I love breakfast. Love it like I love a glass of wine at the end of a long day (and that says a lot) and can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed without knowing there is something scrumptious waiting for me when I do. The thought of waking to the same bowl of plain old oatmeal or natural peanut butter on whole wheat toast every day makes my heart sink. I’m not getting up for that – I refuse to! I want something that tastes good, something that tames my ravenous morning hunger and nourishes my body as it does.
I’ve been in the bad habit of grabbing a bagel or croissant sandwich (from Bread and Sons in Ottawa. It’s a show-stopper. Go there immediately!) lately and it needs to end. So I decided to whip up a batch of breakfast muffins. Who says a muffin can’t be delicious as well as nutrient-packed, hunger-staving, and fibre-filled? Not me. I don’t say that, guys. It’s not true and I’m tired of hearing it. Muffins are not the bad guys – it’s the people who are loading them up with butter (tasty, tasty butter) and unrefined sugars who should bare the blame for their bad rap. If you trust me (I think we’ve been hanging out long enough to warrant a small to medium amount of trust between us, no?) then you’ll believe me when I tell you that these muffins are healthy (they have some brown sugar… but it’s brown so it’s ok…right?) and so full of flavour that you won’t even miss that whats-it-called muffin you’ve been spending your hard earned coins on each morning. Filled with wheat bran, flax seeds, toasted pecans and coconut, dried cherries and cinnamon and just enough brown sugar to keep things interesting, they are good enough to get me up in the morning and filling enough to tame that noisy beast that makes home in my gut from 7-8am each day. Don’t settle for saw-dusty bran muffins that taste like cardboard or butter-filled muffins that may as well be breakfast-hamburgers; these are better and will make your mornings bright and sun-shiny and happy (probably). If you’re interested, I’ve calculated the nutritional information here.
Coconut Red Quinoa Muffins with Sour Cherries and Pecans
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 12 muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cooked red quinoa
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/3 toasted pecans, crushed
1/4 cup flax, freshly ground
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup dried cherries, rough-chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup milk (I like 2% best)
We know each other, you and I, don’t we? You could probably even call us ‘friends’ by now, right? I share my deepest darkest secrets with you and in return, you listen, hungrily & wide-eyed, while I do. I think we’ve built up a fair amount of trust in our time together, haven’t we? I thought you might feel the same. And I’m so glad.
You may recall I’ve told you, not once, twice or even thrice… but many times, that I am just not a sweets-person. Salty, crunchy, savoury, cheesy…. those are my homies. And to them, I will always be true. Through thick and thin[-cut bacon].
On occasion, rare occasion, I try something that restores my faith in the land of all things sugar. And in the case of these Biscotti, the ones I’m eating right this second [… and ate this morning for breakfast, and last night for a snack, and one fresh out of the oven] have roused my one lowly sweet-tooth from a useless mundane existence. If I do have a sweet-treat, it’s one or two of something I’ve made to share that I just can’t serve without taste-testing. Mr. GL usually reaps the benefit of those batches. But this time, with these sparkly, cinnamon-sugar dusted Italian cookies, I find myself shooting gluttonous, devouring glances his way every time he reaches for that bag. I consider them mine. ALL mine. And God help anyone who stands between me and them.
When I tell you they are perfect, warm spiced and crumbly, speckled throughout with toasted pecans and crisp around the edges with a layer of baked-on cinnamon sugar… I need you to trust me. They are simply magnificent. Not too sweet, making them easy to, unconvincingly, pass off as a breakfast food, but sweet enough to satisfy that evening craving for just a little treat. Dunked into coffee, or as I’ve become accustomed, in my earl grey, they barrel past my old standby and have quickly become my most favourite sweet-treat. It should also be said that they taste just like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which I became very closely acquainted with as a child. Trust me, friends. Just trust me. You will want these on Christmas morning while you sip your coffee and baileys.
Cinnamon-Sugar & Toasted-Pecan Biscotti
adapted from Joy the Baker
2 cups All Purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/3 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325. And cover two baking sheets in parchment paper. Arrange oven racks to top and bottom third of the oven.
In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.
In you stand mixer or a bowl with hand-mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula. Add 1 whole egg and the extra egg yolk and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl again. Add the vanilla and 1/2 the dry mix. Stir briefly and add the rest of the dry ingredients and the pecans. Scrape the bowl and give it one more quick mix.
Pour half the dough onto each baking sheet and form into logs (2-2 1/2” wide) pressing down a touch.
Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the topping.
Brush the logs with remaining egg whites and sprinkle,GENEROUSLY with cinnamon-sugar. Put one sheet in the upper-third of the oven and one in the lower. Bake for 20 minutes and then switch the pans. Bake for another 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool until you’re able to handle the logs. Once cool use a serrated knife to carefully slice 1/2” thick slices from the log. Place Biscotti cut side down on baking sheet and sprinkle again, very generously, with cinnamon-sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. Cool and then cram as many into your greedy little gob as you possible can.
One final word to the wise; you’ll hide these from everyone in your house if you know what’s good for you.
With fall and cold weather nipping at our ankles, I suspect that many of you are starting to spend more nights in the comfort of your sweats and the glow of a warm fire.. or at least the glow of a tv movie. I know I’ve certainly been spending more nights at home, in the company of good friends, a game of Balderdash and a warm meal. I can’t say I miss going out simply because “it’s summer, and that’s what you do in the summer. You go out”. If I could maintain all my friendships over dinner and a drink, I would. But alas, not everyone has the same, perhaps somewhat skewed, priorities.
As guests at friends’ places, we’re often asked to bring a dessert or something that can help contribute and take stress off the cook, without interfering with their carefully planned out dinner. There is nothing worse than having a great dinner in mind and carefully picking out all the perfect pairings, and then having a guest bring something that goes horribly with you’re serving. (Ok, there are some worse things. Probably.).
Dessert is such an easy thing to bring. If you stick to something classic or seasonal, you’re usually safe. And if it’s fall, and pumpkins are in season, and you want to impress without any work at all.. then you’ll bring your friends a dish of Pumpkin Bread Pudding! It’s laced with warm spices, ginger bits, chocolate and pecans. And pumpkin! Did I say that already? It takes 10 minutes. It’s easy to transport and keeps well in the fridge or at room temperature if you want to make it in advance for even less stress!
Something to note: I’m not typically a huge fan of pumpkin-pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin-other things. It’s just not my favourite. But this bread pudding is something else. It changed my uneasy feelings towards pumpkin and opened up a little spot in my heart for this cool-weather classic.
If you’re like me and tend to keep your pumpkin treats at arms length, do me one little favour and try this out. It’s flavour is mild but warm and filled with aromatic spices.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Use white or brown bread with this. White makes it a little more ‘puddingy’ as it melts better into the custard.
1 baguette, diced
1 cup toasted pecans
1 tbsp butter, for greasing pan
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 Tablespoon crystallized ginger diced
1/2 cup dark chocolate, rough chopped
1/4 coarse sugar (like turbinado or demerera)
Toss the baguette cubes and pecans together. Add to a medium sized, shallow baking dish or a 10” spring form pan that has been greased with butter.
In a large bowl, add the half and half, sugars and pumpkin. Whisk until combined.
Add the eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and whisk well. Pour the mixture over the bread. Toss well to make sure all the bread has soaked up some of the custard. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Evenly spread the ginger and chocolate chunks over the dish. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over everything evenly. This makes a nice crunchy crust on top of the pudding.
This can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to use.
2 cups heavy whipped cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
Add ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.