Tag Archives: breakfast

Twisting Together – Blueberry Corn Muffins

It started with a dry wall screw in my tire.

The cause of my low tire pressure warning light

Actually let me back up. This recipe really started with me getting in my car the other day to go grocery shopping then seeing a light on the dashboard I hadn’t seen before. Some weird symbol I had to flip through my owner’s manual to figure out – which turned out to mean low tire pressure. And even though my car is computer enough to tell me that salient fact, it isn’t clever enough to tell me which tire. So I drove to the grocery store via our favorite garage – Fisher’s. They were able to figure out which tire it was, and my mechanic Jeff was able to take care of it right away, but he needed 20-30 minutes.

low tire pressure light

So I trotted across the street to Jerry’s Place, another South Deerfield institution and ordered a grilled blueberry muffin. They split a blueberry muffin in half, slather it with butter, grill it till it’s crispy golden, then top off with more butter and pop it on a plate. You can watch the butter melt into the hot muffin and know, just know, that it will be delicious. Which it was. However as I sat there nibbling bites of my muffin I thought of how I could ramp up this concept. Add a little more tooth to it.

Blueberry corn muffins for breakfast

Which is when Davis Bates came to mind. Bates is a brilliant storyteller who the kids and I would often go to see at various events, most often libraries, where he was performing. We bought his cassette tape to listen to on car rides (and what trip isn’t a car ride when you live in Whately?) and we listened and listened and listened to that tape so much and so often we finally wore it out. His stories are wonderful; and Russell, Isabelle and I could, and probably still can, speak his monologues right along with him. So what I recalled as I sat there munching on my blueberry muffin was Davis & Gramp Bates eating corn muffins up in Maine.

“I liked going for walks with my grandfather. Sometimes we’d get up early in the morning, before my parents were awake, and we’d walk down to Gilbert Brother’s Wharf and have some muffins. Corn muffins or bran muffins. Gramp would have a cup of coffee. Then we’d come back and have breakfast.”

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Breakfast Sundaes

I am worried about the future of real maple syrup in my life. Between wonky winters like the one we just had and the invasion of Asian longhorned beetle I am in a bit of a panic about whether or not there will be any pure maple syrup to pour over my pancakes, waffles or on top of a bowl of yoghurt in twenty or thirty years. Seriously, what is there that can take the place of maple syrup? Nada, niente, rien.

"Maple Sugaring by Paul Sample"

Maple Sugaring by Paul Sample. Courtesy of a private collection.

I grew up in maple sugaring country. I didn’t even know what Aunt Jemima’s was until I was in high school. To me and mine maple syrup tastes like liquid gold and costs nearly as much (prices across New England range from $34-$70/gallon in 2010). Part of the expense is the 40-50 gallons of sap which are needed to make one gallon of maple syrup. Someone has to collect it and then spend hours as well as cords of wood boiling it down until it reaches maple syrupy perfection. If you were to figure in the labor and fuel costs it’s actually cheap, even at those treetop per gallon prices. To justify buying it I tell my kids to make sure they lick their plates clean so none of the syrup goes to waste. If we have company we surreptitiously use our fingers to swipe up every last drop.

In our town of 1600 there are at least two sugar shacks and several families who boil-there-own. It’s a five-mile drive (one way) to get a gallon of milk, but a ten minute walk to buy a gallon of syrup. Our neighbors up the road have been making maple syrup for over forty years. They started off just boiling enough for their family, collecting the sap with a pair of oxen and cooking it down on a fire outside. Over the years they built a sugar shack, changed from collecting sap in buckets to gravity fed plastic tubing, and finally a few years ago switched from heating with wood to propane. Occasionally they celebrate the maple syrup season by inviting the neighbors over for a free pancake breakfast. On those days the line to get into the sugar house can snake half a mile or so down the road with everyone bundled up against the cold and mud which inevitably heralds the running of the sap. To help keep the folks waiting warm Mrs. Bean would send out paper coffee cups filled with Maple Syrup Sundaes.

"Bean's Sugar House"

The first year I gobbled up three maple syrup sundaes they were so good. By the time I got into the sugar shack I was too full to eat any pancakes. Maple Syrup Sundaes are brilliant in their simplicity. Thick and creamy oatmeal drizzled with fresh maple syrup, a handful of dried fruit, and a dollop of whipped cream.

"Toppings for Maple Syrup Sundaes"

Since I ate my first MMS I’ve played around with the idea and added chopped nuts and wheat germ to my offerings plus I’ve expanded from raisins to a variety of mixed dried fruits (I especially like dried tart cherries and slivers of apricots). The kids root around in the fridge to see if there are any maraschino cherries left over from my food styling jobs so their morning sundaes can look like the ones they get at the local ice cream parlor. I’ve also brought a crock pot full of cooked oatmeal* into winter-cold morning meetings along with a basket full of plastic containers filled with different toppings so people can make their own sundaes. Everyone is always thrilled to have an alternative to bagels and donuts. It doesn’t really matter how you dress it up maple syrup sundaes are a great way to start any day.

"Oatmeal Sundae"

Maple Syrup Sundaes

Cooled Oatmeal

Pure Maple Syrup

Dried Fruit (raisins, currants, apricots, blueberries, cherries, craisins, etc.)

Chopped of Slivered Nuts

Toasted Wheat Germ

Whipped Cream

Maraschino Cherries

Ladle some oatmeal into a bowl and top with your favorite toppings. Enjoy.

"Irish steel cut oatmeal

*I put steel cut Irish oatmeal into a crock pot the night before to cook on low. Pack up all the fruit, nuts, maple syrup and other toppings along with some spoons and bowls and the next morning you simply need to unplug the crock pot, load it all into the car, and go.


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Exam Pancakes

"textbooks"It is officially summer now. My kids attended the graduation ceremony at the Academy of Charlemont on Saturday so for our family it’s summertime! Graduation was the fun part–a party and celebration, saying goodbye to their text books and teachers for nearly three months while making plans with friends for get-togethers over the summer. In order to get to the celebratory part though they had to  make it through exam week.

I am so glad I’m not in school, not because of the things I don’t learn by not being in a classroom, but because not being in school means I don’t have to take exams. They’re a brutal yet necessary way for teachers to measure what you’ve learned. I helped both kids where I could with the studying part, which mostly centered around French vocab (I would say the word in english and they would tell me the French version). They were on their own for their other subjects because really what do I remember about chemistry, geometry or world history? My other contribution to their (hopeful) successes was to make them a hearty breakfast at the start of each exam day.

Isabelle already eats an amazing breakfast each morning having taken to heart the old adage, “It’s the most important meal of the day.” So it was three more days of omelets stuffed with veggies served with a piece of dry whole wheat toast for her. Russell was a little more challenging. Sometimes he’ll have what I would call a proper breakfast (some protein, fruit, and a bit of whole wheat something), while other days I’m lucky to get him to eat a single piece of toast with jam. So for exam week I made an old favorite family recipe which the kids have been eating since they were toddlers–Silver Dollar Pancakes.

"cottage cheese pancakes with bananas"

Silver Dollar pancakes with bananas

The genus of this recipe is from my friends in the Nicoll clan. A pamphlet that came with my potato masher included a recipe for “Dad’s Sunday Morning Pancakes”. This recipe was adapted from an old issue of Gourmet which every member of that family subscribed to until the magazine’s untimely demise. I’ve seen variations of this same recipe in the Fannie Farmer Baking Book.

"cottage cheese pancakes with strawberries"

Silver Dollar pancakes with strawberries

What I love about these particular pancakes is that they don’t make you feel like you’ve eaten an expanding brick after you push away from the table, which is my main complaint when I eat other pancakes (which also explains why I’m more of a waffle person than a pancake person, but more on that later). These pancakes are light and delicious with either maple syrup or fruit preserves and a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Fresh fruit works well with them too, more as a topping put on before serving as opposed to an ingredient cooked into the pancakes while they’re in the pan. These pancakes get an A+ at exam time is because they’re not only full of protein, calcium and fiber, but they’re so good nobody knows it.

Silver Dollar Pancakes (or Exam Pancakes)

1 cup cottage cheese (I use the no salt version)

4 large eggs

1/2 cup flour (I use either all whole wheat or 1/2 ww and 1/2 white flour)

2-3 Tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

pinch salt

I melt the butter in the pan or griddle I’ll be cooking the pancakes in so that I accomplish three tasks in one–melting the butter plus preheating and greasing the cooking vesicle. Then it’s just a matter of combining the ingredients. You can use a potato masher to squish everything together or throw it all in a food processor (I have a mini one which does an excellent job) and zap it till mostly smooth. The trick to getting really picky eaters not to ask, “Eeww, what is this?” is to make the cottage cheese curds so small they are rendered invisible to the naked eye. Once you’ve got your batter mixed simply spoon silver dollar size dollops onto the heated pan or griddle and cook on medium low heat until the pancake looks slightly dry at the edges. Note–these aren’t like traditional pancakes that have a lot of bubbles on the uncooked side prior to flipping, sometimes they have a few and sometimes then have none. Flip and cook for another few minutes until golden.

"cooking pancakes"

To serve top with maple syrup and cut up fruit or a few spoonfuls of fruit preserves and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

"cottage cheese pancakes with jam"

Silver Dollar pancakes with jam and powdered sugar

My friend Jim has assured me that it’s ok to lick your plate when you’ve eaten all your pancakes yet a small puddle of maple syrup remains. While I don’t normally think of Jim as my go-to guy when I have food related etiquette questions, I have to say I agree with him in this particular instance due to the astronomical price of real maple syrup. The exception of course is when my parents come for breakfast. Then I try to make enough pancakes to sop up all the syrup on everyone’s plate.

"no more pancakes"

No more pancakes...


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