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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Mmmm…banana bread!  My mother’s recipe for banana bread is hands-down, the best banana bread I have ever eaten.  It is banana-y, moist, and fluffy.  I’ve been making this banana bread for years.  I use very ripe bananas – yep, the more black spots on the peel the better.  It makes the bread sweet and moist!   Usually, if I have bananas in the bunch that have gone past the point of no-return (Adam nor I will even attempt to eat the banana raw), I’ll throw them in the freezer knowing that banana bread is on the horizon!  The bananas turn this awful black color when frozen, but if you pull them out of the freezer about an hour or so before making the bread, they are perfect – mushy and sweet.

I visited my sister in Vermont for “Match Day” for her medical school.  She anxiously waited, with her classmates, to find out where she would be working as a resident for the next 4 years.  The anxiety in the room was palpable.  When it was finally done, and my sister got the letter that told her she would be working at her #1 choice, we went to lunch.  My sister chose a place that served breakfast all day & I couldn’t have been happier.  I love breakfast and brunch!  I knew right away what I wanted on the menu – the banana bread french toast with real Vermont maple syrup.  The meal was blow-your-mind good!  I knew I had to make this the next time I made banana bread!

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I whipped up some banana bread.  Once it was cool, the french toast making began.  I started with a few eggs, a splash or two of milk, whisked them together, dipped the slices of banana bread, and cooked until golden-brown in a hot pan.  Then I sprinkled the slices with a cinnamon-sugar mix, drizzled them with real Vermont maple syrup, and we enjoyed every last bite!

Mom’s Banana Bread
Printable Recipe

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup oatmeal, quick cooking
1 egg beaten
3 TBS melted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a loaf pan and set-aside.

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.  In another bowl, whisk egg, butter, and milk.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and mix until moistened.  Add bananas and nuts and mix to combine.  Transfer batter to the loaf pan, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.  Let cool in pan slightly, then transfer to a wire rack.  Slice and enjoy!

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Adam and I love breakfast foods, I know I’ve mentioned this before.  I decided to break out my new silicone muffin pan and make some muffins.  I was a little nervous about putting silicone in the oven, but sure enough, it held up just fine, and clean-up was a snap!  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook had a recipe titled “Big Beautiful Muffins” that caught my eye.  How could I resist?

Adam loves fruit desserts, and fruit in his muffins, so I decided to add some apricots and almond extract in with the batter.  This recipe also calls for plain yogurt, which Adam hates.  He hates all types of yogurt, even frozen yogurt, except for Pinkberry’s Green Tea flavored frozen yogurt.  Needless to say I was a little nervous, but I was hoping I could sneak it in without his knowledge.  It worked!  He loved them and couldn’t tell that there was yogurt in the muffins!

The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook wasn’t lying when they titled this recipe as “Big Beautiful Muffins”!  They were huge, and gorgeous!

Though they came out of the oven as monsters, they were still light and fluffy.  No Costco brand giant, dense muffins here.  We enjoyed them with a little butter and a cup of coffee.

Big Beautiful Muffins with Apricots and Almonds
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Printable Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plain lowfat yogurt
2 large eggs
8 TBS (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp almond extract
sliced almonds
1 cup diced apricots

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously coat a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable spray, or use paper cups with a little cooking spray.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the yogurt, eggs, and almond extract together in a medium bowl.  Gently fold the yogurt-egg mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Fold in melted butter, and apricots.

Use a large ice-cream scoop or measuring cup to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Sprinkle several sliced almonds over the top of the batter in each muffin cup.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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I want to wish everyone a safe and healthy 2010!  By the way, what is everyone calling 2010?  Twenty-ten or two-thousand ten?  I think I’m going with twenty-ten.

The holidays have come and gone.  I always feel a little relief and a great deal of sadness when the holidays are over.  I’ve had a busy few weeks, traveling and visiting with family and friends.  We spent Christmas in Vermont, and New Years in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  I barely touched a stove.  My mother made fantastic Christmas Eve & Day dinners consisting of pierogies, sirloin roast, green bean casserole, roasted root vegetables, and countless cookies.  I received a plethora of cooking related gifts for Christmas.  I received a wonderful assortment of spices from my sister.

My sister also gave me The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which I am so excited about!

I also received a springform cake pan, ramekins, silicone muffin pan, square cake pans, and Le Creuset casserole pans and stockpot.  I am incredibly grateful for the gifts I received at Christmas.  I am looking forward to cooking and baking!

For New Years Eve, our friends prepared a brined turkey using this Alton Brown recipe and a recipe from Eric Ripert for shrimp that was to-die-for!  I decided to contribute to New Years Day brunch and made a great French Toast Casserole using a recipe from my new cookbook!  The great thing about this recipe is that it is a make-ahead casserole and needs time to set, and allow the bread (I used ciabatta) to soak up the custard.

I assembled it before we drove up to the Berkshires, and it sat in the refrigerator until brunch on New Years Day.  It was so easy!  The casserole was velvety and creamy on the inside while the topping created an amazing crispy sugary crust.  It was a hit & a wonderful way to wake up to the New Year!

The topping calls for pecans, due to a friend’s nut allergy, I had to omit the nuts.  I simply used brown sugar and butter for the topping.  It was delicious even without the pecans!

Make-Ahead French Toast Casserole with Caramel-Pecan Topping
from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Printable Recipe

Casserole:
1 (16-ounce) loaf supermarket French or Italian bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
1 TBS sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Topping:
12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
3 TBS corn syrup
5 ounces (1 1/2 cup) pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Arrange the bread in a single layer on two baking sheets.  Bake until dry and lightly golden, about 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.  Allow the bread to cool.

Meanwhile, grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter.  Layer the baked bread tightly in the prepared dish (you should have two layers).  Whisk together the eggs, milk, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and pour evenly over the bread.  Press lightly on the bread to submerge.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup together until smooth, then stir in the pecans.

Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and unwrap.  Spoon the topping over the casserole, then spread it in an even layer.  Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden, about 60 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Adam and I love breakfast for dinner nights.  It feels like a real treat to have pancakes, french toast, even eggs and hash-browns during the week.  Usually, I reserve making pancakes and eggs for the weekend, or we go out for brunch.  Brunch is definitely my favorite meal for dining-out.  I love stuffed french toast, pastries, coffee rolls, and anything sweet.  Adam usually goes for eggs or omelets with bacon and sausage.  This breakfast for dinner night was all about me, but I knew for sure, that Adam would love Pumpkin Pie French Toast.  Oh, and he did.  I had to make an extra half-batch!

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Pie French Toast on Closet Cooking several weeks ago, and was immediately drawn to it.  The idea of combining french toast with pumpkin pie flavoring was pure genius!  I wish that my grocery store carried “Texas Toast” or some sort of thick bread.  I think a thicker, heartier bread would have been spectacular, but my whole-wheat bread worked just fine as a delivery system for the pumpkin batter.  The Pumpkin Pie French Toast was velvety, smooth, and the vanilla extract made the spices pop.  It was like having dinner and dessert all-in-one.  I served the french toast with a generous pour of Vermont maple syrup!

Pumpkin Pie French Toast (from Closet Cooking)
Printable Recipe

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 slices of bread

Mix the eggs, milk, pumpkin purée, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and brown sugar in a bowl for easy dipping.  Dip the bread into the egg mixture on both sides and cook in a pan until lightly golden brown, about 2-3 minute per side.  Serve with maple syrup.


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Unlike in years past, we did not carve a pumpkin this year for Halloween.  We do not have our own porch to display a carved creation, and someone would surely trip if we tried to keep it on our building’s stoop. I could see a lawsuit coming a mile away.  So, no pumpkin carving party, no roasted pumpkin seeds, no “pie pumpkins” to roast and mash.  I was feeling like I missed out a little bit, and when I saw that can of Libby’s pumpkin purée at the grocery store, I just knew I had to pick it up.  I didn’t intend to make pumpkin items all weekend – it just sort of happened that way.

The first thing that came to mind, when I was dreaming up what to do with the 15 ounces of pumpkin purée, was cookies!  Adam would surely love some iced pumpkin cookies after a long work week.  The cookies actually turned out to be more muffin-like than cookie-like.  They were basically muffin tops without the stumps (remember that Seinfeld episode?).  They were fluffy and the spices were just perfect.  The icing was so tasty, and satisfied my sweet tooth.

On Saturday evening, we went to dinner with some good friends in Manhattan’s East Village at Cucina di Pesce.  I had the pumpkin ravioli.  There were 6 plump pasta pillows on the plate and they were smothered in a creamy pesto sauce.  The contrast of the sweet, velvety pumpkin filling and the rich pesto was divine!  I gobbled it up too quickly to take a picture!  I can’t wait to go back!

On Sunday, I wanted to make Adam something yummy before he left town for a business trip.  I decided to make some pumpkin and cranberry scones.  They didn’t turn out like I had hoped, but they were still pretty tasty.  I think if I were to try my hand at these again, I’d use this recipe instead and add fresh cranberries.  Adam enjoyed the tartness of the unexpected bits of cranberry.

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Finally, this morning I made a bowl of steamy pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast.  This one, I created myself.  I had to keep adjusting the amounts of spices, sugar and pumpkin, but in the end it was delicious!

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Mmm…pumpkin.  I’m only going to post the recipes to the cookies and the oatmeal, and not for the scones because I got the recipe from a blogger that I do not follow regularly.  She had what sounded like a good recipe, but it did not turn out as I had hoped, and I thought it would be in bad taste to “out” her recipe.  You win some.  You lose some…

Iced Pumpkin Cookies (allrecipes.com)
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Pumpkin Oatmeal by Anne
Printable Recipe

1 serving oatmeal prepared according to package directions (steel-cut or quick-cooking rolled oats)
milk, or half & half, as needed
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
sugar, brown sugar, and salt as needed

Prepare oatmeal to package specifications adding a pinch of salt.  Stir in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar.  Taste and adjust sugar, brown sugar and spices as necessary. Heat through, and serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar.

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