makeshift muesli (parfait!)

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Before I talk about how wonderful and easy muesli is, let’s start with an introduction to the facts.  Bon Appétit put together this extremely eloquent breakdown on the difference between granola and muesli, and I couldn’t hope to say it better.  The short of it is this: The two share the same general ingredients; oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc. But where granola is baked and requires a binder like honey or butter to create its signature chunks, muesli is simply a raw and loose.  Both are typically served with milk or yogurt.  Not surprisingly granola has long been more popular in America (it tends to be sweeter, so…).

But muesli is overdue for its moment around here.  It is so easy to throw together with things from your pantry.  It has no added fats or sugars and you just feel healthier when you eat it. Trust me, I’ve done the research.

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The secret element here is toasting.  Toasting brings out the nuttiness of the nuts, the oatiness of the oats, and the toastiness of the coconut.  And like so many things it’s worth making yourself because you can control the proportions of the ingredients.  It comes together in a flash–whether done in a big batch in the oven or a quick single portion in a pan on the stove.  Throw it over cold Greek yogurt with a little maple syrup or honey and it is brilliant for breakfast or lovely for lunch.  Breakfast food for the win. Always.

makeshift museli
You can alter the amount of each ingredient depending on your preferences–and increase or decrease depending on how much you want to make.  These proportions will make 4 servings.

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Makeshift Muesli (parfait)

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup nuts, chopped (I used a mix of hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds)
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (I had cranberries but apricots, raisins, blueberries…all strong options)
1/3 cup flaked or shredded coconut
pinch of sea salt
plain Greek yogurt & maple syrup for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread nuts in an even layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and add oats and coconut to the baking sheet, stirring everything together and return to oven for an additional 3 minutes.  Watch closely to avoid burning. Remove from oven, sprinkle mix with a pinch of sea salt, and set aside to cool.
  2. Once cool, add in the dried fruit and stir to combine.  Serve over plain Greek yogurt and top with a drizzle of maple syrup and consume. Or swap in flavored yogurt, or honey, or jam. Do you.

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makeshift muesli (parfait!)

gritfaced

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If there is one thing you should know about me (if you don’t already), it’s that I adore breakfast.  I tend to lean savory–eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter–but I am also a sucker for the sweets; namely blueberry pancakes and sticky buns.

Another thing to note is that I am a born and bred northerner. Which, among other things, means I was introduced far too late in life to the glory of grits.  Those buttery, creamy, cornmeal dream clouds that I understand folks in the south eat quite regularly.

Despite my instant love for them, I was intimidated at the concept of making them myself.  Admittedly my frame of reference for cooking up grits at home was having minimal. I think I saw Paula Deen make them once on the Food Network with an entire stick of butter and heavy cream.  While I do not shy away from indulgence…even I have limits.

So the internet and I debated on how best to go about making grits that wouldn’t immediately stop my heart.  I consulted Ina Garten (obviously because her word is gospel to me), and a few others and came up with a perfect bowl of morning joy.  And then when I couldn’t finish them (embarrassing though that is for me to admit) I was gifted a second magical meal by baking them off and adding a little spinach.

Conclusion: Grits deserve northern love. They are worth it.

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Grits for 2 (+leftovers)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Just before it’s rolling, add salt and the grits slowly.  Bring heat down to a low simmer and stir consistently with a wooden spoon until grits thicken (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the butter and milk and stir to combine.  Cover the grits and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the grits reach your desired thickness…I like mine fairly loose but the longer they cook the more they will firm up).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese (this also thickens the consistency). Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as desired.

FOR BREAKFAST: with poached egg and crumbled bacon highly recommended…but with chives or scallions to garnish or just straight up won’t disappoint.
FOR DINNER: I put the leftovers in a dish and baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then topped them with sauteed spinach and yet another poached egg. I’m an egg monster.

 

gritfaced

simplest french toast

Recently I went to Canada. In the winter. It was…chilly.

But the beacon of warmth came from the incredible food we found there — specifically at a bread shop called Hof Kelsten. (I found comfort in carbs.  No one is surprised).

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Though most of the bread didn’t make it back over the border due to hungry travelers and the fact that it was just too good not to eat immediately, some of it did, and that some got put to good use.

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Jeffrey Finkelstein, the bread whisperer responsible for Hof Kelsten, makes challahs on Fridays that are the size of a small child. Luckily their monstrousness meant I still had some upon arriving back in the States which immediately became some of the best french toast of all time.

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It is such a simple luxury, and easier than you think to pull off well.  And while you don’t need Hof Kelsten challah to make this version of the breakfast classic, good eggy breads like challah and brioche are the best for french toasting. And a little Canadian maple syrup doesn’t hurt either.

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Simplest French Toast
serves 4

4 thick slices of challah, cut in half (or other white bread, if it’s thin count 2 slices per person)
8 eggs
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Soak each piece of bread through just before you put in the pan, making sure both sides are well coated.
4. Butter the pan (liberally) and cook each slice for 4 minutes on each side or until the slices are evenly browned, and no liquid is released when you press on the center of the bread.
5. Serve HOT with maple syrup. And if you’re feeling dangerous, a dusting of powdered sugar.

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simplest french toast

kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins

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As a huge fan of pastries and breakfast in general, I realized that recently I have been straight up neglecting a former favorite morning food companion of mine: the humble muffin.  As soon as I came upon this realization, I began immediately craving muffins.

However, due to the aforementioned need to reel it in diet-wise post 2014, I decided to try my hand at making them myself to monitor their contents.  I dreamed up these muffins using buzzword healthy ingredients like “oat bran” and “whole wheat flour”. Though admittedly I am not a baker by nature I think these are pretty great.  They have ripe mashed banana that keeps them moist, nuts and coconut for a crunchy and chewy texture situation, and blueberries because all muffins should have blueberries.

These are an all the time dream treat.  They are perfect as a grab and go breakfast, a midday snack, or even as dessert with a cup of tea.  They have minimal sugar and though the ingredient list looks long (hence the kitchen sink moniker) it is likely that most of this stuff is hiding somewhere in your house already. If not, it’s worth investing. You’re going to want more than one batch of these.

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kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins
Yield: 18 muffins

1cup whole-wheat flour, plus 1 tablespoon set aside
½ cup oat bran
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
½ cup rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling over tops
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup mashed ripe banana
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups blueberries
½ cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, the oat bran, coconut, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil.  Add in the banana, milk, eggs, and vanilla, and combine until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture slowly and mix together until just combined (it’s fine to have a few lumps).
  3. Wash and thoroughly dry the blueberries.  Toss them and the pecans in the extra tablespoon of flour until coated (this helps them not sink in the batter).  Fold them into the batter without over mixing.
  4. Fill a cupcake tin with liners and using an icecream scoop fill each tin.  Sprinkle the additional oats atop each muffin and press them in gently.
  5. Bake for 22 minutes.  If a toothpick comes out clean, remove them. Otherwise, let them cook an additional 3 minutes. Let cool completely, and serve.
kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins

mini dutch babies

We threw a harVEST party. Vests were required for entry.

There was some food, but this was the only dessert treat. Perfectly poppable and subtly sweet, these little guys are great for using up all those apples you picked but didn’t manage to eat. Because it’s a law of nature that no one can possibly eat all the apples they pick.

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These are a play on a dutch pancake, which texturally and tastily is an intersection between a crepe, a pancake, a soufflé, and clafouti; and the apple and pumpkin pie spice give them that autumnal edge.

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Ideally these should be enjoyed with a cup of tea or other warm beverage. They can be breakfast, dessert, or just a snack. As we are careening at a terrifying speed towards New England winter, these might help you hold on to fall just a little bit longer.

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This recipe makes about 24 mini dutch babes if you use mini muffin tins (which you should, because that makes them adorable).

2 small apples, peeled and diced
1 tbs cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for pans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

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  1. set oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 mini muffin tins.
  1. peel and dice the apple into small cubes. Immediately coat with lemon juice to avoid browning. Toss with pumpkin pie spice and add a pinch of salt, make sure apples are well covered.
  1. whisk eggs until frothy. Add in flour, then sugar, vanilla, and milk. Throw in an extra pinch of cinnamon if you’re feeling dangerous.
  1. give each muffin space 5 or 6 apple cubes, and cover each with batter so they are ¾ full. Bake for 40 minutes.
  1. Let cool ten minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve
mini dutch babies

maple spiced oats

Oatmeal is having a renaissance. I am not talking about those square little packages that you just add water to–not to hate on instant oatmeal, it serves a purpose in a pinch–but I am talking about serious oats.

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Cooking oats on the stove top takes only a few more minutes than the instant stuff, yet it creates a completely different product. It gets kind of fluffy, and toothsome. Yeah, toothsome.

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My oats air on the side of creamy.  It’s a bit like a porridge a la Oliver Twist, only way tastier.  The best part is with the right accoutrements this can be a perfectly seasonal breakfast.  Add a dash of cinnamon during the cooking for a little spice, and stir in some maple syrup at the end for the ultimate autumnal bowl of goodness.  Because maple spice is the new taste of fall…later pumpkin.

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Maple Spiced Oats
2 servings

1 cup oats
2 cups water1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Maple syrup to taste
pinch of sea salt (it highlights all the other flavors)

1. Bring the water to a bowl. Add oats, lower to medium heat.  Stir oats with a wooden spoon about 2 minutes as oats thicken.
2. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 2-3 minutes.  Uncover and add milk and cinnamon. Stir continuously as oatmeal continues to thicken. Remove when it reaches your desired thickness.
3. Add maple syrup to taste and a pinch of sea salt and stir to combine.

Definitely feel free to add nuts, diced apples, dried fruit…heck get crazy and throw in a pinch of nutmeg to get real spicy. Oatmeal is a blank canvas just begging to be painted delicious.

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maple spiced oats

cold brewing

As we enter the iced coffee season, it seems that the hottest trend in the world of caffeine is “cold brew”. Though I still feel unsure about how it differs from iced coffee, we decided to try our hand at making some.

After having some deliciously cold brewed coffee at my favorite little South Boston shop, American Provisions, I immediately purchased the brand of bean they were using, asked how they made it, and went on my way to experiment.

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boston roasted, home brewed

Flatblack roasts their coffee beans right in Boston. The Italian roasted variety that we chose has a rich, smoky flavor, ideal for holding up to the unheated brewing and being served over ice.

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The beans get coarsely ground, and are covered with cold filtered water and left to steep at room temperature for 12 hours. They are then strained through a wire sieve fitted with a coffee filter. What you get is a very concentrated liquid that you then cut with cold water (more or less depending on how strong you take your coffee) and then pour it over ice.   And it’s good. real good. It’s not at all bitter, and the flavor stays soft and pleasant because it is never heated.

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all the kinds
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lemon filled. do it you won’t.

If you’re smart, you’ll serve this with donuts. You might have noticed I have a slight addiction to donuts. These are truly my favorites though, from Hole in One in Eastham on Cape Cod. I dream about these donuts. They have my favorite: lemon filled (the most underrated flavor of all time); but their toasted coconut, chocolate coconut, and sugar raised filled with raspberry jam could all ruin other donuts for you forever.

the one and only
the one and only

I am still not confident in my cold brewing, but if you want to give it a go check out these instructions.

cawfee.
cold brewing

chronicles of a breakfast addict

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I am not sure who they are, but they are right.  For me, few things come close to a perfectly cooked egg or a piece of toast slathered in butter.  I am a glutton for breakfast treats (current addiction being the lemon curd danish at Crema Café in Harvard square…it’s divine), I am addicted to cereal, and I would wear maple syrup as perfume if it wasn’t so sticky.

I could wax poetic on all ways that breakfast is culinary heaven, but instead I shall recount some early morning excursions I’ve been on lately so that you might go off and have your own adventures amidst Boston’s best pancakes, homefries, and the like.

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THE sourdough griddle cakes with honey butter.

Puritan & Company:  Brunch here literally blew my mind. Everything was phenomenal, and we tried the majority of things on the menu.  Highlights were definitely the flawless over easy eggs that topped most of the dishes, the sourdough griddle cakes, and the deconstructed yogurt and fruit parfait.  They even have a central breakfast treat table to display the assorted homemade pastries too.  I want to wake up in their dining room every Sunday morning. Creepy? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.

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The most perfect sunnyside up eggs with baby chive bits and toasts.
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deconstructed parfait: all the fruit, homemade pear compote, greek yogurt dollop, tasty granola.

                                                                          Boston Brunchers at Brio: I got really lucky and had the chance to attend a brunch at Brio in Chestnut Hill with the Boston Brunchers, a fantastical group of bloggers in Boston that get free brunches about town and then tell the rest of the world about them.  We got a complimentary stint at SoulCycle (which nearly killed me) and we were rewarded with brunch.  There was stuffed French toast, eggs benedict, sweet potato hash and huge bowls of fresh fruit.  The place is lovely and the service was friendly. Great spot for an easy morning meal.

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stuffed berry covered french toast and baby benedicts on decadent biscuits with turkey sausage and spinach…stunningly plated.

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everyone’s favorite dinosaur.

Bagelasaurus: This micro bagel shop lives inside Cutty’s (which is fantastic itself).  On Friday and Saturday mornings Mary Ting Hyatt is making bagels the old school way: from scratch and rolled by hand.  You have to get there practically right at 8am when they open to ensure you can get them before they run out, and even then you’ll likely be waiting in line.  But they are worth getting up early for.  They are unlike any other bagel around…the outside has that ideal crispness that gives way to an airy, chewy interior.  And it doesn’t even require toasting, just a good slathering of schmear. (Edible Boston put Hyatt on the cover of their Winter 2014 edition, and the article is worth the read and littered with ridiculously pretty pictures).

not even doing these beauties justice.
not even doing these beauties justice.

OTHER PLACES OF NOTE: Keltic Krust in Newton (go for the breakfast sandwiches on traditional Irish brown bread); Mul’s Diner in South Boston (epic greasy spoon, cash only, a classic breakfast); Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont (unreal donuts but not for the faint of heart, these are industrial sized pillows of sugar and joy).

Now accepting any and all breakfast/brunch recommendations.

chronicles of a breakfast addict

the streit’s is right

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THE pink box

Passover can be a tough time for a carb lover such as myself.  Every year I try to remember that 8 days without leavened bread is really not an actual hardship.  And yet here I am, whining because all I can think about is baguettes. And cookies. And sandwiches. And baguettes.

Until I remember the silver lining…the matzah brei. Spirits = lifted.

Matzah brei is traditionally made with matzah (obviously) and eggs, can be savory or sweet, and has many variations.  If you happen to be of the Jewish persuasion, chances are the lovely pink Streit’s box is a familiar sight.  The Streit family has been making matzos in the lower east side of Manhattan since 1925, never changing their methods or recipe, and always keeping it kosher.  They gathered a dedicated following of New York City Jews who in turn instilled in their families a loyalty to Streit’s, and that loyalty has continued generation to generation.  Which is all to say in my family we always eat the pink box at Passover because my grandparents grew up in Manhattan eating it and taught me that it was the best.

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Image prep work.

Another thing they taught me, or more specifically that my Grandfather taught me, was that during Passover matzah brei is the only breakfast worth eating. He made a mean French toast, and when carbs were off the table he simply took his killer recipe and used broken up matzos in place of bread.  The man had a way with breakfast, among other things.

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the man. the myth. the legend. grandpa “sid the kid”.

Whether or not you celebrate Passover, this recipe is worth it.  It evokes all the comfort of a French toast, though I’ll admit it is perhaps slightly less pretty.  But who cares really? To me anything cooked in a healthy amount of butter and smothered in maple syrup is bound to taste like dreams.

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Sid’s Matzah Brei:
Serves a crowd

12 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup of milk
8 pieces of matzah
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
4 tablespoons salted butter

  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Break the matzos into bite size pieces and soak in cool water for 2 minutes, then drain.  Add the matzos to the egg mixture, until fully coated.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add matzos to the pan and cook until no longer wet.
  • Serve immediately smothered in maple syrup.
the streit’s is right

pop-up treats

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For the last 3 weekends, Stephanie Cmar (disciple of restaurant queen Barbara Lynch and Top Chef alumnus) has been gracing Boston’s South End with a pop-up donut shop: Stacked Donuts.

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Operating out of The Butcher Shop, the doors opened at 9am. I arrived at 8:30 to a line that was already at least 50 people deep.  But it didn’t matter. People were happy and chatty, the sun was out, and for the first time in months the temperature was above 30 degrees.

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Few things get me out of bed at 8am on a Saturday morning, but small batch gourmet donuts are definitely one of them.

They were yeasty and cakey, dense and light all at once.  And they weren’t aggressively sweet (which is what made them delightfully easy to inhale).  They were 100% worth the wait in line (which was pretty painless due to the countless adorable dogs and babies also up early for their treats) — Cmar might just be a donut whisperer.

No disrespect to Dunkin’ Donuts, to whom this city is lovingly devoted…but Boston is in dire need of someone to elevate our donut game.  There is practically nowhere in this town to get a product like the one Cmar is making.  Here’s hoping her pop-up is a precursor to a permanent shop!

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pop-up treats