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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Watching the Clock

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Oh, brother, does a Friday afternoon drag. At my age, I’m usually bemoaning the speed by which time passes, but a Friday afternoon brings me back to the torture of that seemingly endless last hour of grade school.

And what makes it even more painful today? I can’t wait to get home to cook from Workman Publishing’s Will It Skillet?

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Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Lasagna is on the menu tonight. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to make the Tortilla Española, Deep Dish Pizza, Scallop Risotto, oh pretty much everything in here. I love Daniel Shumski’s voice: funny, friendly with a no-nonsense “you can do it!” confidence. “My mom’s feedback has always been valuable–she taught me how to drive, for example, and then continued to give feedback on my driving for many years afterward-but her comments on the recipes in this book were particularly helpful and made them that much better.” From an eager user, thanks, Mom!

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Spice of Life

This morning, I’m meeting Ian Hemphill, author of The Herb & Spice Bible, at my club, the Cos (our nickname for The Cosmopolitan Club, started for governesses on their days’ off over a hundred years ago and today a sisterhood of women in the arts and business).

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It’s a terrific reference, very comprehensive on growing, drying, grinding, roasting, cooking with and the history of these essential flavor enhancers. But that’s not all of it. It’s very entertaining, too, with Ian’s “Travels in the Spice Trade” stories throughout. I look forward to asking him how the upheavals around the world influence his work, his words of advice for anyone dying to throw over a corporate life to start an herb farm, and how a relatively unsophisticated cook (errrr, that’d be me) can start to use more exotic herbs and spices.

I began with the basic: cinnamon in an apple tea cake recipe Ian’s daughter Kate contributed to the book. Beginner’s luck!

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.

 

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Saturday Morning Biscuits

 

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May I admit something sacreligeous? I think Southerners are close to ruining biscuits. They’re easy, people! Our friends from Down South want us to believe they’ve got the special touch, the secret, the last word on the subject. But Yankees know biscuit-baking, too! Just see how simple this recipe from The Yankee Magazine Cookbook is and you’ll never despair that you weren’t born with a box of White Lily flour in one hand and a bottle of buttermilk in the other.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons butter

¼ to 1 cup cold milk or water

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives. Stir in liquid to form a stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead briefly. Pat out to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes in 400° oven, until tops are lightly browned. Serve piping hot with lots of butter.

Makes about 12.

Copyright © 1981 by Yankee Magazine. Harper & Row Publishers, New York

I made mine with half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white and it took 3/4 of a cup of milk to get the right consistency. A wine glass works perfectly well for a biscuit cutter–and that’s a real Yankee touch!

 

 

 

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The Benefits of a Meat-Free Friday

My Lenten sacrifices–well, sacrifice, singular–are pretty paltry, I’ll admit: eat no meat on Fridays. It’s no sacrifice at all, really. Last night, I made from scratch–pastry and all–an onion-red pepper-Monterey Jack quiche. Leftovers for breakfast! Hot or cold, quiche is one of nature’s most satisfying dishes.

P.S. More on this easy-peasy pastry later…thank you, Beth Howard, author of the new pie-making primer, Ms. American Pie.

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A Breakfast Surprise

Who’d have thought you could get breakfast from a cookbook like this?

by Rick Marzullo O'Connell; (c) Copyright 1991; HarperCollins Publishers;

 (c) Copyright 1991; HarperCollins Publishers

I usually use this for serving company a delicious recipe for Chicken Breasts With Artichokes, Cream, and Tomatoes. Chuck loves it for the White Beans With Tuna. Yesterday, I got a craving for rosemary focaccia for a savory breakfast. I had coincidentally just bought a freezer-ful of frozen fruit: blueberries, peaches, and strawberries. What should my eye fall on in this book but Blueberry Focaccia: “this combination is not as untraditional as it may seem. It is inspired by Italian flat breads baked with wine grapes and rosemary, called schiacciate con l’uva. Serve with a dab of sour cream or mascarpone cheese.” Well, there’s the answer for that last bit of crème fraîche I bought last week for a lemon tea bread.

I halved the recipe and used an 8x8 pan. Savory rosemary and garlic focaccia tomorrow!

I halved the recipe and used an 8×8 pan. Savory rosemary and garlic focaccia tomorrow!

Now that I’ve tasted this, a sweet whipped cream would better complement the tartness of the berries (I used a light, light hand with the sugar).

It starts with a traditional pizza dough:

1 cup warm water (about 100°)

¼ teaspoon sugar

1 envelope (¼ ounce) active dry yeast

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup water with sugar and yeast. Let stand in a warm place for 10 to 12 minutes. The yeast will become bubbly and give off a yeasty odor.

2. In another bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in flour, add proofed yeast, remaining ¾ cup warm water, and olive oil. Begin mixing flour and liquid together with your hand; mix until you form a dough that cleans sides of bowl.

3. Clean off your hands.  Lightly flour a work surface. Place dough on surface and begin to knead with heel of your hand, turning and folding dough as you knead it. Knead 5 to 8 minutes, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Put dough into a clean bowl and let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm place (75° to 80°) 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

4. At this point, punch dough down with fist. Knead 1 minute. You are now ready to shape dough according to recipe.

Then we move onto the focaccia:

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 recipe traditional pizza dough

1 cup blueberries

¾ cup sugar

1. Preheat over to 350°. Brush a 10 x 8-inch pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Pat or roll dough to fit pan. Brush surface with remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Indent surface of dough by pressing all over with your fingertips. Top with blueberries and sugar, pressing gently into dough.

2. Let dough rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm place 45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

3. Bake focaccia 30 minutes, or until puffy and lightly golden.

 

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Lucky Mother Hubbard Granola

You know the nursery rhyme:

Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. 

When she got there, the cupboard was bare and her poor little dog had none.

Grace Goehring, champion taste tester

Grace Goehring, champion taste tester

This lucky corgi will have plenty when the latest batch of granola cools.

I went to the cupboard this morning for 1 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats and a half-cup of mixed nuts, seeds, raisins, and dried cranberries. (Don’t get excited–I pulled out the raisins and dried cranberries to add after the granola cooled. Gracie got only the “clean” mix.) I added a good shake of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and two generous handfuls each of chopped pecans and sweetened coconut. I boiled a quarter-cup of Savannah Bee Company’s wildflower honey with one-eighth cup of vegetable oil, blended that in with the oats, and popped it in the oven for two sessions of eight minutes each. My Atomic Age Lux Minute Minder,  just rang: Blast off!

Gotta keep my kitchen accessories in a style that matches the antique linoleum.

Gotta keep my kitchen accessories in a style that matches the antique linoleum.

Now, while it’s cooling, I’ll go back to an entertaining, informative book on food trends by David Sax called The Tastemakers Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue.  It comes out next May from Public Affairs (by which time, there’ll be newer trends succeeding the cro-nut and chia seeds that he’s captured so well with his sly sense of humor).

I’ll give my lunch date today a half-pint jar of this. “Hey, Audrey, do you feel lucky?”

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Eggs and Bacon–Book Reviews

Oh, the coincidence! On my desk are two books: one which I’ll be selling at The Good Cook:

Chronicle Books, on sale March 25, 2014

Chronicle Books, on sale March 25, 2014

and one which was given to me by a smart, accomplished, passionate editor yesterday at lunch.

Countryman Press, on sale now

Countryman Press, on sale now

I’ve resisted offering Bacon 24/7 to the members because of that jacket–I just hate it. And the photos inside are almost all just as dark and dreary and unappetizing. The photographer, EJ Armstrong, is award winning, but the food is styled by the author, Theresa Gilliam, in unappealing serving dishes with grotty utensils.  I’ll take this home and give a recipe or two a try (without going the whole hog and curing my own slab). Breakfast Hand Pies sound delicious, though I am forgoing the clarified bacon fat in the tender and flaky pie crust for Crisco.

Eggs on Top, with its sunny yellow yolks and brilliant whites against greens, grains, breads, tomatoes, and more, is much more mouthwatering. It’s also much less daunting: the techniques for poaching, coddling, simmering, and scrambling does not require handling raw pork belly. I am a huge fan of the Worcestershire-flavored cheese sauce, so the Welsh Rarebit with Hide-and-Seek Eggs and Burnt Broccoli is on the menu for this weekend.

 

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Brown Sugar Glaze–A Reason to Get Up in the Morning!

Oh, Sally McKenney’s brown sugar glaze, studded with pecans…. When I roasted an acorn squash last night, I realized that I could make squash pancakes this morning and enjoy the glaze again!

roasted acorn squash

I puréed the squash last night. This morning, I mixed the  purée into a combination of ½  cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of baking powder and a wee pinch of salt. I added half an egg to bind it up, fried the batter in butter, and heated up the glaze. I poured a deep-brown stream of sweetness over these spicy pancakes for an absolutely decadent weekday breakfast. As soon as Sally’s Baking Addiction is published, I’ll bestow this glaze on you, I promise!

It's not easy to get this thick batter to cook through in the middle, but if you like squash, it still tastes good!

It’s not easy to get this thick batter to cook through in the middle, but if you like squash, it still tastes good!

TGIT–this humble little weekday never had it so good.

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Breakfast From an Early Christmas Present

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I got an early Christmas present this year from my friend Michele at William Morrow, the publisher of this enticing new French Kitchen Cookbook, which I acquired for The Good Cook book club some months ago. This photo of Walter’s Morning Egg doesn’t do this book’s bright, refreshing design justice, but you get the idea of full-bleed food photos and straightforward, thoroughly-tested-the-the-home-cook recipes throughout.

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There are also, for Julia Child’s adoring masses, lots of stories of Wells’ long, close friendship with the iconic “French” cook. Fab present for a French foodie in your life.

If the truth be told, this recipe for making an egg in the microwave doesn’t require a recipe from one of America’s most accomplished cooking teachers. My sister-in-law Sue used to do her daughter Claire’s egg exactly like this. And look how Claire turned out! Here she is, having her portrait sketched by family friend and professional artist Lucy Phillips.

at lucy's studioP.S. How did our tree decorating turn out? Just look!

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Breakfast Karma

This post is the very definition of “what goes around comes around.”

The cupboard was a little bare this morning. I thought, “What can I do with…hmm…peanut butter, grape jelly, milk, butter…oh, no, no eggs?!” When in doubt, Google.

I discovered This Homemade Life, a charming blog from Alison Bickel, a photographer from the Midwest. She shared Peanut Butter Pancakes from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book, Color Me Vegan .  I’m unlikely to become a vegan, but if I were on the fence,  this refreshing, enticing book jacket and her pancakes might just push me over.

color me veganThe recipe couldn’t be simpler; the pancakes couldn’t be fluffier or tastier (obviously eggs don’t improve pancakes!):

1 1/4 cup flour

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy

1/4 cup peanut butter

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the milk and peanut butter until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and beat just until a batter is formed. Do not overbeat.

Lightly oil a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spoon the batter by 1/4 cupfuls into the pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately.

I halved the recipe which made 4 pancakes. I have eighth-cup and 1/2 Tablespoon measures, so it was a snap to pull together.

I'm probably never using another pancake recipe again...look at how high they rise!

I’m probably never using another pancake recipe again…look at how high they rise!

Now, to bring this post back ’round to the beginning, I should be using this gift of a successful recipe in a fundraiser for something worthwhile. Will work on that, as soon as I’ve finished my next serving!

pancake breakfast poster

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