October 25, 2011
The word “amalgam” kept popping up in the article I was reading this morning, before I embarked on my Breakfast Tuesday endeavors. It’s a word I grew close to, and practically fell in love with, during my time in graduate school. I always thought “amalgam” and all its variants were apt words to use when talking about literature because it’s a word with a huge scope, a word that makes sure you know that there are many, many things you can and should consider when looking at other words on a page. It reminded me that words aren’t just words; they are words with past definitions, words coming out of someone’s mouth, words used while thinking about other words, etc. Looking it up now, though, I see the definition is a lot more straightforward. Apparently, an “amalgam” is primarily an alloy used for filling teeth, and only secondarily a “mixture of different elements”. I guess being immersed in a world where poetry is practically shooting out of your eye sockets makes you see and understand things differently (and abstractly, it seems).
Regardless of the dictionary definition, it kept jumping off the page and grabbing my attention, basically screaming at me, and then hopping around to each corner of my mind. I remembered how much I loved the word because I loved thinking about the world as a seamless combination of all things past, present, and future. I browsed breakfast recipes, to share this Tuesday, in this state of mind and felt compelled to throw a bunch of ingredients together into one, self-contained, breakfast food. Muffins seemed perfect for the job because you really can just throw a bunch of pantry/fridge/fruit basket ingredients together to make your own baked and breakfast appropriate amalgamation. According to my poetically-stretched and partly made-up definition, at least!
(PS- Fun fact: The online dictionary lists “cocktail” as a synonym for both “amalgam” and “amalgamation”.)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Plantain Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Handle the Heat, originally “Chocolate Banana Muffins”)
Yields 12 muffins
Notes: Since the original recipe did not call for peanut butter, you could easily skip it, and, if you’re craving a sweeter breakfast, you can fold one cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into the batter before transferring it to the tin.
3 very ripe plantains, mashed
¼ cup creamy peanut butter, melted and slightly cooled
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line muffin tin(s) with cupcake papers or grease individual muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until completely combined.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together plantains, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and applesauce until completely combined. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and fold ingredients together until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.
4. Fill each muffin cup almost to the top with an equal amount of muffin batter.
5. Bake muffins in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
6. Cool muffins in pan for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Muffins are best the day they are made, but can stay in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days. You could also freeze the muffins, baked or unbaked, up to a month, reheating or baking as needed.
October 21, 2011
I want you to close your eyes and imagine the following scene. There’s an open bottle of whiskey on the counter and brownie crumbs, not to mention smears of melted chocolate decorating the countertops, sink, and all unfortunate kitchen appliances within reach. If you watch Arrested Development, think Tobias and blue paint. (If you don’t, watch it. Now.) I’m standing at the counter, in my disgusting pink apron, with a bowl of melted chocolate, holding a spoon en route to my mouth. The chocolate from the spoon is dripping all over the floor. My roommate, K, walks into the kitchen and that’s the first time she sees me today. I’m heartily ashamed, but she takes one look at the whiskey bottle, one look at the floor, and then one last look at me, and then gets really excited and happy that there are good things going on in her kitchen.
These mornings serve to remind me not of my embarrassingly hedonistic tendencies but of how awesome my friends are. She not only continues to take me seriously EVEN after she finds me standing in a pool of dripped melted chocolate and whiskey and eating it out of the bowl before 11 am, but also joins in by taking her finger, running it alongside of the bowl, and picking up rogue brownie crumbs to pop in her mouth. I love these moments so much, when a wonderful relationship, or thing, becomes almost brutally clear. Brutal in the sense that the amazingness and all its parts and manifestations seem simply to be laid out before you and, for a brief second, you can see how perfectly everything fits together.
Like these brownies, too, all the flavors work so well together that you’ll consider not eating anything else for the rest of day because, psh, how do you top the mint-chocolate-whiskey combination?!
Mint Julep Brownies
(Recipe adapted from Fragrant Vanilla Cake)
Yields an 8 by 8 inch square pan, serving anywhere from 6 to 9, depending on how you slice
Notes: I halved the original recipe, which made a 9 by 13 inch pan of brownies, and it worked beautifully, so I’m copying down the recipe using half portions. I baked my brownies in four 4 ½ inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms, but in my experience the baking times don’t differ much between the tartlet pans and an 8 by 8 inch square pan. I also omitted the vanilla extract called for originally and used an extra tablespoon alcohol instead. The last note is my use of whiskey instead of bourbon. From what I understand (which is not a whole lot, as you’ll see), some whiskeys are bourbons and all bourbons are whiskey. It’s also what I had on hand, so there’s them apples. My last note concerns the amount of mint; I eyeballed it and may or may not have added more than necessary. I’ve found that mint is easily overwhelmed by chocolate when you bake with it, so I erred on the side of caution, used almost a ¼ cup mint leaves, and was rewarded.
1/4 fresh mint leaves
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup, or 1 stick, unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons bourbon/whiskey
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If using an 8 by 8 inch square pan, line with foil, leaving an inch and a half overhang on at least two sides, and spray with non-stick cooking spray (a spray especially for baking or a non-flavored oil spray, such as canola). If using removable bottom pans, just coat pans with non-stick cooking spray.
2. If you have access to a food processor, or similar kitchen contraption, combine mint and sugar and process in food processor until mint is very finely chopped. If can’t use a food processor for this step, chop the mint as finely as you can and rub into sugar using your fingertips, until mint is evenly distributed.
3. Melt together butter and chocolate, either in a microwave, mixing every 30 second interval until melted, or in the top of a double boiler.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine melted chocolate mixture and mint sugar. Whisk until smooth.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by the bourbon. Whisk until mixture is uniform and smooth.
6. Whisk flour into batter. When batter is smooth, pour evenly into pan(s). Smooth top, making sure batter is distributed evenly.
7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Be careful not to overbake!
8. Cool brownies in pan until pan is cool enough to handle. Remove brownies from pan and let brownies cool completely (room temperature). Once cooled, top with chocolate ganache (recipe follows). Let ganache set for a few hours before slicing.
6 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup milk or cream
Optional: 1 teaspoon whiskey
1. Using a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate and milk.
2. Stir until smooth, then let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before using.
Store left-over ganache refrigerated and in an airtight container for up to a week.
October 18, 2011
I understand there’s a fine line between normal, healthy love and crazy, obsession-based love. My feelings toward pancakes tend towards the latter. It means I spend a lot of mornings thinking about pancakes, and a lot of time looking at pancakes in the interwebs, and a lot of time thinking “hey, this would be great in pancakes!” while trying to shop for groceries. So I think about pancakes a lot, and I make pancakes… A LOT. Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, however, I rarely make the same recipe twice, so am always looking for pancakes that break the mold, like showcasing an ingredient I never would have thought to put in a pancake.
I came across a recipe for spinach pancakes and, what can I say, it was all I could think about until I got the chance to make them. I could simultaneously pretend my pancakes were healthy because they included some super food AND giggle to myself constantly because I was eating green pancakes. I was so awed by these spinach pancakes I couldn’t figure out how else to express my feelings other than by composing a short poem and dedicating it to all the amazing pancakes out there, those I have tried and have yet to try. I hope you enjoy the fruit of my creative labor this morning. Ahem.
I love you all;
Big, medium, or small.
When you’re on my plate,
All you do is wait
Until I’m ready to eat.
Some like you sweet,
And some prefer not,
But it’s always easy to eat a lot.
I’ll lather you with butter,
And you don’t even mutter,
Or I’ll eat you plain,
And still my love won’t wane.
Put your toppings outside or in,
And all you’ll do is grin,
Because pancakes are the best!
(Recipe found at nytimes.com)
Yields 14 five-inch pancakes
Notes: I decided to puree the spinach for a more uniform texture, but the original recipe calls for chopped spinach, folded into the batter at the end of the process. In terms of ingredients, I added a teaspoon of baking powder, to give the pancakes a little more lift, and an extra tablespoon of granulated sugar because I have an addiction to maintain. You can barely taste the spinach, so I served them with my normal pancake toppings- jam, almonds, butter, and syrup, but if you have a low tolerance for sweet and savory combinations, you can always sauté some mushrooms and serve it with eggs, or roasted squash or pumpkin.
10 to 12 ounces fresh spinach, washed, or one 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ cups buttermilk, or milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar, plus extra for thinning
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Extra butter for greasing pan
1. Place washed spinach in a covered saucepan over medium heat, either with just the water that clung to the leaves or, if using pre-washed bagged spinach, with a splash of water. Heat spinach just until it wilts, only a couple of minutes. Drain spinach well and cool to room temperature. Once spinach is cooled, puree in a food processor until smooth.
2. Preheat skillet over medium-low heat.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
4. In a medium mixing bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, and spinach puree. Whisk until foamy.
5. Add liquid ingredients to dry and whisk pancake batter until smooth and combined. If batter is super thick, add up to ½ cup milk until mixture reaches desired consistency.
6. Grease preheated skillet and drop batter into pan using a heaping 1/3 cup or large spoon. Cook pancakes for 2 to 4 minutes, until bottom is browned and lots of bubbles appear on the surface. Flip pancake and cook for another minute or two. If necessary, grease skillet between pancakes.
Serve warm, or heated in a 200 degree F oven for no more than 15 minutes. Pancakes will keep in the fridge up to 2 days, or in the freezer up to a month.
October 14, 2011
It seems like I’m breaking free from a cold that has kept my head underwater for the last four days. I’m finally able to smell, and therefore taste, the food I make AND can look at words on a computer screen for more than ten minutes without feeling like I’m being abducted by aliens aboard a ship with bright lights and weird symbols. Not being sick also means I can enjoy dairy with the reckless abandon to which I’ve grown accustomed over the years. I wanted to celebrate all these things – not being sick, regaining the ability to enjoy food, being able to live my life free of haze – with dessert. Celebrations, in my mind, always call for dessert.
The weather is cooling down, so I wanted a celebration dessert that could not only be served warm but also provide the same feeling of full-body warmth, like soups and stews. It had to be chock full of dairy and chocolate, because I needed to up the indulgence ante. Maybe some whiskey, if I could swing it. Lo and behold, I came upon some recipes for rice pudding and my decision was made. Rice pudding fulfills all the requirements listed above, along with the added nostalgia of eating rice pudding my entire life. I grew up eating rice pudding with my family in PA, went on many late night grocery runs with boyfriends to get rice pudding and eat it out of the tub, and now I can add making rice pudding and sharing it with my friends as a adult wanna-be to the nostalgia check-list.
Rice pudding takes a little bit of time to make, but that’s it. The process is straightforward, the ingredients are usually on hand, and the final product is worth every minute of it. I plan to make rice pudding pretty often this coming winter! (My roommate has been warned.)
Chocolate Rice Pudding
(Recipe adapted from My Feasts)
Yields about 4 cups of pudding
Notes: The original recipe calls for ¼ cup arborio rice, but I did a little research and it looked like a lot of people used a cup rice per quart of milk. I took the leap and added an entire cup of rice. The pudding was delicious off the stove and delicious warmed up, but very, very rice-y. If you prefer a higher pudding to rice ratio, I’d recommend using 1/2 to ¾ cup rice (1/4 cup seems like very little if you’re craving rice pudding). Also, the addition of whiskey at the end is optional but AWESOME. If you’re not a whiskey drinker, try Irish crème or another fun liquor. You have a lot of leeway.
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
1 cup arborio rice, uncooked
2 tablespoons whiskey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1. In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa powder, sugar, salt, milk, and rice. Whisk to fully incorporate all ingredients.
2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, and then reduce heat to low and let pudding simmer gently for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently so the rice does not scorch, until rice is cooked and pudding is thickened.
3. Take pudding off heat and stir in whiskey (if using), vanilla, and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted.
4. Let pudding cool to desired temperature and serve!
Storage: This rice pudding kept well in the fridge for three days, and, although it cooled into a block, was great heated up. Keep pudding in an airtight container. If you decided to store pudding in a bowl and don’t enjoy puddin’ skin, place the plastic wrap cover directly over surface of pudding.
October 11, 2011
it’s 10 o’clock at night and I’m trying to write a post about the breakfast I made over twelves hours ago. I was thinking about putting it off until tomorrow, or even the next day, and could think of a bunch of excuses to justify it. I’ve been sick these last few days and feeling overwhelmingly tired stupidly early in the day. I got called into work on a day off, but had to go in because, hey, who doesn’t need the money? School applications are breathing down my neck and there are a million people with whom I have to get back in touch. I’m not even sure if people expect me to post a breakfast recipe on Tuesday, so what’s the point?
Now what? What is the point? That kind of thinking sucked me into a pretty dark spot, sitting here, writing this. I guess what’s keeping me going is the fact that I woke up super early, despite having to go into work and despite being sick, so I could make something fun to eat and share. I even made two batches of scones because the first recipe didn’t turn out as delicious as I thought it might. It was obviously important to me that I make the effort here and try my best to keep my word, even if my word means something as simple as making scones and posting pictures of them on the internets. Also, who doesn’t love peanut butter and chocolate in the morning?
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
(Recipe adapted from bakingsheet)
Yields 16 smallish scones
Notes: There are two things that almost guarantee perfect scones: using very, very cold butter and working the dough quickly with your hands. I always cut my butter into the smallest cubes possible and stick them in the fridge for about 15 minutes before using.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
10 tablespoons butter, cut into ½ inch cubes and very cold
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup and 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add peanut butter and cubes of butter to flour mixture and mix with your hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in chocolate chips.
4. Combine milk and vanilla extract, and then add to dough. Mix with your hands until just combined, then turn out onto a clean, floured surface and knead once or twice. This process should go very quickly and dough will be lumpy.
5. Split dough into 2-3 discs, about one to one-and-a-half inch thick, and cut into wedges.
6. Place wedges two inches apart on the baking sheet and bake each sheet 16-20 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.
7. Cool wedges on a baking sheet until cool enough to eat.
Storage: Scones do not store well, so I only bake enough scones to eat. To freeze ready-to-bake scones, just place unbaked wedges on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Store frozen wedges in an airtight container or freezer bag until ready to bake and serve. You may have to add an extra two or three minutes to the baking time, but other than that everything is the same!
October 4, 2011
For a few months, I was making waffles left and right. If I had an ingredient, I put it in a waffle (which sounds a lot like both my chocolate chip cookie and oat bran philosophy – creature of habit and hedonism, I guess). Chocolate waffles! Bran waffles! Malt waffles! Pumpkin waffles! All of the waffles! One fateful morning, however, I attempted to make waffles and the result could only be described as waffle genocide. So many good waffles split in half, burnt, and crumbled in my hands. I thought it was the recipe, and then I thought it was me, and then, having rejected the first two options as improbable, I decided to blame the waffle maker. And then I was stuck. I didn’t want to look into buying another waffle maker because I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was malfunctioning, but I didn’t want to try another waffle recipe because I couldn’t deal with the sadness and guilt that comes from massacring one of the breakfast treats I consider most sacred.
This dilemma kept me from making waffles for far too long. In every bizarre-o kitchen appliance grudge (those who use a lot of kitchen appliances hopefully know what I mean), there comes a time where someone has to give in, and that someone is usually the person. Because it would be hard for the appliance to give in. And it would be a little scary, too, if it actually had the capability to give in. Anyway, the waffle maker and I had a long talk (which, if you’re wondering, looks a lot like me glaring at a waffle iron until tying up my apron and getting on with it), and I decided to give it another go. Turns out my waffle iron responds really well to aerosol oil and not well at all to any other method of greasing. Huh. Looks like Colleen the Waffle Machine is back in business.
These waffles are amazing, though on the hearty side of the breakfast good spectrum. My roommate, K, really enjoys them, and she prefers her breakfasts to be more healthy than sweet, whereas I’m the opposite. We both agree that these waffles make a great breakfast, though! Something about the quinoa-banana-cornmeal combination and the fluffiness on account of whipped egg whites makes these waffles suitable for any kind of breakfast eater.
Happy Breakfast Tuesday, because it’s a happy one indeed!
Banana Quinoa Waffles
(Recipe adapted from The Family Kitchen)
Yields 7 Belgian style waffles
Notes: The original recipe is for spiced waffles – add one teaspoon ground ginger to dry ingredients. For my particular waffle iron, I got the best results with the heat set at six (out of eight) and leaving the waffle in iron for 5 minutes, then flipping the waffle and letting it heat for one more minute before taking it out.
½ cup, or one stick, unsalted butter
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons honey
¾ cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1 ¼ cup milk
1. Preheat waffle iron.
2. In a small saucepan or microwave, melt butter. Set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk mashed bananas, honey, egg yolks, melted butter, quinoa, and milk together until combined. Set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and spices together.
5. In yet another mixing bowl, or bowl of stand mixer, whip egg whites to stiff peaks.
6. Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined, and then gently fold in egg whites.
7. Waffle according to manufacturer’s instructions, using 2/3 cup batter per waffle and greasing waffle iron between each waffle.