Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Breakfast

Was I ever surprised to beat my kids out of bed Easter morning! When they seemed still sound asleep, I decided to treat myself and the dogs to an early morning walk, which is kind of like a meditation when the air is still and quiet. I enjoyed the spring sounds of the red-wing black birds and occasional meadowlark as we walked along, and then the icing on the cake was a fox spotting. It was a great way to start the day, second only to the breakfast we had that morning. It is so rare that we all eat breakfast together. We are a household of 4 different schedules and routines. Easter morning was so much fun with all 4 of us together, with no immediate agenda and we shared lots and lots of laughs. Of course that only made all the food taste even better! I have been on a cook-book reading frenzy, specifically those dealing with sandwiches and paninis. Somewhere along the way I got the inspiration for my Easter morning breakfast of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, green onions and feta on sauteed wilted spinach. It was scrumptious and beautiful and it fueled our bodies for a leisurely bike ride later in the day.

Easter Egg Breakfast

serves 4-5

12 large eggs

1/2 c. milk

generous pinch each of kosher salt and coarse ground pepper

1/2 c. crumbled feta

12-14 grape tomatoes, cut cross-wise into thirds

3 green onions, sliced thinly, white and light green parts only

5 oz fresh baby spinach, trimmed and pre-washed

1. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, milk and salt and pepper. Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spray with PAM and add a tablespoon of butter to skillet. When butter is bubbly, pour in egg mixture.

2. Cook eggs, stirring gently occasionally to make nice large fluffy curds of scrambled eggs.

3. When eggs are almost set, with some liquid still visible on top, stir in feta, green onions and tomatoes. Fold together until finished cooking. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile heat another skillet over medium heat. Give spinach a quick rinse then toss into hot skillet, just to wilt, stirring to evenly cook, about 30 seconds.

5. Evenly distribute spinach onto 4 plates, top with egg mixture and serve with a slice of grilled country bread, if desired. We enjoyed Irish bacon with our eggs, which was also amazing tasting from Oscar's Smokehouse in upstate New York (we had a ham from there for dinner later on....incredible!).

Friday, April 2, 2010

What is it about cupcakes?

I've always had a sweet tooth and when I was younger cake certainly fell into the category of sweets I loved. As I got older however, cakes fell low on my list of beloved sweets, something I could easily pass up. In the last few years, there has been a cake revolution, specifically a cupcake revolution. The craze has gone wild. There are even cupcake bakeries which sell nothing but those little hand held cakelets. While I think they are a fun small means of creative expression, I was still not bitten by the cake bug. Then this year, my daughter wanted cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for her birthday cake. So I got out my trusty chocolate cake recipe and did a test run, because she wasn't really sure she would like the cream cheese frosting after her request was placed. So we did a trial run, and she gave them the thumbs up. Turns out they were really quite delicious, and the white and dark contrast was visually pleasing, too. Her birthday came and went and with it the chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Recently we were invited to spend a glorious weekend skiing with my husband's work, 30 people in a great big house on the slopes of Copper Mountain here in Colorado. Each family takes a turn with a meal and we were assigned a lunch. So I thought it would be something fun to add cupcakes as my dessert. I packaged up the cupcakes and icing separately and piped on the frosting right before serving. This cream cheese frosting is so great because it actually pipes on better cold. Perfect! I thought the cupcakes would be well-received, but they were swooned over! I felt like a dessert hero for the day! So, in spite of the fact that I'd choose another sweet over a cupcake pretty much any day, I was clearly in the minority on that trip. Give them a try and see what your friends and family think. Maybe you'll get to be the dessert hero at your next gathering. The cake recipe **makes about 24 standard cupcakes, filling 2/3 the way and baking at 350 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes, until just moist crumbs stick to a toothpick inserted into the center. DO NOT OVER BAKE! The lovely cream cheese frosting follows, from one of my favorites, Ina Garten.

Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Parties

12 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted

I like to make this in my food processor, but a mixer will also work well.

1. Combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Process in short bursts until smooth and well combined.

2. Add powdered sugar to mixture in bowl. Pulse in very short bursts initiall until almost combined , then a few longer bursts to enusre all is mixed well. Use immediately, or scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. You may have to increase recipe by one half to have enough for 2 dozen cupcakes depending on how much frosting you'd like on each.

Note: if using for carrot cake, add a little orange zest. If using to frost banana cupcakes, try just a touch of grated lemon zest. Experiment to your liking!

** High altitude directions for cake: decrease sugar to 2 cups, decrease baking soda and baking powder to 1 1/8 tsp each, increase flour by 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp and add 2 Tbsp unsweeend applesauce to milk.