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

a new york minute

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New York City has the tendency to be overwhelming and underwhelming at once.  There is just SO much possibility, that it almost limits you, particularly when you have a mere 24 hours to cram it all in…it’s as if no matter how much you do, you leave feeling as if you’ve barely cracked the surface of the city’s potential and offerings.

But every now and then, you manage to have that perfect little slice of city.  You see things, eat something amazing, and generally feel like you’ve experienced New York.  And it’s something to write home about.

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My kid sister had a birthday, so naturally we spent a day eating all over NYC to mark the occasion. We started at Gallow Green for bottomless brunch on a recommendation from Tasting Table, and thanks to them (and cooperative weather) we dined al fresco on the botanical rooftop sipping bloody mary’s and bellinis.  There were soft boiled eggs (appropriately served with crunchy sea salt), drop biscuits that were pure butter, and delicious grilled veggies (among other delights).  Live jazz was wafting through the greenery, and there was no line at the buffet.  As Beyonce would say, it was flawless.

the perfect plate.
the perfect plate.

Then we walked the High Line.  There were People’s Pops and the pleasant ambiance of nature contrasting with concrete, and eventually we found ourselves at Chelsea Market.  with its endless restaurants and food outposts, it is near impossible to leave there empty handed. I bought some treats at Liddabit Sweets. And then pined for everything else in sight.

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The final stop of the day was Joe Allen in the theatre district.  This place is a family tradition.  My Grandfather started going there just as it opened when he worked in the Garment District, loving the straight forward fare and cool as a cucumber atmosphere.  Thanks to him and my Grandmother staying so loyal we can say the words “put it on our tab”…which I thought was an urban restaurant myth.  They have mastered the classics, from meatloaf to burgers, but there is so much more than that.  And somehow there is always dessert.

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chocolate. pudding. pie.

There’s nothing like a New York food minute. Yet no trip on I-84 is complete unless it ends with a stop at exit 65 to hit up Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT (in my opinion the only reason worth traveling through Connecticut at all). Chances are you’ve never been, but it is so worth the pilgrimage. It is better than any deli I’ve had in New York proper (sorry?). Perfect pickles. Matzoh ball soup. Pastrami on rye with spicy mustard. And a Dr. Brown’s cream soda…one might say that all weekends should end that way. I mean, I am saying it.

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a new york minute

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

Egg Poaching 101

what a beaut.

For a long time I considered egg poaching to be an elusive art.  It was one of those things I thought it wasn’t even worth attempting myself; that the sorcery it took to produce those little pillows of breakfast bliss was best left in the magic hands of line cooks and kitchen pros. I was (not surprisingly) so wrong.

I love eggs.  Could eat them for every meal kind of love them.  Fried, boiled, scrambled…doesn’t matter, I can’t get enough.  This is likely a product of eating them nearly every Sunday morning of my childhood.  Sunday mornings were for inhaling bagels and learning the various ways to cook eggs by watching my father at the stove.   He would cook, I would observe, and together we would tragically belt along to whatever Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder album was blaring in the background (and yes, I mean album, as in records).

Somewhere along the way I remember being in a diner with my mother and she ordered poached eggs.  Dad didn’t poach eggs, so naturally I didn’t know what they were.  I ordered them too, and my life was changed.  I started ordering them every time I went out for breakfast.  They were a restaurant food, impossible for me to even consider reproducing at home.  I thought it took master skills to poach.

WRONG.

I like to imagine myself snowed in one Sunday morning, needing my poached egg fix, knowing the only way to have them was to conquer my fears and do it myself.  Honestly it was probably just a regular day, but regular days deserve poached eggs too.

I watched online tutorials. I called on the expertise of my Grandfather whose father had owned a luncheonette in Manhattan to get him to talk me through the process.  And I dove in. I never looked back. I am now an egg poacher. Have been for some time.

I would now like to impart my technique to you, the internet humans, so that you too can have breakfast bliss.  Follow these steps to poach your eggs and serve ‘em up with the carbs of your choice.

“Egg Pillow on Toast Bed”. photograph still life.
  1. Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water. Heat over medium-high heat until the water is just about at a simmer (look for small bubbles covering the bottom of the pan).  Turn it down to medium heat so the water does not progress to a rolling boil
  2. Crack an egg in a small shallow bowl (this makes it much easier to get the egg in the water when the time comes).
  3. Use a spoon to stir the water in a clockwise motion to create a vortex. Once a steady whirlpool appears, remove the spoon and swiftly drop the egg into the pot, getting as close as possible to the water and aiming to place it directly into the center of the swirling water.
  4. DON’T PANIC. EGG WILL SWIRL WITH WATER. IT WILL BE OK. Let the egg circle back on itself and come to rest naturally. Keep an eye on your water making sure it stays at a steady simmer. No boiling.
  5. After 3 ½ minutes, use a slotted spoon to lift your masterpiece out of the water.  Give it a very soft shake to see if the whites have set and the egg is holding its shape. Give it a poke. I bet its ready to be devoured.
  6. You’ve done it. Well done, you. Serve that bad boy up with a little salt and peppa and dig in.
Egg Poaching 101