Cottage cheese breakfast muffins

Hurricane Harvey is officially on its way to the Texas coast. We’re stocked up on food and water, and have moved everything inside off of our balcony. So what’s left for me to do? Bake, of course!

As much as I love cake (and I mean, really really love cake), I have a thing for savory breakfast food. Muffins are one of those wonderful things that you can make sweet or savory, and mix up with whatever flavors take your fancy. So, muffins seemed like the way to go. Since I’ve been trying to mature sure we have plenty of protein sources, I wanted to add some cottage cheese. Plus, I also really really love cheese! I modified a great looking recipe, mostly so that I could add more vegetables. I think this stems from when I was unemployed, and I found that I could stretch my budget by bulking up recipes with extra veggies, since they cost so much less than proteins. It also has the added bonus of hiding them in my husband’s food!

As muffins go, this is a pretty simple recipe: mix the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients, add veggies, bake. I started with 2 slices of bacon, 1/2 a diced red onion, 1/2 a diced red bell pepper and around 1/2 cup of frozen corn. Cook the bacon for a few minutes to start rendering the fat, then add the onions and continue to cook until softened. Add the pepper and corn, and cook until the corn has thawed and heated through. Allow to cool.

For the muffin mixture, start with 1 cup cottage cheese, 2 eggs and 2 egg whites (you can use 4 whole eggs, I just happened to need 2 yolks for something else), 1/2 cup of your preferred shredded cheese and 1/4 cup water. Mix until combined, then add the dry ingredients. I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup almond meal, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Whisk until there are no clumps of flour, then add in the bacon and veggies and mix until evenly distributed. Divide into 18 muffin cups, either greased or lined (I love my silicone baking cups for this kind of recipe), and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

Now I just need to hide some zucchini in some chocolate cupcakes and we’ll be all set for the storm!

Makes 18 muffins

 

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease or line 18 muffin tin holes
  3. Cook bacon over medium heat for around 5 minutes
  4. Add onion to bacon and cook until soft
  5. Add pepper and corn, and cook until corn has thawed and heated through. Leave to cool
  6. Mix cottage cheese, shredded cheese, eggs, egg whites and water
  7. Add flours, baking powder and spices, and mix until no flour clumps remain
  8. Add cooked bacon and veggies
  9. Distribute mixture between prepared muffin tins
  10. Bake for around minutes

Emergency kit

Coming from England, I’ve never really had to deal with a severe weather emergency. We don’t get hurricanes, tornadoes or much like that, although flooding has been more of an issue in recent years. But here in Houston, it’s a different story. The roads seem to flood every time it rains, and there have been several tornadoes this year. Now, we’re facing a potential tropical storm, which might turn into a hurricane. So, in an effort to be prepared and organized, off to target the little man and I went in search of supplies in case of a few days without water or power.

Thankfully, we currently live on the 3rd floor, so it’s unlikely that we’ll have to evacuate because of flooding, but we’ll be packing a bag of clothes and filling up gas tanks just in case! More likely is that we’ll be stuck at home with no means of cooking and having to throw out all of the food from our fridge, and have no water. With that in mind, I figured that cartons of soup would be a good place to start, since they don’t need anything to open them and they can be eaten cold. They might not be that appetizing, but they’ll provide nutrients and liquid. I also stocked up on protein bars and protein-rich snacks, since they provide easy calories. While I don’t normally buy sweet snacks to keep at home, as a scientist I know that hormone shifts during the body’s stress response can limit the availability of glucose, which is essential to keep your brain working properly, so we opted for fruit snacks to provide some sugar when needed. Normally I make all of the little man’s baby food, but I didn’t want to count on our stocks surviving a power outage, so in to the cart went a few days worth of pre-made containers in varying flavors. When you pack these into the box, I recommend taking them all out of their boxes if they’re individually wrapped, since they take up less space this way.

So that plus a couple of cases of water should have us nutritionally taken care of for a few days. Then it came to the rest of the kit. Trash bags, not just to get rid of trash and keep the bugs out, but also in case a window gets broken. Flashlights, batteries, baby wipes to keep all of us clean (ish at least!), and of course duct tape, because what can’t be fixed with duct tape?! We have always kept a fully stocked first aid kit in the nursery along with plenty of hand sanitizer, but if we hadn’t I would have been stocking up on those too. Last but not least, a sturdy box with a water resistant seal to pack it all in, and we’re ready to go! Ok, not quite, but we definitely will be by the time the storm gets here on Friday. Wish us luck!

Baby sweet potato pancakes

Now that my little man is 8 months old, we’re venturing into the world of finger food. More accurately, he is dragging us into it by insisting that the only way he’ll eat is if he can do it himself. Sadly, he’s not actually able to do it himself yet, so we’ve had to find some middle ground. This might be a few pieces of shredded cheese or some homemade baby puffs, or it might be pieces of anything else that’s soft enough for him to mash up but big enough to keep his hands busy. 

My son is a very food motivated child, to the point where no-one else can eat in front of him without him screaming because he wants to eat too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do such a sad face as the day we went out to eat at a local diner and he saw a little boy running around with a pancake in each hand. Cue my quest to make baby safe pancakes! 

When I first tried this recipe, he wasn’t able to eat wheat yet, and he still can’t have whole eggs. I have an oat pancake recipe that I love, so I started with that and tried to work out how to make it baby friendly. It turns out, baby pancakes really don’t need much at all. In fact, I make them with just 2 ingredients – ground oats and sweet potato! You could probably do this with any fruit or veggie puree you wanted, you just might need to adjust the quantity of oats depending on the water content. 

For each ounce of sweet potato, I mix in 1 tbsp of ground oats. If you cook it in a non stick pan, you also don’t need any oil. Just spread the mixture in small rounds, about the thickness of a quarter. Cook over a low – medium heat for a few minutes. Once they start to look like they’ve dried out on the top, they’re ready to flip. Cook for another couple of minutes and there you have it – nutritious, baby-safe pancakes! If you keep these in the fridge they’ll be fine for over a week, I just warm them for a few seconds in the microwave when it’s pancake time. 

I hope you and your little one enjoy these, and if you make them with something other than sweet potato, I’d love to hear how they come out! 



Mango peach barbecue sauce

Recently we’ve been making a lot of fruit and vegetable purees for a certain little man, and occasionally this means I end up with an extra 1 of something or other sitting around in my kitchen.  This week, I had a leftover peach and a leftover mango.  As I mentioned when I talked about meal planning, I like to roast meat on a Sunday and then use it in a few different ways throughout the week.  This week, we roasted pork tenderloin with a spice rub.  I was routing through the pantry while coming up with meal ideas for the week that would use up the pork, and I came across some slider buns that my husband had bought.  Hmm… pork tenderloin, mango, peach, slider buns…  Obviously I landed on making barbecue sauce (because who wouldn’t?!)

This is my first ever attempt at making my own barbecue sauce, and I also wish to point out that I am originally from England where we barbecue once a year if we’re lucky, so please forgive me if you look at the recipe and think “that’s not real barbecue sauce”.  Feel free to call it whatever else you want if that name bothers you.  This was made with a minimal number of ingredients, all of which could potentially be left out or substituted if you have something else that you want to use.

First of all, sweat a small, finely chopped onion down in a small amount of olive oil.  Add a peeled and finely sliced 1 inch piece of ginger and 3-4 cloves of garlic, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add the diced peach and mango and cook for around 15 minutes on a low heat until the fruit breaks down.  This may be a shorter or longer time frame for you, depending on how ripe the fruit is.  Add around 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp each of ground coriander, cumin and salt, and 1/2 tsp each of all spice and black pepper.  Add 1/2 – 1 tsp chili paste (or don’t, if you don’t like it) and cook for a few more minutes to incorporate all the flavors.  Blend until smooth, and return to the pan.  Simmer for around 30 minutes, adjusting the acid and sweetness level with more vinegar and either agave, maple syrup or brown sugar according to your personal taste.  Add around 1 tsp of lime juice.  Let it cool and it’s ready to go!

I hope you enjoy this.  If you try this, especially if you try it with other ingredients, please let me know how it turns out!

Mango Peach Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe peach, diced
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chili paste (optional)
  • Agave, maple syrup or brown sugar (depending on preference and fruit used)
  • 1 tsp lime juice

  1. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over a low – med heat
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant
  3. Add the fruit and cook for around 15 minutes until it breaks down
  4. Add the remaining ingredients except your sweetener of choice and the lime juice and cook for a few more minutes
  5. Blend until smooth and return to the pan
  6. Simmer for around 30 minutes, adjusting the acid with additional vinegar and the sweetness with your chosen sweetener to your personal preferences
  7. Add the lime juice and stir to combine
  8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool

DIY coconut cold brew coffee

Coffee has been something of a necessity for me for many many years now.  It’s truly a miracle that I manage to get anything done without it.  I tried to go completely decaf during pregnancy, and in all fairness I made it to about 3 pm.  Admittedly, that was actually “scraping through to 3 pm wondering why I’ve been completely useless all day” making it.  So not really…  However, despite my absolute requirement for coffee, I couldn’t stomach iced coffee at all until a couple of years ago when I discovered a far too unhealthy caramel, chocolate and cream laden concoction at a local cafe.  Since then, I have discovered the wonder of all manner of frappucinos and cold brews.  I will say that I need extra flavor in my cold coffee, especially if it comes with ice cubes.  However strong the coffee is, you lose so much flavor by having it cold.  So, I was far too excited when I found out about the coconut cold brew at starbucks.  Toasted coconut syrup and coconut milk in a cold brew?  Yes please!

I don’t often go out for coffee these days.  It’s typically only after my Saturday morning yoga class.  A couple of weeks ago I left class all excited about my coconut cold brew, and was even feeling nice enough to pick one up for my husband too.  I got them home along with a couple of breakfast sandwiches, and was so excited to dive in.  It was unbelievable…  But sadly, not in a good way.  It tasted of absolutely nothing.  No coconut flavor.  No coffee flavor.  Just watery, but still headache-inducing, brown stuff.  Total waste of money.

However, the excitement of what that coffee could (and should) have been, wouldn’t go away.  So, I decided to have a go at making it myself.  Since it’s a cold brew, it does take time.  But it’s totally worth it.  And an extra tip – instead of putting ice cubes into your coffee, freeze undrunk coffee in ice cube trays and put those in your coffee instead.  That way, you won’t water it down, and the flavor will stay nice and strong.

I like to make the coffee the night before.  Use your regular amount of coffee, put it in a french press with water and put it in the fridge overnight until you’re ready to drink it.  Next comes the syrup.  Dissolve half a cup of sugar in half a cup of water over a low heat.  At the same time, toast half a cup of unsweetened coconut until golden.  Add the coconut and 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract or essence (if using) to the syrup, remove from the heat and leave for 3-4 hours to infuse the syrup with the coconut flavor.  Strain and reserve the coconut.

Normally we have coconut milk in the pantry, but I guess I used it all when I was cooking, so I decided to make toasted coconut milk!  Rinse the coconut to remove any remaining syrup (otherwise your coconut milk will be very sweet) and add to a blender with 1 cup water.  Blend until smooth and strain to remove the coconut pulp, squeezing to make sure you get all of the milk out.  And you’re ready to go!

I don’t sweeten my hot coffee (with the exception of my December peppermint mocha obsession), but I find I need around 3 teaspoons of syrup in a large cold brew to get the flavor, and this syrup is no exception.  Next I plan to try out some other flavors of syrup, so I’ll post the recipes when I have them figured out.  Enjoy!

DIY Coconut Cold Brew Coffee

For the coffee:

  • Coffee
  • Water
  • French press

For the syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract or essence (optional)

For the coconut milk:

  • Toasted coconut (from syrup)
  • 1 cup water

To make the coffee:  Put your usual amount of coffee in the french press and fill with water.  Leave to brew in the fridge overnight.

To make the syrup:

  1. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat
  2. At the same time, toast the coconut in a pan until golden brown
  3. Add the coconut and extract (if using) to the syrup
  4. Remove from the heat and leave for 3-4 hours to infuse the flavor
  5. Strain, reserving the coconut

To make the coconut milk:

  1. Rinse the reserved coconut to remove remaining syrup
  2. Add to a blender with the water and blend until smooth
  3. Strain to remove the pulp.  Store in the fridge.

Bacon brussel sprout pizza

Good evening all!  I may have mentioned on more than one occasion that my husband is one of those guys who finds a new food or restaurant, and that becomes the only thing that we can eat for weeks.  And weeks.  And weeks.  While most of the time this drives me absolutely nuts, since he already eats like a 12 year old when I don’t cook for him, I was pleasantly surprised when last year he became obsessed with brussel sprouts.  Since I’m continuously trying to get him to eat more vegetables, I was at least happy about eating these several times a week!

In England, brussel sprouts are typically eaten with Christmas dinner, boiled to death alongside the roast turkey.  The rest of the year, they don’t really exist for 99% of the population.  So, imagine my surprise when the waiter at our favorite restaurant recommended their brussel sprouts to us, and when they arrived they were even better than his recommendation had made them sound!  They were crispy, mixed with bacon and topped with parmesan cheese – absolutely delicious!  Since that day, I have made many attempts at recreating that wondrous bowl of vegetable bacony goodness, to varying degrees of success.  Even better though, is that every time my husband sees brussel sprouts with bacon on a menu, he orders them!  Our most recent variation was the bacon brussel sprout flatbread from California Pizza Kitchen, which we are both big fans of.  So when I had half a bag of my tiny green best friends left over from cooking roast chicken on Sunday night, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.

Given the baby’s now 1.5 hour naps, I figured I could make the pizza dough from scratch if I did it early in the day.  The recipe I like is this one from Karrie at happymoneysaver.  I have made it in the food processor and in my stand mixer, and I don’t find any difference between the results of the 2 methods, so go with whichever you prefer.  Since we have the a/c on all the time here in Houston, I typically heat the oven to 200 F and then turn it off, to make a nice warm place for the dough to rise.  I do the same thing with bread.  For both I find it takes about an hour to double in size.  I made a full batch of the dough, which is enough for 8 servings, and froze the other 6 individually wrapped and placed into a large zip top bag.  I then kept the portion that I needed in a container in the fridge for the rest of the day.

This is not one of my “throw everything in one pan” recipes, but it is pretty quick and it’s worth making a couple of extra dishes for your other half to wash later!  If you refrigerated the dough, you’ll want to let it come back up to room temperature before you use it, so while that’s happening and your oven is preheating to 450 F, you can prepare the toppings.  I started with a basic cheese sauce:  melt the butter over a low heat, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to prevent lumps.  Once you get to around the consistency you want (I like it fairly thick for this), add the cheese and stir until it’s all melted.  If the sauce is now too thick, add a little more milk.  If it’s too thin, you can add a little more cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the toppings:  Dice the bacon and cook over a medium heat to render the fat.  Cook to your desired crispiness, then remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat.  Add the thinly sliced onion to the bacon fat and cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.  Remove the stems from the base of the brussel sprouts, cut in half lengthwise and finely slice.

Roll or stretch the pizza dough to your desired thickness (I find it’s better if it’s on the thin side), leaving a slightly thicker crust around the edge.  Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the base (if you have extra leftover it’ll be great with some pasta or in a croque monsieur for lunch!), and sprinkle the onion and bacon over.  Add the brussel sprouts, thyme and parmesan, and bake at 450 F for around 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown, rotating the baking sheet part way through if needed.

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

My husband actually ate it, all of it, and said that he couldn’t even taste the vegetables!  That’s definitely not true, you can absolutely taste them, but what he means is that he doesn’t have to tell himself that it’s not vegetable in order to eat it!  It really is delicious, and completely customizable – whatever cheese, vegetables or other leftovers you have in the fridge would all be great.  Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

[ingredients]

For the pizza dough (credit: happymoneysaver.com):

This amount of dough is enough for 4 of these pizzas – the rest of it will freeze well in individual portions.

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • Approx. 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan

For the toppings:

  • 2-4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion
  • 8-12 brussel sprouts
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

[directions]

  1. Make the dough: mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor.  Add the oil, then with the mixer running gradually add the water.  Once the dough comes together, place in a lightly greased bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.  Knock the dough back to remove the air bubbles and portion as needed.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F
  3. Dice the bacon and cook until crispy over a medium heat to render the fat.  Remove the bacon, but leave the fat in the pan.
  4. Finely slice the onion and add to the bacon fat.  Cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.
  5. Trim, halve and finely slice the brussel sprouts.
  6. Make the sauce: melt the butter, add the flour and cook over a low heat for a few minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to avoid clumps.  Once it reaches the desired consistency, add the cheese and continue to heat gently until melted.  Add more milk if the sauce is too thick, or more cheese if it’s too thin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Stretch or roll the dough out to roughly 8×12 inches, leaving it slightly thicker around the edge.
  8. Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the dough, leaving the edge uncovered.
  9. Sprinkle the onion and bacon over the sauce, and then cover with the brussel sprouts.
  10. Sprinkle the thyme and cheese over the top.
  11. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, turning the baking sheet part way through if needed.

 

 

Meal Planning – what, why and how

Wow, it’s been a crazy few weeks.  Finals for my students, nap and feeding transitions for my son, a visit from my Mum, family this, friends that… On top of that, my life now seems to be lived in 10 square feet of space 90% of the time, and so I’m just waiting for the day when I get to take a breath.

With all of the busyness of life, I’ve been trying to encourage my husband to help (or at least not hinder) with my efforts at meal planning.  To me, this is something that’s often synonymous with eating the same thing over and over again, and having 30 plastic containers in the fridge taking up valuable space.  This isn’t what it is to me.

So, first of all, the what.  For me, meal planning is simply about making the most of the ingredients that you have.  It doesn’t mean that you have to have the same dish for dinner 4 nights in a row.  It means that you need to know what you have, and how you can use it.

This brings me to the why.  Primarily, it’s cheaper.  As a country, here in the US we throw out up to 50% of the produce that we buy.  That’s staggering and shameful.  Something I have always struggled to understand with my husband is the culture of disposability that seems to be so ingrained in the people who grew up here.  I’m not saying that this is the only country where this is an issue, but it seems to be more prevalent here than elsewhere.  And so I’m hoping that by planning my family’s meals at least a week at a time, we can avoid throwing out produce that was purchased in a large bag or box for a single meal.  Less waste = less money spent = more money for other things.  On top of the fiscal aspects, I am one of those people who absolutely needs organization.  I am one of those people who looks at pinterest and dreams of that beautifully organized pantry with the matching containers all with their own chalkboard paint labels on them.  It drives me nuts when my husband gets home from work and then starts to figure out what we might have for dinner that night, and when plans aren’t made in advance so I never really know what else I can or can’t get done.  This is seemingly a genetic thing.  I’ve never known anyone as meticulous as my Dad.  Even when he found out he was dying, he made lists of people to notify, paperwork to organize, just about everything that could have been needed.  Apparently it’s just something that we do.

And so, finally, how.  The most traditional thing we eat in England (as far as I’m concerned at least) is a Sunday roast.  It could be chicken, pork, lamb, beef… Whatever you like.  It usually comes with roast potatoes (a personal favorite of mine) and some assortment of vegetables and gravy.  So this is what I like to do.  I’ll cook some kind of roast on a Sunday night for us, maybe a couple of friends.  Then, I’ll have a plan for how else to use the rest of the meat during the week.  If I roasted a chicken, I’ll use the bones to make stock which might form the base for a soup, stew or some ramen (which would also contain some of the meat), and the meat might also go into chicken salad or stuffed peppers, maybe used as a pizza topping.  I typically let my husband pick at least one of the meals for the week, so once I know what he wants, I’ll look at other ways to use those ingredients.  If he wants something with spinach, then I’ll add a steak spinach salad and a spinach pesto pasta dish (also a good vehicle for leftover chicken!) to the list for that week.  What we end up with is at least a week’s worth of food from maybe 10 ingredients (plus pantry staples like spices), and we prevent the situation of the half a bag of spinach sitting in the bottom of the fridge until it’s inedible.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to post some of my favorite recipes for using your leftovers, so stay tuned!  Also, if there’s a recipe that you’d like, please let me know and I’ll get working on it for you!