Category Archives: Breakfast

Ode to a Power Couple

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Ah, yes – Cinnamon and Raisins, the beloved power duo of the breakfast world. I really do wish that every meal could hinge on the presence of the perfect pair, but alas, one cannot maintain sustenance on bran muffins, cinnamon buns and oatmeal alone. Believe me, I’ve tried. Eating disorders aside, in all honesty it’s been a lifelong goal of mine to make the perfect cinnamon raisin bread (I know, I dream big). So, this weekend between biking across Los Angeles, refinishing some old chairs and a much anticipated Dodger game, I managed to cross that milestone off my bucket list! (Cue the applause) This recipe is actually quite easy, as time consuming it seems. You can let the dough rise for basically as long as you need while you run around crossing those other less-pressing items off your weekend to-do list. And then, magically when you bike back from Dodger Stadium past your bedtime, all that’s standing between you and cinnamon-y goodness are 25 minutes and 375 degrees. The perfect reward for a perfect weekend!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - Loaf

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Recipe adapted from here

2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup almond milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2/3 cup raisins (or any dried fruit – I added dried peaches and dates since I was low on raisins)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1. Make the dough.
Measure out 1 1/4 cups very warm water and check the temperature; it should be 120 degrees F to 130 degrees F. Combine both flours, the dry milk, egg, canola oil, honey, salt, yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix 3 minutes on the lowest setting, then increase to the next highest setting and mix 5 more minutes. The dough should be soft and sticky.

2. Let it rise.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly coated with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

3. Soak the raisins.
Dry raisins will rob moisture from the bread, so soak them first in boiling water until plump, about 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

4. Fold the dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Picture it as a loose square. Lift up one side of the dough and fold about one-third of it across; press down on the dough with spread fingers to remove any air bubbles. Repeat with the remaining 3 sides of the dough.

5. Add the filling.
Mist two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the dough in half; roll out each half into an 8-inch square. Brush each square with canola oil, then sprinkle with the cinnamon (it’s high in antioxidants!), brown sugar and raisins.

6. Form the loaves.
Roll up each square of dough into a tight cylinder; place seam-side down in the prepared pans. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough fills the pans and springs back when touched, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

7. Bake the bread.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the loaves with canola oil and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Granola Bars, Part Deux

Good morning hunger pains! Per the usual, I woke up this morning completely ravenous, eagerly anticipating stuffing my face voraciously with granola (also quite typical). Shuffling my sleepy self to the kitchen with a craving for peanut butter, I realized I had prematurely gobbled up my granola supply (#firstworldproblems), so I quickly scrounged up the ingredients for these rockingly easy granola bars. This is a recipe so simple that any pre-caffeinated brain can handle on the emptiest of stomachs. However, waiting for these buddys to set before cutting may be a different story… These are definitely a new essential to keep on handy for satiating frequent morning (or afternoon, midnight, 3am…) hunger pains. Customize with chocolate, nuts and dried fruit to your hearts content! Peanut Butter Granola Bars adapted from here

2/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup agave syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

3 cups oats

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional Add-ins:

1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins (or any bite-sized dried fruit will work)

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped (or walnuts, pecans, peanuts…)

1/3 to 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a 9 x 13″ baking dish with tin foil. In a large microwave-safe bowl (think big, you’ll be mixing everything in here), combine brown rice syrup, peanut butter, agave, and heat on high power for 1 minute; stir to combine. Add vanilla, cinnamon, salt.

Add oats and coconut to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add any dried fruit, nuts and chocolate and fold to incorporate. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread parchment paper over mixture, and pack down firmly with a fists. Place pan in the freezer for at least 1 hour, or until you can’t take waiting anymore. Slice bars and wrap in parchment or tin foil for easy snacking and/or breakfasting!

The Challenge

The challenge: Feed a staff of  30 for a work breakfast – in under $30.  Did I mention this was a nonprofit?

The solution: It had to be home-made granola. Well, maybe it didn’t have to be, but it was awfully frugal of me and I had been wanting to try making granola for a long time. It’s a DIY project, no doubt about it – something you can definitely pay to avoid. But if you’re feeling crafty, or don’t feel like going over-budget, this is a hugely rewarding and very delicious effort. Making your own granola also allows you to control what goes in – doing things to your liking and not making it too sweet.

Of course when this idea first came up, I immediately called Joni (the baker extraordinaire on this blog). Of course she had a recipe for granola that used no sugar – really, no sugar, replacing it instead with honey and maple syrup. I was pretty skeptical that this would turn out like cardboard, but it was completely and totally delicious. Nutty, flavorful, salty-sweet – everything you really want and need out of a granola. And it only set me back 12 bucks, which left plenty for yogurt and fruit.

This recipe is just the base formula – you can experiment all you want with nuts, dried fruits, and other fun add-ins.

Maple Almond Granola
Adapted from here

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mild honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, coconut, almonds, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Heat the oil, honey, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat until combined. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture, add the vanilla, and stir until combined. Spread the granola on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
4. Bake the granola, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and aromatic, 25 to 40 minutes. If you have a crummy oven that you suspect is below the desired temperature (been there), you can raise to 325°F, but watch that granola like a hawk. Stir in dried fruit if using and push the granola to one side of the pan to allow the granola to stick together in clusters as it cools (as seen above). Keep the granola in an airtight container for up to 1 month – or serve to a very happy group of coworkers on Monday.

50 Shades of Green (+ a granola bar)

If you know me, you know my love affair with granola. If you know me well, you know I actually hate granola – that I despise myself for how I love it so: the power it has to weaken my knees as well as my will power to stop at one bowl. You also now know that I am crazy.

To mitigate such severe morning predicaments (and ridiculously important internal stuggles), I have created a new morning ritual: a green smoothie and an *individually wrapped and proportioned* grain-free granola bar. The green smoothie has been a standing ritual for a while now, but alone I tended to burn it off by 11 – my eyes involuntarily wandering to the top right corner of my computer screen, aching for a socially reasonable time to take a lunch break. We’ve all been there. I am a big believer in a respectable breakfast, so a supplement to the green smoothie was definitely in order. These bars are the perfect solution: suuuuper easy (no bake!) and have enough fat and sugar to keep you energized all morning long.

Every morning I tend to blend up a slightly different shade of green, making slight variations to keep it interesting – but the recipe that follows is definitely my favorite. Its pretty calorie packed, so definitely not an every day indulgence – I’d categorize it as a weekend smoothie. (Again, yes: crazy.) Typically, I just throw in almond milk, half a banana (or half an avocado), a more-than-generous handful or two of spinach or kale and a tablespoon of chia seeds. But we like to keep it exciting here, so I’m giving you the best of the best.

Make this your morning ritual and thank me when you finally glance at the clock mid-afternoon after an insanely productive morning has miraculously flown by sans hunger pains.

Breakfast of Champions:

1. Green Pineapple Coconut Smoothie 
(Adapted from here)

1½ cups fresh or frozen ripe pineapple
2 cups filtered water or raw coconut water
1 handful curly green kale (about 1½ large leaves)
1 ripe banana
2 dates
2 tablespoons dried unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons cup raw almonds or cashews (optional for extra protein)
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional for them omega-3s)

Pour the coconut water in your blender, then pineapple (if using fresh pineapple, throw in some ice cubes) then the rest of the ingredients and blend, blend, blend! Add chia seeds at the very end so they don’t stick to the blender, making a bitch of a situation to clean. Pour and enjoy!

2. Grain-free Granola Bars
(adapted from here)

2½ cups assorted nuts and seeds
1 cup dried fruit
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
splash of vanilla extract
splash of almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Roughly chop 1 cup of the nuts and throw the rest into a food processer. Pulse until you have finely chopped bits and pieces. Stir to combine with larger nut chunks and add dried fruit and coconut.

In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil and honey over medium-low heat. Add vanilla/almond extracts and salt and stir constantly until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and pour over dry mixture. Stir to coat fruit and nuts completely.

Dump the mixture in a parchment or tin foil lined 9 x 13″ baking dish. With another sheet of parchment paper, press down the mixture REALLY HARD to condense and make the bars stick together. Like, use all you man-power to pack the suckers tightly.

Wait at least two hours to cool, or stick in the fridge for an hour or so. I left them overnight. The mixture will be hard enough to cut into bars.

Individual wrapping for the obsessive-compulsive and granola-addicts only.