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Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category

It seems I am incapable of cooking for one person. I try, I do, but this fact has become abundantly clear during this quarantine and I am overrun with leftovers. Browning bananas, pieces of half used vegetables, staling loaves of bread, and plastic deli containers of semi-identifiable ingredients are taking over my kitchen. I don’t like leftovers so I’ve taken on the challenge of turning them into something new. Last night’s pasta, beans and greens became today’s lunchtime soup. Dinner leftovers were chopped up, encased in pie dough and reinvented as lovely turnovers. Last week’s excess cinnamon rolls became the weekend’s bread pudding. It’s been working out pretty well. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. The other day I found a plastic wrapped chunk of cornbread, hidden behind an enormous bowl of oranges. Wonderful. Forgot about that. It was fine, but stale. I thought about making stuffing to go alongside a roast chicken but bread pudding has been on my mind. What if I turned this stale hunk into a strada, a savory pudding with whatever I could wrangle up in the fridge? I could use those little bits of whatnot tucked in plastic wrap and Ziploc baggies and make something delicious. This was how a cornbread pudding was born.

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I am baking like crazy these days, fortunate that I’m well stocked with flour, sugar and yeast. I’ve been filling my days with complicated baking projects, enjoying the feel of a rising dough between my fingers, delighting in a beautiful sourdough loaf as it emerges from the oven, making small persnickety little turnovers and pasta things that take time and concentration. It’s keeping me busy, my mind active, provides a great sense of accomplishment and delivers a steady stream of delicious, comforting things. The only problem is … it’s just so much. I’ve given some away but that gets tricky in these days of social distancing and my freezer is beyond capacity. So I’ve turned to another method – small batch baking.

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It seems we’re all giving sourdough a whirl during these strange times, myself included. The first thing you have to do is get a starter going. It’s relatively simple, just flour and water, flour and water, flour and water for several days until the wild yeasts take over and really get going. Inevitably you will run into a puzzling situation … what to do with the discard. Once you have a lively starter, you pour off half before you feed it – either to bake with or to do something else. This bit is known as the discard or cast off. If you bake every day it isn’t a really a problem but I suspect the majority of us don’t. Here’s where the challenge comes in as dealing with the discard can be a whole project unto itself.

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Every year, I invite friends over to celebrate something I call “Polish Easter”. It’s a made up holiday of mine, planned loosely around the Easter holiday when schedules allow and is primarily a reason to eat the Polish foods of my childhood. It also happens to be my favorite Sunday Lunch of the year. I put on some polka tunes, pile the table high with old and new favorites – sausage and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, special breads, various vegetable dishes, the traditional butter lamb and of course the reason we’re all here: pierogies. This year it was too late to purchase a butter lamb so I made one for the first time, calling upon years of watching my father carve one out of stick of butter and with the help of several YouTube videos. It was spectacular. My Polish Easter was also later this year than usual due to busy schedules and happened to fall on May 5th so I called the event “Pierogi de Mayo”. Because of course I did.

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What’s the difference between a biscuit and a scone? I’ve always thought of scones more on the sweeter side, and a biscuit as more savory but then there’s savory scones and sweet biscuits so what the hell? They have basically the same ingredients – flour, leavening, fat, dairy – but the difference lies in texture. Scones can be a bit heavier and crumbly whereas biscuits tend to be lighter and flaky. But then … not all biscuits are flaky and yes, scones can sometimes be a bit flaky too. Back and forth, back and forth. Ugh. This author has rather strong opinions about it and I must say, I agree.

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A few years ago I met a friend for brunch at The Publican, a great restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop. Chef Paul Kahan knows what’s what; his restaurants are always outstanding. We scanned the menu and settled on a few savory dishes to share but we kept coming back to the waffle. We wanted it all so she smartly suggested we order the savory dishes to start and split the waffle for dessert. It was the best decision ever made.

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Hey! So I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, but nothing really blog worthy. More so, just some old favorites, many that I’ve already posted. With Easter coming up, there are some good things in the archives for your holiday brunches and dinners so let’s recap today.

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This time of the year, I’m all about a cider donut. Much to my delight, they start popping up in shops, grocery stores and farmers markets for the next few weeks. Sometimes, when particularly motivated, I’ll make my own but I generally prefer to leave the frying to outside sources. This past weekend my friend Pete had his annual Harvest Party at his Michigan orchard and I did a little apple picking. It didn’t seem like a lot of apples at the time but … it was a lot of apples. Shocker. I came home and started combing my files for apple recipes. When I got to donuts, I knew I was onto something because while I love cider donuts I might love apple fritters more. It was apple fritter time.

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I spend an inordinate amount of my time dealing with leftovers, which is funny because I don’t particularly care for them. Once I eat a meal, I’m done with very few exceptions. If I have people over for dinner, out comes my stash of takeout and deli containers, everything is neatly packed and labeled and goes out the door with my guests. I don’t want to see it again. But the bulk of my leftover issues lately are ingredients; an endless parade of bags, tubs and boxes of stuff. I develop recipes and every project typically involves a few shopping trips and a whole new set of ingredients. Once the project is complete, usually after several weeks, I have a dining room table full of stuff. Stuff I have to deal with quickly because the next project is usually on the horizon. I often joke that I’m going to have a “Kathy’s Pop Up Store of Half Used Bags of Stuff” in my dining room once a month. Come one, come all!

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I’m drowning in dates right now and not the good kind of dates a girl would like to be drowning in. Actual dates. Dried fruits. With pits. To start, there was nearly a pound sitting on my kitchen table, leftover from a project I finished just before the holidays. Before I’d even had a chance to register their presence, I got the email from my friend Michele that appears in my inbox every January. “Hi. Got the dates. Want them?” You see, every year her financial advisor sends her, and her mother, a tin of dates from California as a holiday present. She does not know why dates. Neither she, nor her mother, like dates. However she, and her mother, do not want to hurt the guy’s feelings so they don’t tell him and every year, the dates arrive. And I get an email and a subsequent delivery of said dates. Two two-pound tins. Every year. It’s a lot of dates.

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