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Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category

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Not long ago, I had a discussion on Twitter regarding baked donuts.  I ascertained that a baked donut is not a donut at all.  More of a muffin really, than a donut.  A round muffin with a hole in the middle.  In my opinion, a donut – or doughnut – needs to be fried and I was quite adamant about it.  Absolutely, no question, in my mind that skipping the deep fat is skipping a crucial step in the delicious donut process.  The doughy masses greatly benefit in both flavor and texture from a little swim in some hot oil.  But it got me to thinking.  While I still believe a baked donut is more of a muffin, could they be as delicious as a donut?  I aimed to find out.

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If you made anything besides the standard pumpkin pie last week, which neatly uses exactly one can of pumpkin puree, chances are good you opened your refrigerator this weekend to find a half full can of pumpkin.  You probably unearthed it as you removed containers, dishes, bags and bowls of Thanksgiving leftovers and wondered “what the hell am I supposed to do with that?”  If you’re like me, you probably shoved it right back in with an instantly forgotten mental note to deal with it later.  Well, if you haven’t already tossed it, now is the time.

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Every Thanksgiving growing up started the same way:  warm Pillsbury whack-a-tube caramel rolls and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with extra marshmallows in front of the TV watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in our PJs.  We’d sing along with whatever popstar was floating down 5th Avenue, ooh and aah at the balloons, wait eagerly for the Broadway numbers, wonder why the Rockettes weren’t freezing and freely judge the Santa was based on very important factors like beard length (Was it real? Incredibly important) and costume authenticity.  Then we usually snacked on the turkey livers, squirted some Reddi-Whip in our mouths when our mom wasn’t looking and waited out the long, endless afternoon until Thanksgiving dinner and a few football games.

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2012 was a crap year for Michigan fruit, particularly tree fruits, particularly apples.  An unseasonably warm spring coupled with a late frost dealt a crippling blow, knocking out by some estimates up to 80% of Michigan’s apple harvest for the year.  It was devastating and maybe you didn’t notice, satisfied with Washington apples or imported fruit, but those of us who frequent Midwest farmers markets noticed.

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I have a deep love for breakfast pastries.  Crazy love.  As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day.  Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day.  I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap.  In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds.  A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration.  I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.

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Breakfast is a challenge for me.  “The most important meal of the day” mantra has been drilled into my head but it doesn’t matter.  I need an hour or two to fully wake up and get moving before I can eat.  At that point, it could be anything. Classic eggs-bacon-toast combos if I have time, a quick bowl of oatmeal, day-old cake or a donut maybe, leftover Chinese food, sometimes just a giant ice tea.  I have no regular morning routine besides this:  no chocolate.  In general, chocolate based breakfasts – besides that leftover cake of course – are not my thing. It just seems weird.

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I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia. I knew I’d get there at some point, the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself.  Yet.  Then during a trip to Napa Valley last June, there is was, right in front of me.  After many, many glasses of wine my friend Rachel leaned across the bar and said “Kathy, you have to come to the wedding.”  “Of course!” I replied, “I’m game for a road trip to Iowa!”  She looked at me, dead serious, and said “No, it’s in Sweden.  On Thanksgiving.”  “Wait …what?”  “Yep, Sweden. In the town my mother grew up in. Höör.”  And that my friends, is how I came to find myself in Sweden, in late November, in a curiously named town, in a tiny country church built in 1727 witnessing two friends tie the knot and enjoying a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at the reception.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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I’ve taken quite a fancy to making cheese lately. Some dairy, a little acid, a touch of heat and you have something spectacular. I’m baffled by how easy it is and why I didn’t realize this sooner. Of course I’m not talking aged specimens, carefully tended in specially humidified caves. My recent fascination is more with the quick, fresh cheeses easily made at home without any particularly special equipment or ingredients.  It’s so simple and the results far outpace anything you’ll find on a grocery shelf.  I’m not kidding.  So why don’t we do it more?  Because we’re dumb.

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In the last post, I told you all about my obsession with butter which resulted in actually making my own butter.  It really is very easy and you may have already done it by accident without realizing it.  Whip cream until it separates and there you go.  The byproduct of the process is of course the liquid that separates out from the solids:  buttermilk.  While my freshly made golden butter was chilling, I decided to take that beautiful buttermilk and make some biscuits.  Oh hell yes.  When I’m in, I’m ALL in.

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My Grandma Claire had a tradition.  Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, she’d round up her various girlfriends and head into the city to hit the big sales.  I’m pretty sure this was before the retail world had deemed the day “Black Friday.”  For her, it was the best day of the year.  She’d wander about Neiman Marcus and visit Tony, her favorite salesman, at the cosmetic counter.  He’d fuss and fawn, stuffing her purse with perfume samples, making her over with the latest shades.  She loved the attention and for Christmas we would all receive the latest Obsession perfume gift box or Estee Lauder eye shadow kit.  For lunch, it was always the store restaurant, The Zodiac.  And it was always about the popovers with strawberry butter.

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