Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Hybrid Pastry

I was a bit torn over whether or not to post this recipe. The results were good – very good, in fact, and I had trouble trying not to devour the leftovers. But they could stand some tweaking and perfecting. Moreover, I’ve gone a bit overboard on the baking posts as of late – a trend quite uncharacteristic of my typical warm-weather cooking patterns.

But, thanks to the recent earthquake + hurricane + busy schedule, my kitchen experimentation has been a bit … uninspired as of late. Picture lots of cereal, a few too many tomato sandwiches and more than a few corn tortillas topped with beans and avocado. All tasty treats, but none particularly blog-worthy. 

So, I’ve opted to share with you my experience with the doughnut muffin. I have a recently-pregnant friend to thank for the inspiration for this baked good. She typically lacks much of a sweet tooth, but as her due date approached (and the baby arrived, woo hoo!), it seems sweets are high on her taste bud radar. She mentioned a fondness for a doughnut muffin that a coworker had brought into the office. Clearly, the term “doughnut muffin” gave me pause. I like doughnuts. I like muffins. So a recipe with the ease of a muffin and the flavor of a cake doughnut held massive appeal for this amateur baker.

I tweaked a recipe I discovered over at How To: Simplify. The batter couldn’t have been easier, and the texture is quite nice. The idea is that you bake a simple yellow muffin, dunk it in butter and roll it in a cinnamon sugar mixture. I found that the cinnamon sugar absorbed too quickly into the buttery muffin, which tasted fine but was visually unpleasing and left the muffin with a tacky texture. I’d recommend experimenting with dipping a muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture sans-butter, or increasing the proportion of sugar to cinnamon – the end result you’re looking for is a muffin thoroughly dusted in a lovely coating of cinnamon sweetness. I MIGHT even experiment with lining the muffin tins with cinnamon sugar, pouring the batter and then sprinkling the top of the batter with more cinnamon sugar.

Make sure you have friends over when you prepare this recipe – the doughnut muffins taste best on the day they’re baked, preferably served hot with a glass of cold milk.

Doughnut Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 melted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon, for coating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.


Combine dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon – in a medium bowl using a spoon or fork to stir together.


Combine wet ingredients – oil, egg and milk – with sugar in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients and stir together until just combined. 


Bake 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick removed from the center of the muffin has just one or two crumbs clinging to it. Cool for 5-10 minutes on a baking sheet, in the tins.


Use a butter knife to unmold the muffin. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together. One by one, dip each muffin first in melted butter, then in the cinnamon sugar recipe (see my notes above if you want to experiment with a different method).


Place muffins on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.


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I’ve had a few moments to sort through my New Orleans menus and have pulled out just a few of my fave recipes. Enjoy!

Oven Scrambled Eggs for a Crowd
This is such an easy way to make scrambled eggs when you don’t want to spend precious morning minutes stirring at the stovetop.

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 24 eggs, beaten
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour melted butter into a 9×13 baking dish. Add salt and milk to beaten eggs. Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir. Bake 15-20 minutes more, until eggs are set. Serve immediately.

Shrimp & Grits
This was the biggest hit of the bunch. Serves 5-6.

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1 cup grits
  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning or other spice blend (including salt, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne and pepper)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2-quart soufflé dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Add 1 teaspoon salt to water and bring to a boil. Add grits in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure that the grits don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and mix in two tablespoons of butter.

Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add yolks to grits, one at a time, stirring to combine. Add 1 ¾ cups cheese and 1 teaspoon salt. Fold in egg whites. Pour into soufflé dish and top with remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make sure shrimp are clean and then pat dry. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon sugar (to help the shrimp crisp around the edges in the hot pan). Heat oil in 12-inch pan and cook shrimp in batches, 45 seconds-1 minute per side until opaque. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside. In the same pan, add wine and stock to deglaze. Add seasoning and 1 tablespoon butter, stirring. Simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered (mixture will reduce a bit). Return shrimp to sauce and serve with grits casserole.

Frances’ Pound Cake
A coworker provide this recipe for a decadent yellow pound cake. We served ours with ice cream, chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries.

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup Crisco
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Cream the butter, Crisco and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for about five minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the milk, extracts and nutmeg. Add the flour and milk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool for 10 minutes, take them out of pans and place on baking rack to cool.

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After recovering from four days’ worth of baking, cooking, cleaning, planning and prepping, Miss Menu has made more than a few discoveries. 

  1. Casseroles are my friend. Of the four breakfasts, four lunches, two dinners and four appetizers that we made, I found a way to include a casserole in five of those meals. When feeding a crowd, a casserole might not be the sophisticated choice, but it can certainly be tasty and easy to make ahead.
  2. I REALLY like shredded cheese, butter and eggs. During my grocery-list-making, I completely underestimated quantities on all of these crucial staples. The end count for the week’s menu was 17 sticks of butter, four pounds of shredded cheese and five dozen eggs.
  3. You can never have enough 9×13 pans. Or large frying pans. Or cookie sheets. Or mixing bowls. When cooking for a crowd, it really helps to have a well-stocked kitchen so you (or your incredibly dedicated and diligent sous chef) are not constantly washing and scrubbing a sink full of dishes.
  4. Working on your feet for 10+ hours per day is a new level of pain. At the end of the week, I was actually dreaming about visiting a podiatrist.

We started our trip by collecting three grocery carts full of supplies.

The Italian pasta salad was my favorite lunch.


We used oversized cookie sheets set over four industrial-size gas burners to cook the shrimp.

Pound cake with ice cream and strawberries was a favorite dessert.

Here’s a quick look at the highlights (and lowlights) of the menu. I’ll post recipes after I’ve had a chance to make a few corrections and tweak a few ingredients.

 The Highlights 

  • My favorite breakfast was probably my mother’s recipe for cinnamon coffee cake. But my favorite new breakfast discovery was oven-scrambled eggs. It’s a great way to make light and fluffy eggs for a crowd without stirring at the stove top.
  • Everyone seemed to have a different preference on lunch picks, but my personal fave was Italian pasta salad – full of tons of veggies, salami and a Balsamic vinaigrette – served alongside pita pockets stuffed with fresh mozzarella, pesto and cherry tomatoes.
  • The unanimous favorite dinner option was the shrimp and grits. I must admit, this was the meal that caused me the most anxiety. I lucked out by finding beautiful, large, peeled and deveined shrimp at the grocery store for just $7/pound! Some soupy grits, a big salad, bacon & red pepper for garnish and cheddar biscuits rounded out the meal.
  • I was a bit nervous when I had to devise a baking powder substitute for my yellow pound cake (I forgot to add it to my shopping list and used a substitute of yogurt mixed with baking soda), but the end result was super moist and dense – just how I like my pound cakes. I used a coworker’s recipe, which called for a bit of nutmeg and almond extract. Served alongside of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and a big bowl full of strawberries, it constitutes my favorite type of dessert.

The Lowlights 

The successes were not without a list of failures. I succeeded in burning one chocolate Texas sheet cake (past the point of edible) and moderately burning one of two coffee cakes (still edible). My first batch of cheese crackers was crumbly and dry. And the crust of my lemon bars never set quite right. The French toast casserole baked up a bit sloppily – but taste-wise was a hit for those sweet of tooth. 

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Bit By the Baking Bug

Every once in a while, Miss Menu shifts gears in the kitchen, pulling out the cake pans, cookie sheets and cupcake tins and moving into a baking frame of mind. My favorite amongst recent experiments has been Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins.

This particular creation featured a rich yellow cake with a top of cream cheese, raspberry preserves and buttery crumbs. The results were tasty, but I’d prefer for the cream cheese and raspberry preserves to be more integrated into the rest of the cake, instead of just sitting on top. The recipe below reflects that change.

These make a terrific addition to a brunch spread, but would also do nicely for an afternoon tea, served alongside some butter or clotted cream. You can also sup out the raspberry preserves for blackberry or strawberry, or try mixing in some fresh fruit in season.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 8-ounce package light cream cheese or neufchatel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves
  • Confectioner’s sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into pieces. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter into flour and sugar until crumbly. Reserve one cup of the mixture. To the remaining mixture, add salt, baking soda, baking powder, ricotta, one egg and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. Mixture will resemble a dough more than a batter. Use hands to bring dough together, if necessary.

In a separate bowl, mix cream cheese with one egg and 1/4 cup sugar.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill each muffin tin half way, leaving half of dough remaining to fill the rest of the cups. Layer with half of cream cheese mixture and half of raspberry preserves. Top with remaining dough, cream cheese and preserves. Then sprinkle reserved crumbs on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes.

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Almost two weeks after the Menu family Christmas day festivities, Miss Menu is still dreamy-eyed with thoughts of the day’s meals: a breakfast to remember with a perfect mixture of sweet and savory; a traditional beef-and-potatoes dinner with some tasty twists; and a highly indulgent dessert.  

We don’t like to budge much from our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, and for good reason. Our coffee cake recipe (see below) is super simple but insanely satisfying. It also freezes well. (The Menu Family likes to take a frozen cake on beach vacations, too). Add scrambled eggs, thick-cut bacon and plenty of mimosas and you have yourself a Christmas brunch to remember.  

The next Christmas day menu that brings joy to the taste buds is Christmas dinner. Last year’s crown roast of pork was hard to top in terms of a wow factor, but this year we decided to try something new with the New York strip roast. This tender cut is usually served up as individual steaks, but a whole roast is perfect for a crowd. We pre-ordered our meat from local-favorite Belmont Butchery, then followed the basic guidelines in this Epicurious.com recipe. Basically, you pan sear the whole roast in a skillet on the stove top, fat-side town, to create a nice brown crust before putting the whole skillet in a 375-degree oven and cooking to 130.  

The beef receives a quick stove-top sear before roasting.


A stove full of Christmas day goodness.


 Our side dishes included a sausage-and-oyster stuffing, smashed potatoes with plenty of alouette cheese and string beans with crispy onions.  

All that is well and good, but for this sweet tooth, a Christmas meal just isn’t complete without a decadent dessert course. We found ours by recreating a version of the famous lemon butter cake from Chez Foushee Restaurant in downtown Richmond. It’s something of a dessert institution in my hometown: a buttery crust meets a dense, intense, lemony filling. The result is slightly similar to a cheesecake, but somehow tastes even more sinful. After you test the experiment below, I highly recommend a trip to Chez Foushee to taste the original.   

Lemon butter cake.


Menu Family Coffee Cake 



  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 pint sour cream

Cinnamon Mixture  

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Using an electric mixer, beat butter until it becomes creamy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla.  Add salt and eggs and continue to beat.  Combine baking soda with flour and add alternately with sour cream.  Pour half the batter into greased and floured 13 x 9” baking pan.  Sprinkle half the sugar/cinnamon/walnut mixture over.  Top with remaining batter and sprinkle remaining cinnamon mixture over all.  Swirl with knife.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. If freezing, let cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. 

Lemon Butter Cake
Adapted from a 2006 Richmond Magazine recipe and discovered thanks to a co-worker who enjoys lemon butter cake just as much as Miss Menu!  


  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 package boxed yellow cake mix (2 cups)
  • 1/2 a whisked egg (2 tablespoons)


  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (light is OK)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest from two large lemons
  • 1 stick butter, softened

For crust, stir together melted butter, cake mix and egg until mixture comes together. Grease the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, inverting the bottom of the pan so the cake can slide off easily once cooked. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and  half-way up the sides.  

For filling, cream together the cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer. Mix in condensed milk until fully incorporated. Add powdered sugar and incorporate. Add eggs, one at a time, then add lemon juice and zest and mix. Pour mixture into the prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Top will puff up and brown a bit. Chill overnight – top will fall a bit. Serve dusted with powdered sugar, with raspberries or lemon slices to garnish.

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Breaking the Breakfast Rut

Miss Menu is the kind of girl who simply must eat breakfast first thinIMG_0969g in the morning, every morning. In fact, you might even say that, on a work day, an almost comically large bowl of cereal is the only thing that really gets this girl out of bed.

It’s that big bowl of cereal that’s put me in something of a breakfast-menu-rut as of late. For years now–practically my whole life–I’ve been stuck in what I call the cereal cycle. When I was younger, it was Rice Chex that filled my cereal addiction. After four or five years, I switched over to Banana Nut Crunch, before Multigrain Cheerios gained my allegiance. Today, and for the past several years, it’s been Honey Bunches of Oats (with Peaches) that beckons me from bed every morning. I pour myself a big bowl, douse liberally with skim milk, and tucker in alonside my (growing) pile of cookbooks for some inspirational morning reading.

While this is a perfect lovely way to start my day, I’m wondering if now isn’t the time to break out of the cereal cycle. And so this week, I’ve started experimenting with a new-to-me breakfast food: steel-cut oats.

Some might argue that oats aren’t too much of a departure from cereal. Afterall, it’s just subbing one bowl of grains for another. But it’s what you can do with the oatmeal that makes a difference.

IMG_0979Yesterday’s incarnation featured the oatmeal, reheated, mixed with a swirl of agave nectar and layered with  Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries, walnuts and dried cranberries. This morning, I got creative by forming the oatmeal into patties and cooking them on the stove top in a bit of oil, then serving them with a spread of pumpkin butter (my favorite fall addiction from Trader Joe’s), plus more of that same yogurt, walnuts and cranberries. Tomorrow I’m going to add mango to the mix, and the next day will highlight dried banana chips and pomegranate seeds.

The sheer variety of “mixables” for the oatmeal is super-attractive to a girl who’s been a monogamistic-cerealist since infancy. But aside from the fantastic and fun flavor profiles, the most important thing about a weekday breakfast for me is that the assembly must be super quick – three minutes, max, for this hungry girl. By fixing a big pot of oatmeal on a Sunday and refrigerating it, I’m good to go by just popping a portion in the microwave for two minutes. A few seconds of chopping and stirring and I have myself a rut-free breakfast.

Steel cut is an important distinction when you’re talking types of oatmeal. Steel cut oats are basically oat kernels that are cut into several pieces. They take quite a bit longer to cook than quick cooking rolled oats, which are flattened. Most would say that steel-cut oats have a much more toothsome quality, and are well worth the longer wait (about 30 minutes of cooking time).

The idea behind this rut-breaking is not necessarily to eat less food, or even to consume fewer calories, but to make the calories that I do eat count a bit more. So breakfast features loads of fiber, maybe a bit of potassium, and a few vitamins and antioxidants thrown in for good measure. I’m about as far from a health food nut as a girl can get, but I’m resolved to add more nutritious food to my diet (without taking away any of my favorite indulgences). Breakfast seems like the perfect place to start this new, tasty resolution.

Miss Menu wants to know: Do you have any unique oatmeal menu possibilities to share?

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If I had my way, I’d entertain at least once a week. But real life schedules and budgets prevent me from living out the dream. So, in the absence of throwing a dinner party, I sometimes imagine the menu I’d have if I were to throw a dinner party.

Which brings us to this Tuesday. I love any holiday that exists for the sole purpose of encouraging gluttony. And so Mardi Gras—aka Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday—is a personal favorite of mine. The idea is to use up all of the fats and meats in your cupboard before the austere 40 days of Lent set in. Whatever way you look at it, though, it’s a great excuse for a fantastic meal.

In my office, we typically celebrate Mardi Gras with a Creole-style banquet: gumbo, etouffé, bread pudding with hard sauce and a king cake, to be exact. But come evening, I’m a sucker for the traditional “breakfast for dinner.”

I’ll likely be joining family for pancakes, sausage and eggs this Tuesday. But if I were to host a Mardi Gras party, this Gourmet recipe for Bacon Pastry Slices would be my centerpiece. Think about it: a sweet yeast dough meets salty pancetta and nutty Gruyere. Heaven!

To cut the richness of the pastry, I think I’d serve it alongside a big bowl of winter fruit salad – grapefruit slices, pineapple and apple, perhaps. And I’d up the protein-factor with some scrambled eggs whipped up with a dollop of cream cheese. Wash it all down with some mimosas and have yourself a perfect Mardi Gras experience!

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