Saturday, March 30, 2013

Breakfast Strata, or Savoury Bread Pudding

savoury bread pudding or strata? savoury breakfast

This started out as French toast, but at some point was derailed and turned into what I was calling savoury French toast, until I realized that it was an actual thing called a strata.

It all began with a breakfast meeting at work that featured a baked challah French toast. Now, I've never been very partial to French toast. In my experience, it's always been store-bought slices of bread dunked in a mixture of eggs and milk and fried, then served with a generous helping of maple syrup. Nothing wrong with that, really, but as far as I'm concerned, utterly boring. There are many other things I'd rather eat in the morning than spongy bread soaked with syrup.

But this French toast - this was something different. It was closer to bread pudding, with thick cubes of challah bread soaked in a vanilla flavoured egg and milk mixture overnight, topped with just a drizzle of caramel sauce, baked until golden and crispy on top and custardy underneath. Before that meeting, French toast did nothing for me, but that challah French toast changed everything.

And, rather fortuitously, I had only just been given a homemade loaf of challah. Clearly the stars had aligned for this French toast. It was destined for me.

So I arrived home and triumphantly announced that I'd had a French toast revelation and knew exactly what we'd be having for breakfast on Good Friday. Only, a certain roommate of mine, who has issues about eating sweet things in the morning, put in a request for a savoury version.

And so, because I am a mostly good friend and roommate, I made a savoury breakfast strata, or bread pudding, or whatever else you might want to call it. Partly also because my roommates and I are all in agreement that if you add cheese to something, it will be awesome.

Which it was - very awesome.

brunch carnage

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kale Palak Paneer + Homemade Paneer

kale bouquet delicious green

My good friend and roommate, Lianne, was born in India and spent her early childhood there, and while she claims she is a "bad Indian" (since doesn't speak Hindi or eight other languages) she does know how to make a good curry. And while curry is as exciting to Lianne as mashed potatoes and gravy is to me, she indulges both me and my other roommate every now and then and cooks up a curry for us, a cause for great joy and cheer.

Once, however, I was craving curry something fierce and Lianne was out of town and unable to teleport herself back into our kitchen to make us curry (to our everlasting sorrow), so I went ahead and attempted to make the recipe myself. Lianne's "recipe," however, is not so much a recipe as "put these things in a pot and then add spices until it tastes right." Upon asking her how much spice to use, I received these instructions: "Hard to say. Lots of turmeric and cumin, medium garam, a little coriander. Chili powder to taste. Sorry I can't be more specific."

Yet in spite of her cryptic instructions, I managed to make a pretty good curry. It was not the same as her curry, of course, but as I have discovered, if you use the "Magic Five Spices" Lianne swears by (turmeric, cumin, garam masala, coriander, Indian chili powder) you're going to end up with something delicious.

As I mentioned, though, Lianne does not share the same love of Indian food that the rest of our household. Except, that is, when it comes to Palak Paneer, which is her favourite Indian dish ever. It's a rich & silky spinach curry with cubes of paneer (Indian fresh cheese) stewed in it. It is, quite simply, delicious, and once Lianne made it for us I determined that I also had to learn how to make it, because it is a dish our household cannot be without.

But because whenever I make something I have to change it, I decided to switch up a few of the traditional ingredients, using cashews instead of cream, and kale instead of spinach. I have never been much of a fan of cooked spinach (it has a strange earthy bitterness I don't like), and so decided to use kale (which also just happened to be in the fridge at the time). When cooked, though, kale mellows out, losing most of its bitterness and becoming, dare I say, rather palatable. (Because let's face it, raw kale just doesn't taste good.) Paired with yogurt, cashews, and the Magic Five Spices, this dish is something of a revelation.

I think even Lianne would agree.

Palak Paneer with a kale twist

Monday, March 18, 2013

Making Bagels, Roasted Garlic Parsley Butter & Honey Butter

Making Bagels with Anna from Liz Mochrie on Vimeo.

You may recall me talking about my friend Anna the other week. She, like me, is obsessed with baking things and taking pictures of said baked things and posting them on the internet.

You may also recall that I mentioned we made bagels this one time - well, she made bagels. I watched and took pictures and made a video, because food blogger friends take pictures of food blogger friends (it's how we roll).

friends take pictures of friends taking pictures my friend Anna

Anyways, back to more important things: bagels. Specifically, black sesame seed bagels and chocolate chip bagels. Even more specifically, bagels with roasted garlic parsley butter and honey butter.

Thing is, however, I can't tell you how to make bagels. (I was more concerned with eating them than being helpful.) But Anna can, so if you're craving some bagels in your life, head on over to her blog Cupcakes Always Win for the recipe!

bagels to be forming bagels
humble beginnings
let 'em rise water for boiling bagels seeded bagels
bagels, fresh from the oven savoury bagels the leaning tower of bagels

In the meantime, I can offer you pictures and recipes for delicious spreads (to be smeared on bagels, toast, or other appropriate surfaces).

Friday, March 1, 2013

Almond Date Breakfast Bars

Smitten Kitchen's almond date breakfast bars

I have a very long list of "should do" things. Things I think adults must be doing, that I'm maybe sort of also supposed to be doing. I frequently get the crazy idea that I will one day be able to do all of these should-do things, making silent resolutions to myself - Listen to podcasts! Understand my taxes! Do push-ups! Not buy more shoes! Eat ridiculous amounts of spinach!

These resolutions, such as they are, don't ever seem to hold, though. And yet, the fantasy that I will one day become this magical should-do person, who eats a balanced breakfast every morning, takes a spin class, does yoga while listening to thought-provoking podcasts, makes tortellini from scratch, has and actually uses a day-planner remains. If I was such a magical freak of a person, I'd probably be making money from Instagramming my breakfast, host my own book club, backpack through Europe and then write a best-selling book about it.

But I am not such a person. The last time I did yoga I invented my own mantra that went something like "Ow ow ow NO". I would rather sit at home eating tortilla chips and gain ten pounds than take a spin class (what is the POINT - THERE IS NO HILL TO CLIMB, THE JOURNEY IS POINTLESS). I subscribed to two podcasts months ago and now I have over 100 un-listened-to episodes on my phone. I write to-do lists on my hand.

But sometimes, I get should-do shit done. Like snacks. Because the magical motivated successful people of the world always have tasty, healthy, portable snacks on hand. They probably wrap them in parchment paper and tie them in bows of twine too, but we won't go that far. (They are snacks, after all, not Martha Stewart props.)

where the magic happens

There is something to be said for the convenience of having a bag of breakfast bars in your freezer, though. For those days when you slept in (in spite of the five times your alarm went off) and breakfast happens while you walk to work, or for a mid-morning pick-me-up after your first (or second) cup of coffee wears off. Or, for those times you go on a spontaneous road trip and you don't want to spend all your money on crappy muffins to keep yourself fuelled along the way.

These bars, from the always reliable and amazing Smitten Kitchen, are such snacks. They are delicious, delightfully fuss-free, and are packed with enough good things to make them admirable breakfast material. And making them might just make you feel a bit more motivated...maybe even magical.

the good stuff