As eager as I have been to get things rolling on our kitchen remodel, I have enjoyed being able to make some of the fall recipes I thought would get left behind. If we must be delayed, I may as well keep cooking fun things, right? We still have a few days of “Better Breakfast Month,” and this simple twist on your favorite waffles is covering a lot of territory for me.
If you have never tried them, sourdough waffles are the best thing going—with delicate, crispy exterior and soft, fluffy goodness on the inside. They are not as sweet as some other waffles, which is fine by me, given that I usually drench them in real maple syrup. In keeping with the season (we are now five full days into fall), I have also spiked these easy-to-make, overnight waffles with pumpkin and warm spices, the two flavors everyone seems to either love or hate. If you’re in the first camp, keep reading. If not—well, perhaps you simply need to try these waffles, so you might want to keep reading, too.
I used to hesitate on pumpkin spice recipes, imagining that maybe this ubiquitous flavor combination was too cliché. But then I went to Trader Joe’s, otherwise known as the pumpkin spice capital of the world, and I found myself surrounded by pumpkin spice cookies, donuts, yogurt, coffee, granola bark, cake bites, scented candles—well, you know the scene. And it was there, standing amid all those fall-inspired goodies, that I realized 75 million Trader Joe’s fans can’t be wrong. And neither are these waffles.
The addition of pure pumpkin puree gives these waffles a gorgeous fall color and a big dose of antioxidants, while a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice brings the essence of the season. Here’s a bit of happy news: if you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can still make a version of these. I made only those two modifications to my favorite sourdough waffle recipe for this variation, and I expect you can do the same with whatever recipe you like to use, sourdough or not. Just add pumpkin to the wet ingredients and pumpkin pie spice to the flour.
Obviously, you do need a waffle iron to make waffles. I have had good results using both a Belgian-style maker and a standard square maker, though the recipe will yield different amounts depending on the size of the waffles. No waffle maker, but jonesing for a pumpkin spice breakfast? Reduce the oil a bit, keep everything else the same and make pancakes instead.
1/2 cup sourdough discard
1 cup cultured buttermilk
1 Tbsp. cane sugar
1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
A heaping 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or a few pinches each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl (twice as large as you think you’ll need) until smooth. Stir in the flour and spice ingredients. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and leave it on the counter overnight to ferment.
In the Morning
Heat waffle iron to medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 200°F with oven rack in center position. Place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet inside the oven, for keeping the first few waffles warm while you finish the batch.
Whisk together these ingredients in a glass measuring cup:
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. canola oil (or melted butter)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 pinches salt
Pour the mixture into the pumpkin-sourdough starter and fold together, just until evenly combined. The buttermilk and baking soda will react, and the batter will become rather bubbly and rise in the bowl. Let the batter rest on the counter for about 10 minutes before you proceed with making the waffles.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for making the waffles, transferring them to the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
Of all the things I love about writing a blog—and there are many, from seeing a record of my kitchen accomplishments to moving another bucket list item to the “done” column to hearing the stories from others who have tried my dishes—the best benefit of all is meeting new friends. I had the most wonderful opportunity to do just that when my husband, Les, and I traveled by car for our recent vacation. Our trip was slated to take us up I-95 through Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Delaware and into New Jersey, and I was thrilled that my blogging pal, Bernadette, was open to a meet-up. She had mentioned many times on her own blog, New Classic Recipe, that she was a resident of the Garden State, and fate was on our side because we were able to meet just one quick exit off the highway, on our way up to the northern part of the state.
I first came to know about Bernadette because she began commenting on some of my posts near the end of 2020, most notably the Oysters Rockefeller Pizza, and when I checked out her blog (WordPress is good that way, encouraging you to check out the bloggers who like your pages), I found myself also mesmerized by stories of her travels and food adventures, and especially the Italian recipes, including this one for fried, stuffed olives. We began following each other’s blogs, but I didn’t expect I would meet her one day.
At least, not until a couple of weeks ago. 😊
Once our travel plans became clear, I reached out to Bernadette privately, and she was terrific to recommend places near her that we could connect in person, and I’m so glad that we did! We gabbed over lunch—about food and blogging, about family and friendship, and the time just went so fast, as Les and I were suddenly back in the car and on our way to the rest of our action-packed vacation.
Before we parted, my new friend surprised me with a gift bag that contained two jars of handmade preserves, which I treasure. One of them is fig, which we will most certainly dig into when the holidays arrive, and the other is blackberry-prosecco. As much as I have enjoyed slathering the latter on my breakfast toast, I wanted to make something delicious and special with it, both to honor my new friend and to show appreciation for this (literally) sweet handmade food gift. This recipe is simple to make because it relies on store-bought puff pastry, but it has a little bit of “wow” factor, thanks to a pretty shaping method that is very easy to do. And the blackberry-prosecco preserves offer just the right kiss of sweetness on top of a cream cheese cushion.
My intention for these pastries is to serve them for breakfast or brunch, and because September is Better Breakfast Month, it seems apropos to do so. But honestly, there’s no reason these could not also be served as a light dessert, perhaps even with a glass of prosecco, in a friendly nod to the prosecco in Bernadette’s preserves.
Preheat the oven to 400° F, with oven rack in the center position.
Remove puff pastry from package and roll out on a lightly floured counter or board. Use a rolling pin to gently press out any folds in the pastry and aim to keep the pastry sheet in a mostly square/rectangle shape.
Using a pizza wheel, trim the edges all around and cut the pastry into six roughly equal size squares. Arrange the squares on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. It is not necessary to have much space between them.
Use a paring knife to cut diagonally from the corners of each pastry square toward the center, but keep about 1½ inches of the center fully intact. Fold every other point toward the center, slightly overlapping them in the middle. Press down firmly on the centers with your thumb to ensure the pastry stays put.
Divide the sweetened cream cheese mixture among the pastry pinwheels. Each should have about 1 tablespoon. Gently press the center of the cream cheese with the back of a spoon to create an impression. Fill each impression with a small spoonful of your favorite preserves.
Brush all exposed pastry dough with egg wash. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until pastries are puffy and golden. Rotate baking sheet about halfway through the time, for even browning.
Cool pastries on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.
Before we get too carried away into kitchen renovation land, I owe the month of September its due respect. We are now 10 days into National Better Breakfast Month, and given that breakfast is my favorite meal, I should have more breakfast recipes on the blog already. But at our house, weekends are the only time we do anything fun or fancy for breakfast, so my opportunities are somewhat limited (much to my chagrin).
Today’s recipe is not fancy, but it gets high marks in the fun department because of all the flavors and textures. My inspiration for the dish came from a restaurant where my work team had its first face-to-face meeting since the pandemic started. The restaurant, which specializes in breakfast and brunch, had a “specials” board that announced, “Mexican street corn hash,” featuring chorizo, corn, potatoes and a sunny-side egg. It was good, but not particularly spicy, and it was missing a little something for me (smoke). My mind started working to break down the flavors and figure out how to improve it, and the outcome was delicious!
For my version of the dish, I amped up the flavors of a store-bought chorizo, using ordinary spices and a surprise ingredient (keep reading) to boost the texture of the sausage while enhancing the Mexican flavors. I used a combination of red jalapeno peppers and onions to make the potato hash interesting, and I finished the plate with crumbly cotija cheese, avocado cubes and a quick squeeze of fresh lime juice.
As I was discussing with a friend recently, if you have dietary restrictions, you don’t necessarily have to give up all the flavors you love. In this recipe, the yummy Mexican chorizo flavor can be easily adapted to turkey sausage or ground turkey (but be sure to adjust the spices and use a little oil for browning). You will still get the texture and flavors that made this dish delicious, without the ingredients that cause discomfort or health problems.
3 small, skin-on red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 lb. fresh chorizo sausage* (see notes)
1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (or combine with cayenne, if you dare!)
A few shakes ground cumin
A few shakes of dried Mexican oregano*
1 to 2 Tbsp. fine ground corn meal or masa harina*
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red jalapeno pepper, finely diced* (handle with care!)
1/2 cup frozen fire-roasted corn kernels*
2 large eggs (and a swirl of oil to fry them)
1/2 ripe avocado, cubed
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese*
1/2 fresh lime
I used 3 fresh chorizo links, similar in size to Italian sausage, with the casings removed. I don’t recommend the hard chorizo sausage that is typical of Spanish cuisine. If you substitute 1/2 lb. ground turkey or turkey sausage, add a bit of garlic powder and adjust the other seasonings to assimilate the flavor of chorizo, and be sure to use a little canola or olive oil in the skillet to make up for the sausage fat.
Mexican oregano, not to be confused with typical Mediterranean oregano, has an earthy flavor with similarities to citrus. This gives a different impression than the oregano you’d use in Greek or Italian recipes, which is a member of the mint family.
Are you wondering about the corn meal? I discovered a few years ago that adding corn meal (or masa harina, the ingredient used to make corn tortillas) gives a distinctly Mexican flavor to taco seasoning, and for this recipe, it adds a bit of the grainy, gritty texture that is so good in chorizo. It also seems to help absorb some of the grease when the chorizo cooks. Try it and see!
If jalapeno is too spicy for your palate, sub in a similar amount of red bell pepper.
I used Trader Joe’s fire-roasted corn, available in the freezer section. Regular sweet corn would work just as well, but I really like the slightly charred, smoky flavor that the roasted corn conveys.
Cotija is a dry, crumbly cheese that lends a salty touch to Mexican dishes. If you cannot find it, crumbled feta would be a good substitute.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes when the water comes to a boil and stir in the baking soda. This will “rough up” the surface of the potatoes to make them more crispy and more porous to the seasonings in the skillet. When the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with the tip of a knife (but not mushy), drain and set aside.
Remove any casings from the chorizo and sprinkle the paprika, cumin, oregano and corn meal over it. Using your hands, squeeze to combine the seasonings thoroughly into the sausage.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook until all sides have a nice brown crust on them. Add the onions and jalapenos; continue cooking until the onions are soft.
Move the sausage and onion mixture to the edges of the skillet. Add a quick swirl of oil if the skillet is dry. Add the potatoes to the center of the skillet, cooking them to desired texture. Add the corn and cook until heated through.
In a separate, non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat and fry the eggs to desired doneness.
Divide the hash for two servings. Sprinkle each with 2 Tbsp. of the cotija cheese and scatter the avocado cubes around the plate. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the hash, top with an egg and serve. Any chorizo drippings left in the skillet may be drizzled over the egg if you like. 😊
In my quest to determine which of our gadgets and small kitchen electrics will win a permanent spot in our soon-to-be-new kitchen, I am cycling through some recipes I haven’t made in a while, just to have a reason to pull those gadgets from storage and give them a run.
For these fluffy, buttermilk-rich blueberry pancakes, I turned to a favorite King Arthur Baking Company recipe, and I added a twist to give them extra loft. The ingredient list isn’t changed, but the technique is slightly different in that I separate the eggs before mixing, whipping the whites by themselves and then folding them into the batter just before griddling. It’s a simple kitchen trick that elevates any favorite pancake recipe—figuratively and literally.
Rather than cooking the pancakes on my beloved middle griddle that lives permanently on our gas range top, I asked my husband, Les, to get the stepladder for fetching my reversible, non-stick griddle from its unlikely storage spot in the kitchen. The griddle is enormous, and for lack of a better stowing spot, we have kept it wrapped in a large kitchen trash bag, stored way up there on top of the cabinets, where Taz is sitting!
I’m reluctant to let go of this griddle because it is easy to clean, reversible to a grill side and the temperature dial ensures consistent cooking. Needless to say, its large cooking surface helps me get breakfast ready all at once. Unfortunately, the out-of-reach storage makes it inconvenient for regular use.
When the big reveal happens on our remodel, Les and I will be re-evaluating where everything goes, and the full-height pantry cabinet should have plenty of room for this convenient, though bulky, appliance (fingers crossed)!
Eggs separate more easily when they are cold, so take care of that first and set each part aside until they are room temperature.
It’s best for the buttermilk to be near room temperature, also.
Heat an electric griddle to 350°F, or a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolk, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Mix the wet ingredients with the flour ingredients, stirring just until blended.
In yet another bowl, whip the egg white with an electric hand mixer (or with a whisk and some elbow grease, if you’re feeling sassy). When properly whipped, the egg white should increase a great deal in volume and will form stiff peaks when you remove the whisk.
Fold the whipped white into the bowl with the rest of the batter, taking care not to stir down and deflate the batter. Allow it to rest about 15 minutes.
Pour or ladle batter onto griddle in smallish rounds, about 4 inches across. Do not swirl or otherwise flatten the batter—we want them fluffy, remember? 😊 Cook the first side about a minute, then carefully arrange blueberries onto the cakes. Continue to cook until the pancakes are set on the edges and bubbly all over the top.
Turn gently and cook the other side. Serve warm with butter and real maple syrup.
Everyone has hobbies, and one of my favorites is re-creating or upcycling a recipe I have enjoyed in a restaurant. I’ve been doing it for years, sometimes drawing inspiration from memories of something delicious from childhood and other times because I realize an expensive restaurant dish is easy enough to do at home for a fraction of the price, as was the case with mahi Hemingway, which is still the most-visited post here on Comfort du Jour. And occasionally, I will reimagine a meal as I am eating it—not because I think I know better than the chef, but because I know what flavors would elevate it for me. That’s what happened when my husband, Les, and I pondered the final meal of our recent getaway to Roanoke, Virginia. As you can see, we were not exactly roughing it.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re correct—I am a very lucky woman. For our 4th wedding anniversary, Les had booked us for the weekend in this luxurious, historic hotel, and we had a wonderful and relaxing time, including a luxury foot soak for couples that he arranged in the hotel spa (far and away the most romantic thing we have done together). We were within easy walking distance to some terrific local restaurants, and thanks to Virginia’s smart COVID policies and the protocols of the restaurants we visited (I was still a few days away from my second dose of vaccine), we were able to safely experience incredible food and drink, including this dramatic entrée, served up at a place called Table 50.
By the time we got to Sunday morning, we were feeling pretty darn pampered, and we opted for a pre-checkout brunch in the fancy-schmancy hotel dining room. Les and I both zeroed in on the same entrée, which seems to happen more often than it did in our earlier years together. The benedicts before us were served with steak tips, wilted spinach and hollandaise.
Very classic and delicious, though I’m not a huge fan of hollandaise. Les has picked up on my habit of upcycling recipes, and the gears were already turning in both of our minds. Why couldn’t we add some bold flavors to this otherwise classic brunch staple, and make it our own at home? Of course we could, and so we did.
This is our version of that brunch benedict—a toasted English muffin (only one between us), topped with spinach that was sauteed with onion, thin slices of our zesty coffee-rubbed tri-tip steak, a poached runny egg and a generous draping of the roasted red pepper sauce I shared yesterday. Upscaled, yet somehow more rustic and casual. Definitely a Comfort du Jour thing.
Obviously, to enjoy the benedict this way, you would need to first cook the tri-tip steak according to the recipe Les shared a couple of weeks ago, and you would not regret it. But maybe you have some steak leftover from a nice dinner out, and you could slice that into the recipe instead. Start looking at your leftovers differently and you never know what kind of fabulous creations will happen in your kitchen.
The roasted red pepper sauce is an extremely versatile recipe, and one that we have enjoyed across a variety of recipes. If you make it in advance, you will have about 2 cups, so this recipe only requires a portion of it.
For me, the biggest pain about any benedict is the eggs. I don’t have a lot of success with poaching eggs, and most of the time I just do a quick steam-poach in a non-stick skillet. I’ve tried various poaching gadgets, including the silicone one you’ll see in the slideshow, but they still argue with me. My first set of eggs was way overcooked by the time I had the rest of the benedict plated. I stuck with it and had better success with the second set of eggs, but the whole thing broke my momentum. Follow your own kitchen rules. And if you have any unusual tricks for poaching eggs, I’d sure love to hear them!
Put a pot on to boil if you are poaching the eggs, as this will take some time to be ready. Crack each of the eggs into its own custard cup for easy slipping into the water. Say a prayer—oh wait, that’s just for me.
Slice the tri-tip into thin, even slices and set them aside.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl in the olive oil. Add the onions and baby spinach and sauté until most of the moisture is cooked out of the spinach. If it is still steaming in the pan, it needs another minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and lay the slices of tri-tip on top of the spinach. Cover it to keep warm.
Warm up the roasted red pepper sauce, either in the microwave or in a small saucepan.
Stir the simmering water and slip the eggs, one at a time, into the pot. Watch them closely, because they don’t take long. Or cook the eggs according to your own kitchen rules.
Drop the English muffin halves to toast them, and swipe a quick smear of butter across their nook-and-cranny surfaces if you wish.
Start layering—first spinach, then tri-tip slices, the poached egg and, finally, the roasted red pepper sauce.
Throughout my childhood, I took for granted that everyone enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the way my family made them. Not every time (but a good percentage of the time) I had this quintessential kid favorite, it was fried. You read that correctly—a fried peanut butter and jelly. 😋
I don’t mean greasy, county fair-style of battered-and-fried. This PB&J sandwich is assembled as usual, and then buttered on both sides and placed on a pan or griddle like a grilled cheese sandwich. The reward for patience while it cooked was a golden and crispy crust, with peanut butter and jelly melted together inside—a sticky, gooey, delicious mess of flavor.
I was at least halfway into my 20s before I realized that a fried PB&J was not a standard sandwich for everyone else, and I’m thrilled to have been let in on this flavorful secret sandwich at such a young age. This sandwich is helping me wrap up Better Breakfast Month, and I believe it qualifies as a “better” breakfast item for a few reasons:
It’s quick and easy to make
Kids and grownups alike will enjoy it
It’s a fun and elegant twist on an ordinary PB&J
It has whole grains, fiber, protein and fruit, which makes it nutritious (that’s my story and I’m sticking with it)
Making a fried PB&J is really as simple as I just described, and you certainly don’t need a recipe to do it. What I will offer instead is my guide to making the most memorable fried PB&J, because the ingredients you choose can make or break your first taste impression of this sandwich, which is, quite frankly, dangling right on the edge of the dessert category. Let’s begin with the foundation of any good sandwich:
In my (trying to be) humble opinion, a homemade artisan-style bread will yield the best results. You guys know I’m all about sourdough, and this is the breadI’ll be using here, but I know not everyone has time to invest in learning or making naturally leavened bread. You can use store-bought bread to make a top-notch fried PB&J, provided you choose a suitable type. Hopefully, you are not still purchasing the long, skinny, plastic-wrapped loaves that are found in aisle 12 of the supermarket—but if you are, please stop. Cheap packaged breads are made of cheap, stripped-down ingredients, and the texture is all wrong for sandwiches, toast—well for anything, really.
I love Maurizio Leo’s sourdough recipe that I’ve linked above because it makes the best sandwiches (and the best toast). It uses a simple but unusual step of pre-cooking a portion of the flour, which enhances the final texture into something that is gelatinized and chewy yet tender, and 100% perfect for sandwiches. To be fair, the recipe is not for beginners, but if you have some experience with sourdough, I hope you’ll try it. Maurizio’s recipe makes two loaves, but I usually halve the recipe, and I bake it in a covered Pullman pan, which gives me perfectly square slices.
If your supermarket has a bakery, pick up a good, simple artisan loaf—preferably something partially whole grain, with a soft “crumb” (that’s a bread-nerd term for the interior texture of the bread) and a firm, slightly chewy crust. No nuts or seeds or anything extra—just a classic bread is fine. All your sandwiches henceforth will thank you.
The Peanut Butter
Every PB&J (fried or otherwise) I had as a kid was made with conventional supermarket peanut butter, namely the brand that the (allegedly) choosy mothers chose. But I have not bought that stuff in years because it contains sugar, plus hydrogenated oils that are blended in to keep the natural oils of the peanuts from separating. I discovered long ago the simple pleasure of a natural peanut butter, made from only peanuts and salt. Sure, you’ll have to stir it (but only once) and keep it in the refrigerator, but it’s only 90 extra seconds spent to protect your body from the hazards of trans fats. There’s the question of smooth vs. crunchy, and I’m going with crunchy because I love the added texture of the little peanut pieces. You decide.
The PB&J of my childhood was usually made with grape jelly, and I’ll admit that I still have a special place in my heart for the flavor of good old Welch’s. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up a few miles down the road from their original headquarters in Westfield, New York. Concord grapes are a native grape, and they were everywhere in my neck of the woods—my best friend’s family even had concord vines growing on a pergola over their backyard patio. Sandy and I used to pick the grapes straight off the vine in late summer and squish the seedy insides into our mouths, tossing aside the bitter, astringent skins and then spitting out the seeds. I can still taste those grapes!
Today, it’s all but impossible to find a grape jelly that doesn’t list high fructose corn syrup in the first two ingredients, and that is a huge problem for me. This is an ingredient that did not exist at all in previous generations, but food manufacturers lean on it heavily today because it’s cheaper and easier to use than sugar. But it’s fake, and I’m not having it on my sandwich. Pick up a jar of handmade jelly at the farmer’s market or diligently inspect the ingredient labels in the supermarket if you’re as concerned about this issue as I am.
As an adult, I’ve developed a fondness for other flavors of jams and preserves, my favorites being raspberry, fig and cherry. For this fried PB&J, seedless is best, so I’m going with cherry preserves, and I’ve carefully selected a brand that is sweetened with real sugar. There are chunks of cherry in these preserves, too, so I know it will be delicious.
To grill the sandwich, you’ll need to lightly butter both sides, and I do not recommend margarine or any other kind of butter substitute, unless you are dairy restricted. The milk solids in butter contribute to the lovely browning on the crust and, unfortunately, a substitute will not have the same crispy result. But if your only choice is plant-based butter, you will still enjoy this sandwich for the flavor and the incredible ooey-gooey texture that results from heating the peanut butter and jelly together.
I can’t stand the suspense, and my laptop can’t stand my drooling, so let’s get to it.
For best results, use modest amounts of both peanut butter and jelly. They will marry together so well under the gentle heat of the griddle, but too much of either will cause the filling to seep out everywhere. Keep the griddle level on a medium-low heat, for slow and even browning. This gives the filling time to properly warm so the peanut butter and jelly become like one. Turn the sandwich carefully so it doesn’t slide apart. And for sure, allow it to cool a couple of minutes, so the sandwich is “set up” properly when you cut into it. Plus, if you give into temptation and bite into it too quickly, you’ll burn the roof of your mouth. Trust me on this; warm is good, hot is painful.
This fried PB&J makes me so very happy, with each buttery crisp bite, and the warm nutty, fruity filling makes me feel like I’m nine years old again. In a good way. 😉 Each time I make one, I try to eat it slowly so I can hang onto that feeling. The other beauty of this sandwich is that it works for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night snack or any other time your sweet tooth and hunger collide.
Please let me know if you try it, and feel free to share in the comments any fun twists your family made on a classic comfort food!
We all need options when it comes to breakfast, and so I’m sharing my tips for making a quick and healthy smoothie, regardless of the fruit and other fixings you have on hand.
What makes these smoothies “better” for better breakfast month?
They work two servings of fruit into the most important meal of the day.
They bend and flex to accommodate your favorite fruit, fresh or frozen.
You can easily swap out dairy for plant-based milk.
Your favorite protein powder will feel right at home in them.
They are quick, easy and portable for rushed-out-the-door mornings.
They satisfy your morning hunger and are friendly to a weight-loss diet.
They are super kid-friendly.
My magic formula for delicious and healthy fruit smoothies goes like this—something creamy, something packed with protein, some kind of fruit, maybe a juice, and optional special touches, such as coconut or spices. See what I mean? Flexible! I’ll give the full rundown of how I mix and match ingredients (and in what quantity), then I’ll share specifics of my favorites. Here we go!
about 3/4 cup
I usually choose plain Greek yogurt or kefir, a cultured dairy drink that is similar to buttermilk but tastes more like a drinkable yogurt. Regular yogurt is also an option, but I avoid the flavored ones and their crazy-high sugar content. Skyr is another good option—a yogurt-like product from Scandinavia. Two popular brands are Siggi’s and Icelandic Provisions. For a plant-based option, choose your favorite non-dairy yogurt substitute, but lean into the low-sugar or plain options. The fruit you add will bring plenty of sweetness to the party.
about 1/2 “scoop,” or approximately 1 heaping tablespoon
Choose your favorite powdered form—I like soy protein, but whey works very well in smoothies, and so does hemp or pea protein. Almost every protein powder I’ve purchased comes with a small scoop that is roughly 2 tablespoons, and I fill it halfway for a smoothie. I recommend a plain or unsweetened vanilla option. My husband, Les, likes the chocolate protein powder, but we have found it can be less versatile for matching with fruit. Chocolate and raspberry is great, but chocolate and peaches?—not so much. Vanilla helps us keep our options open.
total of about 1 cup
Yay—my favorite part! I like my smoothies to be icy cold and shake-like, so I almost always use frozen fruit, and especially bananas because of the creamy texture they provide. The greatest benefit to using frozen is that I don’t have to wait until the fruit is in season. It also saves multiple trips to the market for fresh fruit, or throwing away fruit that has gone bad. The fruits that work best for my homemade smoothies are peaches, bananas, pineapple, mango, cherries and any kind of berry (as long as you don’t mind their seeds). Fresh fruit works fine, of course. I don’t recommend citrus fruits, apples, melons or grapes, as their texture and water content would prevent them from blending well.
Juice or other liquid
1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on other ingredients
This is helpful for blending the smoothie, but it may not be necessary if you use kefir, which is pourable. Greek yogurt is much thicker and would benefit from addition of juice, especially if you are using mostly frozen fruit in the smoothie. Other suitable liquids include milk, almond milk, coconut water or coconut milk.
small amounts of each
The mix-ins can be anything you like, but my favorites are unsweetened coconut (for texture and fiber), chia seed (for fiber and additional protein) and ginger (good for digestion) or another powdered spice, such as cinnamon. Sweeteners are not necessary, but if you must, may I recommend a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup? Anything but sugar, if you are aiming to keep them in the healthy column.
Ordering the layers:
It may seem inconsequential, given that the ingredients will be whirred into one mixture in the blender, but your smoothies will come together faster and more evenly if you layer the ingredients in a way that your blender can best mix them. You want the liquids and powders closest to the blender blade, so they can get a head start on mixing before the frozen stuff enters the game. The heavier ingredients, such as frozen fruit or ice, should be at the top, providing weight to keep the mixture moving downward for thorough blending. For a standard base blender, it might look like this:
My smoothie appliance is a bullet blender, which of course goes upside-down for mixing. So I layer my ingredients in reverse order, beginning with frozen fruit. When I flip the sealed blender cup onto the machine, I give it a minute to allow the liquids to run back to the blade area for more even mixing, leaving the frozen fruit at the top, where it should be.
Enough talk—let’s make a smoothie! Below are some of my favorite blends, and a list of ingredients I use for each of them. I’ve given the ingredients in order for a conventional blender. If you use a bullet-style blender, reverse the list order. Each combination yields a 12 oz. (340 g) smoothie.
Kefir, pineapple and spinach
I think of this smoothie as a power breakfast for all the nutritional benefit I get from it. Plus, the flavor is so delicious, it is a treat at the same time.
Ingredients: 3/4 cup kefir, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 scoop soy protein powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon chia seed, 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, 1 medium handful baby spinach leaves, 1/2 cup banana chunks, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple bits.
Yogurt and banana-berry blend
This one feels very protective, with lots of antioxidant benefit in the red and blue berries.
Ingredients: 1 serving cup yogurt (I used coconut flavor skyr for this one), 1/4 cup blueberry juice (any juice or milk will do), 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon chia seed, 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup frozen banana chunks, 1/2 cup frozen berry blend (with blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and blackberry).
Plant-based yogurt and mango
There are many great flavors of plant-based yogurt available, and this one was mango, so I played up the tropical flavors throughout the smoothie.
Ingredients: 1 serving cup plant-based yogurt, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon chia seed, 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup frozen banana chunks, 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks.
Peach cobbler smoothie
For this one, I soaked 1/4 cup rolled oats in 1/2 cup kefir overnight (in the fridge) and then built the smoothie in the morning. It’s an easy way to work some whole grains into your breakfast drink (because September is also “whole grains month”). From that point, the process was the same for layering and blending. You get the idea, right?
Ingredients: 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon chia seed, kefir-soaked oats, 1 tablespoon almond flour, 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 cup frozen banana chunks, 1/2 cup frozen peaches.
We are inching toward a special day—and time of year—in Jewish tradition. Rosh Hashanah, in the simplest of terms, is the onset of the “High Holidays,” a 10-day celebration that concludes with Yom Kippur. The whole event is a spiritual reset button of sorts, a time for personal introspection leading to atonement. When I became engaged to my husband, Les, in 2016, I joined him for High Holidays services, and though I likely will not ever convert to Judaism, I love learning about this sacred part of my husband’s heritage. Going through the Hebrew readings and stages of reflection is something Jesus would have done as a regular practice (he was Jewish, remember?), and I have found that it gives me richer insight into my own Christian faith.
The fact that I am not Jewish, regardless of my stance on Jesus, earns me the unenviable title of “shiksa,” a Yiddish word politely translated as “a non-Jewish woman.” Some other definitions are less diplomatic and even derogatory, meaning something along the line of “sketchy non-Jewish woman who has taken romantic interest in a good, upstanding Jewish guy.” Yep, I’m guilty of all that! I take no offense, and our religious differences have never presented a conflict for Les and me. On the contrary, we find that it makes our relationship more interesting.
During our preparation for marriage, Les and I met a few times with Rabbi Mark, whom we had asked to officiate our small and informal ceremony. Over lunch, I mentioned how much I was enjoying exploration of the traditions, especially the foods. I had already learned to make latkes, one of the most recognizable Jewish foods (which I’ll share more about when we get closer to Hanukkah). Rabbi Mark made a recommendation for a next recipe to try—shakshuka. It’s fun to say (shock-SHOO-ka), and not the same as shiksa. 😀
I’d never heard of this, and neither had Les, so it was immediately placed at the top of the bucket list. Our first shakshuka turned out terrific, and when Les posted this picture of it to his Facebook page, he got an immediate thumbs-up from Cousin Caryn in Israel—“that is SO Jewish!”
Shakshuka is typically served at breakfast, so I’m counting it as part of my “better breakfast month” series, and it’s remarkably simple to make and flexible to accommodate a variety of ingredients. It usually begins with a thick tomato sauce base, though I’ve seen some interesting “green” shakshuka recipes on Pinterest. Any other favorite vegetables or ingredients can be incorporated, including cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, kale, peppers, onions, squash, chickpeas, or nearly anything else you have on hand. You stew it all together with Mediterranean spices in a cast-iron skillet, then you crack raw eggs directly into the sauce and simmer until they’re cooked to your liking, or (as I often do) slide it into the oven to finish.
The result is a savory blend of nutrition and flavor, hearty enough to satisfy your morning hunger, or for “breaking the fast,” because after the 24 hours of fasting and prayer at Yom Kippur, you’re gonna get pretty hungry!
The cool thing about shakshuka (as if the flavor and flexibility aren’t cool enough) is that you do not have to be Jewish to enjoy it! You may have seen a similar dish from Italy called “eggs in purgatory,” featuring the same stewed tomato foundation. Both dishes are likely drawn from nearby North Africa during the Ottoman Empire, and during that time, meat (not tomatoes) was the original main ingredient.
My produce and pantry inventory included everything I needed for a hearty shakshuka, and it landed on our table last night as breakfast for dinner on Meatless Monday. I couldn’t resist serving this with the soft pita breads that have become such a staple in our home.
Extra virgin olive oil (how much depends on what you’re adding)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in puree*
Depending on your taste, and your inventory, consider adding any of these ingredients. It’s your kitchen, and you can make your shakshuka as chunky or saucy as you’d like. For the most authentic experience of this dish, I’d recommend keeping with ingredients that are common to the Middle East, where shakshuka was born.
Up to 1 cup other vegetables, such as fresh cauliflower, fresh cubed eggplant, fresh chopped bell peppers
Up to 1 cup canned chickpeas or cooked lentils, or 1/2 cup in combination with your favorite vegetables (above)
Up to 2 cups fresh greens, chopped (they will cook down to small amount, so be generous)
Other flavor enhancers, such as olives, capers, spices, tomato paste, chile peppers
There’s so much tangy, rich sauce in this dish, you’ll want to have some kind of bread nearby for sopping. Pita is a great option, or any other kind of soft bread is just right.
I’ve never made the same shakshuka combination twice, but I tend to steer toward more body and texture when we are having it for dinner. And it always depends on what I find in the fridge. For this post, I used the basic ingredients, then reached into the fridge for some add-ins. Les made his fabulous pimiento cheese last weekend, and a half can of spicy Rotel tomatoes and a half jar of pimientos were still in the fridge. In they went, along with about a cup of chopped fresh cauliflower, 1/2 can garbanzo beans, a fat handful of chopped kale leaves, some briny olives and capers, tomato paste to thicken and harissa to add flavor and heat.
Harissa is a spicy paste-like seasoning that has origin in Northern Africa. It has hot chiles and garlic, plus what I call the three “C spices”—cumin, coriander and caraway. Harissa is common to Moroccan cuisine, and lends wonderful depth of flavor to stewed dishes like shakshuka.
Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil and sauté onions, cauliflower and any other firm vegetables until lightly caramelized.
Add garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and any other add-ins that strike your fancy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For my recipe, I also added a little smoked paprika and ground cumin. Stir to combine ingredients evenly and cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes so that the tomatoes lose the “canned” flavor and mixture begins to thicken like a stew.
Use the back of a large spoon to create slight depressions to hold the eggs. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup and transfer them into the dents you’ve made, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, cover the skillet and simmer until eggs are set to your liking. Alternatively, you can slide the skillet into a 350° F oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until eggs reach your desired doneness.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or oregano and serve with soft pita breads or other bread for sopping all the shakshuka sauce.
So easy, even a shiksa can make it! Shakshuka is delicious, easy and economical. Serve it family style, and let everyone scoop out their own portion into a bowl.
Your weekend deserves these soft, sweet pancakes. They are packed with whole grain goodness, a serving of fresh fruit and real cultured buttermilk for richness without extra fat. We are making breakfast better this month, and these sweet stacks are bringing all the comfort without so much guilt.
My pancake recipe is inspired by King Arthur Baking Company’s buttermilk pancakes, and they are terrific as written, but I’ve dressed them up with fresh banana, and made a few ingredient swaps to pull it further into the “healthy” column—whole wheat pastry flour delivers fiber and complex carbs, coconut sugar lends rich flavor and easier impact on blood sugar, and an addition of unsweetened coconut and toasted pecans for texture and crunch that makes these so satisfying.
Last weekend, my husband, Les, and I enjoyed these whole grain banana pancakes with crisp butcher shop bacon and real maple syrup from Western New York, where the autumn colors are more beautiful than any other place I’ve been. Sure, I can go anyplace (even Walmart) to purchase maple syrup, but I grew up beneath the brilliance of the maple trees of Upstate New York, and I am especially comforted to dress my pancakes in syrup made near my childhood home. As we head into fall, I expect maple will pop up many times in the recipes I will share with you.
Some of the ingredients listed may be new or intimidating to you, but not to worry—the original King Arthur recipe is excellent, or use any pancake mix you like and add the banana and other flavors to customize them. All the same, I’ll share some background notes about the special ingredients in case you want to try these items.
What is pastry flour and how is it different from regular flour?
Flour that is labeled as “pastry flour” is lower in protein content than all-purpose flour. In simple terms, it means that the flour is not as strong as you would want for making yeast-risen bread. Pastry flour is softer, which makes it ideal for making cookies, quick breads, pancakes and muffins. For this pancake recipe, I’ve recommended whole wheat pastry flour, available in larger supermarkets or online from Bob’s Red Mill. The softness makes it a good bet for pancakes and the whole grain gives a big nutrition boost.
What is coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar is produced when the moisture is evaporated off the sap of a coconut palm tree. You can substitute it 1:1 for regular sugar in nearly any recipe. It looks similar to brown sugar, but it has a drier, less sticky texture. Coconut sugar still has a fair amount of calories, but it also has iron, zinc and potassium—though for the small amount of sugar used in a baking recipe, the health benefits are negligible. There is some evidence that coconut sugar doesn’t spike your blood sugar as intensely as refined cane sugar. Beyond the potential “good for you” notes, I like it for the richness of flavor, especially in baked goods, and I’ve chosen it for these pancakes because it tastes great with banana.
What is dessicated coconut?
I wish they had a better word because “dessicated” sounds so harsh, doesn’t it? The main difference with this kind of coconut is that it is a drier and finer shred than typical “baker’s” coconut, and the brand I buy (Bob’s Red Mill) is also unsweetened. If you dislike the texture or cloying sweetness of typical coconut, but enjoy the flavor, this would be a good option. In these banana pancakes, I love the delicately flaky texture it adds to the tender pancakes, as well as the pairing of tropical flavor to the bananas.
Can I swap another milk for buttermilk?
In some recipes, regular or dairy-free milk may be substituted 1:1 for buttermilk. But in this instance, the acidity of the buttermilk is meant to balance the alkaline nature of the baking soda, to create a lighter, fluffier pancake. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, or if you have issues with dairy in general, substitute another type of milk (2%, almond, etc.) and add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Allow the mixture to rest 15 minutes before using, and you will get similar results.
What can I use in place of bananas in these pancakes?
If you are not bananas for bananas, you can still enjoy the benefit of whole fruit by substituting berries or another fruit with similar moisture makeup. I would not recommend very wet fruit such as melon, citrus or kiwi in pancakes, but any kind of fresh berry can be added to pancake batter. I have also had great success making apple cinnamon pancakes, using small cut up bits of fresh firm apples. If you try this, I’d recommend increasing the cinnamon in the dry ingredient mix, and sprinkle the apple bits atop the pancake before turning it, rather than adding the apple to the batter.
This recipe made six 4 1/2″ pancakes, plus two miniature pancakes for my taste tester. Feel free to put on Jack Johnson as you make them. 🙂
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour* (see notes above)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. coconut sugar*
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup low-fat cultured buttermilk*
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 medium firm, ripe banana, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, optional
2 Tbsp. unsweetened dessicated coconut, optional*
Butter and maple syrup for serving
First, the visual, and written instructions listed after, along with a downloadable PDF copy for your recipe book!
Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Combine egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla, and whisk until evenly blended.
Pour wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir only until flour is completely mixed in. It’s OK to see a few small lumps. Set this aside to rest for 15 minutes while you preheat the griddle or pan to 350° F (medium setting on stovetop).
After rest time, fold pecans, banana bits and coconut (if using) into the batter mixture. Be as gentle as you can, to keep an “airy” texture to the batter.
When skillet is pre-heated (water beads will “dance” on it), spoon or ladle out the batter in 1/4 cup amounts. Cook until large bubbles appear on top and edges of pancake appear set. Turn gently to cook the other side.
Keep pancakes warm on a platter until all are cooked. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
As with art, music and just about everything else in life, appreciation of food is subjective. When I learned recently that September is “Better Breakfast Month,” I wasn’t sure what to make of it. “Better” can mean any number of things—qualitative and quantitative. At our house, we are always aiming for our version of a better breakfast in that we actually sit down and eat the meal. Together. At the table. It’s a terrific concept, and we’re committed to keeping that going!
We have a few favorite breakfasts in regular rotation, the most common of them being what we lovingly refer to as “Jewish Boy Breakfast,” or JBB, as I like to call it on my menu planning spreadsheet (yes, I’m really that nerdy). This morning meal is the namesake of my darling husband, Les, who is Jewish and raised in New York, the best city in the world for Jewish food. A typical JBB at our house looks like this:
It’s a whole wheat everything bagel, topped with spreadable scallion cream cheese, thin slices of red onion, capers (on mine, anyway) and lox. We are lucky to have a reliable source of fresh-daily bagels in our city, otherwise I would have to bake them myself (which I’ve done exactly twice, and wow, what a project). The cream cheese is a homemade schmear that’s super easy to make yourself (check out that link above), and we are forever on the lookout for a sale on lox, because this salty cold-smoked salmon can get pricey.
In case you’re wondering, there is in fact a side of bacon on the plate—which clearly is not part of a balanced Jewish breakfast. I never said he was devout.
JBB has a special role in our love story as well. During our courtship, I straddled the fence about getting serious with Les, following too much drama and heartbreak in my own past. About eight months in, we had a huge snowstorm (in North Carolina, that means more than two inches of snow at once), and though he had been willing to run a bunch of random errands in such conditions, he declined my invitation to dinner. Better to “play it safe,” he said, given the weather and all. In response, I decided to play it safe by being hurt, and I went to bed feeling sorry for myself. Next morning, I was awakened by a text from Les—“why aren’t you answering your door?” I hadn’t heard him knocking, but there he stood—in the middle of a blizzard, people!—sporting a hat with flaps that covered his ears, and holding a bag of fresh bagels plus all the proper accoutrements. The man had risked his very life to be with me. OK, not exactly—but he had shown me (again) that he was different and dependable, so I married him. ❤ And I do love a JBB.
Anyway, when the weekend comes, we like to go big on breakfast. And by big, I mean with preparation of things that are too fussy for a busy out-the-door weekday morning. One of our go-to “better breakfast” menu items? These ultra-crispy, fun and flavorful hash brown waffles. Let’s just savor this image for a moment. Lean in to your screen and try to smell them.
They emerge from the waffle iron crackling crisp on the outside, hot and soft on the inside, and they’re perfectly customizable, based on our craving du jour. This is how we use up all assortments of leftover cheese, onion and pepper scraps, and they come together in short order because I take a rare shortcut in the form of this:
I hope you aren’t disappointed to learn that I don’t actually make every single thing from scratch. Though I’ve considered shredding fresh potatoes myself for these, I’ve learned that once in a while is often enough to make an exception. These pre-shredded potatoes are such a worthy exception, and they can be found in any well-stocked supermarket. I only wish someone would explain to me why they are always in the dairy section. (hmm)
Here’s how they happen, and obviously, you will need a waffle iron to try them at home. I recommend a standard square or round waffle maker rather than Belgian style, but if you try it in a Belgian maker, please do let me know how it comes out for you, OK?
As the photo conveys, we lean toward the crispy side of things at our house, but you could certainly cut the time a bit shorter and remove them when they are just golden and lightly crisp. You’re the boss of your own kitchen. I’m enjoying the heck out of them in this crunchy state because we’ve recently decided to give up potato chips, our latest bad habit that was wrecking our waistlines. Enjoy them any way you’d normally serve breakfast potatoes, or make them the main dish as we do, topped with a runny egg!
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, they are also a terrific menu option the next time you’re in the mood for “breakfast for dinner.”
Go on, make them. 🙂
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 bag Simply Potatoes shredded hash browns
1/2 cup (give or take) diced onion
1/2 bell pepper (or poblano or jalapeno, you decide)
1/4 cup diced and cooked leftover ham, sausage, bacon (optional)
Approximately 3/4 cup shredded melting cheese (cheddar, swiss, Monterey jack, gouda, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (this is excellent with any fried potatoes)
Preheat waffle iron to 400° F.
Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add a generous swirl of olive oil to the pan, and sauté the onions and peppers until they are softened and lightly browned. If you are adding breakfast meat that is not yet cooked, go ahead and toss that into the pan as well. Season to taste, stir in cumin and remove from heat.
Combine shredded hash browns, onion mixture and shredded cheese and stir well to evenly blend the ingredients.
Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of additional olive oil and stir to combine. I’ve learned from all my experimentation with this recipe that the extra oil goes above and beyond to deliver my hash brown waffles with the crispiest possible exterior. Thank goodness olive oil is a “healthy” fat!
When waffle maker is preheated, pile the hash brown mixture evenly over the plate and press to close the iron lid. Leave it alone for about 10 minutes, and carefully raise the lid to check their doneness. I’ve learned that if the waffle iron doesn’t release right away, whatever I’m waffling needs more time. The food will release when it’s ready, and for my Cuisinart waffle maker, 13 is the lucky number.
Carefully remove the waffle sheet, in one piece, to a platter or cutting board and cut into serving pieces.
Serve as desired, but may I recommend again the runny egg? It’s so, so good. 🙂
This recipe will make five waffles, each about 4 x 6 inches. We make four at once for breakfast, then we fight over the fifth during kitchen cleanup. I love our life!