, they’re not wonderful, but they are completely edible and definitely still better than their store-bought counterparts. Could they be fluffier? Absolutely. Will they all be eaten? Without a doubt.
The moral of my story is, I suppose, twofold: First, just because your partner thinks something can still work out doesn’t mean he is trying to ruin your life with his optimism or that your general propensity toward skepticism need be re-evaluated; second, evidently muffins (and baking in general?!?) might not be the finicky princesses I had figured they were beforehand. Anyway, follow this recipe from The Best Recipe (I added some strawberries to the banana walnut variation) or just mix all of these ingredients together and cross your fingers. Either way, I’m pretty sure your breakfast tomorrow morning will be a little bit brighter.
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tspn. baking soda
1/2 tspn. salt (*Note: I always lean towards the generous side with salt during baking. I swear it brings out flavors.)
1/2 tspn. nutmeg
10 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. plain low-fat yogurt
1 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. finely diced banana
1/2 c. strawberries
3/4 c. walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position. Whisk flour, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg in bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add half of dry ingredients and incorporate. Beat in 1/3 of the yogurt. Continue alternating dries and yogurt until everything is incorporated. Fold in bananas, strawberries and walnuts.
Now, according to the official recipe you should scoop your batter into greased muffin tins. I used little cupcake paper wrappers, though, to cut down on clean-up (on account of the move). While the sides don’t get quite as well cooked, I personally feel like there’s nothing wrong with this approach. If I were making them for an event I wouldn’t use the paper wrappers, but when it’s just for home, the time I save on clean-up is worth the compromise to me! Anyway, enjoy!