Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Blueberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothies

September 26, 2011

One positive thing about losing power for a few days was that I was forced to do a freezer-inventory.  There were quite a few things past their prime which were relegated to the trash.  I also made a few nice discoveries, like a container of homemade pesto that accidentally got pushed to the back of its shelf.  I was also reminded that I had a few bags of frozen blueberries we’d picked earlier in the summer.  They are perfect for pancakes and muffins, but also for smoothies!  By adding them to your blender frozen, they provide the ‘icy’ part of the smoothie without having to water down the flavor with actual ice cubes.

What I love most about these smoothies is that they are both healthy and delicious, and when made with Greek yogurt and calcium-enriched orange juice, they pack the 1-2 punch (protein & calcium).  I use fat-free plain yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, low in sugar, and adds creaminess.  Don’t worry if you’re kids don’t care for yogurt—-it is undetectable when blended with all the flavorful fruit.

Blueberry Banana Smoothies

Makes 2 cups

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 small banana

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt (or substitute plain regular yogurt)

1/2 cup orange juice (I prefer calcium-enriched)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined and thickened.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Scone Too Good Not to Pass Along

June 6, 2011

I love creating recipes based on something I ate in a restaurant, something I heard about, or whatever is in my refrigerator.  However, sometimes I come across a recipe in a magazine, cooking show, or in this case, from a friend via another food blog, that is just too good not to share.  When my foodie friend Sarah updated her Facebook status with “Feta and roasted tomato scones. Ah mah gah” how could I not be curious?  Well, turns out the recipe is from “Sweet and Savory Life” , a photo-centric food blog written by Alice, a wonderful photographer, home-cook, and mom of three.  Her recipe for Roasted Tomato Feta Scones is wonderful. 

We usually think of scones as sweet, but this savory scone is delicious and would be perfect with brunch, lunch or dinner.  The roasted tomatoes are slightly sweet ( I roasted my own, but you can purchase them already roasted at the grocery store, as Alice suggests), the feta is tangy, and the scallions give a oniony bite.  They are also really pretty–the colors are fantastic.  Okay, so mine weren’t as perfectly triangular as hers, but I’m sure they tasted just as good.  I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for another day.  If you have a food processor (my very favorite small kitchen appliance), they mix up in a flash and are really very simple.  Give them a try–you will be saying “ah mah gah” too.

Roasted Tomato Feta Scones from Sweet and Savory Life

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Carrot Applesauce Muffin Bread

March 21, 2011

I had a bunch of baby carrots left over from an untouched crudite platter, and they were looking a little dry.  In my daughter’s world, this means they are completely inedible and ‘yuck’.   Never one to waste food, I threw them into the food processor and whirred them around until I had a nice bowl of shredded and decidedly not-dry looking carrots.

Now, what to do with them?  I considered a carrot-ginger soup, but also anticipated a “yuck” response to it, so I went in search of baked goods recipes.  When I came across a few for Carrot-Apple muffins, I figured I’d hit the jackpot.  When the “apple” turned out to be applesauce, I was even happier since it meant no peeling and chopping required. 

Although the recipe I found from WholeFoods was pretty healthy, I decided to take it a step further and reduce the sugar and eliminate the oil entirely.  Applesauce can often be substituted for oil in baked items, and since this recipe already had applesauce, I simply added a bit more to replace the oil.  I also split the recipe so instead of a dozen muffins, I made six muffins and one mini loaf of quick bread. 

The results were met with mixed reviews.  They definitely were not sweet, which for an adult is fine, but the kids didn’t care for them as much.  My kids also didn’t love the not-so-sweet cream cheese frosting I used to top the muffins.  I also think it’s best to process the carrots a bit more finely so there are no “chunks” in the batter (grating them on a box grater is probably the best idea).  The recipe below takes all this into consideration, and yields a tastier, more kid-friendly muffin bread.

Maybe I should have stuck to the soup…

Carrot Applesauce Muffin Bread

Makes 2 mini-loaves

(adapted from WholeFoods)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup finely grated carrots 
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

canola oil or other non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray two mini -loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, combine carrots, applesauce, eggs, milk,  and vanilla.

Add half the carrot mixture to the flour mixture, stir until blended then add the rest pf the carrot mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pans and top with chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of bread comes out clean. Serve warm.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Cornmeal Pancakes in a Jiff

October 18, 2010

Awhile back, I had a delicious plate of cornmeal pancakes at a restaurant and knew I needed to move beyond the buttermilk when it came to flapjacks at home.  I looked to my trusty bibles for everything-food–The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything.  After hauling out my cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and a variety of other ingredients, I set to the task of making my batter.  One recipe called for maple syrup to be added right to the batter in lieu of sugar, which I assumed was to add flavor, but I realized after it was an attempt to add moisture as well. 

Well, to make a long story short, I thought the flapjacks were a flop.  One of my kids poured at least a half of a cup of syrup on top claiming they were “too dry” ( I guess that extra maple syrup in the batter didn’t help).  I found them lacking flavor and texture.  I was just about to give up on this idea  when I remembered seeing instructions for cornmeal pancakes on the side of a Jiffy Corn Muffin mix.  Yes, those little blue and white boxes that were always in our pantry when I was a kid.  My mom often used them for biscuits, muffins, and even delicious chocolate drop cookies she’d make with the box of Jiffy chocolate cake mix. 

The pancakes couldn’t have been more simple.  I did make one adjustment to cut down on the fat and calories;  I substituted applesauce where it called for melted shortening (I mean who has shortening in their house anymore anyway?).  Then, just add milk and egg and cook as you normally would cook pancakes.  It certainly saved on time—you can prepare the batter in less time than it takes to heat up your griddle.  The best part was that they were delicious, moist, and had a fantastic texture.  I’m sure the Jiffy mix isn’t quite as healthy as the from-scratch variety, but considering the amount of syrup my kids use, this wasn’t exactly the breakfast of champions anyway.  Consider it a nice, once-in-awhile alternative to regular pancakes.  I think they are perfect for your holiday guests and come together, well, in a jiff. 

Cornmeal Pancakes

Makes about a dozen pancakes

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

3/4 cup milk (I use skim)

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat griddle or frying pan. Spray lightly. Blend all ingredients in a bowl. Batter will be slightly lumpy. 

Using a ladle, pour batter onto hot griddle (however large is up to you!).   Flip over when bubbles appear and edges begin to dry.

Serve hot with maple syrup.

For more Jiffy recipes, check out their website:

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: Healthy Apple Bread

October 2, 2009

entire-disk-154After our annual apple-picking expedition, I’m always left with more apples than I know how to use (we get a little overzealous in those orchards!).  Of course the first thing we did was make an apple pie, and I’m sure I’ll use a lot for a great big batch of apple sauce.  But when I was flipping through the most recent Penzey’s Spice catalog, I knew what recipe I’d be trying next:  apple bread.


However, then I read the recipe more carefully—holy cow!  One full cup of oil and two full cups of granulated sugar?  Yikes!  That was not something I’d be comfortable serving my kids for breakfast since it was more like cake than bread.  As I often do, I swapped out the oil for applesauce and cut the sugar in half.  The result was delicious, not too sweet, but not too bland.  The cinnamon really gives enough flavor to the bread so that you can skip the extra fat and sugar.  Just don’t think about that one full stick of butter that goes into the crumb topping (gasp!).  I made it with the topping, but will skip it the next time to make this bread even healthier!

Healthy Apple Bread

(adapted from Penzey’s Spices)

Makes 2  loaves


4 cups diced apples (peeled and cut into a 1/2” dice)

4 eggs

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar


¾ cup flour

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 stick butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 2 standard sized bread pans and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs until lightened.  Add applesauce and beat to combine.

Add vanilla, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and beat to combine.

Add sugar, then flour, one cup at a time and incorporate before adding the next cup.

Add apples and mix by hand to incorporate.  Divide the mixture between the prepared pans.

To make the topping, whisk together dry ingredients, then add butter.  Use a fork (or your fingers) to work together until mixture is moistened.  Divide topping between two loaves.

Bake for an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.  (I used a convection oven and it took only 45 minutes).


Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.


In Season: Freezing Berries

July 21, 2009

june-25-023After our trips to the strawberry fields and blueberry patch, we found ourselves with a giant boxes of juicy, delicious berries.  Even after using the berries in numerous ways, we still had lots left over.  I wasn’t in a jam-making mood, so I decided it was best to freeze what was left while they were still at their peak of freshness.  We have become big fruit smoothie fans, so the frozen berries would be put to excellent use in the coming months. 

When freezing berries, be sure to first wash them (and hull if they are strawberries), then place them on a kitchen towel to dry.  Once dry, I spread the berries  in one layer on a baking sheet and put in the freezer until solid.  Use a plastic spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan if necessary, and then transfer the frozen berries to ziplock freezer bags or air-tight storage containers.  Yes, this method requires an extra step, but it allows the berries to freeze individually instead of in one big clump.  This way they are still beautiful when they exit the freezer. 

The berries can later be used frozen in smoothies and other frosty drinks (daquiris, anyone?), thawed in muffins, pancakes, or other baked goods, or made into a wonderful berry sauce perfect for ice cream. 

So if jamming isn’t your thing, you can still make excellent use of the bumper crop of berries this season! 


 Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Ham and Cheese Pie

June 5, 2009

quiche-002 Real men may not eat quiche, but my kids do when we call it “pie”!  I love serving “pie”  for brunch or lunch.  When paired with a salad—fruit for brunch, green for lunch, it makes a great, light meal that just about everyone seems to love. 

 I usually buy freshly baked quiches from one of my favorite local bakeries, which often has several delicious varieties from which to choose.  They go fast, so you need to get there early for the best selection.  I was a little too slow last weekend, so I decided I would simply make my own quiche.  And what luck—the short-cut baker in me was thrilled to discover that I even had a frozen pie crust in my freezer!  Making my quiche would be a cinch.

It is necessary to “blind bake” the bottom crust of your quiche while you prepare the filling, otherwise it will never fully cook.  However, keep in mind that the crust may shrink a bit during this step, so be sure your dough  is large enough so it comes just over the edge of the pie plate before baking.  This way when it shrinks, it won’t go below the edge of the pie plate and you’ll still have plenty of room for the filling.

The filling consists mainly of eggs and milk, but you can customize your quiche however you like.  Add veggies (sauteed first–also a great way to use up leftovers!), cooked meats, fresh herbs, you name it!  This time I decided to stick to ham, cheese, and fresh parsley, so as not to scare away the kids…or the real men.  

Ham and Cheese Quiche

Serves 4-6

1 pie crust ( I prefer Trader Joe’s frozen crusts, or homemade)

2 cups milk

6 eggs

1/4 lb.  rosemary baked ham (from the deli counter)

1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate, crimp edges so they slightly overlap the edge of the plate.

Place a piece of foil over the crust and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove foil and weights.  Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, whisk together the milk, eggs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper.  Cut the ham into small pieces and scatter evenly around the pre-baked crust.  Place pie plate on a baking pan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the crust and carefully transfer to the oven.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes until filling is set, but slightly jiggly in the middle.  Cool on a rack. 

Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Yo Smoothie!

May 29, 2009

fruit-smoothieI’ll start out by saying that I do not care for yogurt.  Never have.  I go through stages where I TRY to like it, because I know it is healthy, loaded with calcium, low in calories, contains acidophilus, and is generally a good thing to eat.  But try as I might, I get about half way through the container and just admit to myself that it’s not going to happen. 

However, the older I get, the more concerned I become about my bone health, which, apparently, for most women, starts going downhill in our mid-30s.   Since I can’t sit around eating ice cream and cheese all day (in which case my bones will become only ONE of my problems!), I was going to have to find some way to incorporate yogurt into my diet.  No, frozen yogurt doesn’t really count.

Yo-smoothie to the rescue!  By combining healthy yogurt with unsweetened frozen fruit and a little milk or calcium-fortified orange juice, I have the makings of a delicious, refreshing  smoothie you AND your bones will love.  By using frozen fruit you eliminate the need for ice, and can enjoy even when your favorite fruits are not in season.  Perfect for after a run (don’t forget those weight-bearing exercises–also good for maintaining bone health!), or it even works for breakfast or a light lunch. 

Yo Smoothie

Makes about 16 oz

1 – 6 oz container non-fat yogurt (I prefer vanilla flavored)

2 cups unsweetened frozen fruit (berries, mango, pineapple, bananas, etc–any combo)

1/2 cup skim milk or calcium-fortified orange juice (or more for a thinner consistency)

Place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.  You may need to stir with a spoon in one or two times (with the blades OFF, of course!) to move the process along if you do not have a wide-bottomed blender. 

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Above photo by gamany.

The Scramble on Chorizo

April 24, 2009

recipes-005 Chorizo is one of my favorite extras to add a little pep to otherwise everyday dishes.  Pronounced “chor-EE-zo” or  “chor-EE-so” (not “chor-eetzo” as I called it for years), this sausage is popular in Spanish, Mexican, and Portuguese cuisine (where it is referred to as “chourico”).   The pork sausage is often bright orange or red, due to the inclusion of paprika and chili powder.  Spanish chorizo is made from smoked pork, and can be eaten as is, where as both the Mexican and Portuguese versions are raw pork and require cooking.

While the Spanish chorizo has a bit of zing to it, the uncooked varieties are a bit milder in flavor, and preferred by my kids.  In this Mexican-inspired breakfast dish, I opt for this less spicy sausage, and pair it with red pepper, scallions, and a bit of mild cheese.  Start your morning with a dish that says “buenas dias!”

 Mexican Chorizo Scramble

Serves 4-6

8 oz Mexican or Portuguese chorizo, casing removed

½ cup red bell pepper, cut into a small dice

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon half and half (or milk)

3 scallions, thinly sliced

¼  cup shredded cheese (mild cheddar or Monterey Jack)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Heat a large, 12″ skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo in pieces.  Use a silicon spatula to break the sausage into bite sized pieces.   Add the diced red pepper and stir.  Cook until sausage is no longer raw and bell pepper is tender.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, scallions, and salt and pepper.  Add to skillet and reduce heat to medium-low.  Gently stir with a silicone spatula, so large, soft curds form. 

Just before eggs are cooked completely, add shredded cheese and stir to incorporate.  When eggs are softly cooked and cheese is melted, the scramble is ready.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.