Breakfast smoothies

Kale-mango-pineapple-coconut smoothie

Smoothies have dominated my breakfast landscape for the past few months. They’re delicious, and oh hey, they’re also extremely healthy and help to fulfill that pesky fruit/veggie daily requirement.

Inspiration for smoothies: the almighty Alton Brown and his tips for breakfast smoothies from Live and Let Diet.

Here’s what I use for my smoothies:

  • Immersion blender, and the handy 2-cup plastic beaker that comes with it. I imagine a blender or a food processor would work just as well.
  • Frozen bananas. As per Alton Brown, I buy big bunches of bananas (the riper the better), and let them ripen for a bit longer in my produce bowl before peeling, transferring to a large resealable freezer bag, and tossing in the freezer.
  • Additional rotation of frozen fruit. I tend to favor mixed berries, mango, and pineapple.
  • Leafy greens, i.e. spinach or kale.
  • Non-dairy milk, usually almond.

Here’s how I make them. If I’m responsible and planning ahead, I do this before I go to bed and place the filled beaker in the fridge, then blend in the morning. Lately I’ve been lazy, however, and fill the beaker in the morning, pop in the microwave for 1 minute, then blend. The night before method is preferable, however.

  • Fill 2-cup plastic beaker with 1 cup of non-dairy milk.
  • Break 1 frozen banana in half, and add to beaker.
  • Add roughly 1 cup of spinach or kale leaves, stuffing down to the bottom of the beaker.
  • Add additional frozen fruit to top (usually between 1/2 and 1 cup, depending).
  • Optional: add 1 tablespoon of almond or peanut butter. I haven’t been doing this lately, but it does help boost the protein/flavor content.
  • Blend and drink.

Most days, I use 1 cup of almond milk, one banana, some spinach, a few chunks of mango or pineapple, then a small handful of mixed berries. Today, however, was extra special. I started with 1/4 cup of coconut milk (we had some left over after making soup last night), then added 1/4 cup of almond milk and 1/2 cup of water (since full-fat coconut milk is so rich). From there, leftover kale was added, as well as both mango and pineapple. It was both delicious and visually pleasing (see photo).

Banana/applesauce granola

Banana/applesauce granola

Homemade granola, mixed with yogurt, is a wonderful thing. It’s delicious, filling, and so easy to make. However, while many granola recipes are technically healthy, they’re not exactly light, due to the use of oil and sweeteners. I recently saw this recipe that used pureed banana, and saw an opportunity.

I decided to use applesauce as well, for additional moisture and sweetness. This recipe definitely tastes of banana, and (if you like banana), this is a good thing – almost like banana bread in granola form.

Feel free to use any combination of nuts and dried fruit for this! Pecans and dried cherries would be particularly lovely, I think. Also, this was a very wet mixture – 2 bananas might have been a bit too much, but the end result was still quite good.

Banana/applesauce granola

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 bananas, very ripe*
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used apricots)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients (oats through salt) in a medium/large bowl. Set aside. In a separate container, puree the bananas, applesauce, and vanilla extract together until blended and smooth (I used my immersion blender).

Add the banana/applesauce mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine (the mixture will be thick). Spread the mixture into a rimmed baking sheet or casserole pan (preferably spritzed with cooking spray).

Bake the granola in 15 minutes increments, stirring after each, until it reaches the desired toastiness and texture. Stir in the chopped fruit for the last 10 minutes or so of baking.

* If you only have not-very-ripe bananas, you can roast them first and they’ll be perfect. Roast the whole banana(s), peels on and everything, on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, then remove and let cool. The peels will be completely blackened and the bananas will be very soft.

Freezer breakfast burritos (light and healthy)

Freezer breakfast burritos

For me, breakfast has become one of the most important meals, but also one of the most challenging. I need a filling meal that’s also light and healthy, providing enough energy and sustenance to last me until lunch (save for a piece of fruit or something in the interim). And I also need the meal to be relatively quick. My commute is long (almost an hour, door to door), and while I used to wait and eat breakfast once I got to work, I find that I’m much more energetic throughout the day if I eat within an hour of waking up.

This means that I need to eat at home before leaving, but since I have to get up early already, I can’t spare more than a few minutes preparing and eating my breakfast. Making breakfasts ahead of time and reheating leftovers has been my solution for this, with oatmeal being the best option, but that’s grown old at this point. And I need a break from granola and yogurt once and awhile. Conundrum!

Then I saw Shutterbean’s freezer burritos post. Then I did some searching on freezer breakfast burritos and found Skinny Mom’s Kitchen. Inspiration abound, I decided to whip up some freezer breakfast burritos of my own.

These burritos are good. Really good. Super quick to reheat and eat, filling, and tasty. I am a fan. This recipe is infinitely adaptable, since there are a variety of fillings to choose from. Here’s what I went with:

Freezer breakfast burritos
Inspired by Shutterbean and Skinny Mom’s Kitchen
Makes 10 burritos

Ingredients

4 pre-cooked chicken sausages (I used Trader Joe’s garlic/herb chicken sausages), chopped into small pieces
1 package (10 ounces or so) mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
3-4 cups spinach
5 eggs, beaten
5 egg whites, beaten
2 1/2 cups lite shredded cheese (I used a Trader Joe’s lite shredded mix)
1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s fat free refried beans)
10 flour tortillas

Instructions

In a large pan, cook the sausages and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring often, until the mushrooms have browned and released their liquid. Toss in the spinach and saute until just wilted. Pour in the eggs and egg whites and stir continuously until cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste, or any other seasonings as you see fit. Set aside to cool for a few minutes before assembling the burritos.

Lay a piece of foil about the width of one tortilla on a work surface, and place a tortilla on top of it. Spread three tablespoons of refried beans in the middle of the tortilla (roughly a 3 inch wide by 4 inch long rectangle). Sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on top of the beans, and top with 1/2 cup of the cooled sausage/veggie/egg mixture.

Roll up the burrito to your liking – mine were just sort of rolled and folded together (I wasn’t too concerned about perfecting my wrapping technique; there are plenty of YouTube videos about wrapping burritos if you’re interested). Wrap the burrito in the foil and set aside. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, to make 10 burritos total.

You could probably stick the foil-wrapped burritos in the freezer as is, but for extra protection from freezer burn, you may want to consider storing the individual burritos in plastic freezer bags as well. I was able to fit five burritos in one large freezer bag (two bags in total).

To reheat, remove a frozen burrito from the foil, and loosely wrap in a damp paper towel. Microwave for 3 minutes, or until hot. Enjoy!

Stuff I’ve made recently, January 2012

Grapefruit

  • Beer bread (Alton Brown): The ultimate weeknight bread recipe, for when you want something starchy/tasty to go with soup, etc. Super easy and super quick. My changes: used dried dill instead of fresh, subbed in part skim mozzarella cheese for cheddar, omitted the sunflower seeds. I also used Lagunitas IPA, with great results.
  • Carrot soup with miso and sesame (Smitten Kitchen): I have a long-standing hatred of carrots. So much so that it’s become a default joke with my loved ones. Something about the texture and the underlying sweetness just doesn’t work for me, despite my best efforts to overcome the distaste. I want to like them! Really! They’re so good for you! Despite all this, something about this recipe called to me, so I just ran with it. And you know what? It was pretty darn good, even for me. The miso helps offset the carrots’ sweetness, and the toasted sesame oil is just perfect. The texture still bothered me at times, but I ate three servings of it over the course of three days, so there you go.
  • Chicken lima bean soup (Taste of Home): I made this because I was dying to use my bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans, the recipe looked easy, and I wanted a nice sturdy soup after a whole holiday vacation of splurging on baked goods. It’s a very good soup, although I think the chicken may have been a tad overcooked. My changes: used Christmas limas, used kale instead of spinach, used dried parsley and other random seasonings instead of fresh.
  • Cottage cheese muffins (101 Cookbooks): Like every 101 Cookbooks recipe ever, these were really good. I made them for an office holiday potluck, but when I make them again, I’ll have them for breakfast instead.
  • Grapefruit yogurt cake (Smitten Kitchen): I had extra grapefruits, I had leftover yogurt that was threatening to go bad, I had everything else needed for this simple loaf cake. So I made it. And I’m really glad I did. It’s very, very good, and very, very easy. Next time, I’ll try the Ina Garten original lemon version, or a lime version with coconut milk yogurt and coconut oil. My changes: I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of whole milk.
  • Macaroni and cheese pizza (Food Network): For Jeffrey‘s birthday dinner! We used the Quick Beer Crust from King Arthur Flour, which is quickly becoming my favorite go-to pizza crust recipe. This is one of the more indulgent things I’ve ever made. Wow. We sort of winged it with this recipe – I don’t remember most of the changes that we made, however. The main thing is just stovetop mac and cheese, put on a pizza crust, and baked. Yum.
  • Meyer lemon fresh cranberry scones (Smitten Kitchen): I made these for my Bay Bridged comrades to enjoy while we set up for the Bay Brewed. They were a big hit. My changes: used regular lemons instead of Meyer.
  • Rustic lentil soup (Soup Addict): Delicious, hearty stew. That’s really all you need to know. Really, really good. My changes: I didn’t have any pancetta so I used more bacon instead, omitted the fish sauce, used 3 small leeks instead of celery, and used dried rosemary instead of fresh thyme.
  • And of course, I’ve made several more 30 before 30 items. Just need to actually sit down and write them all out!

Christmas lima bean soup with kale

Macaroni and cheese pizza

Microwave nectarine pie steel-cut oats

Nectarine pie steel-cut oats

When I don’t make steel-cut oats ahead of time, I still like to have the option of eating them at work for a late breakfast (or sometimes lunch if need be). For this, I take advantage of Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats. They’re not as creamy and awesome as the pure ones cooked on the stove, but they still do the trick.

This past week, I had a bag of big, gorgeous nectarines from the Alemany Farmers Market, and I was out of the frozen berries that I normally stir into my microwaved oats with honey. So, I improvised, and “nectarine pie” steel-cut oats were born.

Microwave nectarine pie steel-cut oats

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats
3/4 cup hot water
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 large nectarine
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

Chop  the nectarine into bite-size pieces. Add the oats and water to a bowl (preferably one with high sides, since the mix will rise up – otherwise you need to babysit it as it cooks and pause to stir if it starts to boil over).  Cook for 3 minutes in the microwave. Stir, then cook for an additional 1.5 minutes.

Stir in the honey, nectarine pieces and cinnamon, and return to the microwave for an additional 1.5 – 2 minutes (depending on how firm/soft you want the nectarine pieces). Stir and let sit for a couple of minutes before eating (don’t burn your tongue!).

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

I’m obsessed with oatmeal for breakfast. However, due to my long commute and extreme disdain for early mornings, it’s difficult for me to actually make breakfast in the morning. Anything that requires more than pouring into a bowl or heating in the microwave isn’t realistic for me in the long term.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

That’s where making steel-cut oats overnight and this awesome baked oatmeal come in handy. Both can be made in big batches and store beautifully in the fridge throughout the week.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

This cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal is an adaptation of Heidi Swanson‘s baked oatmeal from the gorgeous Super Natural Every Day. I’ve made her recipe verbatim before and absolutely loved it. This past weekend, I wanted to make it again but only had cherries and vanilla soy milk on hand, so Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal was born.

Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day (original recipe can be found via Lottie + Doof)
Serves 6-8

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup sugar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups vanilla soy milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Spray a 9×13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray (or use butter).

In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half the walnuts, sugar (if using), baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk the maple syrup (if using), soy milk, egg, butter and vanilla.

Arrange 1 cup of the pitted/halved cherries in a single layer at the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover with the oat mixture, then slowly drizzle the wet mix over the oats. Give the dish a couple of gently thwacks on the counter to ensure even distribution of the wet mixture through the dry. Scatter the rest of the cherries and walnuts on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal is set. Let cool for a few minutes before serving, and store leftovers in the fridge (will keep up to a week or so).

An excellent way to prepare steel-cut oats – overnight!

Since late last year, I’ve made it a habit to eat breakfast before I leave for work in the morning (as opposed to eating once I get to work, after a 45-minute commute). When I do this, I’m much more alert by the time I arrive to the office, and I feel much better throughout the day. I love steel-cut oats, but they take too long to cook on an average morning, at least for me.

Solution: The Kitchn’s excellent tips for making steel-cut oats the night before.

Here’s what you do:

Ingredients:
A bit of butter or olive oil (around 1 teaspoon)
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
A few pinches of salt (2-3)

(This amount of oats and water will yield somewhere between 3-6 servings, depending on how much oatmeal you like to eat.)

In a saucepan (the Kitchn says 2-quart size, I’m not sure what size my pan was), briefly heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat, then add the oats and fry until they smell toasty (about 3 minutes).

Pour in the water, add salt and stir. Bring to a “rolling boil,” then turn off the heat, cover the pan, and leave it on the stove. Then go collapse into bed.

In the morning, uncover the oatmeal, heat on medium-low and stir a few times until you reach your desired temperature (or scoop out the amount you want and heat it in the microwave).

Transfer your leftovers to a seal-able container and put in the fridge – you can enjoy for the rest of the week, as steel-cut oats are just as awesome when stored as leftovers and re-heated.

I’ve been enjoying my oats by re-heating on the stove or microwave, then adding some strawberry jam, a handful of blackberries and a sprinkling of walnut pieces. Amazing.

Strawberry jam crumb cake, lightened up

Strawberry jam crumb cake
It’s not exactly pretty – but it’s quite tasty.

Over at theKitchenSinkRecipes, Kristin posts a recipe for strawberry jam crumb cake and talks all about a visit to the Bay Area, where she relaxed and whipped up a buttery, indulgent breakfast treat. I wanted to try out her concoction for a number of reasons: 1) I had all the ingredients on hand, including tasty strawberry jam, 2) I’ve been wanting to try out the springform pan I got for Christmas, and 3) baking is fun and I’m sort of addicted and will take any excuse to try a new recipe.

However – I’ve lost about 25 pounds in the past year and am still plugging away down the weight loss path, and my waistline can’t quite afford to freely enjoy my rich baking habits. Therefore, while I still bake and cook a lot, I watch what I actually eat very carefully, give away the extras and lighten up the recipes whenever possible.

With this strawberry jam cake, since it’s a very simple recipe, I saw the opportunity to swap out about half the butter with some unsweetened applesauce. I also cut the amount of crumb topping in half. It may not be as perfectly buttery and wonderful as the original rendition, but this lightened up version is still pretty darn good – moist, very sweet (almost too sweet – I might cut down the amount of sugar next time), and satisfying.

Strawberry Jam Crumb Cake
Adapted from TheKitchenSinkRecipes

Cake:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam

Crumb topping:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Rounded 1/2 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make the cake, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate (larger) bowl, whisk the butter, applesauce, milk, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and whisk together until combined.

Spray a springform pan with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Dab spoonfuls of the strawberry jam on top of the batter, and gently swirl with a knife.

To make the crumb topping, whisk together the butter, applesauce, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour, gently stir to just bring the ingredients together, then use your fingers to fully blend. Sprinkle the mixture in clumps across the top of the cake.

Bake the cake for 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes. As mentioned before, this is a moist cake, and it might not be super sturdy (especially in the middle), so be a little careful when slicing and serving.

Baking with steel-cut oats, two ways

Strawberry steel-cut oatmeal muffins

Steel-cut oats are a revelation. They’re like super-duper power oatmeal. And apparently, they’re even more nutritious than rolled oats. They take a little longer to cook, but on the bright side, they make fantastic leftovers (as do regular rolled oats, in fact, when baked), so you can make a big batch and easily enjoy until it runs out.

Yesterday morning, I consulted my copy of Not Your Mother’s Casserole, and then mixed some steel-cut oats with milk and salt in a baking dish, let sit in the fridge all day while I was at work, then popped in the oven for about 35 minutes after I got home. I then let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to finish thickening up (it comes out a bit soupy at first), then served with some chopped-up veggie bacon and a poached egg. Healthy breakfast for dinner! And I now have basic cooked oats to enjoy for a few more days.

I was on a roll, so I decided to make a Bay Area Bites recipe that I’ve had bookmarked for awhile: Low-fat Steel-Cut Oat Muffins with Cherry Jam Inside. The results are not big, fluffy traditional muffins – they’re more like sweet mini oatmeal cakes. Perfect as a healthy snack between meals, with coffee or tea. I only had strawberry jam, however, so here’s what I ended up with:

Strawberry Steel-Cut Oatmeal Muffins
adapted from Bay Area Bites

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats, cooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice – let mixture stand for 10 minutes for using)
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam (any fruit jam will work – I just happened to have Trader Joe’s reduced-sugar strawberry jam on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the first five ingredients in a medium bowl (flour through salt). Using a food processor or just your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes pebbly butter flour.

Pour the mixture from the food processor back into the first bowl, and gently mix in the cooked oats with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

Beat your egg in with your buttermilk/milk in a separate bowl, then add to the flour/oat mixture and stir it all together.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin (or any muffin tin – just know that this recipe should yield 12 muffins) with cooking spray. Spoon batter evenly into each cup.

Make a teaspoon-sized hole in the top of each cup of muffin batter, and spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into each hole. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Note: my muffins didn’t turn as brown as I expected, so they didn’t look done to me at first – I may have overcooked them by about 5 minutes. Be sure to check the muffins right at the 20 minute mark, or even before that, depending on the state of your oven (mine tends to take longer to bake things).

Multigrain buttermilk waffles

Multigrain buttermilk waffles

Two weeks ago, I went on an excursion to Rainbow Grocery, and came back home with five different whole grain flours that I’d procured from the extensive bulk bin section. Oat flour, graham flour, barley flour, teff flour, and rye flour, to be specific. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d one day become slightly obsessed with collecting different types of flour and storing them in my freezer . . . well, I’m not sure I’d even know where to start with a proper response.

This is, of course, all Kim Boyce‘s fault. Everything I’ve made from Good to the Grain thus far has been so fabulous (rhubarb tarts, corn and cheddar muffins, oatmeal pancakes) that all I can think about is trying out every single recipe and sharing with others. Lately, I’ve been dying to try one of Kim’s multigrain recipes – hence, purchasing oddball flours at my friendly (well, sometimes) neighborhood grocery co-op.

The “multigrain” section of Kim’s book evolves around a multigrain flour mixture – just whisk together the following at home, and you’re in business:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup rye flour

Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks has also experimented with her own multigrain flour mixture for a Multigrain Waffles recipe, with an emphasis on barley flour.

There are a bunch of drool-worthy recipes in the Multigrain section – beaten biscuits, popovers, baguettes, oatmeal cookies – but I decided to start with her waffles. Kim’s recipe is called “Five-Grain Cream Waffles,” using the multigrain mix, whole grain pastry flour, and heavy cream; I only had whole wheat pastry flour and buttermilk on hand, however, so I used those instead. Next time, I might use the 101 Cookbooks method of adding more barley flour in place of the whole wheat pastry flour.

Multigrain Buttermilk Waffles (makes 10-12 waffles)
adapted from Good to the Grain

1 cup multigrain flour mix (see above)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or whole grain pastry flour)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Turn on your waffle maker. Sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl. I don’t own a real sifter (don’t really want to spend the money on one, or take up more space in my kitchen), so I just use an old mesh strainer to do the basic sifting work.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk until fully blended. Pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture, and with a “gentle hand” (as Kim says), slowly fold together the two mixtures until combined.

If desired, melt together 1-2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Brush the waffle iron (I used a paper towel to dip, dab and spread) with the butter (or use nonstick cooking spray). Our waffle maker produces two waffles at a time, so I poured about 1/4 cup of batter into each waffle square. Close the waffle maker and let cook for a few minutes, until steam stops coming out the sides and the waffles are golden brown.

We enjoyed ours with maple syrup and nectarine jam, but I imagine that any topping would be great (fruit, peanut butter, etc.).