SIMPLY ELEVATED

(Simply Elevated) Quick Morning Breakfast Sandwich

While I love baking and cooking from scratch, there are days when I’m just too pressed for time to perform all of the extra steps to produce a scratch recipe. I wanted to prepare breakfast biscuit sandwiches one morning for my handy man that was coming to fix a few things around the house, but again was short on time. I could have bought frozen pre-made biscuits or the pop open can version that are both tasty and successful, but I decided to challenge myself to elevate a simple $1.00 box of biscuit mix.

To speed up the morning process, I opened the box of mix and poured it into a medium bowl. I ground a teaspoon of fresh black pepper and chopped 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary from my garden and added it to the bowl with the mix. I whisked everything together to get the lumps out of the mix and covered with plastic wrap until morning.

I made Coq Au Vin the evening before and had leftover chopped fried crispy bacon that I decided would add some additional flavor to the dough. I was curious to see how things would turn out with my “wing it” plan in the morning and pushed my mind for a plan B in case this didn’t work out, but decided to trust my instincts.

Bacon, Herb and Black Pepper Ham Biscuits

  • 1 box of Jiffy Buttermilk Biscuit Mix
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary (or sage)
  • pinch teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chopped crispy cooked bacon
  • 1 tablespoon flour (and more for dusting counter and rolling pin)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • Thinly sliced ham or Canadian bacon
  • Fig preserves

Preheat oven 450 degrees.

Pour the contents of the biscuit mix into a medium bowl. Add chopped herbs, black pepper and salt. (I prepared to this stage the night before and covered the bowl with plastic wrap until morning). Cook chopped bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels, cool, cover and set aside.

In the morning I pre-heated the oven, added the water to the mix with herbs, pepper and salt and then stirred in the bacon until the dry mix was moistened.

Sprinkle the surface of the counter with some flour and scrape the biscuit mixture on top of the floured surface. Place a small amount of flour in hand and rub on to the entire surface of the rolling pin. Pat the dough down slightly and dust the top of the mix with flour. (It’s very wet, so a little flour is needed to prevent sticking.) Roll out the dough and using a biscuit cutter dipped in flour cut out 4 biscuits. The scrapes can be pulled together, patted down again and cut to make a fifth biscuit.

(Optional: I brushed the tops with a little water (very little) and sprinkled with flaky salt.)

Per the box instructions bake 8 to 10 minutes. These biscuits do not rise very much and do not get golden in color, but after taking them out of the oven I brushed the tops with some melted butter that gave them a little needed moisture and color. If attempted again I may try brushing the tops with a little milk or cream (like scones call for) to add a little color to their tops. After they have cooled slightly, gently slice all in 1/2 with a serrated knife and then brush melted butter inside each half. (They need to be mostly cooled before trying to slice or they will crumble apart).

(Note: I baked a small scrap of the dough with the biscuits for test tasting – always a good idea to make sure something “made up” tastes good. It passed the test so on we go to the sandwich filling). I placed slices of ham in a non-stick skillet and fried until lightly browned. Spread fig (or another flavor) preserve on the insides of both halves of the biscuit. Stack the fried ham on the bottom half and top with the other.

To add a quick side of freshness, I sliced a few large strawberries, then mixed in a bowl with blackberries and blueberries, some agave, a pinch of salt and a couple of teaspoons of chiffonade mint leaves. Fresh sweet basil or Thai basil, would also be a tasty alternative to mint for an herbaceous lift to the fruit.

While they are not the buttery flakey version better achieved from scratch, for $1.00, free herbs from my garden, a little fried bacon, preserves and sliced ham from the fridge, my guest had absolutely no problem devouring two and boxing up another two for rewarming for the next day’s morning breakfast. When you’re short on time, grab a box of something from the grocery store shelf for a thrifty and tasty way to a quick fix.

Note: There are a variety of quick biscuit mixes to experiment with. If attempted again I would experiment with a different brand to see if I could achieve a fluffier biscuit with more of a rise.

GATHERINGS, SIMPLY ELEVATED, SUMMER

Say Ole’ on Memorial Day With a Corny Small Bite

My Margarita on the Rocks – Floral Arrangement

It’s May and that means it’s time for my neighbor’s Annual Memorial Day Weekend Fajita party. A tradition started years ago in a different home and State, they carried on each year (with a skip of a year now and then for circumstances like COVID) inviting friends and some of their neighbors over for a late afternoon of margaritas, sangria, and fajitas. As hosts they supply the margaritas and fajitas, and those who attend make contributions to the party of appetizers, sides and dessert.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Over the years I’ve tried to bring something that doesn’t conflict with the hosts’ menu, but hopefully will compliment it. I’m always searching for ideas and inspiration for everything I do and prefer to create something different and a little unexpected. I’ve even created a designated Pinterest board for future inspiration or reference since ideas present themselves at different times of the year.

In the past I’ve contributed with dessert items like margarita cup cakes https://www.browneyedbaker.com/margarita-cupcakes-cinco-de-mayo/ , and margarita ice cream sandwiches http://myrecipes.com/recipe/margarita-ice-cream-sandwiches(opens in a new tab) In more recent years, I moved on to corn….

Fajita time!

A few years ago, Mexican Street Corn became all the rage and my childhood born love for corn made me want to share this yummy treat with everyone.

Canned corn was a common side at nearly every dinner when I was growing up. I used to tease that my Mom made us all into starchy vegetable junkies. Corn was served next to rice, mashed potatoes and pasta, breaking all of the rules I had learned about creating a nutrient rich, balanced meal in home economics. One of the first times I invited my parents over for dinner as an adult, I set the table nicely and prepared a lovely well balanced and colorful meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes and bright green haricots verts with toasted almonds to give that fresh pop of green I was taught should be on every plate. My Mom would always “fix” as she called it, my Dad’s plate, with a serving of each item. When she set the plate on the table in front of him, he looked up at her and said, “Where’s the corn?” That’s how bad the corn situation was in my family. A couple of days later Mom called and said, “Your Dad just told me he really liked those green beans you made. How do you cook them?”

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

In her later years when we had grown out of our picky eating phases (which by the way was nothing compared to the chicken nugget, french fry obsessions of young children these days) Mom cooked what southerners call “smothered” corn that we all loved and that I try to recreate for my brother whenever I’m cooking family dinners. “Smothered” usually means cooked with chopped vegetables, like onion, red or green bell pepper and celery until the flavors blend into a delicious mouthwatering treat. It was hard to imagine that corn as we knew it (from the can with a little butter or margarine back in those days) could be made to taste so good.

The month of May is the perfect month for corn. Bins at the grocer and farm stands are filled with the just harvested fresh green husked cobs of yellow, white and multicolored sweet corn. Another great tip is that usually the week of Memorial Day, the cobs go on sale for 25 cents each, making it a thrifty item to serve at a party.

Mexican Street corn is a fun way to elevate the corn on the cob and is simple and delicious.

What you’ll need: (Remember that I’m all about using what you have)

  • Small to medium husked corn on the cob (the number depends on how many you are serving)
  • Olive or canola oil and brush
  • Crema Mexicana (Mexican sour cream); or sour cream or Mayonnaise (I used an olive oil based, but any kind will do – it’s mostly a sticking agent)
  • Chili powder, chili chipotle power, or lime chili powder
  • Limes (zest and juice will be used) 1 small per cob.
  • crumbled, cojita or queso cheese or freshly grated parmesan
  • fresh cilantro chopped

As a cooking show junkie, I’ve picked up a few really helpful tricks that come in handy (if I remember them). One trick is to create a natural organic handle, from the bundle of husk pulled away from the cob to hold the corn when eating. The other is an easy and fast way to remove the silky strands.

Cut the top end of the cob off. Then place the husked cob into the microwave for one minute. Carefully remove (may be hot)from the microwave. Gently pull a few of the longer outer pieces of husks (remove)to be used for wrapping around the husk bundle. Form the husk bundle by gently peeling back the green husks without disconnecting from the cob. The silk threads will come together and softly pull away to discard. Gently gather the husk bundle and pull husks away from the end of the corn cob. Take a piece of the reserved husk fold lengthwise into a band. Tie and knot the piece of husk around the bundle. This forms a natural handle for holding the cob to eat after grilling and seasoning with the street corn ingredients.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

On to the grilling. Brush each cob with olive or canola oil. A wonderful smoky charred flavor is best created on an outdoor grill, but the same charring can be made indoors on a grill pan. The husks will slightly begin to dry from the heat of the grill so slightly spraying with a water mist and keeping off the fire is best. If the husks slightly whither, just push the tied band up to hold the bundle together.

Brush on a mixture of mayo and sour cream (whatever variation you’re using from the list), sprinkle with chili powder, zest a fresh lime (the green part only) and then squeeze lime juice over the toppings. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

The Mexican Street Corn was a hit the first time I made it. So much so that our hosts said they would make it the following year. Oddly the year that followed, for some reason the harvest was poor; the corn was dry and not tasty at all. When no corn was served, some of the regulars in attendance approached me asking “Where’s the corn? I was looking forward to the corn!”

This year I’m making a different version of Mexican Street corn, in form of a bite sized fritter or cake like the image below. Same ingredients with a little flour for binding before forming into cakes and gently frying until golden brown.

https://www.thismomsmenu.com/street-corn-fritters/

Looking for a popular full flavored side or small bite for your weekend get together? These in season fresh corn ideas are a real winner!

Platter decorated with colorful flowers for a Mexican touch.
(This is what the fritters look like when they stay together.)
If some of the fritters don’t hold together, just fill a bowl. It’s still a delicious side!
MOTHERS TEA, SIMPLY ELEVATED, SPRING, SUMMER, TRADITIONS & TEA

Lemon Blueberry Whip (Simply Elevated)

When you’ve got lemons, make….

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

Here’s a easy summer dessert for those hot days of summer…..

Lemon Blueberry Whip

  • 1 – 8 oz bar of light cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • the zest of one large lemon (or two small)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup small chopped candied lemon (I used about 4 slices of a pack from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon agave (or 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil)

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Yields 6 servings.

Reserve six fresh blueberries for garnish. Toss remaining blueberries with agave, salt and grape seed oil and place in a single layer on a small baking sheet with sides. Roast for 15 minutes. Blueberries will become dark, shrink some and create juices on the tray. Remove and cool completely to room temperature.

Place room temperature cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar in a blender and blend until loosened and creamy (about a minute). Add lemon zest and juice and pulse a few times to combine. Stop, scrape the sides. Add the candied lemon peel. Pulse about 4 times.

In another bowl using a hand mixer whip one cup of whipping cream until reached to soft peaks, add one tablespoon sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Gently fold in about 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese until combined and continue by adding another 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese at a time until all folded together with the whipped cream.

Spoon the completely cooled roasted blueberries in equal portions into the bottom of each serving dish (small ramekins – I used pot a creme pots). Top with the lemon cream and smooth top with an offset spatula or backside of a spoon. Top with a fresh blueberry and lemon zest (optional edible flowers – in the photo are French lilac and chamomile). Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Served at my annual Mothers Tea – May 2021.
SIMPLY ELEVATED, SPRING

Springtime Sunday Morning Popovers

With the arrival of Spring just a few days away, the first blades of fresh green grass sprouted up throughout the lawn; the azalea bushes are loaded with buds; the new foliage on the trees and bushes are swaying in the breeze and a dusting of pollen is sprinkled everywhere like powdered sugar on a beignet. My spring onions have beautiful buds so heavy that it looks like they’re bowing to the arrival of gods of Springtime.

Even my three year old Shamrock that just a couple of weeks ago had nothing but brown collapsed stems that I pulled away after the cold winter, had that magical sense of nature that knew it had to bloom with fresh green clover and a mix of white and lavender blooms just in time for St. Patrick’s Day this week. Knowing how quickly the days go from comfortable and breezy to hot and humid in the South, I employed the help of my handyman to help pull away the weeds, lay down some landscaping cloth and cover the front yard landscaping with fresh mulch.

Each time we schedule a weekend of projects around my house, I always greet him with something for breakfast. Yesterday I attended a little family crawfish boil and by day’s end I was out of time to think or plan much. I searched for inspiration wanting something quick, light and that I could make with ingredients I already had. I decided to make orange citrus popovers with roasted berries.

Citrus Orange Popovers with Roasted Berries

Makes 6 popovers

  • 3 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk -or whole milk, almond milk (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • the zest of a medium sized orange
  • 2 teaspoon of orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or 1 tsp of orange extract)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 2 tablespoons of agave or honey
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil

Making popovers requires a little pre-planning to ensure the eggs are at room temperature. I left them out overnight. The milk also needs to be at room temperature. Evaporated milk is in a can in the pantry, but if using an alternative, make sure it’s also at room temperature.

When ready to prepare the popovers, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees (f). Place the popover pan (or muffin tin) on a lined baking sheet and place both in the oven. The popover pan should heated to the oven temperature.

Roasted berries: Place berries on a half sized baking sheet or oven proof stainless steel skillet. Toss with agave and oil and set aside.

Popovers: Crack and slightly scramble the eggs into a small bowl with the sugar. Zest the orange over the egg mixture, add the orange liqueur, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Gently mix. Pour the combination into a blender and briefly blend. Add the flour and blend until well combined. Scrape the sides down and make sure all of the flour has been incorporated into the wet ingredients.

Carefully remove the popover pan from the oven and spray each cup with butter spray or cooking spray (no flavor). Pour the batter into each cup about 3/4 up (not all the way to the top. ) Quickly place the pan back into the oven and bake 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Add the baking tray of berries to roast at the same time (check at 15 minutes to see if they are slightly collapsed and a blueberry syrup has formed on the tray. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while the popovers bake the remaining 5 minutes.

Orange segments: While the popovers are baking remove the peel with a knife from the orange and supreme the sections of the orange out with a sharp knife (called supreming) to serve alongside the roasted berries. https://thecookful.com/how-to-supreme-an-orange/

Turn the completely baked popovers over on to the baking tray. Using a tea towel or tongs to transfer the popover to a plate or large bowl. Spoon the roasted berries on the side, with orange segments and a sprig of mint or sweet basil. Sprinkle the popover with powdered sugar.

Served with a pot of Celestial -True Blueberry tea.

After a little Sunday morning tea and popovers it was time to head to the flower beds to weed, fill with some fresh soil and mulch. By mid-morning he front yard beds were dressed and ready for the coming Spring and Summer months ahead. One of the best ways to start a busy day is to take a little time to make something simple and elevate it with fresh flavors and a pretty presentation. These eggy, airy popovers did the trick this morning with a side of yummy roasted berries and citrus. Happy Sunday!

FRIENDSGIVING, SIMPLY ELEVATED

Fall Friend Lunch #3

A couple of weeks had passed since my last small lunch gathering, so it was time to invite two more friends over for a Sunday afternoon lunch. One of the ladies invited had other plans, but Pemmie and I took advantage of our time alone to catch up, something we haven’t had a chance to do for several months.

I’ve tried to make each luncheon a little unique with a slight adjustment to the table setting and menu. For this lunch I used the succulent adorned tiger pumpkins I made to create the fall table decor and I found some interesting purple hydrangeas that had been sprayed black for Halloween weekend that I mixed with some chartreuse chrysanthemums, peach alstroemeria and magnolia leaves for my crock vase.

My delicious French pear liqueur had it’s final after lunch sipping today and my friend had a contact in France to get a fresh bottle sent for future gatherings.

To create mini cheese boards I used small wooden plates to arrange a couple of slices of brie, manchego and blue cheese with grapes and berries over a small magnolia leaf. Some grocers or delis have a container in their cheese section filled with small pieces of cheese for sale that is just enough for 2 servings so that you don’t have to purchase a larger than needed block of cheese.

I love the sweet richness of pears, so once again I used them for my dessert. Years ago on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten did a “Barefoot in Paris” season. I’ve made clafoutis a few times with dark cherries, but this version with pears shared by Chef Daniel Rose has become my all time favorite. The only difference in his version and mine, it that I add about a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice to a half cup of powdered sugar to sprinkle on top for a little added spice. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/clafoutis-aux-poires-3240468

Lunch included a re-appearance of my cafe’ purchased Autumn crunch salad with apple cider vinaigrette .

The cooler temps put me in the mood for homemade chili, but I didn’t want to serve chili for this ladies lunch. I found a soup recipe that included all of the flavors of chili and a smokey crunch created from chopped salted smoked almonds.

This healthy, hearty soup was made with butternut squash and lentils as the main ingredients. https://reciperunner.com/creamy-red-lentil-butternut-squash-soup/

Note: I used French green lentils instead of red (because it’s what I had in the pantry. I used chicken stock, added red chili flakes and the zest of a lime. When warmed and ready to serve, added diced avocado to the center of the bowl. Serve the soup with a quarter of a lime to be squeezed over the bowl and stirred in when ready to eat. Pemmie commented that the lime brought a fresh pop to the warm spices.

Soup served with lime and autumn crunch cafe’ salad.
Pemmie brought a fresh crisp wine.
Next day leftovers served in a wider bowl, the cubed avocado is more visible, topped with Greek yogurt or Crème Fraîche.

While this is the third lunch, I still have a few more friends to invite over for their afternoon lunch. When time permits I hope to carefully plan a couple of Christmas themed luncheons for the remaining ladies. Stay tuned….

SIMPLY ELEVATED

Quick Carrot Cake or Lemon Pistachio Cookie

A few months ago I shared my German Chocolate inspired cookie made with a box of cake mix. I’ve continued to experiment with making quick boxed cake mix cookies. Here’s a carrot cake and a tart, but sweet lemon pistachio cookie.

Carrot Cake Cookie

  • 1 box of carrot cake mix
  • 2 eggs scrambled before adding
  • 1/3 cup of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans (toasted) shop 1/2 and keep the best whole pieces to top off the cookie
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut (place in skillet on low heat and watch closely tossing until golden – it can burn quickly)
  • 1 container cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Place pecans on sheet pan and place in the oven for 10 minutes to toast. Remove and allow to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Select about 20 or so whole pecans and set aside. Chop the rest.

In a medium bowl place 2 eggs and scramble well, add cake mix and oil and mix with a spatula until the ingredients are well combined and form a thick cookie dough. Add and mix in chopped pecans. Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop to form dough balls and place about 2 inches apart on a silicon or parchment line sheet pan. Bake 20 – 25 minutes depending on your oven. Check at a shorter time and allow more if needed.

Remove from the oven and allow to cook 5 minutes and then transfer to a cookie rack to completely cool. Once cooled top with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut. Place one whole toasted pecan in the center.

Lemon Cookie

  • 1 box of lemon cake mix
  • 2 eggs scrambled before adding
  • 1/3 cup of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of candied lemon peel (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1 container lemon frosting

In a medium bowl place 2 eggs and scramble well, add cake mix, add the chopped candied lemon peel and oil mixing with a spatula until the ingredients are well combined and form a thick cookie dough. Add and mix in chopped pecans. Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop to form dough balls and place about 2 inches apart on a silicon or parchment line sheet pan. Bake 20 – 25 minutes depending on your oven. Check at a shorter time and allow more if needed.

Remove from the oven and allow to cook 5 minutes and then transfer to a cookie rack to completely cool. Once cooled top with lemon frosting and chopped pistachios.

So if you need a quick something sweet at the end of a meal, picnic or just for a snack, find a flavor that works for you or try them all!

SIMPLY ELEVATED

A Crunchy Snack or Sprinkle (Granola)

Repurpose a small jam jar and fill it with granola as a gift.

Several years ago a friend brought me a jar of this homemade granola. She and her husband had recently discovered this granola in Aspen and apparently was given the recipe. So they made some at home and gifted me a large jar of the finished product as well as the recipe. This is the best granola I’ve ever had, and I’ve lost count of how many batches of it I have made and also gifted.

It’s great as a crunchy snack, but I also enjoy a sprinkle of it on my morning yogurt bowl to give it a little crunch. It’s also very good on ice cream or frozen yogurt. I’ve even sprinkled a small portion on grilled peaches.

TRIPLE CREEK RANCH GRANOLA

  • Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
  • 2 large sheet pans (sprayed with cooking spray)
  • 4 quart sized jars
  • 1 -21 oz container of Old Fashioned Oats (plus one cup optional)
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts or hazelnuts (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 cups pecans (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup canola oil *** careful here only 1 cup all others were 2
  • 2 cups of dried cranberries (or raisins, chopped dates, your own dried fruit choice)

1) In a very large bowl combine oats, all nuts, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon.

2) In a large measuring cup or bowl combine syrup and oil.

3) Pour syrup over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wood spoon or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly coated with the syrup – oil mixture.

4) Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup place four scoops of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet. Spread the mixture into an even thin layer. (Place two sheets into the oven at a time. ) Put stove timer on for 7 minutes. Pull baking sheets out one at a time and stir granola around that will still be wet. Put the timer on again for another 7 minutes. Check again. When most of the moisture is gone remove the trays from the oven. (Watch closely because it can go from under done to overdone in seconds. Every oven is different.) It will continue to dry and crisp as it cools. Put 1/2 cup of dried fruit on top of the hot granola and toss with wooded spoon or spatula. Scrape the sheet with a metal spoon or spatula in one direction and then the other. This clears the sheet from sticking while also helping the granola to help the dried fruit plump up.

5) When the granola has cooled down to slightly warm, I used a canning funnel to scoop the granola into quart sized Mason Jars.

6) Re-spray your baking sheets. Mix the remaining ingredients together thoroughly. The liquid tends to settle in the bottom. If it looks really wet, try adding another cup of oats. Again scoop out four 1/2 cups of the mixture on two the trays and spread out thinly. (Follow the instructions in Step 4 on timing.)

The recipe fills 4 quart sized canning jars.
Sprinkle a handful of granola on a morning yogurt bowl to add a little crunch.

One of my friends asked if there was a way to reduce the sugar without changing the texture. Previously I had not diverted from the original recipe that I was given. So to accept her challenge I did a small test with the remaining ingredients I had and below is a lower sugar version.

This version fills a quart sized canning jar:

Preheat over 350 degrees.  Spray a large sheet pan with cooking spray.

Dry ingredients:

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup of rolled oats

¼ cup light brown sugar

Wet ingredients:

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup canola oil

Omit dried fruit or you can add ½ cup of 50% lower sugar dried cranberries or chopped dates that have healthy natural sugar. Dried apricots have the lowest amount of sugar.

Mix dry with wet ingredients until the dry is well coated, if too dry a little more canola oil. Spread thinly on the prepared sheet pan. Spray the top of the granola (I used butter flavored spray). Place timer on 7 minutes, using a spatula stir and slightly flip the mixture around, but recreating a thin layer.  Return to the over with timer on 7 minutes.  Remove from the oven stir and scrape back and forth.  Add dried fruit and stir /toss again. Allow to cool -then store in tightly closed jars such as canning jars.

Dried dates have healthier sugars and other nutritional properties. Chopped dates have a white dusting of cornstarch (no sugar) to keep them from sticking together due to their sticky texture when cut.
The color may be a little lighter and the texture a little crispier due to less sugar.
Wrapped and ready for Kelly!
SIMPLY ELEVATED

A B & B (Bed & Breakfast) Morning

Recently, I purchased an Apple Watch, and a few times throughout the day, a gentle “ding” invites me to b r e a t h e. The new decade of 2020 started with the usual fireworks and resolutions, and then like a tornado swiftly upended our lives with a life threatening virus, quarantines, home schooling, working remotely from home and running out of simple things like toilet paper! So many unexpected challenges have formed new routines in our lives; created a mixture of emotions and concerns; and forced us to find new creative ways to stay home, but still experience some of the pleasures of life that had to be put on hold. Pausing to b r e a t h e throughout the day, could not have come at a better time.

Staying close to home has become a necessary norm, and finding ways to make life at home more comforting and fulfilling has resulted in planting gardens, renovating homes or “nesting” with a renewed interest in making our home life more cozy and comforting. Since traveling is not currently an option, memories of past soothing travel experiences come to mind, like waking up to a specially prepared breakfast at a lovely B & B in the Napa Valley. While I can’t remember the entire menu, I do remember being served my very first red wine poached pear that was an unexpected beautiful change for a mid-morning breakfast.

So how about creating a B & B style breakfast for you and your family that makes the weekend feel a little more special?

Long before there was the Food Network and Pinterest, I would tear recipe pages from magazines and organize them into categories (a hard copy version of Pinterest) into a three ring binder. Later when I had a special occasion to cook for, I would reference my binder of ideas and make notes in the margins of adjustments I made. If the recipe was good, I’d keep it. If not is was pulled out and thrown away. Interestingly enough most of these recipes can be found on the internet now and I can also “pin” them.

For this B & B style breakfast I’m using Martha Stewart’s Nectarine Pancake recipe below, but I’ve added my own twist -using white peaches instead of nectarines and a blueberry sauce with crispy prosciutto. https://www.marthastewart.com/909613/nectarine-pancakes

Blueberry Syrup

  • 3 cups of fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (varies on sweetness of berries and your preference)
  • zest half of a lemon
  • juice of half of a lemon

Place all of the items above in a medium saucepan over medium heat bringing contents to a gentle boil. After about 5 minutes carefully taste for desired sweetness. I usually start with 1/4 cup of sugar depending on the sweetness of the blueberries and add a little more if needed. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes. The berries will soften and deflate but still have their shape with a syrupy sauce. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl, set aside to cool.

On to the pancakes. Obviously there are different stone fruits you could consider for these pancakes. I’ve always made them with peaches, white peaches to be specific are my favorite. A tip is to make sure the fruit isn’t too ripe or it will fall apart while cooking. These pancakes create a nice thick batter that isn’t runny and they form up very nicely every time.

The recipe shown here is directly from the link provided on Martha’s website with notes in bold of my personal adjustments.

Ingredient Checklist

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste that is filled with vanilla bean seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus more, softened, for skillet and serving
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil ( I used canola oil)
  • 2 nectarines, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 cups) ( I used two white🍑peaches and I didn’t peel them. I just sliced a small thin layer from the bottom and then cut 1/4 in. rings around the pit until getting to the top of the peach)
  • I also added the zest of 1/2 of a lemon to the batter
  • I served my peach buttermilk pancakes with the blueberry syrup and fresh blueberries, garnished is a sprig of mint and crispy prosciutto.

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1 Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, and oil. Whisk egg mixture into flour mixture.
  • At this point I let the batter rest in the bowl and preheated the oven to 400 degrees p fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper place the thinly sliced prosciutto, pancetta or applewood bacon on top. (Bacon may take longer to crisp.) Place in the oven for 20 minutes until crispy, about the time it takes to cook the pancakes.
  • Step 2 Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches and adding more butter as needed, pour in 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Place 2 to 3 nectarine slices on top of each pancake. Cook until small bubbles form on surfaces and undersides are golden, about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve with butter and syrup.
  • MY method: I tried pouring the pancake batter into the skillet and then putting the peach ring on top and it didn’t make as pretty of a pancake. So I put the peach ring into the butter and oil pan and poured the pancake batter over it.

Measuring Tip: I’m not sure who to give credit to for this, but I would not be surprised if it was Martha Stewart. I was a faithful student who watched every show that aired originally once a week on PBS and then later The Martha Stewart Show until most recently her “Martha Knows Best” garden show on HGTV. If there’s anything you want to cook, plant, build or craft you can always count that Martha’s version will not fail you.

Recently I found myself teaching my 4 year old grandson how to measure dry ingredients when baking some chocolate chip cookies. So here’s the tip…. baking is very precise and you have to fill your measuring cup (in this case with flour) not by scooping, but by using a scoop or spoon to gently fill the measuring cup. Over fill the cup (over your flour container) and use a chop stick to level it off. Keep the chop stick in your flour container for future use.

The batter is so great that even though the cakes linked together, I was able to easily separate them and still achieve crispy golden brown edges.

Serve with both fresh blueberries and the blueberry sauce.

Traveling introduces us to new and unusual experiences and foods. If you’d like to try something different to drink with this B & B breakfast, you could prepare my favorite, a chai tea latte. However, I found this box of concentrate to make a London Fog Latte at (Walmart) that I saw as an opportunity to serve something different. A London Fog is Earl Gray tea and a touch of lavender, served with warm milk.

Sources for purchasing an aerator – online or Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Fill a mug a little less than half way with the tea concentrate. In a large heat proof measuring cup (or separate mug) fill half way with milk of your choice. Put both mugs in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. I have a battery operated aerator that when held along the top of the heated milk will create a lovely frothy foam. Pour the heated milk and froth into the cup of headed tea concentrate. (If you don’t have an aerator or don’t like the milk frothed, but pour the two together. I have culinary lavender, so I sprinkled a tiny amount on top.

While you may not be able to get away, you can treat yourself and those you love to a colorful B & B style breakfast that celebrates summer’s seasonal fruits and berries to make any weekend extraordinary rather than ordinary. Introduce some unusual and different food experiences at home just as you would during your travels to make staying home feel a little more adventurous.

SIMPLY ELEVATED

Roasted, Spicy, Garden Tomato and Shrimp Soup

My good neighbor (and friend) presented me with a small bowl of five greenish Roma tomatoes from her garden before heading out of town for a short get away. I placed the tomatoes in a small pottery bowl on a shelf where the morning sun gently ripened the skin from a green to a rich red. It took just over a week, so I had plenty of time to think about what I would transform them into. Hw to make a meal simply of tomatoes? Soup!

Roasting tomatoes creates a texture somewhere between that of a fresh tomato and a sun-dried tomato, and concentrates as well as sweetens the flavor. I decided to roast the garden tomatoes along with some grape tomatoes that were starting to wrinkle, along with sliced onions and garlic to create the base of my soup that can be served in a few different ways.

ROASTED SPICY GARDEN🍅TOMATO AND SHRIMP SOUP

Yields 4 to 6 servings

  • Sheet pan
  • Olive Oil (approx 3 tablespoons)
  • 5 Roma or vine ripened tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion sliced
  • 1 head of garlic sliced in half (through center cloves)
  • 1- 2 small (about 3 in.) red Fresno or Serrano pepper
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Fresh Basil (chiffonade: stack and roll leaves like a cigar and make thin slices)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Red chili oil (optional)
  • kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 8 oz. medium peeled and deveined shrimp (optional)
  • a splash of white balsamic vinegar (optional – white will not change the beautiful color of the tomato and brings down the acidity of the tomatoes.)

Pre-heat oven 400 degrees F.

Place halved Roma or vine ripened tomatoes, grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced onion, and garlic on a sheet pan and evenly drizzle each area of the tray with approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons (total) with olive oil. Sprinkle from high above with about 1 teaspoon salt (helps salt evenly distribute) and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes.

Place the roasted vegetables in a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetable or chicken stock and puree (amount depends on your desired thickness). Slice one red chili pepper and remove seeds. Tomatoes are very delicate, so I personally did want to blow away their sweet flavor with too much heat, but when it comes to spicy it’s a personal preference. My advice is to add a little at a time and test the flavor until it reaches your desired spiciness. Add chilis to the puree and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.

Heres where to options begin. The puree at this stage can be served in few ways.

  • Option 1: 🍅 Serve at room temperature or transfer to a medium sauce pan to warm on a medium low heat; garnish with fresh sweet or spicy basil and a small drizzle of red chili oil. ( I use an eye dropper to disburse small droplets over the surface)
  • Option 2: 🍅 Warm soup (from above). Add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Stir to blend evenly. Garnish with chiffonade basil.
  • Option 3: 🍅 Follow option 2, and then add peeled and deveined medium shrimp and poach at a gentle simmer until shrimp curl (cooked). Add 1/4 cup basil and stir. To serve garnish with fresh basil, red chili oil droplets and (optional) a couple of slices of fresh red chili (to your heat preference).

Leftover soup can be refrigerated and rewarmed up to a few days. Perfect for a light but filling lunch, especially on a rainy day! I hope you give it a try and enjoy!

SIMPLY ELEVATED

My Brother’s Favorite Dinner

A couple of weeks into this year’s quarantine, due to the limitations of restaurant and fast food options – I decided to play private chef to my brother for a while and make him a few home cooked or hand prepared items each week. Fortunately the simplest to prepare, turned out to be one of his favorites. So much so, that when he plated the items, he snapped the photo above to send me a quick thank you. In honor of his birthday (this week) I thought I would share one of his favorite easy dinners.

Caramelized Baby Bella Mushrooms, with nutty short grain brown rice.

HOW TO COOK MUSHROOMS: Being a cooking show junkie for several decades now, one of my chef mentors gave advice on the proper way to cook mushrooms that I’ve never forgotten. All you have to do is try this method once, and you’ll never forget because they taste so good! See below: makes approximately 2 servings

  • Lundberg short grain brown rice 1/2 cup
  • Chicken stock (or add a tablespoon of chicken broth seasoning base or bouillon to water) 1 cup
  • 1 pint of baby bella mushrooms (wiped clean with a paper towel and then thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper and (red chili flakes optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup of chopped chives or scallions ( just the green part)
  • optional in the photo I had some left over oven roasted grape tomatoes I added for color

Place rice and stock (or water with bouillon) in a rice cooker or pot and cook according to instructions. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white so this may take about 45 minutes or longer so this will have to be made ahead of time. When finished move to a medium sized bowl. (This Lundberg rice has a delicate nuttiness and firm chew like no other brown rice I’ve found, that gives this dish it’s special flavor.)

(A technique I learned years ago from one of my many cooking show mentors on cooking mushrooms.) In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter, add sliced mushrooms. Try to separate and flatten each on one side against the pan surface. Do not stir! Allow the mushrooms to caramelize on one side. It takes about 5-7 minutes. Turn the skillet around every few minutes for even caramelization of all of the mushrooms. Turn over one of the mushrooms to check, if there is a golden brown color, it’s time to flip them. Allow the mushrooms to slide down to the end of the skillet away from you and then toss to flip. You have to do this with confidence, but if it doesn’t work out, just use a fork to flip over each mushroom to the other side and allow the opposite side to achieve the same golden brown color. If the pan seems to be too dry you can add a little more olive oil and butter. (The butter will burn if not paired with olive oil. )

Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and red chili flakes if desired) from high above the skillet for even distribution. (No stirring) and added chopped fresh thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Pour over the prepared brown rice. Add chopped chives or scallion greens and gently toss.

Oven Roasted Red Snapper in Foil

In the mid 1980’s I used to subscribe to a magazine long since gone called Cuisine. I can still remember the images of a boneless chicken breast nested between two sheets of foil topped with thinly peeling strips of carrots and herbs that I prepared for one of my first dinner parties. Years later I use the same simple technique to gently cook fish.

This version can be used per serving or one large piece of fish could be shared by two. If you do not live in an area with fresh fish, you might be surprised to find out that this fish was purchased at Walmart. I’ve been happily surprised to learn they have expanded their fresh fish options to include snapper. (I also cook fish this way to make fish tacos.)

  • 1 5 to 6 ounce piece of red snapper (or other flaky fish)
  • 2 pieces of aluminum foil sheets
  • Cooking spray
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 lemon (zest and then slice into disks)
  • fresh celery leaves
  • 1 carrot (strips made with peeler)
  • sliced red bell pepper (optional – as seen in the full plate photo)

Pre-heat oven 375 degrees F. Spray one side of the two sheets of aluminum foil with cooking spray and lay the fish – skin side down on to the sprayed foil sheet and move to a baking sheet pan. Drizzle the top of the fish will a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and the zest of the lemon. Slice the lemon in half and make 2 to four round lemon disks to lay on top of the fish (save the other half of the lemon and set aside). Top with celery leaves and strips of carrot. Place second foil sheet on top of the fish. Fold the edges of the two sheets together forming a tight seal all the way around. Place baking sheet in the oven for 20 minutes.

Allow the packet to rest when removing from the oven for about 5 minutes. Carefully open to allow the hot steam to release from the packet by either cutting open with the slice of a knife or unwrapping. Slide onto a plate allowing all of the juices to remain with the fish to serve. Squeeze the juice from the remaining half lemon over the fish just before serving.

Finally, I simply placed a package of fresh sugar snaps peas in the microwave (time according to the package) and that was his green vegetable side. I did give him this meal for his birthday this week – so Happy Birthday Brother!