breakfast

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall Food

Ever get a craving for something?  Maybe an externally influenced craving, like someone talking about a new great flavor of ice cream.  Be it a friend or an ad on tv, something in the mere name of it conjures up a taste in your mouth so potent nothing will do but for you to have a taste of it, and soon.   Maybe it comes from a memory of making a dish with a relative or friend.   Or it can be a food that you come across strolling down the grocery store aisles and the next thing you know you’re at the checkout, box of sinful goodies in one hand, wallet in the other.

On a recent grocery store trip, I walked into the store that exactly happened.  There they were.   Vibrant, fresh, and beckoning me…  “Take me home!”   Ah, you rich red raspberry you.   Tempting me with your bright color and unique sweet-tart flavor.   (At least it wasn’t while I was on the chocolate bar aisle.)

It’s nearing the end of raspberry season and they were on sale.   What else could I do but buy them and plot for how to make good use of them in my next meal, or two?

Thinking about what I could with them, plus remembering a recent purchase of some incredibly good local grown blueberries, I thought there had to be a way to make great use of both berries in one dish.   Besides my staple breakfast of greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and some almond granola, I was looking for something a little more hearty and maybe even warm.  In my area, the heat of summer is beginning to fade, school has begun, and every restaurant has their perfectly positioned peripheral vision tv’s tuned to the all-football networks.  Those all are signals it’s time to break out the warmer meals in a bowl like soup, chili, and oatmeal for the upcoming weeks.

Time to kick off a farewell to summer and it’s glorious bounty of berries and welcome in fall with some warm oatmeal.

Berry Good Baked Oatmeal

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Mix the dry ingredients plus the maple syrup.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or Penzey’s Baking Spice*)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup skim milk  (almond or coconut are good here too)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 banana
a few raspberries (optional)

Directions

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The oatmeal is assembled, just about to go in the oven to bake.

Heat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, maple syrup, half the blueberries and half the pecans. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla until completely blended.
Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray and dump the oat mixture into the dish.  Spread it out evenly as possible.   Pour the egg & milk mixture over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and pecans over the dish. If you want to add raspberries, add a few on top.   Slice the banana (I use about 1/2 a banana total) and place on top of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the dish, then bake for another 15-20 minutes until it is set.

A little tip on how to determine if this dish is done- think about how you like your oatmeal.  More liquidy?  More firm?   After about 35 minutes, press lightly near the center of the dish with the back of a spoon.   You can see the consistency from that and decide if you want to cook it more or stop there.  I bake it the full 40 minutes for my preference.  At 30 minutes it’s done enough if you like a more liquid consistency.

Also this is a dish that works great with Penzey’s Baking Spice.  It’s billed as an “all-purpose baking blend” and it really is just that.  There’s a ton of possible dishes this works well with, but it takes fruit pies, muffins, coffee cakes, scones, and other similar baked goodies to a whole new level of deliciousness.   I don’t use it year-round, but in the fall and winter it goes in most muffins I make as well as any spice cookies.  You can check it out here or in one of their stores.  Nope, I’m not paid to promote the stuff. It’s just that good and versatile.  And it makes for some muffins that will have you fighting your spouse for the last one.

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Yum! Berry Good Baked Oatmeal – the raspberries made their appearance on only one side because I had to share the dish and I’m the only one who likes raspberries. Just means more for me!

If you want to make a larger portion or see the original recipe (without my modifications and scaling to smaller servings, you can check it out here on Broke and Bougie here.

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Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee, Done Right

I like coffee.  As much of an admitted foodie as I am, it’s been a very gradual process to start drinking it.   Honestly it’s a somewhat recent development and a surprise to those that have known me for a long time, as I would wrinkle up my nose and leave the room at the smell of it, much less consume it in any form.   Then, as fate would have it, on a long road trip a few years ago I needed a boost of energy.   Our train of cars stopped for a stretch and snack break at a McDonald’s and I decided to get one of their frappe beverages.   So yes, my first coffee consumption was from McDonald’s.  Don’t judge me.   I had to start somewhere!   I wasn’t keen on the flavor, but the milk, ice, whipped cream, and caramel sauce covered up a lot of the coffee and I managed to drink it all.  Plus I really needed to wake up for the drive.

So fast forward a few years and now I’ve become a once-a-day some-sort-of-coffee-product person.  Usually in the morning, and I still can’t drink it black.   My husband would argue that I’m not entirely a coffee drinker yet, as I do require a liberal amount of cream and sugar.   It is a process, so maybe in a few years I’ll be drinking it straight up.  Who knows.

Since we’re going into summer, I like my coffee in some cold form, and I’ve been looking for a while for a good way to make frappes and iced coffee.   While it’s possible to brew coffee and simply pour it over ice, anyone who has tried it will tell you that the watered down end result is just not all that good.     I suspected that most coffee shops use either espresso or a coffee concentrate of sorts.   Something strong, so it could stand up to the ice and milk.    In my research, I stumbled onto the idea of a slow, cold brew.    I found a blog entry from The Pioneer Woman, with a recipe for the Perfect Iced Coffee.   Her idea was excellent!  However it sounded like it would make enough coffee concentrate to last a month or more, and that’s with both my husband and I drinking it daily.    Time to…wait for it…. HALF the recipe!

 

Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate

Ingredients / Tools Needed
6 to 8 ounces ground coffee, choose your favorite
1 gallon water (4 quarts for the math challenged)
Cheesecloth
Fine mesh strainer
1 gallon container (or slightly larger if you have it)
a BIG pitcher – 1 gallon or close to it – for storing the end result coffee

Instructions
Start by pouring the 1/2 pound of coffee into the large container.   Add 1 gallon of water, about 2 quarts at a time.  Stir to make sure the coffee is distributed throughout, although it will settle later.
Put a lid on the container or cover it and set it aside at room temperature for at least eight hours.  Longer if you want; the longer it sits, the stronger the concentrate.

After you can’t wait any longer, but you’ve been patient enough to wait at least eight hours, open the container.   Place a double-thick layer of the cheesecloth over the strainer, and put that over the pitcher or a large bowl.   Scoop off any coffee grounds that have floated to the top of the container and let them drain through the cheesecloth/strainer.   Discard the grounds (or use them in your landscaping).   Pour the coffee concentrate through the cheesecloth/strainer into the pitcher or bowl until you get near the bottom, where more grounds likely will have settled.  You can decide if you want to put the last of the grounds into the strainer to get every last drop of coffee, or just discard the remainder.

Chill the coffee concentrate for an hour or so before using.

 

How to use the coffee to make Iced Coffee:

This is how I make my iced coffee using the concentrate described above.

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Start with a glass 1/2 full of crushed ice.

 

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Add coffee creamer like you would any other cup of coffee in the same quantity.  Stir.

 

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Add milk to fill the glass.  Stir.

Sit back and enjoy your tasty iced coffee!

 

What makes this concept and recipe so great is that it makes enough concentrate for a week or more, depending on how much coffee you drink and how often.  For just me, it would probably be enough for about two weeks.  For a couple who both drink it once a day, it’s about a week.

It’s also nice alternative when you want coffee in the summer but not a hot beverage.

To me two of the biggest benefits are how this can be customized to any taste and it’s very inexpensive.   The original recipe from The Pioneer Woman blog suggests using sweetened condensed milk.  Sounds delicious and just a wee bit high calorie for my waistline.   My husband and I got on a kick one evening experimenting with the combinations of milk, cream, simple syrup, coffee creamer, and even chocolate syrup.   The chocolate syrup was a good for a sweet treat, but the overall winner for me was a combo of coffee creamer and milk.   The creamer gives it that creamy texture and sweetness, while the skim milk made it more filling.  As for cost,  a Starbucks iced coffee in the smallest size starts at about $2.  So at $4 for a half pound of good coffee, which will make enough concentrate for easily a dozen or more iced coffees, the savings is pretty substantial.   That’s not accounting for the milk and/or sweetener you may add, but since that varies and you’re not using a lot, it still adds up to a lot less money.

For those like me who prefer to be able to pronounce most of what they eat or drink, this recipe gives you total control over what goes in your iced coffee.  I’m a bit picky about ingredients, to the point I’m one of those annoying folks standing there reading a label at the grocery store.  (Actually I’ve done it long enough I can know pretty quick if it’s something I’m going to buy or put back on the shelf.)

If you’re having to run out the door and grab your coffee on the go, this recipe works great!  It requires so little time to assemble, so you can be armed with your iced coffee and ready to tackle the world in far less time than you’d spend at the drive-thru.   (And you’ll save money.)

So in short, this recipe is:

  • Incredibly Easy
  • Inexpensive
  • Uses ingredients you likely already have
  • Makes enough for a week, or something similar
  • Tastes great
  • Saves time on busy mornings
  • Saves money compared to buying them at the coffee shop

All that adds up to a winner in my book.   Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Lazy Weekend French Toast

I’m thinking about the upcoming weekend, starting with Friday, March 14, otherwise known as Pi Day.   To celebrate will require the making and consuming of pie, so I’m on a mission to find one incredible pie to bake.    It has to be something epic so I can share it and give away a LOT of it.  I love most any pie so keeping it around the house is not so good for the waistline.

I mention the pie because that has me thinking of the weekend, and I like to incorporate one lazy morning if at all possible.  Lazy mornings include a late breakfast.    Now you’ve been exposed to my way of thinking, which often resembles the wildly twisting dotted line from a Family Circus comic showing the child’s “direct” path home.   It makes sense to me anyway!

So on to the French Toast.  French Toast is one of those breakfast comfort foods that can be just ok when made quickly and poorly, but when made properly it can make for a delicious meal.   Probably the most important ingredient is the bread.   Basic white sandwich bread just can’t hold up, so something more robust is necessary.   If you saw my last post about Simply Good Bread and made a loaf, you’ve got a good choice at the ready (if you haven’t eaten it all already.)

This started with one of those recipes that can’t quite be simply cut in half.  A good example is that the original recipe uses 3 large eggs.  Hmm, how do you half an egg?  See my answer to the delima in the recipe below.
Lazy Weekend French Toast for Two

Ingredients:
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp oil (any kind you prefer except olive oil)
1 whole egg
1 egg white (or if you’re not concerned with calories, 1 egg yolk)
3 oz heavy cream
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp cinnamon (also to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 thick slices of bread, at least a couple of days old

Instructions:

Mix together egg, egg white (or yolk), cream, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Pour into a shallow dish big enough to hold two pieces of bread at a time.

Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Place two pieces of bread into the soaking dish for about 10 seconds, flip them over and soak about another 10 seconds.   It should soak in some but not become saturated.

Place the two pieces in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes.  Flip the bread, and the now visible side should be nicely golden.  Cook another 2 minutes and flip to brown each side a little more as needed.  Remove these from the skillet, stash them on a place covered with a towel and repeat with the other two slices.

When all four pieces are done, top with a little powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve with maple syrup.  (NO “pancake” syrup pretty please.  I’m a maple syrup purist.)

Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Rich French Toast recipe.