Brightening Breakfasts

Apple Strudel

Posted on



Our farm supplies a lot of bakeries with apples, including several German bakeries that use our apples in their strudels. These strudels come in a variety of styles and types, but one thing is sure; they all contain apples. Grainharvest Breadhouse is a local bakery that makes an excellent strudel.

A couple of years ago, our church held an international social for all ages, where there were at least ten different food booths to circle around tasting foods from other countries. Our people travel a lot and several have lived in other countries so we had a good pool to choose from. One of “our” Syrian families that we sponsored into Canada also had a booth with their national dishes. It was a fun evening.

Anyway, my contribution to the German table was this strudel. We have visited Germany and with my German contacts, I felt like this was something I wanted to try. A truly authentic strudel has a handmade dough rolled paper thin, but I needed to make a lot of them and it was a trial run, so I cheated and used puff pastry. It must have been good because I even had an eleven-year-old ask me for the recipe!

This weekend I made it again for a retreat we were at with friends and I decided it’s time to share it with all of you. You’re welcome.

First of all, you will need to thaw the puff pastry. This can be done in two hours at room temperature or four hours minimum in the refrigerator. The packages I buy have two sheets of pastry in the box.

I used Golden Delicious and Red Prince apples, but you can use pretty much any apple that holds its shape, yet will soften. Peel and chop the apples and toss them in a mixture of white sugar, flour and cinnamon. Let that sit while you prepare the rest.

While the apples are blending, you can be grinding the bread crumbs and walnuts together finely, then mix them with the brown sugar. I have a handy-dandy KitchenAid chopper that I use for this, but you could use your rolling pin, food processor or blender. Roll out the pastry sheets to a 10″ by 12″ size on parchment paper or a well-floured surface. Spread half the crumb mixture then half of the apple mixture down each pastry sheet. Try to stay back about an inch or more from the short edges. Give it a little more room than I did in the pictures; it was pretty tight. Spread the edges with the egg wash as a glue, then start rolling up the strudel from the long side, using the parchment as an aid. Fold in the ends and tuck them in as you roll.

When you’re finished, seal all the edges tightly and place it on a cookie sheet to bake, picking it up with the parchment and using the same parchment underneath it to bake. Make 8 shallow cuts in the top to allow steam to escape, then brush all over with the egg wash. These cuts can be your guides when you’re slicing it to serve. Sprinkle with fine or coarse sugar and bake.

Apple Strudel
Apple Strudel


The Red Prince and Golden Delicious are a good blend for this recipe because the first are tart and the second are mild, so the flavours enhance each other. They both cook and bake very well and are also excellent eaten out of hand.

Golden Delicious and Red Prince apples

As always, the recipe and stories are my own, sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm.  

Apple Strudel


Apple Strudel
Apple Strudel
  • 1 package (2 pastry sheets) puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 – 3 baking apples (about 2 cups chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water for egg wash


Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/2 inch cubes. Place them in a bowl and toss with the cinnamon, white sugar and flour. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the strudel. Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C). Line cookie sheets with parchment.

Combine the ground walnuts, both sugars and bread crumbs. Set this aside.

Roll out both pastry sheets into two 10″ by 12″ rectangles on a well-floured surface or on parchment. Brush the perimeter of each roll with the egg wash for a glue. Sprinkle each with half the bread crumb mixture and half of the apples, leaving at least about two inches around the edges to seal. Begin to roll up the strudel from the long side, folding in the ends as you go. Pinch all edges tightly to seal. Turn it seam side down onto a cookie sheet, prepared with parchment. Cut eight slits in the top for steam to escape, then brush the top with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse or fine sugar and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The crust should be a nice golden brown and the filling should be starting to bubble out of the slits. Slice through the slits to serve. Each strudel will yield nine generous slices. Best served warm. 

Note: This strudel freezes well. To serve, thaw, slice and set slices on a cookie sheet and heat at 325 until warm, about 15 minutes.



Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

Posted on Updated on

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal (2)

There is no season so vivid as fall, I believe. It makes my heart smile at this time of year to see the apples and pumpkins happily and flamboyantly flashing their reds and oranges in the sun. They are a harmonious pair, for both decorative and culinary purposes, joining hands to create a magnificent overload for the senses.

Baked oatmeal is not something we had when I was a child. My first exposure to it was at a Bible school where my husband taught at for a number of years. His workload was heavy, being Dean of men as well as teaching several courses, so I played single mama for those six weeks. Thankfully, there were several ladies who stand out in my memory as being life-savers in that time. One of them babysat my young children so that I could take a break from parenting and join the choir practice for an hour in the afternoon. She thrilled my girls when she cut out paperdolls for them and they all played together. They still remember that fondly. Another good friend knew all the good shopping spots and cool places that children would enjoy going to from her own history of being there as a young mom, and took us about town. I thank the good Lord for these people who went out of their way to make a young mother’s life easier.

Once a week, the kitchen crew would make a gigantic batch of baked oatmeal, and we staff families were allowed to take some to our temporary homes to eat at breakfast the next morning. That was always a treat! It was always the same, just a basic oats version, but it provided a delicious breakfast alternative that I didn’t have to make myself.

I usually make the plain version myself but with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I decided to dress it up a little. Enter the pumpkin and apple team. I cut back the liquid a little to accommodate the pumpkin, switched the raisins for dried cranberries, added a whole chopped Cortland apple and some cinnamon, and voila! Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal was in the oven.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal (5)

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

I like to make the oatmeal the day before and add milk before heating it all up together the next morning. It’s a perfect stick-to-your-ribs recipe for a rainy fall morning.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

Cortland apples are one of my long-time favourites at this time of year. These crunchy, striped, fabulously flavoured apples with their pure white interior are highly versatile and make life so much better. 

When making your own pumpkin puree, use pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins, as they are sometimes called. They taste so much better. See this post for instructions on how to make your own puree. For another great breakfast recipe using pumpkins and apples, check out Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping.

As always, the recipe and stories are my own. Martin’s Family Fruit Farm is my kind sponsor. 

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal


Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

  • 3/4 – 1 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 3 cups quick or large flake oats
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped apples


Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Combine brown sugar (if using maple syrup add it to the liquid ingredients), oats, coconut, raisins, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, then whisk in melted butter, milk, and pumpkin puree. Stir everything together, adding the chopped apples last. The texture should be sort of like a wet oatmeal cookie. Grease a 9″x 13″ pan and pour the oatmeal into it, smoothing out the top. Bake in preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes until the edges look brown. Remove from oven and run a large spoon through it to crumble the mix. Let cool before storing in an airtight container. I like to make it the day before, then pour milk over my serving and heat it all up together in the microwave the next day. It’s perfect for those crisp fall mornings!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

Posted on Updated on

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 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


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)


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


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

Posted on Updated on

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


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)


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

Posted on Updated on

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


  • 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


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

Posted on Updated on


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.


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



  • 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



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.