Quick, simple, healthy breakfast ideas

I used to always purchase commercial brand cereals for breakfast. It was simple, quick and convenient. However, the more I cook, the more conscious I am about the ingredients in my food. Now, I never buy boxed cereal and try to diversify my morning plate with some delicious and healthy breakfast alternatives. It’s great to know the ingredients that go into my morning breakfast are generally all natural and good for me. The below breakfast alternatives are rich in protein and fiber, packed with vitamins and very fresh. These ideas take anywhere from 3 – 15 minutes.

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What are some of your favorite breakfast options?

My Favorite Pasta Salad Ever!

Yesterday I had a small 4th of July dinner, per usual tradition. For dinner, I served rump steak cuts marinated in balsamic vinegar and molasses, summer squash sautéed with onions and pasta salad, followed by a dessert of red velvet cake, served with summer berries. Meat has slowly worked its way back into my life after a month without it.

Back to the menu, I must say, the pasta salad was really the true star of the show. The meat and zucchini– only backup dancers. This salad is so refreshing and light. It’s chock full of delicious flavor and has a light citrus taste. This morning I actually contemplated eating it for breakfast with a slice of red velvet, but then realized that would leave me without lunch.

This recipe is really simple to make, hope you enjoy it. And for those back home, hope you had a fun 4th!

 

What you need.

  • 200 grams / app. 1/2 pound of pasta (I used whole wheat fussili)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp of chives, chopped
  • 1 TBSP of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c of shredded parmesan
  • paprika, sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

  1. Boil pasta according to directions, strain, and run under cold water until cool.
  2. Place pasta, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, in a bowl. Pour lemon juice on top and gently mix.
  3. Mix garlic and mayonnaise in a separate bowl. Add to salad and gently mix, evenly distributing sauce.
  4. Mix in fresh herbs and cheese, then season to taste.
  5. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Sunday Berry Compote Pancakes

How I love Sundays. Even if it signals the end of the weekend, it truly is my favorite day. I usually wake up slowly, catch up on the news, read and enjoy lounging around in my pajamas until noon. Sometimes I dare to even take a stroll to the bakery to buy a moist loaf of tresse/challah bread. You’ll rarely find the Swiss strolling around or running errands in their PJs, especially on Sunday. I’ve realized over the years this is something very American. The Swiss on the other hand dress to the nines on Sunday. I just don’t see the point of changing into clothes, if my mission is to buy bread and go back to my lazy Sunday program.

This week, I decided to make pancakes and lounge around the house all morning. I wanted rich, fluffy pancakes reminiscent of the buttermilk pancakes my grandmother used to make me on her cast iron griddle when I was a child. I remember the way the syrup would literally disappear into the feathery stack of pancakes. *drools*

Since I didn’t have any buttermilk and am not too impressed with the milk and vinegar alternative, I used plain yogurt. I topped my pancakes with a mixed berry compote, butter and maple syrup (no need to hold back). The result was rich, fluffy, slightly tart, delicious pancakes.

Makes 8 – 9, 4 – 6 inch pancakes

What you need.

For pancakes:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz  of plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP of oil (e.g. canola, sunflower, flax)
  • possibly, a small amount of milk (or water) to make the mixture slightly thinner

For compote:

  • 1.5 – 2 c of frozen mixed berries
  • 1/4 c water
  • juice from a fresh lemon
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1/4 c raisins

How you make it.

Pancakes:

  1. Preheat your oven to about 100 F/ 50 C and place a pan/casserole dish with a cover inside your oven.
  2. Mix all your dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Mix all your wet ingredients, stir them into your dry until combined.
  4. If the mixture if really thick you can add a little milk or water to thin it out slightly. I added about 4 TBSP of milk.
  5. Heat a pan with oil, once hot spoon out your pancake mixture into the pan. Flip the pancakes when many bubbles form on top.
  6. Place cooked pancakes in casserole dish, to keep warm before serving.

Compote:

  1. Place all of your ingredients in a sauce pan, simmer on low for about 15 minutes.
  2. Serve warm over pancakes.

Enjoy!

Colombian Arepas

A dear friend visited me over the holidays. She came bearing all kinds of lovely goodies, including a Colombian cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the recipes.

After a day of sight-seeing, she kindly demonstrated how to make arepas, Columbian style. An arepa is a baked, grilled or fried corn patty, typically served with meat, cheese, eggs or vegetables. I absolutely LOVE arepas, they’re so nutritious and practical. I usually make them Venezuelan style. This type is thicker and eaten in a similar fashion to a hamburger — you slice the corn patty open and fill it with your ingredients of choice. My friend told me the Colombian version is much thinner and you typically put the ingredients on top of the arepa.

Tonight she prepared some arepas for me and my husband. I took a night off, observed her in action, set the table and prepared a little mixture of rucola, garlic, lemon and olive oil to go with the arepas. The below recipe makes 7 – 8 medium-sized arepas.

What you need.

  • 2 c. of pre-cooked corn flour (typically you can find this in an ethnic grocery store or grocery store aisle, some brands include P.A.N., Doña Arepa)
  • 2 c. warm water (a little more if the dough is too dry)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • canola or sunflower oil

How you make it.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200F/105 C. Place an ovenproof dish in the oven.
  2. Pour corn flour in a bowl.Add in 1 tsp of salt.
  3. Gradually add water 1/2 c water at a time, mixing with your hands each time to incorporate the dough. Once you add all the water, the mixture should form a ball. The dough shouldn’t be too dry nor too wet/sticky.
  4. Place just enough oil in a pan to coat the bottom and heat the pan on medium-high heat.
  5. Take a handful of the dough and flatten it with your hands to form a flat circle. Use your fingers to smooth out the edges.
  6. Place the patty in the oil and fry until golden brown, carefully flip it and do the same for theuncooked side. Place the arepa in the oven-proof dish and cover to keep warm.
  7. Continue until you finish cooking all arepas.

Cover the arepa with your ingredients of choice. I added cheddar cheese, tomatoes and rucola tossed with garlic, lemon and olive oil.

Enjoy!

Pain au Levain/ Sourdough Bread

LONGEST POST EVER:

A couple of weeks ago, I ate dinner at a friend’s. At some point during the evening she removed a loaf of bread from the oven. It was the most lovely shade of amber. She told it was naturally leavened bread that she made using a homemade starter (culture of yeast and bacteria). Me, being the curious cook that I am, and lover of anything natural and healthy, decided to make my own starter and try my hand at sourdough bread.

I won’t go into details about the chemistry of the process, I’ll leave that to the experts and will instead put some links at the bottom of the page. I will try to walk you through my process for creating a starter or levain to bake your first fresh loaf.

Starter/Levain

What you need.

  • Patience and faith that it will work out.
  • 1/2 c or 50 grams flour: I used a mix of rye (yeast apparently loves this stuff), non bleached all-purpose and wheat flour
  • slightly less than 1/2 c or 1.2 deciliters of filtered, bottled, or *tap water

If your tap water is drinkable, use it. Many recommend bottled water, because it could contain small levels of chlorine, which inhibit yeast growth. To remove chlorine, leave a glass of water out overnight and it should evaporate.

How you cultivate it.

  1. Buy or wash out a jar with a lid, that has about 1 L or greater capacity
  2. In a bowl mix 1/2 c of flour (50 grams) and a little less than 1/2 cup of water (app. 1 deciliter). Many bloggers use a total hydration method that entails mixing equal amounts of flour and water. Using slightly less water worked better from me, it stopped the mixture from separating. This could depend on the environment you live in. It’s all about trial and error.
  3. Pour the mixture into your clean jar. Cover partly. Do not close the lid completely, as the culture of yeast will produce carbon dioxide gas as they metabolize sugars. This causes the dough to rise, which is what we want to see, however the gases also need room to escape the jar. You can partially tighten the lid or punch a few small holes in cling wrap and cover it with this instead.
  4. About 12 – 24 hours later, on days  2 – 7 (or longer), stir the mixture, get rid of half. If you use a scale and when you weigh your original ingredients, it will be easier to know precisely how much mixture to remove. Otherwise, you can eyeball the mixture or pour out 1/2 cup. Place the rest in a bowl and add in a little less than 1/2 c water stir, stir in 1/2 c flour, partially cover and let it sit overnight. Repeat every day. By days 4-7, your mixture should bubble and rise consistently, if not, continue feeding it, until it does consistently.
  5. Every other day, clean your jar out. This is important to determine, whether your starter is rising. I put a sticker on my jar at the level of the starter to confirm that it has risen.
  6. Do not use the starter until day 7 or later.

Trouble shooting:

  • If your starter is not doubling, place it on top of a warm appliance or in my case on a heated floor.
  • If you experience a layer of separation between the liquid and the starter or water on the surface, try reducing your amount of water.

Pain au levain/ Sourdough bread (1 loaf)

What you need.

For starter: a little less than 1/2 c water and 1/2 c flour

For sponge: a little less than 1 c  water and 2 c flour

For the dough: a little less than 1 c water mixed with 1 TBSP of honey, 2 c flour, 2 tsp salt

How you make it.

  1. Day 1. Starter/Levain. After your starter is established on day 7, maybe later, remove half and place it in a jar or a large bowl. Note: After your starter is established, you can use the 1/2 that you remove to make pancakes, as scraps in biscuits, pass it along to a friend, etc.
  2. Pour in water (slightly less than 1/2 c), mix, add in 1/2 c flour. Cover with cling wrap and let this mixture sit over night or 12 – 24 hours, until it has doubled in size.
  3. Day 2. Making the sponge: In a bowl, add a 1 cup of lukewarm water to your levain, mix until slushy, then add 2 c. (100 grams) flour. Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place. Let this mixture sit 6 -8 hours or overnight.
  4. Day 3. Making the dough: In a separate  bowl, pour in 2 cups of flour. In a cup, mix water in a cup with honey (optional). Mix this in with your flour, until it forms a rough ball. Let the dough sit for about 15 minutes so the flour can absorb the water.
  5. Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt over the dough and combine this with your sour dough sponge until incorporated. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy. You could use your kitchenaid to do this, since I don’t have one I did it with a spoon and by hand. Do not knead. Shape as desired and place it in a lightly oiled baking dish and allow it to rise in an oiled bowl for 4-7 hours. If you do this in the morning, you’ll have bread for the evening.
  6. 30 minutes before baking your bread, preheat your oven to the about 440 F / 230 C. Boil about 3 cups of water and place in an ovenproof dish. Place this dish on the bottom shelf of your oven. This will help the crust turn a nice amber brown and provide a moist baking environment.
  7. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Half way through baking, reduce the temperature to about 400 F / 200 C. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. Try your best not to slice the bread until it’s cooled.

There are tons of creative ways to shape and form the dough. Since this was my first attempt, I wanted to start simple.

This bread tastes remarkable, slightly acidic, with a nice crunchy exterior and moist and airy inside. I would like to work on getting more air bubbles in my dough, practice makes perfect.

Please note: Store starter in glass, plastic containers or stainless steel. Clear containers make it easier to observe your starter.

I will warn you, you will become obsessed with your starter. It looks likes a creamy blob of water and flour, but somehow you will regard it as beautiful. Like me, you may come home and instead giving your husband a hug as soon as you walk in or feeding and cuddle your cat, dog, what have you not, you will run to your starter and observe it. Somehow, it will become part of your family– just be sure you don’t neglect your family members.

Another warning, making naturally, leavened bread is not a time-consuming or arduous task, the yeast and the bacteria do most of the work, you just have to mix here and there. However, it is a long process that requires a lot of patience. Especially, if you decide to make your own starter, you’ll have to wait 1 to 2 weeks until you taste the fruits of your labor. Let me tell you, it is SO worth it.

Have you made sourdough bread? Any tips/tricks, recipes you’d like to share?

Links:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

http://eattheroses.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/sourdough-focaccia-and-what-sourdough-is-and-is-not/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourdough

http://sourdough.com/recipes/home-bread

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/keyword/gerard-rubaud

Potato Frittata with Scallions and Cheese

My good friend Kate and I both heart  Deb Perelman’s food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I was thrilled when Kate gave me The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for my birthday!

I absolutely love this cookbook, it’s wonderful and so refreshing. It includes wonderful tips, cute and funny personal stories about the author and her family. It’s written in a very intimate way. At times, you feel as if you’re sitting at a bar stool in her tiny Manhattan kitchen, while she walks you through the recipe step by step. This books gives me a case of teeny-tiny kitchen envy– I love small spaces, but that’s a story for another day! My favorite part of the book is the simple, colorful and vibrant pictures, the images just pop right off the pages.

Last week, I adapted her recipe for Potato Frittata with feta and scallions. She listed this recipe under breakfast and I made this for dinner. This would definitely be a big hit at brunch. It’s very filling, so have your appetite ready or a few hungry stomachs around the dinner table, if you try this recipe. The original recipe calls for bacon and since I don’t like bacon, I excluded it. Additionally, she used feta, but I used Gruyère, a little ricotta and added mushrooms.

You can totally make this without meat and use vegetables and cheese. I actually was going to make it without any meat, but my husband suggested throwing in the leftover ground beef we had in the fridge. The final result was a rich, protein packed frittata with lots of flavor. I paired it with a salad to lighten things up a bit. My husband loved this dish, I think it had all the makings of Swiss food that he’s used to: potatoes, cheese, eggs, and meat.

Serves 3 – 4

What you need.

  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium large potatoes, diced
  • salt, black pepper
  • 1/4 lb or 115 g rams of cooked ground beef (optional)
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 5 -6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c of Gruyère or cheese of choice
  • 1/4 c of ricotta (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 – 2 TBSP of milk or cream

How you make it.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F/ 200 C.
  2. Peel and dice potatoes into small cubes.
  3. Pour about 1 – 2 TBSP of olive oil into a baking pan or oven proof skillet.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the oil and season generously with salt and pepper (and a pinch of nutmeg if you like).
  5. Place in the oven and roast for about 25- 30 minutes or until they’re almost cooked.
  6. While your potatoes are cooking, chop up your vegetables and prepare your cheese (and prepare your meat if you’re using it. I had a small amount of day old ground beef, so just put it on the side).
  7. Beat eggs, ricotta and cream, season lightly/to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. When your potatoes are light brown and almost done roasting, take them out of the oven and cover with your vegetables and cheese.
  9. Pour eggs on top, cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until the eggs set in the center.

Remember, bring your appetite for this dish, because it’s very nutritious and filling! Enjoy!

Crunchy Roasted Granola

Buying cereal in Switzerland is nothing like back in the States. At home, cereal can be found on its own aisle! You could probably fit 10 Swiss aisles into one US cereal aisle!

My husband once told me that when he moved to the US, he kind of panicked whenever he made his way to the cereal aisle. He’d observe what locals were buying and quickly grab something and continue with his shopping. Considering many shoppers were parents buying their kids ultra, frosted, sugar-glazed cereal — he quickly opted for another method. As an American, I guess I’d never thought about the amount of choices being overwhelming.

Actually, when I moved to Switzerland, I practically couldn’t find the cereal aisle. Well, it wasn’t really an aisle, rather a small section of an aisle with probably no more than 10 – 15 choices of cereal. Crazy as it sounds, I suddenly spent more time, trying to figure out, which cereal to select. With only a few choices, I felt the need to read the ingredient list and nutritional information on every box, to do a price comparison to figure out the most economical choice. Well, this is Switzerland and I shortly realized, economical is not part of the vocabulary here. Things are pricey! I just couldn’t justify paying 7 dollars for a tiny bag of organic granola. In the end, I walked away from my few choices, deciding not buy anything at all.

This worked out well for me, because I discovered, making my own granola was just as good, if not better than store-bought granola. Best of all, it costs a fraction of the price. Here’s my recipe for crunchy granola. You can adapt it to your liking.

What you need (feel free to double the recipe if you’re cooking for more than 2 people).

  • 3 cups of oats (not the instant kind)
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts and/or seeds of your choice (I used pecan and sunflower)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of molasses, maple syrup or honey (I used molasses)
  • 1 cup of raisins or dried fruits/berries of choice. Add in some chocolate chips to if you’d like.

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C)
  2. Place oats in a large skillet and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Throw in your seeds/nuts and cook on low heat with oats for about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Pour into a baking dish (9×13), sprinkle with cinnamon, throw in salt, mix well
  5. Add your sweetener (i.e. honey, molasses or syrup) and mix well.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, remove and allow to cook on a wire rack.
  7. Once  your mixture cools, stir in dried fruit/berries and refrigerate in an air tight container for as long as you’d like.

Play around with the recipe and make it with the things you love. This tastes great with milk, plain yogurt or by itself. I like to make a frozen yogurt parfait: blueberries, topped with plain yogurt, topped with granola – pop it in the freezer for a few hours and enjoy!