breakfast

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HELLO! Do not adjust your screen… It’s been four months awhile but [eek] I’m back. I. Am. Back! Nothing in particular prompted the hiatus, it just kind of happened. I have big plans for future posts but, for now, I’d like to just share my breakfast with you:

[low-fat plain Greek yogurt with strawberry jam, cinnamon, honey and almonds]*

[interesting unintended effect of my iphone camera tripping out]

*: the letterpress calendar in the background is from Orange Beautiful. You can buy the same one here.

 

 

 

 

 

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In honor of All Hallows Eve I wanted to share my delicious holiday twist on Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix.

This coffee cake is to die for, I really can’t emphasize enough how GOOD it is. It’s silky and smooth, the perfect bite to go with your morning cuppa joe. Just thinking about it makes me want to peel open the [safely out of sight] tupperware and grab a piece… but I’m staying strong. If you, however, end up eating the whole batch in one sitting I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

I’m sure this cake mix just on it’s own would be delicious but I figured, it’s October, I have a can of pumpkin, what the heck let’s get a little wild. I’ve also read that you can sub in pumpkin puree for butter & oil in boxed cake recipes to cut down on fat but it does give the cake a distinct pumpkinny flavor so unless you’re aiming for that, I’d stick to butter & oil.

If you want to follow the box directions, go for it. You’ll still come up with a yummy cake. If you want to walk on the wild side, read on for an unbelievably moist, creamy [and festively orange colored] cake that will quickly become one of your fall staples.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Silk Coffee Cake

for cake:

  • 1 bag of cake mix from Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 1 egg, room temperature [same as box recipe]
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted [a little less than box recipe]
  • 2/3 cup water [box says use water -or- milk, i went with water because the added pumpkin would already thicken it up]
  • 3/4 can of pure pumpkin [note: not pumpkin pie mix]
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup

for crumb topping:

  • 1 bag of crumble mix from TJ’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 3 1/2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into cubes

Grease your favorite pan [I used an 8" square pan] and preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, add all cake ingredients together and whisk for 15 seconds, or until just combined [be careful not to overmix or the cake will be tough]. In a separate bowl, use your hands to mix the cubed butter and crumb mix together until well-incorporated yet still crumbly. Add 1/2 the cake batter into the pan, then add 1/2 the crumb mix. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top, then cover with the remaining crumb mix. Place in oven [on the center rack, if possible] and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Keep a close eye on this cake, if it’s overcooked it will loose some of it’s creaminess. Run a knife around the edges of pan while still warm to loosen bits stuck to the side. Wait for cake to cool completely, then cut and enjoy with a glass of cold milk within reach.

 

[and then there was one.]

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Last weekend we celebrated the day o’my birth and my sister came in to visit me for the occasion. We had tons of girly fun – mani/pedi’s, boutique shopping, coffee runs & meals at fab restaurants. It was exciting and relaxing, exhilarating and restorative, all in one. Family time is good for the soul.

[the two sisters]

For some time I’ve had my eye on a brand new little brunch spot down the street from my place. The menu was clean and inventive, plus the two guys behind the restaurant hail from the iconic Charlie Trotters. Once I saw this rave review in Daily Candy, I was sold and knew I couldn’t waste anymore time. With my sister in tow, we set out for a Friday mid-morning brunch at Lincoln Park’s newest hot spot, 2Sparrows.

[and that, my friends, would be the general manager making house-made beef jerky right atop the bar]

We ordered the foie gras pop tart with cherry compote [!!] for a little app, then we each ordered the eggs benedict [had to see what the b-y-o hollandaise was all about].

[cappuccino made with intelligentsia coffee to start the day off right]

[the richness of the foie gras offset the sharp tang of the cherry. 'twas all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. mmmmm.]

The eggs benedict was EGGCELLENT [shame on me. couldn't resist]. I’ve had quite a few eggs benedicts in my time and I would go out on a limb [branch?] by saying 2Sparrows has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Where oh where do I begin:

-the ham. I don’t normally like the greasy, fatty canadian bacon that typically comes with eggs benedict, therefore I order mine sans meat. In this case, our [amazing] server informed us that all the ham is made in-house and so I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This ham was wonderful. Just the right amount of salty smokiness to round out the dish.

-the toast. Sometimes the richness of eggs benedict can leave you with that nauseously overfull feeling. I blame that feeling, not on my own gluttonous ways, but on the filling bread that most eggs benedicts are perched on. At 2Sparrows the small, almost bite-sized pieces of toast are just the right amount.

-the big green salad. I’d never seen eggs benedict paired with a big green salad before and oh lordy, was it delicious. My sister loved the fennel and the dressing was light and refreshing. The perfect compliment to our eggy & indulgent brunch.

-the b-y-o hollandaise. Whoa. This was another first for me. Our meal came with not one, but two different hollandaise sauces – one was infused with roasted red pepper, the other with scallions. You build your own [b-y-o] and mix it up however you like. Who knew brunch could be so much fun?

The atmosphere was dynamic [even for a Friday afternoon], the service was excellent, the food was right on the money [and for that matter, quite reasonable given the upscale feel of the place]. I can sum it up with this – never before have I been at a meal where my companion and I both completely cleared our plates. We ate every last crumb. 2Sparrows, I will see you [and your eggs benedict... & probably your maple & bacon doughnuts] again soon.

 

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[pumpkin spice latte {& my sweet chipped polish} in your face. make yours a venti.]

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Oh dear. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Here August has come and gone and not a peep from me… nadda one. I certainly had plenty to talk about, like the time I traveled home for my niece’s 4th birthday where I made these itty bitty cinnamon buns for breakfast:

[hi dad!]

And the fateful day we went to an ice cream shop I had been dying to try, Jeni’s in Chagrin Falls. I’m going to level with you all, it’s hard to go wrong as far as ice cream is concerned but when you throw nutty ingredients like cayenne pepper into the mix things could theoretically go either way. Right? Right! Well Jeni’s was… utterly fantastic. It surpassed all of my expectations. My mom’s favorite? Salty caramel & she even bought a pint to take home. I feel bad but I ate nearly the entire thing… I didn’t know ice cream could be that velvety smooth. What does Jeni put in there?! I need help.

I got {1} scoop of sweet corn & black raspberries and {1} scoop of goat cheese with red cherries. Life changing. In every way. At that moment I decided to be a better person, pay my electric bill on time and be nice to my grumpy doorman who I believe has a moral objection to smiling. It was that good.

You’ve got to love Jeni’s creative twist on ice cream flavors: burbon buttered pecan, queen city cayenne, wildberry lavender, the milkiest chocolate in the world:

So I hope you’ll let this one slide. We’ll be back soon with some new exciting finds from Wednesday’s Green City Market. ‘Til then if you’re eager to get your hands on some of Jeni’s ice cream she sells pints at several local grocers in Chicago including The Southport Grocery & Cafe and The Goddess & Grocer. Get some for dessert tonight.. or breakfast.. lunch… anytime you have a spoon nearby, really.

 

 

 

 

 

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Banana Berry Smoothie

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 of a 5.3 oz container blueberry yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups ice

Add. Blend. Drink.

[open wide!]

p.s. my baby niece learned how to walk yesterday! yahooooo

 

 

 

 

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[my monday is looking decidedly up.]

 

 

 

 

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{When life hands you mushy bananas…}

I had a couple bananas that were turning on me and it was the perfect time to bake a batch of banana bread. In the spirit of St. Pat’s I wanted to add some green flair to my grandma’s recipe but without any green food coloring in the cupboard I wasn’t sure how to pull it off. As my eyes settled on the basil pot on the windowsill it hit me, why not give the savory Italian herb a try? I had a hunch the subtle, slightly minty flavors of the basil would compliment the sugary sweetness of the banana nicely. Although I didn’t get the vibrant green hue I was hoping for, the incidental marrying of flavors was right on.

Basil Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1-2 tsp sour cream, if you have it
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 bunch [4-5 large leaves] fresh basil, chopped

Reserve:

  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, chopped – for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix butter, sugar, bananas, sour cream, water, chocolate chips, basil and eggs thoroughly in big bowl with electric mixer. Mix remaining dry ingredients and add to wet mixture slowly [otherwise the flour will fly everywhere and make a huge lovely mess...]. When all ingredients are combined, gently fold in reserved chocolate chips with a spatula. Grease one large loaf pan. Bake in oven 35-40 minutes or until butter knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack, remove from pan, slice, top with reserved basil. Enjoy a piece for breakfast [wrap in a lightly damp paper towel and steam it the microwave for 15 seconds. Slather a pat of butter on top while still warm], or have a slice as a sweet after dinner treat.

 

 

 

 

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[grapefruit]

For me, whenever I see a grapefruit I always think of my grandpap. He ate a grapefruit for breakfast every single morning after returning home from mass [which he faithfully attended at the crack of dawn each day] . There was a quiet comfort in this ritual; I remember his silver jagged edged spoon, the sprinkling of sugar to sweeten the tangy fruit. When I was little I couldn’t stand the taste of grapefruit, it was too tart for me. As it is with most things, I developed an appreciation for it as I grew up.

It’s funny how the smallest, seemingly insignificant, moments are the ones you hold onto the tightest. This is one precious memory I’ve tucked away and will have with me always.

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[coffee break]

{ slam dunk }

Sometimes all it takes is a little cup of jo and a homemade pizzelle [made by your talented mama] to kickstart your morning routine. I like my coffee sweetened with some good old-fashioned sugar and milk. Over Christmas the girls in my family made a couple batches of my mom’s lightly-sweet and satisfying vanilla pizzelles. Behold, a recipe that’s been in our family for generations and guarantees a deliciously delicate cookie every time.

Pizzelles

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour (approx)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 tsps baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp anise or 2 tblsp vanilla

Beat eggs adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled melted butter and vanilla or anise [some people don't care for the black licorice flavor of anise]. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon in pizzelle maker. Cook in pizzelle maker and then store in airtight container.

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