Archive for Breakfast

Recipe: Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes

So the day of thanks has come and gone, and you’re probably still recovering from the celebratory meal. Welcome to the holidays and the bounty of leftovers that come with it.

Many recipes at this time of year have to do with leftover turkey but overlook the supporting cast from that Thanksgiving meal. Yet those pantry extras deserve just as much respect and can allow for even greater culinary creativity.

Take that canned pumpkin purée, for example. While most people will use it to make pie, canned pumpkin adds a delicious sense of the fall season to other foods such as breads, cookies, and soup. Or even pancakes.

Pumpkin and pancakes may seem unlikely partners at first, but the purée blends seamlessly into the batter. When cooked, you get orange-hued pancakes that are autumn on a plate. I like to add pecans, another staple of the season easily found in markets, for a bit of crunch and extra flavor.

With this recipe, you can quickly and easily use that extra can of pumpkin purée (or have a reason to try the stuff in the first place) and load up on some breakfast carbs ahead of the holiday madness.

Let’s make some pumpkin pecan pancakes.

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Easy Recipe: Frozen Yogurt Breakfast Bars

We’ve all been told a million times how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the one that literally fuels our body as we set off to tackle traffic, work, school or whatever else the morning throws at us. But in our rush to get out the door, it’s all too easy to skip what seems like a culinary inconvenience.

And here’s where this week’s recipe arrives to save the day. Cereal and yogurt are simple go-to’s when we’re running short on time and motivation, but they can get old fast. Enter the Frozen Yogurt Breakfast Bar. This was a staple in my wife’s family when she was growing up. With five kids to dress, feed and get out the door, any shortcuts were welcome and they swore by this one. If my wife’s memory serves, it was obtained decades ago from the side of a Grape-Nuts box.

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Take the sizzle out of summer with homemade smoothies

It’s hot. You don’t want to cook. The kids and/or you want something sweet in your mouth, pronto, and the temptation to pull into a convenience store, grab the biggest reservoir you can find and fill it with semi-frozen sugar water churned from a machine is running at a 99.9 percent chance.

Hang on.

It’s times like these where a little planning can save you and the family from catastrophe, not to mention the crazed state of mind resulting from sugar rush. You can easily make a better-tasting and better-for-you summer treat in less time than it takes to run to the corner quickie mart.

Homemade smoothies require only a blender, juice, fruit and your imagination. There are, of course, many juice shops eager to sell you their version, but more often than not those drinks are overpriced and over-iced. You can make your own for much less money, and you’ll know exactly what went into the thing.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s literally throwing ingredients into a blender and turning it on. If there’s one tricky part, it’s getting the right consistency and enough “frozen-ness” instead of liquid.

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How to make homemade hash browns

Shredded hash browns can be confidence killers in the kitchen. In restaurants they look and taste so darn good, we often think: “How hard can they be to make? Just shred potatoes and throw them in a pan, right?” And then we end up with mushy spuds that are overly browned on the outside but gray on the inside. To our chagrin, they’re anything but the crispy, delicious patties we get when dining out.

Some of us seek solace by making the easier, chunky style hash browns with diced potatoes, telling ourselves they’re just as good. Others never even try again.

Well, friends, buy a bag of Russets, ‘cause we’re about to change that.

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Recipe: Homemade cheese biscuits

It’s true: Some foods have a near-global appeal. No matter where you’re from or what your food preferences are, they speak the universal language of delicious.

Oftentimes these culinary all-stars are rather simple, and shine not just because they taste good, but because they have other inherently likable characteristics as well, such as an agreeable texture and ease of handling. One such food that immediately comes to my mind is the biscuit.

These simple, puffy clouds of carbohydrate goodness have a seemingly magical quality about them. Through the centuries they have been found everywhere from the sacks of traveling peasants to gilded baskets atop linen tablecloths.

They can be savory or sweet, and only get better when teamed with condiments such as butter, honey or gravy. Biscuits are also special in that they can be had for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack; eaten as a side; or, when cut in half, used for a sandwich.

When I told a colleague that I’d be making some, he asked if I use Bisquick. My eyes immediately shot daggers.

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Carrot Pineapple bread is one sweet treat

So Wifey recently struck a deal, and when Degens find deals we go big or go home. In this case she scored a 25-pound bag of carrots. For $4.

Needless to say, just about every dish I’ve made in the past week has included the orange roots. If I were eating any more of these things I’d grow a bushy white tale and be saying, “What’s up, Doc?” But in addition to stocking up some vegetarian friends, the surplus has also given me opportunity to experiment with the versatile veggies.

One of my more tasty uses for carrots is using them for something sweet, and it’s not cake. It’s actually in a quick-bread batter that can be used for bread or muffins.

Finely grated carrots give this bread a dash of color and a subtle crunch. I add in some crushed pineapple for extra pizazz. While I admit this recipe is more of a treat – as muffins and dessert breads usually are – I give mine a degree more of healthful properties by mixing in whole-wheat flour and using canola oil instead of butter.

Best of all, it’s a snap to make and uses the standard muffin/quick-bread method of simply mixing wet ingredients into dry, popping your chosen bakeware into an oven and, voila, half an hour later you’ve got a tasty treat that makes a fine dessert pairing with coffee or a breakfast indulgence. Hey it’s got carrots so it must be good for you, right?

You won’t need 25 pounds for this recipe. In fact just one carrot should do the trick. Guess I’m lucky that these loaves and freeze well.

Let’s bake.

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Old-fashioned oatmeal is like comfort in a bowl

If there’s one recipe that represents a warm, wholesome breakfast, it’s a piping hot bowl of oatmeal. The classic dish is cheap, nutritious and filling. When craving this comfort in a bowl to start the day, it’s easy to grab a packet of that instant stuff and dump in some hot water. While that can be convenient, it doesn’t take much longer to make old-fashioned oatmeal, well, the old-fashioned way: by simmering it in water or milk for several minutes.

The result is a better-tasting, better-textured product, and because you’re making it yourself, you can tailor just how much sugar and other additives go in. Besides, if you make enough to have leftovers the next day, you’ll have “instant” oatmeal then: all it takes is a trip to the microwave. It will taste just as good if not better than the first day, since the ingredients have had time to mesh.

Another bonus: Old-fashioned oatmeal easily goes from modest to marvelous with a few ingredients like brown sugar, cinnamon and dehydrated fruits like cranberries and raisins, which will plump up as they absorb the cooking liquid.

For a special treat, I like to make mine with fresh berries, which pack an extra punch when it comes to nutrition and flavor.

If you’ve always relied on that instant stuff for your oatmeal fix, grab a box labeled “old-fashioned oats” (they’re just a few bucks and last forever) and get ready start your day on an extra-wholesome note.

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French toast is frugal and fabulous

Waste not, want not.

Those words ring truer than ever in today’s uncertain economic times, and in another place as well: the kitchen.

Experts such as Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, Tuscon, says the average American family throws away $1,200 in food each year, which translates to about 500 pounds of food annually. That’s a shame on many levels, and you probably don’t need a Ph.D.  to point out that it’s costly on many levels, too.

Luckily, certain recipes can equal salvation for foodstuffs otherwise destined for a squanderous demise. Take bread, for instance. This pantry staple, especially the fresh-baked, preservative-free variety, can go south faster than the stock market in fall of 2008.

I used to find myself tossing the stuff all too often once it started to get dry and hard. Then I started purposely re-purposing it, giving those stale slices new life in French toast.

Bread that has lost its moisture is actually the perfect vehicle for French toast, because you want a certain amount of stiffness for it to stay together after it’s been dipped in an egg mixture and thrown in a frying pan or on a griddle.

Once plated, those luscious slabs of bread won’t be dry any longer. They will get plenty moist from the batter, not to mention the butter and syrup that are subsequently slathered on top. If you’ve never made French toast, here’s your chance. If you’re an old hand at it, try this version with a citrus twist. It’s so good — not to mention cheap and easy — you might find yourself buying an extra loaf of bread just to leave it out. Here’s how to make it happen.

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Bodacious banana pancakes

There is nothing quite like the breakfast comfort food that is a big stack of pancakes. They stand triumphant before diners everywhere, a tower of fluffy goodness bathed in syrup and butter. Does it get any better than that?

Well it certainly can with additions such as chocolate chips, pecans, or my favorite – bananas.

While it’s easy and inexpensive to grab a box of Krusteaz or the premixed stuff from Aunt Jemima, making your own pancakes is even cheaper and tastes way better than that stuff that comes from a box or (gasp!) a jug. It really doesn’t take much longer to make ( we’re talking all of 10 to 15 minutes), and you can tailor it exactly to your tastes and nutritional needs, such as substituting all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour.

Basic pancakes are made with just a few pantry and refrigerator staples, and are a magnificent way to begin the day. All it takes to make your own is combining ingredients, mixing them together and cooking on a nonstick griddle or skillet.

If you’ve never made your own pancakes from scratch, here’s your chance. Try this recipe and odds are that pre-made stuff will never taste the same.

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How to make an omelet, not a mess

In theory, making an omelet is not a difficult task. Throw some eggs in a pan, flip, presto. Then again, in theory, the concept of gravity seems pretty simple, too.

Despite their presence on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables everywhere – not to mention being made rapid fire like at the end of every overpriced Sunday brunch line – the perfect omelet can be an elusive entree for the novice cook.

Though the ingredients are simple and ubiquitous – eggs, milk and fillings such as cheese – the dish itself too often turns into scrambled eggs when the attempt at flipping or even getting the thing not to stick to the pan go haywire. Yes, the perfect omelet, folded over on itself and cooked to creamy perfection, can present a challenging endeavor.

Many omelet newbies make their first mistake before they even begin. The problem? Using eggs straight from the fridge. When cold eggs meet a hot pan, that’s a recipe for disaster because the eggs will be prone to stick, not slide.

The second major faux pas is using a pan that isn’t lubricated or hot enough. Omelets should only take about 2-3 minutes to make, and to do it in that time, you need to make sure your pan has preheated on the stove.

As for pans, this is where nonstick is a major help, especially for those new to making omelets. Size also matters: For a two- to three-egg omelet you’ll want a 10-inch nonstick pan with sloped sides for easier flipping.

Do omelets still sound eggs-cruciating? If you’ll pardon my bad pun, I’ll show you how to make the perfect cheese omelet that will be a quick, nutritious meal any time of the day or night. Let’s get crackin’!

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