Archives for category: Breakfast

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This winter has been rough on me, and I’m sure it’s been tough for a lot of you too.  I check the weather on my phone and see no hope for days.  Temperatures lingering well below freezing seem to be the norm now.  Of course, there are snippets of beauty amongst this snow and ice.  Scenes that would rival any tropical paradise in their splendor.

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On the positive side, I do love me some winter fashion.  I love chunky knits, boots, pom-pom hats, and huge scarves wrapped around a thousand times. I’ve gotten to wear crimson and berry-toned lip colors, which look out-of-place in the warmer months.  I have also been loving  goth-inspired nail polishes – very moody and a far cry from the fuchsias and tangerine reds I wear in the summer.

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There have also been cozy times I get to share with my husband.  Him and I exploring the city and finding a new café.  I will get a latte and he will get a hot chocolate because he has an abhorrence that stems from childhood towards coffee.  We’ll share a cookie or a croissant or both and discuss things in the world that we don’t understand or can’t wrap our heads around, future vacations we want to take, or whatever may come up.

We’ll also laze around at home more often on the weekends.  In the summer I like to be out and about.  This winter I’m enjoying staying in more. Usually I’m the type of person who gets in a very bad mood if we don’t have weekend plans.  But this winter I’ve been happy to stay-in on a Friday night and cook a nice dinner for just the two of us.  Of course friends are always welcome, but rather than going out, sometimes it’s nice to stay snug and comfortable at home.  When Sunday morning comes around I’m also skipping the usual restaurant brunches and opting for an omelet or pancakes or French toast at home.  I’m not big on sweets for breakfast, but sometimes a nice french toast satisfies like nothing else.

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When making French toast I don’t really measure anything out.  It’s an effortless dish that will come together if you have the basic ingredients.  That’s why I love making it.  I paired it here with ruby-toned fruits: blood oranges, pomegranates, and raspberries.  And I always use cinnamon and vanilla in my french toast.  You can add other spices like cardamom or ground cloves.  But the combination of cinnamon and vanilla is my favorite and will make your whole kitchen smell very welcoming.

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Cinnamon and Vanilla French Toast with Ruby Colored Fruits

I am providing a loose recipe here, because I really feel French toast is foolproof unless you burn it in the pan. 😉

Ingredients

oil or butter for frying

bread of your choice, sliced a little thicker than usual and day old is best.  I usually have whole wheat or sunflower toast, but brioche and challah are optimal.

eggs, use 1 egg for every 3 slices of toast

milk of your choice, use about 1 cup for every 3 slices of toast

sugar, to taste – I like to use raw sugar or sugar with larger crystals so that it caramelizes nicely on the toast.

vanilla extract or a vanilla bean scraped, start with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon for 3 slices of toast, you can  adjust the amount according to your taste

a pinch of sea salt

an array of fruits or your choice, I used blood oranges, pomegranates, and raspberries. (fruit combination inspired by @thedelicious on instagram)

chopped nuts, for serving (optional)

to serve: whipped cream or sour cream or crème fraîche or yogurt, orange zest, cinnamon, and pure maple syrup

Method

Beat eggs with milk, add in sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in a wide rectangular dish.  Soak the bread until the egg custard is absorbed on each side.

Heat a large frying pan with oil or butter on medium heat.  Add the soaked toast pieces in the pan.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden.  Top with the blood oranges, pomegranates, raspberries, nuts, and other topping of your choice.

I’m an odd one who likes to have a sandwich for breakfast.  I’ll pass up eggs, cereal, french toast, pancakes, waffles for a sandwich.  Though I like all of those things, I prefer this sandwich.  When I visit my parents, I’m always sure to get some jalapeño chicken sausage and make a sandwich out of it for breakfast.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any pork-free chicken sausage here, though I’m sure they exist, so I opt for this vegetarian version.

With or without chicken sausage I am a lover of cheese, bread with almost any other combination.  I like to add basil, chives, and/or cilantro as well.  My sister and I came up with this (genius ;)) combination for breakfast.  We’re big on sandwiches and are known to turn meals into a sandwich.  All you really need is bread.

Spicy chilies and flavors are also a favorite of mine.  Hence, the radishes and jalapeños .  I think everything melds so nicely here: spicy, creamy, and fresh.  The textures all work, too.  Not too shabby if I say so myself.  I have created the perfect form of food in a sandwich.  Yes, I’m being totally sarcastic and I’m sure someone reading this will turn their nose up at this and think, “what is she going on about???”  Regardless, this is my favorite breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner for when I’m not in the mood for something that takes effort to make and after eating this sandwich I’m truly satisfied.

My Favorite Sandwich

There are absolutely no directions on how to make this sandwich.  I’ll give you some rough ideas and you go ahead and make your perfect sandwich.

Ingredients

nice hearty bread (I used honey, nut, flax)

radishes

avocados

good quality tomatoes, like heirloom

cucumbers

jalapeño peppers (fresh or pickled)

cheese of your choice (I used a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese.)

lime juice

herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dried herbs de Provence

sea salt

extra-virgin olive oil

Method

Toast bread drizzle on olive oil and dress with toppings of your choice.  I make them open-faced.   Easy!

I got a new camera, a dSLR.  Yes, I know it’s quite exciting.  I have been a nag (even nag would be an understatement) to my husband about this for several months.  I would intentionally show him blurry photos with my point and shoot just to show him the inadequacies with it.  So, on my birthday last month he took me to Best Buy, probably just to shut me up for a little while.  I must admit, I love my camera, but I’m back to yapping about something else now. *hehehe*

The point and shoot was the birthday gift I got from my husband over 4 years ago.  When I opened the box, I was expecting something totally fab and girly but instead it was a Canon Powershot camera.  At that point our relationship was in its early stages and still blossoming, so I was nice about and said I loved it, I mean I loved it in a way but for my birthday, not so much.  You see, I’m a girly girl.  Give me bags, shoes, accessories and I will be in love with you.  But looking back now I appreciate my husband’s gesture immensely.  At that point he was a graduate student working in a lab and he did go out of his way with the camera.  Don’t worry, no need to feel bad for him, I used that point and shoot to its full capacity *even* after drowning it in the ocean a few times and resuscitating it many times.  Needless to say, I feel a little guilty now that I am not using it much anymore.

I spent 2 weeks taking pictures with my new dSLR of random things, like a vase of flowers, or a mirror hanging in my living room, or my lunch.  Then one day, I decided to go to my fridge and make something.  What I had no idea.  One way or another I ended up making ricotta fritters and began shooting away, making myself more comfortable with all the functions on the new camera.  I’m glad I ended up make these on a whim because they were delightful and so very easy.  They tasted like mini airy doughnuts and though I can’t say I eat doughnuts often, (haven’t since childhood).  But they are a staple and my husband requested I make them again and they were delicious again-all warm and comforting.  They make you feel all warm, they way only cinnamon-y goodness can.  These have been added my frequently-made dessert list.  Just talking about them is making me want to make some now!

my husband, taste tester *and* hand model

Sweet Cinnamon and Almond Ricotta Fritters

inspired by Gale Gand

Makes about 12

Ingredients

canola oil, for frying

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/2 cup ground almonds (ground in a spice grinder is fine)

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

small pinch fleur de sel or any fine sea salt

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

fruit preserves, for dipping (or anything you prefer: caramel, chocolate ganache, melted white chocolate, nutella)

Method

Have a frying pan ready on medium heat and add about 1/2 inch of oil to the pan and allow the oil to heat to about 350-375 degrees.

Mix the egg with the sugar, vanilla extract, ricotta cheese, and cinnamon together using a rubber spatula until combined.

Next, add in the ground almonds, flour, and baking powder until mixed into the egg and ricotta mixture.

Take teaspoon-fulls and drop the batter into the oil and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes.   Drain excess oil from the fritters and allow to dry on a rack lined with paper towels.  Serve warm with preserves (or any of the other choices specified above) and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

*you can deep-fry these in oil at 375 degrees, but I didn’t find it necessary.

I would like to wish everyone a very blessed Eid.  Eid is a time for family, friends, and celebrations and I hope all of you are fortunate enough to be close to your loved ones.  Usually, we eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritual sacrifice.  We prepare dishes like yakhni pulao (meat stock based rice pilaf), kharay masalay ka gosht (meat cooked with whole garam masala pieces), karahi gosht (a tomato/chili based meat dish), and many more.  Unfortunately, this is not a vegetarian friendly holiday, I suppose it could be though.

However, meat is not the only focus.  Desserts are prepared in copious amounts.  Kheer (rice pudding), sewayyan (sweetened vermicelli), zarda sweetened rice) are part of the dessert spread.  Yes, we are very serious about food and prepare a feast even if it’s just for your immediate family.

One of my favorite Pakistani desserts is Shahi Tukray.  Let me tell you, it is literally heaven.  Fried bread slices soaked in a sugar syrup infused with saffron and cardamom and then dunked into a rich and creamy milk pudding, so good.  So, so good.  Usually, I don’t swoon like this for other Pakistani desserts, sure I like them, but for me, Shahi Tukray are on a completely other level.  It’s almost like you take a bite and you are so consumed in the utter deliciousness that you can’t think for a minute.  Or maybe I’m just an odd one and this is only the case for me.  Regardless, this dessert is befitting to its name, which means royal pieces or morsels.

I added a twist to the recipe here, being Autumn I thought pumpkin might work in this dish.  I added pumpkin purée to the rabri (reduced milk pudding) and the combination of pumpkin with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves (the last two another nontraditional addition of mine) was divine.  Of course, if you want to stay true to the original leave the pumpkin out, but I really enjoyed this new combination.

Eid Mubarak and even if you don’t celebrate, find some Muslim friends and I’m sure they would be more than happy to include you in their celebrations and share the yummy food with you.

Shahi Tukray with Pumpkin

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

1 cup canned pure pumpkin purée

2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3-4 whole cloves

1 teaspoon cardamom powder

5 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

a nice pinch of saffron threads

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup canola oil or clarified butter, for frying (you might need slightly more oil/clarified butter, but I try to use as little as possible)

1 loaf (8-10 slices) day-old country-style white bread, crusts removed (optional) and cut into 2 pieces on the diagonal

edible silver leaf, for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup toasted and chopped mixed nuts-pistachios and almonds with skin, for garnish

fresh whipped cream, for garnish

cinnamon powder, for garnish

softened butter, for greasing the baking dish

Method

In a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat, bring the milk, half and half, cardamom powder, 2 cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and pumpkin to a simmer. Mix the ingredients every minute or so.

Once the milk/cream mixture comes to a simmer turn the heat to low and let the mixture thicken to the consistency of a loose pudding/custard. Keep stirring every few minutes so that the cream does not burn. This should take 35-45 minutes. Once the milk/cream mixture is done, remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods.

While the milk/cream mixture is simmering, make the sugar syrup by combining the remaining sugar, water, saffron threads, and 3 cardamom pods in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. The syrup will be done once the sugar and water have dissolved into a uniform liquid after about 10 minutes. Leave the sugar syrup on low heat until the milk/cream mixture is done.

At this point preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and butter an 8″x8″ inch baking dish.

Once the cream mixture and sugar syrup are done, start frying the bread triangles in a fry pan on medium heat with the oil or clarified butter until all the pieces are golden brown on both sides. Lay the bread on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Once all the bread pieces are fried, dip each bread piece into the sugar syrup then into the milk/cream mixture so that the bread is coated well and then arrange the bread into the baking dish. I like to arrange the bread on the diagonal. Repeat this until you have used up all the fried bread.

Next, take any remaining milk/cream mixture and pour it over the bread slices in the pan and use a rubber spatula to make the top smooth.

Bake the bread slices in the oven for 15 minutes or until the top just starts to slightly turn golden.

Remove from the oven and garnish with the chopped nuts and silver leaf, if you are using it.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon, if you like. I like to eat it right from the oven but it can also be eaten at room temperature or even chilled.

*This can be made a day in advance and baked the day of serving.

I also posted this recipe on food52 here.

I used to hate smoked salmon.  I would not even touch it.  Oh and yes, I used to loathe capers too.  It’s funny how they both ended up in this spread.  I remember always asking a waitperson to omit the capers from anything I ordered.  Smoked salmon just smelled plain old fishy to me.  And then one day, I decided to stop being annoying and judging foods from some childhood notion I had of how they taste.  Just like that, I realized that they were actually good, really good.  Now, at brunch I am always torn between a smoked salmon platter (which most times includes capers) or some omelet or frittata or maybe pancakes, waffles or…As you can see I like EVERYTHING now.  I love the fact that I have gotten oven any hang-ups I used to have.  True confession:  I used to hate sushi/sashimi too.  Now, I simply cannot go a week without it.

I love when people are open-minded.  In this day and age, I see people having way too many issues about things when they haven’t even tried something or experienced something fully.  Go and dive into things and I’m sure most people will find more things they love than hate.  Of course, I feel this should be applied to all aspects of life.  However, since this blog is primarily about food, I would like to encourage all of us to get out of our culinary comfort zone and try something we think we dislike.  Imagine, something as everyday as smoked salmon was out of my comfort zone.  Things become part of our everyday and we do not even realize it.  That’s a great process of expanding the mind and more importantly, the taste-buds.

This smoked salmon spread is just what my taste-buds call out for.  My mind is calling out,” feeeeeeeeeeeed me,” most hours of the day and this spread surely satisfies my never-ending pit of an appetite.  Creamy and salty and soooo good!  Another benefit of this spread is that it is so simple.  I like to make dishes that have an elegance and oomph to them without too much effort.  The freshest ingredients will always yield the most delicious results, as is the case with this spread.

Smoked Salmon Spread with Dill, Chives, and Capers

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of spread

Ingredients

3 ounces of wild smoked salmon

1/2 cup creme fraiche

3/4 cup artisanal cream cheese (or regular cream cheese if you can’t find artisanal)

1 tablespoon capers (brine rinsed off)

2 tablespoons dill, chopped

15 sprigs of chives, chopped

juice of half a lemon

1 clove of garlic, chopped, optional

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

Pulse all of the ingredients in a food processor until just combined.  If you do not have a food processor, chop everything finely and mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until fluffy.  So easy!  Serve with crusty bread or some nice crackers.  This would also be great on a bagel.

This recipe has been requested numerous times.  I did not intend on posting it, but I will since it had such rave reviews.  It is so simple to make and was the result of having nothing to eat on a weekend breakfast.  I am including the recipe that yields a serving of 4 slices of bread.  Just double or triple, etc if you need to make a larger quantity.

Ricotta and Raspberry Stuffed French Toast

Makes 4 slices

Ingredients

4 slices of bread, I only had farmer’s market whole wheat on hand, but the best choice would be Brioche or Challah

1 egg

3-4 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

tiny pinch of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more if you want it more “cinnamony”)

1 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

vegetable oil or butter for frying

fresh berries, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoons toasted chopped walnut, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for garnish, optional

some mint leaves for garnish, optional

maple syrup, optional

for the ricotta filling:

3/4 a cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon toasted chopped walnuts, optional

Method

First make the ricotta filling.  Using an electric mixer beat all the filling ingredients together (except the almonds) on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Next, mix in the nuts.  Set aside.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat with some oil or butter.  In a shallow bowl beat the egg with the milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt.  Dip the bread slices in this mixture.  and place about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture between 2 slices of bread, sort of like making a sandwich.  Fry the “sandwich” in the frying pan until golden brown on both sides.  Repeat until all your slices of bread are finished.  Garnish with any remaining ricotta mixture, berries, and powdered sugar.  Serve with maple syrup if you would like.

WARNING:  Health nuts should close the page right now.  This is truly rich and decadent and may be your only meal for a few days ;).  (Kidding about a few days, but one day should be fine hehe).

These pancakes have been haunting me since I ate them back in October.  It is funny how you can think of a food and want it so badly but you are scared to make it.  That is because you fear it will not live up to the expectations you had of it.  I mean these Bongo Room delights changed my entire perspective on pancakes.  I was never a fan of pancakes.  I would not make them on my own.  Okay, fine if you offered me some I would not say no and probably finish my plate and then take seconds.  But, these pancakes were so decadent and the perfect combination of flavors; sweet and salty, my favorite pairing for desserts.  My husband always makes fun of me, “There you go again adding you fleur de blah blah into the dessert.”  I am not being pretentious about it, believe me, I shudder when I hear food snobs.  I simply like the roundness and that zing salt adds to sweet dishes.  The pretzels also add a great textural and salty element.  I love the CRUNCH!

Also, I did not have a pancake recipe in my repertoire so I put my faith into an Allrecipes recipe.  Now, I am officially a pancake fan with or with out the over the top white chocolate and caramel toppings!  This recipe yielded such fluffy, airy, and cloud-like pancakes that I converted without a fight.  I would eat these plain!

My next mission is to go to the Clinton Street Baking Company in Manhattan for their famous pancakes.  My sister did not speak to me for a few days after I went to Manhattan a few months ago and did not stop there.  See how passionate we are about food.  🙂

White Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Pancakes inspired by The Bongo Room (Chicago)

Serves 2

Pancake recipe from here.

Ingredients

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup of crushed pretzels

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together the milk and the vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes, so that the milk sours.  Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients into a bowl.  After the milk has soured, pour it into the dry ingredients and also add the egg and the vanilla extract.  Whisk together all the ingredients until they form a smooth batter.  Mix in the crushed pretzels.  Heat a frying pan or griddle on medium-low heat with some butter or oil.  Take 1/4 cup fulls of the batter and cook on a frying pan or griddle until cooked on both sides, flip when the top of the pancake is covered in bubbles, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve with warm caramel sauce and white chocolate sauce and garnish with crushed pretzel pieces and confectioner’s sugar.

I used Ina Garten’s caramel sauce recipe and added 1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel and 1 tablespoon of butter at the end.  If you can find a good quality store-made caramel sauce go ahead and use it.  For me, making caramel is daunting and not something I enjoy.  Ina’s recipe is pretty good, but a bit stressful.

For the white chocolate sauce, simply take 6 ounces of good quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut, if you can find Valrhona Ivoire that would be great as well), 1/4 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and melt over a double boiler until smooth.