Tag Archives: breakfast

Brie & Strawberry Jam Omelet with Strawberry Panzanella Salad

13 Apr

It’s been a little quieter than usual around here lately. We’ve been dealing with some career changes and general life shifts, not to mention unavoidable winter colds and flu bugs over the last few months. All of that has been keeping us more occupied in ‘real life’, which has meant less time for us to devote to our blogging life and cooking in general.

We’re slowly getting back into a groove, but the last few weeks we’ve been leaning towards cooking meals that are simple and fast while still being interesting.

Last week I reached into my ‘archives’ when we wanted to make a meatless dinner that was in line with the changing weather and freshness of spring.

I discovered the unexpected pleasure of the brie and strawberry jam omelet many years ago on a visit to Montreal. It stood out for me on the brunch menu at Orange Café in the NDG area of my hometown. I rarely use this adjective when describing food, but I have to say that this is one ‘sexy’ omelet. It’s the perfect combination of textures, flavors and even colors on the plate. I even made it for Neil when we first started dating in an attempt to impress his advanced palate.

Once I started making it at home for brunch and dinner, the very idea of it inspired other omelet combinations like cheddar and spicy mango chutney, or havarti and pear & ginger preserves.

But this one’s the ultimate. L’original.

This time around I used goat brie for a little more earthiness and Greaves Rhubarb Strawberry Jam, which I absolutely love. There’s not much to this simple omelet, but the key for me is using just the egg whites. With the egg whites providing a neutral base, the cheese and jam really shine and stand out. I also like the texture of an all-egg white omelet better than what you get when you include the yolks.

But we needed a side dish. Something that could stand up to the fabulousness of the omelet and complement it at the same time.

Somehow the idea of a fresh strawberry panzanella came to me. Panzanella is a rustic Italian bread salad that’s usually made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions and a simple vinaigrette. I always order it when I spot it on restaurant menus because it’s usually delicious, however simple.

Neil was the one who actually executed our take on the classic salad after we talked about some ideas, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. The sweetness of the fresh strawberries worked so well with the tartness of the balsamic and the shreds of basil. And we actually used fresh bread instead of day-old and found that it gave a really nice spongy consistency on the inside, and a toasty crunch on the outside. It was a great texture combination and the flavors of each ingredient came through. It really was a great complement to the omelet. We ooh’ed and ahh’ed with every fresh, tasty and flavorful bite.

What better way to welcome spring to our table?!

Brie & Strawberry Jam Omelet with Strawberry Panzanella Salad (serves 2)

For Strawberry Panzanella Salad:

Approx 8 fresh strawberries (3-4 per person)

Good quality balsamic vinegar

Pepper

Approx 3/4 to half a loaf of crusty bread (we used Brick Street Bakery‘s wheat bread)

Olive oil

Sea Salt

1 clove garlic, sliced into thin slices

1 handful of basil leaves, chopped

Cucumber, chopped

Arugula

For Omelet:

Approx 6-7 thick slices of brie (we used goat brie)

Good quality strawberry jam (we used rhubarb strawberry)

Approx 6-8 egg whites (I actually used egg whites from a carton – so much easier!)

Cooking spray

To Assemble Salad:

Slice the strawberries and add them to a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar and a grind of pepper. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cut the bread into cubes and toss with a few drizzles of olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt.

Slice the garlic into thin slices that will be easy to remove later from the pan.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and cook garlic for a few minutes. Lower the heat to medium low, add bread cubes into pan and cook for a good 7-10 minutes until nice and brown on the outside.

Remove the bread cubes from the pan, leaving the garlic behind, and set aside to cool.

When ready to assemble, add the cooled bread cubes to a bowl. Add in a little bit of arugula. You don’t want to add as much as you would in a regular salad, the bread and strawberries are the main ingredients here. Add the chopped cucumber and basil. Drizzle in some good quality olive oil and toss into the salad with a little bit of sea salt.

Spoon the balsamic strawberries into the salad, reserving some of the liquid. Mix the salad and taste. Add more of the balsamic to taste. Toss everything together well and serve.

To Assemble Omelet:

Spray an omelet pan with a little bit of cooking spray and heat the pan over medium low heat.

Add in the egg whites and leave them for a few minutes to firm up. Slide a thin spatula around the edges to lift and separate from the pan.

Layer the slices of brie down the middle of the omelet or just off to one side, depending on how you like to fold your omelet. I decided to fold the two sides in so I layered my ingredients into the middle but you can also attempt to flip one side onto the other. Spoon a generous amount of jam onto the brie.

Fold in the sides and slide the spatula underneath to loosen the omelet from the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes to let the cheese melt and jam warm through. If you’re feeling daring, you can flip the omelet over and let it cook on the other side for a few seconds so the brie melts on both ends and the jam gets sticky and cooks as it oozes out of the edges.

Cut the omelet in half to serve two and plate with some Strawberry Panzanella salad.

Vegan Muffins: One Batter, Four Ways

13 Dec

I just may be the only non-vegan writing about vegan-friendly and healthy baked goods during the holiday season. But it’s exactly the right time of year, for me anyway, to be looking for healthy alternatives in the face of so much holiday excess.

I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I do love alternative recipes, interesting textures and different, healthful ways of looking at food. I tend to go for vegetarian options more often than not, simply because I love the fresh ingredients and flavors that they’re typically made with. Anything gluten-free, vegan or raw will always catch my attention – though not at the expense of giving up a good burger or charcuterie plate.

See? You really can have it all! At least when it comes to food.

I have a little thing for all of the vegan and gluten-free goodies from Sweets from the Earth. Their lavender-chocolate cupcakes and organic medjool date squares are decadent pieces of heaven. One bite of any of their treats will make you forget you’re eating a healthier alternative to traditional baked goods, and I very much appreciate that.

Well, I’m no professional baker but I did find a simple recipe for vegan banana muffins that I could make easily at home, and they’ve become a staple. After reading through a bunch of recipes online, this one really stood out to me because of the minimal ingredients and the fact that there’s absolutely no refined sugar in the batter. These muffins are sweetened with dates and applesauce, and have soymilk in them for a bit of added protein and richness.

I’ve taken the recipe further by adding in a few little treats. With the last batch I made, I decided to make half of the muffins with the regular batter, and half with cocoa powder added for some chocolatey goodness.  I then sprinkled some semi-sweet chocolate chips into some, and walnuts into others.

This one simple batter made four different kinds of muffins in one batch:

–       Banana Walnut

–       Banana Chocolate Chip

–       Chocolate Banana Walnut

–       Double Chocolate Banana

They were all delicious, though my favorite is the simple banana walnut. I’m not going to lie and tell you that these are the most delicious muffins I’ve ever had. That would be a big fat lie, actually.

But these are the easiest and healthiest muffins I’ve ever made at home, and I feel really good about eating them for breakfast or as a snack. They’re really nicely balanced nutrition-wise and they definitely satisfy a craving for baked goods when you’re trying to eat healthy at home (and you’re all out of Sweets From The Earth’s more sophisticated goodies).

Vegan Banana Muffins (adapted from chooseveg.com – a great recipe resource!)

Basic Recipe (makes 12 small muffins):

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 large, very ripe bananas

1 1/4 cups applesauce (I use unsweetened applesauce to keep the sugar content down)

1/2 cup dates

1/2 cup soymilk (I use plain unsweetened soymilk but you can use vanilla for added flavor)

Additions:

Cocoa powder

Chopped walnuts

Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

If you’re going to make the chocolate version in the same batch as the plain ones, divide your flour mixture evenly into two separate bowls. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to one of the bowls and mix well.

Using a blender, puree the bananas and dates. Add the applesauce and soymilk and mix well.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Don’t over mix or you’ll end up with a very dense final product.

If you’ve divided your dry ingredients into chocolate and ‘plain’, try to pour the wet mixture into the two bowls as evenly divided as you can.

Fill non-stick muffin cups with the batter.

To quickly and easily make different versions of the muffins, I spoon one spoonful of batter into a muffin cup, then add either walnuts or chocolate chips, mix with my finger and top with more batter. Then, I use a whole walnut or a small handful of chocolate chips as a garnish (and a visual reminder of what each muffin has inside!).

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Enjoy without guilt.

Better With Bacon: Skillet Bacon Spread

23 Nov

Skillet Bacon Spread

It’s certainly been a while since our last installment of Better With Bacon. Far too long, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been sorely deficient in my bacon intake lately. So it’s appropriate that the bacon product featured this time around is so versatile (read: can be easily incorporated into basically any meal). Skillet Bacon Spread is essentially a bacon “jam” – spreadable, slightly sweet, and full of delicious bacon. It was created about three years ago by Josh Henderson, the man behind Skillet Street Food, a Seattle-based fleet of street food trucks. He initially created the recipe to serve as a condiment on the company’s burgers. But as bacon became fairly recognized as the delicious food group it is and the popularity of the spread grew (a mention by Martha Stewart didn’t hurt), Skillet Street Food began packaging and shipping it all over the place.

The Skillet team takes onions, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, spices, and of course bacon, cooks everything down for about six hours and then quickly purees it so it’s smooth and spreadable, but still retains a nice texture and an appearance that still allows it to be recognizable as food. (Truthfully, it looks like something you’d serve your dog, but I’m not sure you’d get a much prettier result from cooking down and pureeing these ingredients in your home kitchen).

Eaten right off the spoon, Skillet Bacon Spread definitely has the smoky flavour of bacon, which is obviously helped by the fact that there are actual chunks of cooked bacon in the  mix. While the look of the spread doesn’t immediately scream “bacon!” the fact you’re guaranteed to bite into actual pieces of bacon lets you know this is the real thing. Unfortunately, the bite from the balsamic vinegar and the slight sweet kick from the rendered onions and brown sugar overwhelm the flavour a bit. But in a grilled cheese sandwich or spread on some toasted bread and topped with a fried egg, the other flavours become muted and the bacon flavour jumps out quite a bit. I can also definitely imagine it tossed into pasta, and while the combo of onions and balsamic aren’t going to work in my ice cream maker, I think this would make a great ingredient in a savory cookie or scone.

Skillet Bacon Spread

I was first turned on to the idea of bacon jam by Toronto’s Niagara Street Cafe, which I had heard served a jammified bacon concoction in some of its brunch dishes. Unfortunately, Niagara Street Cafe stopped serving brunch before I got the chance to check it out. But my sister, who had tasted the restaurant’s bacon jam at brunch, attempted a bacon jam recipe of her own last year. While hers was delicious, the process of prepping and cooking down the ingredients seemed messy and time-consuming. One of these days when I have an abundance of time and bacon, I’m definitely going to create a bacon jam of my own. In the meantime, it’s nice to know that there’s a prepared, packaged product that just an online order away. And speaking as a bacon lover with an eye on the holidays, I can’t imagine many stocking stuffers I’d appreciate better than a jar full of bacon. If you want to order me some as a present – or even for yourself – you can do so here.

** UPDATE (Aug 2011) – Skillet Bacon Spread is now available in Toronto at Ruby Eats in Leslieville!

Tahini for Breakfast

8 Nov

I love the taste of sesame and have always been a big fan of tahini. For a long time though, I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it aside from slathering it onto falafel or other Middle Eastern dishes.

But after I experienced it for brunch at Edward Levesque’s Kitchen, my world was opened up to the possibilities.

They served it drizzled on top of fresh fruit and thick plain yogurt with date molasses and roasted granola. All I can say about that is YUM.  It was really tasty and it inspired me to try using tahini in different ways at home.

This past weekend I had a craving for waffles with yogurt and fruit (a weekend fave in our house) but I wanted something different than the sometimes overly sweet maple syrup we usually drizzle on top. So I whipped up a little maple cinnamon tahini sauce having no idea if it would work.

It was really delicious. And it made for a very filling and healthy breakfast. We usually buy Nature’s Path organic waffles and this time I used the ‘Maple Cinn’ flavor, which complemented the flavors in the sauce. I topped each waffle with a heaping spoonful of fat-free greek style yogurt, banana slices, fresh blueberries and a good amount of sauce.

Tahini is high in fat (just like nut butters) so you don’t want to use a ton, but it’s also a source of protein and iron so it’s a great breakfast addition.

Maple Cinnamon Tahini Sauce:

Tahini, about one heaping tablespoon

Maple Syrup (Real maple syrup! We love Canadian Heritage Organics Amber)

Cinnamon

Hot water

Add a heaping tablespoon of tahini into a small mixing bowl. Because tahini is very thick and pasty, you need to add some hot water to the bowl (a little bit at a time) and whisk well until you get a consistency that you like. It should be smooth but not watery.

Add maple syrup (as much or as little as you want) and a lot of cinnamon and whisk together to combine.

Anyone out there have any other unique ideas for delicious ways to use tahini?

 

Breaking the silence with bircher muesli

1 May

Bircher muesli for breakfast

When I started this blog months and months ago, I had a name, an uploaded photo and the dream of finally starting a food blog (with the occasional musings about design, music and other things we love) with my favorite person, my husband.

But a blog’s not a blog without stuff to blog about. The busyness of life took over, not to mention a TV show I was producing that kept me away from the things (and people!) that I love. So this sad little page remained blank for way too long. That’s why I was thrilled when Neil decided to finally post something here. And suddenly what was supposed to be ‘our’ blog became ‘his’ blog by default.

The time has come to break my silence. And I’ve decided to do that with breakfast. My favorite meal to eat and cook.

I absolutely love grains, seeds and nuts, and in general I like mixing textures, blending hot with cold, and trying anything different and interesting when it comes to cooking. Oatmeal is one of my favorite comfort foods and I like preparing it many different ways (that said it has to be slow cooking oats; my faves are Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Organic Rolled Oats and Steel Cut Oats). But there’s also an alternate cold version that I thought I’d share.

I discovered the joy of Bircher Muesli a few years ago on a shoot in Los Angeles. The Corner Bakery in L.A calls their version ‘Swiss Oatmeal’ . Call it whatever you want, it’s delicious, creamy, filling, and such a treat with a good cup of rich coffee in the morning. The best part is that there are endless ways of preparing it to suit your taste. I don’t think I’ve ever made it exactly the same way twice.

How do you make it? Well, you basically throw your ingredients into a big bowl, top with any kind of milk, yogurt or cream (or a combo of each!), cover and let it do its thing in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you wake up to deliciousness.

It might not look like the prettiest breakfast, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in taste.

Oh, and I never measure my ingredients; it’s all just fly by the seat of my pajama pants.

Keep reading for the recipe.

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