Breakfast

Make Your Own Healthier Fruit-On-The-Bottom Yogurt

fruit on the bottom yogurt

Today I’d like to suggest making one simple swap in your diet. It’s so obvious it feels silly to write about. But considering the fact that cafeterias in schools, offices, and airports provide non-organic, sugary fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt as the only “healthy” breakfast option, I have to address this issue.

Here’s the thing. Yes, yogurt is a healthy food. I often eat it for breakfast because is gives me protein and probiotics, and I love the taste of full fat yogurt. The problem is, I don’t consider most supermarket brands to be real yogurt. These brands have made their way under the health halo of yogurt being good for you. People might even think, hey! They have fruit in them too–that’s even better for you. Sure, I guess they are still a much better alternative to a chocolate frosted donut for breakfast, but I can’t endorse them when there’s a superior choice in yogurt.

First of all, regular and organic dairy is probably nutritionally similar, but buying organic reduces the use of antibiotics in livestock. Most conventional brands do not use organic dairy. Then there’s the issue of additives. In a popular supermarket brand of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, the ingredient list includes some strange stuff that isn’t real yogurt or fruit: sugar, fructose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, sodium phosphate, malic acid, natural flavor, and calcium phosphate. In a 6oz (not even one cup) serving of this yogurt there is 25 grams of sugar! Let’s not even talk about how devoid of nutrients the “fruit” on the bottom probably is.

fruit on the bottom

So here’s the swap. Make your own fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. It will take you less time to assemble this at home than it will to wait in line at the cashier to buy your pre-made yogurt with the nasty additives. Get some real, plain yogurt, preferably organic. This should only have 12-14 grams of sugar in one cup of yogurt and you’ll see from the ingredient list that it is not added sugar. Then get some fresh or frozen organic fruit, either berries or chopped up fruit. Put your fruit on the bottom of a mason jar, top with a cup of yogurt, screw the cap on and take your breakfast with you! If you must, add a teaspoon or two of jam or honey, but if you’re getting good fruit, you shouldn’t need the extra sugar. There you go. Brekkie has been upgraded.

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Breakfast

I Finally Tried Bulletproof Coffee

bullet proof coffee

You’re probably not as much of a nerd as I am to follow all these biohackers on the internet, but you may still have heard of “Bulletproof coffee”. Dave Asprey, or the “Bulletproof Executive”, swears by Bulletproof coffee, and so do many of his followers. From the way some people talk about it, Bulletproof coffee has been made out to be the magical elixir that will give you laser-sharp focus, boundless energy, and satiety until lunch time. I was curious about it for the longest time, but it was only when I heard that someone I personally know drinks it (my friend Jeanette), I decided to finally see what all the fuss is about. Disclosure: this is my personal, honest opinion, and it’s just based on a four-day experiment with sample size = 1.

What is Bulletproof coffee? Basically, it’s hot coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Using Dave Asprey’s Upgraded Coffee beans is recommended as they are supposedly free of the toxic molds that cheap coffee has. These molds are tied to cancer, heart disease, and hormone irregularities, and take away from the health and performance benefits that coffee is supposed to have.

I bought the Upgraded Coffee and performed a little experiment. I usually have my coffee black so that’s what I did the first day. The beans don’t really smell like anything and the coffee didn’t taste like much either, which was disappointing. But I had an amazingly productive day. The next day I cold-brewed the coffee and had another pretty productive day. The next two days I prepared it the Bulletproof way with a tablespoon of grass-fed butter and since I didn’t have any MCT oil, I used a tablespoon of refined coconut oil, which I’m sure is a far less superior choice but I use it in my green smoothies and feel fine. I blended it up and the result was a beautiful, frothy, buttery cup of joe. It tasted pretty awesome. As you may have gathered from my blog, I’m a fan of real, grass-fed butter and believe it’s a source of healthy fat. I’m also not shocked at the idea of butter in coffee because I’ve had salty, buttered tea in Tibetan restaurants before and loved how they tasted. But in terms of performance? I wasn’t nearly as energetic.

This isn’t to say I think Dave Asprey is a liar. I will definitely try to purchase some MCT oil and prepare the Bulletproof coffee the way he intended, in the name of experimentation. I don’t think putting butter and coconut oil in my coffee gave me less focus or less energy, I just think the benefits may not be as overwhelmingly obvious as people make it out to be. Why was I more productive the first two days and lower energy the last two days? Could have been the coffee. But more likely, I was well-rested and ready to dive into work in the former, whereas I was extremely sore from bootcamp and the weather was dreary during the latter. Maybe buttery Upgraded Coffee improves performance, but not enough to make up for those circumstances.

Will I keep trying Bulletproof coffee? Sure! The performance benefits might be slightly exaggerated but I thought it tasted good and I like getting healthy fats into my diet. Should it replace breakfast everyday? Probably not. It’s not super nutritionally dense or a balanced meal. As for the Upgraded Coffee beans–that’s a very personal choice. I’m a huge coffee snob. I get expensive, high-quality beans, often organic, that smell and taste a lot better that Upgraded Coffee. If you don’t care for the taste of coffee and are just doing it for performance…or your only other option is Folgers, yeah, buy Upgraded Coffee. I do trust Dave Asprey when he says it is one of the cleaner coffees out there. And in his defense, it’s not as expensive as people make it out to be. I spend the same if not more on my beans–cheap brands are not at the real price that coffee should be, much like the way feedlot meat is not the price real meat should be. If you’re a coffee snob like me, stick to the good stuff. And blend some grass-fed butter and MCT or coconut oil in if you feel like it. I don’t know if it will make you a machine, but it tastes pretty darn good.

upgraded coffee

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Breakfast

Healthy Brunch: Coconut Cardamom Muesli With Yogurt, Sultanas, And Clementines

coconut cardamom muesli 03

I entered this original recipe into Healthy Aperture’s Brunch Recipe Contest back in March. No word on whether I won or not. I’m guessing no, but that’s OK, because developing a recipe that’s clean, ridiculously tasty, and dead simple is enough of a prize!

I love this muesli because it’s healthy and easy, and full of sweet, exotic flavors, but with a spicy kick. And with the temperatures finally warming up, it’s the perfect time to get our warm-weather oats on.  To save time, you can make a couple batches in advance and just grab and go the next few mornings. The recipe makes two servings, but can be easily doubled or tripled.

Coconut Cardamom Muesli With Yogurt, Sultanas, And Clementines
Makes 2 servings

1 clementine (or a similar mandarin orange)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons sultana raisins
4 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 almonds, chopped

Peel and separate the clementine into segments. If you are substituting with a different mandarin orange and it is not seedless, run your fingers along the top of each segment and gently pop out the seeds. Roughly chop each segment into three pieces.

Place the chopped clementine with all the other ingredients, except the almonds, in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Divide the muesli evenly into two separate mason jars or other air tight containers. Place them in the refrigerator to soak overnight.

When you’re ready for brunch, just grab your jars of muesli, top with chopped almonds, and dig in! (Eating this in bed in your pajamas is highly encouraged.)

coconut cardamom muesli 02

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Breakfast, Dessert

I Got My Ebelskivers On

Chocolate Æbleskivers Danish Pancakes

My dear friend Vicky got me an Ebelskiver pan for my birthday. I hadn’t heard of ebelskivers, but they kind of looked like the poffertjes I had in the Netherlands. (Yes, another crazy foreign word all up in this post.)  I have since learned that ebelskivers are small spherical pancakes pancakes, typically eaten with jam and a dusting of powdered sugar. At first I felt bad that it took me six whole months to get around to using my birthday present, but Wikipedia says they’re common before Christmas, so what do you know! Perfect timing.

Vicky had also gotten me pre-made chocolate ebelskiver mix. All I had to do was add a few fresh ingredients and cook them up in the pan. I used SQIRL’s Wild Blueberry and Tarragon Jam as a filling for some, and chocolate chips for the rest. This jam is the shit, by the way.

They turned out pretty good, and I liked that they weren’t too sweet. I think I’m going to make it completely from scratch next time, because I’m a control freak like that. Here’s some recipes I found, if you have a similar pan and want to get your ebelskiver on!

ebelskivers Danish pancakes chocolate

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Breakfast

Breakfast in the Fall: Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat

Having grown up in Hong Kong, I don’t have that nostalgic feeling toward this old-fashioned breakfast food so many Americans have. In fact, I just tried it for the first time recently because I needed farina for another recipe. I tried it plain at first. Meh, it was OK. But like oatmeal, I figured it could be a wonderful blank canvas for me to play with.

As we’re in the middle of pumpkin-mania, I obviously had to put a pumpkin spin on my Cream of Wheat. So here it is. Fast, tasty, and healthy Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat. I’m weird and enjoy it unsweetened, but feel free to drizzle with some good honey or maple syrup. Bonus points if you make your own pumpkin purée. You’ll never go back to the canned stuff again!

Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat
Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons Cream of Wheat (2 1/2 Minute Cook Time)
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk, depending on how thick you prefer your cereal
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey or maple syrup for drizzling (optional)

Heat up the milk in a small saucepan until it begins to boil. Add the Cream of Wheat a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly with the other hand. Give it a few more stirs and let it come back to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer for a minute and a half.

Add the pumpkin purée and stir for a minute until combined. Turn off the heat and mix in spices and vanilla extract. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter breakfast.

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Breakfast, Dessert

Ontbijtkoek: Baking Inspiration from Europe

It’s been almost a month since my vacation in Europe and I haven’t talked about it on the blog yet. Life has been crazy! After coming back from vacation, I got sick and spent a couple of days unwell and unmotivated. The next week I found my social calendar out of control, though I love to see people and can’t complain about that. Then Hurricane Sandy came to visit us, leaving a trail of destruction. But better late than never.

I had a fantastic vacation, albeit a short one. We spent two nights in the north of France, near Belgium, for my childhood best friend’s wedding. The reception was at a beautiful farm-chic venue, and instead of a sit-down dinner we got to sample all kinds of delicious treats (pictured above). I didn’t know savory macarons exist! With such great people and good wine, we had a blast. Even if we were hurting the next day. Next, we took a train to Amsterdam. We only had two nights there too, but we crammed in as much sightseeing and Dutch cheese as we could.

I think the best thing I ate this trip was at the wedding: foie gras on a speculaas cookie (yup, the cookie butter stuff) or on a slice of ontbijtkoek. Hot, rich, savory foie gras paired with spiced sweetness…YUM. I used to eat ontbijtkoek quite often as a kid, but had since forgotten about it until this trip. It’s a sweet, almost sticky cake eaten for breakfast, and with cinnamon, cloves, and molasses, it reminds me of gingerbread. Maybe that’s why it feels so perfect this time of year. It’s easy to make, tasty, and not as bad for you as some other desserts. It’s perfect smeared with warm butter. Or foie gras, if that’s how you roll. Smakelijk!

Ontbijtkoek
Makes one large loaf

Adapted from My Dutch Baking Blog

Butter for loaf pan
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger, and/or coriander (optional, if you have them)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix ingredients into a smooth batter with a wooden spoon. Place on a lower oven rack for about 80 minutes or until the cake is done.

Remove the ontbijtkoek and let in cool completely in its pan. Slice and serve with butter. Wrap the rest aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container

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Breakfast

Joy the Baker’s Roasted Plums with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Yogurt

I was inspired by Joy the Baker to do something a little different for breakfast. I picked some plums up at the farmers market, made some homemade granola, and assembled a Roasted Plums with Olive Oil, Thyme & Yogurt dish for my Saturday morning breakfast.

How I adore roasted fruit. The oven makes fruit juicier, sweeter, sexier. Olive oil and thyme with plums may sound a little odd at first, but it’s an elegant pairing. It’s salty, sweet, and savory all at the same time. If you’re in a breakfast rut, check out Joy’s recipe and make this easy but classy meal for yourself. The only thing I would change? No non-fat yogurt. Non-fat anything where there is supposed to be fat is a huge mistake.

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Breakfast

How Watching Scrubs Leads to Baking Blueberry Muffins

OK I realize I’m over a decade late with this one. I recently discovered how awesome the TV show Scrubs was. Hey, better late than never right? This summer I went through a bit of Scrubs obsession, only giving up really late in the seasons when everyone became parents and it got weird.

I don’t really eat muffins. They’re often almost the size of your head, and I find it’s like having a giant cake for breakfast. On the other hand, if you consider it a dessert, well, there are better options than muffins. Bottom line, I never see an opportune time to eat them. They’re usually too sweet or stale anyhow. I have a muffin tin and yet choose to make duck prosciutto egg cups or mini sweet potato, kale, and egg bakes in it instead.

But once I got to the part in Scrubs where Dr. Kelso won unlimited muffins for life at the hospital cafe, I couldn’t help but have muffins on my mind.

Then I saw these blueberry muffins on Not Derby Pie. I knew it was time to use that muffin tin for its true calling. I bought some beautiful blueberries from the farmers market and decided to bake them with crème fraîche instead, which is just so much sexier. Once they cooled a little, I took a bite of my very first fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin. Oh man. Now I get it. When they are fresh, are well-made, use seasonal fruit, and are the appropriate size, muffins are awesome for breakfast. I was surprised at how quick and easy they are to make too. Freshly baked muffins is a must next time I host brunch!

Crème Fraîche Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
About 280 calories per muffin

Adapted from Not Derby Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing tin
10 ounces crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tin with butter.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl, then add the sugar and whisk until thick and homogeneous. Add the 4 tablespoons of butter; whisk to combine. Add the crème fraîche, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Add the crème fraîche mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed.

Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake until light golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. Check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin–it should come out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.

Bonus: Have leftover muffins? Check out this cool post on storing muffins I found while trying to figure how to transport them to my sister’s place.

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Breakfast

Tex-Mex Migas: My Kind of Summer Breakfast

I’m constantly craving Mexican and Southwestern food in the summer. I still don’t know too much about it, but I know I want it. I’m not sure why, maybe because corn and tomatoes are in season and so delicious. And I like to pretend avocados are in season, but of course they don’t grow here in NY. Sad.

I had never heard of the dish before, but I saw this post about Tex-Mex Migas on The Kitchn. It’s a traditional breakfast basically made up of eggs scrambled with strips of corn tortilla, and other add-ins and garnishes. As I’m currently obsessed with Mexican flavors and always obsessed with eggs (and had like, every ingredient on hand), I whipped up some migas of my own. It’s quick and simple, and you can work with what you have. A healthy, but oh so comforting summer brekkie. Yum.

Happy Friday!

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Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Single Lady (or Dude) Skillet Meals

I finally bought a set of cast iron skillets! I wanted one so bad for the longest time. Never mind that I was getting by just fine it the kitchen without them, I kept imagine a romantic montage of me making awesome frittatas, skillet cookies, and campfire meals. (Yes, I often have montages in my head.)

I’ve had my skillets for a couple of weeks now and I’ve only been using the baby one so far. My latest obsession: single lady skillet meals. I have this fascination with single urban living. People used to live with their family until they moved in with their spouse and started a new family. But here in the city, more and more people live solitary lives. Without a family to have a family dinner with, what does one eat? I, myself, am a single lady. Yes, I have a boyfriend and yes, I live with roommates, but for most purposes I am on my own.

This means I am also on my own for most meals. I never understand why so many people feel there is no point to cooking for one. It’s awesome–you don’t have to cater to anyone else’s tastes! There are so many single serving things you can make. Or, make more and you have lunch and dinner for the next two days. Win!

Not only am I fascinated by single living and single servings, I also love the idea of a one-pot meal because I am far too lazy to clean so many dishes. So this is my single lady skillet meal. It’s more of a formula than a recipe:

Super Simple Single Lady (or Dude) Skillet Meal

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Chop up and sauté some complementary vegetables in your single lady/dude skillet. Some of my faves include tomatoes and bell peppers, or tomatoes and kale. I highly advise including onions and herbs. Delicious and nutritious!
  3. Sprinkle with some meat or cheese. Crumbled sausage, chopped up bacon, prosciutto, feta, parmesan…whatever you enjoy eating and that goes together well. Note: if you have to cook the meat first you’ll need to do it before the vegetables and set aside. Or if you’re willing to clean one more item, you can cook simultaneously in a separate skillet or pan, and add it in once the veggies are done.
  4. Crack one or two eggs on top and stick your skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes, so that eggs are cooked but still runny.
  5. Top with S&P and eat it all up. Share with no one.

The single lady skillet meal pictured above is tomatoes, white onion, green bell pepper, basil, bacon, and eggs. I love how quick and easy this is to whip up, and how healthy it can be. It can work as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can also use up whatever odds and ends you have sitting around your kitchen. For example, my arugula plants only had five leaves left. Yup, I threw them in. As long as you follow the basic formula, the possibilities are endless!

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