Tag Archives: breakfast


What does a person, who mostly writes about dinner, eat for breakfast? One might well wonder. I guess I’m a creature of serially monogamous breakfast habits. Obviously I like variation at dinnertime, but not in the morning. Years  and years of eating the same thing for breakfast over and over again feels just right to me.

Right after college it was peanut butter and bitter marmalade on an English muffin and a cafe au lait. My roommate and I brewed these up in our Bialetti Moka Express on the funky Harvest Gold stovetop in our Russian Hill apartment. I think I ate that for breakfast for maybe ten or fifteen years.  Then there were a few years, maybe four or so, of poached eggs on toast. With a cup of Murchie’s Empress Afternoon Blend tea and a glass of orange juice. That was in the Pacific Heights apartment. After I met Martin, we ate boiled eggs with this kind of weird, pink, caviar paste. It came in a bright blue tube with a smiling, little, blond boy on the front. That phase didn’t last too long. I love Martin but that pink caviar is only ok. It doesn’t hold a candle to peanut butter and marmalade.

On trips to Sweden to see Martin’s family, I discovered all kinds of cultured milk. Kefir, filmjölk, all kinds of yogurt, quark, fresh cheeses. There began a long period of variations on yogurt for breakfast. Initially this led to making my own yogurt for awhile. Then kefir finally became available in the U.S., that was really exciting! (Yes, I do live in cave.) Lastly, Greek yogurt finally arrived, the richest, thickest, most luxurious of all. Martin started making a deeply toasted muesli with dried cherries. I got stuck on that with the Greek yogurt for a long, long time. Later, switching it up with honey, raspberries, some ground walnuts and a squirt of lemon juice, was heaven.

When winter rolls around though, raspberries become ludicrous. They fly in from South America and I think “oh – how fresh and so exotic in the wintertime”  but they’ve travelled miles to get to Seattle, and taste as if they’ve been around the block a few times. For something so mediocre, they cost the earth.  I tried the bags of frozen local berries but quickly tired of them.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago, in a little plastic box pushed out of sight behind the toaster and leftover from a wintery Sticky Toffee Pudding: I remembered – Medjool dates! (What?! You’ve never had Sticky Toffee Pudding? I will remedy that by posting the recipe at some point…) Their deep fruity caramel flavors are in perfect counterpoint to the brightly sour yogurt. Toasted walnuts left from a grapefruit salad added complex bitterness. I confess my sweet tooth doesn’t allow plain old yogurt: I needed something sweet. Dark Grade B maple syrup – we always have that in the fridge. Maple + dates  are made for each other– I will have to figure out a dessert with those two some day. The crown on this breakfast though, is the salt. A small but decisive pinch of kosher sea salt provides a glittering, edgy crunch. Perfection.

I think I will eat this until I am old and grey.

Yogurt with Dates, Toasted Walnuts, Maple Syrup and Sea Salt

  • 3/4 cup yogurt – read the ingredients list – there should be no additives, nothing to thicken it but the bacteria. My yogurt (Straus) has non-fat milk, buttermilk and the yogurt cultures. I also like the European Style Organic Plain Yogurt from Trader Joe’s
  • 2 tbsp grade B maple syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp (about 7 walnut halves) toasted for 10 minutes at 350. (I would toast at least a cup or so at a time)
  • 3 medjool dates, with pits, pitted. (Pitting is easy and I think the dates with pits taste better)
  • a pinch of Kosher sea salt (I like this one, as you may already know)

This is hardly a recipe, but here’s what I do:

  1. Take the kids to the school. Return home and take a deep breath. Take 15 minutes for breakfast.
  2. You’ll want your favorite bowl. I like a deep round one because it fits so nicely into the palm of my hand when I sit eating on the couch with the newspaper but I have a fond recollection of my mother-in-law’s wide soup plates. Soup plates work better on a table though. It’s your choice. Put the yogurt in the bowl.
  3. Drizzle 2 tbsp maple syrup over the yogurt (I have to confess I kind of love it when I “accidentally” pour in too much…shhh)
  4. With a small sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit down the dates. Push out the pit. I like the dates quartered the long way. Scatter them with the walnuts over the yogurt and maple syrup.
  5. Take that decisive ( not too much and not too little) pinch of kosher sea salt and strew it over the yogurt dates and walnuts.
  6. Get a soup spoon and sit comfortably somewhere, eating this magnificent yet simple breakfast, reading the paper, gathering your thoughts, then finally getting on with things.

After School Snack: Cardamom Scented Mango Lassi

Even though I love to cook, I never cook with my kids. Why? It’s too messy for one thing. For another, the older kids have gotten minor cuts while chopping and that makes me nervous. Frankly, the kitchen is an excellent place to temporarily check out from parenting – I like the focused solitary activity. Besides, the work I do there is still in service of my family. If I’m acting escapist in hiding out and chopping, so what? When I’m done, we’ll have an excellent dinner. I don’t want to manage developing knife skills, cross-counter trails of sugar, or little hands sticky with raw eggs. (How awful it is to confess to that!) Moms are SO not supposed to admit to these kinds of feelings. Sigh. I’m not going to worry about it though. There are other things to do.

After I read Madhur Jaffrey’s autobiography Climbing the Mango Trees, I thought: I want that kind of childhood for my kids, those kinds of food memories, the tumult of food culture that shaped her life. I imagine her in long braids and a bright dress, banging through the kitchen door after school, welcomed by a round terra cotta bowl of creamy basmati rice pudding scented with cardamom and garnished with shattered toasted pistachios. Or waking to a winter breakfast of daulat ki chaat, whose ingredients include fresh whole milk, seafoam and dew. (Dew!?!) Ms. Jaffrey describes this “heavenly froth” as “the most ephemeral of fairy dishes”.

Ok, ok. I know I can’t collect dew on the roof of my house and come up with some magically memorable breakfast. I can’t even get raw milk very easily. (Anyway, think of the bacteria!) And sea-foam? Forget it. I’m imagining the looks on their little faces if I told them that no, we aren’t having waffles and bacon for breakfast, instead, how about milk with sea-foam and dew!?! I want them to be able to roll with it, but maybe not that much.

Still, I think there are things I can do if I want to give my kids incredible food memories. Imagine getting off the school bus in Seattle, rain running off the shoulders of your parka, and stepping into a warm kitchen. There on the counter, a clear pitcher of golden creamy mango lassi, drops of condensation glistening on the sides.  Serve it cold. Listen for the delicate slurp as you pour it into a glass. Pay attention and catch that earthy lemon scent of cardamom. Isn’t it lucky Ataulfo mangoes are everywhere in late spring?! This has to be a step in the right direction.

Ataulfo Mangoes

Mango Lassi

  • 1 cup mango, cut from 1 ataulfo mango
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp sugar

This couldn’t be any easier.

  1. Put all the ingredients in your blender and whizz for 2 minutes.
  2. Push the lassi through a sieve with a spatula or wooden spoon to remove the pulverized cardamom.
  3. Pour into a glass and drink.

The hard part could be figuring out how to get all the flesh off the mango. A friend from New Zealand taught me. Here’s how:

Get started by slicing the sides off the mango

Cut a grid into the flesh of the mango

Tidy little cubes of mango

Next, peel the core and slice against the pit to remove all the mango flesh

Like I said, I don’t usually bring the kids into the kitchen when I’m working. For lassis I can make an exception.



Sweet Banana Dutch Baby

For about 3 seconds this morning I convinced myself that I was a brilliant culinary genius. Ha! Pure hubris. I made something I always make and added another thing I sometimes make and it was really very good. I just got lucky. The fact that both things are so incredibly easy to do is the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Yes, this is breakfast and even though I am sort of committed to dinner and generally not all that interested in breakfast, this morning I made a Dutch Baby with Caramel Bananas and it was fabulous. We have a tradition in our house of eating a large slice of birthday cake in bed the morning following a birthday dinner. So I’d already eaten a big piece of banana caramel cream birthday cake. I hadn’t actually planned on having a real breakfast at all. Yet there I was, standing at the kitchen counter, sneaking a large corner of the pancake that I had made “for the kids”, mashing the custardy remains into the brown sugar syrupy leftover bananas in a bowl. The high note tang of the lemon was underscored by the dulce de leche sweetness of brown sugar.  It was dreamy.

I am a big fan of eating something very delicious and over the top in bed (like birthday cake), especially with a big cup of coffee and these Dutch babies would have been perfect. Add a good book, the sun streaming through an open window and that crisp earthy early spring smell coming in – what could be nicer than that?

Dutch Babies with Caramel Bananas

Dutch Baby – Joy of Cooking

20-22 minutes – start to finish

generously serves 4

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • powdered sugar and lemon slices to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven, leaving the space above clear.  This pancake will rise.
  3. Place 9 x 13 Pyrex pan in the oven with the stick of butter, cut into 6 pieces, in it to melt.  Don’t forget about it and burn it.  Just melt it.
  4. Whisk the milk, flour, sugar and eggs together in a medium sized bowl.
  5. Pour the contents of the bowl into the melted butter.
  6. Bake 15- 17 minutes. Call your children into the kitchen just before you pull it from the oven. The batter will have risen to great heights around the edges and become deeply browned.  The middle with be almost custardy and glisten with hot butter.
  7. Sift powdered sugar over the surface and serve immediately with lemon slices on the side.

Haydee’s Microwave Bananas – Best Food Writing 2003

4 Servings

3 minutes start to finish – you should start the bananas after the Dutch Baby has been in the oven for 10 minutes

The name doesn’t do them justice.

  • 2 ripe bananas – peeled and sliced into 1/2″ thick slices
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 heaping tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I never do the cinnamon but the original recipe includes it)
  1. Place bananas, butter, sugar and cinnamon into microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 1 or 2 minutes.
  2. Spoon onto Dutch Baby.

Familiar-Old French Toast

When I started writing all this food stuff, I never thought that I would write so much about sausages or mac and cheese or, as I will today, french toast for dinner.  My aspirations for dinner are usually somewhat higher. But I have to say, I dial my culinary efforts way back when I am home with my kids alone. We all have a better time. This week’s menu plan has been working so well for us – I think I am going to have to have a Parenting Alone category.

Everyone knows that a kid behaves a lot better if they are well fed than if they’re starving or have been fed a bunch of something nasty. So when Martin is out of town, I work hard to plan fun meals that have very familiar and nourishing components. I suppose a lot of people might resort to prepared foods and take-out. I resist prepared foods of any stripe. I can’t bring myself to be fed by an entity whose main culinary goal revolves around the bottom line. Who knows what they really put in their concoctions to keep the price down? I bet that sounds really paranoid. Also I find those mysterious cans and jars completely unsatisfying. When I’m tired I need something that’s really delicious.

So tonight, the LAST night of single parenting (yay!), we will end with french toast with berry compote and bacon (with tea of course) and then we can all finally go back to eating “normal” food – whatever that is.

Here is the recipe, for what it’s worth. You can make french toast in any old way – some people only use eggs!  I have seen a recipe in Joy that soaks the bread simply in maple syrup – how reductive! – (it sounds weird to me – I must try it some day!) Tonight, I’ll do what my parents did, although I like to use challah or brioche instead of sliced Roman Meal – the floppy, spineless, whole wheat, plastic bag bread of my childhood. For me, that would be taking the familiar too far.

  • Start the bacon in a cold non-stick pan and turn the heat to medium-low.   Unlike cooking other meats, you want to start the bacon in a cold pan to prevent it from curling up.  Cooking it over relatively low heat saves you from a greasy mess all over the stove.  Also, if you are multi-tasking with cooking the french toast, making tea, etc. you’ll increase your chances of having everything come out perfectly instead of smoking and singed. You can flip the bacon as you mix the milk and egg mixture and cook the french toast.

Challah french toast with berry compote – The 1997 Joy of Cooking

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp sugar, or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 slices challah
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • maple syrup
  1. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.  I use a shallow pan, wide enough to soak 2 slices of bread at once – like a gratin dish.
  2. Heat up a non stick griddle or large non-stick frying pan, medium – medium high heat.
  3. Dip the bread slices, one or two at a time into the egg mixture until saturated but not falling apart.
  4. Melt the butter and add as many slices of bread as will fit into the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom then flip.  Cook until second side is golden.
  5. If you are doubling the recipe or you want to serve them all at once, keep them warm on a plate in a 200 F oven.
  6. Serve with maple syrup and berry compote.

Berry Compote

Take 1 1/2 cups frozen berries and a squirt of maple syrup, honey, sugar OR agave and put them in a Pyrex or other microwave safe bowl. Heat up in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.