BACK-TO-SCHOOL BREAKFASTS

August 13, 2013

Hi friends!  It’s that time of year…the time when families wade through store aisles, armed with school supply lists, parents somewhat dazed, kids miffed at their parents lack of understanding about how you can’t just buy ANY folders or pens or locker decorations, because if you don’t get the right ones, your year might be over before it even begins.  For serious.

Marion Cunningham's Boston Brown Bread Muffins | Blue Jean Gourmet

I still love school supplies because I am a big giant nerd, and that’s why it’s convenient that I became a teacher.  I still get excited about organizing my desk and planner, still pick out a new outfit for the first day of school (and invariably have trouble falling asleep the night before).  I still love thinking about what I do and how I can do it better, still get excited about visiting with former students (they grow so much over the summer!) and meeting the new ones who show up in my classroom, nervous and excited and not totally sure how to be eighth graders yet.

This will be my seventh (!) year of full-time teaching, which means that the very first crop of students, whom I had when they were in sixth grade (and whom I taught again when they were in eighth), are now seniors.  It’s hard to describe how proud of and attached to them I feel, and how excited I am to watch and be with them as they start their last year of high school.

I have had a wonderful summer full of time with my little guy; I’m going to miss him big time, but I know how lucky I am to be someone who gets to go to a job I love and come home to this sweet face every day.

Shiv Carroll Mehra-August 2013

A few notes before the recipes:

1)    The photos you see here were taken by the fabulous Sonya Cuellar, friend, artist, and former lead photographer for this blog.  She agreed to do a “guest shoot” last weekend, so you can look forward to a few more upcoming posts with her gorgeous photography!  If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out her beautiful abstract paintings.

2)    I’ve been nominated for a 2013 Houston Culinary Award for Best Food Blog!  Fancy, I know.  Should you be up to a little voting, you can do so here.

3)    If you’re in the Houston area, I’m doing a book reading/signing this coming Monday, August 19 at the fabulous midtown bar Mongoose Versus Cobra at 7 p.m.—please come have a drink & say hi!

These recipes are two I’ve discovered over the summer that I’m planning to use to help me get a tasty, healthy breakfast in on busy mornings.  If you have other killer make-ahead breakfast recipes, please share—always on the lookout!

BOSTON BROWN BREAD MUFFINS
slightly adapted from the amazing Marion Cunningham

I know they don’t sound or look like they’re going to be that good, but trust me—they are worth making.  You get the faintest hint of sweetness and added texture from the pecans, plus that distinctive flavor of the rye flour—but not an overpowering amount!, and the crunch from the cornmeal…it winds up being fairly magical.

These keep really well on room temperature in an airtight container, though I suggest you warm them up before serving, maybe with some butter, butter + jam, peanut/almond butter, or cream cheese.

N.B.: the original recipe calls for raisins, not pecans, but raisins are one of the few things in this life that I unequivocally hate.  I did make a few batches with fresh/frozen berries, and those were excellent, if you’re looking to add fruit here, but are also a raisin-hater like me.

rye flour, barley flour, & cornmeal | Blue Jean Gourmet

ingredients:

½ cup rye flour
½ cup cornmeal (I particularly love using coarse-ground here)
½ cup barley flour (I’ve also used whole-wheat spelt here with success)
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/3  cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I’ve cut this down to ¼ before as well)
¾ cup chopped pecans

oven: 400°

Butter or line a standard-sized muffin pan.  Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, cornmeal, soda, & salt) together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients (egg, buttermilk, oil, molasses, & sugar) until well-combined.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until fully incorporated.  Fold in pecans.

Fill the muffin tins three-quarters of the way full and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the muffins are a deep brown and a toothpick (or actual cake tester, if you are one of those people who manages to hold onto one) comes out clean.  Serve hot or warm.  Try not to eat them all.

ENERGY BARS
recipe adapted from The Kitchn

You’re skeptical, I know; I was, too.  But as virtuous as these little bars are, they don’t taste overly virtuous—even the baby likes them!  They have a nice, chewy texture (not rock-hard or gummy, like so many store-bought energy bars) and they actually have flavor!  Plus, I know exactly what’s in them, because I made them, and there’s nothing chemically weird/unpronounceable here.

Also, these bars earn serious bonus points for convenience: easy to make, have kept well in the fridge, and are great on those mornings when time gets away from me and I really need to eat something on the drive to work or I’m going to be grumpy later.  Right?  If I have time to eat at home, I add a bowl of yogurt and a cup of tea and that will get me through the first part of the morning; I’ve also been wrapping one up and tossing it into my bag for much-needed afternoon sustenance.

Last points of the sales pitch: I bought a lot of the ingredients in bulk, so the whole batch worked out to be cheaper than the same number of store-bought versions of would have been!  These are also vegan and can be easily made gluten-free, so they work for almost everyone.  Feel free to adapt the ingredients to suit your preferences.

homemade energy bars | Blue Jean Gourmet

ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if you’d like)
1 cup dried fruit of your choice (I used cranberries & wild blueberries)
¾ cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
¼ cup dried, unsweetened coconut (I used flakes, but shredded would work)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup ground chia seeds
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup coconut oil
3 T smooth peanut butter
3 T agave nectar, honey, or brown rice syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

oven: 325°
pan: 8” square pan lined with parchment (don’t skip the parchment!)

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (oats, fruit, nuts, coconut, seeds, & spices).

Over low heat, combine the coconut oil, peanut butter, & whichever sweetener you’re using—stir until melted.  Remove from heat, then add the applesauce & vanilla, whisking to combine.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until well-combined.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press down firmly with your hands to even out the surface—you can also use the back of a smooth measuring cup or water glass.

Bake until golden brown around the edge, ~45 minutes.  Cool the bars completely in the pan (they’ll fall apart if you don’t).  Lift the bars out, using the parchment, and cut into squares with a serrated knife.

Store the energy bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator (mine have kept for over a week).  To take one with you, wrap well in wax paper or plastic wrap.

homemade energy bar - vegan, gluten free | Blue Jean Gourmet

3 Comments »

  1. Voted!
    Will try the bars.
    Have a great school year. I love your enthusiasm.

    Comment by Sally — August 15, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  2. I’m having a baking morning and have come here for inspiration! Nishta – I am so shocked that you are a raisin hater!! Pecans are really expensive in Asia so we will stick with the original raisins 🙂

    Comment by Emma — September 29, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

  3. @Emma–I know, I know! I think what happened is that OD’d on raisins when I was a little girl (I used to carry those little Sunmaid Raisin boxes in my pocket) and I filled my quota for life 🙂 But you should absolutely feel free to use them. xo

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — October 6, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

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