A Simple Breakfast::Creamy Polenta with Maple Syrup

"Why is it called creamy polenta, mama?", asks my 5-year old daughter. "Is it because it has cream in it?"

Cinnamon was most likely wondering why this morning's polenta was more creamy than usual. Most of the time I add more cornmeal to the milk and a splash of cream and/or butter at the end of the cooking time. This morning it was simply whole milk, a pinch of sea salt, and coarsely ground yellow cornmeal. A simple and delicious alternative for a nutritious breakfast that my kids love and often request. Of course they don't let me forget the pure maple syrup that always accompanies this cereal.

The recipe, although not as simple as toast with almond butter and honey, is not as complicated and time consuming as making pancakes - which is almost always a weekend ordeal, unless breakfast becomes dinner. It's also not one requiring you to stand by the stove, whisk in hand, during every second of the 25-30 minute cooking time. An occasional stir with the whisk is all that's required. In fact, you can prepare the kids' school lunches in the meantime and still have time to set the table and make coffee.

 

Creamy polenta with maple syrup

makes enough to feed 4 for breakfast although my children always seem to want more – increase as desired, using 40 grams of cornmeal per 250 ml of milk

 

INGREDIENTS

1 liter whole milk

¼ teaspoon sea salt

160 grams coarse yellow cornmeal

 

INSTRUCTIONS

In a 3 or 4-quart pot set over medium heat, warm the milk with salt until almost boiling. Keep an eye on this step so you avoid the milk spilling over.

As the milk starts to bubble, slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to a medium low and, leaving the pot uncovered, whisk every 5 minutes or so for a total of 25-30 minutes. Although constant whisking is not necessary, do not wander too far from the stove. I’m usually making Turkish coffee at this time which requires my being by the stove.

Spoon polenta into bowls and top with pure maple syrup.

 

 

Skillet Breakfast::Greens and Eggs

How did March sneak up on us so quickly? It seemed as if it was a mere two weeks ago that we were celebrating Christmas. Now Spring Break is finally upon us and we have a chance to slow down once more. The frantic early morning schedule, accompanied by "hurry!" and "5 more minutes or you'll miss the bus", won't be heard for another week. It's a perfect chance to make something other than the usual hurried breakfast of bread with butter and sour cherry jam.

It doesn't take much time or a long list of ingredients to make a healthy breakfast. A pat of butter, one chopped shallot and two diced cloves of garlic cooked for a minute or two in an oven-safe skillet lays the foundation for two handfuls of chopped Swiss chard and spinach. Add some salt and pepper and cook greens until slightly wilted. Turn off heat, add a splash of cream, two eggs, and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.

Top with crushed Aleppo red peppers and enjoy with a piece of toast and freshly squeezed orange grapefruit juice.

SUNDAY'S FIVE GRAIN CEREAL

 

The sun shines brightly on this beautiful Sunday morning. The children are up and already running around asking when we'll be eating. "Soon", I tell them, as I measure out the ingredients into the colorful bowls purchased the day before and take them all outside to photograph for yet another attempt at writing this post. This hot cereal is a favorite in our house - the dried blueberries being the most requested addition to the cereal by all three children. Today was the first time I had used my newly purchased 4-quart soup pot and I wondered why it took me so long to add it to my collection as it is, in my opinion, the most useful sized pot in the kitchen.

Earlier in the week (on Tuesday), I had made changes to my original recipe (posted below) - adding lemon zest and pure vanilla extract, and using chopped walnuts instead of the sliced almonds. After tasting the cereal, I decided that the lemon zest and vanilla posed an overpowering flavour so I left them out. Also, after seeing Sagey meticulously pick out the chopped walnuts, I chose to use the sliced almonds - which appealed to him better. However, I do like the taste of walnuts with this hot cereal and will remember to chop them finer next time.

Sometimes it's best not to combine too many flavours. 

Sunday's Five Grain Cereal

made enough to feed our family of five

 

INGREDIENTS

40 ounces (1 liter + 240 ml) whole milk

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

200 grams 5-grain hot cereal (I used this one from Bob's Red Mill)

50 grams wild dried blueberries

25 grams sliced almonds

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons honey

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Add milk and salt to 4-quart pot and heat over medium heat. As the milk starts to boil, stir in the 5-grain cereal and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until mixture has come together into a creamy consistency (as it cools, it will start to harden).

Remove from heat. Stir in the blueberries, almonds, heavy cream, and honey.

Serve immediately.

 

AN INSPIRED BREAKFAST

This morning as I was going through my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet from Hannah sharing a link to a blog post about why you should start a food blog. What Shanna said in her latest post on her blog, Food Loves Writing, about having that post sitting as a draft for weeks resonated with me as I have two posts sitting unfinished and a myriad more than I've never posted.

My inhibitions include wondering whether or not to post something so simple as a berry smoothie, not having a cute story to go along with the post, not coming up with a recipe all by myself (fearing the recipe attribution police), or the absence of a whole collection of step-by-step "perfect" photos (unlike the imperfect one above where a speck of a thyme leaf was embedded in the yolk - it bothers me, but I'll have to get over it). In addition, having three small children coming into my office every few minutes asking if they can have the iPhone or tattling on each other create a distraction that oftentimes pulls me away from the computer and from finishing up a post to the point where I simply give up. Of course, the challenge is to get better organized so that I can successfully execute my blog posts - taking photos before or after they've been fed and planning out and lining up the shots in my head that I wish to execute. Baby steps.

After reading Shanna's post, I was inspired to come up with my version of a healthy egg breakfast with whatever I had on hand. It started with using the local eggs I discovered at Whole Foods last week. I saw a guy grabbing for a brand I've never before noticed and decided to try them after seeing that they were from a local farm. They were a bit more pricey than the eggs we usually buy, but definitely worth it. The yolks were more orangey which made the egg taste close to the ones I remember from breakfasts in Croatia - fresh from the chicken every morning.

I didn't have any kale, so I selected the few good leaves of spinach from the water-logged container (after having the spinach sit in a melting ice chest). I know, it's not from the farmer's market, but sometimes it's what I do. I chopped the handful of spinach leaves and added them to the eggs as they were frying. I have to admit that it's difficult to shoot any photos at the stove due to the low light. It would be nice to have a skylight above the stove with the stove in the middle of a large kitchen, but for now Lightroom will do. Also, the angle at which I took the photo also bothered me - again, I need to get over it. One day I hope to have a large kitchen with a skylight, two ovens, two refrigerators, a huge pantry, lots of storage for baking pans, a sink overlooking a beautiful "real" garden with gorgeous morning sun, and...I could keep dreaming.

If I had more spinach, I would have wilted the spinach first - instead of chopping it and adding it to the top of the eggs. I sprinkled a little Portuguese Flor de Sal and topped the eggs with fresh thyme leaves from my little container garden and some crumbled Greek feta. Chives would have also been a good option if I had any (growing them in a container has proven unsuccessful). Aleppo pepper would also be good or freshly ground black or green pepper. The possibilities are endless. I think next time I'll cover the eggs while cooking for a more poached egg dish instead of the hard fried exterior.

Simple, healthy, and delicious. No real need for a recipe, but here it is as I made it this morning...

 

Eggs with Spinach and Feta

Serves 1

 

INGREDIENTS

butter, enough to coat the bottom of the pan

2 large eggs

handful of spinach leaves, chopped

pinch of sea salt (I used a coarse grain Portuguese Flor de Sal)

fresh thyme leaves

Greek feta

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt butter in 8-inch frying pan over medium heat.

Crack two eggs into pan. Sprinkle with salt and add spinach after one minute or so. Cook uncovered, about 5 minutes or to your liking (you can also cover the eggs - something I'll try next time).

Serve on a colorful plate and top with crumbled feta and thyme leaves.

 

* Thank you Shanna for the inspiration! I love that quote from "Cold Tangerines".