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.

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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.

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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

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lean, mean + super green

I believe in eating real, delicious and satisfying food. If you’re going to eat chocolate; eat the best you can find. If you’re going to buy bread; buy something that will do more than keep your sandwich ingredients out of your lap. And if you’re going to try to lose a few pounds; do it with healthy for you food. Not frozen, processed, microwaved, artificial everything substitutes. Blech!

In the quickly approaching year since my last birthday I’ve noticed that my pants are not as loose as they once were, and that my energy levels are not exactly olympic. I honestly don’t care about growing older (gracefully, not kicking and screaming is my plan) but I do care about feeling older. Right about the same time as I was deciding how exactly to handle this tight pants predicament of mine, my college friend and fellow blogger Lynda Layng Tama (www.healthyhobokengirl.com) posted a recipe for a Banana Almond Smoothie. Smoothies— I had a light bulb moment— smoothies could be the answer!

Her recipe was both easy and delicious. But, you know how I love to tinker with perfectly good recipes… I googled, researched and talked about smoothies with my health conscience friends. I tried multiple recipes, swapping and tweaking ingredients as I went until I found a combination that had enough protein in it to keep me from feeling hungry and enough good fruits and veggies to keep me feeling healthy. During my recipe research I discovered something called Spirulina powder. Spirulina is a simple blue-green algae that is apparently the ultimate superfood! It is reported to be: “a complete protein source; to contain 26 times more calcium than milk, to increase your immunity and metabolism; it is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, is loaded with vitamins and minerals; rich in essential fatty acids and claims to aid in the healing of allergies, ADD, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high cholesterol, fatigue, anemia and digestive disorders.” Even the ancient Aztecs used Spirulina and called it the ‘sacred power plant’. They believed it contained the energy of the sun and had amazing rejuvenating and vitalizing properties. Wow, that’s quite a resume! And who am I after all to question the Aztecs!?! So even if only half of it’s reported benefits are true, it seemed like a worthwhile addition to my smoothie.

Since I can’t start my day without some serious coffee, I decided to have my smoothie in place of lunch. (Lunch for me is usually a hurried affair anyhow so why not drink my smoothie while continuing to get stuff done?!?) Yes the spinach and Spirulina make this a frightening shade of green, even a green lover like me will admit that, but it’s really pretty tasty. Don’t get me wrong, my children have agreed to taste it but will never request a glass of their own, my husband calls it toxic waste and can barely stand to watch me drink it and it will never take the place of a lovely Niçoise salad, but it’s not so terrible either.

It’s still too soon for me to claim I’m down a pants size or that I’m able to run marathons because of my “Super Green Smoothie”. However I do feel both mentally and physically better prepared to handle whatever gets thrown my way, and for that I’m delighted.

Super Green Smoothie
You could use any type of berry in this or even some fresh mango, whatever fruit you like most. What I wouldn’t do is omit the banana (even if you’re not a banana lover) because it really helps to give it a little “non-green” flavor.

smoothieALT

1/2 cup plain almond-coconut milk
1/4 cup plain whole grain rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced strawberries (about 4 large)
1/2 ripe banana, frozen
1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. Spirulina powder*
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 ice cubes
1 tbsp. almond butter
2-3 tsp. honey
1 handful fresh kale, spinach or dandelion greens

  1. Throw all the ingredients in the blender and give it a whirl.
  2. Sip, enjoy and feel like an Aztec warrior!

*You can purchase Spirulina powder at any health food store but before you do, I encourage you to do a little research of your own and discover what a superfood it claims to be.