Our family's journey to the heart of a handmade life

Tag: Breakfast

Buckwheat Pancakes

Buckwheat Pancakes

If you are still here and don’t follow my Facebook page, then you may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past few months.    My husband and I are, of course, over the moon!! I am currently 17 weeks, nearly halfway there already! […]

New Year Goals, and Oatmeal

New Year Goals, and Oatmeal

Hey y’all! (Oh, I wish I were Southern and could get away with saying that…) Well, it’s almost 2014, can you believe it? No one can, though it happens every year. It’s all “how quickly time flies” and “where did the year go?” Reminds me […]

Custard-filled Cornbread

Custard-filled Cornbread

My cooking style has really evolved over the years. Early on in our marriage, our dinners consisted mostly of boneless, skinless chicken breasts served with canned green beans and ::gasp:: Rice-a-Roni. Rubbery, soggy, and ::shiver::, respectively. This excerpt from an earlier post says it all: 

When my husband and I were putting together our wedding registry back in 2005, I had no desire for fancy cookware or kitchen gadgets. A rolling pin? An omelet pan? But why? Cooking wasn’t exactly my forte- I couldn’t scramble eggs to please a five-year-old and my sauces usually came from a jar. We both worked long hours in a restaurant, so most of our meals came from there, scarfed hastily before and after shifts. At home, seeing as we weren’t there very often, we stocked things like Hot Pockets and Top Ramen, or just ordered salami and cheese subs from Balducci’s down the road. We simply didn’t cook. I finally gave in, though, due to the gentle but persistent nudging of wiser friends and family. Gratitude isn’t a strong enough sentiment here, as I believe it was the presence of those basic kitchen accessories that fueled my passion for food over the next few years. A nice sharp chef’s knife, a pretty bamboo cutting board, a quality stainless steel skillet- suddenly the prep work to a fine meal was fun and relaxing, instead of a dreaded chore. 

I’m not sure what the turning point was, but soon I began leaning towards more gourmet fair. Belgian leek tart with aged goat cheese, citrus risotto with curried walnuts, chocolate cake with ganache and praline topping (ooh, may have to revisit that one). I subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine and eagerly awaited its arrival each month, when I would rip out page after page of recipes and ideas. It was wonderful, yes, but it didn’t do much good for my grocery bill.

We are now quite passionate about whole foods and sustainable living, and my cooking style reflects that. We eat a lot of what you might call ‘hearty’ meals, using whole chickens, stocks, whole grain breads, fresh eggs, etc. We embrace good fats like those found in butter and whole milk, and find balance by including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. A typical meal might be roast chicken, baked sweet potato with butter, and sautéed green beans (Fresh now, no more canned). It’s cheap, healthy, and delicious, but not exactly five-star cuisine.

This recipe for custard-filled cornbread bridges the gap between the old and the new. It’s just as comfortable beside a plate piled high with smoky, messy BBQ short ribs as it is a bowl of fruit salad. I love things like that because it satisfies all of my cooking needs: interesting but requiring no fancy ingredients, healthy but filling, cheap but not obviously so. It is versatile and deceptively simple; it is a must-have in every cook’s repertoire.

 

The ‘custard’ part is sort of magical. You take a cup of cream and pour it directly in the middle of a pan of uncooked corn bread batter. That’s it. Seriously. In the oven, little foodie elves get to work turning the center of the corn bread into a velvety custard striation. It looks crafted and fancy- there’s really no need to tell your guests that it took less than 5 minutes to toss together.
Custard-Filled Cornbread
Adapted from Sweet Amandine
 
I served this for Easter brunch, alongside sliced mango and strong coffee. I hear it is also delicious with a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

  

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoons salt
2 cups whole milk
1½ tablespoons distilled vinegar
1 cup cream, light or heavy

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and eggs, then mix in the sugar, salt, milk, and vinegar.

Pour the flour mixture from the small bowl into the large bowl, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. You want the batter to be very smooth. 

Pour the batter into your buttered pan. Slowly pour the cream into the very center of the pan. Do not stir! Carefully place the pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
 

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step, as it will allow the custard time to set-up properly. 

Serve warm.

 

This post shared over at What I Am Eating

Meatless Friday

Meatless Friday

Being an old-school Catholic, I do not eat meat on Fridays. It’s a tradition, and like Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” He also proclaims […]

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Summer is visiting us again today, which is a nice change from our recent gloomy weather. I actually turned on the heat one day last week! Yesterday, I planted a few tulips and hydrangeas in some nice resin whiskey barrels that I found at Home […]

Tip and tumble

Tip and tumble

 

I have this vision of exactly how our lives should be, my husband’s and mine. It is crystal clear, down the minutest detail. The path to this particular version of life seems straightforward; as long as we complete A, B and C, then we will inevitably come to D. The trouble is life’s unpredictability. I organize, prioritize, grasp each task with an iron fist and still, a simple curve can throw it all off course. The compartments of one’s life can be in perfect order, lined up like little matrioshka dolls, then tip and tumble with the slightest breeze. It is frustrating, to say the least.
Somewhere in me I know that this is the nature of the universe, and that God has His plans, however convoluted they may seem. Past experiences have proved this theory: A couple years ago, my husband and I found a cute little condo that we wanted to buy as our first home together. Everything was in order, the contract drawn up, the terms and conditions set. The final detail was the home loan. It seemed like a done deal, but at the last minute, we were denied and the whole thing went up in proverbial flames. We were devastated; our dream was right at our fingertips, then destroyed in seconds with a form letter. Just a few months later, though, our income was drastically cut by unforeseen circumstances. If we had bought that condo, we would have been doomed. Done for. Up the creek. So, what had seemed like a tragedy of epic proportions turned out to be a gigantic blessing. That event provides much comfort in times of particular frustration. So does granola.
Looking for safe and predictable? That’s granola. It’s constant, stable, and impossibly simple. I eat it almost everyday and never grow tired. When I make a batch, I know for certain it will emerge from the oven golden brown and delicious. I know for sure the house will be softened by the calming smell of cinnamon and toasted almonds. And all that knowing and certainty is worth far more than the fifteen minutes in the kitchen it requires.
There are a zillion granola recipes out there, all very similar yet drastically different. Some have just a few basic ingredients, others look more like a grocery list than a recipe. But alas, after much research and many failed attempts, I found the lifeline that runs through every granola recipe.
  1. Old-fashioned rolled oats
  2. Dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dates, prunes, apricots)
  3. Nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
  4. Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax)
  5. Sweetener (honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, maple syrup)
  6. Spice (cinnamon, ginger, clove)
  7. Oil or butter
With this formula, anyone can make a batch of granola with whatever they have on hand. Generally, everything can be added ‘to taste,’ or whatever you think looks appropriate. The only thing to really pay attention to is the oil/butter- you want the fat to only graze each component, enough to make it just faintly glossy. Too much and you’ll have some weird, greasy granola on your hands.

The recipe below is the formula that fits best for me, but please play around with it to find your own style (then come back here and let me know! I love finding new variations.) I had been using raisins and dried apricots, but I recently purchased a huge box of dried cranberries and fell in love with the flavor combination. Regarding health benefits, though, raisins and apricots are the way to go.

Homemade Granola
makes about 5 cups
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds, sliced or roughly chopped
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon wheat germ
¾ tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup agave nectar or honey
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1½ cups dried cranberries, or 1 cup raisins and ½ cup chopped dried apricots
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit, mix thoroughly.
Spread onto a greased or lined baking sheet (a jelly roll-style pan works great here, as the sides makes for easier stirring.)
Bake for 30 minutes, or until mixture is golden brown and awesome. Be sure to stir every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
The granola will harden as it cools. The darker you allow the mixture to get, the crispier the finished product will be. Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1-2 weeks, or several weeks in the refrigerator.
Hash Brown Potatoes

Hash Brown Potatoes

  What I am about to say may shock you- I love winter. I know, I know, I’m a freak! But I love the harshness, the stark contrast of dark barren trees against pure white snow. I like sweaters and layers and scarves. I get a […]

Roasted Tomatoes and Red Peppers with Cheddar and Basil

Roasted Tomatoes and Red Peppers with Cheddar and Basil

Happy belated voting day! After work last night, my husband and I drove straight to Sherwood High School and cast our ballots. It felt good, really good. The build up to this election was tremendous, with such epic referendums as same-sex marriage and TBOR, and […]

Spiced Cream Scones

Spiced Cream Scones

Happy Halloween!
Today is a day for chocolate, fake blood, fairy wings, and excuses for women to dress immodestly. Children trade their backpacks and sneakers for plastic fangs and pillow cases, while dentists try desperately to warn of the impending sugary doom. Many view Halloween as a generally useless holiday, but I imagine those are the same folks who sneer at Valentine’s day, with all its ‘corporate greed’ and savvy marketing schemes. These people sneer without purpose or solid accusation; it is my belief that they are simply and whole-heartedly year-round Scrooges, vocally dissatisfied with anything that has the potential for a good argument and finger-pointing. They enjoy touting around their frowns and justifications like the kids with their candy filled pillow cases.
But anyway. My husband and I threw together costumes and are currently awaiting the onslaught of tiny wizards and vampires. I’m representing the 1940s as Audrey Hepburn and he’s the 1840s, as a Victorian gentleman. My bucket o’ chocolate is standing at attention by the front door. I love seeing all the children dressed up, proud and innocent. My favorites last year were a ten year old boy dressed like a sandwich, and teeny little girl who was deaf, dressed like a princess. She shyly signed ‘thank you’ after gingerly removing just a single piece of candy from the bucket. Can you say precious?
I fully intended to make caramel and peanut brittle today, in hope of providing you with a holiday-based recipe. But alas, I slept in until 11:30am and didn’t like doing much of anything, nevermind wielding a candy thermometer and a pot of scalding hot syrup. So I leave you today with my typical Saturday breakfast recipe for cream scones. Moist, tender, and oh-so-effortless, these simple triangles are perfect with your morning cup of tea or coffee. I added some spices to give it a little autumn flair, but the scones are just as delicious without them.
Be careful out there tonight, and have fun!

Spiced Cream Scones

2 c flour
1/4 c granulated white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 kosher salt, slightly heaping
1 tsp groudn cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
5.3 tbl cold, unsalted butter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 c whipping cream or half and half

Glaze:
Whipping cream or half and half
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

In a small measuring cup, combine the cream, beaten egg and vanilla. Fold this into the flour mixture, just until combined. Do not overmix.

Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface. The dough will seem impossibly wet at first, but just keep going, dusting with flour as necessary. Stop when the dough holds together and is no longer sticky.

Pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches wide, and slice into 8 triangles, like a pizza.

Placed the scones onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or non-stick spray, spacing a few inches apart. They will fit comfortably on a single sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream.

Bake for 14 minutes, and then remove from the oven. Turn the oven to broil while dusting the tops of the scones generously with powdered sugar. Return them to the oven for about 2 minutes, or until the tops are lightly caramelized. This may take a little effort, depending on your oven. Mine is an ancient electric one that refuses to broil evenly, so I have to keep the oven door open and turn the cookie sheet periodly to get even browning. Just make sure you watch them carefully; I have burned many a batch by keeping them under the broiler for just 10 seconds too long.
Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool. They keep for many days and feeze very well.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Marie Curie
“I’ll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.” Author Unknown
‘Tis now the very witching time of night / When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out / Contagion to this world. William Shakespeare