breakfast

French toast. Or what to do with leftover bread.

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Using up leftovers in a creative way is always challenging, at least in my house. My kids are deeply suspicious of anything they have seen before, even if they wanted to throw a party in celebration the first time it appeared. Being a constantly on-the-go individual, I love ready-made food at my fingertips. Makes me look like a bit of a genius, whipping up dinner in about 10 minutes. What about all the little bits that wind up hanging around in the pantry or the fridge? One can only make casseroles so often . . .

Bread is one of those things that winds up neglected. Not that it happens all the time; my family goes through bread spurts where I can hardly keep up. It’s the in between times when I face a half a loaf in the bread drawer, wanting to use it up before it goes off.

Three options, and there are likely more.

1)   Make bread crumbs. Slice that bread, cut it into quarters (roughly anyway), drop it in the food processor, and whir away. The resulting crumbs can be frozen to use whenever. I freeze mine in the fresh crumb state, but you could also oven-crisp them and freeze them that way.

2)   Make croutons. Best done with leftover baguette or other crusty bread. Cut into bite-size pieces. Toss with garlicked oil (or leave the garlic out of it) and sprinkle with a little salt, then bake at about 325 until browned and crisp. Cool completely, put in an airtight container, and freeze (or not) until you want to use it. My son is on a Caesar salad kick right now and these are essential.

3)   Make French toast (which the French call “pain perdu”, or lost bread.) Needless to say, this one is a favorite in my house. Hmm. I wonder if they purposefully leave leftover bread so I’ll make this?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp (or more) cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1+ TBS sugar (I like brown sugar in this)
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 4 slices of leftover bread
  • 1 TBS butter or coconut oil for the pan

TECHNQUE:

  • Mix all ingredients except the bread and butter together. I mix these directly in a 9x13 pan, since that’s the perfect soaking spot.
  • Lay the bread slices in a single layer in the egg mixture. Let soak for 2 minutes a side.  The egg mixture will be mostly soaked up.
  • Preheat the pan on medium-medium low heat for about 4 minutes. Add the butter or coconut oil and melt it until it bubbles a bit.
  • Add the bread to the pan, in a single layer. Cook for maybe 3 minutes a side, or until the bread is browned and crisped. You might have to adjust the heat a little.
  • Serve with bacon. Warm maple syrup. Fresh strawberries. Whipped cream. Chocolate chips. Go wild!

Having homemade bread crumbs or croutons ready to pull out of the freezer makes me feel accomplished. Using up leftovers makes me feel like a virtuous, frugal person. Small things - that make me feel badass. You?

 

 

 

 

PANCAKES!

Pancakes! IMG_6085

A favorite anytime food in my household, particularly for the kids, pancakes are one of those simple foods that are pretty easy to make taste okay – but not so easy to make taste GREAT. For me, the one important piece? Texture!

The trick to turning out perfectly fluffy pancakes every time is not beating the batter to within an inch of its life.  You don’t want a perfectly smooth, lump-free batter. This trick works if you’re making pancakes from a mix (please try from scratch sometime!) or from scratch. And who doesn’t love a cooking tip that involves less work? Check out this video for a fun tutorial!

PERFECTLY BADASS PANCAKES (recipe can be doubled)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c all purpose flour (can use ½ c ww flour if you want)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS brown sugar (can use white sugar, or maple sugar if you have it)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c buttermilk (or soured milk, or ¼ c plain yogurt and ¾ c milk)
  • 3 TBS melted butter
  • 1 egg

TECHNIQUE

  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Whisk wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients in.
  • Mix gently (I almost fold the parts together) with a spatula (NO WHISK!) until the flour is incorporated but some lumps remain.
  • Preheat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium –medium/low heat for about 4-5 minutes. Yes, use the lower setting and let it heat through that way! Brush with oil. Ideally you’ll test the heat by making a dollar-size pancake – should cook through in about 2 minutes on the first side.
  • Spoon ¼ c or so size scoops onto the griddle, spreading the batter out. It WILL be thick!
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook for another minute or 2 on the second side. You can play with the heat setting on your cooktop but you don’t want it to cook a whole lot faster than this – you’ll wind up with uncooked batter inside.
  • Serve with your favorite breakfast meat (if you eat meat), some gorgeous fruit, and warm Vermont maple syrup (from April’s Maple, of course!)IMG_6094

How to poach eggs

poached eggs on toast I love poached eggs. For a long time the only time I’d get them was as a special treat at a brunch restaurant (full disclosure – with hollandaise sauce as part of Eggs Benedict!) – frankly, I was scared of trying to make them at home. Something about the boiling water and getting the eggs just right (cooked whites, yolks runny) had me thinking this was harder than quantum physics.

Then a friend posted a picture of her poached egg breakfast. And I thought about the health benefits of eggs (too numerous to count) and the fact that if I figured out how to poach them, I could eat them with no added fat for the pan.

So I figured it out. There might be more niceties – people tell me adding vinegar to the pan will help with the setting of the white, or swirling the water into a whirlpool will make the egg a pretty shape – but the basics are pretty basic. Get a hold of fresh-from-the-farm eggs, find a good skillet, and experiment with the timing so you get it perfect for you! Check out this Tasty Thursday video for a tutorial . . . 

POACHED EGGS – technique. (ingredients? Eggs and water. Or salsa or spaghetti sauce. But we’ll stick with water here.)

  • Fill a small non-stick skillet about an inch deep with water and bring to a good simmer.
  • Carefully crack eggs into a bowl, working to not break the yolk.
  • Slip the eggs into the simmering water. Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still runny, maybe about 3 minutes (? I have never timed it.) The yolk will have a thin film over it, and the whites will white through, not opaque – you can also slip a spatula underneath and lift the egg up as a unit.
  • CAREFULLY pour the water out of the pan. I use a slotted spoon to hold the eggs in place, then to kind of slip the eggs (one at a time) out of the pan – this way most of the excess water drains away.
  • Amazing served on fresh homemade ww toast – no butter needed at all. Yum.

 

Wrapping up

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(my oatmeal. Topped with cinnamon and a pack of trek mix from Trader Joes. Carbs and protein and some fat to keep my day moving. Yum!)

The kids just scrambled out the door, 2 weeks off and it’s as if there were no break at all. The big difference? They each at least had something to eat, either in hand or in belly, before disappearing through the front door in a haze of gloves and scarves and not enough layers.

It is one of my goals for 2014, to provide them with breakfast each school morning. Sounds like I’ve been failing on a basic parent front, right? “Really, Nica? No breakfast?” I’m one of the recent breakfast converts, though, and I completely understand the inability to eat something when you’ve just gotten vertical after not enough sleep. My other reason? Frankly, it’s their responsibility to feed themselves. There is always enough food in the house. I make dinner every night, bake bread for their lunch sandwiches. I lose patience with making food they don’t want to eat (which is why they both make their own lunches and have since they were 5.) But . . . I need want to provide something nourishing in the morning for my growing children, so I asked them what they wanted.

“Bacon,” said Julian.

Uh huh.

“Oatmeal,” said Maddie. “And pancakes.”

Eat carbs much?

Fine. If they’ll eat, on the run or sitting down or somewhere in between? I’ll get it sorted out.

This morning there was bacon and oatmeal (steel-cut oats, thank you.) Julian scarfed 3 pieces of bacon in between putting socks and shoes on; Maddie took a “go” container of oatmeal doctored with plenty of maple crunch and brown sugar. Jeremy and I each had a more leisurely bowl of oatmeal, and I’m left with a sinkful of dishes and a fairly content feeling inside.

What does this have to do with wrapping up?

I like finishing a year with reflection and goal-setting. I try to learn from what didn’t go well and work to move forward, whatever that looks like. My forward might not be someone else’s – I don’t particularly care.

Part of my wrap up is making a video of all the places I worked out in the past year, and people I worked out with.  I don’t get them all, of course, but I get pretty close. After a season of eating too much and maybe not exercising as intensely as I might, it feels good to realize just how consistent I am in general.

I wrapped up 2013 in a pretty bow, and I get to unpack it in 2014 and be delighted all over again. Badass.