Breakfast on weekday mornings usually involves coffee on the run. Since breakfast really is my favorite meal of the day I try to make something special for those weekend mornings when we are home and have the time to eat a leisurely meal. Because it is the first meal of the day and I’m not fully functional until the first cup of coffee has kicked it, whatever I make needs to be relatively easy and quick; I don’t do multi bowl recipes first thing in the morning.
This dish, adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, is essentially a giant popover doctored up with chocolate chips and bananas. It reminds me of the German pancakes my mom used to make when I was growing up. For a simpler presentation you can omit the chocolate chips and top the pancake with fresh berries once it comes out of the oven. I’ve used strawberries, blueberries, and peaches when they are in season. When fresh berries aren’t available, bananas work nicely with the addition of coffee liqueur kicking the dish up a notch. Because it is breakfast, after all, I forgo the whipped cream but add it and this pancake could easily be served as dessert at the end of a dinner.
CHOCOLATE CHIP DUTCH BABY WITH COFFEE BANANAS
3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
2 large firm bananas, sliced into coins
1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (I like Lilly brand)
Whipped cream (if desired)
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in a 450° oven for 15 minutes.
- Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in preheated pan until browned, swirling to evenly coat pan.
- Add batter; sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until puffed and browned.
- Cut banana halves into coins. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bananas; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add liqueur; simmer 1 minute.
- Serve with Dutch baby; top with whipped cream if desired.
What chocolate lover isn’t a fan of brownies? I prefer mine to be rich, dense, and fudgy and am of the mindset that one small decadent bite is better than an entire pan of brownies that are only ho-hum. I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen by substituting the almond extract for the vanilla extract called for in the original recipe. You could also use amaretto liqueur with similar results or go in a totally different direction by changing the extract flavor to peppermint or creme de menthe.
Regardless of the flavor you add, this recipe is fool proof and can easily be doubled if you are feeding a crowd. Because the brownies are so rich, I cut them into small, 1- inch squares. A little goes a long way with these treats. Versions of this brownie show up at every bake sale I contribute to or buffet table I put together. And they only thing that ever remains on the serving tray is crumbs.
AMARETTO FUDGE BROWNIES
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons extract of your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
- Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
- Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.
YIELD: 36 small brownies
I love avocados. A perfectly ripe avocado melts in your mouth when eaten in its natural state, adds cool texture to a sandwich or salad, and creates the perfect guacamole. As an added bonus a serving of avocado fulfills one of your daily fruit and vegetable requirements and provides a healthy dose of good fats (which is a nice change after all of the bacon that has been creeping its way into my cooking lately. Inspired by a recipe I found on Morsels and Musings, I set about creating my own version of a broiled avocado.
We ate the avocados as a side dish with dinner but they could easily be served as a part of a buffet table or as an appetizer, or even a late night snack. I’m thinking they would make a nice first course when paired with a cup of chilled gazpacho soup and a handful of homemade tortilla chips.
1 avocado, sliced in half lengthwise with pit removed
1 lime, juiced, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon tabasco sauce
1/4 cup finely grated pepper jack cheese
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the broiler. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Score the insides of the avocado halves and place on the prepared baking tray.
- Squeeze the lime juice over each half, add the tabasco sauce, and sprinkle with the cheese. Top with the minced onions and jalapeno and a healthy dose of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Place under the broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and melted.
- Remove from oven, let cool for one minute then serve with additional lime juice if desired.
Today is Valentine’s Day and in the Brown household, that means that dinner will be a big pot of cheese fondue. With only a handful of ingredients, fondue is ridiculously easy to make. You can serve it as an appetizer or as the main course. Sometimes we get fancy and host three course (cheese, oil, and chocolate) fondue dinners for friends and other times, like today, we simply share a pot of hot cheese and a loaf of crusty bread amongst the three of us.
This recipe is courtesy of my mother-in-law Kit Brown who got the recipe from a Swiss neighbor when they were stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany during the 1970s. You can do all of the prep work ahead of time then cook the fondue at the last minute. Sometimes we just dip fresh French bread into the cheese and other times we’ll add steamed broccoli or baby red potatoes into the mix. Whatever you decide to dip, you’ll love it. And keep in mind, the best part of the meal will be the brown crusty layer of cheese that will remain on the bottom of the pot when the meal is done.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
1 pound shredded cheese (I use a variety of Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and Greuyer)
3 tablespoons flour
1 garlic clove
1 3/4 cups Johannisberg Reisling
1/4 cup kirsch
salt & pepper to taste
- Dredge the shredded cheese in flour. I like to use a large Ziploc bag to combine everything.
- Rub the inside of a fondue pot with sliced garlic.
- Slowly heat the Reisling in the pot until small bubbles form.
- Add the cheese, a handful at a time, until the cheese melts, stirring well after each addition.
- Keep mixing until the mixture bubbles slightly.
- Add the kirsch and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from heat and keep warm on a table warmer while eating.
This is yet another soup from Williams-Sonoma’s Soup of the Day cookbook. (Eventually I will cook my way through the entire book). Like everything else I’ve made from this cookbook, the soups come together quickly and always please everyone around the dinner table. I made this soup as the first course for a dinner where my guests could not eat pork. This, of course, excluded the use of bacon as a flavoring. Not to worry though. The roasting of the beets intensifies their flavor with the results being a savory vibrant red color. Use vegetable broth to make a vegetarian version of the soup. The soup can be served either hot or cold. Because it is January I served mine hot but I bet the flavors would be just as good cold.
ROASTED BEET PUREE WITH FETA
3 large red beets, trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped dill
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the beets in a baking dish and drizzle with the oil, turning to coat. Roast the beets until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely chop them.
- In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the beets and broth, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor (or use a stick blender for easiest cleanup). Serve warm or let cool to room temperature, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the feta and chopped dill.
My recent trips to Germany and Austria have had me craving those hot, soft and chewy pretzels that you can buy from street vendors to sit down restaurants alike. I’ve lost track of the number of pretzels I’ve actually eaten but I wanted more. Being back here in Albania, the only real option is making my own so making my own I did. This recipe from King Arthur Flour is surprisingly easy and the results are pretty close to the the Bavarian styled ones I had been craving. They tasted much better than they looked and disappeared in a matter of minutes.
HOT BUTTERED SOFT PRETZELS
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water (adjust accordingly to yield a soft dough)
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Place the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Process for 5 seconds.
- Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process for a further 45 seconds.
- Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Loosely cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or cooler.
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray or lining it with parchment paper.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces.
- Allow the pieces to rest uncovered for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water mixture into a 9 inch square pan.
- Roll each piece of dough into a long, thing rope (about 28 to 30 inches long) and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with four pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops. Leave for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. The baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.
- Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with the salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
- Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Eat the pretzels warm or reheat them in the oven or microwave.