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Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category

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So the mad rush of the holidays is over, presents opened and all cookies delivered. Like many, I bake an ungodly amount during those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I go through a crazy amount of butter, 50lb sacks flour and sugar, chocolate in vast quantities and probably every nut and dried fruit Trader Joe’s carries a couple times over. Then, post New Year’s Day, I’m left to deal with the aftermath. Staples such as butter, sugar, and flour, I can easily handle. It’s the little bags of leftover stuff; the half bag of dried cranberries, the handful of walnuts, the ¼ cup of dried blueberries that have a way of hanging around far too long. I’ve come up with a solution for those little bits and bobs. I call it Post Holiday Granola.

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For the last few weeks, the deep purple elongated prune plums have been hanging out quietly on the farmer’s market tables. I always buy a big bag and think of the things I’ll make. Cakes mainly, of all varieties – upside down, almond batter, brown sugar glazed but maybe also a lovely French inspired custard tart, studded with a shingle of plum slices that ooze their crimson juices in the oven. My enthusiasm, though great, is often tempered by my ability to lose track of things. While I keep a running inventory in my head, I am often distracted, miscalculating the time I actually have available to make such things. I also have this fabulous habit of forgetting where I put things. I’m telling you, those refrigerator produce drawers are a hazard. It’s a wormhole in there. With the latest plums, I made a skillet cake and promptly forgot that I stashed the rest in that damn drawer, next to the miso I’ll never get around to using but keep because maybe, I just might. A week later, I found those plums in surprisingly good shape with a heady aroma but they needed to be used pronto. A small amount of jam or fruit butter was in my near future.

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1hero.lrg.IMG_3863 The annual Unprocessed October challenge is two weeks in and I’m doing OK. How about you? I’ve slipped up a few times, usually not realizing it until I’m halfway through eating or drinking something but overall this one is certainly do-able. The Vegan-Before-6 challenge I decided to tack on isn’t going nearly as well. Processed foods are easier to avoid, for me at least, but this vegan challenge takes some planning and thought. Neither of which are a particularly strong character trait of mine early in the morning. The very first day, October 1, I ate a mini Snickers bar at work, which technically voided both challenges. Great. Day 2 I purposely drove out of my way to a particular café for lunch where I thought I’d find a vegan friendly option. Not so much so I decided on the fly that simply vegetarian was an ok substitute and had gouda on my rather plain, disappointing sandwich. Day 3 I absentmindedly buttered my morning toast, out of habit. Day 4 I did it again. Day 5 I made a beautiful stir fry packed with vegetables and tofu, then tossed in a healthy shot of fish sauce before I realized what I was doing.  Day 6 I threw all rules to the wind and thoroughly enjoyed 3 fat spoonfuls of pastry cream I’d made for a Boston Cream Pie. It was delicious. And that’s when I decided I would have to amend my challenge. I really have no problem avoiding meat but dairy is my downfall, and I accept that. To do this right, I need to concentrate and now is not time so I’m going to continue with Unprocessed October and make conscious choices in other matters, vegan-ish if I can swing it. No need to beat myself up about this.

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It may be cliché, but Paris calls to me. Softly, quietly it’s a sirens song that pulls at my heartstrings. And my stomach. Everytime I visit, she welcomes me back like an old friend, no matter how much time has passed. I love nothing more than to wander about with no real plan, looking in shop windows and discovering little pastry shops on every street corner. The bakery culture in France, Paris especially, astounds and delights me. It’s not uncommon for me to start early in the morning with a list of patisserie shops and purchase something from each of them, six or seven easily depending on the neighborhood, before noon. I love to experience a city through it’s food and this is my favorite way to go about it in my favorite city. Paris’s lure may be quiet and subtle, but my friend Jane is more persistent. She’s been on my case to come for a visit for months and truthfully, it has been a few years since I’ve walked those beautiful streets. I was due. So this summer in the middle of my countryside visit, I hopped a train north and found myself in the middle of the Montparnasse train station in a mere 5 hours.

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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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