Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

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Waldorf Salads

Waldorf Salads have a long history in America, as noted in the exceprt from the Wikipedia page below. As Americans are wont to do, things have changed to suit different tastes over the years since it’s initial creation, giving us numerous ways to prepare and enjoy them.

From Wikipedia: “A Waldorf salad is a salad generally made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and usually served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal.

The Waldorf salad was first created for a charity ball given in honor of the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children on March 14, 1893 at the Waldorf hotel in New York City. Oscar Tschirky, who was the Waldorf’s maître d’hôtel and developed or inspired many of its signature dishes, is widely credited with creating the recipe. In 1896 the salad appeared in The Cook Book by “Oscar of the Waldorf”.

The original recipe did not contain nuts, but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928.

Other ingredients, such as chicken, turkey, grapes, and dried fruit (e.g. dates or raisins) are sometimes added. Updated versions of the salad sometimes change the dressing to a seasoned mayonnaise or a yogurt dressing. A variation known as an Emerald Salad replaces celery with cauliflower. The salad also may include zest of oranges and lemons.

One thing about Waldorf style salads is that they are chunky rather than smooth. This allows an individual to experience not a mash of flavors, but individual spikes of flavor and texture. That aspect has always appealed to me personally, and has led to some outlandish tuna salad coming out of my kitchen!

CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 4-6
Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 large Gala apple, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup mayonnaise Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Place all cut ingredients into a large bowl.

Add mayo on top and fold together gently.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of greens.

 

TUNA WALDORF SALAD
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 12 ounce cans tuna in water (albacore recommended), drained
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Place all cut ingredients into a large bowl.

Add mayo on top and fold together. Be gentle so the tuna remains chunky.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of greens.

 

The Meat
Meat was not originally an ingredient in Waldorf salads, though it has become very popular over time. Chicken is likely the most popular protein source in use in the United States, though tuna, cubed ham and beef, turkey, and venison have all been seen in Waldorf style recipes. Leftover or broken meats are a popular source.

The Nuts
Nuts are also a later addition to the Waldorf salad. Use nuts that add a contrasting element to your salad. Walnuts are a dryer flavor with a softer texture. Pecans add a subtle sweetness and a stronger flavor. Almonds, whether they are whole, blanched, slivered or sliced, add a definitive hard texture and savory flavor.Pine nuts are generally smaller and have a popping mouth feel. Match your nut choice to your other ingredients and your individual tastes.

The Fruit
Grapes and apples are the tradition. Red grapes are the usual choice due to their size and sweetness.

Apples come in so many varieties that choosing one to your tastes can be problematic. The choices in the recipes above were made as examples of the use of a sweet apple and a tart one. Gala, Pink Lady, and a host of other firmly fleshed, round, sweet apples are available in most grocery stores. Granny Smith on the other hand is a consistently tart, firm apple that adds a bit of punch to the combined ingredients. Choose an apple that suits your tastes.

Celery
This is one ingredient I don’t particularly care for the taste of, but a lot of people do. It’s mildly sweet with extremely firm flesh, and adds a lot of fiber to the dish. Choose fresh stalks. De-vein them, removing the hard, fibrous strings from the backs of the ribs, and shop them into appropriately sized pieces. The leafy tops can even be used as a garnish for a finished salad.

The Binders
Mayonaise is the base binder for the Waldorf style salad. Adding spices, different types of mustard, or other similarly textures sauces can dress your salad up or down. Brown and honey mustard are quite popular.

The Spices
Be aware of the amount of salt, pepper or other spices used to cook the meat you use. This will add flavor to the salad and may negate the use of additional salt in your dish.
Curry is another wonderful addition to the Waldorf style salad. It adds a distinctive aroma and flavor to the other ingredients, and the sweet notes become more pronounced.

The Greens
Fresh baby spinach or mixed greens are used often as the serving base for Waldorf salads, though it’s very likely in the beginning to have been a pretty Romaine. Use what you like. Arugula is bitter, iceberg is mild, spinach has a texture all it’s own.

 

I hope you’ve found this dissection of the Waldorf salad as enlightening as I did writing it. This has been one of my favorite types of salad since I was a child, and is likely to remain on my personal menu for many years to come.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Spanish Flavor Highlights

Mexican cooking and Spanish cooking have a lot in common, it’s true. Spanish cooking, however, missed most of the New World influences so prevalent in Middle America.

Some of the particular flavors found in Spanish cooking come from regional availability of certain plants.

OLIVES
Spanish olives and olive oil are known for their high quality and unique flavors. While the olives generally available in the United States that are commonly known as Spanish olives are most often small, green, and stuffed with pimento. They are also extremely salty. Like the wines of Spain, true Spanish olives are distinctive in flavor and texture to their regions, raging from subtle and floral to robust and nutty.

Olives grown in Spain go through a rigorous grading system, with a larger portion being used for oil pressing. The remainder fall into four color/ripeness groups that then become many of the olives known in Spanish cuisine.

Green olives are harvested for their firmer flesh and smokey flavor. Semi-ripe olives have a mottled, pinkish color, and a vibrant flavor. Ripe olives are dark and robust. Ripe black olives are harvested before they fully ripen, and treated to maintain their color and to remove any bitterness.

WINE
As with any other wine producing country, Spain is known for it’s many regional vintages. Wine if often the drink of choice at meal time and topped off with sparkling water. Spanish wines come from grapes with names like Albariño, Tempranillo and Verdejo, and pair with regional spices like no others.

While I am not a wine drinker by choice, I know where to find the best in my area. I frequent Spec’s and enjoy perusing their selections.

MEATS
Jamon is an air-cured ham. It is a visual fixture in Spain as well as a culinary one. These hams may be found hanging everywhere form restaurants to home kitchens to meat markets. Thinly sliced, it adds a rich flavor to a variety of dishes from tapas to stews.

Chorizo in Spain is quite different from the more familiar chorizo from Mexico. Mexican chorizo is made from fresh pork, whereas the Spanish counterpart is smoked. The Spanish variety imparts is regionally spiced flavor to paella among other dishes. It can also be found sliced very thinly and served with a complimentary selection of cheeses.

SAFFRON
Among all the spices grown in Spain, saffron is the most outstanding of the lot. It’s origins trace back into Asia, but the majority of the world’s saffron in modern times comes from Spain. It takes thousands of Crocus sativus flowers to yield only an ounce of saffron. the spice is collected in “threads” which are ground and added to a variety of dishes. Saffron is also known for imparting a rich golden-yellow hue not only to foods, but to textiles as well. Along with cumin, tarragon, dill, sage, anise, thyme, fennel, mint, cinnamon, cloves, the Spanish have collected spices from around the world and embraced them as their own.

These are but a few of the outstanding ingredients found in Spanish cooking. For your edification, give this recipe a try, or look up one of the many recipes available online.

Fabada Stew
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 hours
Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:
1 large onion, peeled but still whole
1 head garlic, whole
4 cans (15 oz.) beans (cannellini or other large white beans), drained
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 large pinch saffron threads, crushed
1 (1 lb.) meaty  ham hock
½ lb. bacon, unsliced
½ lb. chorizo
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Drain beans and transfer them to a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, paprika, crushed saffron, ham hock, bacon and 12 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer the stew, tucking the ham hock under the cooking liquid as necessary, about 1 hour.

Add the chorizo to the bean stew and cook until the meat and beans are tender and the cooking liquid is thick and slightly reduced, about 45 minutes longer.

Discard the onion and garlic and transfer the meat to a bowl. Pull the meat from the ham hock and cut it into large pieces. Cut the bacon and chorizo into pieces. Add the meat back into the beans and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Serve hot. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Enjoy a taste of Spain in your own kitchen!

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I finally got to try out one of the crock pot recipes I have been posting about. The Crock Pot Mac N Cheese, to be specific. As I am want to do, I just had to fiddle with it, double it, and see how it came out.

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

Serves: 4-6 hungry people as a main dish, or 8-10 as a side scoop
Prep-Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 min on High then 3 hours on Low

Ingredients:
3 cups milk
24 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup melted and cooled butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp each powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dried dill

6 cups shredded cheese
1 pound dry macaroni
8 ounces sliced ham

Directions:
Thoroughly spray your crock with cooking spray. If you use a liner, as I did, spray it anyway.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first group of ingredients and spices. Make sure the eggs are integrated well. Pour into your crock.

Add cheese, macaroni and ham. Stir gently to combine.

Cook on High for 30 minutes, stir gently, then reduce the heat to Low and continue cooking for 2 more hours.

Do not overcook or you may wind up with a cheesy glutinous mass like I did the first time.

If you half this recipe, do not half the eggs. I doubled everything in the original recipe except for the eggs.

Some things I noticed when pulling this together are that the wet mixture is rather thick feeling when whisked. This gave me high hopes as to the creaminess of the end product.

DSC_0377Just before you put the lid onto your pot, the contents look somewhat like a cream of cheese soup.

The aroma that starts wafting out of your kitchen at about 45 minutes is amazingly rich. I’m surprised that alone didn’t make me gain a couple of pounds.

DSC_0378

When it’s all done, there should be a nice crusty look to the top of the dish when you open the pot.

 

 

DSC_0379

The results came back fast. This mac-n-cheese is definitely a creamy, cheesy, melty sort of comfort food. It didn’t last long enough for leftovers to get to the fridge. The ham added a bit of flavor, an extra texture, and some extra protein. Next time I need to double the ham!

A nice crusty baguette, sliced and toasted, makes an excellent accompaniment.

— Ann Cathey

Lighten Up Your Lunch!

Sandwiches are a staple for a lot of people for lunch. They are quick and convenient, easy to carry, throw together, and consume. The bread used is the main source of both carbs and calories for your average sandwich. Swapping out the bread for broad leaf lettuce to make wraps can add more crunch to your lunch, as well as a vegetable serving in your busy day.

Using a broad leaf lettuce, such as the outer leaves of iceburg, butterleaf, Romaine, or red-leaf lettuces, simply layer your sandwich fixings in the middle, roll it all up in the leaf, and eat.

Sound deceptively simple? It is! Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

TURKEY
Butter leaf lettuce
2 slices of turkey
a teaspoon of shredded beets
a teaspoon of fresh goat cheese
a teaspoon of chopped walnuts

Lay the turkey out on your lettuce leaf. Spread the goat cheese lengthwise along the meat so there will be some cheese in every bite. Add the beets and walnuts along the line of the cheese. Starting on one side, roll up the lettuce leaf around the other ingredients. Enjoy.

HAM
Iceburg lettuce
2 ounces ham, sliced or shredded
1 ounce Swiss or Emmenthaler
3 slices of fresh apple
1 teaspoon of chopped pecans

Follow the same procedure above in building and rolling your wrap.

BEEF
Romaine lettuce
2 ounces roast beef, corned beef or pastrami
1 ounce cheese, cheddar or provolone
1 kosher pickle spear
Brown or deli mustard

Beef is a hardy meat. Pile the beef and cheese on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds. This will soften the cheese but not make the meat hot enough to wilt the lettuce. Lay out the lettuce, add the meat and cheese. Run a line of mustard to taste down the length of the meat and cheese, an add the pickle spear. Wrap as instructed above.

Wraps are a wonderful way to use up leftovers that may be hanging about in the fridge. We always have broken meats, ends of cheese, a little of this or that available and have found this to be a good way to use them up.

You will also find that some restaurants now have lettuce wrap alternatives available for sandwiches on their menu. Five Guys Burgers & Fries now offers any hot dog or hamburger on their menu as a lettuce wrap. It’s a messy way to eat a burger, but it’s tasty and comes with any or all of their toppings.

I tried a double meat, double cheese wrap with pickles, mayo and sauteed mushrooms at Five Guys here in Conroe. It was so delicious that I smiled all the way through the meal, in spite of the slippery mess those mushrooms caused. I was licking my fingers afterward, too. They use two overlapping leaves of iceburg lettuce for that wrap, and the lettuce held up well enough in the beginning. It started getting messy about halfway through as the slippery ingredients started sliding to the relative bottom.

This taught me like nothing else that condiments such as mayo, mustard, and ketchup should be used sparingly in lettuce wraps, and to keep napkins handy!

Give wraps a try. The different combinations of ingredients are nearly endless, and can be tailored to individual diets. Remember not to over stuff your lettuce, go easy on the condiments, and have fun with it.

Bon appetite!

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Breakfast

With the weather being cool to cold in most of the United States, I thought these warm breakfast dishes might be appreciated.

There are an amazing number of things that can be cooked in a crock pot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that breakfast can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than on the stove top. Here are a few recipes that are sure to delight.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

OATMEAL
Instant oatmeal is quick, true, but it’s also just not the same as the real thing. Steel cut oatmeal or whole oat groats are a great way to kick start your morning, but the hour they take to cook can make that difficult.Instead, you should prepare oatmeal the night before for that wonderful smell in the morning. First, toast two cups of oats in a dry pan for five minutes until you can smell them.Then put the oats in a buttered crockpot with eight cups of water, two cups of milk, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt.Cook on low for eight hours and enjoy!

APPLESAUCE
Fresh applesauce is amazing served with a pork loin or just as a comforting snack, but it may seem a little intimidating to make. Never fear! All you have to do is peel, core, and dice 10 McIntosh apples and put them into a slow cooker with 1/2 cup of water, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and one cup of sugar. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours and enjoy the warm cinnamon smell that permeates your house. Eat warm, cold or freeze for later.

HUNTERS BREAKFAST
I think this concept has been covered before, but this blog is about breakfast and it bears repeating. Layer potatoes (sliced leftover bakers, diced leftover french fries, frozen or leftover tater tots, frozen hash browns), meat (crumbled sausage or bacon, diced ham, or any combination you may prefer), cheese, and diced bell pepper. Do as many layers as you have ingredients for. If your crock pot is half full, use 6-8 eggs, if it’s mostly full use 12-18 eggs. Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk them thoroughly with a splash of milk or cream for fluffiness. Salt and pepper the eggs to taste. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the ingredients in the crock pot. Sprinkle extra cheese on top. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (overnight). if the smell of a hot breakfast waiting for you in the morning doesn’t make your tummy rumble, you may have a cold. Serve as is or wrapped in a warm tortilla for breakfast tacos.

Give these dishes a try and let us know how you enjoyed them. See if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these breakfast favorites.

–Ann Cathey

Broken Meats

What, you may ask, is a broken meat? This is what’s left over when you have roasted a turkey and served the bird, or cooked up a ham that you served sliced for game day, or what’s left after you had a dinner party and served a loin of beef. Typically, these leftover meats are “broken” or removed from the bone and wind up in slices, chunks, and shreds.

Broken meats can be used so many ways. They can be diced for salads, sliced or shredded for sandwiches or wraps, used in stews, soups or chili, and so on.

Turkey might wind up in a lettuce wrap with leftover cranberry sauce or a tablespoon of fruit salad. It can also be diced or shredded and used as the meat in a pot pie.

Any meat can be shredded and used in making tamales or chili. These two dishes were originally intended for “trash” meats, using tough cuts or leftover ends. Broken meats will make them incredible.

Toss broken meats into tortillas with a bit of refried beans, cheese and diced tomato for tacos, burritos or quesadillas. They can also be used as pizza toppings and lasagna fillings, and be tossed into salads for an extra jolt of protein.

Stews, soups and chowders all benefit from some extra meat. Beef, pork, and chicken are all good for these applications.

Ham, being very salty in general, and often having a sweet glaze applied, is great for dicing and scrambling in eggs for breakfast. It’s also good sliced or shredded for sandwiches, and even for tossing with diced yams (sweet or savory) for a new baked dish.

Pigs-in-blankets are great. Any leftover meat with a little bit of an appropriate cheese can be wrapped up in pre-made biscuit or croissant dough and baked up into a warm treat.

Leftover steak (like that ever happens!) can be sliced up and tossed into a stir-fry or served as a breakfast side. It can also become a new main dish when sauteed with onions and mushrooms to be served over noodles or rice.

Broken meats just require a little imagination to become interesting and tasty meals rather than just sitting in the fridge being forgotten.

Drop us a line and let us know how you use your broken meats!

–Ann Cathey