Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Blog

Filtering by Category: breakfast

sweet potato biscuits

Andrea

I have had this post queued up and ready to go for the last two weeks. Two. Weeks. The problem is, two weeks these days feels more like two hours. Time is flying faster than Harry Potter chasing the golden snitch. (Can you tell that my Thanksgiving plans include a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? That's pretty much all I can think about in between shooting and editing and shooting some more.) These biscuits were meant to welcome November and the sweet potato madness that comes with it but, instead, they're being offered up as a potential Thanksgiving morning breakfast. That works too, right? I think it is a brilliant idea.

Imagine Thanksgiving morning: the too-early wake-up call, the hours of cooking laid out in front of you, the stress of making sure the turkey is cooked just right. Now, picture the container of freshly (as in the night before) baked biscuits waiting for you as you start the coffee. The thin slices of salt-cured ham in the refrigerator. The pairing of that salty ham with those barely-sweet biscuits, which are easy to hold in one hand as you pull out celery and carrots and onions for chopping. Not bad, right? Make it come true, friends. Take a bit of time Wednesday night to whip up these beauties so they'll be ready to fuel you Thursday morning. You'll be oh-so-glad you did.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

from gourmet

makes 8 mid-size biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (1 large or 2 small)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 425℉ with the rack in the middle.
  2. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 to 1-1/4 hours.  Cool slightly, then halve lengthwise and discard skin. Purée sweet potato in a food processor.  Transfer 1 cup purée to a bowl (reserve any remainder for another use) and stir in milk.  Chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425℉ again.  Grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  4. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add sweet potato mixture and stir just until a dough forms.
  5. Drop dough in 10 equal mounds onto greased baking sheet, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart.
  6. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes.  Transfer biscuits to a rack to cool.

apple dapple cake, and some food photography tips

Andrea

I mentioned last week that I'd be giving a little chat about food photography underneath the Relay Foods tent at the Heritage Harvest Festival last Saturday. Since so many of my readers are not local and would not have had the opportunity to stop by, I thought I'd post a summary of that presentation here on Bella Eats. And, for those of you who just want the recipe for the apple dapple cakes pictured throughout, it's at the end. :)

I get questions quite often about my photography and how I capture the images that I present here. The most important piece of advice that I ever give inquiring minds is this: PRACTICE. If you reach waaayyy back in the Bella Eats archives you'll see that my photography has changed immensely in the nearly 3 years since I've been sharing recipes from my kitchen. In fact, I give this little weblog 100% credit for renewing my passion for photography after architecture stole it away for 10 years. When I began Bella Eats I relied mostly on my little Canon Powershot point-n-shoot camera, and quickly switched over to my DSLR once the focus of the site moved from a daily food diary to a more focused recipe + photography portfolio. With that change, the amount of time I spent capturing images for each recipe increased. With each post my eye strengthened and developed until I'd created a style all my own, certainly influenced by but never outright imitating other food photographers that I admire. The reason that my photography looks and feels as it does today is because I keep picking up my camera, keep following the blogs and magazines and artists that inspire me, keep challenging myself in new ways with each project I tackle. And I promise you, 3 years from now my photography will be different than it is today because of the life I will live during that time. Everything experienced in life is an influence on one's art. So...PRACTICE. It is the ONLY way to become the photographer you wish to be. Everything else is just details.

And now, on to those details. This is by no means a comprehensive guide or the 'right/only' way to photograph food. I mostly hope to give some insight into how I work, and the decisions I make while capturing images for Bella Eats. I don't go into the technical aspects of working your camera, but simply challenge you to look at your photography from another point of view. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section!

I first want to show you that I don't have a big fancy studio with a beautiful gourmet kitchen directly adjacent to it. Boy, do I wish I did! Someday... Right now Brian and I share a 10'x10' home office space, one side dedicated to our desks and computers and the other dedicated to my work table, some prop storage, and camera equipment. The end of that table is where most of my photography happens, unless I'm feeling like a different sort of lighting or need a bit more space, and then I'll move out to our dining room. (I'll show you the difference in light quality between those spaces a little later.) It is very helpful to have this dedicated space for photos, so that our dining room isn't constantly taken over with my equipment as it was for the first 2 years of writing Bella Eats. If you can manage to clear off a 2'x3' space to keep set up, I highly recommend it.

LIGHT

All recipes on Bella Eats are photographed using natural light. I did dabble with artificial lighting momentarily, and occasionally break out my Lowel Egos if I will be shooting on location in a restaurant, but 95% of the time the images captured are lit using indirect or diffused sunlight. So, the first thing that I do when I am planning to photograph a recipe is I think about the quality of light that I am looking for in my images. The pair of shots below demonstrates the difference in lighting in my dining room (left) versus my studio (right). Both images are perfectly fine, but there are subtle differences that I'd like to point out:

1. Temperature. My dining room windows face west and north, and these images were captured in the late afternoon, so the color cast in that space was much warmer than the cast in my office/studio, which faces east and north. 

2. Direction of light. In the image on the left, the windows are to the left and in front of the camera, which highlights the cake stand nicely but casts more shadow on the right side of the cut piece. In the image on the right, the windows are to the left and behind the camera, which provides nice, even lighting on the cut piece but leaves the depth of the image more flat. The difference is especially apparent if you look at the folded end of the gray towel.

Again, neither of these images represents the 'right' way to light a subject, just two different perspectives. And there are many, many more options!

CLEAN + STAGE

This is pretty self explanatory. Do as much set-up as you can before you step foot in the kitchen. Analyze the recipe, pick your backdrops, linens, dishes, and extra props. Set up the camera and stage the first shot while thinking about how you plan to capture the others. For something like these mini cakes, this step isn't as big of a deal. But if you have a cast iron pan of fajitas coming off the stovetop and you want to photograph the steam rising from those sizzling veggies, you better have your studio space ready to go!

RECIPE ANALYSIS

Just because a recipe for cake says that it should be baked in an 8-inch round cake pan, doesn't mean it has to be! Read through the recipe thoroughly and think about how you'd like to present the food. Individual cakes are fun to photograph, but a whole cake provides a slew of cutting/serving options. Will the food be photographed in the dish that it is prepared in? Or can you ignore the cooking dish because the food will be removed and plated? Do you want to capture multiple stages of the cooking process and, if yes, which of those stages should be documented and where? 

PROPS

Analyzing the recipe will give clues as to what vessels should be used to present the food. Most often you can't go wrong with a white dish, but sometimes a colorful serving piece can really help to set off the colors in a recipe, such as these strawberry tarts on the teal plates shown below.

BACKDROPS

Once I've analyzed the recipe and chosen the dishes I'll use, I pick the backdrop for the photographs. The backdrop has a huge influence on the overall feel of the images, taking it from rustic to refined with a switch from the pallet to the ebony floor sample. As you can see, Lowe's and Home Depot can be a great place to pick up photo backdrops.

TEXTURES + COLOR

Once I've chosen the dishes and the backdrop, I move on to the styling of the images. Again, colors + textures can have a huge influence on the overall feel of the scene. Below I've shown examples of those little apple cakes styled in three simple ways, from neutral to pastel to festive. This recipe was pretty much a blank slate, given its neutral tone and white ramekin. But, imagine this beet risotto in that orange scene...blech!

I have a slew of colored and patterned papers and linens that I sort through all the time. The key is to have a good variety so you never get bored. Sometimes, though, I will realize that I've really had a thing for the pallet paired with natural linen and antique silverware (who doesn't?) and have to force myself to think outside of the neutral box, which is typically my preference. Again, challenge yourself! Find a fun linen or paper and work to style your entire scene around it.

VIEWPOINT

There are three viewpoints typically used in food photography: front, angled, top. I use them all, typically in each post. If you find yourself always shooting from one direction be sure to switch things up and challenge yourself to a new point of view. 

DEPTH OF FIELD

The depth of field in an image refers to the depth of the image that is in focus, and is controlled by the camera's aperture. This is a subtle nudge to explore the settings on your camera beyond 'auto'. Again, none of these is the 'right' aperture to set your camera to, but is simply a demonstration of how the story you tell with your art can be influenced by the depth of field.

FOCAL POINT

Similar to the depth of field, the point of focus in the image can alter the story told. Below I've focused on the first, the middle, and then the last cake. In the image below that I've focused first on the forks and then on the cake. Quite literally, the focal point will draw attention to the point of the image that you wish to be the focus, and it doesn't always fall right in the middle of the frame.

CROP

Does the whole dish need to be present in the frame for you to convey its qualities?

CLUTTER

I often find that less is more. In the case of the two images below, I really wanted to show the sauce I made to accompany the cake. However, the image on the left felt a bit too cluttered, and I was much happier with the shot once I removed the little bowl.

Instead, I found two different ways to set up and style additional images with the sauce as the focus. I would probably pair one of these with the image on the right, above, in a blog post.

SHOW MORE OF THE STORY

Don't lose sight of the fact that food is meant to be eaten, and showing only the final, pristine cake is not the whole story. Slice it, dish it, eat some of it, and photograph each of those stages. Some of my favorite images show a half-eaten piece of cake or an empty plate, typically found at the end of a post.

POST-PROCESSING

It is my goal to do as little post-processing as possible, always. My love for photography falls in the styling and capturing of images, not in sitting behind my computer tweaking settings until the image looks nothing like what I caught in-camera. I adore Adobe Lightroom 3, and do most of my editing there. It is a powerful editing program and fantastic for organizing my images, of which I take a lot. For an average Bella Eats post I'll take between 60-100 images, and typically whittle them down to 10 that actually go in the post. Lightroom is great for that process. I rarely take images into Photoshop, and when I do it is usually only to remove a stain from a backdrop paper I've used one too many times, or to collage multiple images together (I am still not happy with doing this in Lightroom, for some reason). I even add my watermark as I export images at web-resolution from Lightroom.

The image on the left is straight from the camera, and on the right after a little brightening, a little warming, and a little clarity.....and that's about it.

Same for the images below, except I also removed that little paint spot from the homosote, also in Lightroom. I can be picky.

And...that's it! My process for capturing photographs of food. Again, if there are any specific questions, please ask in the comments section below! I'll go ahead and answer one right now, because I know I'll get it:

Q: What camera equipment do you use for food photography?

A: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 100mm f2.8, Canon 35mm f1.4L

On to cake. Seriously, this recipe is one of our new favorites. I seem to say that a lot, but I really, really mean it with this one. So simple, so delicious, easy to travel with (I lugged the full cake and the mini cakes to the festival for my demonstration last night, and they fared perfectly). It has a consistency similar to coffee cake - soft and spongey and laced with fruit and nuts. Meaning...it is great for breakfast. And you know I LOVE a cake that I can eat for breakfast. :)

Apple-Dapple Cake

from Mollie Cox Bryan's Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies (the original recipe is for pie)

makes (8) 4-inch cakes, or (2) 8-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups light vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 1 cup chopped raw or toasted nuts (I used sliced almonds)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter (8) 4-inch ramekins or (2) 8-inch cake pans.
  2. Beat the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix thoroughly. Stir in the apples and nuts until evenly distributed, then spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dishes.
  3. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, then transfer cakes to wire racks to cool. (The small cakes took about 40 minutes, the larger the full 50 minutes.)

We enjoyed ours served with this rum caramel sauce.

cornmeal pancake breakfast

Andrea

Last weekend, Brian and I may have discovered our new favorite breakfast.  In fact, had there been bacon crumbled across the short stacks occupying our plates I feel certain that I could have written, with 100% truth, that this was the Best [Homemade] Breakfast Ever.  And yes, those words deserve to be capitalized.  It is no surprise that the inspiration and recipe for said breakfast came from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, a book that I thought was still loaned out to a friend and so had not cracked open in quite some time.  Imagine my delight when I noticed its friendly seafoam spine peeking out from between Ad Hoc at Home and NOMA...a lovely surprise, indeed.

This recipe for cornmeal pancakes is actually meant to be an appetizer; the cakes 1/4 the size pictured here, topped with a confetti of fabulous flavors. We made them their intended way, just a week ago, to bring as an hors d'oeuvres to a dinner party.  They were delicious, for sure, but I kept thinking as I popped them one-by-one into my mouth that there was a whole lot of effort invested in those bite-size cakes and that really, made bigger and topped with a fried egg, they would make for quite the weekend breakfast without all of the fuss. I was right. The combination of slightly-sweet corn cakes with fried egg, fresh tomatoes, and a hint of green onion was the perfect start to our Sunday, a morning I would like to repeat very soon.

The batter for these cakes comes together easily and cooks up into the most perfect pancake shape, texture, and color. They would be lovely to serve to guests for weekend brunch, or to whip up and freeze for weekday breakfasts.

Cornmeal Pancakes

from a homemade life, by molly wizenberg

serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 medium ear of corn
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (don't skimp here...)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp canola oil, plus more for brushing the pan
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1-1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar

For Serving

  • really good eggs, however you like them cooked
  • really ripe tomatoes
  • chopped green onions
  • coarse salt and ground pepper

Method

  1. Remove the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife (this method works very well). Put a small, heavy skillet (cast iron if you have it) over medium-high heat on the stove top. When hot, add the kernels and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the corn is browned in spots and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the kernels into the bowl of a food processor.  Allow to cool.
  2. Next, prepare the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another small bowl, combine the milk, water, canola oil, and maple syrup (leave out the vinegar for now). 
  3. When the corn is cool, process it briefly in the food processor, until it is finely chopped.  Add the corn to the dry ingredients, along with the wet ingredients and the vinegar, and whisk just to combine.  The batter will be foamy and will thicken.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush it lightly with oil.  Scoop the batter by the 1/4 cup onto the griddle, forming round cakes about 5 inches in diameter. Cook until the edges of the cakes look dry and the underside is golden, about 3 minutes, then carefully flip to brown the other side. You should have 6-8 cakes when finished.
  5. Serve topped with egg, tomatoes, and green onions.

blueberry scones with lime glaze

Andrea

I hold a firm belief that berries + citrus are one of the best combinations ever. Right up there with caramel + sea salt, peanut butter + banana, tomatoes + pasta. It's a shame that their seasons are opposite each other, with citrus at its height mid-winter and berries abundant mid-summer. That won't stop me, though. Be it berry jam, cobbler, tart, or muffin...it will involve lemons, limes, or oranges.

Also, I am a big fan of scones. If they are the right scones, that is. No dry, crumbly, lumps that turn to paste in the mouth for me. I like them softer; closer to the product of a marriage between scone and muffin. Easy to grab and eat in the car on the way to work, without the spray of crumbs across the lap when you arrive. 

These particular scones, made moist with buttermilk and bright bursts of blueberry, still hold a hearty texture thanks to the white whole wheat flour. I like to think that makes them a healthy breakfast treat, even if all that whole grain goodness does is cancel out the sugary glaze drizzled over top (shhh...just let me have that...please?). If you'd like an even fluffier texture, substitute all-purpose flour for the white whole wheat. And be careful not to overmix your dough, keeping in mind the same principles applied in biscuit-making...work fast and keep your ingredients cold. 

Happy Monday, friends! Have a lovely week.

Although they are best day-of, these scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Blueberry Scones with Lime Glaze

makes 8 scones

Scone Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour for a fluffier texture
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 tsp lime juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Spray a baking sheet with oil or cover with parchment paper.
  2. Mix buttermilk with egg and extract in a large bowl.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, lime zest and salt to a large food processor. Pulse until blended.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles course bread crumbs.  Add sugar and pulse again until blended.
  4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. Add blueberries and carefully fold them into dough.
  5. Turn out dough on a floured board and give 5-6 careful kneads, just until well mixed and cohesive, trying not to crush too many of the berries.  Divide dough into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls before flattening into disks about 4 inches wide.
  6. Bake on prepared baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until medium brown.  Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze, mix the confectioner's sugar with 2 tsp of lime juice. Use a spoon to blend together into a paste, adding more lime juice a bit at a time until the glaze is spreadable.

cornmeal cake with peaches + rosemary

Andrea

I find it appropriate that I am following up a post about summer tomatoes with a post about summer peaches. Brian and I have long had the argument over which is our favorite summer fruit, with him typically landing on the tomato side of the line and me on the peach. It is a close race, for sure. Both are delicious only during their season, each overlapping the other during July and August in Virginia. We rarely eat tomatoes outside of summer, and never peaches, unless we've put some away in jars and freezer bags. The limited window of availability makes peaches and tomatoes all the more special, precious even, and we indulge ourselves in both when they are available. Right now, as I write this, there are roughly 20 pounds of peaches and 30 pounds of tomatoes spread across my dining room. 50 pounds of fruit, friends. I think we have a problem...

After venturing out to Chiles Peach Orchard with a girlfriend a few days ago, I found the first thought swirling through my head involved a dense, peach-topped, breakfast-y cake. A cake with some heft; a good base to start the morning off just right. After some searching I came across Emeril's Cornmeal Olive Oil Cake with Poached Peaches...(the name goes on...), and modified it to suit my own desire for a simple, one-component breakfast cake. I am so very, very pleased with the result. The rosemary-scented cornmeal crumb is dense and savory with moments of crunch and highlights of salt. It sounds strange, I know, but there really are occasional bites that taste salty, while the majority offer a mild sweetness courtesy of the honey and fruit. It is a cake full of wonderful contrasts; sweet paired with salty, the crunch of cornmeal with the softness of peaches.

I wouldn't pigeonhole this cake into the dessert category; it really could pass as a cornbread side dish at a backyard barbecue. But I think the perfect place for it would be brunch...where savory sweets are wanted and expected. It is a new favorite in our house, for sure, and even further muddies the race between the tomato and the peach...

Cornmeal Cake with Peaches + Rosemary

adapted from Emeril Lagasse via Food Network

serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp minced, fresh rosemary
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 ripe peach, sliced thinly (1/8-inch thick)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan. (next time I will use a springform pan so that I can remove the cake whole)
  2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the cornmeal and the rosemary. 
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil, and lemon zest with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the sugar and honey, and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan and top with the peach slices.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. If using a springform pan you can remove the cake whole, otherwise you can slice it in the pan and remove individual slices to serve.

banana date bread

Andrea

banana date bread-6.jpg

I'll admit...I've shared this recipe before. It was a long, long, time ago, way back in the first few months of Bella Eats' existence. I claimed then that this was the best quick bread I'd made...ever. And now, 2 years and many loaves later, I'm sticking to that statement. This recipe is at the tippy top of my list of favorites, loved so much that the old photographs just didn't do it justice. And so, when the baking urge hit me mid-afternoon last week (as it does most afternoons these days) I decided to capture new images of this old friend.

I love the melded scents of banana and cinnamon punctuated by sweet dates, which take on an almost caramel flavor. Diced apple keeps the bread wonderfully moist while adding its own, very subtle, sweetness. Made without oil, with whole wheat flour, and sweetened naturally, it is not absurd to have several slices of the loaf in one sitting without feeling guilty. Add a smear of almond butter to a thick slab and you have quite the hearty and filling breakfast or afternoon snack, while a quick zap in the microwave and a thin sliver of butter make for a lovely not-too-sweet dessert.

Happy Friday, Friends!

banana date bread-1.jpg
banana date bread-3.jpg
banana date bread-4.jpg

If you've been around since the beginning and already added this recipe to your repertoire, you might notice that I've made a small change in the ingredients. Instead of the 1/2 cup of applesauce previously present, I've substituted non-fat Greek yogurt. I've found that the overall texture is improved and the bread has a better, more shapely, rise. 

This loaf freezes quite well for up to 3 months if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil. 

Banana Date Bread

makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup fat free, vanilla, Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup peeled, chopped, tart apple
  • 6 medjool dates, chopped
  • 1-1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the bananas, yogurt, sugar, egg, apple, and dates. 
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.  
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool on rack completely before slicing.
banana date bread-5.jpg

breathless

Andrea

Hi, friends. How are you? Goodness...well, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? We’ve missed a lot these last few months...such as apples. A trip to Boston and Halloween. Pumpkins and cranberries. The second anniversary of Bella Eats. And then there was Thanksgiving, and the first snow, and a trip to Florida and, finally, Christmas and the end of another year. Wow. So many opportunities to share food and photos and life with you all and I missed them, each one. I don’t want to start this first post back after three months gone with an apology, so, I won’t. Instead I’ll just say “Hi!” And, “I’m back!” And finally, “If you’re still here...thank you!”

What I do have to say about these last three months is this...they were full. So very full. The full you feel after an extraordinary meal; one that involves ten-too-many bites, an unbuckling of pants, and a slouching down in one’s chair followed by a long, low groan. So satisfying, but when you look down at your plate there are still ten more bites waiting, and you think to yourself “Can I do it?”. Somehow, you do, and at the end of it all you’re left with no choice but to lie down someplace dark and quiet. 

The thing about those big meals is that they are typically surrounded by a tableful of loved ones, conversing and laughing and drinking and eating right alongside you. They are so jovial and supportive that you don’t even notice the fullness until it is too late, and then they are there to moan and groan with you, and to reminisce about the wonderfulness that was the meal consumed. Been there? I thought so. And that is precisely what the last three months has felt like.

I am typically a very stick-to-the-path kind of girl. I follow directions well, read books and watch shows in sequence, knew what I wanted to be when I grew up at twelve years old. But three months ago I took a detour; strayed from the road I’d been traveling and forged a new trail through uncharted territory. 

I quit my architecture job in order to pursue photography as a career. 

That sentence leaves me giddy; so full of excitement that it is difficult to sit in this chair and continue typing. Not only is it unbelievably amazing to be chasing after a dream I never thought possible, but the unwavering support of family and friends has left me breathless.  There are scary moments, certainly, when I peer ahead and begin to doubt my ability to move forward with sure and confident steps. But then, out of nowhere, I’ll receive an email or phone call or Facebook message or tweet (what a funny world we live in, huh?) and I take another step, and another, and another until I am running so fast that I fear I won’t be able to stop. I am breathless, I tell you.

Finally, with the conclusion of a semester of teaching and 100% of my concentration set on photography, I have time for Bella Eats again. This fact I find nearly as exciting as my decision to change paths; to move towards a big dream shimmering at the horizon.  Bella Eats is part of that dream and, in fact, even the generator of it. Without this site I may not have renewed a passion for photography born long ago and lost in my pursuit of architecture. And I certainly wouldn’t have met all of you, or formed real friendships with some very inspiring and brave individuals. I owe much to this place I’ve carved from the world wide web and the people I’ve connected to through it, and am happy to finally be able to give some of that energy back.

And now, let’s talk about breakfast.

Recently, breakfast has slipped into the role of “Andrea’s favorite meal with friends”. It is usually enjoyed out, at any one of a handful of local joints, with someone I most likely haven’t seen in some time. That seems to be the case with most of my friends these days, who all seem equally as busy as I, and the breakfast hour is one that isn’t typically prescheduled for some other task. It is a mighty fine way to kick off a weekday, leaving you content and happy from the time, food, and news shared. 

If I could, I would make each and every one of you these sticky buns one morning this week. They take a bit of planning and an early morning wake-up call, but the end result is quite worth the effort. Paired with a cup of coffee and perhaps a few slices of crispy bacon, the soft, pillowed interior makes the perfect vessel for a sticky sauce of caramel and cranberries. We made them twice within a week, once for Thanksgiving guests and again for friends...just because. 

CRANBERRY ORANGE STICKY BUNS

adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
makes 8-12 large sticky buns

Ingredients

  • 6-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar plus 1-1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon)
  • Caramel Glaze (see below)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and orange zest until smooth. Add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve the desired texture. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77˚ to 81˚F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
  2. Ferment the dough at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.*
  3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll the dough with a rolling pin or press and stretch with fingertips, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking. Roll or press into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long. Don't roll too thin, or the resulting buns will be tough and chewy. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, from the long side. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1-3/4 inches thick.
  4. Coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1-1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the cranberries. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.** Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  5. Proof at room temperature for 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.***
  6. Preheat the oven to 350˚F with the oven rack on the lowest shelf. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on that oven rack to catch potential overflow.
  7. Bake the sticky buns for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep in mind that the sticky buns are really upside down, so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done in order for the underside to be fully baked.

CARAMEL GLAZE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp orange extract

Method

  1. Cream together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and butter for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add the corn syrup and orange extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

You probably will not need all of the glaze for the buns. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use, it will keep for months in a sealed container.

NOTES:

* When the weather is cool I warm the oven to its lowest setting, 170˚, and then turn it off. I place the fermenting dough in the oven to rise and have much better luck than just leaving it on the calendar in our 60˚ house.

** Clearly my baking dish pictured was too small.  But it's pretty, so I dealt with it.

*** The first time I made these I made the dough and fermented it the night before I wanted to bake it. After shaping the rolls and placing them in the pan on the glaze I covered them with plastic wrap and refrigerated them. I set my alarm for 4 hours before I wanted to put them in the oven, took them out of the refrigerator, and went back to bed.  They came out beautifully.

the fallen plate

Andrea

Hello friends. Things have been a little bare around here lately, haven’t they? I am having a hard time believing that April slipped by with only two posts on Bella Eats. Two posts? How did that happen? We’ve been cooking and eating, I assure you, and I have a long list of recipes that I was planning to share last month. The photographs are all edited, and most are even loaded into drafts in my Wordpress dashboard. So what, you ask, is the deal?

I’ll spare you the list of excuses because really, what it comes down to, is that life is just plain busy. I’ve tried my best to become a very good juggler, to keep all of the plates soaring high above my head with a flick of my wrist and the occasional impressive behind-the-back catch but, alas, one of those plates fell.

The Bella Eats plate is a tough one to keep in the air when time is running short at the end of the day, mostly because of the words that accompany each meal that I share here. My time for writing comes after work, after running and yoga, after dinner and dishes, after free-lance photography edits and marketing projects. Lately when that time is upon me, the time to sit behind my computer and let the words seep from the well in my brain, down my arms and out through my finger tips...I find myself with an empty well.

And so I go to bed. I cuddle in next to Brian with the sheets wrapped around my shoulders and two dogs crowding my feet. The ceiling fan whirs overhead and I attempt to match my breath to its subtle rhythm, incorporating techniques from my yoga practice in an effort to fall asleep as quickly as possible. But my mind, the mind that failed me for an entire hour prior to my giving in and coming to bed is now racing. There are 'to do' lists and emails to write and recipes and workout plans swirling around on their own paths, making a terrible knot of jumbled thoughts that only the clarity of morning will untangle.

When sleep finally overtakes my body it is not without its own side effects. Suddenly my mind, not deterred by slumber, has all kinds of ideas about writing and work and life, weaving intricate stories through my dreams that are exciting and fascinating and inspiring.  The scenes are so vivid that I find myself waking up multiple times in the night, tossing and turning as characters new and familiar wind their way in and out of predicaments that oh-so-loosely resemble my waking hours. I find myself hitting 'snooze' on the alarm multiple times each morning, trying to catch the tail-end of these thoughts before they fizzle out and leave me with only a hazy shadow of something that I think, maybe, if I could just remember, might have been good. It seems that this is the only time I have for creative wandering, the only time not bogged down by obligations and responsibility. I relish in it, until I realize the time and jump from bed in a panic, beginning the daily process all over again.

These extended 'snooze' sessions have caused me to rely heavily on grab-and-go breakfasts. The kind that, after hastily rising from bed and jumping in the shower, darting around the house looking for this shirt or that shoe, feeding dogs and packing a lunch allow me to simply reach into the freezer or pantry for a single item to stash in my bag and eat at the office. Gone are the mornings of leisurely breakfasts that involve turning on the oven and dirtying a pot, bowl and spoon. These days I am simply happy that I thought to freeze the leftover Carrot and Pineapple muffins I made weeks ago, and hopeful that soon, very very soon, my schedule will slow down to its normal pace. I am ready for that Bella Eats plate to soar again, to form high arcs above my head as words flow from my fingertips into this little space on the 'net.

Until then, thanks for being here.  I am so happy you're reading.

These muffins are incredibly moist, even after a 3-week stay in the freezer. They have a hearty crumb fortified by the whole wheat flour, and a subtle sweetness provided by the pineapple and the agave nectar. I find them quite filling when paired with a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt for breakfast.

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

makes 12 whole grain, no added fat, naturally-sweetened muffins adapted from Sweet and Natural Baking, by Mani Niall Ingredients
  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tbsp oat bran
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (I will bump this up to 1/2 tsp next time)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup light agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1-1/3 cups grated carrots (I peeled the carrots into long ribbons first, then chopped them finely)
  • 3/4 cup diced pineapple (I used canned, but will definitely use fresh next time)
  • 12 chunks of fresh or canned pineapple, about 1 x 1 x 1/2 inch in size
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Lightly spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, bran, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt into a medium bowl and make a well in the center.
  3. In another medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer set at high speed, beat the egg whites with all the agave nectar until soft peaks form.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the milk.  Pour into the flour well and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Stir in the carrots and the diced pineapple.
  4. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling about 3/4 of the way full.  Top each muffin with a pineapple chunk.  Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops spring back when pressed with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool for 2 minutes, run a knife around the inside of the cups to release the muffins, and remove from the cups. Serve the muffins warm or at room temperature.
To freeze, wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.  Place the muffins in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. They should keep for up to 3 months.
Read More

new to the rotation

Andrea

Sunday Morning.

Sunlight streams through our east-facing window.  The electric blanket has kept our bed toasty warm, too toasty for my fuzzy socked-feet sticking out from underneath our quilt.  Brian still sleeps quietly beside me, the dogs have nestled themselves into any nook or cranny on the bed they can find.  My eyes open, I stretch, and immediately start thinking about breakfast.

I've talked about my love for Sundays in the past - the one day of the week that we actually sleep in, make multiple pots of coffee to sip while laying around in our pajamas, read chapters upon chapters in our current books, experiment with some new and indulgent breakfast recipes in the kitchen.  I haven't shared any of these special morning meals lately because, well, basically every Sunday in December involved the panettone french toast that I already shared with you here. We love that dish in our house, and get our fill while panettone is readily available.

I count last Sunday as the first real Sunday of our new year.  The weekend before, the actual first Sunday, we had just said goodbye to house guests and, while we certainly laid around lazily for much of the day, there was no elaborate cooking happening in our kitchen.  It, and I, was just too tired.  But this past Sunday, after my self-imposed cooking hiatus, I woke up dreaming of stuffed French toast.

Cranberry and cream cheese-stuffed French toast, to be exact.  We happened to have a jar of Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries from Molly Wizenburg's book, A Homemade Life, in our fridge, leftover from holiday appetizer trays.  I adore this chutney, completely and totally.  I've found all manner of ways to use the three pints the recipe made, from spreading it across chevre-coated table water crackers to pairing it with thick-sliced ham, triple-cream cheese and arugula between two slices of crusty bread for the ultimate holiday leftovers sandwich. This chutney has been good to us these last 4 weeks, and I am incredibly disappointed that I didn't think to make extra batches of the spread to preserve for the cranberry-free months ahead.

As a final hurrah (the very last jar is getting heart-breakingly low...) I decided the chutney deserved a role in the first official Sunday Morning breakfast of 2010.  Paired with softened cream cheese, spread in the middle of a thick slice of bread from a French or Italian loaf that is then soaked in a simple custard before being pan-fried in butter and sprinkled with confectioner's sugar...its not a bad way to end a good run.

We enjoyed the meal immensely, and plan to add the Stuffed French Toast to our regular rotation for Sundays, substituting whatever jam we've made from the fresh fruit of the season we are in.  I hope you'll try it this weekend, and if you can still find fresh cranberries in your grocery store you should make this chutney as well.  You don't want to wait another ten months to try it.

Stuffed French Toast

serves 2 Ingredients
  • 2 slices French or Italian bread, 1-inch thick (you may want more slices depending on the size of your baguette)
  • 4 tbsp fruit preserves (or Molly's cranberry chutney)
  • 2 tbsp soft cream cheese or marscapone
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • confectioner's sugar
  • pure maple syrup
Method
  1. Lay slices of bread flat on cutting board.  Using a serrated bread knife, slice bread horizontally through middle, stopping short of cutting all the way through, to create an envelope of sorts.
  2. Spread 1 tbsp of cream cheese and 2 tbsp preserves in each envelope.
  3. In a shallow dish that will hold both stuffed slices, whisk together eggs and milk.  Lay stuffed slices in custard mixture, turning after 2 minutes, for a total of 4-5 minutes.
  4. Melt butter in a large, non-stick skillet over moderate heat.  When butter is fully melted, add stuffed slices to skillet.  Cook for 5 minutes on each side, until deep brown and no egg runs when you press down on the slices.
  5. Serve with confectioner's sugar and pure maple syrup.
Read More

new traditions

Andrea

As Brian and I prepare to host Christmas, my mind has been transported to the past. To holidays spent in my childhood home.  Where there are three trees laced with ornaments positioned around the house. One with the automated Hallmark variety that buzz and hum (Dad’s tree), one with the sentimental decoration handed down for generations (Mom’s tree), and one in my own room filled with trinkets that symbolize those things that are important to an adolescent girl; horses, soccer, kittens, music, turtles, Winnie the Pooh. We rarely turn on an overhead light, relying instead on the soft glow from the multi-colored bulbs wrapped carefully around each branch of the three trees. The dark blue-green front door to our home acts as the backdrop for an elaborate wreath hung with artificial fruit. On the mantle are candles of all sizes and shapes interspersed with greenery and every one of my little girl stockings (I am an only child, and have several). There are little dishes of candy dressed in jewel-tone wrappers scattered around the house for sneaking when my parents aren’t looking and, outside, a light display that rivals Clark Griswold’s abode. On Christmas Eve we host a party, providing a stop for friends and family visiting our neighborhood to view the houses strung with lights and the luminaries lining the streets. We dress up and fill the dining room table with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sliced fruit, miniature cheesecakes and fresh cookies baked and decorated by my momma and I earlier that day. Christmas carols spill from the stereo as the adults mingle inside and the children busy themselves outside. I run around the yard with my friends, playing hide and seek behind Santa’s workshop and even Santa himself, and think that no little girl can be as lucky as I, who gets to live in this holiday wonderland. Over time these holiday traditions have shifted with the changed structure of my family. Decorations were divided and dispersed between two different houses, those two piles having been joined by the piles of new family members years ago. My childhood home is still owned by my daddy, and Brian and I still visit for at least a portion of most Christmas’, but there are only aspects of the place that are familiar this time of year. Little reminders of the past that pull at my heartstrings and remind me of the little girl running amongst wooden elves and twinkling trees. Part of me is sad for her, the young Andrea who still believes in Santa and his magic sleigh. She who thinks that all future holidays will be just like this one, who doesn’t know that the wonderland she is experiencing is meant just for her, at that moment in time. And yet, another part of me feels the joy of a challenge - a challenge that Brian and I are tasked with together. To invent our own traditions, to collect our own meaningful decorations, to create our own wonderland. For ourselves, and for our future children. I think we're off to a good start. Although this tradition is borrowed from my momma and stepfather, we've adopted it for our Christmas morning breakfast as well, sharing it two years ago with Brian's family.  In fact, we've expanded the tradition to not only include Christmas morning, but also at least two weekends between Thanksgiving and the 25th of December. Panettone is an Italian dessert bread containing candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins.  It makes for an incredible French toast.  You'll find it in boxes at most grocery stores from Thanksgiving through the New Year.

Panettone French Toast

serves 4 Ingredients
  • (1) 1-1/2 pound panetone loaf
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
Method
  1. Slice panetone loaf into (4) equal disks, horizontally (about 1-1/2 inches thick).
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and salt.  Pour into shallow dish.
  3. Melt 1/2 tbsp butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Test to see if the butter is hot enough by dropping a bit of egg mixture onto the skillet.  When it sizzles, the pan is ready.
  4. Lay a slice of panetone in the egg mixture.  Pick up the slice, turn it over, and lay it back in the egg mixture.  Remove the slice immediately and place in the skillet.
  5. Fry the panetone for about 3 minutes on one side, until nicely browned.  Flip the slice and brown the other side, another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside while you fry the other pieces.  (I place an oven-safe dish in the oven and turn it to 170*.  The slices keep warm in the oven while I fry the others.)
  6. Repeat for other 3 slices.  Serve with powdered sugar or pure maple syrup.

BELLA EATS : SOME FAVORITE THINGS

Looking for a gift for a foodie family member or friend? Check out some of my favorite things in the Bella Eats Store powered by Amazon.  There are books for cooking, baking and pleasure. My favorite kitchen and photography gadgets. Even a little bit of music to set the cooking mood.  Just click on the categories in the upper right corner of the page to find that perfect gift.  Enjoy!
Read More

many happy moments

Andrea

I've been trying to write this post for days (days, I tell you!).  As you'll see eventually, its about a plum cake.  The problem is, I don't have much experience with plums.  Other than eating them raw at their peak of ripeness - the sweet-tart juice running down my arms to my elbows - plums and I haven't made a close acquaintance.  We've flirted a bit in the past after a quick saute' in a pan along with a dab of butter and some brown sugar, strengthening our relationship with the aid of a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  And, there was that lovely marriage of blackberries and plump black plums that produced a few jars of delicious jam this summer...  But when it comes down to memories - the kind of memories evoked by the first bite of a beloved (or even hated) food - plums and I are complete strangers. plum cake-1 I’m fairly new to the world of writing, having only started forcing myself to practice regularly when I started this blog and discovered how much I enjoy it. I’ve learned in the six months since defining the direction of bella eats that writing about personal experience is much easier than writing about something I lack a connection with. Occasionally, I won’t even realize that I have something to write about until suddenly, the words start pouring out of my fingertips as memories flash through my head in a slideshow of my past - ranging in age from 2 days to 25 years. And so, these last couple of days I’ve sat behind my computer writing a sentence here and there, just waiting for those hidden plum-inspired memories to present themselves. plum cake-2 This evening, as I was in the middle of my uninspired third draft, my Momma called for a chat. She had some bad news about an elderly relative, my grandfather’s sister. My Great Aunt isn’t doing very well, in fact hasn’t been for awhile, and Momma wanted to update me on her status. Our conversation eventually turned to more trivial subjects to lighten our mood, and my unsatisfying third draft came up. As I explained my writer’s block my Momma chuckled, and proceeded to share with me a few of her own childhood memories of plums, of which she has many. plum cake-3 She told me about “plumjum”, my grandfather’s favorite spread for toast, and how his sister (yes, the very same as mentioned above) used to make him jars of it with plums from another sister’s trees. She laughed about how surprised she was when, at an older age, she learned that the coveted spread was in fact a simple plum jam. Those family trees that produced the fruit that formed the jam were a favorite playground for my Momma and her cousins, a treetop haven where they ate as many plums as they could stomach while spitting the pits at each other (she was a bit of a tomboy, my mother, having grown up with all male cousins). As we laughed about her memories, events she probably hasn’t thought about in years, I was reminded again of how powerful food is, and thankful that even though she hasn’t read it yet, this post evoked happy thoughts of her past during a time of sadness. plum cake-5 As far as my future with plums goes - and based on my family history with the fruit - I feel pretty confident when I say that we've got many happy moments ahead of us. And you can bet (a plum cake, perhaps?) that a few jars of "plumjum" will be produced this weekend from the best possible specimens, packed up and shipped to Florida for my Momma and grandfather to enjoy. With love. plum cake-7 In the last few weeks, I’ve seen plums pop up in magazines and on some of my favorite blogs, tempting me with their deep red-purple skin and sunset-hued flesh. I'd always thought of them as a summer fruit, but apparently this is the time of year when the European varieties hit their peak. I came across a container of Italian Plus last week and, unable to resist the petite, egg-shaped beauties, immediately started plotting their fate. We decided to host a little brunch at our house last Saturday morning, and so the idea of a plum coffee cake was born. On Friday I consulted numerous recipes before deciding on an adaptation of one I'd had my eye on since August. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be a breakfast treat, but I think it served our purposes just fine. Better than fine, actually, as this cake was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Truly. The tartness of the fruit was nicely balanced by the not-too-sweet dough, the perfect compliment to a cup of black french-roast coffee. plum cake-8 If you'd like this cake for breakfast, make it the night before and wrap it tightly in plastic, letting it sit on your counter until the morning. Then, about 15 minutes before you're ready to eat it remove the plastic, pop it in the oven to re-heat for a few minutes before turning on the broiler to crisp the top and caramelize the edges. Plum Cake adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
P. 39 August 2009 Gourmet magazine
inspired by Whitney in Chicago Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups stone fruit, halved then sliced to about 1/4" thick. [I used 18 Italian plums. You'd probably use 1/2 as many if you used a larger variety]
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped a bit
Method
  1. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and lemon zest together in a bowl, set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or with a handheld electric mixer) cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just until a smooth dough forms. Pull together in a ball and wrap with plastic wrap, flattening to a disk about 1-inch thick. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough rests, place your sliced plums in a bowl and drizzle with lemon juice and 1-2 tbsp sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit. Let sit until dough is ready.
  5. Preheat oven to 375*. Butter a 10" spring-form pan. Remove dough from freezer and divide into two equal pieces. Pat one piece into the bottom of the buttered pan, making sure to cover the surface evenly. Spread your fruit over the dough, distributing evenly. Break the remaining dough into 1-inch globs and distribute over the surface of the fruit. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and the almonds.
  6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and golden. [mine took closer to 40 minutes]
This cake keeps on the counter, wrapped tightly in plastic, for about 3 days. I think, in fact, that it is best on the second day. plum cake-11 I followed the original recipe closely except for the following adaptations: Because about 1/2 of my plums were still a little green on the inside and therefore quite tart, I chose to macerate the fruit for a bit before layering it with the dough. Even if I use very sweet fruit in the future, I won't skip this step. The sugar helped the fruit to caramelize at the edges, producing a wonderful texture. The addition of lemon zest to the dough and slivered almonds to the top of the cake are two tricks that I use quite often in fruit cakes and crumbles. I think that everything is better with a touch of lemon and a few almonds. plum cake merge 1
Read More

bella terra: pick-me-up

Andrea

When I bought three raspberry plants (two red, one golden) from my local nursery last year I had no idea what to expect. We’d had mixed luck with berries - the blackberry bush we’d planted the year before was showing a lot of promise for its second summer but the blueberry bush we’d put in 3 years prior hadn’t grown a bit and typically yielded a harvest of only one dozen berries each season. I was taking a chance, but the raspberry plants were inexpensive and I was determined to have long branches loaded with berries twining through the fence surrounding our garden. RasMuffins - Merge 1 We got lucky.  Their first year the raspberries didn't do much.  We were rewarded with a couple of small handfuls of fruit - really only enough to snack on as you wandered through the garden checking on other plants, certainly not enough to actually do something with.  But this year - the berries' second year - has been quite the surprise.  Maybe its because I wasn't expecting much from them, or maybe its that their location in the garden is a bit out of the way, but just a few weeks ago I was shocked (shocked!) to discover that the raspberry branches had reached clear out of their intended boundaries and were loaded (loaded!) with plump berries.  I wish I could show you photos of their progress, but the general unruliness of the garden has left me embarrassed to share the evidence. RasMuffins-8 Its hard to not get excited about being in the kitchen, concocting new recipes when your fridge has a constantly rotating bowl full of red raspberries, golden raspberries and blackberries.   Unless, like me last week, you come down with a bug right in the middle of berry season.  It was nothing too serious, but provided enough sour feelings to keep me completely out of the kitchen and away from the blog. I had no interest in cooking food, writing about food or editing images of food for five full days. It was all I could do to get the tomato soup post up Tuesday night, and the next day I couldn’t even bring myself to read comments because the mere thought of tomatoes gave me a queazy feeling. Finally, on Saturday, as I was laying on a towel in the middle of our living room floor after a particularly hard 4-mile run, thoughts of homemade muffins popped into my head. RasMuffins-4 I jumped up, so excited to have the urge to bake without a queazy feeling following along behind that urge. It was getting worrisome, this lack of desire to stand at my kitchen counter, because I had promised some dear friends that I would make cupcakes for their daughter’s third birthday party the next day. And, we had raspberries. Several bowls of raspberries freshly picked from our garden just waiting to be folded into muffin batters and buttercream frostings and made into jam (peach + raspberry = yum!). The opportunities were endless, yet until Saturday I’d done nothing to seize them. RasMuffins-7 These little raspberry almond muffins pulled me out of my funk, with some help from Ellie Krieger, whose book I had picked up at the library a few weeks prior. They are hearty, made with a mix of all-purpose and whole-grain flours, and pack nice little raspberry punches into each bite.  Made moist by applesauce instead of butter, and topped with a crunchy cinnamon and almond topping, they provide an adequate amount of sweetness countered by the slightly tart raspberries - a sure pick-me-up for any slow morning or afternoon.  I've frozen a bunch of them to use as my own little weapon against future kitchen blues... RasMuffins-5 Raspberry-Almond Muffins makes 16 muffins adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, Apple-Pecan Muffins, pg 22 Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat free buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, along with 4 wells in a second muffin pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tbsp of the brown sugar, the almonds and the cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and the oil until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.  Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, just until combined.  Gently stir in the raspberries.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about 2/3's full, and sprinkle evenly with almond mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  6. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
RasMuffins - Merge 2 What about those cupcakes I mentioned before?  Well, I made these again, along with a vanilla version for the adorable 3-year-old's birthday party.  They were a big hit with the young-uns, but I think the adults enjoyed them even more... Cupcakes-Merge Other Bella Terra posts this season: Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale Bella Terra: Cucumbers Bella Terra: Blackberries Bella Terra: Tomatoes, Part 1
Read More

bella terra: blackberry jam, anyone?

Andrea

I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to talk about jam this summer! Here it is, mid-August, the blackberries are nearing the end of another extremely productive season and I am just now sharing these recipes with you. It seems that our bush quadrupled in size from last year, and the bounty we’ve received reflects that growth. I am giddy thinking of next year’s harvest, since the new growth taking over our fence and gate will bear what surely must be another quadrupling of this year’s numbers. Oh, the possibilities. jam11 (1) I must admit, I’m somewhat happy to see this blackberry season come to an end. In just a couple of weeks I’ll be able to cut back all of this year’s fruited wood, and will have the space needed to train the new growth and reclaim our entrance to the garden. Blackberries bear fruit on the previous year’s growth, so as the new arms have reached out into any space they could creep to, we’ve been powerless to do anything about them. I can’t bear the thought of cutting any of them back, for fear of what that would do to next year’s harvest, but I will be very grateful to not have to play limbo to pass through the garden gate. jam10 (1) I’ve actually shared this recipe with you before, in the springtime when Florida strawberries hit Virginia stores and I couldn’t help buying multiple quarts. Molly’s jam recipe is really the only one you need, as it can be modified to use any variety of fruit available at any time of the year. And modify we have, for Brian and I have been jam-making machines this last month. We wanted to preserve as much of the summertime bounty as we could, and since our blackberry bush has produced approximately two dozen quarts of deep purple berries in just 30-days time, jam seemed like an obvious solution. We’ve also frozen half a dozen quarts for use through the fall and winter (its doubtful they’ll make it to spring), made a couple of pastries and plenty of smoothies. jam6 (1) But our favorite use of our overabundance of the sweet-tart fruit has been jam. So far we’ve tried three different varieties with our blackberries, and we have a few more in mind to try out this weekend. The peaches we’ve been picking have come in handy too, providing a natural sweetness that allows us to cut the sugar used in the original recipe. We’ve been eating jam on biscuits, waffles, pancakes, almond butter sandwiches and even pork tenderloin as a delicious glaze. We have jars upon jars stored up in our pantry, waiting to be given to friends or consumed by us over the next 11 months. jam9 In fact, one lucky reader will receive a 6oz jar of Bella Eats Jam to enjoy! Just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite jam/preserves/jelly flavor. Who knows, maybe you’ll see your flavor featured after our next experimentation!   I’ll announce the winner on my next post, so comment away until then. jam4 (1) Blackberry Jam with Peaches or Plums adapted from Molly Wizenburg via Epicurious Ingredients:
  • 8oz fresh blackberries
  • 2 pounds fresh plums or peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar, depending on sweetness of peaches / plums
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
Method:
  1. To peel peaches and plums, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Slice a large "X" into the bottom of each piece of fruit.  Drop the fruit, 3-4 at a time into the boiling water.  Let boil for 45 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl filled with ice water.  When fruit is cool (about 1 minute) remove to a cutting board and peel skin, which should pull apart from the fruit easily.  Chop fruit into 1/2-inch dice.
  2. Toss blackberries with peaches or plums in medium-size bowl.  Add sugar and lemon juice and toss to coat.  Let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Prepare canning jars as per canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
  4. Transfer fruit mixture to a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Crush the fruit with a potato masher and let continue to bubble until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Dip a metal spoon into the jam and then hold it over the pot, letting it drip for a few moments to cool.  Run your finger down the back of the spoon, through the mixture.  If your finger leaves a clear path on the back of the spoon, the jam has cooked long enough.  If not, keep cooking and test every 5 minutes until you get a clear path.
  5. Spoon jam into prepared jars and process according to canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
Peach Jam with a Hint of Blackberry (this is the jam pictured in the images above.  the blackberry jam with peaches or plums is darker in color) Ingredients:
  • 8oz fresh blackberries
  • 2-1/2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
Method: Use the same method as above, except separate the blackberries and peaches into two separate bowls.  Toss the peaches with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar.  Toss the blackberries with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar.  After two hours, puree' blackberries in a food processor or blender, then strain to remove seeds and pulp.  Stir blackberry puree' into peaches and continue with step #4. jam merge 1 And, if you're not sure what to do with the 24-ish ounces of jam the recipes above produce, make this cake [pictured above], using the jam instead of the filling.  Or, give jars out to your friends - they'll love it, I promise. jam3 (1) Other Bella Terra posts this season: Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale Bella Terra: Cucumbers
Read More

slow-rise sunday morning

Andrea

Well, slow-rise for my pancakes that is. I, on the other hand, have changed things up a bit since my last Sunday Mornings post. You see, I’ve started running again. Not that I ever really stopped, I just slowed down a bit and wasn’t serious about increasing my mileage or training for any races. If you’ve been reading for awhile, a long while, you may remember when bella eats was a food and running diary. If not, and you’re interested, you can read a bit about my running story here and here. pancakes 1 I don’t know what it is about running, but I feel like I have a little addiction to it. The funny thing about that is that I don’t particularly like to run. And I always seem to injure myself, which to me seems like a sign that maybe my body doesn’t like for me to run either. But I keep coming back, and every few months I get the urge to sign up for a big race to motivate me to increase my mileage. This time it started innocently enough, with registration for the Charlottesville Women’s 4-Miler on September 5th, which I run every year. From there it was easy to say “Hey! Why not go ahead and run the Pepsi 10K 2 weeks later?” And now, my crazy little head is thinking that maybe a half marathon isn’t all that bad, and the one in Richmond on November 14th is timed pretty perfectly... pancakes 2 Its enough to make a girl feel a little crazy - all this back-and-forth, love/hate relationship with running stuff. But you have to understand that I read some pretty inspiring blogs, written by some ladies who until the last couple of years weren’t runners but have still managed to run half and even full marathons. Add to that my over-achiever personality and the fact that I haven’t yet completed a “long” race even though I’ve trained for two, which doesn’t sit well with me. And the last motivator is, well, food. I eat a pretty healthy daily diet full of veggies, whole grains and limited animal products but, as you’ve seen here at bella eats, I also really like to bake. And I really really like pancakes. pancakes 3 Because Saturday mornings are reserved for the farmer’s market and a vinyasa yoga class, I’ve made Sunday mornings my long run days. This has been tough for me, as Sunday mornings have historically been leisurely, quiet and full of baked goods. I’m slowly adjusting, but have decided that recipes that can be started the night before (and the bloggers / chefs that share them) are going to be my new best friends. I tried my first last weekend, courtesy of the amazingly creative Vegan Yum-Yum blog, and was doubly motivated to finish my run in good time as I thought about the pancake batter coming to room temperature in my kitchen. Like a carrot being dangled in front of my nose, the promise of fluffy, yeast-risen pancakes embedded with slices of fresh-from-the-tree peaches kept me chugging along. pancakes merge 1 Once home I switched on the stove to heat my griddle, added some cooking spray and slowly ladled pools of the yeast-full batter I’d made the night before. As the batter set I added the peach slices and waited for the tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the ‘cakes to start to pop, then flipped them over to reveal the golden brown surface below.  I woke Brian, who quickly went to get us coffee (since I broke our french press carafe last week, sob), and we settled around the table no later than usual.  The only difference this Sunday morning had to those of our past was that post-run, an indulgent Sunday breakfast is so much more satisfying. One bite in and I knew that these were the best pancakes I'd had.  Ever.  Light and fluffy, with a nice yeast-y tone, they were complimented beautifully by the sweet peaches and real maple syrup.  We had leftovers, and they kept very well in an airtight container in the fridge until I re-heated them in the oven for breakfast this morning. Slow-Rise Pancakes adapted from Vegan Yum-Yum makes (12) 4-inch pancakes Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk (I used plain almond milk)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup milk, for thinning if desired
Method:
  1. Mix together the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the milk (not the 1/3 cup), vegetable oil and egg and mix until combined well.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next morning, thin the batter if needed.  Let sit on the counter for 30 minutes before making pancakes.
  5. Heat your non-stick pan over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray or rub with butter.
  6. Using 1/3-cup measure, begin making pancakes.  I laid peach slices in mine once the batter was set, but feel free to add apples, bananas, dates, etc.  If you'd like to add blueberries, currants, chocolate chips (anything small) I usually add them directly to the batter in the bowl.
pancakes merge 3
Read More

farmers' market frittata

Andrea

Even though we've only lived here four years, Brian and I have fallen completely in love with Charlottesville.  One of the things we enjoy most about this little city is the strong local food movement.  We visit the farmer's market each weekend during the season to gather our meat, eggs and produce for the week (whatever we're not growing in our own garden) and have long conversations with our favorite farmers. We get to see photographs of the chickens who lay our eggs pecking the ground in their grassy field, the cows and their new calfs, and the bee hives housing the bees that are pollinating the plants from which our vegetables grow. fritt merge 1 It is undoubtably our favorite part of the week, and we make sure to leave ourselves with plenty of time to talk to Richard about the problems we are having with our own tomato plants and to gush to Jean about the magic of her hens’ eggs. We have a direct connection to the people who supply the food on our table, something that I think the majority of the world population doesn’t have and may not understand. fritt 3 I know that we're very fortunate, and was reminded of it again last week when I made this vegetable frittata.  As we sat down to eat I realized that every single ingredient, except for the parmesan cheese and olive oil, was locally grown.   The eggs, milk, bell pepper, leeks and zucchini all came from the farmers' market, and the herbs were grown in our own garden.  How cool is that?!? I'm not trying to rub it in, I'm really not, I just had to share with you all the amazing feeling that I had knowing that our dinner was not only delicious, but also supporting our local farmers. fritt 4 With Food, Inc. just out (which I haven't seen yet, gasp!) I've read a lot more chatter in the food blog world about being aware of where our food comes from.  Its exciting, and I'm so glad to see bloggers with serious readership and influence supporting the cause.  To join in, I wanted to share a couple of sites I've recently read about that may help you discover local food providers in your area.  And, for my Charlottesville readers, I've added a new local page to the top bar.  I know that I am probably missing a lot of great resources so if you have any to add, please leave a comment! fritt 5 I challenge you all to make this frittata and try to include at least one local ingredient, even if it is just herbs from pots on your porch.  Every little bit counts! Feel free to switch up the veggies, the recipe is very versatile.  And delicious too, I might add. Farmers' Market Frittata Ingredients:
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (for a silkier texture) or 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4-5 good grinds of sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped to 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, chopped to 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 leek, white and pale green part only, halved then sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Method:
  1. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper and yogurt or milk until smooth.  Add minced herbs and stir well, set aside.
  2. Heat oil in 10 or 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add bell pepper, zucchini and leek.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, until veggies are tender.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high.  Pour egg mixture over veggies evenly.  Cook on medium high for 3-4 minutes, tilting pan and lifting edges of frittata to allow raw egg to run underneath.
  4. Lower heat to low, cover pan and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, until frittata is mostly set.  Shake pan occasionally while cooking.  Meanwhile, place a rack at the top of the oven and turn broiler on to high.
  5. Remove frittata from stovetop when it is mostly set.  Sprinkle cheese across top and place in oven, under broiler.  Broil for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully to not let it get to brown.  You just want a few spots of brown across the top, and bubbly cheese.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes.  Remove to cutting board or large plate, cut into wedges and serve.
fritt 6
Read More

for the ages

Andrea

A long time ago I owned a bread machine.  With that machine I made my husband (then boyfriend) batches of everything bagels on a bi-weekly basis.  It was so easy to dump all of the ingredients in, leave the machine unattended for 3-1/2 hours, then boil and bake the bagel dough until golden brown.  Well, three years ago we bought a house.  A very small house with a kitchen that lacks any kind of storage space, especially space for a clunky bread machine.  So, three years ago Brian stopped getting homemade bagels for breakfast and instead made do with bagels from the local shop, sliced then frozen then thawed when desired.  And, for three years he's been asking me to start making homemade bagels again. bagels 1 I agreed to get rid of the bread machine not only because we had zero space for it, but also because I thought it would be a way to force myself to learn how to bake yeast breads from scratch.  It seemed like a great idea since I already loved to bake cookies and muffins and quick breads - Brian even bought me a beautiful book to help in my endeavors. Unfortunately, the arrival of that book in our house coincided with my first semester of graduate school, which means that nary a loaf nor bagel was baked as I studied the affect of wind on structures and built teeny, tiny models of buildings at all hours of the night.  Although I've been out of school for a full year now, I've just recently begun tackling yeast breads.  And two weeks ago, much to Brian's delight, I tackled bagels. bagels merge 1 It really wasn't a difficult task, making bagels from scratch, especially with Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice as my tutor.  Yes it was handy to have the bread machine take care of all of the mixing and kneading and resting and kneading again, without my having to keep an eye on a clock.  However, with a little forethought and a a stand mixer (I'm sure you could make these with a handheld mixer and a lot of elbow grease, but I'm not that brave) the bagels can be started Saturday evening and baked up just in time for Sunday morning breakfast.  And they are delicious - so much better than the bread machine bagels of our past.  The overnight fermentation process adds a great flavor that you just can't match in 3-1/2 hours. bagels 4 Now, I'm not from New York or Philadelphia or any other city whose residents claim that they have the *best* bagel.  I didn't grow up eating bagels every week so don't have the kind of nostalgia associated with them that so many other people have.  I don't claim to have had the best bagel of my life when I was growing up in such-and-such city, and certainly haven't spent my life trying to find one that compares.  So, while I can't personally claim that this bagel will match the bagel of your past, I do trust Peter Reinhart when he claims that this is a bagel for the ages. bagels 2 This recipe produces a bagel with a chewy exterior, soft interior and endless possibilities for toppings.  I froze ours in gallon-size bags once they had cooled, and simply microwaved them for 30 seconds before slicing and toasting when we were ready to eat them.  The flavor and texture were still perfect. Before typing out the [rather lengthy] recipe, I did a quick search to see if I could find a link online.  Luckily, Smitten Kitchen came through. For Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, click here. bagels 3
Read More

too simple, continued

Andrea

I've had so many comments and questions about the oatmeal pictured in my last entry, that I decided to go ahead and dedicate a quick post to it.  Many of you may not have been reading a few months ago when Bella Eats was more of a food diary than a space for sharing recipes.  I posted so many pictures of this breakfast during those first few food diary months that I'm surprised people didn't stop reading out of sheer boredom!  To those of you who have been reading for awhile, I'm sorry if this post looks familiar. oats 9 This oatmeal is one of my favorite daily breakfasts, so quick to make before work and hardy enough to keep me satisfied until lunch time. I was introduced to stove-top oats through the blog world - prior to reading Kath's and Heather's sites I was a pre-packaged instant oats kind of girl.  Not any more.  Stove-top oats are far superior in texture and flavor, and if you get old-fashioned rolled oats they only take 10 minutes to make.  They are worth the extra few minutes, I promise. OATS MERGE 1 Adding mashed banana to my oatmeal was something I learned from Kath, and I’ve never gone back.  I love the creaminess the banana gives the oats and never skip this step even if the toppings change.  Wheatberries are another Kath-inspired addition - I love their chewy texture.  When I’m eating oatmeal often (nearly every day during the cold months) I’ll make a pot full of wheatberries to use all week.  You buy them dried, in the bulk foods section, and boil them in water for about 20 minutes, depending on the texture you’re going for.  I like mine a little chewy, so 20 minutes is all it takes.  Drain them and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days.  And the figs - oh the figs - they are the best part.  Their tiny little seeds and sweet flavor add so much to each bite.  Love. oats 5 I've tried many different variations of mix-ins, from fresh fruit to chocolate chips to canned pumpkin, but I always come back to this combo.  What are your favorite oatmeal toppings?

Stovetop Oatmeal with Banana, Figs and Almond Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, pinch of salt
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tsp ground flax seeds
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 2 dried figs, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cooked wheatberries
  • 1-1/2 tbsp almond butter (crunchy peanut butter is delicious too, and adds another great texture)

Method:

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.  Add pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of rolled oats. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the oats have absorbed most of the water, after 5-7 minutes, turn off the heat.  Add the mashed banana and splash of soy milk.  Stir.  Add the flax seeds and cinnamon, stir.
  3. Pour oats into bowl and top with chopped figs, wheatberries and almond butter.
  4. Stir everything up so that the almond butter swirls through the whole mix.
  5. Enjoy, and if you choose, comment after each bite about how delicious the texture is.  I do every time.
oats 7 For those of you who have stuck around since the early food diary days - Thank You! - I appreciate each and every one of you and love seeing comments pop up from familiar names as well as new readers.
Read More

sunday mornings

Andrea

The Sunday mornings of my childhood were lazily spent at the farm table in our kitchen under a classic stained glass lamp that still hangs in the exact same spot, over the exact same table.  The pantry door would be swung open wide, the small t.v. hidden inside providing the morning soundtrack - Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt.  I'd fish through the stack of papers on the table until the Sunday comics surfaced, and after devouring those would peruse the classified ads, always looking for the perfect pet pony or a yorkshire terrier for my momma. cinn-2 The smells that accompanied these mornings were varied but always indulgent.  Sometimes we'd have flakey buttermilk biscuits with sliced ham and provolone, or my daddy would fry up eggs that we'd sop up with buttered toast alongside lil' smokies or pan-fried bacon.  And some mornings there were cinnamon rolls or even better, orange danishes.  Popped from a can, baked for 15-18 minutes and then slathered with glaze - those Sunday breakfasts were my favorites. cinn-merge-1 These days, now that I'm all grown up (some might argue with the truth of that, even me...) Sunday mornings are still somewhat lazy and indulgent. Saturdays are started early, sometimes with a long run, and always (during the season) with a trip to the farmer's market for breakfast and the week's produce before embarking on the day's agenda full of errands, chores and projects.  Saturdays are busy and productive, the perfect justification for the extra 30 minutes in bed on Sunday mornings and the indulgent breakfasts that typically follow once my feet hit the floor. cinn 6 And even better than my extra 30 minutes in bed is the fact that Brian typically requires an extra 2 hours in bed on Sundays, leaving me with the kitchen all to myself.  This is my baking time.  I wake up to a quiet house and kick the dogs out to the back yard to ensure that it remains quiet.  I clean up any leftover dishes from the night before while going through breakfast ideas in my head.  This is the time when new pancake, biscuit and scone recipes are realized.  This is the time when I finally get to try out a recipe I've had bookmarked for quite some time, one that takes me right back to my childhood even though the lamp, reading material and soundtrack have changed. cinn 8 These cinnamon rolls were delicious, certainly a step up from the canned variety although they take about 3 times as long to prepare.  I substituted spelt flour for some of the all-purpose and loved the extra flavor that the whole grains provided.  I've become a big fan of spelt flour lately, experimenting with Wiggs' cookies from on high (post to come soon) and these biscuits, with fabulous results.  I've noted my other substitutions below.   cinn merge 3 The original Cook's Illustrated recipe can be found here, via Leite's Culinaria.  I made a few exceptions [I can't help it!].  
  • I used 1 cup of spelt flour and 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.  
  • I substituted turbinado sugar for all of the sugar in the dough (but still used confectioner's for the glaze)
  • I used 3/4 tsp baking soda rather than 1/2 tsp
cinn 14
Read More

baked oatmeal

Andrea

Its approaching 4 years since Brian and I packed up and moved to Virginia.  We came from North Carolina, but had only lived there for one year so were really still Floridians at heart.  Having spent the first 22 years of our lives in the Sunshine State we were new to the whole idea of seasons, or at least noticeable seasonal changes.  Each year I discover new subtleties in the transitions from one season to the next.  I'm getting good at knowing which flowers in my yard  will be first to wake from their winter slumber (snowbells) and which trees will show the first signs of life (plums).  I've even finally realized that just because the temperature reaches 70* one weekend in early March, it doesn't mean that we won't have snow two days later.  I know this, yet I'm still surprised each year. oatmeal-11 Even with all I've learned in the last four years, I’m still trying to get used to the radical temperature swings that Virginia sees when transitioning from Autumn to Winter and Winter to Spring.  Last weekend the highs were forecast to be in the mid-60's, perfect weather for getting seeds planted in the garden, yet when I woke up Sunday morning my bedside thermometer read 28*.  Since I knew what was to come later that day, I quickly called my walking buddy Christine (due any day now with her baby girl!!!) and rescheduled our stroll for the afternoon, when the weather would be more pleasant.  And then I crawled back in bed. oatmeal-2 Though it postponed my morning exercise, what this cold morning did afford me was longer snuggle time under the covers with Brian and our dogs, a large pot of coffee after finally making my way to the kitchen and the opportunity to make this recipe that I found at Seven Spoons some weeks earlier.  We all know that I love oatmeal (who doesn't? really?) so I was excited not only to discover Tara's lovely blog on Tastespotting, but to be introduced to it through a recipe that was so very perfect for me.  Oats, fresh fruit, almonds and pepitos and some of my favorite spices all baked together into a warm, satisfying breakfast...what's not to love? oatmeal-3 This dish was really delicious.  I substituted fresh strawberries for Tara’s frozen blueberries and added some orange zest because, well, I think everything is better with a bit of citrus.  There are endless possibilities of fruit and spice combinations, and I think you could even substitute some or all of the sugar for honey or maple syrup.  It would make for a great meal when you have a couple of  house guests but it also heats up exceptionally well the next day if you want to keep it all for yourself. oatmeal-5 Baked Oatmeal with Strawberries and Bananas original recipe from seven spoons Ingredients:
  • Softened butter for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups large flake rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, lightly toasted
  • 2 teaspoons flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest from 1 medium orange
  • 2 cups milk (I used plain soymilk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 3 medium bananas, diced
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • Coarse sugar, optional
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease the inside of a baking dish, 2-quart capacity.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, brown sugar, pepitas, flax seeds, baking powder, orange zest, spices and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, almost all of the butter (save about 1 teaspoon for drizzling over the finished dish), vanilla and maple syrup. Set aside.
  4. In the prepared baking dish, spread the diced bananas in an even layer, then scatter the strawberries over top. Pile the oat mixture to cover the fruit, but do not pack too tightly. Carefully pour the wet milk mixture over the oats.
  5. Drizzle over the reserved butter, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the oatmeal is puffed and set, with a golden brown top.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
oatmeal-4 In the Blog World... Meghann is hosting another Blogger Bake Sale  to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!  Not only do I love Meghann because she is my cousin, but this girl is so incredibly inspirational.  I love reading about her accomplishments with running, fitness and healthy eating.  She's competed in many races and come up with some really great recipes.  Read about her first bake sale here - she raised $1320 for a great cause!!!  I'll be donating this and this, so be sure to check her blog on April 6th to place your bids!!!
Read More

biscuit fear? conquered.

Andrea

I am a big fan of bread.  Such a big fan, in fact, that sometimes I will choose to have an extra piece after dinner in lieu of a second pour of wine, or even dessert.  In the last year or so I started dabbling with bread baking, lots of quick fruit breads, a few loaves of whole wheat, some scones, even some fabulous dinner rolls at Thanksgiving.  But biscuits have always frightened me, just a bit.  I’ve heard horror stories of folks attempting to make biscuits and ending up instead with pancakes, or worse, hockey pucks. cheddar-1 Because of this fear I am always amazed when I come across a really fabulous biscuitMother’s in New Orleans bakes one of my favorites, so good that Brian and I stop by the restaurant on our way out of the city to load up on the black ham variety to eat on the plane ride home.  (The unbelievable ham they produce has something to do with that stop as well...the last time we were there we bought a cooler just so we could bring a few pounds of it home with us.)  And then there are the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster, a restaurant I haven’t been to since I was a teenager.  Even after my 10+ year absence from the establishment the memory of those golden lumps is still crystal clear. cheddar-2 When Foodbuzz contacted me a few weeks ago to find out if I would like to sample some Kerrygold products (yes!) all I could think about was cheddar biscuits.  After the chives popped up in the garden my intent was set - cheesy, chive-y buttermilk biscuits would be gracing our breakfast table, and hopefully they would be soft and flakey as well.  I decided that even if I failed at the texture, the power of delicious Irish cheese and fresh chives would carry them. cheddar-3 I found this recipe at Thibeault’s Table via Tastespotting.  It was easy enough, delicious, and though my batch didn’t turn out as beautifully as the photos accompanying the recipe, they weren’t pancakes or hockey pucks which relieved me greatly.  I was amazed by their lightness...prior to this experience my most recent biscuit-like endeavor was of the hearty oat variety (recipe will come, I’m still perfecting it) which, compared to these, sit like bricks in your belly.   cheddar-4 My technique needs some work.  The recipe didn’t call for a specific amount of cheese so I guessed, which may be the reason why my biscuits didn’t puff up quite as beautifully as the example.  Or it could be the fact that a bit of time passed before the ingredients pulled from the fridge were incorporated into a batter and then stuck in the oven...the problem with photographing as you go.  But the flavor was great, and Brian has requested that they be added to the permanent rotation for indulgent weekend breakfasts.  It seems like I will have plenty of opportunity to perfect the consistency. cheddar-5 And I have to say, the Kerrygold Dubliner cheese was excellent.  So good that the first block I bought was consumed with a loaf of crusty bread before ever making it into the biscuits it was intended for.  The Pure Irish Butter is also delicious, although I think it may be too soft for this recipe.  My batter was very sticky, which may have also contributed to the lack of puffiness.  But spread across the top of a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit?  Perfect. cheddar-6 Cheese + Chive Buttermilk Biscuits recipe modified from Thibeault's Table Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, unsalted), cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Kerrygold Dubliner)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 450*.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  3. Using pastry blender or fingers, cut-in the butter until the dry mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add the cheese and chives and mix well.
  4. Stir in milk and mix with fork until a loose batter forms.  Gently pat the ingredients together but do not over-handle.  
  5. On a lightly floured board, pat out dough until you get a 1/2" to 3/4" disk.  Cut with biscuit cutters (I used a jar lid, a glass would work too) and place on prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 450* for 15-18 minutes.
cheddar-7 Oh yes, it was a weekend filled with indulgent breakfasts.  Is that bacon on my plate?!?  What?!?   I"ll be sharing another breakfast with you this week, but it is of the sweet variety and involves oatmeal.  Get excited, because it is fabulous.  :)  And its healthier than eggs, bacon and biscuits, so who wouldn't be excited? I hope you're all having a great week!
Read More