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!


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!


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.

07 February 2011

Banana Oat Pancakes

I already have a favorite pancake recipe, Spelt Pancakes, but these run a close second.  You like banana bread?  You like pancakes?  Then you'll love these.  They are quick and easy to mix up, and just take a few minutes to cook.  They are also Cool Guy's favorite pancake.

If you've ever smashed up a banana and stirred it into your pancakes, you know how good that can be, but using the oat flour (you can just whiz some oatmeal in a blender if you don't have oat flour) and the cinnamon and nutmeg elevates these to a higher level.  Seriously, they will melt in your mouth.  These pancakes (recipe is here) rise higher and have an almost cakelike texture compared with most pancakes.  Since they do pour out thick, I spread the batter out a bit, and I have to be careful not to have the heat on too high or else the insides won't cook all the way before the outsides burn.  But then, pancakes have always been a challenge for me.

Please don't let that or the oat flour scare you away from trying these.  They are definitely delicious, and taste almost dessert-like, while also being good for you.  Two pancakes will give you
  • 18 grams whole grains
  • 203 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 6 grams protein
  • 3 grams fiber
  • And potassium, iron, calcium, and other good things.
I could only eat one, though the boys each had two.  We served it today with some stick sausage, oranges, juice, and coffee for me.

04 February 2011

Tastes Change (Thank God)

I'm not talking about the boys' tastes.  No I'm talking about my own.  I think you could have put me in the running as one of the pickiest kids in America.   I didn't like eggs forever.  I don't think I enjoyed scrambled eggs until my 30's.  And I didn't like eggs fried unless they were rubbery-hard and then only between bread smeared with lots of Miracle Whip.  I didn't really like toast, didn't like pancakes, didn't like homemade waffles.  Is it any wonder my mom only fed me box cereal, which I also didn't like?  Heck, if I'm not going to like anything anyway, why bother making anything?  (Although why we couldn't have French toast every morning is beyond me.)

Well.  My tastes have changed, thank God, or should I say they have "matured."  I like all those things now, and I have learned that I should never write something off entirely forever without giving it another try.  (Exceptions are canned corn and coconut.  Totally and forever.)

Which brings me to today's breakfast: broiled grapefruit.  About once a year, growing up, I would come to the breakfast table and find, much to my horror, a half grapfruit sitting at my place and a bowl of sugar next to it.  I was supposed to sprinkle the sugar on top and eat that thing.  It felt like I sat there for hours, sprinkling and sprinkling, and just could not get that grapefruit to taste any better.  Once I had flown the coop, grapefruit was on my "never to be endured again" list.

And then, again in my 30's, I found out that corn on the cob is good.  You see, my personal war with canned corn turned me against any and all forms of corn, seemingly for the rest of my life.  Poor Burt.  He never got corn at our house.  Then one day, we had some friends over for dinner, and they brought some fresh corn and made it for us, and I knew it would just be plain rude to refuse, so I put on my best face and decided to fake my way through it, choking it down with a smile.  What a revelation!  Corn on the cob was good!

What else have I been missing in my life?  Well, runny eggs on toast, for one, and pancakes and waffles.  Not to mention steak, celery, and lima beans.  And grapefruit.

I finally got up the nerve to try grapefruit again this winter, and what a treat it has been.  It's quick, easy, and good for you, and it has this juxtaposition of tastes and textures when it's been broiled.  The coolness and tang of the fruit contrasts so well with the warmth and sweet crunch of the topping.  I had some again this morning, and am so glad that I didn't let grapefruit pass me by forever.

One grapefruit, not counting the topping, has less than 100 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, half of your Vitamin A for the day, and over 100% of your vitamin C.

Full disclosure: boys didn't like it.  Their tastes haven't matured enough yet.

Are there any foods that you need to try again?  Or foods that you have matured into?  Let me know!

Broiled Grapefruit
serves 1 or 2
  • 1 grapefruit, which has been stored in the fridge for that cold contrast
  • brown sugar, about 1/4 cup
  • butter, softened, about 2 Tablespoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat your broiler

2. Cut the grapefruit in half.

3. Use a small serrated knife to cut the fruit away from the white part all the way around and also cut between each segment.  This makes for easy eating and takes 1 or 2 minutes.  It's worth the time.

4. Mix together the topping ingredients and spread over the cut grapefruit.  What I mixed together this morning wasn't quite enough to allow for a nice thick layer, so I just sprinkled a little more brown sugar on top.

5. Broil until the top is bubbly.

01 February 2011

Un-Biscuits and Gravy

I stink at making biscuits.  They are too short, too crumbly, too hard.  Maybe I don't use the right flour, maybe I don't use a good biscuit cutter, maybe I haven't yet found the right recipe.  Whatever it is, they are usually not a cherished item at the breakfast table. 

This morning, I wanted to make biscuits and gravy but didn't want to make biscuits.  So I did as I grew up doing, took a slice of bread and tore it in pieces to pour the gravy over.  It worked fine, as always.  The gravy was fine too, but the torn up bread made me think of an even better gravy I had growing up.

The first weekend of every September, my dad would get up earlier than the rest of us and go dove hunting in the milo field directly behind our house.  By the time I was up, there would be fried dove on the table with gravy.  We'd take those bread slices, tear them up, and ladle THAT gravy over.  Best in the world.  Oh, and the dove was good too.  I think I remember being cautioned to keep an eye out for bird shot, but I don't remember ever finding any.

I don't know how to fire a shotgun, and Burt doesn't hunt, and we don't live next to a grain field, so I haven't had this very special breakfast in years and years.  So I make do with sausage gravy.  Sigh.

I've considered frying chicken for breakfast to come close to that meal from my past, but I also know that some ideas are probably never going to come to pass, and this is one of them. 

I will extend an invitation to anyone who wants to bring me some dove (cleaned, please).  I will fry it up and make you some fantastic gravy to have over your torn-up bread.  And you can stay for breakfast.

Sausage Gravy
biscuits (or bread torn up into little pieces - that's how we ate it growing up)
sausage, about half a pound

1. Make sure your sausage is not low fat.  You need the fat for the gravy.  If you don't have at least a Tablespoon of fat, just add some bacon grease.

2. Fry the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces.  When it is done, remove it to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the grease.

3. In the grease left, and with the heat on low, add a little flour.  Stir it in, and add more until you have enough to make it kindof stiff.  This is all by feel and gets easier with practice.
4. .After you have gotten your flour stirred into the grease, add some milk, slowly.  keep stirring in more milk until the consistency is what you like.

5. Stir the sausage back into the gravy and put it all in a serving bowl.