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Pancakes are good. French toast is good, well, great actually. A fried egg sandwich with arugula, aged cheddar cheese and bacon is really amazing. But my new favorite weekend breakfast adds a touch of class and a whole lot of deliciousness to my laid back Saturday mornings.

Eating baked eggs in individual ramekins makes me feel like I’ve gone out for a fancy weekend brunch, except I’m really sitting on my sofa in my pajamas listening to Car Talk. Making these takes the same amount of time as a good stack of pancakes, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable to whatever you’re in the mood for, or whatever you happen to have in your fridge.

Grab a ramekin, throw in some quickly sautéed onions and swiss chard, or try some diced bell peppers, mushrooms would be great, crumbled bacon would be divine. My husband would be embarrassed that I’m admitting this, but last time I actually used leftover Easy Mac as the base for my baked eggs, and it was grand. So no matter your tastes, pick something yummy for the filling, crack two eggs on top, add a dash of cream, a grating of your favorite cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then throw them in the oven.

While you’re busy making coffee, your baked eggs will take care of themselves, slowly cooking until the whites are set and the yolks are still deliciously oozy. Once they’re done, serve with toast for ultimate dip-a-bility. It’s pretty hard to add class to breakfast when you have bed head, bare feet and the cackle of the Car Talk guys from the radio in the background, but baked eggs make it almost possible.

Individual Baked Eggs in Ramekins
(4 servings)
Adapted from gourmet.com

2 cups of your favorite filling (about 1/2 cup per ramekin). Try sautéed veggies like onions, swiss chard, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, leeks, squash, or fresh diced tomato. Meats: crumbled bacon, diced prosciutto, cooked sausage. My favorite combo so far (and the version pictured) is sautéed onions and swiss chard.
1 T olive oil
8 eggs
¼ cup grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
4 t heavy cream (1 t per ramekin)
Salt and pepper
4 (6 or 8 oz) ramekins

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Distribute filling evenly among 4 ramekins. Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin. Spoon 1 teaspoon cream over each egg. Sprinkle grated cheese among ramekins and dot the surface with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Put ramekins in a shallow baking pan and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with toast for dipping.

How could baked eggs get any better? When you have someone to share them with.

This recipe comes from my Mom, Linda. She’s been baking for decades, so she’s tried hundreds and hundreds of desserts in her lifetime. She says these cookies are one of her all-time favorites, so I had to share.

We made these the last time I was home in Pennsylvania for her church bake sale. I tasted one fresh out of the oven before she had a chance to wrap them in cellophane and tie a bow around them, and they are definitely as good as promised!

If you’re a white chocolate fan, as my mom is, you’ll go, well, nuts. Even if white chocolate isn’t your favorite chocolate, you’ll still love these. They’re buttery, crispy, with hunks of dense macadamia nuts and creamy white chocolate. Make them for your next bake sale, or just for yourself. Thanks for the recipe, Mom!

Cookies almost ready for the oven. Flattened versions on the far left, pre-flattened on the right.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

½ c. unsalted butter, softened

¾ c. packed light brown sugar

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. shortening

1 egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ c. white chocolate chips

7 oz macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast nuts on a cookie sheet while oven preheats. Note from Mom: Keep an eye on them—you’ll be able to smell them when they’re done, and let them cool a little before adding them to the cookie dough.

Beat butter and shortening with a stand or hand-held mixer until soft and creamy.  Gradually add the sugars and beat well.

Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Sift together flour, soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mix beating well after each addition. Stir in chips and nuts. My Mom is a big fan of chilling cookie dough for about 20-30 minutes before scooping. I highly recommend this—it keeps the butter cold.

Once chilled, drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. (Note: my Mom used a cookie scoop, which worked wonders!) Flatten each ball of dough slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 15 minutes. Let rest about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.

Cookies ready for the church bake sale!

Being married means, among many other things, taking part in your significant other’s family traditions. One of these, a favorite of my husband’s family, is weekly Saturday morning breakfasts at Kuppy’s Diner in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where we both grew up. Built in the 1930s and probably still serving some of the same, classic diner dishes like fried eggs and scrapple, Kuppy’s is a Middletown institution, and everyone in our tiny town has been there at least once, if not once a week.

On a recent trip home, my husband’s family, myself now included, packed into a few cars and headed over to Kuppy’s one early Saturday morning. In the midst of mulling over my breakfast choices—chocolate chip pancakes or eggs and bacon?—my husband’s mother leaned over and recommended the baked oatmeal, which wasn’t on the menu. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that off-the-menu items are awesome, partially because of the food itself, and partially because the idea that not everyone knows to order it makes it taste even better. Although in hindsight, probably everyone in Middletown knows about their baked oatmeal. Oh well.

When my baked oatmeal was placed before me a few minutes later, the warm scent of butter and cinnamon curling up gently from the bowl, I was hooked before I had even taken a bite. I added a splash of whole milk as recommended, and dove in. The oatmeal was finely ground and absolutely soaked with butter, crumbly but not dry, dense but not overwhelming, and utterly homey and wonderful. As my new family dug into plate-sized pancakes and fried slices of scrapple, I took tiny bites of what I had decided was my favorite new breakfast food, savoring the cinnamon and nuttiness of the butter.

When I returned to Pasadena, I called Kuppy’s and asked the woman who answered, one of the Kupps who owns the diner, if I could possibly have a copy of their recipe so I could replicate good, hearty Pennsylvania food in California. I was politely denied. The recipe, she said, was secret, and only known to their family. Rats.

So I embarked on a harrowing, many-months quest to re-create their baked oatmeal. After trying a few recipes, and sulkily eating several bowls of what was called baked oatmeal, but I really knew wasn’t, I finally found the winner. It’s not Kuppy’s, but it’s darn, darn close. Serve warm, with a splash of milk, and a dollop of butter if you think it’s not buttery enough, which it is, but you really can’t beat extra butter.

Baked Oatmeal

From The Barn at Strasburg

3 cups quick-cooking oats (I didn’t have these, so I ground regular old fashioned oats in the food processor until I could only see little bits of oats, and this worked just fine)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 cup whole milk

½ c. butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Spoon into a greased 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with milk. Yield: 6-8 servings.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this surprised by a recipe. When I decided to make two flavors of donut muffins this week for a holiday party at my office, I was pretty excited. Donuts are good. Muffins are good. These, I figured, should be good. But when I first took a bite of a vanilla one I ruined, bent over the sink so the butter dripping down my fingers didn’t make a mess on the floor, I was shocked.

Donut muffins are amazing. Just amazing. I can’t say it enough. When they’re warm from the oven, or from the microwave, they’re other-worldly. And aside from the thin coating of sugar decorating my floors and counters, I’ve never made something so easy to put together and clean up.

A simple cake batter is poured into greased muffin tins, and after 15 minutes in the oven and a few minutes of resting, the muffins are brushed with melted butter and rolled in sugar. The chocolate muffins are delicately flavored, and the vanilla muffins have just a hint of nutmeg. The cake is soft and moist, and the taste of butter combined with the crunch of sugar in each bite is what kills me.

The original recipe called for nutmeg and cinnamon to be added to the chocolate muffins, but I didn’t like the idea of a chocolate spice donut, and since my taste buds didn’t miss a thing, I will probably do the same next time.

I know saying “You must make these!” is not only a food blog cliché, but completely unnecessary because if I’m posting a recipe, I must be recommending it highly, right? But I really feel strongly about these, strongly enough that I will demand you make them, and tell me if you make them so I can come over and have one. I don’t think I’m going to make these again until I have a dozen people to eat them. It would be too dangerous.

Sugared Vanilla Donut Muffins

Adapted from gracessweetlife.com

Makes 10

3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Lightly grease a standard muffin tin with cooking spray or using a pastry brush, coat muffin cups with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and egg on medium-high speed until light in color.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Pour flour mixture into egg mixture and beat to combine. Results will be a bit clumpy.  Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract, and beat until smooth.

Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan, and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.

Let muffins cool slightly in the pan for a minute, then carefully remove and place on wire rack. Lightly brush the top, sides and bottom of each muffin with melted butter and roll in sugar.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sugared Chocolate Donut Muffins

Adapted from gracessweetlife.com

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Lightly grease a standard muffin tin with cooking spray, or using a pastry brush, coat muffin cups with vegetable oil.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt (and nutmeg and cinnamon if you decide to add them).

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and egg on medium-high speed until light in color.

Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating well after each addition. Final result will be clumpy. Add the vegetable oil, milk, cream and vanilla extract, beating to combine.

Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan, and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.

Let muffins cool slightly in the pan for a minute, then carefully remove and place on wire rack. Lightly brush the top, sides and bottom of each muffin with melted butter and roll in sugar.  Cool completely on a wire rack.


I’m happy to report that we not only had a fabulous time at the bake sale yesterday, but we raised over $3,700! Thank you to all the bloggers, bakers and buyers who came out and supported us. The LA Regional Foodbank will be getting a nice check, and I think we’re all eating cookies for breakfast this morning. See you next time!

Our third Eat My Blog bake sale is almost here! Join me and a crowd of fabulous food bloggers at Tender Greens from 10 am – 4 pm on Saturday, December 4. I’ll be baking my whoopie pies (drool), and they were gone in an hour at the last two bake sales, so come early! Check out the full menu and more info on the official Eat My Blog site.

See you there!

Love g-ma

Guess who's having pickles for breakfast this morning?

Prompted by my husband and the Gastronomer, I’ve finally decided to dip my toe into posting savory recipes. Not permanently, just to give me and my waistline a break from making desserts several times a month. Keep a look out for my Aunt Junie’s meatballs, and my Aunt Carol’s famous spaghetti meat sauce!

First up is homemade pickles. I. Love. Pickles. I like them extra punchy, full of vinegar and a bit of heat—I like my tongue to hurt a bit after eating them.

It’s hard to admit this, but I discovered recently that even better than classic cucumber pickles are pickled green beans. Jarred when they’re raw, they maintain a serious crunch, and don’t absorb as much of the vinegar, so it’s even easier to eat a handful without losing feeling in your taste buds for a week. I’ve also started pickling my own banana peppers, and hope to try my hand at jalapeños as soon as my window-box plants get bigger than the two inches they are now.

I really just don’t know what else to say about pickles, other than I adore them, and once you make them, you’ll never buy them from the grocery store again.

Ingredients!

Pickles

(makes 1 jar)

2-3 pickling cucumbers or 1/2 pound of green beans or 5-6 banana peppers—generally, just buy what you think will fit in a 1-liter jar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
½ t sugar
½ t salt
1-inch section of lemon or lime peel, white part removed
4 springs fresh thyme, or your favorite herb
1 small clove garlic, slightly crushed with the flat side of a knife (optional, but I highly recommend it)
1 dozen whole peppercorns
1/4 t red pepper flakes (optional, and I also highly recommend this, but I understand not everyone likes spicy things like I do)

1 liter jar

Cut pickles into lengthwise quarters; trim green beans; slice banana peppers into 1/4-inch disks, discarding tops. Pack into jar.

Bring all other ingredients to a boil over high heat, and keep a safe distance, as the hot vinegar will clear out your sinuses.

Pour vinegar liquid into jar on top of vegetables. Depending on what veggie you’re using, you may need to add a bit more water to bring the liquid to the tops of the vegetables. Secure lid and allow pickles to cool to room temperature. Then place in the fridge, and after 5 days, enjoy! If you’d like to do the official preserving process to save room in your refrigerator, follow Alton Brown’s method in this recipe.

Pickles, a week later, ready to eat!

 

Vanilla Egg Custard

A reasonable portion of vanilla egg custard. My portions are never this reasonable.

When I’m in the mood for dessert, something easy to make, and I have no one to impress but myself, the first thing that comes to mind is vanilla custard. Really, honestly, it’s the first and only thing that comes to my mind. When I had food poisoning last week from tainted eggs, and I started to finally get my appetite back, what did I make? Vanilla custard with eggs, of course. My taste buds know no logic or reason.

I was a spoiled kid, although that’s not an earth-shattering revelation. Among other wonderful desserts, I grew up eating my mom’s homemade chocolate éclairs—fluffy white pastry filled with vanilla custard and topped with chocolate. It was only a few years ago that I began to crave the custard element of the dessert more than anything else. In the beginning, it was just the novelty of it—my mom only made custard when she made éclairs, and other than what was dolloped inside the pastry (which was never enough for me), the only custard I could get my hands on was the warm scrapes left in the sauce pan before it was dunked in a sink of soapy water. I could never get enough. There’s just something about a spoonful of cool, creamy goodness that gets into my head. The egg flavor makes it rich, but the vanilla keeps it light. It’s simple enough that I could eat it every day for weeks without getting tired of it. And it’s a wonderful base for fresh fruit, but mine never makes it that far.

For the vanilla, I’ve tried using both vanilla extract and a vanilla bean, when I happen to have one left in the cupboard. The beans are expensive, and I’m cheap, so I usually use extract, but I have to say the vanilla bean works better. The custard takes a few hours to cool, and cool is the best way to eat it, so plan ahead. And if you’re recovering from food poisoning and not in your right mind, and you leave the custard on the stove too long like I did last week, a trip through a fine mesh sieve will get rid of those annoying little granules of corn starch/egg, good as new.

Mmmmm...just look at the vanilla bean!

Vanilla Egg Custard

3 cups milk (I like to use 2 cups whole, 1 cup skim—makes me feel like a better person)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or one vanilla bean, split, seeds removed)

Combine milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, add the seeds to this mixture. Bring to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and I mean constantly. This will take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Once it begins to boil and thicken, remove immediately from heat, and stir in butter, and if you’re using extract, the vanilla goes in at this point as well. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly down onto the surface of the custard to prevent the dreaded custard skin, unless you’re one of those people who actually likes custard skins. Try to think of something else for a few hours while it cools, then enjoy!

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