It comes as no surprise that breakfast is my favorite meal, but it often surprises people to find out that it’s generally my biggest meal of the day. I’m not sure how that happened, because my family never put a whole lot of emphasis on breakfast and I, myself, am not what you would call an early riser. And not only is it my biggest meal, it also tends to be the healthiest, too, usually containing some sort of nut/protein, yogurt/milk, fruit, whole grain, etc. I love these breakfasts because they get me through the week, all energized and ready to go get ‘em.

Enter Breakfast Tuesday – why, if you like healthy stuff so much, and if its such an important part of your day, do you go crazy once a week with sugar-loaded borderline non-breakfast foods that couldn’t possibly help keep you energized, that make you want to take naps after indulging? For better or worse, I have an emotional relationship with food, meaning that the type of things I eat and when I eat them are often due to how I feel, or how I want to feel, not just in the physical sense. It’s not necessarily a good thing, and perhaps not a good thing at all, but it’s a huge part of my life that I’ve learned to deal with and, for all intensive purpose, enjoy. My sugary non-breakfast breakfasts are pretty important to my week, like a treat I’m giving myself for making it through the week, or just something sweet to start my day. Like today. I wanted some cake for breakfast.

I’ve been craving coffee cake, a craving I know some of my friends will totally understand, and really wanted to bake with the fresh baby apricots I had picked up at the market a few days prior. When I was reading recipes, though, I came across some startling news, that apricots get really, really sour when baked. This was something of which I was totally unaware, so it caught me by surprise and made me question my choice. Do I go ahead with it, baking an apricot coffee cake with these apricots which are oh-so-sweet now and amazing by themselves? Obviously I went on with it, taking the chance. Yes, the apricots did become sour. Yes, I still enjoyed the cake. The apricots were more sour but they still retained a delicate apricot flavor and the cake was sturdy enough to balance everything out. The original recipe calls for just milk, while I did half milk and half yogurt. The cake wasn’t all that delicate, but I liked that it was hearty enough to constitute breakfast.

Apricot Coffee Cake

(Recipe adapted from Freeing my Martha)

Yields 8 to 10 servings in a 8 inch square or 9 inch round pan

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup milk

½ cup yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

1 pound tiny apricots, pitted and halved*

¼ cup granulated sugar

*The original recipe calls for 2 cups apricots, pitted and diced, then tossed with ¼ cup sugar. I found cute, tiny apricots and decided to use those and create something along the lines of Dorie Greenspan’s dimply plum cake – a dimply apricot (coffee) cake! After halving the apricots, I tossed them with ¼ cup sugar and the sugar ended up turning into a glaze on the finished product, which was delicious. Without it, the cake might not have been sweet enough to balance the tartness of the baked apricots.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare either an 8-inch or 9-inch baking pan by greasing with butter or baking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and egg until light and creamy. Add milk, vanilla, and yogurt. Whisk or stir until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just until smooth.

5. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth top. Place halved apricots on top of batter, skin-side down. If you end up having too many halves, you can definitely squeeze them in between other halves without compromising the look of the finished product.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes if using an 8-inch pan, and 35 minutes if using a 9-inch pan, or until a cake tester comes out dry.

7. Let cake sit for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Store cake in an airtight container or covered with plastic, refrigerated, up to two days after baking. I have to say, though, this cake was its best the day it was baked!

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A few moons ago I “saw” this guy (“Saw” in quotation marks because “dating” seems to have acquired a super serious connotation, meaning that if you are dating someone it appears to be more serious than if you’re just seeing someone. Don’t ask me, I’m just trying to keep up with the crazy relationship terminology circulating amongst young people.) who had a borderline unhealthy obsession with peanut butter. When we had breakfast together, his breakfast was always at least a quarter peanut butter. Dessert? Peanut butter generally had to be involved. I found it really endearing because, c’mon, who doesn’t love a person who appreciates and adores peanut butter? The point of this personal anecdote is that his obsession with peanut butter kind of rubbed off on me, and I found myself eating a god-awful amount of it, for breakfast, lunch, snack, you name it, smeared all over any baked good that came into my path.

When choosing what to make for breakfast Tuesday, I examined my breakfasts over the past week or so and realized that everything I had was smothered in peanut butter. This is where I put my foot down and attempt to step away from the peanut butter jar, and even the oven, at least for one morning.

I’m not accustomed to having just a smoothie for breakfast, seeing as it’s my biggest and favoritest meal of the day, but this smoothie is really filling, thanks to the oat bran, I think. It makes me want to experiment more, and make more smoothies, especially now that the farmer’s markets are opening/on the brink of opening around Boston and fresh fruit will be in abundance (finally!). I didn’t finish the rest of the smoothie, so I filled a popsicle mold with the remaining liquid. Yay for icy treats later today!

Apricot Bran Smoothie

Yields 2 ½ cups smoothie

Notes: Smoothie recipes are ripe for change according to your personal preferences. I like my smoothies fairly thick, but if you prefer a more liquid-y smoothie, reduce the yogurt to ½ cup and add an extra half-cup to cup of milk. If you want to add half a banana, go for it. More oat bran or honey? You have the power.

Ingredients:

½ cup dried apricots, chopped

1 6 oz container, about ¾ cup, yogurt, either plain or apricot

1 cup milk

1-2 tablespoons oat bran

1-2 tablespoons honey

Method:

1. Pour 1 cup water over chopped apricot and let soak for at least an hour, or overnight, until apricots are all plump and juicy. Drain.

2. Stir together apricots, yogurt, milk, oat bran, and honey, or just add them all together in a food processor.

3. Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Serve immediately. I found that if you put the blended mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes, the bran is able to soak up more of the milk and it’s pretty darn yummy.

These cookies come to you sans story. In elementary school we learned that the key to a good story, or any story, is a hook in the first paragraph or sentence, and I realize beginning a blog entry with a complaint about not having a story is not necessarily the way to make people want to read what you have to say. Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s almost as if I baked these cookies because I didn’t have anything to say.

I’m re-reading that first paragraph and shaking my head in shame. Sorry, folks. I’ll try to explain.

Baking is something that I fell into and love for many reasons. It engages my brain and my senses, almost like flipping a switch that makes me more conscious of the world around me and all the amazing things that can happen when you combine certain parts of the world – research and ingredients and recipes and baked goods being a kind of microcosm of the world in general. Conversely, baking allows me to disengage when I need to, in the sense that the process has become so natural to me that the mechanics are soothing, and the baked good at the end of the journey is of great comfort to my sometimes overly exhausted mind. I baked these cookies on a whim because I love the blog they came from, had the ingredients on hand, and had to take a serious mental vacation, if only for an hour or two.

The bloggers who made these white chocolate apricot oatmeal cookies were not super impressed with them, but I definitely loved them. It might just be that I’m a total sucker for dried apricots, and oatmeal in any way, shape, or form. Verdict is still out on that one.

Before sending you out into the world with this recipe, I’ll pass along a tip I learned while reading about oatmeal cookies. Most of the recipes I’ve read concerning these treats say that chilling the dough for the appropriate amount of time is key to a chewier, thicker cookie. Some say that the cookie dough is best after an evening in the fridge, and some recommend scooping the cookies onto a baking sheet, freezing them, and baking them as needed (which you can do for just about any cookie). I definitely noticed a difference between the cookies that got more time in the fridge before baking and the ones who were able to stay cold a little longer. I say this because I’m usually that person who sees chilling time in a cookie recipe and makes the executive decision (of an impatient cookie monster) to skip it, and in this case it really paid off to be patient.

Also, happy Memorial Day!

White Chocolate Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

(Recipe adapted from The Bitten Word)

Yields about 4 dozen cookies

 

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose)

1 ½ cups old fashioned, or rolled, oats

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup, or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips

7 ounces, or 1 ½ cup, dried apricots, chopped (I chopped the apricots pretty irregularly and really liked the different-size pieces in the finished product.)

 

Method:

1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir or whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

3. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract (on low speed, if using a stand mixer) and beat until well combined.

4. Gradually add flour and oat mixture just until combined. Stir in chopped apricots and white chocolate.

5. Cover cookie dough and refrigerate for at least a half hour. While dough is in the fridge, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Scoop cookies by the tablespoonful (or with a cookie scoop) onto baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart because the cookies will spread a bit. Bake cookies for 14 to 16 minutes.

7. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 to 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.