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Category Archives: Breakfast

Triple Ginger Apple Muffins

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then my little James is going to have the doctors bolting in the other direction. The kid eats, oh, anywhere from 5 – 10 apples a day. No joke.

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At one point, I would dole out his daily allotment of apples, spending a ridiculous percentage of my days washing, peeling, and slicing his favorite food. After eating 3 in a day, I’d determine he’d reached his daily apple limit and try to persuade him to eat some nice, delicious cookies or perhaps some potato chips instead.

This never ended well. In fact, our worst fights pretty much all came down to a disagreement over how many apples a two-year-old should reasonably eat in a day.

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But, you know, as parents, you have to pick your battles, and eventually, I simply decided that if the kid wants to eat apples from dawn to dusk, then so be it.

We now buy multiple sacks of apples each week, which I wash and leave in a giant mountain on the counter, for my little guy to snack on at will. My only remaining problem is finding half-eaten apples hidden within my slippers. True story.

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Naturally, being peak apple season up here in Central New York, we recently spent an afternoon at our favorite apple orchard, Beak and Skiff, where we rode a flatbed tractor up to the rows of ripe Cortland apples and picked until the bags were too heavy to carry.

James filled his bag, then refused to let anyone touch his precious, precious fruit. He walked row by row, dragging that bulging bag of apples behind his little apple-nourished body, shrieking if I even attempted to lighten his load.

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After riding the tractor back to the front of the orchard, we placed our loot on the scales and handed over $26 for our sweet bounty. (Note to self: It costs 16 cents more per pound to pick the apples yourself than to buy the same apples, from the same orchard at the local grocery store.)

I went through the bags of apples once we’d arrived home. To my utter lack of surprise, James’ bag contained at least 10 bucks worth of half-eaten apples.

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Some of what I found in James’ bag of apples…

Thankfully, most of Liam and Lucas’ apples were not already eaten, leaving plenty of freshly-picked apples for snacking and for making these outrageous muffins. Based on a basic not-too-sweet molasses muffin, accented with a triple dose of ground, fresh, and crystallized ginger, these spicy muffins barely made it to the next morning.

I recommend making a double batch.

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Triple Ginger Apple Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 6-ounce container vanilla or apple-cinnamon greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups apple, peeled and diced

Directions

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Prepare muffin tins with liners or by spraying with a nonstick baking spray.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, oil, and molasses. Stir in the fresh ginger.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in the crystallized ginger and the apple. The batter will be pretty thick.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, so that each tin is about 2/3 – 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 12-15 muffins

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Icing

Bread pudding is sort of a strange love of mine. It’s not something I grew up eating. In fact, I don’t think I’d even heard of it until sometime in adulthood when I ran across it on the dessert table at one of my favorite restaurant’s brunch buffets. I was more than apprehensive at first. Soggy bread?? Yuck. And it certainly didn’t look like any ‘pudding’ I’ve ever seen before. No, thank you.

Then, one day (after a few breakfast mimosas) I felt brave. I took a small scoop of that bread pudding. And forevermore wondered why I hadn’t tasted it earlier.

I’ve made a few variations of bread pudding over the past few years, each time trying to determine what it is that makes me love it so darn much. And I finally figured it out… It tastes like french toast; a big scoop of warm, comforting french toast. But the thing which makes it even better than french toast, especially for serving a crowd, is that the whole mix gets thrown in a dish and baked with little mess or fuss.

Bread pudding also lends itself quite well towards getting creative – and I love a dish that likes to be played with. Make it with French bread or muffins or challah. I’ve even made it out of donuts! Add vanilla or dried fruits or chocolate chips.

Or seize the pumpkin spice mania and make this pumpkin bread pudding with cream cheese icing. This comforting bread pudding tastes like a cross between a spiced pumpkin pie and a slice of french toast. It’s best served warm, but after more than a few stolen spoonfuls from the leftovers in the fridge, I can tell you with confidence that it tastes pretty fantastic cold too!

For more variations on bread pudding, check out my Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding, Fluffernutter Bread Pudding, and Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

Today’s Focus on Technique – Easy Disposable Pastry Bag

It’s easy to make a pastry bag in a pinch by simply using a plastic baggy. This technique works best for fairly soft dressings, fillings, or icings. (Plastic baggies may not hold up well with very firm fillings.) Simply fill the plastic baggy with your dressing, filling, or icing. Squeeze it into one corner of the baggy. Twist the top of the baggy to hold the filling in place. Then, clip the corner with scissors, large or small, depending on your purpose. Now you’re all set to easily squeeze fillings into cupcakes or attractively drizzle dressings, sauces, or icings. The best part about plastic baggy pastry bags is that they’re disposable…no messy clean-up!!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients

  • Approximately 10 cups day-old French bread, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves

For the icing

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange the chunks of bread in a large baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves until well-blended. Pour the mixture over the bread chunks. Press down on the mixture so the most of the bread is submerged. (I like to leave a thin layer of unsoaked bread at the top for a nice crust layer.) Allow the mixture to soak for at least 15 minutes. (You can leave it to soak overnight, in the fridge, if desired.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes.

For the icing, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well blended. Spoon the mixture into a plastic baggy. Squeeze the baggy in your hands for a few seconds to soften the icing. Squeeze the mixture into one corner of the baggy, then twist the top of the baggy to hold the icing in place. Using scissors, clip a small bit of the corner, then drizzle the icing over the warm bread pudding. Serve warm.

Strawberry Banana Bread

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Back in what feels like another lifetime, I was a second grade teacher. One portion of our daily routine included an activity we called Writers’ Workshop. It was a time of the day devoted towards writing, where my students could work independently or collaboratively on various forms of written expression. While they worked, I’d meet with individual students to help walk them through the editing process, while weaving lessons about writing technique, language, and grammar into our little discussions. Some students worked on personal narratives, others on poetry, and others on persuasive writing.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #1 – with freeze-dried strawberries

And then there was the group of boys who’d formed a rock band and spent their time during writers’ workshop writing song lyrics. Now, this rock band was no casual arrangement. Though not a one of them played a musical instrument, they took the idea of their band quite seriously. These boys waited all day to work on their writing. They put careful thought into their choice of words and worked cooperatively to fine tune their performance. I was feeling like a pretty awesome teacher for being able to get my students so actively engaged in the writing process and so motivated to develop their writing skills. And that’s right about went things went sour with the band.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #2 – with strawberry glaze swirl on the top

You see, ‘Diego’ kicked ‘Joshua’ out of the band. It had something to do with not fully committing to his dance moves. Seriously. Joshua was crushed. ‘Willis’ tried to remain neutral, but it was clear that he was also  unimpressed by Joshua’s moves. I intervened and brought peace back to the band long enough for them to perform the song they’d been working so hard at.

It went something like this…

Oh, when am I gonna be a man?

I wanna be a man!

I’m gonna get a wallet.

I’m gonna go to the gym.

Ooo, when am I gonna be a man?

It was sort of a rap song. And clearly very revealing about a second grader’s perspective on what makes a man…gym memberships and wallets. Of course.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #3 – invisible strawberry glaze swirl throughout the bread

I was reminded of this memory when I walked into my living room to find my 5 year old giving my 3 year old lessons on how to be a man. They were as serious about these lessons as my former students were about their rock band. The lessons involved such behaviors as hopping on one foot, not crying, and toasting blueberry waffles. All very important man behaviors, for sure.

Kids are funny. They’re constantly trying to make sense of their little worlds and every so often, they give us a peak into the carnival of their little brains. Like this morning, on our walk back from the grocery store, when we passed an empty bottle on the side of the road.

That’s weird, commented my 5 year old.

I bet it was a man sitting by the road singing a song who left it there, replied my 3 year old. (A hobo with a handkerchief on a stick, perhaps?)

What was he singing, I asked.

Yankee Doodle, replied my 5 year old confidently.

No, my 3 year old adamantly intervened. I think he was singing Nowhere Man. 

I will bake five dozen cookies for any hobo with a bindle, singing Nowhere Man, on Blueberry Lane.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #4 – with fresh strawberry puree and dried strawberries

But we hadn’t gone to the grocery store to buy cookie ingredients. We were picking up fresh strawberries and bananas for this Strawberry Banana Bread. This recipe is the result of not one, not two, not three, but four attempts. (We’ve been eating a lot of banana bread around here.) Every batch was delicious in its own right. But, it wasn’t until the fourth batch that I nailed what I’d been trying to accomplish.

Doesn’t seem like making a loaf of strawberry banana bread should be such an issue, right? But here’s the problem…when baked, strawberries become undesirably mushy. So, in my first attempt, I tried incorporating freeze-dried strawberries to conquer the mushy dilemma. The result was acceptable. The freeze-dried strawberries rehydrated during baking, but there wasn’t enough strawberry flavor throughout the loaf. So, on attempts two and three, I made a strawberry glaze, which I attempted to swirl throughout the loaf using two different techniques. But, the banana bread was too dense to produce my intended result. Both of those loaves came out fantastically sweet and moist with a lovely caramelized crust, but I still wasn’t satisfied. On my final attempt, I had the epiphany that I could puree fresh strawberries to replace all of the water and part of the vegetable oil in my normal banana bread recipe. This had the double effect of dispersing the sweet strawberry flavor throughout the bread as well as slightly lightening the recipe. Chopped dried strawberries lend additional strawberry flavor and a nice variety of texture to the loaf.

Strawberries and bananas are a classic flavor combination. And they’ve never been better combined than in this twist on banana bread. This is more than just a banana bread with a few strawberries mixed in. This bread pays equal homage to both the strawberries and the bananas. Definitely worth the four attempts it took to come around to this recipe!

Strawberry Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup dried strawberries, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the vegetable oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, and eggs. Stir until well combined. Add the mashed banana and dried strawberries. Stir until well blended. Pour the banana bread mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 60-70 minutes.

Breakfast and Brunch Recipe Round-Up

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I recently shared a recipe for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole, as an option for a special Father’s Day breakfast in bed. Just in case that idea doesn’t float your boat, here’s a round-up of previously posted breakfast ideas. Any of these would make a spectacular Father’s Day breakfast for the dad in your life or a great addition to your next brunch buffet!

Cinnamon-Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Potato and Chorizo Frittata

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

Eggs Benedict

Birthday Cake (Sprinkles) Pancakes

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

PB&J French Toast

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

Quiche Lorraine




Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole

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My poor husband. He woke up this morning thinking that it was Father’s Day. He woke up thinking there would be breakfast in bed. And gifts. And probably lamb burgers for dinner. Alas, he had pegged the wrong Sunday. Not only was today not Father’s Day. And not only would he not be leisurely reading the newspaper while dining on breakfast in bed. But, today was my morning to sleep in, since he’d had his turn yesterday morning. It was his turn to prepare breakfast for the three boys, while I grabbed a few precious extra minutes of peaceful slumber. Sorry, hubs. Next Sunday you’ll get your breakfast in bed. And gifts. And maybe even lamb burgers.

Breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day has become our annual tradition. There’s just something so luxuriously relaxing about it. And since it doesn’t happen often, the kids get really excited about the occasion. If the kids ever sleep past six in the morning, perhaps we’ll start treating them to a special breakfast in bed on their birthdays.

Recently, I made this bacon, egg, and cheese bagel casserole. It was inspired by a bag of bagels which my parents had brought up from Long Island. They’d been left unwrapped for a few days and had gone slightly stale. But as anyone who’s ever had a good Long Island or NYC bagel knows, it’s a crime to let them go to waste. So, I thought I’d try throwing them into a breakfast casserole, with a hefty dose of bacon, eggs, and cheese. The resulting casserole was a satisfying success; every bite with the flavor of a good Long Island/NYC bagel sandwich.

I’m betting that a lot of dads out there would enjoy this special casserole for their Father’s Day breakfast!

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 5-6 large bagels (any variety), chopped into 1″ chunks*
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
*Slightly stale bagels work perfectly.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a paper towel to rub the bottom and sides of a large (13×9) baking dish with the softened butter. Arrange 5-6 chopped bagels in the baking dish. They should mostly fill the baking dish. Scatter the bacon and cheese over the bagels. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the bagels, bacon, and cheese. Press down on the mixture, so that the bagels are mostly submersed in the egg mixture. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator, so that the bagels absorb some of the egg mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

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One of the many things I’ve learned as a parent is never to assume that your children actually understand what you’re talking about, even if they’re nodding their heads and smiling with comprehension. Children are masterful at making sense of this great, odd world we live in. But there are times when their natural ability to process new experiences falls a bit short.

Take, for example, a few weeks ago, when we decided we’d build a deck off of the back of the house. As we discussed the plans with our neighbor, visited the local code enforcer for a permit, and bounced between hardware stores examining railings, we’d been throwing around the word ‘deck’ for weeks. Deck, deck, deck, deck, deck. When the time came for building to begin, the boys and I gazed out the window as the men worked the auger to dig the post holes. The boys watched as the men cemented eight large posts into place. And I rambled on about the deck, deck, deck. The next day, the men began removing the temporary stairs we’d put in place by the door. Panic washed over the boys’ faces. They watched nervously as the stairs were removed, leaving only the mysterious eight posts scattered around the lawn. Finally, my five-year-old asked, But how will we get down? In a matter of fact manner, I explained that we’d walk across the deck to where the new stairs will be, of course. He paused for a long moment and continued watching the men tear our old stairs off of the house, before finally asking, What’s a deck?

Sometimes the misunderstanding is as simple as a new vocabulary word, easily corrected with an explanation. Other times, the confusion runs much deeper. Recently, we lost a loved one. Since our boys haven’t had much experience with calling hours or funeral services, we anticipated that the experience would be foreign to them and potentially a bit frightening. So, as the day of the services approached, we spent some time chatting about what they could expect to happen. We discussed life and death, heaven, and the difference between our bodies and our souls. My five year old took the entire conversation in stride. He asked questions and seemed satisfied with the responses. It was all going very smoothly for a conversation about such deep issues with a five year old. I was practically patting myself on the back for my expert skills at discussing such a difficult topic with my kids. And then I explained that we would be seeing the body during the calling hours. I mentioned it casually, hoping to communicate a sense of normalcy about it. My little guy’s response was full of casual ease when he knowledgeably responded, Oh, I know. We’re going to see his bones. (As if that would be totally alright with him.) No, sweetie, we will not be seeing any bones and no, you may not touch the body. 

Glad we got that little misunderstanding out of the way ahead of time.

When we arrived at the funeral home, we made our way to the front where our loved one lay peacefully resting, glasses perched on his nose. The boys confidently strode to the front of the room, stood on the kneeler, and peered into the casket, which was open at the head end and closed over the leg end. They stared silently for awhile. I reminded the boys that his soul was already in heaven but that if they wanted to say something, I was certain he would hear it. My five year old quietly spoke a sweet message of love which brought tears to my eyes. And then he turned to his younger brother and said, “I know why they kept the bottom closed…so we can’t see his underpants.” The boys giggled about underpants for the rest of the afternoon. They went to bed talking about underpants.  (Somehow, it always comes back around to underpants.) And I’m again reminded not to assume that kids understand everything they appear to.

In between clearing up misunderstandings about decks, skeletons, and underpants, we’re still cooking away here at Chez Gourmand Mom. Recently, I made this sweet and satisfying apple-cinnamon quinoa, which makes a fantastic alternative for your morning oatmeal. It is wheat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, protein rich, and tasty as can be. Best yet, you can make a big batch ahead of time and reheat for a few seconds in the morning, making it a perfect option for busy weekdays. And if all of that wasn’t good enough, quinoa is a low-glycemic index food, meaning that it takes your body a long time to process all of that good nutrition, which will leaving your body feeling nicely satisfied until lunch rolls around. It’s simple, delicious, and nutritious…no room for misunderstanding here!

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups coconut milk*
  • 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
*A standard sized 15-ounce can of coconut milk contains just short of 2 cups. You can make up the difference with a bit of water.

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium/medium-high heat. Then, turn the heat down to low, cover, and allow it to gently simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa mixture to rest for 5 minutes covered. Remove the cover and toss the quinoa with a fork. Enjoy warm.

Makes about 4 servings

Mother’s Day Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

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I get breakfast in bed once a year. On Mother’s Day. My breakfast in bed day is coming soon!! (For the record, my husband also gets breakfast in bed when Father’s Day rolls around.)

Last year, I got my breakfast in bed at the hospital, since I’d given birth to our third son the night before. But the year before that, my husband made me a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich. It was fantastic. The boys came dancing into the room, buzzing with excitement over serving me breakfast in bed. They’d mostly just watched their daddy preparing the meal, but they took full credit for it.

They may not have made that bagel sandwich, but even young kids are quite capable of preparing some pretty fantastic stuff in the kitchen (with a little help, of course). And there’s really nothing like that aura of pride which emanates from a child who just accomplished something awesome.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed recipe which is so simple that even preschoolers can complete almost every step on their own, with just a bit of adult direction. It starts with donuts, chopped into chunks, which are then sprinkled with raisins. Next, a mixture of half and half, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon gets poured over the donuts. As it bakes, the donuts absorb the sweet, creamy mixture forming a lusciously decadent donut bread pudding.

This is good stuff, people. Make it for yourself if no one is going to make it for you. But, if you’ve got some kids who’d like to surprise you for Mother’s Day, here’s a step by step photo guide for them to follow.

Note to helper grown-up: It’s a good idea to gather all ingredients and supplies ahead of time, so you can move through the steps quickly. Young kids have a tendency to get distracted, lose interest, or start eating the donuts if you take too long between steps.

Step 1: Wash your hands. Then, ask a grown-up to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Use a paper towel to spread one tablespoon of softened butter all around a medium-sized baking dish.

Step 3: Using a child-safe knife, carefully chop 7 or 8 cake-style donuts into chunks. You can use plain, powdered, cinnamon, or apple-cider donuts. (We used a variety pack of plain/powdered/cinnamon Entermann’s donuts.)

Step 4: Arrange the chopped donuts in a baking dish.

Step 5: Sprinkle the raisins overs the donuts.

Step 6: Pour 2 cups of half and half into a large bowl or measuring cup.

Step 7: Add 1/2 cup sugar.

Step 8: Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Step 9: Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Throw a pinch of salt in there too!

Step 10: Ask a grown up to help you crack 4 eggs into a dish. Then, pour the eggs into the half and half mixture.

Step 11: Whisk the half and half mixture until it’s well blended.

Step 12: Pour the mixture over the donuts. Make sure you pour some over every donut.

Step 13: Gently press down on the donuts so they drink up the half and half mixture.

*The key to a great bread pudding is not to over-soak the bread (donuts, in this case). The donut chunks should be mostly submersed in the liquid, but not swimming in it. A few donuts peaking out of the top will help a nice crust to form on the top when it bakes.

Step 14:  Ask a grown-up to help you put the baking dish in the oven. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

The bread pudding should look like this before it bakes.

Step 15: Ask a grown-up to help you take it out of the oven. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

*If desired, the bread pudding can be made the day before and reheated in the morning.

While the bread pudding is cooking, cut up some fresh fruit. It will trick Mommy into thinking she’s eating a healthy meal when it’s sitting next to her main course of donut pudding. (Mommies like to think they’re eating healthy.)

Cook a huge batch of bacon, because mommies like bacon.

Ask a grown-up to pour a glass of sparkly champagne or sparkling white grape juice for Mommy, because it’s a special day. A cup of hot coffee would be nice too.

Arrange everything nicely on a platter with a fresh flower or two and a handmade card. Your mommy will be in Mother’s Day heaven!

Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 7 or 8 cake-style donuts, chopped into chunks (plain, powdered, cinnamon, apple cider)
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the inside of a medium sized baking dish with the softened butter. Chop the donuts into chunks (about 1″ square). Arrange the donut chunks evenly in the baking dish. Sprinkle the raisins on top. Combine the half and half, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl or measuring cup. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the donuts and raisins. (Try not to over-soak the donuts.) Gently press down on the donuts so they are mostly submerged in the liquid. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Carrot-Raisin Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

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My brain is in a major fog today. I have a bit of a cold, which is making my stuffy head feel like it’s going to explode. The baby has the same cold. I’m guessing his head also feels like it’s going to explode, since he’s been sleeping even more miserably than usual. And when he sleeps miserably, we all sleep miserably. It’s unfortunate, because I could really use a good sleep right about now. If only the dog could watch the kids for a bit while I took a nap…

Instead, I’m manning my post as captain of chaos central. The baby is howling in his crib, because he doesn’t want to take the nap he so desperately needs. The other two boys are healthy (thankfully) and buzzing with their normal dose of energy. And the dog, my only hope for a babysitter, just can’t decide which side of the door he wants to be on. Oh well…guess it’s just one of those days.

In other news, I’ve been back on track with my fitness goals for four days now. My little dietary hiatus resulted in gaining back about four of the pounds I’d lost earlier in the year, but I’m refocused and ready to get myself in shape, just in time for shorts-weather. I’ve put myself back onto phase 1 of South Beach diet, which always helps to reset my dietary habits. I’ve been enjoying cheesy morning omelets, protein-packed lunchtime salads, and veggie loaded dinners, with snacks of fresh veggies, roasted garbanzo beans, part-skim cheese and pistachios in between. I feel healthier already.

But, before I jumped back on my diet plan, we brought in Easter morning with these decadent pancakes. It’s taking every bit of my self control not to whip up another batch right now…well, that and the absence of a few crucial ingredients. These pancakes combine the flavors of a classic carrot cake with the feel of traditional pancakes for a really tasty breakfast treat. You could go heavier on the sugar and carrots for a sweeter, cakier result, but for me, these are just perfect. They’ve got the right balance of flavors and sweetness to remind you of carrot cake, while still maintaining the overall feel of a breakfast pancake. A simple cream cheese icing provides the perfect finishing touch.

And they’ve got carrots in them…so they must be good for you, right??

Carrot-Raisin Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Butter, for pan

Directions

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir with a fork until the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Add the milk, eggs, and vegetable oil (or melted butter). Whisk until combined. Stir in the grated carrots and raisins. Melt a little butter in a pan over medium heat. Add about 1/3 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two on the other side, until cooked through.

Drizzle with cream cheese glaze before serving.

To make the glaze: Combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Then, add a bit of milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

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On the weekends, my husband and I take turns sleeping in, while the other person brings the boys downstairs to get them started on their day. Yesterday was my turn to sleep in. Today, my husband’s.

But my husband picked the wrong day to sleep in. For today is April Fool’s Day. And while he leisurely slumbered, the boys and I began to lay a few tricks. We hid his breakfast cereal and the coffee K-cups. We turned the chairs around in the dining room and planted a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs to trap him. We agreed that when he came into the room, we would all pretend not to know him and demand to know what he was doing in our home. Just a few fun, non-destructive tricks.

And then I lost all control over the situation. Within moments, the two boys were giggling wildly as they ran from room to room trashing the place. Apparently their idea of an April Fool’s joke involves complete demolition of our home…dumping out every bin of toys, pulling cushions off the couch and rearranging every piece of furniture. Clearly the joke was on me now.

As I buzzed around after them, fruitlessly trying to contain their holiday spirit, my husband came down the stairs to find himself trapped by the gate. One of the boys immediately thrust a coloring book at him and demanded that he sign his name in order to be released from the gate (he came up with that part on his own). All the while, his younger brother stood there repeatedly shouting “Butt” in between wild giggles…because shouting butt is clearly hilarious. A moment later, Señor Butt ran off and came flying back over to wag the bag of hidden K-cups in his father’s face, totally busting that joke before my husband had a chance to discover they were missing. I might as well tell you that we also hid your cereal and there’s a giant plastic spider in your work bag.

I have a feeling that I’ll be contending with a higher than usual level of mischief and mayhem today. Lesson learned…kids shouldn’t be told about April Fool’s Day.

But fun days require fun food. And I can’t think of anything more fun that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches turned into a warm bread pudding and drizzled with marshmallow topping. I’m not even sure if this qualifies as breakfast, lunch, or dessert. Almost certainly dessert, but I won’t tell if you serve it for breakfast or lunch. It’s made out of PB&J sandwiches…sounds like lunch to me! The marshmallow Fluff was an afterthought. I’d initially planned to sprinkle my pb&j bread pudding with powdered sugar, but the marshmallow fluff caught my eye at the grocery store. Not sure I’ve ever purchased fluff before, but it certainly works for this fun little treat!

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 small/medium loaf of crusty Italian bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (approximately)
  • 1/2 cup jam or jelly (approximately)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff or other marshmallow topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use the bread, peanut butter, and jelly to make several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then, cut the sandwiches into small (approximately 1″) chunks. Arrange the chunks of PB&J in a large baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Pour the mixture over the PB&J chunks. Press down on the mixture to ensure that all pieces have been moistened. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, periodically pressing down on the mixture to soak all pieces.

Remove the baking dish from the fridge. Bake for 45 minutes. While still hot, drizzle the marshmallow topping over the bread pudding. Serve warm.

**A little trick for drizzling the marshmallow topping: Place some of the topping in a small baggie. Cut off a tiny bit of one corner and squeeze the topping over the bread pudding.

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Some days, I wish I could go back in time to my fifteen year old self and shake myself silly. The fifteen year old self who thought her chest was too small and her hips too wide for her too thin waist and flat as a washboard stomach. Oh you silly, silly girl. Why in the world are teenage girls programmed to despise themselves so?? What I would give to go back in time to appreciate the beautiful body I never knew I had.

And now I sit here, in my mid-thirties, after having had three kids over the course of four years, wishing my hips were only as wide as they were twenty years ago or that my chest were nearly as small or my stomach as flat. Oh, the lessons we learn too late.

And while I may never be as small as I was then, I am confident that I will regain a healthy and strong figure; a body I am proud of as much for the way it looks and feels as I am for how it has grown, birthed, and nourished my three beautiful babies. It’ll just take a little effort to get there.

I’m 17 days into my New Year’s diet; a diet which I intend to stick with, long past the one month expiration date which many people’s New Year’s resolutions seem to have. Because it’s more than a diet. It’s a shift to healthier living and a healthier, more confident me. I’m feeling motivated and optimistic. Over the past few weeks, we’ve eaten so many delicious meals; cut out the junk we shouldn’t be eating anyway and replaced it with tons of fresh veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. We’re eating like kings around here and our extra pounds are falling off.

I’ve got a growing list of new healthy recipes to share with you, but for now, here’s a quick recipe for a delicious, protein-rich, low-carb breakfast or snack.  These mini quiches hold well for a few days in the fridge and take only a few seconds in the microwave to reheat. You can even freeze half the batch for later use! I added swiss cheese, tender, sweet onions, and crumbled bacon for a tasty play on quiche Lorraine, but the options are endless. Try different combinations of cheese, veggies, and meats to create your personal favorite mini quiches!

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender and golden.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Place a pinch of the cheese, onions, and bacon in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, carefully pour the egg mixture into each tin, just to the top.

Place the trays on the middle oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes. They will look puffed and golden when done.

Makes 24 mini quiches

*Quiches can be served immediately or refrigerated or frozen for later use. A few seconds in the microwave will do the trick for reheating.

Diet Day: 17    Weight Loss: 11    Motivation: Let’s do this!

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