Category Archives: Breakfast

Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffins

When I worked in Chelsea Market in New York City, I would stop by Amy’s Bread at least twice a week for a muffin and coffee snack. As I’ve already established, muffins are one of my favorite foods to eat and to bake, so I was thrilled when my sister gave me the cookbook The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread. Now I can have a bite of Amy’s from my Boston apartment.

Zoe is still my little muffin monster. I usually have a stash of muffins in my freezer but yesterday I ran completely out. At some point she had a full on tantrum, crying “muffin, muffin, muffin” as though I was holding out on her. So today I wasted no time getting these in the oven.

These take a whole cup of butter! Yes, that’s two whole sticks. I was horrified at first, but when my apartment started to fill with the aroma of butter baking, I got over it. Butter is good. Roll with it. These are dense, rich muffins, no extra butter or jam required when you serve them.

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Grandma Lois’ Kolaches

They say that the sense of smell is the one most closely linked to memory, and I know it’s true whenever I catch a whiff of yeast blooming, raising or baking. I’m instantly whisked away to Saturday mornings at my Grandma Lois’ house 30 years ago, sitting in her comforting oven-warmed kitchen and devouring my favorite treat, freshly baked kolaches.

Kolaches are a Czech pastry, but Grandma Lois wasn’t Czech; she was half-Swedish and half-Irish. But having grown up cooking for the farm crew on her family’s farm, she could cook or bake anything with ease. She was the perfect person to preserve and pass along my Great Grandma Vala’s secret kolache recipe from “the old country.” Continue reading

Grandpa Chuck’s Swedish Pancakes

Swedish pancakes
My connection to Swedish pancakes is a little confusing, since it’s my paternal grandma (Grandma Lois) who was Swedish. I remember her making Swedish pancakes for me when I was young, telling me about how lingonberries were grown under the “midnight sun” and offering me black coffee (how can something that smells so good taste so bad to a little girl?).

But, it’s actually my maternal grandpa (Grandpa Chuck) whose specialty has always been making pancakes. My family still has a wonderful little tradition of going to his house for either classic buttermilk or Swedish pancakes. When I swoop into town I usually call him to put in my request, telling him how many of us (parents, sisters, brother-in-law, husband?) are coming. He has the batter mixed and the table set when we arrive. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Muffins at Midnight

sweet potato muffins

“No no, Zoe, let mommy take a picture!”

Sweet potatoes are Zoe’s favorite vegetable these days. And since being a toddler evidently means learning to spit out peas and broccoli, I’m so grateful she’s still stuffing handfuls of baked sweet potatoes into her mouth with enthusiasm. I’ve mixed mashed sweet potatoes with quinoa, rice, yogurt and even lamb stew! She eats it all (knock on wood).

As I mentioned before, I love making baby (and now toddler) foods. But it’s a three-step process: 1) Buy the ingredients, 2) Cook the food, and 3) Freeze the food within 2-3 days. As the steps progress, I get more and more challenged. So, last night (or this morning) at midnight I realized I still needed to freeze a large bowl of baked sweet potatoes I had in the fridge. On my way to bed I stopped to diligently portion out the chunky potatoes into my cute freezer trays, only… they didn’t all fit. So, what to do with leftover baked sweet potatoes?

Bake muffins, of course! I adore muffins — they’re simple, easy, quick and cake-like without being cake. In baked goods, sweet potatoes are basically just sweet pumpkin, so I looked up “pumpkin muffin” recipes and chose one that looked easy and foolproof (it was midnight after all). I was delighted to find an old Gourmet magazine (Nov 2006) recipe written about on one of my favorite all-time blogs, Smitten Kitchen. (Aww, Gourmet… I could find that same magazine issue right now if I had to, lovingly tucked into one of my bookshelves). Continue reading

Blueberry Crumb Cake

crumb cake
Have I mentioned how much I love simple, no-fuss cakes like this? I’ve had my eye on this Ina Garten Blueberry Crumb Cake recipe for years, and I finally got around to baking it for some friends. It’s simple yet elegant, equally as appropriate as a breakfast treat or as a dessert for a little get-together.

I was really surprised by the amount of crumb topping that gets piled onto this cake – it’s a legitimate, Jersey/New York-style crumb cake! With this crunchy, sweet crown, there’s no need for any embellishments after it’s baked. Just slice and serve. So easy. Continue reading

The Banana Bread Recipe That Almost Got Away

banana bread

If anyone should know that online recipes are fickle, fleeting and changing, it should be me. As a former online editor for several food websites, I know URLs are not permanent and access to favorite recipes is not guaranteed to last forever. So, that being said, I don’t know why I was so shocked when I did my normal google search for “my” banana bread recipe (actually an Emeril Lagasse recipe), the one I’ve been making for years, and it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Did I copy and paste it somewhere, did I save a file of it, did I print it out? No. All I had to go on was my habitual google search and a URL I dug up that led to a 404 error page.

banana bread

But, it turns out I remembered a few of the key ingredients: vegetable oil, brown sugar and sour cream. (All combine to give this banana bread the moist richness that I fell in love with the first time I made it.) Searching through all the “Emeril” banana bread recipes out there, I thankfully found my match.

So here it is! I’m posting it here for me as much as for you — I’m not going to let this one get away again.

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Oatmeal-Walnut Waffles (With Chocolate Chips for my Sweetie)

oatmeal waffles

I’m happy to report that I’ve survived another pumpkin season, working at my family’s business Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna, Nebraska! One of the most fun things we did at the pumpkin patch this year was to host a pancake breakfast every Saturday in October. My sisters and I had to report to the farm bakery at 7am sharp, prep pancake batter, bacon and coffee for around 100 people and hope we could keep up with the flipping and serving. This event was a labor of love really – it was our Grandpa Ernie’s idea, back in the day, and we’re using our Grandpa Chuck’s from-scratch Buttermilk Pancake recipe, and well… our family just loves good pancakes, and we had fun sharing this passion with early-bird farm guests.

pancake breakfast

So naturally, my first Saturday morning back in Boston, reunited with my sweetie pie, I decided to switch up my delicious routine a bit (but not too much) and make waffles. I really like oatmeal waffles and pancakes because you get the extra texture and heartiness from the oats. I also added walnuts and a handful of mini chocolate chips to the batter (Geoff always requests chocolate chips in his pancakes). And mmm-mmm, these were just what we needed to kick the weekend off right. I may not have to whip up pancakes for 100 anymore (until next year!) but I’m happy to keep the Saturday morning pancake/waffle tradition going at the Fong house. Continue reading

Happy Doughnut Day: Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

Finally, a blog post about doughnuts! First of all, happy National Doughnut Day. You wouldn’t know it to look through my past blog entries (although the title of this blog gives it away), but doughnuts are my absolute favorite indulgence. And, as it happens, it has been quite a wonderful doughnut year for me.
Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

Along with a couple other very important roles I fill at my parents’ business, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, I am also the Chief Donut Maker (CDM?). Last September and October I woke up before dawn most mornings, trudged down to the farm and warmed up by the doughnut fryer, peeling off layers of clothing as the hot oil warmed up the barn where I worked. By 9am, when the pick-your-own farm opens up for eager families and children, I had delivered hot donuts to (ahhem) Kirsten’s Coffee House. Did I mention I also love coffee?

Apple Cider Doughnuts at Vala's Pumpkin Patch

Apple Cider Doughnuts at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

So naturally, during the off-season, my job is to scout out, search out and try out the best doughnuts around, all in the name of research. It’s a dream job, even if it is tough on the waistline.

When I got the chance to travel to Seattle in February, I was thrilled to visit the famous Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts. Small doughnut shops are the best, but this one hit it big time when their popularity in coffee-obsessed Seattle grew and grew. Now they’re super successful and, amazingly, they make doughnuts for Starbucks stores everywhere.
At Top Pot Doughnuts

And their store did not disappoint – Top Pot Doughnuts is a doughnut lover’s paradise. I was overwhelmed, ate far too many doughnuts, drank a ton of excellent coffee and was completely happy the rest of the day.
Top Pot Doughnut Case

I use their coookbook, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker as my doughnut-making bible. If you have a chance, check out this little essay about the making of the cookbook (how freelance writer Jess Thomson tested 50 doughnut recipes in 5 weeks!) – Tales from the Doughnut Queen.

Making Doughnuts

Make sure to sample a piece of doughnut after your first batch, to make sure it’s cooked just right.

Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

My favorite type of doughnut is the classic, simple old-fashioned cake doughnut. This one adapted from Top Pot, is made with sour cream, for extra flavor and moistness. It’s also fried at a lower temperature than most doughnuts, which causes the characteristic cracks and crevices. Give it a try for national doughnut day!

Old-Fashioned Doughnuts
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On the Road: Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars Recipe
I’ve watched enough food documentaries to be anti fast food. But in the midst of hectic travel days, with my tummy rumbling, airport fast food places always suck me in with the promise of a quick food fix. It’s sad really. So, inspired by a few recent blog posts (which I pinned for future reference), I decided to bake a batch of nutritious, homemade granola bars for traveling.
Homemade Granola Bar Recipe Continue reading

Whole Wheat Pancake Recipe for Two

Whole Wheat Pancakes
My Mom doesn’t really enjoy cooking, but she always makes pancakes. Maybe that’s why all the sights and smells of pancakes cooking – an electric griddle sizzling with oil as it pre-heats, scoops of delicate globby batter (don’t overmix!), the pancakes lightly frying as batter touches griddle – they all envelop me in a comforting blanket of childhood, with memories of loving, sweet mornings with family.
Whole Wheat Pancakes
Whole Wheat Pancakes
But even if I’d like to pretend that pancakes made with love and caring and lots of heart have to be calorie-free, I crave them way too often to turn a blind eye towards nutrition. For my little family, just G and me, I make a small batch of Whole Wheat Pancakes that really hits the spot. The whole grains give the pancakes a hearty, wholesome texture and flavor. And to cut down on sugar I serve them with yogurt and preserves (usually lingonberry preserves, if I have them), along with pure maple syrup.
Whole Wheat Pancakes Continue reading