20 December 2011

What to do When Your Kids Won't Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs

It's maddening.  Neither Encyclopedia nor Cool Guy will even taste a hard boiled egg.  So, so easy, so nutritious, so portable, so REJECTED.

Still, every month or so, they appear on the breakfast table, always with other things, so that the boys will have something to eat.  I wish they would at least try them, but it's not really a battle I'm ready to have a stand-off over.  I continue to boil more eggs than get consumed, and then have eggs left over.

Here are some things I do.  (Also, let me confess, I always boil more eggs than needed so that I WILL have extras)
1. Have them the next day cold while I fix oatmeal for the boys.
2. Slice them, cold, and serve them open face on buttered bread for lunch the next day.
3. Make tuna or egg salad.
4. Use them, quartered, in salads.
5. One from my mom: quarter them and serve over cooked spinach.  (I'm still the only consumer, but it's an old favorite.)

I was playing around with egg salad the other day, and came up with a great version that Burt raved about.  I diced up the eggs, and then added mashed avocado, a squirt of mustard, squirt of mayo, and had the best egg salad ever.  Do try it.

15 December 2011

A New Twist on a Breakfast Favorite


I have posted before about making baked potato skins.  This is one of the boys' favorites, and it's really not that hard or time consuming, as long as I remember to bake the potatoes the night before.  Then I just halve them, scoop out the centers, and garnish with filling and toppings.

My usual skins have bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and green onions.  But, this past weekend, Burt and I did up a smoked beef brisket (which was to-die-for fantastic).

  No matter how wonderful it is, though, three of us at home cannot eat 8 pounds of meat in one sitting.  Leftovers are inspiration of some of the best things to eat.

Here's my new skins combo.  Brush barbeque sauce on the skins, top with chopped brisket, and cheddar, and put back in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes to warm everything up.

It's not a traditional breakfast taste, but it is very satisfying and delicious.

05 December 2011

Nostalgia and a Quest Ended

Do you have a food that you tasted once and have been looking for it for your entire lifetime?  My father in law was always on a quest for rhubarb pie that tasted like he remembered.  I don't think he ever found it, but he spent his lifetime looking for it.  My quest has always been for buckwheat pancakes like Mrs. Keener's.

Now you get to indulge me in a little reminiscence.  Paula Keener was a friend from grade school.  She lived in "the country," though when I go back home today, her home really wasn't that far out of town at all, but by standards at that time, she was far removed from the rest of us.  I guess since she was more isolated than the rest of us, her parents always let her invite girls over to spend the night.

Oh, we were wicked.  For some reason, Mrs. Keener always allowed Paula to invite lots of girls, or at least more than one.  But here's the problem: Mr. Keener drove a bread truck, so he had to be up and at work at, like, 4:00 am.  What is wrong with this picture?  Multiple grade school girls, dad needs sleep.  I can remember giggles, giggles, giggles, whoops of laughter, and then "Paula?  Come here."  Paula would go to her parents, and then come back and tell us that we had to be quiet so her dad could sleep.  Within 5 minutes, it would all begin again.  And this would go on all night long.

These were the days before cable TV, at least out in the country.  So there was nothing to lull us into placidness like parents have today.  No, by gosh, we relied on our own resources to be just about the worst group of guests imaginable.  And the funny thing of it was that a month or so later, we'd all be invited back.

Besides being rotten guests, I remember the mornings after.  Mr. Keener, bless his heart, would be long gone, and Mrs. Keener would be in her kitchen making some fantastic breakfast.  One morning, she made pancakes.  Now, as a kid, I never cared for pancakes.  I was a horrifically picky eater.  But, and this is funny, I was too polite to turn down the pancakes.  Oh, right.  Too polite, after an evening of total inconsideration toward Mr. Keener's sleep, I'm suddenly all politeness.  But somehow, somewhere, my parents had drilled into me something about not being my usual impossible picky self when a guest in someone's house.

So I took a tentative bite of these pancakes, and wow!  What have I been missing!  These weren't Bisquick pancakes, no sirree!  I had never had anything more wonderful for breakfast in my life!  What were these?  Mrs. Keener, probably delighted that these city heathens could at least appreciate her efforts, let me know they were buckwheat pancakes.

That detail stuck in my mind forever.  I don't think I bothered asking my mom to get the recipe or try making them.  Maybe I knew it wouldn't work out at home.  I don't know.  I just remember that once I had married, I was on a quest for the pancakes that Mrs. Keener made.

I have tried, Lord knows, I've tried.  I have bought buckwheat flour by the bucketful, and most recipes are extremely complicated and just weren't what Mrs. Keener had made.  Finally, not too long ago, I was flipping through King Arthur, and saw a recipe for them.  Do I try again?  Dare I?  These don't look too hard.  They don't require yeast like so many do, and somehow, I couldn't imagine sleep-deprived Mrs. Keener tiptoeing around her kitchen whipping up yeasted pancakes.  Nothing to lose but a breakfast and some flour and time, so I gave them a try, and there they were.  Mrs. Keener's pancakes.

They are easy as any other pancake, and taste just different enough to make you notice.  Boys liked them, and I loved them.  Compared to some other breakfasts I make now, they are good, but not the best thing on the planet.  However, they are much better than the Bisquick pancakes I was raised on.  Much, much better.

I haven't seen Paula in probably 25 or more years, and I have no idea if her parents are still around, but Mrs. Keener, her hospitality, and her wonderful pancakes will always be uppermost in my mind whenever I make these pancakes.

Mrs. Keener's Buckwheat Pancakes
(courtesy of King Arthur Flour)

1 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup regular flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 TBSP. molasses
2 cups buttermilk (I never have buttermilk.  Put 2 TBSP vinegar in a measuring glass and fill up rest of the way with milk and let it sit for a bit)
1 TBSP melted butter

1. Combine the dry stuff.
2. Combine the wet stuff
3. Mix together
4. Make the pancakes, like you would any others.

Well worth the purchase of a special flour, believe you me.

2 pancakes give you 12 g whole grains, which is half RDA.  Also, you get 2 g. fiber, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.  A healthy start to the day. 

18 October 2011

Dessert or Breakfast?


Am I cheating?  Justifying?  I don't know.  I just know that it's good.  This morning, we had an apple cobbler with cranberries, complements of King Arthur Whole Grain Baking.  Over the past month, I've been haunting Marietta Farmer's Market, especially Lane's Orchard's Stand, where each week, new varieties of apples are available.  They recognize me now.

We are lucky.  We have a basement, and it has a kitchen (!) complete with a full sized refrigerator.  We don't have a root cellar, but we do have a mostly empty fridge "downstairs," so I decided to get as many apples now, while the gettin's good, and store them there to see us through part of the winter.  We have Grimes Gold, Firm Gold, Macleod, Winesap (tart!), Macs, JonGolds, you name it, we got it.  Have I mentioned that unless it's peach season, my favorite fruit is apples?

So it's apple season, and I have an overflowing refrigerator.  And I wake up at 5:00, while the rest of the household sleeps in since they stayed up late watching Oklahoma football on TV.  May as well do something good with all these apples.  Burt loves pies.  In fact, he always asks for pie for his birthday instead of cake.  I think I've made it known to him that a pie takes about two hours of labor, while a cake takes 20 minutes.  Still, he persists in pie.  I should be happy that birthdays only happen once a year.  And, truly, Burt wants nothing else.  No presents, nothing else.  Just pie.  So it's the least I can do.  But pie at any other time?  Sorry.  It's just too much of a time eater.  Counting the crust, which Burt prefers to be homemade, and we're talking 3 hours total.  But there are other options, and cobbler is one.

I stumbled upon a apple pandowdy recipe, and decided to try it.  The idea behind the pandowdy is that you put the fruit in the pan and then top it with a crust.  After it has baked, you break up the crust and integrate it with the filling, thus soaking the crust in the juice.  The thing that appealed to me was that the crust could be just a wreck, and no one would know.  And it should be a lot quicker than pie.

This particular recipe came from King Arthur, which, very nicely, gave me permission to reprint their recipes as long as I credited them and provided a link to either their store or their cookbook.  Credit and links duly noted.  Let me say right now that this pandowdy is the best apple concoction that I have ever made.  And believe me, I've made a lot, lot, lot of pies, cobblers, etc.  I'm a regular baking machine in the fall when it's apple season.  This is supreme.

The addition of dried cranberries is genius.  It adds a wonderful rosy color to the dish, and provides just the right tart.  For apples, I like to use as wide a variety as I can.  You know, some apples are eating apples, and others are cooking apples.  Some are tart, some are sweet.  I say just take a little of each, and then you don't have to worry about mushiness, tartness, oversweetness, or whatever.  Well, I pulled from six varieties, and it was a wonderful balance.  Let me add that if I only had one variety, I'd plow onward and make this.  I just don't see how  it could not come out good.

So is it a good start to the day?  Honestly, I don't see how anyone could question that.  In 7 cups of apples, only a mere half cup of sugar is used.  The crust is whole grain, so the carbs are not empty.  Yes, there are 6 tablespoons of butter, but come on.  You are getting SO MUCH fruit.  Live with it.

One thing that might be a little off-putting is that the main flour of this dish is barley flour.  I have a really hard time finding it here, and have gotten lucky occasionally at the local health food store.  However, this is a whole grain flour, and it adds a really nice taste, so it is worth taking the time to find it.  If I were determined to make this and I didn't have barley flour, I think I'd use white whole wheat flour instead.

When this baby came out of the oven, and I dug in, I just couldn't believe how good it was.  Cool Guy, who is not really a pie fan, became really hoggish with the crust parts, as in picking them out and taking them for himself, the rascal.

If I were to name a drawback, it would be that I doubt that the crust will retain its integrity over time.  Therefore, I ordered the family to consume the entire dish in one day.  It was going to breakfast, part of lunch,, snacks, and dessert for dinner, but by gosh, we were going to eat it in one day.  No protests.  If any is left, I guess I'll find out if the crust is any good on day 2, but I don't think that's going to be a problem.

*NOTE*  Day 2, there was enough of the pandowdy to make two small bowls for breakfast.  As I feared, the crust just wasn't as good, but overall, the taste was fine.  Certainly eat as much as you can on the first day, but enjoy it on the second, also.

Since eating it fresh is so important, I wouldn't recommend making this unless you have a lazy weekend planned.  Start to finish, it took 2 hours, and an hour of that was labor.  If I had thought to make the crust the night before and refrigerated it, if I had thought to peel and chop the apples ahead of time, it would have all gone together quickly, but I know me, and that doesn't happen often.  By the time dinner is over, this early riser is ready for bed, not another round in the kitchen.  Save this one for when you have time, but if you don't already have a favorite way to enjoy apple baking, be sure you carve out time for this.

Apple Cran-Dowdy
Courtesy of King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book

3/4 cup whole barley flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 TBSP. butter
2-4 TBSP. milk

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas.  Add enough milk to make the dough hold together.  (For me, that was all 4 tablespoons.)  Shape into a disk, and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

7 cups peeled, cored, chopped apples
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 TBSP butter, cut into small pieces (I forgot to add this, and everything was FINE.)

Toss the apple slices with the cranberries in a large bowl.  Combine the brown sugar, spices, and salt, and add.  Pour the syrup and cider over the fruit and toss.  Put into buttered 9-inch square pan, and dot with butter.

Roll out crust to fit over the fruit.  Place it on top, and stick in a 350 degree oven.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  After it comes out of the oven, let it rest a few minutes, then cut the crust up, kindof turning it into the fruit.  Leave some large chunks, leave the edges alone, and leave some sticking up.


13 October 2011

My New Favorite Breakfast Sandwich

Sometimes I amaze myself.  I sauntered into the kitchen, knew it was oatmeal time for Cool Guy, just didn't feel like having that myself, and created something new from what I had around, and am I ever glad I did.

I'm sure I'm not the first person on earth to make this breakfast sandwich, but I've never seen it before (my wide-ranging experience -- not), and I am super thrilled with it.  I think I'm calling it something like Avocado Hamwich.  For now, it's just My New Favorite.

I'm even going to go out on a limb and say that it's healthy.  Yes, I know avocados are loaded with fat, but it's the good kind of fat, the kind that doesn't clog your arteries, and also makes you feel good and full all morning long.  And they taste soooo good and have lots of other good nutrients in them.  Not only that, avocados allow your body to more easily absorb other vitamins, like beta carotein.  If you're curious, or just want to justify the avocado fat to yourself, you can learn all about avocado nutrients here.  And please don't skip the little bit of butter.  (Yes, I know that it's saturated fat, but just tiny smear of butter is what we're talking about.)  It really makes it.  Really.

I would definitely cut this rich breakfast with some fruit.  I think the perfect match would be an orange, but it's not orange season, so I had some fresh pineapple with mine.

Avocado and Ham Breakfast Sandwich


Half an avocado, peeled and mashed
little bit of butter
diced ham
1 whole wheat English muffin, toasted

1. Spread a little butter on the muffin while warm.
2. Spread with avocado
3. Top with ham.

Yum.

30 September 2011

5-S, The Final Chapter

At long last, we have come to the end of the kitchen reorganization, only to find out that it never ends.  Yes, the 5th S of 5-S is Sustain.  It's the hardest one.

It's not as if clearing out, cleaning, sorting, and organizing are easy, but sustaining takes more than one push to do, and it takes everyone doing it.

We're only middling good so far.

I went grocery shopping the other day, and was tired when I returned.  I just wanted to throw everything into the cabinets and be done with it, but I had to tell myself, that this was the slippery road on which I did not want to venture.  So I took the time to empty the cereal into the containers, open other packages and refill other containers, store excess in the basement, make note of what went into the freezer, blah, blah.  It took some time, but I'm hoping that that time will save me time and money and frustration in the future.  I can now look at a clear container and see that the cereal is getting low. (Since I don't like cereal, I never pick up the boxes.)

If I could only train the rest of my family to do this, it would be smooth sailing, but that is small potatoes, since I do most of the shopping.

The other area to train the family is to OBEY THE LABELS.  Sheesh.  The labels are there for a reason, so if you get the bread from the shelf marked "bread," it seems logical that you would return it there. *sigh*  Again, this is small stuff, and as long I consistently keep things in order and gently remind others to do the same, it will happen.  Eventually.  I'm glad that stuff like this doesn't tie me up in knots.  I can see how it would bother other people.  Just don't go folding my towels the wrong way.  In fact, don't fold the towels at all.  I'll do it.

So was it worth it?  After 3 months of living with a 5-S'd kitchen, I'd say definitely.  Cooking is so much easier now, and actually, even with the time it takes to put things away correctly, putting away groceries is easier because I know where stuff is supposed to go.  And I think I'm saving time and money by not accidentally buying, say, mustard 5 weeks in a row.

If you have kitchen logistic woes, I urge you to try a little 5-S-ing.  You don't need to do it all at once, though it is probably most efficient if you do.  However, if you can only do a little at a time, do it anyway.  If your kitchen is like mine, you can't be any worse off.

21 September 2011

5-S, Step 4

The fourth phase of 5-S, which kind of overlaps step 3, is Standardize.  What does that mean?  It could mean many things, but I think we can all agree that if we standardize, things will be more orderly.

Burt informed me that standardization might mean storing certain types of things in like containers.  I really goofed there.  I was trying to make this project as inexpensive as possible, and took myself to Big Lots to buy every storage container I could get, regardless of its compatibility with other storage containers.

One goal I had was to be able to buy in bulk, store a reasonable amount of what I bought in the kitchen, and store the rest in the basement, as a refill depository.  So if I bought the mombo box of Cheerios at Sams, I would store some of the Cheerios upstairs, and when that supply ran out, I would simply run to the basement and refill the cereal container.  It makes sense.

However, I am regretting my purchases.  Some are glass and round; others are glass and square.  Some have airtight seals, while others don't.  A few are plastic, though I was really trying to steer away from BPA's.  I'm at the point, where BPA's be d***ed, I want everything to work well together.  For instance, I quickly found that storing freezer items, such as whole wheat flour, in a glass container is not very smart.  Frozen glass is not pleasant to grab onto.

My dream standardization line is the Tupperware.  Everything in their storage systems interlocks with everything else, making it easy to standardize the whole set.  For instance, if I had something big stored in a #3, I could also stack on top of the #3 a #1 and a #2.  It adds up, and makes sense.  Burt is really intrigued by this whole concept, and perhaps we can swallow the cost at some point and get rid of the pesky, space-hogging, round containers.  We'll see.

Rubbermaid makes a fantastic container that can be used for cereal and chips.  It is big enough to hold a decent quantity, and you can either pour from it or easily remove the airtight lid.  And the price is more reasonable than Tupperware's.  But Rubbermaid lacks the mathematical beauty of Tupperware's "legos for grownups," as the Tupperware rep. described the system.

Another step to the Standardization was labelling everything.  Burt suggested I buy a label maker a few years ago, and I have never regretted the purchase.  All containers were labelled: chips, cereal, flour, sugar, raisins, you name it.  You would not believe how much easier it is to navigate a cabinet or pantry just by having the containers labelled.  Never mind whether you can see through them and tell what's in them.  The label just makes life so much easier.  I took it one step further and labelled the shelves in the cabinets and pantry with what went onto each shelf.  That way, if it is someone other than me replacing things, ideally, things will return to their proper places.  More on that later.......

19 September 2011

5-S Series, Humpday Edition

We are now in step 3 of the 5-S Series of Kitchen Reorganization, and I've got to say that if it had taken me as long to DO 5-S, as it has taken to write it, I would have disintegrated into a quivering pool of shattered nerves.  Thank goodness, it only took half a week.

Step 3 is Set in Order.  This had to be the hardest part of the process, making it a true humpday/midway kind of job.  First, I was tired of the whole thing by this time, and second, I had to really think about making a difficult kitchen more user-friends.

Setting in order entailed deciding where the very best place to put things was.  Some things were easy.  For instance, next to the stove, I have a built-in spice rack.  Spices go there.  Check.  In the cabinet next to the spice rack, there is a lazy susan, and I decided that cooking ingredients go there: things like olive oil, vinegar.  But the lazy susan can hold more than that, but not enough more to make it also hold baking items.  So do I keep all the baking items together?  Or do I split them up and put some with the cooking item?  I decided to keep all baking things together, even though the designated place for them, on the far side of the fridge, is not the ideal place, nor the handiest place.  But I cook more than I bake, so I'll just have to walk some extra steps when I need baking soda.  Not ideal, but it made sense to me.  You know, I can always change it at some later date.

The drawers also offered puzzlement.  Which is the very best drawer for silverware?  The one closest to the table seemed logical, and yet, that put it pretty far away from the heart of the kitchen, and I know that I need those spoons and forks and larger spoons for food prep, too.  I'm trying out a new system, which is to place all the untensils for eating in a caddy near the table, and keep the rest in a drawer near the stove.  Of course, moving the silverware there meant that the dishtowels and dishrags had to go somewhere else, so they took over the aluminum foil/saran wrap drawer, and then I had to find a new spot for those, which ended up being a rack that I installed under a cabinet.  You see why this is such a complicated step?

It takes living in a kitchen, deciding what are some problems that you would like to eliminate, and really thinking about your space to do it well.  For example, one thing that often caused problems in the past was that while I was flying around the stove area right before dinner, a boy would be trying to get silverware to set the table, and we would be in each other's way.  Moving the silverware to a caddy solved that problem.  If my priority is to get help while at the same time work efficiently, I had to identify what the problem was and try to solve it by rearrangement.

My challenge to you is whether or not you're reorganizing your kitchen, identify a problem and find a way to solve it by a little creative arranging.  And then let me know what you've come up with.  I may be able to use it!

07 September 2011

Tweaks

I'm interrupting my 5S series for a bit about tweaks to breakfast.  I've done two lately, and they've been huge successes, so I'm sharing them to inspire you to devise tweaks of your own.

Tweak #1: Mary Poppins says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but around here, all it takes is a spoonful of pork, preferably in the bacon or sausage category.  Here's the story.  I had some leftover cooked  sausage in the fridge and wondered what in the heck to do with it.  Sure, I could put it in an omelet, but I don't do omelets.  Lots of other ways to use it, but I ran across an idea from A Real American Breakfast.  This is one of those fantasy cookbooks, where only in my fantasies would I be cooking like this.  After all, I have lots of other things to do, and there are still only 24 hours per day.  However, I was glancing through and saw that they stuffed cooked sausage in the center of baked apples.  Up to this point, boys have refused baked apples.  I've tried stuffing them with brown sugar, raisins, pecans, cinnamon, all of the above, and no dice.  "What the hey," I thought, "can't hurt to try."  Let me tell you, those apples disappeared in nano-seconds.  Wish I'd made more.  Brown sugar won't do it, but sausage does.

This is super easy to make; all you need is to be awake an hour before eating.

1. Have some cooked, crumbled sausage left over.  You don't need much.
2. Peel the apple, just a circle off the top of it.  This helps keep it from splitting open.
3. Take a melon baller if you have one, and use that to scoop out the core.  This makes it so easy.  Be sure to leave the bottom intact.
4. Stuff a little sausage in the middle, up to the top of the apple.
5. Now place apple or apples in a pan with just a little water in the bottom, and bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes.  Then remove the cover and bake another 15 to brown things up.

That's it.  The only real work is coring the apples, which will take you about 5 minutes.  After that, the oven does the work, while you make coffee, and work your crossword puzzle.  And it is so worth it.

Tweak #2: The Mmmelvis.  This is named after the Elvis bagel plus our common first inital.  And you say "Mmmm" after eating it.  Get it?  Here, I was just make the ol' Elvis bagel and on a whim decided to add a few chocolate chips to the mix.  What a hit!  One caveat: you may not want your bagel toasted.  When I tried that, the peanut butter, and banana, and chips all kindof slid off the thing into a puddly mess.  Cool Guy was not amused.  So Mmmelvis is better eaten non-toasted for those who prefer not to get messy hands.

Tweaking is fun, and breakfast is so forgiving, that you should really try it sometime.  And if, as when I tried adding rhubarb to the oatmeal, it turns out a disaster according to the peanut gallery, there's always cold cereal to fall back on.  And life goes on.

29 August 2011

5-S Continued

As I mentioned a looooong time ago, I was going to tackle my Kitchen Reorganization Project in the 5 steps that Burt, aka my husband, outlined for me, otherwise known as 5 S.  The first "S", if you recall, was Sort.  Now for the second, which, thankfully, I won't dwell on, is Sweep.

In other words, clean it all out while you can.  Look, as long as you've gotten everything dragged out of your cabinets, you may as well get a bucket, solution, and a sponge and get it all cleaned up.  Not glamorous, I know, but it's one of those things that it's nice to have DONE.

I'm not really a spit and polish kind of gal, I'll be the first to admit.  At the end of the day, when I've been up more hours than most, have dealt with all my high-maintenance family members (excluding Burt who is very low maintenance, but definitely including The Dog), fixed dinner, dealt with the fallout of that, done the dishes, swept the floor, I just don't have a lot left in me to go wiping out the fridge, sweeping up crumbs in the cabinet, or whatever.  And it seems that "later" never comes.  I think there is definitely some wisdom to the old Spring Cleaning ritual.

I guess early June, which is when I was 5-S-ing, counts as springtime.

My solution for the bucket, btw, is just some white vinegar diluted with water.  It takes care of most stuff.  Long story short, I totally cleaned out the fridge, including taking out the drawers and cleaning in and around them, and wiped down all cabinets, inside and out.  For the woodwork, I used Murphy's Oil Soap, and finished it off with a treatment of Old English.  Things were looking pretty good, except as long as you didn't look in the middle of the kitchen where all the stuff was waiting to be put back in a proper place.  That we'll deal with soon.

Was I tired and worn out?  You betcha.  Don't like doing it, but like having DONE it.  That is what I tell myself when I try to talk myself out of doing what I ought.

Until next time.....

19 July 2011

A New and Improved Kitchen

Awhile back, I posted about making pumpkin muffins in the springtime because I had several cans of pumpkin that would not last until next Thanksgiving.  Now, I don't mind making pumpkin muffins "out of season," but you must understand that I had four large cans of pumpkin.  Why?  Do I love pumpkin so much?  No, unfortunately, I have a truly disorganized mode of operation, and things just get shoved in the pantry, and then I forget that I got something and get it again, and it madly repeats itself until one day I find four cans of pumpkin, or even worse, 6 huge bottles of mustard.

This madness had to be stopped, and right about the time that thought was going through my very little brain, Katie at Kitchen Stewardship was posting about buying in bulk to save money and then storing the bulk items so that they could be used and not wasted.  It was a Providential moment for me.  Don't you just love it when random things, like pumpkin, mustard, and someone else's blogpost, converge to point you in a direction?

To further boost me along my well-intended path, Burt took the boys on a week-long vacation to visit his mother, and I was given a week at home to do as I pleased.  Despite all the advice to get a massage, loll in bed all day, or whatever, I knew that my mind would be most at ease if I could get a handle on the chaos that I was calling my kitchen.

It was a three-day event, lasting about 12 hours each day, and I am extremely please with how it is working out one month later.

Burt learned a system at work with something called 5S.  I have used this system in the past to organize other parts of the house, specifically the basement, now rec-room/art center, and the spare bedroom, which is now study room/classroom.  Despite my boys' best efforts to return things to their former crazy states, things have been manageable for over a year now, due to the thoroughness of the initial 5 S-ing.

You, lucky reader, have the privelage to follow me through each phase of 5 S, as applied to my kitchen, in the next 5 posts.  I hope that you can take something away from this.

S #1: SORT

Again, I had this golden opportunity while the guys were away for a week, in that I wasn't required to produce anything in the kitchen.  Therefore, I was able to pull everything out of every cabinet, drawer, etc., and sort through it all.  I had things piled up on every horizontal surface in the kitchen.

Luckily (I suppose) we have moved a lot, and so I did not have 25 years' worth of things accumulated.  Stuff becomes a lot less precious when you have to find a place to put it.  Nevertheless, there was a lot of stuff socked away.

I evaluated what I had when I pulled it out.  Do I really need three bottle openers?  600 twist ties?  Since I'm the only one who cracks and picks nuts, one of each will do.  The extras were boxed up for charity.  If I really felt that I needed a "spare," it was put in another box to live in storage in the basement.  Anything broken, and likewise, anything that I really knew I didn't use or could live without got pitched.  That left me with a lot more room for when I put things back.

In addition to sorting out what to keep and what to toss, I also tried grouping like things.  For instance, baking stuff all was together, and cooking stuff, and you get the idea.  I would figure out optimum placement later.  For the time, just deciding what went together was enough.

13 July 2011

The Onslaught Begins

Zucchini, that's what I'm talkin' about.  The zucchini tsunami has begun.  Thankfully (?) I don't grow them, but if I go late enough to the farmers' market, they are practically giving them away.  Late, meaning that the people manning the stands want to dump their wares and get on home and will offer outrageous deals.  So it happens that I have a crisper drawerful of zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, and yellow zucchini.  What's a poor girl to do?

Zucchini bread, of course!  Actually, I was lucky enough to pick up the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, which had lots of ideas for zucchini, but the bread struck my fancy.  It's easy, and good for you, too.

I went ahead and threw in a half cup of chocolate chips, to make it more tempting for Cool Guy, who resists any and all vegetables on principal, and he adored it.  My plan is to gradually decrease chocolate chips (they did nothing for me except add calories) until they disappear and are only a distant memory in Cool Guy's subconscious.

Next time I make this bread, which will be soon, I plan on converting it to muffins, following my muffin conversion strategy.  They stay fresher that way, are much easier to portion out, and any leftovers can be frozen for those bleak winter days when we have no zucchini to complain about.

Cool Guy and the vegetable story:
Last week, a water line broke in our neighborhood.  We had no water for 8 hours.  Come lunchtime, I had nothing to offer.  Oh, we had PBJ and milk, but no way of washing up, and the kitchen was a shambles from breakfast dishes still to be done.  And then there was the toilet issue.  Couldn't flush, and Cool Guy was refusing to go.  So I made a command decision to Go Out for Lunch.  My decision, my choice, so we went to the Indian place in town, which has a lunch buffet.  Lucky us.

We were a bit early, so the buffet was a bit bare at first.  No fritters, no rice pudding, no naan.  So Cool Guy took some tandoori chicken and something that looked like gravy.  Boy, did he dig that gravy.  I made the mistake of asking the waitress about the "gravy," at which she replied, "it's only spinach."  Well, that did it.  Not another bite of gravy passed Cool Guy's lips.

 I reminded him of DW, the Picky Eater, (an excellent, funny book that everyone should read) but still no dice.  Ah, well, it was good while it lasted.  And so you can understand my gilding the zucchini bread with chocolate, which was quite good.  Try some yourself, and throw in some chocolate to convert the natives, if needed.

06 July 2011

Toast Series: Toasted. Sweet.

I noticed that my last few posts revolved around the toaster oven and the yummies that we can make in it for breakfast: toasted cheese, toast and pb, Elvis bagel.  I'm finishing this series with one last toaster item, cinnamon toast.

How long has it been since you've made cinnamon toast?  For me, oh about 30 years.  That's not a typo.  Seriously, it's been that long.  I just forgot about it.

I love cinnamon rolls, especially those from my hometown which are dinner plate size and come warm with a big hunk of butter melting on top.  But I don't live there, and I'm not too keen on investing the time and effort to making my own here, especially since I'd only be feeding four of us and not a restaurant.  We'd all be in a super sugar coma after we were unable to stop ourselves from having more.

But I miss those things.  And after brainstorming for a solution, it hit me.  Well, duh.  Cinnamon toast.

Both boys adored them, and Cool Guy has asked for them repeatedly.  Is cinnamon toast healthy?  Not really, but it can be made acceptable, and then, augmented with other good things, can be a nice touch to a good breakfast.

Just in case someone out there doesn't know how to make it, here we go.

Cinnamon Toast

1. Take a slice of bread, preferably whole wheat to get some goodness in you, and butter one side.  As an aside, during the summer, I don't use butter, since I can't store it out of the fridge, and it's too hard to spread when it's cold, and I can never remember to set it out ahead of time.  I like Brummel and Brown yogurt spread.  It tastes OK and doesn't have any trans fats.

2. Sprinkle your buttered side with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  I use about 1 Tablespoon of sugar to 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon.  Try that ratio, and get a feel for the shade of brown it is, and then you can just eyeball it.  That is about enough for 4 slices.  If I have any left, I store it in an empty cinnamon can, which I have labelled as cinnamon sugar.

3. Toast your bread in the toaster oven.  Or you can run it under the broiler of a regular oven, but it won't be quite as good.

4. You can serve this with fruit, eggs, and/or a breakfast meat.

5. Get ready for repeated requests.

24 June 2011

I've Seen Elvis


That was the slogan on a T-shirt that Burt used to have a long, long time ago.  Burt likes Elvis; I don't.  I credit that to one time when I was about 9 or so, and Elvis was on TV, singing live, and dressed in a white pantsuit, fat (by those days' standards), sweating like all get out, and just totally grossed me out.  Grossed me out so much that I couldn't stand him or anything to do with him.  What a shame.  Whenever I hear him, even now, the first thing in my mind is my revulsion.  Suspicious Minds is the only song that can rise above.

But good ol' Elvis has staying power.  Cool Guy likes a lot of his music, and we all like his peanut butter/banana combo, the star of today's breakfast, which we dub Elvis Bagels.  That's right, toasted whole wheat bagels smeared while warm with peanut butter (or, better yet, toasted in the toaster oven with the pb right on) and then topped with sliced bananas.  Burt and I like it just as much as the boys.  Add a tall glass of milk, and you've got a wonderful start to the day.

No recipe necessary.

22 June 2011

Life Without a Microwave

Is it possible?  A non-zapping life?  It seems hard to imagine, yet I am old enough to remember my family getting its first one when I was about 10.  And I remember the warning not to stand too close to it, and I remember our systematically destroying our melmac plates in it.  They aren't microwave safe, BTW.

So basically all my cooking life, I have had and relied on a microwave.  Not really for cooking, per se, but for all those handy things like melting butter, boiling some water, heating up leftovers.

Cool Guy especially loves loves loves the microwave.  He went through a warm milk phase about a year ago where he would heat up a small glass of milk every evening in the microwave.  In fact, he wanted everything heated up.  Perhaps not the ice cream, but basically everything else.

And that's how disaster struck.  Cool Guy, heating up yet another item, forgot that metal bowls do not go in the microwave.  Ka-pow.  Oh, and the smell.  We are unfortunate enough to have a built-in model which came with the house and would cost about $2000 to replace.  And.....we have "kitchen remodel" on our near future to-do list, and so an immediate replacement would not be wise until we know exactly what we want and where we want it.  So.  No microwave.  For about 9 months now.

And guess what?  We're doing fine. 

We did get a toaster oven to help out during this time, taking the place of the microwave and toaster, which also blinked out on us, and it is filling both jobs rather well, thank you.  In fact, today's breakfast comes courtesy of the toaster oven, which does a much better job than anything else could have done.  Today it was Toasted Cheese.  You want something pretty quick, pretty reliable, a nice vehicle for some more dairy and whole grains, you can't miss with this one.  It is one of my favorites.

Toasted Cheese
1 serving

1. For each serving, place a piece of whole wheat bread on rack in the toaster oven.

2. Place a slice of cheese on the bread.  I like cheddar; boys like Muenster.

3. Toast.  Yum.

If you don't have a toaster oven, then you must first toast bread, and then run cheese on bread under the broiler in a regular oven.  The toaster oven method is much easier and turns out a much better product.

Toast and Peanut Butter

If you have a toaster oven, put some peanut butter on bread and toast it.  It comes out perfect.  If you only have a toaster, it's a 2-step process: toast bread, and smear on pb while still warm.  It's fast, easy, nutritious, and very boy-appealing.  Throw on some sliced bananas if you're feeling Elvis-y.

Now for my recommendation:

I did a lot of research before deciding on a toaster oven.  The Breville got very high reviews, and I was extremely impressed with the blender by that company, so I went with it.  It is large, and I seem to do most of my oven stuff in it now.  It has lots of settings, and it has memory.  So, for instance, I find that making a certain frozen pizza does best in 18 minutes rather than the preset 20, the oven will remember that the next time I put it on pizza setting.  It has a frozen setting and a convection setting, which I have found means that I can make things 25% more quickly than in a regular oven.

In addition, I can toast up to 6 slices of toast at a time.  Plus, I can broil, and roast, and there is the pizza setting and the cookie setting.  Both turn out better product than the oven or microwave.

Now for the less than perfect parts:
1. We hear, though we have not experienced, that customer service at Breville stinks.  I'm willing to live with that.  How many times do I ever need customer service for any appliance?  It's a risk I'm willing to take, but I wanted to put it out there.  In fact, our first toaster oven was extremely noisy, as in something must be wrong noisy.  But we got the oven through Amazon, so we just exchanged it, no hassle, and that was the end of that problem.

2. The exterior gets hot.  You would think that with a top line product like this that it would be cool touch on the outside, but it's not.  So I needed to warn the boys about it, and must be careful around it when it's on.  I can live with it, but I'd rather it be otherwise.

We have changed our food storage ways to using glass and foil rather than plastic and saran.  There was an adjustment period involved.  I was OK with it, knowing that if there is any truth to the BPA issues, at least we were getting away from that.  But still an adjustment is needed.  Leftovers warm up in 15 minutes rather than 1.  It takes brain power to remember that.  But after over half a year, I honestly do not miss the microwave at all.

Would I recommend that one have both microwave AND toaster oven?  I think it would depend on how much kitchen space you have.  I don't have much.  They each have their merits and faults, but I must say that if quality rather than speed is your thing, the toaster oven wins out.

08 June 2011

Finally posting. Some Business and Recommendations

It's been a long time coming.  Spring around here is just hectic.  Mulch, weeds, end of school.  Still, rest assured, we are continuing to eat breakfast.  In fact, Burt took the boys on vacation to visit him mother this week, and I was insistent that they have some scrambled eggs, fresh strawberries, and toast before leaving.  (Why am I not going?  Boring stuff, so let's just say that I've been to destination plenty in the last year and needed a break.)

On to the business item: I have another blog, Landscapes and Portraits, which I am going to close out.  This other blog was focused mainly on family life, intellectual life, and interests of mine.  I like it, but I have a LOT more fun blogging about breakfast, and it has seemed almost onerous to continue with blog #1, when I can barely find time to post on blog #2.  Command decision is to discontinue first blog, and perhaps work in elements of it into this one.

Now that we've got that over with, on to my recommedations.  Right before Burt and I were married, my Grandma Demers died, and my parents had a houseful of items to dispense with.  I was given all of the kitchen equipment that I could use.  I'll add that my grandma was not much of a cooker, and there wasn't much, but one item I had was a vegetable peeler.  It has stood me in good stead for 25 years, but finally I noticed that I was having to press harder and harder on it, and decided to replace it.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good peeler?  I bought 4, yes 4 peelers within the span of a year and all have been lemons.  Finally, sick of my complaints, Burt Googled vegetable peelers and found two with superior reviews.  I decided to get both, since one can never have enough peelers, and also backing my odds of finding a good one.  Both, by the way, were just MERELY a tad more expensive than the pieces of junk I had been throwing my money away toward.

The package came, and I immediately tried both right away.  They are different, but both are excellent, and I wonder how in the world I have survived all this time without them.  Suffice it to say that if you have a mediocre peeler, you owe it to yourself to spend 5 or 6 dollars and make your life so much easier.  After all, it's all in the details, right?

So the winners are......

1. KitchenAid Vegetable Peeler.

This was my first choice, as I have always been happy with KitchenAid products.  It gives a deeper peel tham most, taking part of the fruit or vegetable, but it peels well, and without a lot of shenanigins from me, so I like it a lot.


2. Kuhn Vegetable Peeler

This one I would have to say is marginally superior to KitchenAid.  It gives a thinner peel.  It has serrated edges, and I suppose that makes a difference.  It is just amazing at what a difference a decent or even superior peeler makes.

Lesson learned from this: if something is giving you fits, fix it or find a replacement.  Now.  Life is too short to fight a 3 dollar peeler when a 5 dollar one will make your daily life so much less frustrating.

Now that summer is here, please enjoy the fruits and veggies, and use a decent peeler when needed!



17 May 2011

Spring Cleaning Finds, and a Bonus

Trying to follow good, healthy practices, I like to cook things when the ingredients are in season, a la farmer's market.  The following is definitely not farmers' market and definitely not seasonal.  However, in a twisted kind of way it is seasonal.

What does Spring make you think of?  Strawberries?  Asparagus?   Eggs?  What about pumpkin?  No?  NO!  Unless, of course, Spring also means Spring Cleaning, and that entails clearing out the pantry and checking expiration dates on canned goods.  Does anyone else always seem to have a can of pumpkin left over after Thanksgiving?  I always do, and unfortunately, it tends to expire before the next Thanksgiving rolls around.  And I need the room.  I do not have a limitless pantry.

Tangent: if you are interested in major pantry reorganization, please visit this Kitchen Stewardship post for a lot of really inspirational links regarding pantries, bulk food storage, and freezer storage.  I've got to get busy!

So I unearthed this can of pumpkin and no way was I making pumpkin pie.  So I did something better: whole grain pumpkin muffins.  Did you know that you can turn any quick bread recipe into a muffin recipe?  Just put the batter into muffin cups (12 muffins for one 9x5 loaf of bread) and bake for about 22-25 minutes.  If ever you have muffins left over, and we don't, you can freeze them and have them some other time.

I used the King Arthur Whole Grain pumpkin bread  recipe (see below) and added dried cranberries to the batter.  I had some of those left over too.  I had some pumpkin seeds, and sprinkled them on top, and it was a flashy, thematic addition.  (Note: I have a picture of these beauties on my camera, which seems to have died.  If it resurrects, I will put the picture up, but for now, just use your imagination.)  These muffins were delicious and loved by all at our breakfast table.  Not hard to make, though I did save it for the weekend, and the boys snacked on pumpkin muffins all weekend long.  I was happy knowing that they were snacking on something that was giving them whole grains, lots of beta carotine, plus other good stuff, rather than, say, Cheetos.

One thing I do not like is when recipes call for something like 1 cup of canned pumpkin.  A can of pumpkin holds more than a cup.  Remember, I'm trying to use up stuff, and be frugal, not throw out nearly half a can.  I decided to save the extra pumpkin and make it into smoothies for the boys.  Honestly, to me a pumpkin smoothie didn't sound that great, but Cool Guy especially liked the idea.

I put into the blender the remaining can of pumpkin, some vanilla yogurt, a pinch of cinnamon, a banana past its prime, and about a Tablespoon of maple syrup.  Whirred it up, and had a very quick, nutritious, and surprisingly good after school snack. 

So this can of pumpkin turned out to be a two-fer winner.  What do you have in your pantry?  Can you put your creativity to work and find some good uses for your orphans?

Pumpkin Muffins
(Reprinted, with permission, from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup regular sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I didn't include, since boys don't want them)
  • 3/4 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 375.  Grease 12 muffin cups.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a bowl.

3. Cream together butter, and sugars in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

5. Beat in vanilla and pumpkin.

6. Add dry ingredients.

7. Stir in nuts and other addition.

8. Fill muffin cups.  They will be pretty full.

9. Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds if you have them.

10. Bake for about 23 minutes.

11. Wait about 10 minutes after taking out of the oven, and then remove from muffin pan.

I'm not going to do the math translating nutrition information between 1/16  of a loaf to 1/12 of the recipe for the muffins, but suffice it to say that you WILL get close to 20 whole grains, a nice bit of fiber, protein, vitamin A, iron, calcium and other stuff that is good for you.


Pumpkin Smoothie

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • banana
  • canned pumpkin
  • dash of cinnamon
  • Tablespoon of maple syrup
  • ice cube, optional
Whir it all in the blender.  Add more yogurt if the pumpkin is too strong.

04 May 2011

Granola Girl

Does this make me a crunchy mom?  The fact that I make granola?  Do any of you dear readers make granola?  Do you know how easy it is?  And how good?  And how good for you?

What I like best about granola, besides how good it is, is that it makes a ton at once, and then for several weeks, I have at my fingertips the making for a very healthy, very quick, breakfast.

Let's face it: the boys and I don't share the same tastes.  Cool Guy could happily eat oatmeal every morning of the year, and he does ask for it for breakfast every night before he goes to bed.  Wish he could remember to brush his teeth as faithfully as he remembers to ask for oatmeal.  But after awhile, oatmeal pales for me.  I sometimes try to jazz it up a little, like last week, when I added rhubarb to the oatmeal pot, and thought Cool Guy was going to have to miss school because he was so incensed with my tinkering.

I guess granola is my way of tinkering with oatmeal so that it's not just oatmeal that I've ruined, but is something else entirely.

I've tried several different "recipes" of granola, and by far, my favorite is King Arthur flour's Maple Granola.  All granolas I've made have been good, if I do say so myself, but this one is superior.  It is perfect in its ratio of nuts, fruits, and grain, and is sweetened perfectly.

I never, ever have the exact ingredients called for in the recipe, so I make substitutions like mad, and each batch comes out differently, and always good.  This time, I used pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, and pecans rather than walnuts.  I cut out the coconut entirely because I do not like coconut at all, ever.  And I don't add the powdered milk - don't like that either.  For fruit, I used apricots, dried cherries, and dried cranberries.  A little heavier on the cranberries than the other fruits.  And I got to use some maple syrup from the local farmer's market.  It's available right now and very reasonably priced.  Sometimes, I use dry roasted peanuts, and that makes a good addition.  And I always throw in a handful of ground flaxseed to bump up the Omega-3's.

Another twist in preparation, is that I throw the whole mess into one 13 x 9 baking dish rather than portion it out between two jelly roll pans.  I do this because my rotten, lousy oven is too small to accommodate a jelly roll pan.  I have never had a problem with baking it all in my one pan, and it makes the process that much easier.

Yes, making granola is an investment in time, though most of the time is baking time, where I just plop down and watch a movie (wish) while it bakes.  But you've got to be around for it, to stir it around, and then you've got a big bowl to wash, and some containers to find to hold it all, but it is so worth it!.

This morning, another oatmeal day, before I put the water on to boil, I measured out 1/4 cup of granola into my bowl and 1/4 of lowfat vanilla yogurt.  I mixed that together, sliced a banana and mixed that in.  The granola gets a chance to soften a little, which I like, while the boys' oatmeal is cooking.  When their oatmeal is ready, so is my granola, and we sit down and eat together.  They're happy, I'm happy.

Do my boys like granola?  In a word, no.  When it comes out of the oven, they snick little tastes, but once I've put it in containers and offer it for breakfast, they want nothing to do with it.  Go figure.  I just tell them that their tastes aren't mature enough yet.  Burt loves it, and I love it, so I say, More for us.

Print out this recipe from King Arthur.  Get some ingredients together.  Give yourself a evening to make it, and then you can spend the next few weeks congratulating yourself on how frugal and healthy your breakfast is.

12 April 2011

Scrambled Redux

I posted not too long ago about a veggie scramble, but I'm going to risk being boring and repetitive by posting about another for several reasons.
  1. This one is different.
  2. I love to talk about eggs, especially when fresh.
  3. I love winning prizes, and this one has a prize involved.
  4. It's my blog, and I'll repeat if I want to, repeat if I want to....

First, this one is different because I used potatoes and tomatoes, both leftovers from other meals.  The potatoes were the innards from baked potato skins that I had made and just couldn't bear tossing.

Second, I went to the farmers' market last weekend, and could not believe the plethora of eggs available.  It made me so happy, and I bought a ton, or rather 3 dozen.

Third, the prize.  I won a giveaway from Meal Makeover Moms and was thrilled to receive at the end of Feb. a gorgeous wooden crate of  Muir Glen fancy tomato products.  You should visit the company's website to see what all they offer.  I wanted to use those tomatoes in a special way, so for awhile was afraid I'd waste them in some dish where they wouldn't shine.  Finally, I just dove in, and used half a can on some open-faced sandwiches and had half a can leftover.  Into the eggs, they go!  And they were delicious.  And shone.

Fourth, just kidding.

The way I made the dish:
  1. Melt two TBS. butter in a nonstick skillet.
  2. Throw in the potato innards, and toss around until getting a little crispy.
  3. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. Mix the eggs (I used four) and a little milk.
  5. Add to the skillet, which should be cooled down a bit by now.
  6. Scramble it up, and right before it is done, throw in the well-drained tomatoes.
The point of this whole dish is twofold:
  1. Get some veggies into breakfast.
  2. Use up leftovers.
Any veggie that would appeal to you in the morning would work, I imagine, and it always seems to all go together well with eggs.  And it's great not to be wasteful of food, with the bonus that most everything is already cooked for you, and all you have to do is warm it and mix it all together.

We had this with some hot, buttered toast.  Total time invested was about 10 minutes.  Did the boys enjoy it?  Both said they preferred their eggs plain, but they ate about half a helping each.  It takes time, developing flexible eaters, and I'm not going to push it.  Sometimes, we have plain scrambles, and sometimes veggie scrambles, sometimes weirdly colored scrambles.

If you try adding some leftover veggies to your scrambled eggs, why don't you let me know what you tried and how you liked it?  I'd love to hear from you!

01 April 2011

Variations on a Theme

It has been awhile since I have posted.  Never fear, I am still making breakfast; it is just that I'm not having time to write about it.  Encyclopedia's 6th grade class had their yard sale last weekend to fund their class trip, and I have gotten involved with a music ministry during Lent, that has required much more practice than I am used to doing.  Life ebbs and flows.

Earlier this week, I made "customizable" breakfast burritos.  I once tried a really bang-up breakfast burrito recipe that I loved and the boys hated.  Why?  Everything was all mixed together.  But they were open to the idea of breakfast burritos, "but please, mom, don't put in the stuff I don't like."  Simple enough.

Actually, it is easier to make it all at once in one skillet all mixed up, but if it doesn't get eaten, then it's a waste of time.  So here's what I did.

1. First I fried up 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage, crumbling it up in the skillet.  I removed it to a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Then I threw in the same skillet a diced up baked potato.  I baked an extra potato the night before.  I then removed that to a bowl.
3. Then I added a little butter to the skillet, and scrambled some eggs.
4. While the various things were cooking, I shredded some cheese, diced an avocado, poured out some salsa.
5. Finally, I placed a flour tortilla on each plate, and told the boys to customize their own burritos.  Encyclopedia chose sausage, egg, potato, and cheese.  Cool Guy had sausage, egg, and avocado.  I had it all.  We were all happy and well-fed.

As a bonus, I made another burrito, wrapped in foil and sent it to school in Cool Guy's lunch for the day.  He loved it.

So the theme is Tex Mex, and Variation #1 was the burritos.  Everything got saved and two days later, we had Variation #2, which was quesadillas.  Here's how I did that.

1. Set out the filling ingredients, and asked the boys how they wanted theirs.
2. Put a flour tortilla on the griddle and place chosen toppings on one half of the tortilla.  Fold over the empty side to make a half-moon shape.  Kindof press the top down so it will stay in place.
3. Cook it on one side for a minute or two until the cheese gets a little melty (technical term), so that it will all stick together while you flip.
4. Flip it carefully.  A spatula helps.
5. Cook it on the other side for about a minute and then remove to a plate. 
6. Cut into wedges and top with things like salsa or sour cream.

Cool Guy had cheese and avocado.  Encyclopedia had sausage and cheese.  I had everything.

The burritos took longer, mainly because I was cooking the fillings for the first time.  The quesadillas, only needing to warm everything up, took less time.  You would probably need to budget about 30 minutes for the burritos, and about 5 minutes for the quesadillas.  That's per quesadilla, if you only cook one at a time.

Are they healthy?  More or less.  We used whole wheat tortillas, and lower fat sausage.  We got in some whole grains, protein, dairy, even some good veggies in the avocado and salsa.  There are certainly worse breakfasts out there.

Are they tasty?  Absolutely.  Is it kid friendly?  Are you kiddiing?  It's Customizable!  Mine loved it.  Should you make this?  If you want something not too difficult, something different, something that will take you through the morning, then yes, yes you should.  Seriously, give these a try.

19 March 2011

Quest for the Best: Breakfast Cassarole

It is hard to believe, but it's true.  I, Breakfast Queen, have never made a breakfast cassarole.  I had my first at my mother in law's house one Christmas very early in marriage, and I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted.  It had bread, eggs, sausage, and cream of mushroom soup.  I have the recipe, and yet, I've never tried making it.  Since then, I have had several breakfast cassaroles.  Once, when I was working, we had a group breakfast, and several people brought breakfast cassaroles, and they were all different and all delicious.

I've been thinking about breakfast cassarole lately, and especially about that multi-cassarole spread, and decided that I would begin trying different recipes.  One different recipe per week, until I find the best - or until I get tired of making them.  I'd never run out of recipes, thanks to the internet.

Some areas of importance which I will use to judge these cassaroles by:
  • taste, of course
  • healthy factor - the less processed foods the better
  • ease
  • speed - I know many of these sit overnight, and that is fine, but how long does it take to get to that point?
I may think of other criteria as I go along.  Some recipes are meatless, some feature bread, others potatoes, others grains.  I'll try them all.

If you have a favorite breakfast cassarole that you'd like to share, I'd love to try it

15 March 2011

Making a Hash of Breakfast

You won't mind that this morning's breakfast has no photo?  Good.  My photos stink, and this was not an appealing picture anyway.  Is there any way to make has look appetizing?

The real reason is that I snafued on the alarm situation again.  God, I hate changing time.  By the time I zipped through breakfast, it was too late to take a picture.

Hash is the topic of the day.  This is another gem I got from the Betty Crocker book back when I was first married.  We had a delicious (if I do say so myself) pot roast on Sunday, along with some leftover carrots and onions.  I was out of potatoes, so we made do.

After waking up way too late, I wasn't sure that I could pull off breakfast in time, but I found out that hash can be made in about 10 minutes.  Did you know that?  Here is how I did it.

Roast Beef Hash

leftover roast beef
leftover carrots
leftover potatoes
leftover onions
leftover pan drippings or gravy

1. dice the beef and anything else you have into small pieces.

2. Put some kind of grease in a cast iron skillet.  Today, I used olive oil, but I could have used Crisco or bacon grease.

3. Add all the chopped up bits, plus gravy or drippings,  and then go get dressed, pour juice, set the table.  The point is that you want the stuff to just sit in place in the skillet for a bit to get browned.

4. Turn it and check it every now and then.  Add more liquid if needed.  When it is good and crusty on one side and warm through, serve.  Total time, no kidding, 10 minutes.

So now, the secret is out.  Your kids will think you are a wonder mom, and really all you did was open the fridge, chop, chop, and fry.  Enjoy.

14 March 2011

A SNAFU and Blue Eggs

I don't do Daylight Savings Time well.  The older I get, the harder it is for me to recover from that lost hour.  Part of the problem, I know, is my forgetfulness, and I forgot to set some crucial clocks forward.  So not only did I have trouble sleeping because the heater hadn't kicked off, but then my alarm which I NEEDED today due to tossing and turning, chimed in right before the new 7:00 am.  Disaster!  I had a fantastic breakfast planned, and now I only had time to scurry around and pour Rice Crispies.  And exhort the boys to hurry, hurry, hurry.  Yeck.  What a lousy way to start a week.

I do, however, have some breafasts from happier mornings on my backlog, so I'm going to step into the blogger's time machine, pull up a draft, and tell you about the blue eggs we had last Friday when that lost hour hadn't lost itself yet.

My friend Marilyn told me not so long ago, that when her kids were growing up, her husband always made scrambled eggs on Saturdays.  That was a given.  The unknown was what COLOR they would be.  I've got to try that, I said to myself.  The boys will love it!

Well, yes and no.  I did try it today (note: last Friday), and it WAS fun.  Just basic scrambled eggs with a little blue liquid food coloring dropped in while I was whisking the eggs.  They were a greenish blue, probably due to mixing with the yellow egg yolks.  And it was certainly a surprise for the boys.  Cool Guy got a big, slow smile on his face as soon as he saw them.  Encyclopedia absolutely refused to eat them.  To be honest, it was hard for me to take that first bite, but the eggs tasted just the same.  It is funny how big a role vision plays in eating our food.

"Close your eyes," I said.
"I'll still know they're blue.  I'm not eating them."

So he didn't, and Scamp had a nice morning treat.  Are dogs colorblind?  I always wondered that and wondered if they are, how do we know?  Dogs can't tell us.

Back to the eggs:  Am I going to color our scrambled eggs again?  Yes I am, sometimes.  There is nothing to be gained in this world by being always serious, always exactly so, always so dead certain straightforward.  Sometimes, and especially toward the end of a grey, wet winter, we should laugh more, do silly things, the unexpected.  Why NOT have blue eggs?

07 March 2011

A Great Start to a New Week


What better way to start a week than with waffles?  How about Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Waffles?  Do you think that will put smiles on the boys' faces?  You bet!  Oh, Encyclopedia, who is a little too cool right now to smile for his mom, may not actually smile, but I know he's smiling inside.

Normally, this would be a definite weekend breakfast and something easy would be on tap for Monday, but hey, I was up.  Using a stand mixer makes the batter very easy, and then all I have to do is wait for the boys to get up before starting the waffles.

The recipe, which is from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book, calls for serving these with a banana cream.  Well, that's just a little too fancy for me any day of the week, so instead, I topped the waffles with banana slices.  We had it that way in lieu of syrup and didn't miss the syrup one bit.

What do I like about these waffles?  First, they are made with whole spelt flour, giving us whole grains and protein.  Second, they have peanut butter, which adds more protein and really appeals to the boys.  Chocolate chips just make them even better.  Finally, the fluffy texture plus the great chocolate/peanut butter combo makes them seem so special, as if I had been slaving all morning in the kitchen, when in fact, I haven't at all.

After eating one waffle with the banana, I was so full, I had to put off my morning walk for awhile.  I am sure it will hold the boys until lunchtime.

The peanut butter flavor is not overwhelming, and the chocolate chips just come in a little bit, but the whole is a quiet pb and a quiet choc, and together, it is very nice.  The Elvis banana touch really appealed to the boys.  I guess if I go ahead and SLICE the bananas instead of just handing one to them, they get eaten.  OK, fine.  I'll slice them.

Making these, I used a 3/4 cup of batter for my iron.  I think that was too much.  2/3 would be better.  My iron let that larger amount spill all over the iron and made cleanup a mess.  Hey, less batter means more waffles.  And Cool Guy just couldn't get enough of these today.  More waffles, more bananas.

Each waffle will give you
  • 8 whole grains
  • 12 grams fat
  • 6 grams protein
  • 3 grams fiber
OK, so there's more fat than I would like, but I rationalize this by telling myself that I am aware and that I just need to cut back on lunch and dinner.  The whole grains are good, and the protein is good, and adding in the bananas, I'm sure we're still way better than my pop tart measuring stick.  Is this better for you than a pop tart?  If yes, then proceed.  We can proceed.

Please, if you aren't scared off by (a) waffle iron or (b) spelt flour, try this waffle.  Everyone in your family, young or old, will LOVE it.  You've got to trust me on this.  And also, I want you to let me know after you have tried it and loved it yourself, that you know that I was right.  Please.

04 March 2011

My Third Favorite Coffeecake

My first favorite is rhubarb.  My second is blueberry buckle.  And third place goes to (drumroll) Peach - recipe is here.  In truth, peaches are my favorite fruit of all time, but, sadly, a little something is lost between the fresh peach picked from the tree and frozen peaches that I must use at this time of the year.  Also, though the peaches are dandy in this coffeecake, don't get me wrong, nothing, nothing can compare with a peach off the tree.

We are very lucky to be living in a part of the country where fresh peaches grow well.  We have two trees in our backyard, and last summer, I was on-the-ball enough to put bird netting over the trees before the squirrels stole all my peaches.  One variety is white and clingstone, and the other is orange and freestone.  Both are equally delicious.

Peaches give you lots of vitamins, like A, and some fiber, and not much in calories.  And this coffeecake combines the good of peaches with the good of whole grains and it is tasty, crumbly, cinnamony, moist.  There's nothing not to like.  It's just not fresh peaches, so of course I'm disappointed.

My boys, though, any morning that they get out of bed and find out that coffee cake is cooling on the counter, are NOT disappointed.  They very much enjoyed this two days in a row, especially when accompanied by some bacon or fried smoked sausages.  Add some milk, maybe some juice, or even coffee, and your morning is set for success.

Another thing about the peach coffee cake is that I had the final slice on the third day of its existence, and it was still just as moist as on the first day.  I think that, more than anything, is what the peaches do for the coffee cake.

What I especially like about this recipe is that it makes two cakes.  So we eat one, and I double wrap the other and freeze it so that I have a super easy breakfast sometime in the near future.

Full disclosure: I began making this at 5:45, and the boys ate it at 7:15.  This is not a quick meal - probably better for the weekend.  But sometimes weekends around here are even more hectic, so I decided to do this on one of those early-rising mornings.  Don't regret it at all.

27 February 2011

Love It or Hate It


That's how it goes at the Breakfast Table in this house when I make Malt-O-Meal.  Cool Guy and I love it, and Burt and Encyclopedia hate it.  Well, Encyclopedia tolerates it if there's enough brown sugar on top, but he would never in a million years request this for breakfast.

This may be one of those things you had to grow up eating in order to like it.  Like chicken livers.  Or smoked oysters.  Or canned spinach with hard boiled egg quarters on top.

I don't imagine that Malt-O-Meal will be signing me up for their advertising campaign team any time soon.

Back to the cereal.  When I speak of Malt-O-Meal, I'm referring only to the original hot cereal, not the chocolate hot cereal or any of the cold cereals that the company makes.  We had this on occasion, probably more in the winter, when I was growing up.  Definitely we had Malt-O-Meal more than oatmeal, and again, going back to the growing-up/taste thing, that may be why I prefer Malt-O-Meal to oatmeal.

After marrying Burt and moving out of Oklahoma, I couldn't find Malt-O-Meal.  Not on the East Coast, not on the West.  I can remember actually asking my mom to buy some and mail it to me.  I think shipping rates were way cheaper back then.  It eased the homesickness.

So here's the good and bad:
  • It's a mixture of wheat and barley, with a taste all its own - good
  • It has a very fine texture, like that of Cream of Wheat - good if your kids have texture issues
  • Still on texture: if you're not careful, there will be lumps - bad.  See Bill Cosby.
  • It can be made in about 3 minutes - good
  • It cannot be made ahead and held.  You end up with cement. - bad. 
  • If you don't rinse your pot and your bowls and spoons right away, same cement will be encrusted on those items - very bad
  • It has iron, calcium, vitamins - good
  • It most definitely fills you up - good
  • It is not whole grain - too bad.
I made Malt-O-Meal the day I left for my quilt retreat.  It was so good, I made it again today.  If you are lucky enough to find it in a store near you (and I am now lucky enough and don't have to have care packages shipped), you should give it a try.  Definitely give it a try if you like Cream of Wheat since, IMHO, Malt-O-Meal has lots more character, perhaps sweeter and/or nuttier tasting, due to the barley.

Here are a few tips learned the hard way.
  • Pretend that you don't have a microwave.  Using it is the biggest waste of time when making Malt-O-Meal.  Not only will you spend more time making the stuff, it will be incredibly time intensive as you stop to stir every 30 seconds.  And the stuff will boil over and you'll then have a cement-encrusted microwave.
  • To avoid lumps, use a whisk to stir the Malt-O-Meal into your saucepan.
  • Make it just before eating.  It won't keep.
We like our served with brown sugar, butter, and a little milk.  I'm sure any stir-ins that work with oatmeal, would work just as well, but we're set in our ways here.

18 February 2011

Pardon the Interruption

Just saying that you won't be hearing from me for about a week, as I'm taking my annual quilt retreat.  Burt, candidate for sainthood, is taking a week's vacation to be Mr. Mom while I spend a week in a lodge quilting (and sleeping, reading, and loafing around).

If the past is anything to go by, the breakfasts will be deplorable: a buffet style thing with instant oatmeal packets and super high-fat tasteless pre-packaged muffins.  I plan on bringing some hard boiled eggs, cartons of vanilla yogurt, homemade granola, and enough oranges to maintain sanity.

The breakfast table will be operating once again in about a week.  Stay happy and healthy in the meatime!

15 February 2011

Celebrate Hot Breakfast Month!


In my usual fashion, I'm a day late and a dollar short.  Or more exact, half a dollar short, since the month is only half over.  Yes, February is National Hot Breakfast Month, and we have two weeks left to celebrate.  How better than the classic American bacon and eggs breakfast?

This is the breakfast that comes to mind whenever I think breakfast.  This is the one, the epitome of fill-you-up, get ready for the back 40 kind of breakfast that I love.  It's not hard at all, not too time-consuming, just takes some kitchen juggling.

1. Cook the bacon.  Keep it warm.

2. Meanwhile, make the toast.  As soon as it comes out of the toaster, spread it with some butter.

3. In the leftover bacon grease, fry the eggs, any style.  We had hard eggs this morning.

4. Meanwhile, pour the juice, set out jam, peel the oranges, set the table, pour the coffee, etc., etc.

Just a lot of juggling, but with efficient movements, you can have everything hot and ready in very short order.

Weekend, weekday, whatever, just try the classic in honor of this month!

A BIRTHDAY ADDENDUM

Today happens to be Cool Guy's 10th birthday.  Happy Day, CG!  He is his Mother's son.  For his special birthday dinner tonight, he requested biscuits and gravy, and yes, I'm going to try my hand again at real biscuits.  Below is a shot of his birthday cake, the first that I didn't make for him myself.  But since he wanted a Nerf Gun birthday party, and I know my limitations, I found a local genuis to make this cake for me.

11 February 2011

Warning: Not a Healthy Breakfast


If you are interested only in healthy breakfasts, read no further today.  This morning's feast is one I have been making since I was 10, and its two ingredients cannot be called healthy.

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time will wonder why I've posted this warning now.  After all, biscuits and gravy is not a healthy dish either.  I've decided to take a moment and define my slippery definition of "relatively healthy," which I use so often.  Here is what I strive for:
  • Real food - meaning as close to its original form as possible.  Butter, therefore, is healthier in my book than margarine.
  • Non-processed foods - similar to above.  If I don't know what the ingredients are, I don't want to have them.
  • Whole grains - even if that means in a coffee cake
  • Using fruits and vegetables
  • Containing protein and/or fiber
  • No disgusting amounts of sugar and/or fat
My general, though very low-reaching, yardstick is to ask myself if it is healthier than a PopTart.  Most of the time, I can say "yes."  And then there are times, like today, that I honestly don't know.  Today's breakfast fails on all the above categories, save the protein one.

Sometimes you've just got to let your hair down, throw caution to the wind and make Crescent Rolls with Devilled Ham.  There I said it.  It has canned crescent rolls made with white flour and God know what all preservatives, and canned devilled ham.  Don't even WANT to know the fat content of that.  And it is so good, so easy, and loved by all.

My friend Pam introduced me to this treat when I spent the night with her once.  I remember being so excited about this fabulous breakfast, that I raved about it at home, and my parents, God bless them, actually listened to me and bought what I needed to make it.  After that, it was a regular weekend feature at our house. 

Even after I got married, whenever Burt and I would come home to visit, this was what we were served for breakfast.  This would be an Easter morning treat, a special Sunday breakfast.

I don't CARE that it lacks anything good for me, it's MY SPECIAL BREAKFAST.  And now, I'm going to share it with you so that your arteries can harden right along with mine. 

Just kidding.  Another part of my healthy philosophy is that if I get it right 75% of the time, I'm ahead of the game.  I'll never bat 1000, and I don't want to. 

Crescent Rolls with Devilled Ham
makes 8
  • 1 can of crescent rolls
  • 1 4oz. can devilled ham
1. Preheat your oven to 375.

2. Separate the crescent rolls into 8 triangles.

3. Spread each triangle with devilled ham.  If you don't want it too thick, you don't have to use the whole can, but I do.

4. Roll up the crescent rolls starting at the large end of the triangle.

5. Bake for about 13 minutes.

09 February 2011

Egg in a Hole


I wish I could say that I had this dish growing up, but even if I had been given it, I probably wouldn't have eaten it.  Somehow, this one completely missed my radar until about two years ago.  I was at my hairdresser's shop, as I am every 6th Saturday morning, and her husband, Bob, brought her breakfast.

He had fixed her a tray of an amazing breakfast that he made from home, and this was one of the items.  I thought that was one of the nicest, most loving things I had ever witnessed.  Seriously.  It made quite an impression.

I don't remember what all was on that tray, but I do remember seeing the egg-in-a-hole, and marvelling at his ingenuity.  He is clever and considerate!  Later, I found out that all the rest of the world knew about this dish and calls it by a million different names. 

The first time I made it for the boys, it was love at first sight for them.  In fact, I'd say that this was what brought Encyclopedia into the world of eggs.  He asks for this one often.  I think it's the fried bread part that he hankers for, but the egg is also consumed.

We especially have this for breakfast on mornings that I have leftover homemade bread.  (Really, that's bread machine made, but still better than boughten.)  Our bread this morning was whole wheat sandwich-type bread that I cut fairly thick because we looooove that crispy, browned-buttery exterior and squishy interior of thick-cut fried bread.  Served with some bacon and oranges, this breakfast is just what we need on a cold, humpday morning.

Please don't think you need homemade bread to make this.  We often have it with regular boughten bread, and it's good, just not as good.  One egg-in-the-hole takes as long to make as just frying an egg.  Flipping can be tricky, but really, this is one dish that is hard to ruin.  Hope you try it!

Egg-in-a-Hole

For each serving:
  • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons butter
1. Use a biscuit cutter, glass, or something like that to cut a hole in the center of the bread.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet.

3. Fry one side of the bread and the hole in the skillet.

4. As the bread is frying, crack the egg into the hole.  Cook it some, as you would any fried egg.

5. Flip it all over carefully.

6. Cook to how you like it.  Over easy takes advantage of the yolk/bread thing, but some kids (Encyclopedia) will only eat eggs hard.