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Fun Friday: To warm your heart and soul

10 Feb
We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we're warm and safe and all together.

We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we’re warm and safe and all together.

Today (Thursday, as I type this) was our first snow day of the school year, and tomorrow (Friday) will be our second. We had quite a storm today, with about a foot of snow falling throughout the day. It was cold and windy and snowy, but inside we had a lazy day for much of the day, and we were warm, safe and together, which is really what matters on a day like today.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some recipes with you for some nice, warm, delicious treats, since it’s so cold and snowy here. Even if it’s not snowy where you are, there’s nothing like something warm and delicious to warm your heart and soul in the winter months.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

Early in the day we had crepes, which is one of our favorite special breakfasts. They are labor intensive, so we don’t do them often, but they’re so delicious when we do. They can be made gluten free, so we make both kinds. My husband does the majority of the cooking for these, but today I did the hot bananas with the maple-brown sugar sauce and Elizabeth made the scrambled eggs, so he had some help. We put out many filling options for our crepes: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or a Hershey’s chocolate spread, bananas, and today the maple-brown sugar bananas. Everyone can fill them as they wish.

The recipe we use is the same for both gluten free and not, but we use gluten free all-purpose flour for our gluten free crepes, specifically Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Flour. This is the recipe we use:

Thanks to the New Betty Crocker Cookbook!

Thanks to the “New Betty Crocker Cookbook!”

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Tonight, my youngest daughter requested homemade chocolate pudding, which is a relatively new recipe for us, but I have posted it on the blog before. You can find it here. She’s had a sore throat and cough, and prefers the pudding to be warm, which would soothe her throat. I didn’t have a sore throat myself, but that pudding sounded good to me too, especially on a day like today, so I obliged. Another warm and soothing recipe that I make often in the winter months is homemade hot chocolate. Although I didn’t make it today, I will re-share it here anyway, since it’s been a long time since I originally posted it. It’s an absolute favorite for my family.

Finally, I had some great new articles in this week’s paper to share with you too, and they will warm your heart and soul also. You can find my latest feature from this week’s Providence Journal here, about Rachel’s Sugar Shop in Cranston. She’s got lots of great Valentine’s Day treats on deck, and she does amazing wedding, birthday and all kinds of occasion cakes, so stop by and see her if you’re local.

I have lots of stories in this week’s Cranston Herald, but this one about a family who immigrated to the United States is one of my favorites, especially with all that is in the news currently about immigration to America. I also loved doing this one about Janet Tanury, the owner of Botticelli’s, which is a local store whose tagline is “Generous clothing for the curvaceous woman.” Janet is working hard to make plus-size shopping a whole new experience for women of all ages, especially when it comes to formal wear, and her shop is wonderful, as is she. If you have a prom or formal event on the horizon, stop in and visit her in North Providence, RI or visit her website here. She’s hosting a special prom shopping event on President’s Day from 10-5pm.

You can view all of this week’s Cranston Herald stories by visiting their website, and there you will see all of my work for this week. It’s certainly been a busy one!

newspaper-1     newspaper-2  newspaper-3

newspaper-4   newspaper-5   newspaper-7                  newspaper-6

 

 

 

 

Fun Friday: Breakfast cookies with peanut butter, banana and granola

3 Feb
I ended up making these two weeks in a row, and the second week I doubled the recipe.

I ended up making these two weeks in a row, and the second week I doubled the recipe.

ORIGINALLY POSTED APRIL 24, 2015

*Since originally posting this, I have made the recipe several times. Recently however, I decided to make them even though we did not have any granola on hand. Instead, I substituted a combination of gluten free oats, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries for the granola and they turned out great. Additionally, since we now have a member of our family who eats gluten free, so our all-purpose flour was Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Flour.*

One afternoon I was scoping the internet, looking for a good after school snack to leave for my kids when I went to work that day. I found a recipe for “Breakfast Cookies with Peanut Butter, Banana and Chocolate Granola” from the Taste and Tell blog. I had everything for it except the chocolate granola, but I had plain granola and chocolate chips. I decided to modify the recipe to work for the ingredients I had.

These are hearty cookies, perfect for an after school snack, and definitely perfect for breakfast on the run. My oldest daughter gets on the school bus by 7:00 am and can’t stomach a whole lot that early in the morning, but she’d take two of these in a bag with her each morning for when she did start to get hungry later on. Our school system has been inundated with hours and hours of PARCC standardized testing, and it often takes place first thing in the morning, so the last thing I wanted was a kid taking two or three hours of testing on an empty stomach every day. These cookies were definitely the right answer  to that problem.

My husband takes breakfast to go every day also, and these were a nice change of pace from a bagel, yogurt, oatmeal or cereal, which he usually eats, and if he wanted, he could save them for a snack later in the day when he’s working after school gets out.

These were such a hit, I made them again the following week, and I doubled the recipe to make twice as many. This time, when I opened the box of granola, it was a cinnamon raisin variety rather than just plain granola, but I gave it a try. Even my daughter who doesn’t like raisins, ate them without even noticing they were in there. I think it was the chocolate chips that saved the day that time.

As we’re finishing up our spring break now, we’re heading back into several more weeks of testing when we go back to school, for both NECAP and PARCC, so I’ll be whipping up a couple more batches of these cookies. I’ve been tempted to make enough to freeze, but so far there’s never been any extras left to freeze!

I hope you’ll give them a try and pay a visit to the Taste and Tell blog! Here is her recipe, along with my ingredient modification instructions.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Reduced Fat creamy peanut butter.)

1/2 cup mashed overripe banana (about one medium banana)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 cups Cascadian Farms Chocolate Lover’s Granola (I used 1 cup plain granola and one cup chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the peanut butter, banana and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

3) In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the granola.

4) Form balls of dough, about 3 tablespoons each. Place at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to slightly flatten each ball of dough.

5) Bake until the cookies are just set, about ten minutes. (Do not over bake or the cookies will dry out.)

Fun Friday: Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from Budget Bytes

23 Nov
This has been a delicious treat all week long!

This has been a delicious treat all week long!

ORIGINALLY POSTED 10-30-15

Going Orange for No Kid Hungry today? We are!

In honor of the big day, I thought I’d share a brand new recipe with you that we tried earlier this week and enjoyed very much.

Over the weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 16th birthday, and at the gathering my cousin Val handed me a couple of recipes she thought we’d enjoy. One of them was today’s recipe from Budget Bytes for their Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.

Oftentimes when I look at a recipe for consideration, the title tells it all, and this recipe was one of those times. I knew that we loved baked oatmeal, and I knew that we loved pumpkin pie. I knew that we would love this recipe. I had plenty of each of the ingredients on hand, in fact, when I saw that a basic recipe makes an 8×8 dish, I decided to double it for our family, so I did, and I used a 9×13 dish instead.

Photo's a little blurry, but I doubled this recipe so we'd have plenty to last the week.

I doubled this recipe so we’d have plenty to last the week.

I chose to make this recipe for Monday’s after school snack, knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday are my typing days which means I don’t have a ton of time to eat or cook anything. I eat at my desk usually, typing in between bites and when the kids come home from school, they’re on their own for finding food to satisfy their ravenous hunger. This would last me through both days and provide hungry kids with a choice for something to eat if they wanted it for after school or for breakfast one morning.

Everyone loved this recipe, it was tasty, it was filling and it was easy. I saw that it recommended whipped cream or maple syrup as well as milk or nuts. We went the maple syrup and whipped cream route and loved it. My oldest daughter even thought that caramel would be good on top, and I’m sure it would be, but I nixed that idea this time around, just because it would negate any of the healthy aspects of it.

I also used homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice because apparently I’ve been out of that in my cupboard for quite some time. I know this because when I opened up my cupboard, not only was there none there, but there was a note taped to the inside of the door-most likely from last fall- for a recipe from allrecipes.com for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice. I doubled that recipe and it was exactly enough for what I needed to double this oatmeal recipe.

One banana, two banana, three banana, four…..

6 Oct
I think we have at least one too many bananas!

I think we have at least one too many bananas!

At our house, we tend to go through a lot of bananas in a week. We use them by themselves, in shakes, cookies, muffins and breads and we even freeze them for future use. Even still, there’s a limit to just how many bananas one family can eat.

Last week we were out of bananas, so when my husband was in the grocery store, he bought two bunches. The next day as I was in a different grocery store, picking up the remainder of what we needed, I also grabbed a bunch of bananas because I hadn’t yet seen the ones he bought.

I hung my bunch up on the hook in the kitchen, only to have him bring his two bunches up later that day. Suddenly, we had *a lot* of bananas.

We’re already down one bunch since that day, but we have two bunches to go, so I’ve been gathering up some of my most banana-y recipes and putting them on the top of my list.

This week, I had one of my favorite lunches, but it’s one I can’t have every day because it’s not really stellar in the way of being very healthy. It’s got a banana in it though, so that’s good, and peanut butter, so that’s good too. If you decide to wash it down with a glass of milk, that’s a bonus.

I read about this sandwich online somewhere, and whenever I eat it, I imagine it’s the type of sandwich that would be featured on a show like “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” where you see amazing things made into a sandwich or piled on top of a waffle, or some other sort of unusual meal.

Ooey and goey, this sandwich is a twist on the old school lunchbox version.

Ooey and goey, this sandwich is a twist on the old school lunchbox version.

The Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich is a twist on an old favorite lunchbox staple, the peanut butter and banana sandwich. The recipe I saw online actually had cream cheese and honey in it also, but that didn’t appeal to me as much. I have done this sandwich in three different varieties so far: peanut butter and banana, with peanut butter, honey and banana, and with peanut butter, Nutella and banana. I’ve eaten it for breakfast some days or for lunch other days. The added touch of the grilled bread makes the sandwich warm and gooey. I’m sure there are other varieties you could try, including the one with cream cheese and honey if you so desire.

Enjoy today’s banana recipe, and feel free to share with me some of your favorite banana recipes in the comments below!

Fun Friday: Pillsbury’s Gluten Free Banana Streusel {Chocolate Chip} Bread

29 Jan
Only half left, already? You have to be quick here or you miss the photo opp!

Only half left, already? You have to be quick here or you miss the photo opp!

Hi and Happy Friday!

Today is a special Friday because this week we officially hit the midpoint to the school year and today is the 93rd day of school. This means that we are closer to the end of the school year than to the beginning of the school year. We began the third quarter this week, and just like that, it will soon be spring.

Well not too soon, but you know. Sooner than not spring. I’m a cup half full kind of girl.

Additionally, although we were forecast to have a giant snow storm last weekend, we happily dodged that bullet (this time) and only got a few inches. The weather warmed significantly this week and our snow is just about gone, so that’s even more reasons to celebrate the end of another week!

Today’s recipe is a new one for us as we continue down this gluten free path and I attempt to redesign some of my baking and cooking habits to fit everyone’s specific needs here. One thing I’ve been struggling with is determining when I need a binding agent in my flour, such as xanthan gum, and when I don’t. In general, I’ve been keeping two kinds of all-purpose flour on hand here, one that contains the xanthan gum which is from Trader Joe’s, and one that does not, which is Pillsbury and I buy it at Walmart. I’ve used the one without it for what is so far my favorite muffin recipe (a basic recipe we’ve used for raspberry, blueberry and chocolate chip muffins) and I’ve used the other for all of my Christmas cookies, which all seemed to stay together just fine. If you click on the links I’ve put in here, you can see both kinds of flour pictured in those posts. In addition to those, I’ve used the one without xanthan gum for much of my cooking if I need to bread chicken, and I’ve even used gluten free Bisquick to make a quick pancake mix and for making biscuits. So far, so good.

That said, I really wanted to make a homemade banana chocolate chip bread again, but I couldn’t figure out which of the two flours I needed, and the more I researched, the more confused I got. I had two to choose from, so I really didn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of individual flour blend ingredients to try to create my own blend at home, I wanted to use one of the ones that I had. Ultimately, I decided to google the words “Pillsbury gluten free banana bread” and I figured they’d have a recipe which used their own flour blend, which is what I had on hand. Sure enough they did. The recipe didn’t call for chocolate chips but I threw them in anyway. It did call for a streusel topping, which is one of my all-time favorite things, so I was immediately liking this recipe. I put it all together quickly and without issue one day this week for an after school snack, and it cooked up in an hour.

We're lucky any of the topping made it onto the bread! I kept tasting and tasting.

We’re lucky any of the topping made it onto the bread! I kept tasting and tasting.

The bread received all thumbs up from everyone here, and it will surely be one of my new go-to recipes and one that everyone can eat. My biggest problem was figuring out how to get it out of the baking dish without all of the topping coming off, because every piece that fell off, I ate. The recipe contained three bananas, which completely cancels out the fact that it contained any chocolate at all. And, the chocolate was semi-sweet, which I think is a superfood.

Right?

Right.

There was not a lot of butter in it, but we use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in our recipes. Other than that, it fit the bill and it was such a relief to me to have the house smelling of a sweet treat after school again this week. I can now check off another item on our menu that I’ve been able to conquer in the gluten free journey.

If you’d like to check out the recipe yourself, you can find it here.

Enjoy!

 

What’s for dinner Wednesday: Gluten Free (and fat free and shellfish free)

2 Dec
Suddenly, we were adjusting to a member of our family who was now gluten free.

Suddenly, we were adjusting to a member of our family who was now following a gluten free diet. It was not our first time at the menu modification rodeo. I have a shellfish allergy, and my older daughter has an intolerance to fatty foods.

Happy December!

Have you missed me? It’s been two weeks (at least) since I last wrote, and what a busy two weeks it’s been!

My last post was a new muffin post for Peanut Butter Pumpkin muffins, and then…nothing! Well, a lot has been going on over here in the past weeks, and it’s taken me some time to process and organize it all, and to be able to share it with you.

First, Happy Thanksgiving! We had a great holiday and I hope you all did too! We got to visit with family and it was wonderful. I was a bit under the weather with a cold that did me in and took away my voice for much of that week, but overall it was a great holiday and a much needed school break.

The break provided us with some time to catch up a little bit. We slept a lot, we shopped very little, and we got ourselves organized at home a little bit too. We’d recently been told to try our youngest daughter on a gluten free diet as a trial, to see if it would alleviate her chronic stomach issues that had been plaguing her since the springtime. Normally, any stomach problems we’d encountered had responded to medication, but for the first time ever, adjusting her medications hadn’t done the trick. We spent the end of the school year and our entire summer, even as we criss-crossed the country on our Cross Country Adventure of 2015, trying to make heads or tails of her constant, chronic stomach pain. We could not alleviate it and we could not figure out the cause of it. Our oldest suffers from an intolerance to fatty foods, and we saw some similarities, but yet not exactly. All of our three have dealt with, and our youngest continues to deal with, abdominal migraines, but yet that didn’t seem to be it either, and the medications for it didn’t seem to be helping anymore.

When we returned from our trip she begged me to call the doctor again.

“I can’t go back to school like this,” she said. “I ended last year like this, I don’t want to start the new year like this.”

She was right, and so I placed another call to him and this time we went in. I explained that the last few things we had tried through the spring and summer weren’t working. He offered out a couple of new things to try, and each time we’d have a follow-up visit in three more weeks. Each time we’d go back with not much better news from whatever we’d tried over the three weeks. Finally, he handed me a meal plan to try with her, a “low FOD Maps” plan. You can explore that here, or google it for more information. As he handed it to me and we went through it, it mentioned gluten free items here and there, and he said, “Or, you can try gluten free, too.”

When I went home, it took me a few days to sit and look through the new diet and to consider my options. As I looked at the low FOD Maps list, there wasn’t a ton on it that she didn’t already do, and as I looked at the foods to avoid on the high FOD Maps list, there wasn’t a ton on there that she ate. It didn’t seem worth figuring out for such little change. I decided to explore the gluten free diet. I figured we’d try it for one week. I knew from past experience that if you didn’t feel a difference by then, you weren’t going to. And if it worked, you’d feel the difference even sooner.

My daughter and I went shopping and picked up just a few things to get us started. It was enough stuff for dinner that night, some breakfast, lunch and snack items for the next day.  That night for the first time in months and months, she went to bed without a stomachache after her first gluten free dinner. She woke up the next morning without a stomachache. I packed her a gluten free lunch, planned after school snacks that were gluten free, and off we went. Day two, still stomachache free. I couldn’t believe it. I had not expected it to work. We’d been down that path with my other daughter and had seen no difference in the two weeks we’d tried it. Each day or so I picked up a few new things in my travels and began to think ahead as well. Thanksgiving was a week away. Luckily, my sister-in-law was coming in to visit, and she was also on a gluten free diet, so my mom and dad had her dietary needs in mind, and they were hosting the holiday, so that would work for Alex too.

It’s now been two full weeks and she’s doing great. We visited the doctor the other day for our three week check-up and he gave us the okay to continue on the gluten free diet from here on in. We have since had a major holiday, we’ve eaten out, we’ve eaten in, and hosted a big event out of the house ourselves, and we’ve pretty easily incorporated her needs into all of our plans. Our next big event is Christmas, and looking for Christmas Cookie recipes or changing our own is obviously at the top of my list. They now need to be low in fat for one daughter and gluten free for another.

Keeping everything in one spot in our pantry so we don't have to go searching for the gluten free ingredients and snacks.

I’m keeping everything in one spot in our pantry so we don’t have to go searching for the gluten free ingredients and snacks.

In the weeks we’ve been doing this, I’ve already gotten to experiment and to organize our pantry and freezer a bit in order to make it easy for everyone to see what she can and can’t have, even if I’m not here, and I’ve tried out some great recipes and foods that she’s liked. We also have pantry shelves in our garage and we’ve allotted a section of that space for just gluten free foods too.

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be posting what we’ve been up to on this new adventure, whenever I can, and as we go along I’ll be able to make more and more, and try out new things. I’ve taken lots of pictures of the foods we’ve bought and the foods she’s liked as well as the recipes I’ve had a chance to make. As always, and I welcome your ideas and comments as well!

This has been a great ingredient for our pantry. We've already used it for two different recipes.

This has been a great ingredient for our pantry. We’ve already used it for two different recipes.

For today, I’m starting at the beginning. One of the first dinners we had was a quick “breakfast for dinner” of pancakes with blueberry compote. The compote was homemade and you can find the recipe here. It was already gluten free. The pancakes are something we often make homemade, but on this night we were using a “just add water” boxed mix for our own, and that’s what I used for Alex’s too. I had already bought the gluten free Bisquick which had recipes on the side and back of the box for waffles, pancakes, biscuits and pizza dough. Bisquick is a familiar and trustworthy name in my opinion, and I thought it was a good first choice for my pantry. The recipe made enough pancakes that we could save some leftover for another day. By cooking for just one person, I’ve been able to make a lot at once and freeze ahead so that we can pull out what we need for her as we go, rather than starting from scratch every time. Alex liked these pancakes a lot, and had no problem having them again later in the week for breakfast.  The meal was a win-win for everyone.

Alex's pancakes looked just like ours and she said they tasted just as good.

Alex’s pancakes looked just like ours and she said they tasted just as good.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first (of many, I’m sure) posts about eating and cooking for a gluten free diet. Do you or anyone in your family follow a gluten free diet? What kinds of tips and tricks can you share?

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Muffins from Family Food on the Table

18 Nov
The combination of ingredients was what piqued my interest in this recipe.

The combination of ingredients was what piqued my interest in this recipe.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get off my pumpkin kick until after Thanksgiving. I’m still all about pumpkin for a few more weeks, at least.

I’m finding that this school year, due to our scattered after school schedules, I’m doing a great deal more driving than I am baking in the afternoons and evenings. Whereas I used to be able to do a quick after school baked snack at the end of my work day, this year I can only do that a couple of times a week, if I’m lucky. This means that I haven’t had a lot of new and exciting recipes to try out and to share, and for that, I apologize!

On Monday however, a recipe came across my virtual desk and it definitely piqued my interest. I actually had to read the title a couple of times to make sure I was reading it correctly, as I wasn’t sure I’d seen this combination of ingredients in the past. It’s not that it was anything crazy, it’s just that it wasn’t something I think I’d paired together in the past.

It meant that I just had to try it, just to see how it was.

 

Batter looked good, that's always a good sign!

Batter looked good, that’s always a good sign!

The recipe was for Peanut Butter Pumpkin Muffins, and it was from Family Food on the Table and it said chocolate chips were optional. To me, chocolate chips are almost never optional, but I liked all of the ingredients that were listed and I had them all, except for the white-wheat flour. I had white, I had wheat. I did not have white-wheat, so I decided to try using half white and half wheat instead. Otherwise, the recipe seemed perfect for an after school snack/late night snack/breakfast for our whole family; well at least for almost all of them. I forgot that one of them doesn’t like very much with peanut butter. She ended up having something else for her snack instead.

These came together quickly and easily. The prep time was estimated to be about ten minutes, and that was pretty on-target. The cook time was 18-22 minutes. A few of mine were a little soft on top, and probably could’ve cooked a little longer than the 18 that I did, but everyone was starving by the time I finished working and started baking, and everyone gets home so early now that I rushed them out, not checking each one as thoroughly as I should have.

However, despite my feeling a bit rushed, these muffins were delicious! They were hearty and healthy and deemed a keeper by all but my one non-peanut butter lover. I also noticed that there were several options listed at the end, including the option to substitute various types of nut butters such as almond butter to keep them peanut free. It also said that they were tasty with a little extra spread of peanut butter on them when eaten. One of my daughters did that, and she did say they were delicious that way too!

So if you’re as curious as I am as to the combination of peanut better and pumpkin and chocolate chips, I suggest you give these tasty muffins a try! Head on over to Family Food on the Table and check out this recipe and all their others too! Or maybe, you eat pumpkin, peanut butter and chocolate chips together all the time, and in that case, you most definitely want to head on over and check this recipe out!

Enjoy and have a great rest of your week!