Brightening Breakfasts

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

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Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

It’s October now. It’s also the week of Thanksgiving and you know what that means. We have to do something with pumpkins and apples! This week used to follow the giant Harvest Celebration we used to put on at our farm and the last thing we felt like doing was baking MORE things after burning the midnight oil trying to make sure the tables in the refreshment tent were well-filled. We Martin ladies made pumpkin cheesecakes, apple cheesecakes, pumpkin cookies, apple cookies, squash soup, squash dip, apple oatmeal, apple squares, applesauce muffins, and more things than I can remember for thousands of people over the course of two days. We stopped hosting it when the event outgrew us. It was fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end sometime, right? It was, however, a great way to try new fall dishes on our willing and unsuspecting guinea pigs guests, and we could quickly tell which recipes were going to be keepers!

Anyway, trying to figure out what recipe to use for a pumpkin/apple combo blog reminded me of those weeks before the Harvest Celebration. I didn’t want to feature pie because I figure everyone’s already got their favourite pumpkin and apple pie recipes. If you don’t actually have one, I do have a few good ones that I could probably be persuaded to share. Instead, I figured maybe you’d all be glad for a Thanksgiving brunch idea so … here we are!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (2)

I came across this recipe by katiescucina.com awhile ago and I had a brand-new Belgian waffle maker that was waiting to be tried out, and pie pumpkins waiting to be roasted. I roasted the pumpkins, pureed them, and posted how to do that for you here. I’m just nice that way. Then I added an apple topping made with the ever-popular and extremely versatile Honeycrisp, and we ate it with sausage and swilled it all down with coffee. I love breakfast and will happily eat it any time of day; this time it was for supper. My husband declared it a winner. Mind you, he declares anything with apples in it a winner. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and be thankful for good things like pumpkins, apples and fall!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (3)

 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (4)

Martins Family Fruit Farm is stocked up on both pumpkins and apples, as well as any fall decor you might need! Although this post is sponsored by them, the views and stories are my own. 

Honeycrisp Apples

The Honeycrisp apple took the American world by storm several years ago. There has been no other apple in our long history of growing apples that has taken off so quickly and its fan base is still growing. And no wonder! It works for pretty well everything, doesn’t brown easily, holds its crunch for ages, and is sweetly tart with a honeyed juiciness. Many people who declare that they don’t like apples are surprised to find that they like the Honeycrisp. 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

Ingredients

WAFFLES: Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (3)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/3 tsp. each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves)

APPLE TOPPING:

  •  3 cups sliced peeled or unpeeled Honeycrisp apples
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • maple syrup

Directions

WAFFLES: With a mixer, beat the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, pumpkin, and vanilla on low for about 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and mix on low again for a few seconds to combine, then turn the speed up slightly for another 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides and beat again just until combined. Let the mixture rest for about half an hour to allow the leavens to work. 

Preheat your waffle iron according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Spray with cooking spray or oil, then add 3/4 cup of batter to the pan, pouring it in a circle starting at the outside. Lower the lid and cook until the steam nearly stops and the light goes off. Remove with tongs and keep warm in a single layer on a cookie sheet while doing the rest. 

APPLE TOPPING: Meanwhile, you can prepare the apples by peeling them if desired, then slicing them in 1/2 inch thick slices (I used my apple slicer). Melt the butter in the pan, then add the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir and fry on medium-high heat until the sauce becomes gooey and apples soften, but aren’t mushy. Serve on top of the waffles. Add maple syrup if you wish. This makes 5 or 6 waffles.

 

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots

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Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots (2)

Let it be known that I love to travel. Travelling is good for the soul and it keeps you humble.  How, you ask, does travelling keep one humble? You see, when it’s YOU that’s the odd one out; YOU driving on the wrong side of the road, YOU asking for a translation of a menu item, YOU wondering what that sign said, then finding out that it meant to Keep Out, it helps you realize what those “furriners” experience when they visit our fair country and commit those unpardonable cultural gaffes. It also creates a sense of empathy for them within me. If you’re thinking that this all sounds like an excuse to keep travelling, you might also be right.

I also love breakfasts. But you know how when you’re travelling, you fluctuate between all those gourmet breakfasts and mediocre hotel breakfasts and eventually just long for a simple homey cereal or muffin breakfast? Yeah, well, for me that often means longing for a steaming bowl of oatmeal. I LOVE oatmeal, so when I spied Porridge Oats with Honey Blueberry Compote on the menu close to the end of our trip to Ireland, I ordered it posthaste. It was everything I wanted it to be; both homey and delightful. Steel cut creamy oats topped with a lightly sweetened blueberry compote and drizzled with honey. For years I’ve been cooking my oats in a half milk/ half water solution, then adding apples and raisins, so this seemed like a great dish to recreate at home. I did it, and it was great, but this time of year when fresh Ontario fruits abound it seems a shame to cook the fruit. Apricots are in season now, and due to the dry heat we have experienced this year, they are extra sweet.  I love anything with apricots, so I thought why not try apricots with honey? I cooked my favourite steel cut oats in our own local milk, sprinkled a wee bit of cinnamon on the oats, topped them with chopped apricots, and drizzled it all with honey. I sure did enjoy it, and as I was eating it, I thought, “This sure would be good with peaches too. Or peaches and blueberries.” Next time…

Steel-cut Oats, Apricots, Guernsey Milk, and local Honey!
It makes me happy when I can use all local products in my cooking!

 

Creamy Oats with Blueberries
My daughter opted to top hers with fresh blueberries and brown sugar, and ate it with gusto.
Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots
Delicious apricot chunks swimming in honey on an island of oats

 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, where most of this stuff is available. As always, the views and stories are my own. 

Apricots are said to be one of the healthiest fruits in the world, with tons of Vitamins A and C, and potassium packed into its little furry body. We saw acres and acres of apricot orchards as we were climbing the mountainsides in Spain and Portugal a few years ago. It was a beautiful sight; those orange ovals hanging in the trees. 

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots

Ingredients

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots (4)

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh apricots (or your favourite seasonal fruit)
  • honey (or maple syrup or brown sugar)

Directions

Pour the milk and the water into a medium-sized saucepan. Heat, stirring now and then until it begins to steam and smell “milky”. Stir in salt and oats. Reduce heat and slowly boil for 10 to 20 minutes, until it is just a little thinner than you like to eat it it. Cover and remove from heat. Let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes to let it thicken. Scoop into your prettiest bowl, top with chopped apricots or desired fruit and drizzle with honey.

 

Buttermilk Rhubarb Pancakes

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Buttermilk Rhubarb Pancakes

Ah, spring! How thou dost delight the senses, and exhaust the resource of time. It has been well over the period I have set myself for a publishing schedule, but please note the above observation. I really do want to post about one of my favourite springtime treats, though; the lowly and lovely Rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those enlivening foods that burst upon the tongue with an invigorating splash. I’m surprised no-one has written a song about it yet. “Oh, Rhubarb, ’tis of thee, We sing in grateful glee; Long may you grow.” Anyway, it grows in large clumps; the leaves are poisonous; it looks like a medieval weed; but oh, how many delights can be created with the stalks of this weed. My rhubarb has always been of the green variety. I’ve tried the red, but I find typically it’s drier and less tart. It does look prettier, I admit.

My daughter wanted pancakes as I was trying to decide what to make with some of my first rhubarb; and this idea was born. Why not use rhubarb in pancakes? We add apples, blueberries, pumpkin; all kinds of things; why not rhubarb? So I added rhubarb. And a generous splash of vanilla rum flavouring. I’m sure you’ve heard and perhaps experienced how some of the best concoctions are born out of mistakes. Well, this experiment was not one of those. I really wished I had checked the bottle more closely when I grabbed it from the pantry. But the pancakes looked pretty and tasted okay if I closed my eyes and pretended I was savouring vanilla instead of rum. As I closed my eyes, I thought, “You know what would taste REALLY good? Orange rind grated into these pancakes.” Next time I make them, I’m going to try that. I hope I don’t grate cheese into them by mistake.

Rhubarb typically is harvested in May and June. It should be stored in plastic in the fridge. Wilted stalks can be revived by sprinkling water over them before chilling in plastic. 

Before using, wash rhubarb, and cut off the leaves and the bottom of the stalks where they curve inward. 

Buttermilk Rhubarb Pancakes

Buttermilk Rhubarb Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flourButtermilk Rhubarb Pancakes
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white or brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, shortening, or oil
  • 1 teaspoon rum, vanilla flavouring, or 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • approximately 1 cup chopped rhubarb
  • maple syrup for serving
  • a pat of butter for serving

Directions

Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Whisk egg in a medium bowl, and add buttermilk, melted butter or oil, and desired flavouring. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients just until mixed.

Heat skillet to 350°. Place a small dab of butter and/or shortening in the bottom of pan and swirl until it’s melted. Drop by 1/4 or 1/3 cup measures into the hot pan. If it doesn’t sizzle, turn up the heat. Drop rhubarb pieces on top of pancakes. Cook until the edges are browning, and the pancake is puffed, and holes are beginning to appear on the surface. Turn over and cook the other side until golden. Repeat process until the batter is used up. Keep finished pancakes hot on a platter in a 250° oven until they are all done.

Serve with a dab of butter and a drizzle of syrup.

Asparagus, Ham and Egg on Toast

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Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I feel really only gained its rightful dues in the last few decades. At least it did in my life. We didn’t often eat it when I was growing up, although I remember Grandma having a patch beside us and then later we planted one in garden #2, or The Bottom Garden, as we called it. We had three large gardens to feed our big family. Garden #1 or The Top Garden ( the elevation of our lawn was higher there) held the peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, radishes, and other sundry experimental crops that we were trying. One year that was peanuts, another year it was watermelon, cantaloupes, celery, and so on. Garden #2, The Bottom Garden, was filled with potatoes, and a row of asparagus and rhubarb bordering the edge. Strawberries rotated between these two gardens. Garden #3, or The Shop Garden was a long narrow garden full of corn, out in town beside my dad’s store fixture business. Hence the name, The Shop Garden. Makes sense, doesn’t it? We were all about making sense back then.

Later, when I had my own garden, I realized how much work was involved in growing asparagus. The war on weeds was never-ending. One time I turned my head to stare into the science fiction eyes of a praying mantis that landed on my shoulder. I confess that he won the staring match. In warm weather those stalks grew like bamboo. Eiyiyiyiyiyi! I learned to let it grow until it was at least 8″ tall, then snapped off those that were as thick as my finger, with the heads still nice and tight, just above the greyish part at the bottom of the stalk. Then I stood them upright in a box with a bit of cold water in the bottom and stuck them into the fridge. If they were too thin, I let them grow to become lovely tall ferny fronds to use in bouquets.

Some of my longtime favourites include eating it raw (try it – it tastes like raw peas!); asparagus quiche; creamed asparagus with hard-boiled eggs over toast; asparagus roasted at 450° or grilled, (use thick stalks for these) tossed with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and sprinkled with Parmesan flakes; and asparagus wrapped in bacon or prosciutto, then grilled or roasted. Whatever you make, DO NOT OVERCOOK IT! Trust me, asparagus that has the life cooked out of it is a tragic thing, both in looks and flavour. It should still be a bright dark green when you’re done, and a little crisp. Wash the asparagus well, especially the heads, to remove the sand or ground. Cut off at least 1″ from the bottom of the stalks. If you’re boiling it, cook it in a skillet or something wide enough to accommodate the length of the stalks. Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil before adding the asparagus, then cook it uncovered. This helps to retain the fresh green colour, and deters overcooking. Cook in rapidly boiling water until they are all bright green, and you can just pierce them with a fork. Don’t add salt until you remove the asparagus from the water. Remove them immediately and place on a platter to hold in a warm oven until ready to serve.

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More recently, I’ve been using them in salads and omelets. Recently, on a trip to the Outer Banks, NC, we stopped at a roadside stand and picked up asparagus. I knew it would be ready when we got home, but you know how it is – you always want what you don’t have right then, and I wanted asparagus! So one morning at our beach condo I made these open-faced breakfast sandwiches just for kicks, and they were good. Lucky you, you now get to make them too. In the evening I made a chefs salad and used the remaining lightly cooked and chilled asparagus in that. Locals, you don’t have to go to NC to get asparagus; I hear via the Martins grapevine that it’s ready at home, along with wild leeks and radishes. Yay! Spring is here!

Asparagus is okay, even good, if it’s thick, as long as it’s fresh and crisp. Don’t be afraid to buy thick stalks locally; they’re actually better for grilling that way. Really thin stalks are a result of very young or stressed plants, or overly hot weather, and can be stringy.

If you store the bunch upright with a little water in the fridge, it will keep up to a week without losing much flavour. 

 

Asparagus, Ham and Egg on Toast

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Ingredients

  • 2 slices bread (I used sourdough)
  • 2-4 slices old-fashioned ham
  • 1/2 cup sliced sweet onion
  • 8-10 stalks of asparagus
  • 2 eggs, fried or poached
  • sprinkle of cheese, your choice

 

Directions

Wash asparagus well and put 1 1/2 inches of water into a flat skillet with sides. Add asparagus when water is boiling. Remove when it is bright green and tender-crisp. Meanwhile, brown ham lightly in another skillet that was lightly brushed with butter. Remove and brown onions in the same skillet. Remove, and fry eggs lightly, still in the same skillet. Toast the bread and butter it if you wish. On two separate plates, layer 1 slice of bread, a few slices ham, onions, the asparagus and egg. Sprinkle with cheese and grind salt and pepper over all of it. Serve with sliced tomatoes or oranges, if desired.