Fluffy Scrambled Eggs and a Breakfast Admonishment

It is a statement we have all heard before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It nourishes our minds for the day ahead and it gives you energy to slog through the school, work or even at home day. You know that 10 am slump that has you reaching for the coffee? It can be staved off in some small part by a really great breakfast. Every morning I feed my sweet little monsters a two-part hearty breakfast before sending them off to school. We have a system that makes it easy for me and nutritious for them.

If you were to pay attention to the advertisements on television you would know that the greatest thing in the world being pushed on our children are Pop-tarts and Toaster Streudels. Did you know there are 190 calories in a Pillsbury Toaster Streudel and while there are only 9 grams of sugar in each one the level of nutrients are so low that it is not worth it to eat even one. An average child of 4 to 8, so at 5 my daughter Miss N requires around 1600 calories a day and if you know anything about making each calorie count you will know that it adds up pretty quickly when you have 1600 with which to work. I am not a stickler for calories. I do believe it to be unhealthy to obsess over every morsel and its associated caloric count. This was the major problem with Weight Watchers points program before the much lauded revamp. You could eat 18 pounds of licorice throughout the day to cover your points but you end up severely malnourished. Instead, my general rule is that if it has high nutritional benefit (fibre/calcium/iron in some abundance) then it’s a safe bet if eaten in moderation. If I can combine the foods in a meal to increase the benefits and help them play off of each other, we are all better off.

I think it should be obvious that I have a sweet tooth, every healthy meal on this blog is sandwiched between recipes for cookies, muffins and cupcakes. The truth of the matter is, my sweet tooth is a huge problem for me but I do have a few tricks for dealing with it. I don’t eat sugar anytime before the afternoon because if I do I cannot stop the craving for just something “a little sweet”. I could not possibly eat one of those processed breakfast alternatives because I would drive myself crazy all day and I am leery of most processed foods for my children.

A common breakfast for the kids consists of scrambled eggs with a bowl of cereal or yogurt and a glass of milk of fresh apple cider. For a touch of sweetness Miss N like dried cranberries on her cereal and Bubs will take raisins any day. Ask them to switch and it’s trouble!

The recipe is pretty basic but I do think it’s important to remember that we all had to start somewhere.

Extra Fluffy Scrambled Eggs
This is the recipe I use for my children, a 3 year old and a 5 year old. It is endlessly adaptable but perfect on its own for a rushed morning.

2 teaspoons of goat butter or vegan margarine*
3 eggs

1.In a medium sauce pan heat the butter on medium until it foams. Crack the eggs directly into the pan.
2.Allow the whites of the egg to actually turn white before you touch them. At this point, use a regular fork to “whip” the eggs quickly but safely. Cook until all of the liquid disappears.

*The cost of goat butter can be prohibitive and vegan margarine is a great alternative for us. The flavour is quite neutral and we are most fond of Earth Balance (whipped, butter flavour).

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Photo Friday: Movie Night

Every Friday night is movie night. We make a special treat and have “fun” food that we can eat in the living room while we watch the week’s pick. Last week I chose the 1933 version of Alice in Wonderland to accompany our bacon quesadillas and strawberry cupcakes. The film was completely unfamiliar but the children were taken with the black and white images and quirky take on Lewis Carroll’s classic. The food wasn’t so bad either.
Quesadillas

Strawberry Cupcakes

The February Gift Project


The month of February is buoyed by Valentine’s Day. Despite the over commercialization of such a sweet holiday, it’s intended as just a little bit of light in one of the darkest, coldest months of the year. We are a touch closer to summer yet the happy sheen of December’s holidays have worn off and the joy of plodding through the snow, cold and desperate last strains of light at 4 in the afternoon is wearing thin. To brighten the day a touch and take some of the load off those retail stores, what if you made a lovely gift for someone in your life? The theme for this month’s Gift Project is love and affection. I would like you to know that you you needn’t have a “special person” in your life to participate in this month’s project. In fact, I have a friend in mind for this month’s gift and she is most definitely not my significant other but I do feel love and affection for her because she is a lovely woman.

I usually write up this post at the beginning of the month but this past week Bubs very kindly shared a bug from his daycare and it was Miss N’s last week before break so there were a number of activities to cover. The dates for this project are obviously shifted, as a result. To keep the project confined to the month of February, the link up date on The Herbed Kitchen will be February 28. As always, feel free to email your post to thegiftprojectblog(at)gmail.com so that I can keep everything straight an you won’t be lost in the shuffle! There is also a public flickr group to post pictures which can be found at The Gift Project.

The gift project is not limited to just food bloggers, if you are a crafter or writer or spoken word artist (or mime, whatever) and wish to share your experience with us, please do. The point of this project is that we bring a small bit of ourselves into other people’s lives to brighten their day.

I truly look forward to everything you have to offer because it will be special and beautiful.

Theme: Love and Affection

Link Up: February 28

 

A sort-of Monkey Bread

slice of monkey bread
The end of a long week has passed. The children were both home from their respective schools because of all the snow that had fallen for the two days prior. At one point it was as if the clouds were through clumps of the snow at us for mocking our so far disparate winter. We mock no longer; in some places I’m locked in the snow up to my knees and the weather was so angry it did something to our building’s furnace to make it quit, to run away from its duties. Miss N and her minion were stuck inside the first day since the swirling snow made it difficult to see further than a few inches in front of you and it is plain mean to send small children into the fray. Thursday was a marginally calmer day, in fact the “snow day” was only necessary because the school and all the roads were still buried.

By the end of the week, with all its impromptu movie dates and sledding, cups of warm hot cocoa and the general excitement of 5 days whirring by in quick succession the children were tired and I was exhausted. Friday brings about our movie night. Each week someone gets to pick a movie and no matter if we like it – the phrase, “We love Bubs, that is why we watch Thomas”, is often repeated on his night; we snuggle up with a treat. Last night, however, we watched Coraline and while that little claymation firecracker fought off her foe I put the finishing touches on what may or may not be Monkey Bread.

I read a few different posts from food bloggers over the last couple of weeks that piqued my attention but I suppose I didn’t pay close enough attention because I only have a small inkling of the true nature of Monkey Bread. I was somewhat mystified that it did not appear to include bananas or peanut butter so that certainly could lend itself to my ignorance. Or, it could just be that I am just about incapable of following a recipe. It is my understanding that it is balls of yeast dough rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked together in one pan. Whatever the case may be, I am, in an off-hand way pleased with my creation. The whole wheat and almond flour give it a great texture but I’m not terribly impressed with the weight of it; I blame the whole wheat flour. A dollop of peanut butter icing makes it divine but because of the low sugar content and the whole wheat aspect I didn’t feel bad giving it to the kids the next morning as part of breakfast.

So, can it be? A treat that does double duty as a hearty bread? Perhaps we shouldn’t think about it too much and just enjoy the thing that may or may not be Monkey Bread.

I ground the brown sugar and hazelnuts together in the coffee grinder to get them to a very fine texture, particularly since the brown sugar was fairly lumpy. This crumb mix is to sprinkle in between the two layers of dough balls and once again on top. Feel free to leave it out, or even better, add vanilla to it. I was only partially impressed with it but I feel it should be included in the recipe for brevity’s sake.

The cocoa is not mixed in with any of the dry ingredients so as to achieve a marbling effect. If this is not something you want, feel free to mix it with the dry ingredients.

The Pre-bake Line: Monkey Bread

The Monkey Bread

one teaspoon demera sugar

¼ cup lukewarm water (100º)

one tablespoon active dry yeast (or one packet)

2 cups lukewarm water (100º)

2 cups almond flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

one tablespoon cocoa

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons ground hazelnuts

3-4 tablespoons cocoa

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar in the ¼ cup of lukewarm water. Stir it around if it is being stubborn. Once dissolved, sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Once the yeast is foamy, break it up with a fork and add the remaining 2 cups of water.
  3. With the mixer on “mix” (this is a slow setting) and the dough hook(s) attached, add the whole wheat flour one ½ cup at a time. At this point, add the almond flour.
  4. Check the consistency, if it looks too dry, add a thin drizzle of lukewarm water.
  5. Add both the cocoa and the all purpose flour.
  6. Once the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl and into a ball,transfer to a floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes.
  7. Place in a greased bowl and turn to coat, leave to rest in a warm place until doubled in size which should be about an hour to an hour and a half.
  8. Remove from bowl to a lightly floured surface and pinch off a small piece and cut with a serrated knife. Shape into a ball, dip the top into cocoa and place clean side down (that without cocoa) into a high-sided, oven proof dish that has been greased. Cover the bottom and sprinkle with the brown sugar and hazelnut mix. Prepare another layer using the same process. Finish with a sprinkling of the brown sugar hazelnut mix.
  9. Leave to rise while the oven heats to 375º. Bake for 45 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when you tap on the top, to double-check the inside I highly suggest gently pulling one piece up a bit.

Serve with peanut butter icing. Enjoy

Peanut Butter Icing

¼ cup smooth peanut butter

3-4 cups icing sugar

one teaspoon vanilla

2-3 tablespoons boiling water (optional)

In a bowl combine the first three ingredients and mix into a smooth icing. If the icing begins to seize because it is too dry (common with peanut butter icing), add a drizzle of the boiling water to help it work it’s self out.

Perfect for the monkey bread!

Molasses Whole Wheat Boule

molasses whole wheat bread

I still remember the first time I attempted bread. Ambitious and with a misplaced sense of courage I set about to make both an Irish soda bread and a simple French bread. The soda bread was rock hard, impossible to chew and it took determined might to separate that ball into two. The crumb was dry, even though fresh out of the oven and the taste once you gnawed for a long enough period of time was unremarkable.

It is this type of experience that turns people away from baking bread. I believe that there are certain rules in baking that you simply cannot break and once you learn those you are fine. Until that point, however, it is entirely different. It is truly unfortunate that most of the rhetoric surrounding the difficulty of homemade food plays up on the basic principles of baking and their seeming difficulty. I don’t profess to know everything about baking or cooking, in fact I make plenty of mistakes but it is seeing past those mistakes to create a thing of beauty is what working with food is really all about. I do believe that the talk around food is prohibitive. Think of the McDonald’s commercial in the 1980s, a small family is going to visit Grandma and what the woman doesn’t know is that the family is already plotting their post-Grandma trip to McDs to make up for the meal they just shared. Or, the current spate of frozen potato products because, “chopping potatoes doesn’t have to be difficult” commercial.

I am always mildly flabbergasted that this is such an issue. That the preparation of food is a soul-sucking enterprise, one you only engage in because your family needs nourishment to get through the rest of their day. I understand that much of my dismay derives from the fact I do in fact know how to cook and it is a pleasure for me; I cannot imagine spending time in the kitchen could as a chore. More often than not there are pudgy little child hands in whatever it is I am cooking and now at five, Miss N has taken it upon herself to wash and chop some of the more tender fruits and vegetables.

This is the kitchen for me. The legacy I am providing my children, the respect for the farmers who feed us and the knowledge that food does so much more than keep your vitals going. This is where my love for baking bread comes from, in so many ways it encapsulates the pleasure of baking home, it’s seeming simplicity.

Yeast is one of the most difficult baking ingredients you can work with; it is a finicky and sassy bitch who can turn on you in a second as soon as her bath is too hot (or cold). There is one, and only one secret you need to remember when dealing with yeast: Maintain a tepid, tipping slightly into warm temperature on everything. That’s it. The official temperature is 100º Fahrenheit but I have always gone by touch.

My use of marmite is inspired wholly by Denise of Bread Expectations and her recipe for Marmite and Black Pepper Boule. Marmite is a pungent yeast extract mixed with dried veggies and spices. It is commonly used as a spread but Denise’s use of it in the bread gives the bread a beautiful complexity of flavour. I ran out of marmite after only getting half of a teaspoon but it is still enough to compliment all the darker flavours of molasses. I’ve rediscovered my love for cinnamon peach jam, one of the many jam endeavours I had this summer. The jam is only slightly sweet and it neatly wraps the warm flavour together for a feeling that makes you feel spoiled.

molasses toast and jam

The Bread – Molasses Whole Wheat

Inspired by both Denise and the Oatmeal Brown Bread, page 18 of the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook.

one teaspoon demera sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of marmite (feel free to add more, this was not an intended restriction)

1/2 cup lukewarm water (100º)

one tablespoon active dry yeast (that’s one packet.)

1/4 cup fancy molasses

1 1/2 to 2 cups lukewarm water

3 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

2 to 3 cups all purpose flour

pinch of salt

This recipe can easily made by hand or with a standing electric mixture that has been fitted with the dough hook. I prefer to do combination of both because I tend to “baby” it as if it were the most precious thing on earth.

1. In a large bowl dissolve the demera sugar and marmite into the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Stir a bit to get the last few stubborn chunks of sugar.

2. Over top of the mix, sprinkle the yeast and allow to bloom for the next 10 minutes.

3. Break up the mix with a fork and add the molasses.

4. Turn on the machine to “mix”, it should be spinning very slowly. Add one cup of the whole wheat flour and allow it to gum up a bit. At this point, start adding the rest of the whole wheat flour in 1/2 cup increments.

5. It will look dry – to compensate, drizzle some of the reserved water into the dough and continue mixing to incorporate. Add the flax seeds and any last bit of flour to keep it from mixing then turn the mixer up to “knead” for 2 minutes and remove from bowl. Knead by hand until elastic and form into a bowl.

If using the stand mixer to knead, just keep an eye on it until it is elastic and pulled away from the sides of the bowl and into the shape of a ball.

6. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn to cover in a thin layer of oil. Leave for 1 and 1/2 hours or until it is doubled in size.

7. Turn out onto a lightly floured service and cut the dough into two equal portions. Form into a ball make sure it is covered in a dusting of flour to prevent it from burning in the oven. Place on a baking sheet and allow to rise. This step should take about 45 to one hour. I like to keep mine in the oven so it is insulate while it rises, this adds to an important element next.

8. Once the boules have doubled in size, heat the oven to 375º F with the bread in the oven. Place a small bowl filled with water in on the bottom rack of the oven, the bread will be baking on the middle rack. Bake for 45 minutes.

Tomato Barley Soup

Barley Soup

Today was a two soup sort of day. Snow ghosts swirled on the path, ducking in and out of trees this morning, whipped up by the frenetic energy in the air foretelling the coming snow. We face two snow storms over as many days, a sliver of time between the two apparently divides what probably should prove to be a prolonged snow fall. The cats hare snuggly and the sky is covered in stitched together clouds. Already the roads are covered in ice and so it was no surprise that today two soups bubbled and simmered on our stovetop, one of them being a playful take on a Canadian Soup I briefly saw in the largest of our cookbooks. This tome of mouthwatering meals floats around the house, enticing all of us to flip through a few of its pages and each time I do so, everything is new. Today, a simple meatball soup reminiscent of Italian Wedding caught my eye.

In keeping with the nature of Culina Mundi, I wandered into the kitchen and prepared a soup so unlike the one I briefly saw; Bubs continued to peruse its glossy pages while I set about chopping the onion. I found this soup only needed half of one of the onions from the CSA; they are so fresh the oils and flavour seem particularly strong, even pungent to which my poor eyes could attest. Tear streamed down my cheeks and I felt like I did when I first starting cooking.

A few notes about the barley. It is traditionally found in beef stews but since I only meant to emulate one,  I toasted the barley to make up for the lack of meatballs. The toasting brought out a complex nuttiness to the barley, especially enhanced by bits of onion mixed about. I intended on caramelizing a bit of liquid against the barley but since Bubs had just made off with the last of the apple cider and strawberry juice wasn’t going to cut it so I settled on the unexpected. Pickle juice is entirely underrated in cooking, it is certainly acrid because of the vinegar in the brine but if you can flash cook it off with a bit sugar added to the mix, it’s a lovely addition. Be sure to add the demera sugar prior to the pickle so that it bubbles away into a slight sugar coating on the barley.

I served this stew with the most tender tea biscuits I have ever had. They were Mr.’s creation: To cut out the fat he used mango puree which somehow made for the best tea biscuits he’s made and he is the official tea biscuit baker around here. The mango biscuit should be up soon but until it is, I am absolutely positive that a traditional biscuit would do!

Be warned that the barley will thicken some of the soup, I found it necessary to add a fair amount of water to keep it from becoming a risotto, keep a kettle of boiling water at the ready if you find it thickening too quickly. Because the only ingredient that seems to need a specific cook time and that is only 20 to 25 minutes this is a meal that is quick to prepare.

Barley Stew

½ white onion

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

one cup white pearl barley

one tablespoon demera sugar

3-4 tablespoons pickle juice

500 mL chicken stock

1 litre of boiling water

¼ cup stewed tomatoes

one apple, finely diced with the peel still on

S&P to taste

  1. In a medium sized pot heat one tablespoon of oil on medium-low heat until it slips easily across the bottom of the pan. At this point, add the onion and sprinkle of kosher salt. Cook until translucent and the oils release.
  2. Bring the heat up to a snappy medium-high and quickly add the barley. Using a wooden spoon, turn the barley so that it does not burn. It will begin to make a snapping sound and slightly brown.
  3. Add the sugar and quickly stir it in so that you can slowly add the pickle juice. Allow the juice to boil up around the barley before adding the stock, water and tomatoes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the apple. Cover and boil for 20 to 25 minutes, checking the water level periodically..
  5. Salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Enjoy.