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Red Quinoa Breakfast

There’s been a lot of talk about it and I’ve seen it used in so many recipes but I had never tried it.  Many of my friends eat it for breakfast, some use it to make side dishes, veggie burgers and such.  Always on the lookout for good, healthy foods, I finally broke down and bought me a bag.

 

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Since my really good friend, Sandra, told me that she eats this for breakfast every day, I decided I would try it for breakfast first.  What better way to start using a grain than to have it to start my day? As you can see from the photo above, the little red grains are super tiny!  And the red quinoa is supposed to have a sweeter flavor to it than regular quinoa.  I wasn’t sure if I should have soaked them or not, but I decided to just follow the directions on the package and cook them.

When I make oatmeal, I like to add raisins or dried cranberries to them while cooking, thus eliminating the need for other sweeteners.  The benefits of these little seeds includes that they are quick cooking and high in fiber, very easy to assimilate and packed full of B vitamins, rich in folate and magnesium and is supposed to have the best amino acid profile of all grains.

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Cyn’s Organic Red Quinoa Breakfast

1-1/4 cups water, brought to a boil

1 cup Eden’s Organic Red Quinoa

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 pitted dates chopped small

1 tbsp Grandma’s unsulfured molasses (optional)

1 tsp Celtic Gray Sea Salt

Wash the quinoa several times in cold water and add to the salted boiling water.  Add vanilla, chopped dates and/or molasses. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Set for 5 minutes.

Stir and serve!

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I left mine a little “juicy” and ate it as it.  What a wonderful, nutty flavor that filled me up and with my piece for fruit and a slice of whole grain toast, stayed full for another 5 hours.  I think that I will try it in a burger or a salad next!

Bon appétit!

Banana Bread

One of our favorite breakfast items is homemade banana bread.  I’ve been making it for years, tweaking the recipe and messing around with it changing out the bananas for other fruits.  It has become a family favorite and my husband requests it for the guys at his office every now and then.

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Gather together all your ingredients and grab a big mixing bowl and your favorite wooden spoon and let’s make banana bread!

I have found a fantastic new use for my potato masher….mashing bananas! This wonderful tool pictured below was a gift from my thoughtful friend, Tonya.

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One of my “secrets” to having plenty of bananas ready for baking at any given time: freeze those overripe Produce Manager’s specials. You know, the ones where you can buy a whole bag of bananas for 99c! Every time they are on sale at the market, I buy 1-2 bags and peel them, lining them up in a large freezer bag. Lay the flat and you’ll have bananas ready at any time!

Here’s the recipe that I have used:

Banana Nut Bread

Preheat oven to 350F

1/3 c. shortening – note: I do NOT use shortening, substitute canola oil, extra virgin coconut oil or safflower oil – cup for cup

3/4 c. sugar – I cut this back to 1/4 cup

2 eggs – I half this

1 3/4 cup flour – I take the 3/4 cup & change it out to whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp. aluminum free baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt – I use kosher salt or sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. mashed bananas – as you can see from the picture above, I pour the thawed bananas and the juices in all together, plus I use more than a cup…..makes it extra good!

1 cup chopped walnuts – or your favorite nut – pecans are good for this too.

3 tbsp. milk – I use unsweetened soy milk – you can use whatever you want

In a large bowl, cream together milk, oil/shortening and sugar; add egg and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and add to creamed mixture.  Stir until well mixed. Fold in bananas and nuts, blending well. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and pick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Wrap and store overnight.

Or as we do in our house….slice it up hot and chow down!

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Cutting back on the sugar works okay for this recipe if the bananas are super ripe. If you are concerned about any bitter taste, make sure that your bananas are just spotted, not super black. But if they are that ripe, a couple little scoops of stevia will help adjust the flavor and allow the sugar amount to be cut in half or more.  Pure honey also works well as a sugar replacement in this recipe. You’ll need to reduce the oil/shortening amount to compensate for the extra moisture that honey provides.

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Won’t you pull up a chair, have a cup of tea and a slice of banana bread with me? I’d like that very much!

The Hot Brown–Kentucky Derby Style!

Today is a very full day. It’s the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo and spectacular Moon weekend. I’ve been thinking all week about what to make and blog about and really had a hard time deciding on just one item. Since we eat a lot of Mexican food, I thought that I’d first try something I’ve never had before. The infamous Hot Brown. In my discussions with my foodie friend, Heather, the Hot Brown sounded like a nice treat. She is a Kentucky-born foodie who I really enjoy talking with. We talk recipes all the time!

In looking over the images online, I found many different versions of this very popular sandwich. This got me wondering which was the original way? I’m not from Kentucky, so I

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really didn’t know about this sandwich. Well, I’d heard of it, but had never seen it, nor tasted it! After talking to my Foodie Friend Heather…I decided it was time to try it.

What is the Hot Brown? Back in the Roaring 20s, guests of The Brown Hotel was a hot spot for dancers and would attract upwards of 1,200 dancers every evening. After dancing into the early morning hours, guests would head for the restaurant to find something wonderful to eat. At the time, everyone was bored with the typical ham and eggs. To help keep his guests happy and coming back, Chef Fred Schmidt created this open faced turkey sandwich with bacon and delicate Mornay Sauce. Needless to say, this is one popular sandwich today!

Hot Brown Brown Hotel

This is the Brown Hotel recipe is reminiscent of a time when whole fats were used constantly and stacked on each other.  I immediately started thinking about how I could tweak this recipe to make it healthier while still enjoying a classic dish. We don’t use heavy cream in our house, but I realized that the cream is probably what creates a good portion of the flavor, so substituting a low fat milk would probably work well. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, an unsweetened nut milk would work as well as a vegetable protein meat replacement for the turkey and bacon. For the butter, you can substitute with Earth Balance or other type Heart Healthy expeller pressed oil “butter” spread.

The Hot Brown by the Louisville Brown Hotel

2 oz. whole butter

2 oz. all purpose flour

16 oz. heavy cream

1/2 c. pecorino Romano cheese

Salt & Pepper, to taste

14 oz. sliced turkey breast

2 slices Texas Toast, crust trimmed

4 slices crispy bacon

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half

Paprika, Parsley

In a 2-qt saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and slowly whisk in the all-purpose flour to make a thick roux. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream and cook another 2-3 minutes or until the cream begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the cheese and stir until the Mornay Sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble:

Place the toast in an oven-safe dish, cover with 7-oz of the sliced turkey, take the Roma tomato halves and place alongside the base of the turkey & toast. Pour the Mornay Sauce to completely cover the dish. Top with cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese browns and bubbles. Remove. Cross the bacon on the top, garnish with paprika & parsley. Serve immediately.

Hot Brown Veggie Styel

This is my version of the Hot Brown with oatmeal toast….and since I don’t eat bacon, I used “veggie” bacon. I know, it’s an oxymoron, but still was good! And I used my sliced yellow tomato – and broiled it with the rest. I used Romano and Parmesan cheeses grated super fine and low fat milk to make the Mornay Sauce. While my hubby didn’t try this (I would have used turkey bacon for him) I enjoyed something a little different for breakfast.

Happy Derby Day!

Blackberry Fields Forever

When it comes to fruit, it is really hard to find one that I don’t like. And when it comes to Sunday mornings, more often than not, pancakes made from scratch and fresh fruit is the menu choice of the day! Growing up, my dad and mom used to make pancakes for Sunday morning breakfast every now and then. Boy, were they delicious! I never dreamed I would one day own a home that would have blackberry bushes! It took a year, but the harvest was unbelievable! And I never had to plant them! These berries came from my bachelorette pad which we now refer to lovingly as our “other house.” To preserve them, I froze a batch of them and now have them whenever I feel like having one!

Years ago, I quit using box mixes and started learning to make my pancakes from scratch. That way, I can control what goes in and more importantly, what doesn’t go into my dishes! Let’s get cooking!

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I don’t measure much once I have mastered a recipe. So to make things easier, I have taken a recipe that I started with that is very good. If you’ve never done this, it’s a great start and as you get this recipe mastered, you can play with it and change it.

The original recipe is as follows:

4 tbsp SACO Buttermilk Blend

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 c. water

2 tbsp. oil

Sift dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Add beaten egg, water and oil. Beat just until batter is smooth. Don’t overbeat! A few lumps in the batter will be fine. Set aside your batter for just a few minutes. Using a non-stick spray, drop by small ladle-full or by tablespoonful onto a heated skillet, turning once lightly browned. Stack and butter.

Now here is what I’ve done with the recipe:

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Cyn’s Pancakes (except for the flour, please keep in mind my measurements are approximate)

3 tbsp. SACO Buttermilk Blend

1 tbsp. raw wheat germ

1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 c. soy flour

1/4 tsp. stevia extract powder

1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 egg

1 c. organic soy milk

2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (I love vanilla!)

Sift together all the dry ingredients and add beaten egg, milk and vanilla. Beat just until batter is smooth. Do not overbeat! This recipe makes about 10 pancakes. Just double or adjust for servings needed.

While watching a cooking show which featured homemade syrup, I decided to try it. The first couple of tries, it wasn’t the correct consistency. I’m still working on perfecting the syrup, but here is the recipe:008

1 c. sugar (I used dark brown sugar)

1 c. water

bring to a boil, let cool, serve while warm

You can add your favorite fruits, extract flavorings, like vanilla, and/or a dash of cream to vary the flavors.

By the time our breakfast was ready, the blackberries had thawed and were ready to eat.

I use real, un-salted, sweet cream butter or a vegetarian variety, Earth Balance Spread atop the pancakes. Add a few of the thawed blackberries and finish with the homemade syrup. Mmmmm! So good!

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Bon Appetite! Until next time….

The Delicious Disaster

Years ago, I used to frequent a lovely little restaurant called La Bonne Crepes. Ever since then, I have developed a taste for wonderful savory crepes and on occasion, a delightful dessert crepe. Sometimes I just get a craving for something really good. And often times it needs to be of French or Asian origin!

Crepe batterIn my mind, I figured that the batter was essentially a thinner pancake batter and decided to plunge right in and just make it without a recipe. Pulling out my larger Pyrex measuring cup, I made my batter: flour, water, salt, a pinch of baking powder and vanilla. Mixed it all together into a thin “pancake” batter and let it set. WRONG!!!! This is why this is my delicious disaster!

The first to go in the pan wouldn’t set and then it stuck so badly, I had to scrape it out and dump it in the trash! So I grabbed my trusty iPad and went searching for a good recipe. I found a wonderful recipe by one of my favorite TV chefs, Alton Brown on the Food Network Website. So here is what you need to make crepes:Crepe pan disaster

Crepe Batter

2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1 cup flour

3 tbsp melted butter, and enough butter to coat the pan.

Place all the ingredients into a blender and pulse together for 10 seconds. Then chill in the refrigerator for an hour. This will let the bubbles subside which will help prevent  the crepes from breaking apart. This batter will keep for 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick round pan, coat with butter. Pour 1 ounce of batter in the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for about 30 seconds and flip, cooking for another 10 seconds. Remove from the pan and let cool on the cutting board. Continue with the rest of the batter, letting each crepe cool on the cutting board until all batter is gone.

Crepes can be stacked and frozen for up to 2 months or refrigerated for several days.

Variations:

Savory – add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the batter

Sweet – add 2-1/2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and 2 tbsp of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

Crepe PanIt is obvious that I need to get a proper pan to make crepes, but since the stainless steel one didn’t work out well, I switched to my trusty cast iron pan, and found a little bit better success with it. It was very difficult to flip the crepes and I think mine were much too thick to qualify as a “real crepe.” Once cooled, they did fold easily enough, but they were definitely too thick (blame it on the baking powder!).

Recently I picked up some lemon curd and thought that mixed with some other ingredients, would make a wonderful filling for these crepes.

Filling Ingredients:

Approx. 4-oz Neufchatel cheese

1 tbsp lemon curd

1/4 tsp organic stevia extractCrepe Ingredients

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend together in food processor until smooth. Filling should be thick.

Sliced strawberries

Sliced banana

Nutella

Take a cooled crepe and lightly spread a little Nutella in the middle. With a small teaspoon, add a little of the lemon curd mixture and top with banana slices and strawberries and another dollop of lemon curd mixture. Folding the crepes to overlap, then top with banana and strawberry slices and drizzle with the lemon curd mixture.

Crepe Finished plate

It’s always been my favorite to include lots of fresh fruit for breakfast or brunch and this was no exception. So I decided to add some sliced pears to my plate at the last second!

While these crepes didn’t fold as easily as they should and were not the perfectly round shape they are supposed to be, they were delicious. It was a wild combination of flavors and when I do them again, I will probably tone it down a little as the lemon curd was very tart. The Nutella has a very strong chocolate, nutty flavor that is melt-in-your-mouth-wonderful, but together these two very vivid flavors almost over-powered each other. Still, it was very good and I can’t wait to go shopping for a proper crepe pan and start all over. I’m thinking a spinach/mushroom savory crepe should be next!

As Julia used to say, Bon Appetit!

Just a Spice of Heaven

This year my birthday is on the weekend so to celebrate my husband treated me to a day in Gatlinburg for the first part of the weekend. We love Gatlinburg. It’s about 50 miles from Morristown, easily driven in about an hour unless you get caught up in traffic on the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge end. One way to go is from Newport off of I-40 with a stop off at Wal-Mart to top off that gas tank and pick up any snacks you might need!

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While it is the quintessential tourist-trap, there are some neat little nooks to check out. Whether you want to shop, eat, see the sights or just people watch, there is plenty to do!

For one, I think that Gatlinburg is a place chockfull of delightful places. There are so many great little mom and pop places to shop and dine at as well as many of the easily recognized chain restaurants, if that is what you’re looking for.

One of our most favorite places to eat is Best Italian. We usually go to the original location near the National Park entrance because you can get patio seating there. There is nothing like sitting down next to a bubbly creek and having your dinner in the shade. Our favorite is the spinach pizza and they have the most sinful garlic rolls that are just to die for! If you’ve Best Italian rollsnot eaten there before, it’s a great place to stop! You can see more of their menu at Best Italian – Gatlinburg. They have an extensive menu of the usual pasta favorites, entrees and a wide range of appetizers and salads. But don’t forget dessert! Don’t be surprised if you have to wait a little for this wonderful food, because once you’ve been there, you’ll understand exactly why it’s such a popular place! And for those who enjoy a glass of wine or other drink with their meal, Best Italian offers teas, sodas and drinks from the bar.

But if you like pancakes and enjoy a great pancake breakfast then you have to stop at Pancake Pantry. Serving Gatlinburg since 1960, they have a wide assortment of choices from buttermilk pancakes to whole wheat and buckwheat pancake meals that are available all day! If pancakes are not your thing, then lunch is also available after 11:30. I was particularly delighted to see that in the middle of all their PancakePantryFrontlunch choices there was a veggie burger! For all you vegetarians out there, you can have a sandwich with that salad! So the next time we are back in town, I’m going to be sure and try their black bean burger! This time is was the Morningstar! Shredded potatoes, green and red peppers, onions, scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes. (I did not eat anything from the day before to be sure I had room for these scrumptious pancakes!)

Their claim to fame? Everything is made from scratch and they use real butter and fresh whipped cream. Since I make most of my dishes from scratch at home, this is what I really look for. The taste is so different and so wonderful that you’ll want to return again and again! Once inside, the warm atmosphere of days gone by welcomes you. Surrounded by rich oak, rustic copper and century-old brick, you’ll immediately feel at home. Cozy table settings and friendly staff make this a great place to bring the family as well. And the best part of all, it’s easy on the wallet! Check out this great place the next time you’re there!

We love going to this section of the Strip, because it’s where The Village sits. There are several little shops and eateries tucked into the mountain side creating a look much like the one found in story books. There are shops for The Villagesouvenirs and gifts, a Thomas Kinkade gallery shop, the Cheese Cupboard & it’s restaurant, a toy shop, a coffee shop and one that I’m particularly delighted with, The Spice & Tea Exchange of Gatlinburg.

Their invitation to come in and “smell the spices” is an invitation that this home-grown cook could not resist! This shop is tucked into a little corner on the back side of The Village and walking into it was like walking through a dream. Jars lined the walls filled with hand-blended spices, teas and salts! It was spice heaven for me! These are gourmet rubs, salts, sugars and herb blends to create dishes like never before! I couldn’t leave without trying something, so I spent some time debating which of the sea salts I wanted to try or should I get a tea or seasoning rub? In the end my love of teas won and I chose a delightful tin of International Breakfast Tea. It is a loose leaf black tea with chocolate undertones to it. And after smelling and letting my mind go wild with what I could create in the kitchen, I chose the French Grey Sea Salt. This is one that you’ve heard chefs, cooks and other culinary experts talk about! I cannot wait to try it!Spice & Tea

Like I said earlier this weekend is my birthday weekend. This little day trip was a gift from my husband to celebrate my special day!

Since we did not do any birthday cake and had decided we didn’t want to buy one then have so much of it sitting around enticing us to eat it the rest of the week, we went to another one of our favorite stops in The Village: The Donut Friar. Freshly made and in smaller quantities, these wonderful donuts have that melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Now since we’ve been cutting back on our sugar intake it was a bit of a sugar shock but let there be no doubt, every bit of it was enjoyed! They have cake donuts, éclairs, filled pastries, and several other types of yeast, glazed and filled donuts. As you can imagine, this donut shop is quite busy no matter when you stop by! But the great news is that you can just buy one, enjoy it and not worry about having more around to tempt you! Then next time you’re in Gatlinburg, stop by and get another!

Despite the rainy day, we had a load of fun and can’t wait to spend more time over there again. And we have a couple more places to take some very special friends the next time they are here visiting us!

Happy New Year Week! May the rest of your year be as wonderful as the first day of my “new year” was!