Breakfast Nirvana

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Moonstruck is probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time. I’ve been cuing it up for many years now. In the beginning, it was all about the unstoppable and offbeat romance between Loretta (Cher) and Ronny (Nicholas Cage). But lately every time I watch it I focus on the food.

I love the scene where Rose (Olympia Dukakis) fixes egg-in-a-hole for Loretta. Until recently I thought Rose had added some bacon on top of the egg. We’ve even made it this way a few times. But the last time I watched the movie I noticed that it was really strips of roasted red pepper! I am thoroughly over the bacon-on-top-of-and-inside-everything-you-could-possibly-eat thing. So roasted red pepper sounds so much more exciting.

The next morning I couldn’t find any roasted red peppers in the house. But we did have some leftover caramelized onions hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. I didn’t hesitate because, as far as I can tell, caramelized onions never disappoint. And this time was no exception.[/donotprint]

Egg-in-a-Hole with Caramelized Onions Recipe

One slice bread
One egg
1 tablespoon butter (or less, just don’t be shy with the butter)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons caramelized onions

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cut a hole out of the center of a piece of bread with a 2-inch round cookie cutter or the rim of a shot glass. Add butter to skillet and wait until the butter is melted and starts to bubble/sizzle.

Place the bread in the skillet. Crack an egg into the hole. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Top with the caramelized onions. Cook for four or five minutes and then flip the bread over with a spatula and cook one minute more.  Serve immediately.

Yield: one serving
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (for the Bread Machine)

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The weather here has been beyond amazing lately. It’s February in New England and sometimes I find myself in a t-shirt. Outside even. It’s been heavenly and I hope it continues.

What seems to be the early coming of Spring has sent me into a baking frenzy. I simply can’t stop making bread. Have you ever seen the cookbook Flatbreads & Flavors? It’s like crack for homemade bread makers. I just can’t stop. Before we know it it will be far too gorgeous outside to stay in and bake. I was planning on making tons of crackers this winter too and I’ve done next to none. Woe is me.

Recently, I couldn’t find a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough for bread machines on the World Wide Web. It’s always a little troubling when a recipe search just comes up empty. Doesn’t the web have everything on it by now? Anyhow, I was forced to do a little experimenting and come up with my own.

This recipe is actually a mash-up of my husband’s recipe and one I found in a bread machine cookbook. I’m not sure if any of it actually makes sense. But it works for me. I make the dough in the bread machine and then put it in the fridge overnight. My husband does the overnight rest, but I forget why – probably something to do with gluten development or something.

I haven’t tried throwing this dough to make a traditional pizza pie, but it would probably rise to the occasion. I’ve been making ten thousand pinwheels instead. I have enough pinwheels for an army in my freezer. My kid’s school lunches are going to be very predictable, but yummy, for the rest of the year.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (Bread Machine)

Scant cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Put the water, sugar, olive oil, salt, and flours in the bread machine pan. Make a well in the flour for the yeast and pour it in. Put the machine on the Dough setting. Check on it once the knead cycle has been going for a little while to make sure it’s not too wet or too dry.

Divide the dough in two and place each dough in a lightly greased 2-quart airtight container. Place the containers in the refrigerator overnight.

30 – 60 minutes before you are going to need the dough, place it on the counter and allow it to come to room temperature. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface or onto a baking sheet.

The rest is up to you! Happy pizza!

Yield: 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 12-inch pizzas
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Our Daily Bread

[donotprint]Right after college, one of my roommates got a bread maker. After a couple months of excitement, she started to complain about feeling alienated from her bread. The machine was quietly tucked away never to be seen again.

Given this experience, I resisted getting a bread maker for a long time. But a few years ago I ended up with one and haven’t looked back. I have a Zojirushi which seemed like a good idea because it has two paddles and produces a traditionally shaped loaf. But now it’s pointless because a couple years ago I decided to use the machine to make the dough and then bake it in the oven. Those paddle holes in the bottom of a loaf are disheartening. And the crust always came out way too dark in the machine.

Just in case there are some other folks out there who are as pre-occupied with bread as I am, I thought I’d share my stand-by recipe. It’s mostly whole grain and is the main source of flaxseed in our diet.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Flax Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Flax Prairie Bread from Ameriflax. I usually use King Arthur’s all-purpose flour for this bread, but if you have bread flour by all means use it instead of the all-purpose flour. It delivers.

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the water, salt, flaxseed, oil, honey, and flours in bread machine pan. Create a small well in the top of the flour and pour in the yeast. Run the machine on the Dough setting. When the dough is ready, punch it down and form it into a loaf shape. Place the dough in a greased bread pan. Cover with a light-weight towel.

Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it is doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 28 minutes. Remove loaf from pan by turning it upside down and catching it with an oven mit. Allow the loaf to cool completely on a cooling rack. If you put it away before it cools, it will get soggy. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: one loaf of lovely bread
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Crostini

These crostini are the backbone of dip and cheese plates that I find myself putting together in the winter months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a baguette  into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Pour 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl. Brush a bit off the oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake until golden and dried out, approximately 30 minutes.

As far as I can tell, these will keep for months in an airtight container, if they are completely dried out. I always make way more than I think I’ll need because the kids devour them and we can always save them for the next get together.

Yield: variable
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 30 minutes

Grilled Bruschetta

My approach to bruschetta is one I made up a while ago without referring to anything or anyone. I figure I’ve read enough cookbooks that I should know how to make bruschetta with my eyes closed. Feel free to educate me in the comments if I’m commiting some bruschetta sin of the highest order.

Grilled Bruschetta Recipe

Feel free to mix it up based on whatever abundance of summer produce you have on hand.  The kids love to “paint” the olive oil onto the bread prior to grilling.

For the bread:
1 large loaf of rustic crusty white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tomatoes:
16 grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Pinch kosher salt

For the summer squash:
2 to 3 yellow summer squash and/or zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Goat or feta cheese, for garnish

1. Fire up your outdoor grill to medium heat. Somewhere around 400 degrees Farienhight is nice.

2. Slice the loaf into 1/2 inch slices. Combine the olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, coat one side of each slice liberally with the olive oil mixture. Set aside.

3. Cut off the ends of the summer squash/zucchini. Slice them lengthwise to 1/4 – inch thickness. Spread the slices out on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the prepared squash, tomatoes, and bread on the grill. Watch the bread closely and flip it once grill marks appear and is starting to brown. Flip the vegetables when grill marks start to appear. Remove from heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

5. To assemble, cut the bread slices in half, if they are large. Spread the bread out on a large serving plate in a single layer. Chop the tomatoes and mix them with the basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Next, chop the grilled summer squash and mix with the thyme and parsley along with pinches of salt and pepper. Heap the vegetables onto the prepared bread slices. Garnish with goat or feta cheese, if desired. Devour immediately.

Yield: 16
Prep-time: 25 minutes

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Raisin Toast with Almond Butter, Banana, and Honey

How could I be blogging about healthy snacks for over a year and not have a post about my childhood favorite? Perhaps I didn’t think it was fancy enough. But today I have the clarity of mind to know that the simple snacks are often the best. Not only because they are easy for mommy to make, but because they are darn tasty! Thanks for making me these when I was little Mom! And I’ll call you soon!

2 pieces toast, preferably raisin and/or whole grain
2 tablespoons nut butter (such as peanut or almond)
One small banana, sliced
Honey

Spread nut butter on toast. Top with banana slices and a drizzle of honey. Serve warm!

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Avocado and Tomato Face

The cuteness came out of nowhere. I just wanted an unadulterated shot of avocado. But it turned into a healthy snack with some serious visual appeal. The kids ate it and enjoyed it, which was sort of big deal. Then I ate four more. Num!

The recipe below is approximate as everything depends on how thick you slice the bread, how big the bread is, how thick you slice the avocado, and so on. I’m not going to get into that level of detail. Eyeball it. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

10-12 slices of bread (preferably from a  french baguette)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado (preferably Haas)
3 grape tomatoes, sliced
Fresh cilantro
One wedge of lime

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the crostini: Prepare the bread by laying the slices out onto a baking sheet. Brush a bit of olive oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden and bread is crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Gently wash a small handful of cilantro. Remove the stems and set the nicer looking leaves on a paper towel to air dry. Wash the tomatoes and slice them. Set aside. Slice the avocado just prior to assembly. If it the slices sit too long they may brown.

For assembly: Place an avocado slice on the lower half of a crostini. Place two or three of the cilantro leaves on the top half. Set two tomato slices on top of the cilantro for the eyes. Squeeze a few drops lime juice over the top of the avocado and tomato. Serve immediately.

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Apple “Tarts”

[donotprint]I started thinking seriously about kid snacks about a year ago and apples were featured in some of my first experiments. This is probably the first of my homegrown recipes that made me smile when I tasted it.

Today I used a Jonamac apple (which is a cross between a Jonathan and a MacIntosh). Other tart and sweet apple choices are: Cortland, Empire, Golden Delicious, or Winesap.[/donotprint]DSC01899

4 slices soft whole wheat bread
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped fine (approximately 1 cup of chopped apple)
4 tablespoons cream cheese or vanilla greek-style yogurt
4 teaspoons apricot preserves
Cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the crusts off of the bread slices and discard. Spread the bread slices out on a large cutting board and flatten with a rolling pin. Cut a small (approximately 1 ½ to 2 inches long and ½ wide at the base) triangle out of each of the four corners on each slice.

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Transfer the bread slices to greased muffin pan. Make sure the center of each slice is resting on the bottom of a cup and the sides are overlapping slightly. Using your fingers, press the side flaps together and make adjustments to minimize any gaps or holes.

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In the bottom of each bread cup, place ¼ of the chopped apple. Center 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and 1 teaspoon of apricot preserves on top of the apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (if desired).

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Bake on the center rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the edges of the bread crust are browned and the preserves start to sizzle. Allow tarts to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes or more depending on your child’s age and preference. Gently remove from muffin pan and serve immediately.

Makes 4 “tarts” (easily doubled)
Assembly time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes

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Baked Pita Chips

There are tons of variation possibilities here. Instead of cheese and italian seasoning try some cinnamon sugar OR smoked paprika. This is a recipe that the grown-ups as well as the kids in my house really enjoy. It also does well on the go.

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2 10-inch whole wheat pita rounds
Vegetable oil spray
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese powder
1 teaspoon italian seasoning

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Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut pita rounds into small triangles, approximately 12 pieces per round.
Pull breads apart at the fold and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Spray lightly with oil.
Bake for 10-15 until slightly golden. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheet.
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