Archive for the 'Make Ahead Breakfast' Category

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Recently, I received a treat in the mail: a promotional copy of Pure Vanilla, a new vanilla-centered cookbook by Piece of Cake blogger Shauna Sever. As much as I love chocolate, vanilla has always been my favorite flavor, so I couldn’t wait to dig in and check out the recipes. In a cruel twist of fate, we’re trying to avoid eating too much refined sugar and dairy at this point, so I longingly skipped over Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding, Big Mama Vanilla Cheesecake, Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies, and Candied Vanilla Popcorn. I did manage to find a recipe, though, that (a) is relatively low sugar, (b) is made (almost entirely) with things I already had on hand, and (c) solves a problem we’ve been tackling recently, which is that it’s hard to make breakfast every morning with Dr. O’s ever-changing (and sometimes painfully early) work hours.

Shauna says adding a vanilla bean “transforms this humble food (oats) into something otherworldly,” and she’s right. Throw this one together before bed and wake up to one fantastic breakfast.

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional), plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Half-and-half or heavy cream, for serving

Method:
Coat the sleeve of a 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place sleeve in slow cooker and combine all ingredients in it; add 3 1/2 cups water and stir to blend. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. Remove vanilla bean and scrape any remaining caviar into oatmeal. Stir well and serve with brown sugar to taste and a drizzle of half-and-half or heavy cream.

Variation: Increase the water to 4 cups and add 2/3 cup of dried fruit before cooking.

Source: Pure Vanilla

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Talk about an incredibly easy, super tasty breakfast. I tried the variation, upping the water to four cups and adding 1/3 cup of dried tart cherries and 1/3 cup of dried apricots. The fruit cooked down to a lusciously soft consistency and the spices were just right. Dr. O said it was like eating cobbler for breakfast (a good thing in our house!).

My only complaint? I lost about a serving of oatmeal to crust on the sides of my slow cooker sleeve, even with a coating of canola cooking spray.  Maybe next time I’ll combine the ingredients in a separate bowl and dump them in to avoid disturbing the cooking spray.  (Or maybe my slow cooker is a bit too warm, even on low?)  I’m very interested to try this as a single serving in my Crock-Pot Little Dipper.  I’ll post an update when I do.

Thanks for the book and the amazing recipes, Shauna!  Can’t wait to try them all.

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Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars

In my mind, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It doesn’t have to be a big production, but it’s essential that it happens.  We go through phases at my house, but common breakfasts include egg sandwiches, smoothies, and oatmeal with fresh fruit.  All delicious, all easy, all prepared by me since my darling husband doesn’t cook.  (His line: “Why should I learn when you’re so good at it?” 🙂  I suppose this is why I haven’t “learned” to haul the trash to the curb on Tuesday mornings.)  Anyway, I’m happy to help him get a good start to the day during the first part of the week when his office opens a bit later, but Thursday and Friday mornings are killer.  In trying to come up with a grab-and-go solution that was more substantial than a banana or a cup of yogurt, I found a great recipe: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars.  They’re soft, chewy, delicious, and filling, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable depending on what you have in the pantry.

Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes plus cooling | Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients:
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds (6 ounces)
Coarse salt
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/3 cup creamy almond butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup light-brown sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup honey and butter over low.  Cook, stirring, until butter melts, 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, and pinch of salt.  Drizzle honey mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine; wipe saucepan clean.  Spread mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool completely on sheet, 10 minutes.  Return to large bowl and add raisins; stir to combine.

Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  In saucepan, combine 1/2 cup honey, almond butter, and brown sugar over medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and sugar dissolves, 10 minutes.  Drizzle over oat mixture and stir until combined; transfer to baking dish.  With a spatula, firmly press granola into dish.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, then cut into 16 bars or squares.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2011

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Holy deliciousness, these are good.  The taste is very similar to the soft packaged granola bars you can buy at the store, but I think they hold their shape better because they aren’t as gooey.  Plus, you get to skip all the preservatives that keep the store-bought ones edible for months; these will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for five days (unless they’re gobbled up sooner!).  I ended up using creamy peanut butter, slivered almonds, and a combination of raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries for my bars.  The flavor profile was terrific.  I can’t wait to experiment with other combinations like cashew and cherry or maybe macadamia nut with coconut and dried apricots.  The possibilities are endless!

Update 7/29/11: I made these again last night, and they were terrible.  I re-made them this morning, and they were wonderful.  The difference?  I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for too long last night.  If you’ve ever made candy before, you know the longer you cook sugar and the hotter it gets, the thicker and firmer it gets when it cools.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cook the mixture for 10 minutes once it began to boil.  I knew something was wrong when I added the cooked mixture to the oats and fruit; it didn’t incorporate very well and some of the oats still seemed dry even after I had stirred and stirred.  When I went to cut the bars after I had chilled them, they were crispy (in a hard-to-eat way, not a good way).  This morning, I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for 10 minutes total, starting with the moment I turned on the burner.  You could even shave a minute or two off if you want your bars to be super soft; just make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and you have a homogenous mixture.  Live and learn!

Recipe link: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Waffles

How do I love thee, peanut butter?  Next to apple slices, tucked inside a chocolate cup, sandwiched with homemade jam, and now, in waffles.  As someone who consumes peanut butter almost daily, I saw this recipe in the May 2011 issue of Everyday Food and couldn’t resist.

The recipe isn’t on Martha Stewart’s site yet, so I’ve posted it for you.  I was able to get 20 small heart-shaped waffles out of the batter.  Two waffles (before you add bananas and syrup) are 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points.

Peanut Butter Waffles
Yield varies with waffle maker

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing waffle iron
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 bananas, sliced, for serving
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, for serving

Method:
Heat waffle iron and preheat oven to 275°F; set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a blender, blend butter and peanut butter until smooth, 1 minute.  Add buttermilk and eggs and blend until combined, 1 minute. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until batter is combined.

Brush waffle iron with butter and pour in 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.  Close iron and cook until waffles are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.  Serve with bananas and maple syrup.

Note: Waffles can be frozen in zip-top bags, up to 1 month; reheat in the toaster or a 325°F oven.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2011

Peanut Butter Waffles

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad waffle, but these are tastier than most.  They have a subtle peanut butter flavor when eaten plain; I think the bananas and syrup bring out the peanut butter a bit more.  In terms of texture, they’re pretty light and fluffy. The oven time crisps the outside edge a bit (a plus in my book!).  Since I am always looking for good make-ahead recipes to take the stress out of entertaining (or even just getting Dr. O out the door in the morning), I love that I can make a whole batch and either hold them in the oven or freeze them for later.

These aren’t going to dethrone my favorite classic waffle recipe, but they are certainly delicious and a nice change of pace.  Give them a try!

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged the Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted meringue coffee cake.
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I very nearly missed this one with all of the craziness leading up to our weekend trip for Dr. O’s birthday, but I didn’t want to skip two months in a row.  Thankfully, this was easy enough to make in an afternoon and it turned out on the first try.

Here are my notes:

  • I made a half recipe.
  • I measured all of my ingredients by weight.
  • I chose my filling based on what I had in the pantry: almonds, dried plums, white chocolate, and cinnamon-sugar.
  • I completely forgot to make the cuts in my cake before baking (I realized this about an hour later after the cake had cooled, of course), but it turned out just fine anyway.
  • I baked my cake for the full 30 minutes at 350°F.
Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

This was a delicious and relatively easy cake.  I especially liked the crunchiness of the almonds and the fact that the cake wasn’t overly sweet.  However, the king cake I made last month is incredibly similar in concept, and I have to say I preferred the king cake.  I liked the crumb of the king cake a bit better and for me, cream cheese filling trumps meringue filling any day.  I loved the versatility of the meringue coffee cake recipe, though, and it was definitely fun to make and compare such similar cakes in a short period of time.

Thanks for a great challenge, Ria and Jamie!

Recipe link: Jamie’s version or Ria’s version

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

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I briefly contemplated skipping this challenge because of Christmas chaos, and I just barely managed to bake off my stollen loaves before my husband and I hopped on an airplane home, but I am so glad I participated this month.  My husband enjoys my day-to-day cooking and he definitely lets me know, but he has never heaped praise on me the way he did with this stollen.  He loves it.  I stashed the majority of the loaf I cut for the photos below in my carry-on bag and hauled it back to Nebraska; my family loved it as well.  I guess my dad tried to go to a European bakery to buy some Czech Christmas bread on the 23rd or 24th and they were completely cleaned out at 10 a.m.; this bread was similar and satisfying enough to save the day.

Here are my notes and variations from the challenge:

  • After reading Audax’s posts in the forums, I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour.
  • I used orange extract when we had the choice between orange and lemon.
  • I made my own candied orange peel using the recipe provided.  (It will be my next blog post!)
  • I did not use any maraschino cherries because I didn’t want to risk turning my bread pink.
  • I used slivered almonds instead of sliced almonds because that’s what I had in my pantry.
  • From there, I followed the recipe exactly as written except that I formed my dough into two wreaths instead of one.  I saw how large the wreaths were in the forum posts and figured that my tiny 24-inch oven wouldn’t be able to handle one.  I baked each half-recipe wreath for 36 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through.  The major upside of baking two wreaths?  We came home to one waiting for us in the refrigerator.

Baked Stollen

Sugared Stollen

Sliced Stollen

This bread was so tasty!  It wasn’t like fruitcake at all.  The bread texture reminded me a lot of cinnamon rolls; it was moist and chewy, though the crust was pleasantly crisp.  The powdered sugar and butter coating was heavenly.  My bread had a distinct orange flavor since I used orange extract and all candied orange peel (instead of candied mixed peel), and I would make it this way again next time.  I could have gone for a bit more fruit and nuts in the bread, but I appreciated that it wasn’t totally packed.

My family enjoyed this recipe so much that I’ll be adding it to our permanent Christmas collection.  Thanks for a new family tradition and a great challenge, Penny!

Recipe link: Christmas Stollen

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

I get so incredibly excited each time I find a recipe that is so fantastic I know I’ll make it, quite literally, for life.  Today’s recipe – Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those recipes.

The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so here it is:

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12
Active time: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr.

Batter Ingredients:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Sugar Coating Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin purée. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

Note: Freeze muffins up to 3 months.  Reheat in a 350°F oven, then coat in butter and sugar.

High-altitude adjustments: I’m not sure I actually needed to make these changes since this was the first time I made this recipe, but I went with my high-altitude baker’s intuition.  I’m so pleased with the results that I will make these changes again next time.

  • I added 1 tablespoon of flour to the batter (3 cups plus 1 tablespoon total).
  • I cut the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon (2 1/4 teaspoons total).
  • I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda instead of a full 1/4 teaspoon.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins Interior

The interior of the muffin had a mild pumpkin flavor and wasn’t overly sweet.  The texture was light, airy, and moist with a beautiful crumb.  They were a bit more cake-like than a traditional muffin, I think.  The cinnamon-sugar coating was absolutely divine, and the amount of sugar and spice on the outside was a perfect complement to the inside of the muffin.  In short, they were amazing.  I have visions of feeding these to houseguests, lounging with them on Sunday mornings, and bringing them to brunches year after year.

I swear, these are the best muffins I’ve ever made.  In support of this theory, another doctor at my husband’s office lightheartedly suggested he might marry me after sampling them.  They’re THAT good.  Give them a try!

TIPS:  When I need to bring an amount of butter to room temperature quickly and I don’t want to risk overdoing it in the microwave, I thinly slice the butter and let it sit on a cutting board.  In five minutes or so, it’s ready to go.  Also, I always use room-temperature eggs when I bake.  To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, I put them in a container of lukewarm water for three to five minutes.

Update: Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

Forgive me for another update and another breakfast post.  I’ve been entertaining so much for the past two months that I’ve been returning to my “tried and true” recipes…  It seems I learn something new each time, though.

Today’s recipe – Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins – is one I first tried back in October of 2008.  It’s written for sea level but works beautifully at high altitude, probably because the muffins are made with buttermilk.  (I’ve had a lot of success here in Denver with baked goods that incorporate buttermilk; buttermilk’s high acidity helps batters set more quickly, which can eliminate the “flat tire” phenomenon that occurs so often with high-altitude baking.)  Anyway, they were a big hit the first time around because they’re easy, delicious, and a great make-ahead option for company.

Back in 2008, I placed the batter directly in a greased muffin pan and had just enough for 12 muffins.  This time, I decided to try paper liners.  I couldn’t fit as much batter into the paper liners as I could with the bare muffin cups; each muffin was a scant 1/4 cup instead of a heaping 1/4 cup, so the baking time was reduced from 28 minutes to 22 minutes.

Since the smaller muffins resulted in leftover batter, I decided to make some mini muffins as well.  Each one was made up of 2 tablespoons of batter (one scoop using my cookie scoop) and the muffins baked for 15 minutes.

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

They tasted as fantastic as ever, and now I have three different “formats” for the muffins depending on how I plan to serve them.  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try them:

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins
Makes 12 muffins without liners, 18 muffins with liners, or 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (use 2 1/4 teaspoons at high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (can up this to 1/2 teaspoon if you use unsalted butter)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs (I bring them to room temperature)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup diced ham (6 ounces)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan or 12- or 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with muffin cups.  (The mini muffins will require multiple batches.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (heaping 1/4 cup each for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, scant 1/4 cup each for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 2 tablespoons each for mini muffin pan).

Bake the muffins until the tops are browned (at high altitude, about 28 minutes for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, 22 minutes for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 15 minutes for mini muffin pan).  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary) and transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

To store, individually wrap the muffins in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.  To reheat, remove the plastic wrap, cover the muffin in a paper towel, and microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds (15 – 20 seconds for mini muffins).

Source: Jim Romanoff, The Associated Press




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