Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I made one of these bad boys on Saturday morning – it was the perfect addition to my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast.  The berry and banana flavors mixed with oats made it taste like a blueberry muffin in a cup.  

I’ve been using the single serving cups that came with our Ninja – they are too easy.  You just throw your ingredients into the cup, attach the blade, stick on the blender, blend for a perfect single serving, then remove and add the drinking lid.  When done, throw it in the dishwasher!
The three of us headed over to the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday morning for a 2-4 year olds art class.  It was snowing and we needed to get out of the house.  Greta loved the different methods of painting – brushes attached to long sticks, cars rolled in paint, tempera sticks, and stamping methods.  Of course, mommy was collecting ideas for her classroom as well.  

After the art center, we made a quick stop at La Mie Bakery for pastries, bread, and coffee.  Eric let me run in and pick out pastries…can you tell?  So much for the healthy smoothie and toast I had for breakfast earlier in the day.  

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie – makes 1 serving 
1. In a blender combine: 1 banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 2-3 ice cubes, and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.  
2.  Blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.  

Gluten Free Buckwheat Apple Pancakes

I whipped up a batch of these pancakes this morning for our breakfast.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and have applesauce instead of added sugar.  Served with my almond strawberry syrup, they were the perfect lazy weekend morning breakfast.  

They are easy to make up quickly from scratch, especially since they only require 6 simple ingredients – buckwheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, eggs, applesauce, and water.

I have learned from countless messy first flips to allow the griddle to heat thoroughly and look carefully at the edges of my pancakes before flipping.  The edges should look slightly dried and the centers should be bubbling.  

These are nice and fluffy pancakes.  If you like your short stack on the thinner side, omit the baking powder.

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Apple Pancakes – makes about 12 – 13 3-inch pancakes

1. In a medium bowl combine: 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

2. In a small bowl combine: 2 eggs, 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, and 1/2 cup water.

3. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add liquid ingredients, and combine with a few swift strokes.  Batter will be lumpy.  Allow batter to rest for 10 minutes while pan or griddle heats up.

4.  Pour 1/4 cup of batter per cake onto hot and greased griddle or pan.  Cook about 2 minutes per side, or until edges are dry and centers are bubbling.

5. Serve with topping of choice.

Buttermilk Waffles

These waffles are my go-to waffle recipe for many reasons – they are better than store bought by far, they are light and fluffy,  and they can be dressed up in a variety of ways.  In years past, before being a mom, I made them for Christmas morning breakfast a few times.  Now we save these waffles for weekends with family or friends.  If there are ever any leftovers I freeze them for weekday mornings.

The secret to these waffles is in the eggs.  The eggs are separated during the mixing stages – the yolks are mixed in with liquid ingredients.  The whites, however, are beaten until stiff, but not dry and then folded into the batter just before cooking.  This makes them light and fluffy beyond belief.  No one can resist just one of these waffles!  I like to serve them with fresh fruit and maple syrup or Nutella.

I use almost a 1/2 cup of batter in my waffle iron.  I keep mine set on the lower side to prevent waffles that come out too brown.  This is also helpful if you are planning on freezing and toasting them later – lighter waffles will not toast as dark.

Buttermilk Waffles – makes 6 – 8 waffles, from The Joy of Cooking, 1975

1. Sift: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. Beat in a separate bowl until light: 2 egg yolks.  Add and beat 1-3/4 cup buttermilk (or buttermilk replacement), 6 tablespoons melted butter or margarine.

3. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes.  Allow to sit while preparing egg whites.  Beat until stiff peaks form, but not dry: 2 egg whites.  Fold egg whites into batter.  Cook according to waffle iron and preferences.

Apricot Corn Muffins + Tomato & Sausage Cornbread

Cornbread and corn muffins have and always will be a staple around my household – they were when I was a kid and will continue to be into Greta’s childhood.  I have two recipes that are easy and quick – one savory and one sweet, but both easy as pie to make for a snack or meal.

The first recipe comes from the need to use tomatoes.  No, don’t worry, I will not go on a tomato binge like my previous zucchini posts.  Though I admit, I am not done with zucchini recipes, merely resting from them for the time being.  This gorgeous tomato comes from my mother’s garden, along with hundreds more.  Tomatoes anyone?

This dish is truly something worthy of a painting – soft and chewy on the inside with lovely bites of tomato and sausage (I opted for fake) with a crusty Parmesan pepper top.  This is sure to please all – real or fake sausage.

This was our dinner tonight – tomato sausage cornbread and steamed green beans.  More mom’s garden vegetables – the green beans are so good this year.

Greta asked me for seconds tonight because she helped me to prepare them!

These sweet treats were born from a large quantity of fresh apricots on the verge of being non-edible in their raw stage.  Necessity is the mother of invention, most certainly in the use it or lose game of baking and cooking.  The addition of fruits and vegetables to cornbread requires a little more baking time – so watch the oven and use a knife to ensure you avoid doughy centers.

Tomato & Sausage Cornbread 

1. Grease a glass 8×8 inch baking dish with margarine, set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, ¼ cup sugar (OR 2 tablespoons Truvia Stevia blend), 2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.

3.  In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup (almond) milk, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and 1 beaten egg.  Combine with flour mixture in a few swift strokes, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure adequate mixing.

4. Chop ½ large or 1 medium tomato into ½ pieces.  Dice 1 sausage (real or fake) into ½ inch wide pieces.  Fold into batter.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and grate fresh peppercorn on top.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or till knife inserted in middle comes out clean.

Apricot Corn Muffins – makes 12

1. Grease 12 muffin cups with margarine, or line with paper, set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup cornmeal1 cup flour¼ cup sugar (OR 2 tablespoons Truvia Stevia blend)2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.

3.  In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup (almond) milk¼ cup vegetable oil, and 1 beaten egg.  Combine with flour mixture in a few swift strokes, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure adequate mixing.

4. Cut in ½ and remove pit from 6 fresh apricots.  Place one apricot in the bottom of each muffin cup.  Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.  

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or till knife inserted in middle comes out clean.

Veggie Chorizo & Egg Taco

We have been back in Iowa for a couple weeks now, enjoying lots of family time and putting in long hours of work at the new house.  We are currently shuttling back and forth between parents’ house and our new house so that we don’t have to live in the mess.

Recently, we had a meal at my inlaws’ house that was impromptu and delicious.

I heated the veggie chorizo right in the pan with 2 eggs, cooked over medium.

I then plopped the fake meat and eggs onto two corn tortillas.

Topped off my open faced tacos with sliced tomatoes and shredded spinach and we were good to go.

Paired with a beer, and this was a perfect light lunch after working on the house all morning.

I still have 4 of these bad boys from Winston-Salem, North Carolina in my fridge.  I can’t hold out too long though – the hops are the first flavors to start to break down in a beer.  Hoppy beers do not age well.  

Banana Gluten-Free Pancakes

I have a lovely Mother’s Day idea for y’all.  Or maybe just a new pancake idea to try this weekend.  Either way, they are sure to please – bananas paired with millet flour makes a sweet but filling cake.  They are sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free to boot.  I enjoyed them this morning with my hazelnut coffee and blooming peonies.  

The recipe is based a pancake recipe I shared a while back, banana peach pancakes.  Pancakes are the go-to weekend breakfast food in this household.  Greta loves to eat her fill of pancakes and then an hour or so later, grab another pancake to eat on the go.

I am impatient with the first batch of pancakes, so I have learned a few tricks to make sure the entire batch is a good one.  First, make sure the pan is preheated and piping hot.  I do not use non-stick for health reasons, but rather a cast iron skillet that is well oiled.

 I use small amounts of batter – ¼ cup or less.  This way the pancakes are Greta size.  I always set a timer to ensure that I do not try to flip too soon and do not allow them to burn.  1-2 minutes per side is usually fine.

When the edges look dry, it is time to flip.  Do not overcrowd the skillet, then you have pancake batter all over the place.

Enjoy these babies – we have already eaten ours this morning.  A note on the millet flour – it will create a drier pancake, and it can almost biscuit-like if they are overcooked.  I made one round that was a little too dry, so watch the pan and use your timer.

Banana Gluten-Free Pancakes

1. In a medium bowl, mix together 1-¼ cup millet flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

2. In another small bowl, stir together 2 medium mashed bananas (about ¾ cup), 1 egg, and ¼ cup almond milk.  Combine wet and dry mixture in a few swift strokes, do not over mix.

3. Pour batter onto preheated and oiled pan.  Bake 1-2 minutes per side.  Serve with honey.  

Fried Egg Sandwich 101

This is one of my all-time favorite meals – the egg sandwich.  I will eat it any time of day and any day of the week and the best part is dressing this simple food up with a variety of condiments, fruits, spreads, and vegetables. 

The most common way that I make a fried egg is to heat one of my cast iron skillets over medium-low heat until the handle is hot to the touch. I use just a light spray of olive oil.  Then, crack an egg into the pan and break the yolk with a turner.  If you want a sunny-side up egg, leave the yolk intact.  Cook 1-2 minutes per side, depending on your preferences.  I hate a crispy, dried edges egg, but also hate runny whites.  In other words, I stand guard over my cooking eggs, never leaving the pan.

In a pinch, a I will whisk one egg with a bit of almond milk in a bowl.  Then, microwave on high for 1:20 or till done.  Use a spatula to loosen egg and use in place of pan-cooked egg.  The egg can easily be sliced and diced to fit your needs.  This method works best for feeding hangry toddlers in the wee hours of the day, too.

Fried egg sandwich #1 – Tropics Theme.  Simply layer lettuce, slice avocado, and crushed pineapple on a slice of toasted bread.  Then, place cooked egg and melted cheese on second slice of bread.  Layer into a sandwich and enjoy.

Eric created and made this tropical infused fried egg sandwich and I was impressed with the complexity of textures and flavors in this combination.

Sandwich #2 – Spicy Avocado Fried Egg. My go-to fried egg sandwich is simple: slice avocado, a swirl of Sriracha, and a fried egg on toasted bread.

I used rye bread for this sandwich.  Never underestimate your choice of bread for a fried egg sandwich.

I love this and would wear it proudly.  

Sandwich #3 – Egg-in-a-Hole.  Start with a solid bread – something with a nice crust and a chewy interior is best.  We opted for dried tomato & cheddar from our favorite local bakery, Loaf.  Cut a hole in the center of the bread and either butter up with a spread, or spray the pan with olive oil.

Preheat the pan and place bread on hot pan.  Crack egg into hole in bread, cook 1-2 minutes per side, again depending on your preferences for eggs.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile, prepare bed of lettuce on a plate.  Transfer cooked bread & egg onto bed of lettuce and drizzle with Sriracha.  This is an easy and elegant brunch or breakfast.  Breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day anyone?

Sandwich #4 – Hard Boiled & Mustard.  Place eggs in a sauce pan, submerged completely with cold water, place pan on stove and turn on heat to high.  When water reaches boiling, turn water down to medium high and boil for 10 minutes.  Drain water, rinse and soak in ice water completely to prevent the yolks turning greenish.  Peel and slice.

Toast wheat bread slices, layer with lettuce.  Place sliced eggs on top of lettuce.  Mix in a small bowl 1-2 tablespoons of mayo with 1-2 tablespoons of stone ground mustard and a few dashes of hot sauce.  Spread mustard mixture over top of eggs.

Cherry Hazelnut Muffins

These muffins are so tasty and low in sugar!  I have been on this baking with Stevia kick and am really liking the results.  The combination of hazelnut and cherries comes about as a search for a spring break muffin – in other words “What do I have that I can use up and it will still taste good?”

I decided to try out the Truvia Baking product.  This is a Stevia sugar mix – if you need 1 cup of sugar, you use ½ cup of this product.  My recipe needed ⅓ cup sugar, so I ended up using 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of the Truvia.  This does not make these muffins sugar-free, but very low in sugar, and yet they still have a sweet taste.

The dried cherries I had have sugar in them – drat!  It is amazing how many food items actually contain sugar once you start reading labels carefully.

Hazelnuts always remind me of chick peas.

Chop up the cherries and hazelnuts and add to the dry mixture.

I decided to try another new baking product – If You Care Unbleached Large Baking Cups.  They are unbleached and chlorine-free.  Normally, I just skip the baking cups altogether, but they are nice to have on hand, especially if you are planning on taking your muffins or cupcakes to a party or gathering.

Fill the cups ¾ full and bake at lower temperatures for larger muffins.

Eat warm – try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.  I noticed that 1 hour after I made these babies FIVE were already gone!

Cherry Hazelnut Muffins – makes 12 muffins, adapted from Joy of Cooking

1.  Combine in a medium bowl: 1 ¾ flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Stevia, and ⅓ cup toasted wheat bran.

2. Whisk together in a small mixing bowl: 2 eggs, ¼ cup oil, ¾ cup almond milk.

3. Combine with the flour mixture: ¾ cup chopped dried cherries and ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add egg mixture and combine with a few swift strokes.

4. Fill prepared muffin cups ¾ full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.


Earl Grey & Orange Muffins

These muffins came about as a result from my weekly brainstorming about scones, tea, and English snacks in preparation for my Sunday English connection recipe in celebration of a new Downton Abbey.  Tune in Sunday evenings 9/8 central on PBS!

I love using a glass measuring cup instead of a small bowl when baking – it is easy to handle, easy to microwave, and easy to wash – just throw it in the dishwasher.  
I used Tazo tea for this recipe.  The earl grey is a lovely flavor – black tea with the orange flavor of bergamot and a touch of lavender.  
To include the tea in these muffins, I simply cut open 4 tea bags and poured them into a measuring spoon.  Then, I mixed the tea directly into the flour mixture.  

I added orange zest to bring out the bergamot flavor even more.  I used about 1/2 an orange for the zest in this recipe.

Make a well in the dry ingredients to make mixing easier.  
I like my muffins bigger so I filled only 11 cups for this recipe. 
As you can see, there are already a few missing – these were pretty popular around here this afternoon.  These lovely muffins turn a nice golden brown – they almost remind me of a lemon poppy seed but I think the flavor is more subtle and less sweet.  The muffin recipe below, from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, minus the flavorings, is a perfect base for any muffin.  Just swap in other ingredients.
Blueberry muffins – add 1 cup blueberries.  
Chocolate chip muffins – add 1 cup chocolate chips.  
Lemon poppy seed – add 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus increase sugar to 1/2 cup.  
Cranberry muffins – add 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries plus 2 extra tablespoons sugar.  

Banana muffins – reduce milk to 1/2 cup, add 3/4 cup mashed banana, and no paper liners.

Earl Grey & Orange Muffins – makes 11 – 12 muffins, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book

1. Grease eleven or twelve 2-1/2 inch muffin cups or line with paper liners, set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl combine 1-3/4 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  Add 2 tablespoons early grey tea (from about 4 teabags) and 1 tablespoon orange zest.  Mix well.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

2. In another mixing bowl, or glass measuring cup, combine 1 egg, 1/4 cup melted margarine or butter, and 3/4 cup (almond) milk. Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened – batter will be lumpy.

3.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cup 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, till golden.  Cool in pan, on a rack for 5 minutes.  Remove and serve warm.

Berry Peach & Oat Smoothie

I am home with a sick Greta today.  She woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, so I ran in to school, put together some sub plans, switched with Eric, and came home to a runny nose, feverish, whimpering  and hand-pumping toddler.  Greta uses a mixture of baby sign language and American Sign Language to communicate her needs.  She pumps her hand like she is milking a cow and says, “Peez,” when she wants milk.  I am telling you, baby sign language is one of the best things we ever did for our daughter and I recommend that EVERYONE use this communication tool.  For the most part, it has prevented meltdowns over the simple things.    
So back to her being sick, she still has an appetite but keeps asking for milk, and due to past experiences, I wanted to avoid dairy until her fever subsides.  I made this smoothie because it is filling, simple, not sugary, and would hopefully interest her until she forgot about her repeated requests for milk.  

 I chose frozen berries and peaches because they are two of Greta’s current favorites.  I threw in some spinach as hidden greens.

The oats were added for a little filling grain and the ginger for flavor and to prevent a possibly unhappy tummy. 
I blended the fruits, spinach, ginger, and oats together with almond milk and orange juice.  I am still loving my Baby Bullet and still recommend it to all parents – it doubles as a great compact blender when you are done making baby food purees.  

Greta has a cough right now too, so I added in some honey for sweetness and to slow down her coughing.  One of the nurses at her doctor’s offices told me to use honey, not cough syrup for her cough.  Children below 1 year should never be given honey due to the risk of botulism, a serious form of food poisoning.

The finished product – Greta’s fire fighter cup, or in this case, germ busting smoothie cup and my breakfast smoothie.  She loved it and I think it distracted her from her milk hankering.  I’m off to find a bagel before she wakes from her nap.  Smoothies never hold me over for very long.  
Berry Peach Oat Smoothie – makes 1 large serving or 2 smaller servings
1. In a blender, combine 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 4 – 5 frozen peach slices, 1/2 cup frozen spinach, 1/4 cup oats, a sprinkling of ginger, 1 cup almond milk, and a splash or two of orange juice to help blend.  
2. Blend until smooth and free of lumps.  Garnish with a drizzle of honey