pancakes for the win

Everyone has a different tradition when it comes to kicking off the holiday season. For some people it revolves around things like ‘Black Friday’ shopping, extreme home decorating or proudly wearing a truly ugly sweater. For others it’s taking the kids to see Santa, sending out that years Christmas card (after agonizing over the picture) or seeing the first flakes of snow. For me it’s all about putting up the tree. Once that white light twinkling, ornament festooned, towering cone of green takes over the corner of my great room it’s ‘game on’. (Although to be honest there have been some years when I started working on my holiday gifts in September. There was the year everyone on my gift list got a hand knit scarf and another year when everyone got baskets of homemade goodies. I made and jarred my own applesauce, bottled my own flavored vinegar and made biscotti, nutella shortbread cookies and toasted almond crack like I was the last baker on Earth. And then I designed and printed my own labels and gift tags. Yeah, that year almost killed me.)

This year however is a different story, This year ‘game on’ is more like “Umm, what? There’s a game? Where?” You see even though we put up the tree earlier than usual and the house has been in a jingle all the way state for sometime— I have yet to knit a stitch, bake a crumb or even get my Christmas cards into the mail. Between the craziness of school assignments and obligations; “Sure I’ll come read to your class on my only day off.” “Yes I remembered the cash for your (crappy and overpriced) ‘Holiday Shop’. ‘The bow on your violin is damaged? Okay let me contact the music people, work out the details of getting a new one and then remember to send the damaged back to school with you.” (I didn’t remember. They had to remind me. It took several weeks to get the new bow. It hasn’t improved his playing.) “What time is your holiday concert and what exactly qualifies as your ‘holiday best’ outfit?” Your Minecraft shirt is green, will that work?!?” “You need how many holiday cards signed and addressed by you (and only you) for your kindergarten classmates? And by when?” “Oh and stocking stuffers for each and every one of them as well? Fantastic!” “No of course were not just giving money for a boring old class gift. Special teacher presents for everyone!” Not to mention we had a soccer season that lasted until Thanksgiving and basketball practice that started soon after, the double-whammy of both kids down with step and ‘Readers Workshop’ books needing to be read nightly and the accompanying flow chart updated (Ok so we got a bit behind on that and had to read six books on one night to catch up). With all this going on I haven’t exactly had the chance to properly pull together Christmas, and now that jolly ol’ Saint Nick will be here in only a handful of days the pressure is seriously on. Which brings me to the point of this post: pancakes. Ha! Betcha didn’t see that one coming did you?

For me pancakes are synonymous with Sunday mornings and Sunday mornings have to be without a doubt my favorite part of the week. On Sunday I get to enjoy my coffee (not guzzle it down before rushing out of the house), I get to read the paper or watch the news and I get to say “What do you want for breakfast?” and have it mean something other than toast or cold cereal. Sunday is the one day that breakfast means bowls and whisks, skillets and spatulas, time and effort, comfort and care. Often that resembles a stack of pancakes. My kids love pancakes. Love them. LOVE THEM! Pancakes with chocolate chips. Pancakes with diced strawberries. Pancakes with bananas. Even pancakes straight up. If you’re offering pancakes they’re eating! And so because I like Sunday mornings and they like pancakes and I like them… I make pancakes, frequently. In fact even when the week prior has been crazed and the one coming up looks no better. When Rudolph and his team are breathing down my neck and I don’t feel remotely filled with good cheer. Even when I’m officially out of time, energy and ideas… A Sunday morning stack of pancakes is never entirely out of the question. Why? Well because pancakes make them happy and because someday I hope they look back on these Sunday morning breakfasts nostalgically. And because good homemade entirely from scratch pancakes are actually easy. “Easy like Sunday morning…”

Simple Homemade Pancakes
I know it’s easy to open a box of pre-mix and just add a little water, but this recipe really is simple and the pancakes are delicious.

pancake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and oil.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, whisking until just incorporated and a few small lumps remain.
  4. Lightly grease a skillet or large griddle and heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle and cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface. Flip and cook the opposite side until done. Serve with butter and plenty of maple syrup.
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bacon!

Ba·con. (bey-kuhn) noun. Cured and smoked meat from the sides and belly of a pig. Bacon. A smell immediately identifiable by hard core vegans and dyed in the wool carnivores alike. Bacon. A food that has reached a cult like obsession within the food community. Bacon. An item that until I made it myself, I really never gave a flying fig about. Bacon. The topic of this post…

Sure I’m the girl who gave you candied bacon, followed naturally by Candied Bacon Fudge; but I never really considered bacon as anything more than just another ingredient. However strangely enough, when we became the proud owners of a smoker my first thought was BACON! Crazy, right? Or perhaps not… Anytime I can figure out how to make something from scratch that I’ve ALWAYS had to buy, I do. Bacon seemed to fit that criteria perfectly! The more I considered bacon (be it homemade or store-bought) the more I began to see it’s inherent value. What would Quiche Lorraine be without bacon? And how sad would that BLT sandwich be without good ol’ bacon? Not to mention my roasted brussels sprouts or mashed turnips. I quickly came to the conclusion that bacon is in fact much more of a superstar than I’ve been giving it credit for.

Last summer was the first time we attempted curing and smoking a pork belly. I couldn’t find one recipe that seemed exactly right, so I cobbled two of them together and dove headlong into the process. The resulting bacon was not exactly a success. It was bacon all right but it was extraordinarily salty bacon, way too salty to be eaten on it’s own. I ended up using it in a variety of yummy recipes, but my desire to create the perfect slab of homemade bacon still loomed large in my little foodie heart. I spent the winter on a mission to find what I deemed the ideal bacon recipe, I was a girl obsessed. And then I found it. A recipe from Whole Foods for Brown Sugar-Black Pepper cured bacon. Naturally I tweaked the recipe a smidge (come on now, you know I can’t help myself!) but followed the curing directions to a tee. And guess what happened? Deliciousness baby. Total and absolute deliciousness!

We ate the bacon just as is. We ate bacon and egg sandwiches (on homemade english muffins). We ate black-eyed peas with bacon, brussels sprouts with bacon and maple syrup and one of my all time favorite side dishes— braised collard greens with bacon. We were in a bacon stupor and damn we were happy.

Bacon. Possibly the world’s most perfect food.

Homemade Brown Sugar-Black Pepper Bacon
Delish. Delish. Delish.

bacon group4

5 lbs. fresh deboned pork belly
4 cups coarse kosher salt
2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp. ground black pepper

  1. Rinse pork belly and then pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  2. Combine salt, brown sugar, granulated sugar and back pepper in a mixing bowl. Place half of the mixture in a large lidded container. Add the pork and cover with the remaining salt mixture, being sure that it is fully submerged in the salt.
  3. Cover and refrigerate the pork belly for 1 week, checking on it once or twice to be sure it’s still fully covered with the salt mixture. This will “cure” the belly, creating salt pork (a.k.a. unsmoked bacon).
  4. Remove the pork from the cure and rinse well under cold water. Fill a bowl large enough to hold the pork belly with water and submerge the pork. Allow to soak for 30 minutes then pat dry with paper towels and place on a rack fitted in a large rimmed baking pan (a lasagna pan works well). Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight to air-dry.
  5. Prepare the grill (or smoker) for indirect cooking over very low heat. Add 1 wood chunk (such as hickory or pecan) to the charcoal, or add 1 handful of the wood chips to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions. Close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, place the pork belly over indirect heat.
  6. Cook until pork is firm and slightly darker, about 1 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 145-150°F. Remember, you’re infusing the pork belly with a smoky flavor, not fully cooking it at this point. (If using a charcoal grill, replenish the charcoal as needed to maintain a steady temperature. Add 1 wood chunk to the charcoal every 30 minutes, or drain and add 1 handful of the remaining wood chips to the smoker box every 20 minutes before the old chips burn out.)
  7. Allow bacon to cool, then cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or thoroughly wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. (The colder the bacon is the easier it will be to slice.)
  8. Thinly slice, cook and enjoy!

*adapted from whole foods

Braised Collard Greens with Bacon
Even if you’re unfamiliar with collards and don’t really think you’d like them, this recipe will change your mind. It’s honestly one of my most favorite things to eat.

3/4 cups homemade bacon cut into lardons (or slab bacon, diced)
1 1/2 lb. bunch collard greens
4 cups onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 12 oz. bottle of beer
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

  1. Dice the bacon, add to an already hot stockpot and allow it to crisp and the fat to render, about 5-8 min. Rinse the collard greens and remove the tough center stem of each leaf. Stack a few leaves together and slice them into thin strips. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
  2. Add the diced onion and garlic to the bacon fat and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the beer to deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom.
  3. Add the sliced greens and stir until they are all moistened. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until they begin to wilt. Add the spices and stock, reduce to low and cover. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15- 25 more minutes. (I like my greens to still have a bit of texture to them so I cook them for 35 minutes, if you like yours mushy go for the 45.)

suffering for strawberries

When I think about Summer I think about adventure. New sights. New sounds. New experiences. Since I’m now a working girl my time with the kids is really limited, they’re busy with camp and grandparents all summer and they’re both getting to the age were friends are beginning to trump Mom. So when it comes to entertaining my little loves on our days together, I go out of my way to keep things interesting. We do things like tromp around Storm King Art Center and spend the day digging for sand crabs at Sandy Hook. Explore lower Manhattan and visit the new baby gorilla at the Bronx Zoo. Just last week we spent the morning strawberry picking in Western N.J.

Apple and often blueberry picking has become a part of our annual trip to Vermont each August. Every one looks forward to hiking through the orchard, snacking on perfectly crisp apples and enjoying the rolling Green Mountain views. A trip North just wouldn’t seem complete without it. But that’s the extent of their PYO repertoire; they’ve never gone asparagus, peach or even strawberry picking. I have vivid memories of picking mountains of incredibly sweet red strawberries and eating them for days, weeks (or because my mother often froze a bunch) months on end thereafter. It seemed to me to be time that my own children enjoyed (or perhaps suffered through) the same experience. If you’ve gone strawberry picking before then you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you haven’t then let me quickly set the scene.

Strawberries, the sweetest of Mother Natures fruits, are typically grown in long, dusty, very low to the ground and completely unshaded rows. They also happen to be ready for picking when (and only when) the temperatures reach hellfire hot. So you may be wondering, did my cherubs charge headlong into this sweaty adventure yelling “Thanks for the wonderful memories Mom!” or “Don’t worry about Lilly, I’ll resuscitate her. You just keep picking those sweet, sweet berries!” Um no, not exactly. They did make an effort to see how quickly we could fill up our basket, they made a game of finding the mostly perfectly or oddly shaped berry and they were already discussing what to make with our bounty as we left the field. Sounds like the perfect image, right? Yeah, perhaps it would have been had my yelling “I’m sorry this isn’t your idea of fun. Go wait for me at the farm stand if you’re that miserable!” hadn’t proceeded it. Sigh…

As Harry Truman is quoted as saying: “The reward of suffering is experience.” And apparently strawberries.

Homemade Ricotta Waffles with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Even if you’re usually not a sweet for breakfast type, you’ll love these waffles.

strawberry waffles2

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
3 tbsp. canola oil
Strawberry Sauce, for serving (recipe below)
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta, eggs and oil. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until smooth.
  2. Coat a waffle maker lightly with oil, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. Preheat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Spoon in the batter, close lid and cook until the waffle is golden brown, 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, keeping prepared waffles warm in a low temp. oven.
  4. Serve the waffles with fresh strawberry sauce and enjoy. Makes 6-8 waffles.

*adapted from williams-sonoma 

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
This simple sauce is perfect on waffles or pancakes, yogurt of even ice cream. 

2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and gently stir together. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the fruit breaks down and the sauce reduces.
  2. Cool slightly and serve with abandon.

indian summer lavender-lemon muffins

We may have just celebrated Halloween but I still have overflowing pots of herbs happily growing on my back steps. I’m thinking about turning some into herbed salt, freezing a bit and making a little chimichuri with a bunch, but really I’d prefer to use as much as I can right now while they’re still fresh. Sage, basil, tarragon, thyme and rosemary are a real no-brainer, you can throw those herbs into just about any savory dish and come out with a winning meal, but what about the lavender? Lavender flowers have a gazillion uses, but recipes using the fresh leaves are much more limited. Lavender, lavender, lavender… what should I do with you?

While I was recipe hunting I found a few recipes for rosemary and lemon shortbread. While I did briefly consider making cookies I thought muffins would be more fun and instead of rosemary I decided to use that elusive fresh lavender. The resulting Lavender-Lemon Muffins were a huge hit, fresh with a subtle lavender flavor and a lovely pop of sweet from the lemon glaze on top. They have quickly become another Greco family favorite and perhaps they’ll become one of your families favorites as well.

Lavender-Lemon Muffins
The lavender in these babies is subtle not overwhelmingly perfumey. They’re really pretty delicious.

lavender-lemon muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh lavender
zest of one lemon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 whole eggs + 1 egg white

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine together the flour, lavender, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. Place the sugar and remaining ingredients (through eggs) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until smooth. Add the wet mixture to the dry and beat again until blended.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  5. When the muffins are finished baking allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before drizzling with lemon glaze. Let glaze set and enjoy!

pumpkinpalooza

As far as seasonal food trends go the pumpkin-spice craze has got to be the biggest one around. Each Fall the world seems to be overrun with all things pumpkin: pumpkin spice pasta, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice marshmallows, pumpkin spice beer and vodka, pumpkin spice potato chips, pumpkin spice body lotion, pumpkin spice bagels to go with pumpkin spice cream cheese and of course pumpkin spice room freshener (a must for every seasonally appropriate home). Whew— thats quite a list, but it doesn’t stop there. We’re so off our rockers over this spicy combination that even the beloved M&M isn’t safe from it. Thats right folks, Pumpkin Spice M&M’s available exclusively at Target and completely sold out when I recently looked for them. It would appear that we’re treading dangerously close to a world-wide state of pumpkin spice hysteria.

Not wanting to be left out, I too decided to make friends with pumpkin. It is after all high in fiber, a cup of puree contains a day’s worth of vitamin A and more potassium than a banana, it’s rich in beta-carotene which is good for your eyesight and lowers the risk of developing cancer or heart disease and the seeds contain chemicals called “phytosterols” which help reduce LDL. So really whats not to love about it, right? If you recall I already use it for my devil dogs Pumpkin-oatmeal dog biscuits and in the past I’ve substituted it for butternut squash in soup, but the weather was cool and I felt like baking…

Last Fall I gave you my coveted Cranberry-Orange Muffin recipe and while I still maintain it’s muffin perfection, I decided to play around with the recipe just the same. A few spices, some pumpkin puree, a little yogurt and one crumble topping later a new Greco family seasonal favorite was born.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Crumble Muffins
These muffins are the perfect way to enjoy the flavors of the season.

pumpkin-cranberry muffin4

Crumble:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Batter:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
a pinch of nutmeg
12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Angostura bitters
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1/4 cup plain Russian kefir yogurt (or Greek)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, ginger, salt and melted butter. Use a fork (or your fingers) to blend the mixture until it’s crumbly, breaking up any large clumps. Set aside.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, gently stir in the cranberries.
  4. In a medium bowl combine all the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until well blended (the batter will be thick). Spoon evenly into the lined muffin cups, top with a generous amount of crumble and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then place on a wire rack for remainder of cooling

*recipe makes 12-16 muffins

eggs florentine for justice

As you know by now I cook A LOT. I consider myself fairly well versed in the kitchen and I’d like to think that at least 89.9% of the time I serve my family something that qualifies as tasty (no one can be perfect all the time, right). But for all the success I have in the kitchen there is one area where I’m a big ‘ol failure… bread baking. Bread baking is without a doubt my kryptonite. I’m inexplicably drawn to it and it kicks my butt each and every time. Sure I can make tasty drop biscuits or simple yeast rolls, but what I truly and with all my heart long to make is an eye rollingly delicious, crusty on the outside light and wonderful on the inside loaf of bread. A simple seeded boule or a rustic baguette, bread so delicious it could easily serve as the meal, rather than just the accompaniment to it. I’ve joked that I either need a bread baking class or an intervention! I have yet to participate in either, but I’m head-strong and hell-bent on conquering this bread baking thing and so I intend to keep on trying.

Last week, while my kids were busy visiting their grandparents, I took the opportunity to cook things that I don’t ordinarily get to. While I didn’t make another attempt at my dream loaf, I did do a little baking with surprisingly successful results. I’ve been kicking around the idea of making homemade english muffins for some time now, however most of the recipes I’ve come across require special muffin rings, which I don’t have and I wasn’t sure if I felt like investing in. And so the english muffin idea had kinda been put on the back burner. Then I stumbled upon a recipe that not only called for a standard biscuit cutter, but also for the SAF instant yeast (which I had bought thinking it was the golden ticket to my boule success) I had sitting in my freezer begging to be used. The opportunity was too good to pass up. Once again I found myself giving into the bread baking monkey on my back and giving Buttermilk English Muffins a try.

I was stunned by the results. Seriously, stunned. They weren’t perfect but they were pretty damn close. I met my husband at the front door baking tray in hand singing “I made english muffins…I made english muffins…” (by now he’s become immune to singing and dancing over baked goods.) I couldn’t believe that I actually managed to pull it off. So how’d I do it? Believe it or not, I just followed the directions…

I know just as well as anyone that cooking is about taking what exists and making it your own. Baking on the other hand is nuclear physics. You could do everything according to the book and on the final step set the dial on the particle accelerator just a touch too far to the right and— disaster. Yeah, that about sums up my experience with bread baking. So far so good…so far so good…so far so good…kablooie! But this time I was determined for the outcome to be different. Recipes often give dry ingredient measurements in weights and volumes. I have a kitchen scale but I always considered weighing my flour to be way to Alton Brown and not enough Barefoot Contessa. Turns out I thought wrong. (Damn, I hate when that happens!)

Anyway after the glow of my muffin success wore off I realized I had almost two dozen english muffins on my hands and no kids to help me consume them. Simple toasting and slathering with butter and jam would be fine, but I didn’t feel it did these babies a proper justice. No they really begged for special treatment, something like a key ingredient in a fancy-dish-I-love-but-would-never-make-for-myself. Well there’s only one dish that comes to mind that I love, would never make for myself and includes english muffins— Eggs Florentine baby.

Homemade English Muffins
These are fairly simple to make and will make you feel like the rock-star baker you always pictured yourself to be.

new muffins3

2 cups light buttermilk
3 3/4 cups (1 lb. 5 oz.) bread flour, plus more as needed
4 1/2 tsp. instant dry yeast (such as SAF brand)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. canola oil

  1. Warm the buttermilk over low heat to 120°F. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 200°F and then turn off.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt and mix together with a whisk. Turn the mixer on and add the buttermilk in a steady stream, then add the honey and oil and allow to mix on med-high speed until the dough is almost smooth but still a little shaggy. Reduce the speed to low and allow to mix until all the flour is fully incorporated, about another 3 minutes. (Add a little more flour if the dough is very sticky.)
  3. Place dough in a non-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the still warm oven to rise until doubled, about 1 hr.
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the dough onto a work surface well dusted with cornmeal and roll it out to about 1/2″ thick (scatter the top of the dough with cornmeal to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin). Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Transfer the dough rounds onto the prepared baking sheets and repeat with the remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, slide back into the turned off oven and let rise, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the baking sheets and preheat the oven to 350°F. Gently transfer the rounds to a dry skillet or cast-iron griddle (trying not to distort their shape in the process) and over medium-low heat lightly brown each side, about 1 minute per side. Return them to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough rounds.
  6. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a rack before splitting (with a fork) and slathering with butter. (We actually like our english muffins split and toasted, but you can eat them however you like.) Store in a ziploc bag or bread bag for future use. Makes about 21 muffins.

*adapted from williams sonoma

Eggs Florentine
I made the english muffins and the hollandaise sauce for this recipe from scratch, you are under no obligation to do the same. Pick up a pack of store bought muffins and an envelope of hollandaise mix and get to poaching up some eggs.

eggs florentine3

1/2 tbsp. butter
5 ounces baby spinach leaves, rinsed but not dried
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. white vinegar
4 large eggs
homemade (or store-bought) hollandaise sauce (see recipe below)

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the spinach, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook until it just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach in a sieve, pressing gently to remove some, but not all, excess liquid, and set aside
  2. Fill a glass bowl with hot tap water and set aside. In a high-sided saucepan, combine 4 cups water and the vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir the water to create a whirlpool. Crack an egg into a small shallow bowl and gently slip the egg into the center of the swirling water.
  3. Allow the egg to cook until the white is opaque and the egg is just firm enough to hold its shape, about 3-4 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon, gently lift the egg out of the water and carefully transfer it to the bowl of hot water. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
  4. To serve, use a fork to split each english muffin and lightly toast. Place one english muffin on each plate. Top each half with a mound of spinach and then a poached egg. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of hollandaise over each egg and serve. Pour remaining hollandaise in a pitcher for additional saucing. Serves 2.

Hollandaise Sauce
This sauce contains raw egg yolks. If this bothers you look for a recipe that involves cooking the eggs or use store-bought hollandaise (you have my permission).

4 large egg yolks
juice of a lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp. warm water
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted

  1. In a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne and water. Pulse once or twice to lightly blend, then with the blender running slowly add the warm melted butter, processing until the sauce is thick and smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water to thin it.
  2. Transfer the hollandaise sauce to a glass bowl. Cover with saran wrap and place over a saucepan of hot, but not simmering water, to keep warm.

*adapted from williams sonoma

mea culpa muffins

I think I owe you an apology. You see I have a recipe, a really good one that I know you’ll like, and I’ve been purposely keeping it to myself. I don’t know why. I’m usually a good about sharing and not at all the jealous or easily threatened type, but I guess my actions would say otherwise. And the real kicker about this recipe is that there’s a time component to its key ingredient. In other words, if I don’t share this recipe with you now I’ll have to wait another year before I can.

Oh the inner struggle; the soul searching; and ultimately the decision to come clean with you my readers and share this most coveted of recipes.

So here goes. Here’s the recipe you’re gonna love, you’ve gotta try and you can’t go wrong with. (drum roll please) It is… Cranberry Orange Muffins! I know, you’re feeling let down right about now, right? All this fuss over a muffin. I hear ya, but these muffins really and truly are the most fantastic muffins you’ll ever make. Ever. I’ve been making these babies every Fall/Winter (when fresh cranberries are available in stores) since my son was a toddler—he’s now 8—and I have yet to have a single man, woman or child declare them anything but delicious.

So here you go my dear reader, my loyal listener, here is the recipe most near and dear to my heart. Use it well and think of me fondly with each “Wow, these muffins are delicious!” compliment you accept.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
This recipe would also work well as a quick bread but since muffins make the perfect breakfast or school snack, I usually stick to muffins.

cran-orange muffins3

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
2/3 cup orange juice
1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin pan with liners, lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the orange zest to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Toss in the cranberries and stir until each is well coated with flour.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the oil and orange juice and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just moist. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 16-18 minutes, until muffins are golden and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool the remainder of the way.