Hash It Out

Egg+Hash2Brunch is awesome. I would eat breakfast at every meal if I could. I credit eggs being such a versatile and easy protein. I also love cooking breakfast for people I care about. So when one of my favorite humans made a trip to New York – my best friend Megan – we scoured Pinterest for some culinary inspiration. What we found was not only simple, but super tasty: Bacon & Mushroom Hash with a Fried Egg.

PurplePotatoesBrooklyn has some fantastic open-air markets – where everything in season is Insta-worthy, plentiful and downright delicious. My favorite produce stand had these dark purple potatoes and violet scallions, so we grabbed a handful of each. I spoke a bit about anthocyanins in my last post – so clearly I’m on a theme with ruby-tinged produce. In the event you can’t find these ingredients, or you are enjoying a lazy day indoors, you can use just about any vegetable in a hash: sweet potatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, kale. Go wild!

SmokedBaconThere was one stand I had never visited (until now) called Raven & Boar. They were sampling one of the most delicious bacon jams. We were hooked, so we bought a full pound and a half of their bacon…naturally. A good two-thirds of it is currently sitting in my freezer as our eyes were clearly bigger than our stomachs. We used this smoked variety that reaalllly put the dish over the top. Thicker bacon is key since you will be chopping it into the hash, but any variety will do. We also decided to cook the eggs over easy, because I could not resist the photo op that you saw at the opening of this post. We also drowned our plates in Frank’s hot sauce – highly recommended, if you’re a spicy fan. Click HERE to see the recipe for this hearty breakfast.

Egg+Hash1For the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on new beginnings. Starting a new chapter can be scary (really scary) and yet the future holds nothing but adventure for those brave enough to try something completely different. Megan’s trip to New York was to mark such an occasion. Opening yourself to new experiences can be breathtaking, but remembering who you are – and where you come from – is what gives you the strength and excitement to start anew. This is why I chose one of the first pieces I had ever prepared for an audition: Francis Poulenc’s Sonate pour flûte et pianowritten in 1957.

Poulenc was a French composer who studied with the renowned Erik Satie. His success, fueled by his talent and Satie’s musical connections, led to his inclusion in the acclaimed Les Six: a group of 6 young composers – all French – whose music openly countered the traditional styles of the time; most notably Wagner and Debussy. Speaking of new beginnings, this Sonata was the first Poulenc ever wrote for the flute – much to the delight of colleague and flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who would perform the première (with Poulenc on piano). Like the dish, the piece is simple yet rich. The music traverses a spectrum of expressive colors: from a verdant allegretto to a lavender cantilena and finally closing with a red-hot presto. The following recording features my favorite flutist – Emmanuel Pahud. Enjoy!

“Flute Sonata (Poulenc),” Wikipedia.com
“Francis Poulenc,” Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine, Part VI

AvocadoAvocado – the unofficial mascot of millennial culture. It’s a pretty awesome food, with a versatility that makes it the kind of friend you always want to have around. From pasta sauces to creamy desserts to savory appetizers, this fruit has it all. So when thinking of how to feature avocado, I turned to my all-time favorite meal: breakfast. This is part six of my mini series “Rise and Shine”. So far the series has featured my adventures with brunch, and I thought it high time I chronicled the dishes that I enjoy every morning before work: Rich Fruit Smoothie and (the Instagram-famous) Avocado Toast.

AvoToastLet’s start with the toast – this is a dish that has taken the internet by storm. It’s simple, delicious and never gets old. As a spread, it’s also a healthy substitute where butter or jam are the traditional go-to’s. What’s perhaps more interesting is the many ways people interpret the increasing popularity of the dish: from it’s alleged necessity as an everyday staple in the “bourgeoisie’s diet” to being a symptom of our continued “fetishization of food.” I’m a millennial, so I’m not helping to disperse any of these myths…but it’s a great and filling breakfast. I for one think making it at home is a fantastic option, versus paying $30 at a Brooklyn brunch enclave for a few slices. Click HERE to see the recipe for this internet celebrity. 

Shake_3Smoothies are a great way to start the day – you can pack in a ton of nutrients, and mix it up based on what’s in season (or on sale). When I reflect on the ingredients that are must-have’s, I’d say they are a banana, some yogurt, nuts, and of course avocado. The yogurt and nuts are the protein: which make this a really filling meal, and give you the energy to kick off your day. I always use bananas since they are delicious, but the avocado is what gives the smoothie a thick and creamy consistency. You can even add a little honey, but I find the fruits to add enough sweetness.

There is a bit of an art to packing a blender – the trick is to go from the softest ingredients to the toughest. As the above photo shows, I placed the avocado and the bananas at the bottom of the jar, followed by the kiwis, berries, almonds, and finally the ice; pouring in the milk at the very end. Organizing the jar this way facilitates the blending process, and creates a super smooth and creamy result. That being said, if you have one of those crazy-cool blenders that can crush concrete…then feel free to just dump everything in. If the mixture is too thick, just add a splash of milk and pulse until combined. I make these almost every morning, and can guarantee it becomes second nature. Click HERE to see the recipe for this healthy morning treat. 

Shake_4The promise of these dishes is enough to inspire even the sleepiest to rouse on a weekday. So in considering a piece that worked well with these dishes, I came across Gustav Mahler’s “Frühlingsmorgen” (Spring Morning) from his collection of Lieder und Gesänge. Mahler was known to devote his mornings to composing: pouring himself into his scores and harmonic textures, then indulging himself in the afternoon with mountainous vistas and lakeside excursions. This makes the “Frühlingsmorgen” all the more apt – both of the dishes in this blog post are colorful, flavor-forward and bright: reminiscent of spring, if you will. This particular song falls within Volume 1 of the collection: written between 1880 and 1881. The song is labeled “Gemächlich, leicht bewegt”, which roughly translates to “with leisurely movement”. The following video features the German lyric baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the musical icon Leonard Bernstein on piano (though there are plenty of fantastic recordings with sopranos on YouTube as well). Enjoy!!

Sources Cited:
Oyler, L. “My Fruitful Search for the Origins of Avocado Toast,” Broadly. Sep 13. 2016.
Goldfield, H. “The Trend is Toast,” The New Yorker. May 2, 2014.
“Lieder und Gesänge (Mahler)”, Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part V

Quinoa_Pancakes2My blogging enterprise has been woefully absent…so let me try to explain: I moved to Manhattan in July to start a master’s program in business at NYU. It has been an amazing (albeit intense) journey, and the pace has redefined what I once considered “productive”. In the thick of this academic hurricane, I had to hit the pause button on a few beloved distractions…and my blog was an unfortunate casualty. This isn’t to suggest that I’ve tossed my favorite pastime of cooking altogether – trust me, I would be rendered insane if the refuge of a great homemade meal were taken away from me. After seeing countless ads on the MTA for culinary resolutions and eating more indulgent food than I care to admit, I felt the New Year was the perfect time to revive Classical Kitchen. Though this blog will always call Boston home, I plan to take advantage of every opportunity this city has to offer…with the understanding that tiny apartments sabotage most lighting opportunities for photography. So I’ll stop rambling; instead, let’s get cooking and talk about these Quinoa Pancakes with Honey and Strawberries.
Quinoa1My boyfriend Tom and I happened upon this recipe in early 2015 – we had a lot of leftover quinoa (I thought the measured amount would make half of what it did…long story) and wanted a unique recipe that called for pre-cooked quinoa. Quinoa is pretty great, in my book. Here’s a fun fact – thanks to the explosion of ancient grains and gluten free options, The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organizatiom (FAO) claimed that 2013 was the “International Year of the Quinoa.” The grain has been a staple of the Andean diet since as early 1200 AD. It is both an adaptable and durable grain, making it an ideal mainstay for centuries. As far as production goes, Peru is the world’s largest producer, reporting a harvest of over 250 billion pounds in 2014.
Berries_HoneyToppings are what make pancakes one of America’s favorite breakfast foods. Tom and I like honey, since it’s useful in much of what we eat and drink. I bought a local honey for this (the pretty jar was the hook) and fresh strawberries. While these were our toppings, you can try out a variety of things – blueberries and yogurt, pecans and agave, bananas and nutella, or even a savory spin with avocados and sour cream. The pancakes themselves have no sugar, making them the perfect palate for any creative garnish.
Quinoa_Pancakes1These pancakes are, admittedly, very different from the buttermilk variety at your local diner. Not only are they full of protein and fiber, but the texture and size share a closer affinity with patties than with their namesake. The trick to getting these pancakes “perfect” is to ensure that the mixture has enough moisture to bind everything together, while also keeping the cakes small enough (while cooking) so they maintain their shape. The recipe will explain this more thoroughly, but be prepared to have one or two crumble mid-flip (but trust me, they will still be tasty!) Click HERE to see the recipe for this unique spin on a breakfast icon.  
Quinoa_Pancakes3While considering a musical pairing for this recipe, I knew an homage to New York was in order – which led me to one of my favorite American composers, Charles Ives, and his orchestral work Central Park in the Dark. Written in 1906, this turn-of-the-century piece beautifully illustrates a rare perspective of New York: a walk through Central Park at night. Ives himself wrote about the piece:

“This piece purports to be a picture-in-sounds of the sounds of nature and of happenings that men would hear some thirty or so years ago (before the combustion engine and radio monopolized the earth and air), when sitting on a bench in Central Park on a hot summer night.”

The strings represent the night, their ethereal darkness constant and gliding amidst the walk of our protagonist. The clarinet ushers in a scene of evening revelry, followed by the winds, brass and eventually full orchestra, as our protagonist passes a late-night casino. The moment is a passing one, as the omnipresent darkness returns and our protagonist tugs his cloak tighter about his shoulders as he continues home. Despite this work being written over a century ago, one can easily imagine its setting in present day: with similar vignettes of quiet and chaos enveloping our daily walks within this massive, beautiful city. I’ve learned a lot since moving to New York, but perhaps the most pressing lesson has been that this city is not lush with work insanity or impersonality – it is a living, breathing thing filled with opportunity and amazing people who want to make a difference. I’m beyond excited to now be a part of that story. Check out Ives’ work in the video below:

Sources Cited:
“Quinoa.” The World’s Healthiest Foods
“Quinoa.” Wikipedia.com
“Central Park in the Dark.” Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part IV

Banana Pancakes 1I’ve always been a morning person, which explains my love affair with breakfast. The alarm clock is my “hallelujah” chorus as I dash into the kitchen and welcome the day with a bowl of delicious food. I love breakfast so much that I would eat it for every meal. It is (as they say) they “most important meal” since it fuels your entire day. Tom and I have started a mini tradition of cooking unique breakfasts for one another, featured as the “Rise and Shine” series on this blog. A few weeks ago, we were huddled in his apartment during a rainstorm and I had a serious craving for pancakes…and not just any pancakes: banana pancakes. So we braved the crappy weather, grabbed ingredients from a local market, and went to work on these Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes with Honey.
Banana PancakesPancakes are so beloved and simple that their equivalent can be found in practically any culture: injera in Ethiopia, blintzes in Russia, bánh xèo in Vietnam, crêpes in France…at its simplest, a pancake is a flat, round cake cooked on a griddle or frying pan. It is typically made from a starch-based batter that is either leavened or unleavened. Pancakes as we know them are typically leavened (using baking soda and/or powder), but most cultures prefer unleavened. In an effort to make our pancakes “healthy”, we used whole wheat flour and all-organic ingredients.
honeyThese pancakes have a perfect balance of sweetness and texture. They’re moist and fluffy, thanks to the addition of puréed bananas, but not as dense as banana bread. The only other sweetening agent is one tablespoon of honey. I love honey, and will often use it in lieu of maple syrup by drizzling it over pancakes or French toast. These banana pancakes were a hit, and both Tom and I had to go for seconds. They will definitely become a go-to treat for rainy days. Click HERE to add this dish to your morning routine!
Banana Pancakes 2Pancakes are a playful dish, and can brighten practically any day (especially the rainy ones). This inspired my musical pairing of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4. An impromptu is defined as something that is “done without being planned, organized, or rehearsed.” This piece isn’t necessarily spontaneous, but the playful energy and sudden shifts are perhaps more in line with the “unplanned” feeling. It’s overall merriment is very much akin to a childish energy, which can certainly be compared to an impromptu (and pancakes!). The piece opens with a series of cascading progressions, followed by gentle and grounded chords – the juxtaposition of playful with calm sets the opening tone of joyfulness. The middle section suddenly descends into a place of deep brooding and apprehension, as the music unfolds in a minor setting. Both the melody and harmony are immersed into a restless dialogue of self doubt – the pall is suddenly lifted as the opening material resumes and brightens the mood. The pieces end as it began, with a joyful air and light heart. The below recording is with pianist Krystian Zimerman – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Pancake,” Wikipedia.com
“Impromptus (Schubert),” Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part III

Sweet Potato Hash 4Labor Day Weekend (for me) is often equated with being in the outdoors, shopping sales, splurging on movies, and eating a great brunch. We scored on all fronts, particularly in the brunch category…though the movie splurge was a close second: Guardians of the Galaxy, Predator, and The Princess Bride (EPIC). Anyways, the brunch we made was fantastic – we often go for scrambled eggs with kale, but wanted something extra special for the holiday weekend. The result was a Spicy Chorizo & Sweet Potato Hash with Avocado that was unbelievably unhealthy delicious!
Sweet Potato Hash 1Labor Day was a holiday established in the late 19th century, having been championed by the Central Labor Union of New York and fought for by the countless supporters of the labor movement. It takes place annually on the first Monday of September, paying homage to “the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” While the celebration itself has become less grandiose and parade-driven in recent years, it still serves as a reminder of the many accomplishments and victories of the American working force…and no one loves brunch more than a 9-to-5’er on Labor Day!
Sweet Potato Hash 5Of course, most restaurants don’t serve lunch on Mondays (assuming that everyone will be at cookouts or drinking) so we took brunch into our hands. And my what a success it was. This is Tom’s genius, taking some of my favorites (sweet potatoes and kale) combined with some of his (chorizo and eggs) to create a dish so potent that each bite elicited a groan of indulgence.One of the secrets to the flavor’s depth was thanks to my newest cooking tool, which is basically a ceramic “grater” within a small plate – the tool allows you to break down aromatics while capturing the oils and juices. It’s pretty and awesome (and was an impulse buy thanks to Labor Day sales).
Sweet Potato Hash 3Much to Tom’s chagrin, we used chorizo-flavored chicken sausage in lieu of actual chorizo – some may harken the substitute as a sacrilege, but the result was surprisingly full of flavor. The flavors all married beautifully, with the sweet potatoes adding a touch a sweetness and the kale adding fullness. We could have stuck with the healthier end of things…but then Tom stirred in some crumbled blue cheese OH MY GOD I LOVE CHEESE. The result was creamy and fantastic, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Topped off with some hot sauce and parsley, this was all-in-one win for a Labor Day brunch. Click HERE to get the recipe!
Sweet Potato Hash 2My original intention had been to select a musical piece that pays homage to the labor movement…but you can only imagine the top search results for my query “classical music and unions” (heh…) Well I imagine there may exist such a piece (suggestions are Carl_Nielsenalways welcome!) I opted for an alternative approach and chose a piece that was composed in 1894 – the year Labor Day was officially established. The findings were impressive, with Massenet’s Thaïs and Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, to say the least. However, it was Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor that caught my attention. He is generally an underrated composer, and I thought it suitable to showcase him here for the first time. Premiered in March of 1894, the 4-movement symphony lasts just over half an hour. Though the title indicates a minor setting, the work actually begins and ends in the joyful key of C Major…which is more than appropriate within the celebratory context of this post. The symphony is quite unique, given the aforementioned progressive tonality and Nielsen’s early mastery of orchestral form. Composer and Nielsen scholar Robert Simpson says the piece is “probably the most highly organized first symphony ever written by a young man of twenty-seven” (you read that correctly – Nielsen was 27). The below recording is with the San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of Herbert Blomstedt – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“History of Labor Day,” United States Department of Labor 
“Symphony No. 1 (Nielsen),” Wikipedia.com
PHOTO of “Carl Nielsen” Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part II

Huevos Rancheros 1A tradition that has become a recent obsession of mine is Sunday brunch – I am a fairly routine person in most cases, but sleeping in and indulging in a hearty “late breakfast” is about the best thing you can ask for at the end of a long week. Going out for brunch is a great, but cooking your own is even better. There is no need to wait for seating or to flag down the waiter every time you want coffee (which is every 8-10 minutes with me), and you can take as much time as your little heart desires. Tom took the reigns with a recent brunch, and made these heavenly Huevos Rancheros.
Huevos Rancheros 4This dish started out as basic late-morning fare for farmhands and staff (hence “rancheros”) – because it’s seriously delicious, the dish grew in popularity and quickly became a national (and eventually international) favorite. Eggs (“huevos”) play a central role to the dish. Tom and I are pretty picky when it comes to buying eggs, and always opt for the “free-range” or “organic” varieties. Regardless of your preference, I’d recommend getting high-quality eggs for this. The other key elements are the toppings: you’ve got salsa, tomatoes, beans, jalapenos – tasty goodness that results in every mouthful bursting with flavor. Tom loves that it’s high on protein, and I love pretty much anything smothered in salsa and avocado (except for cookies…that might be strange).
Huevos Rancheros 5The process for making huevos rancheros is quite simple. You basically pan fry a variety of ingredients and make a quick avocado salsa…and voila! Breakfast crack – you can top it with cheese, cilantro, hot sauce, or even more cheese. Paired with a large mug of stovetop espresso and an episode Breaking Bad, this dish is the making of a beautiful brunch. If you’re a fan of Mexican food and not typically a morning person, consider this your new alarm clock: it is absolutely a reason to get out of bed, even on the coldest of days. Click HERE to see the recipe!
Huevos Rancheros 2Brunch is intended to be a deliberate indulgence (or marginally tipsy one if you go for the Bloody Mary/Mimosas). It’s the most casual meal you can have, and is often shared with someone you truly appreciate. Weekdays are made for being productive, active, and engaged – your weekend serves as a temporal “end” to the week’s craziness (unless you have to work on weekends…which is actually more common than you’d think in the non-profit realm). Regardless, brunch is your time to relax. When I was a little kid, my dad would always be playing recordings of classical or Spanish guitarists – music that’s often both beautiful and relaxing. Though this dish hails from Mexico, I was drawn to Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo for this post’s musical pairing. Perhaps his most famous work is Concierto de Aranjuez for classical guitar and orchestra.
AranjuezINT03Written in three movements, the music takes inspiration from the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Rodrigo himself said that every movement captures “the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains” of Aranjuez. The orchestra assumes a more temperate strength and gentle air in appreciating the guitar’s elegant voice. The second movement is perhaps the most well-known of the three, and speaks to the works more subtle beauty – jazz legend Miles Davis said about the Adagio: “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.” Other famous admirers of the piece include Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, clarinetist Jean-Christian Michel, jazz pianist Chick Corea, American figure skater Michelle Kwan, jazz bassist Buster Williams (to name a few). The below recording features guitarist John Williams (NOT the film guy, but I’m sure he gets that a lot) at the BBC Proms – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Huevos Rancheros,” Wikipedia.com
“Concierto de Aranjuez”, Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part I

French Toast 5The majority of the recipes on this blog have a dinner and/or dessert connotation – sadly, there is little to no representation of my favorite meal: breakfast. It is the only time of day that encourages both creative ingredients and caloric liberties. Breakfast can make or break your day, depending on how “scrambled” you feel once you walk out the door. As such, I’ve decided to introduce a new series on this blog called “Rise and Shine” – these posts will showcase morning favorites, and natural light is the BEST lighting for foodie photos…so this series is a total win-win. Last weekend I was in NYC for Valentine’s Day, and rather than risk the crowds/drama at local restaurants, Tom and I spent the weekend cooking at home. We ended up making some great meals, including this Whole Wheat French Toast with Bananas Foster.
French Toast 4French Toast is a breakfast icon, and thankfully it’s a cinch to make. The history of this dish is somewhat nebulous, though it finds an affinity with recipes dating all the way back to the 4th century (only the most delicious recipes stand the test of time). It was and still is a great solution for using up stale bread. You basically soak individual slices of day-old bread in an egg & cream mixture, then frying the bread until browned and cooked through. It creates the perfect canvas for any number of toppings, from maple syrup to fresh fruit. We sadly had grabbed a bad batch of raspberries (hate when that happens!) and had to ditch almost the entire crate. The weather outside was discouraging, but we needed a new plan…
French Toast 3Tom decided to brave the wintery slush to grab a few bananas from the corner store. He had some rum in the apartment, which led to my suggesting bananas foster…and Jamaican coffees, which were stellar. Bananas foster is fairly simple, and though I personally believe that the flambé makes all the difference it is optional: you can safely add the rum and allow it to cook down for a few minutes with a simmer alone (and avoid the concern of setting fire to your kitchen). Right towards the end, Tom suggested adding the few raspberries we had salvaged, and it gave the dish a nice Valentine’s Day touch 🙂 I drizzled some clover honey over the plated slices of toast and foster, and the result was…well, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Click HERE for a sweet recipe to start your day!
French Toast 1Have you ever eaten a meal with others in total silence? Granted…there are times when this implies an extremely tense situation (as I imagine celebrity family dinners in the wake of a PR scandal must be), but silence is more often than not an indication of a delicious meal. Once we started eating the French toast, very few words were exchanged. The ability to appreciate without disruption – whether it be food or music – allows you to more fully experience that which you are enjoying. There honestly should be no need for words. This led to my choosing Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): a collection of short solo piano pieces, written between 1829 and 1845. Much the way that the foodie photos above speak for themselves, Mendelssohn was adamant that these works needed no written clarification – he felt the musical messages were far clearer than any program notes could express. The following statement captures his thoughts exactly:

People often complain that music is too ambiguous, that what they should think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me, it is exactly the opposite, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.

While some might believe this is a matter-of-course statement for classical composers, his music fully supports the sentiment. The pieces in this collection aren’t overly complicated – in fact, many find them lacking in technical dexterity and difficult to interpret as a consequence. Their subtle melodies come across as spoken dialogue, with gentle harmonies that neither overpower the music nor overwhelm the listener. The music’s message is clear and quite literally needs no words. The below recording is the full collection with pianist Daniel Barenboim (this recording is over 2 hours in length…so feel free to listen in shifts). Enjoy!

Sources Cited: 
“French toast,” Wikipedia.com
“Songs without Words”, Wikipedia.com

Like Night and Day

I would like to dedicate this post to Drew Thompson – bassoonist, swing dancer, beer connoisseur, and devoted friend. We’ll always remember you (1986-2013)MaplePumpkinBread2 VERSUS

Pumpkin Bread with Bacon Jam 3When writing this post, I couldn’t help but picture a figurative angel and devil on either shoulder: the angel being an advocate for all-things healthy, and the devil espousing those dangerous temptations we’re taught to avoid (read “fatty goodness”). Here we have two quick breads: both were baked in my favorite Pyrex loaf pan, contain pumpkin, and finished cooking in just under an hour. The affinity ends there – while I pride myself on being a healthy and active individual, breaking the rules for a decadent treat can be such a release. My shoulder angel would approve of the Maple-Spice Pumpkin Bread with Pepita Crunch, but the Pumpkin-Beer Bread with BACON JAM is most certainly a devilish indulgence.
PumpkinSeedsLet’s start light (even though you’re all here for the bacon jam) – most pumpkin breads call for sugar or butter, bumping the health quotient down a notch or two. Olive oil and maple syrup are the featured ingredients in this recipe, yielding a bread with a moist crumb and a subtle sweetness. The pepita topping is adorable…and I just happen to have WAY TOO MANY PEPITAS right now, so this was perfect 🙂 In case you’re wondering, a pepita is the edible portion of a pumpkin seed (having been removed from the more recognizable ivory-colored hull). They are fun to snack on, but (if you’re like me) it’s way easier to buy pre-packaged trail mix for your midday nosh…I’ll throw a handful of these into those mix packs every now and then as well.
MaplePumpkinBread1Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger make for a potent spice mix – I guarantee that your kitchen is going to smell like heaven. The resulting loaf is both stunning and aromatic, invoking thoughts of New England Falls and warm nights by the fire. As the literary figure Anne of Green Gables once said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (So I quoted a character who shares my name…biased, but I LOVE October!) This bread is perfect on its own, but a touch of honey or even butter would be a beautiful finishing touch. Click HERE to add this recipe to your seasonal repertory!
Bacon Jam[CUE about-face, and change into stretchy pants] – so let’s talk bacon: arguably THE fat of  choice in our nation. According to a survey published earlier this year, 69% of American households buy bacon…making it the second highest red meat of the country’s overall purchases. It appears in everything from breakfast casseroles to ice creams, so no surprises there. There are those who would go so far as to say that bacon is the “olive oil” of North America. I don’t know if I fully agree, but this jam gave me a new perspective on its potential – it’s akin to flavored butter, and doe not have an overwhelming “bacon-y” taste. It’s a really simple process, and the jam will last for a month in the refrigerator…if you manage to not eat it all in one sitting. Click HERE to see the recipe for this sinfully delicious spread!
Pumpkin-Beer BreadWhile the jam is ridiculous, the bread is just as drool-worthy. It’s loaded with pumpkin, thanks to a healthy dose of pumpkin purée AND pumpkin ale. Like the former recipe, you’ll be adding a handful of the fall’s best spices (my hand is much smaller than others’…so make that an “Anne handful” of spices). There is some whole wheat flour in this recipe, but once you’ve melted the butter, poured in the ale, and spread on the bacon jam…well, let’s just say now is not the time to focus on the “nutritional” elements. Indulgence is the reward, and this combo will certainly meet your expectations – click HERE to see the recipe for this richly flavored fall bread!
Pumpkin Bread with Bacon Jam 2Quick breads can go one of two ways – a healthy alternative for breakfast, or a decadent treat for dessert. At the end of the day, they all have a shared seasonal aesthetic and ease of preparation. These were both pumpkin breads, but the results were as different as night and day. While many composers valued the concept of opposing forces, one who particularly stands out was Robert Robert_Schumann_1839Schumann. His music was often guided by the impressions and emotions of various personae. In fact, he even drew inspiration from his own “multiple” personalities, most famously depicted through the characters Florestan and Eusebius. On the one hand you have Florestan – the outgoing adventurist driven by impulsive desires – and on the other Eusebius – the careful wallflower whose interests are more scholarly than enterprising. These two personalities are prominently featured in Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the Tribe of David): a group of 18 pieces for solo piano. Each is inspired by one or both characters, alternating between impulsive fervor and melodic contemplation. It is a truly marvelous collection – the pieces are described as “dances”, but act more as a back-and-forth dialogue between these two antithetical voices of Schumann’s nature. The following recording features pianist András Schiff – enjoy!

Sources Cited
“Pepita” Wikipedia.com
“Davidsbündlertänze” Wikipedia.com
“The Life and Music of Robert Schumann,” NPR Music

Eagerly Welcoming the Day

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with winter squash. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, acorn, butternut – there are just SO many wonderful varieties to choose from! Fall and squash are synonymous in my book, and I love finding new ways to cook them. Wanting to bake a simple gesture for the office that everyone could enjoy (including my vegan friend Rosena!), I decided to make Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip  Muffins.
When buying the ingredients for last week’s Pumpkin Cake, I accidentally purchased a can of pumpkin pie mix rather than pure canned pumpkin. I was able to buy the pure variety in time for the cake, but was still stuck with the mix (I’d lost the receipt, and trying to convince the cashier at Whole Foods that pre-seasoned mixes are against my beliefs would be way too complicated). This muffin recipe, though, had just the right context for (hiding) the added flavors in the canned mix. I adjusted the sugars and spices accordingly to mask it.
Vegan baking may seem like an anomaly, but the results can be surprisingly similar to their non-vegan counterparts. The eggs in this recipe are replaced by ground flaxseed – when combined with water, flax acts as a binding agent. It also imparts a nutty taste to the final product, making it ideals for muffins and breads. These muffins had a wonderful texture, with a nice balance of flavors. So the next time waking up feels like an impossible task, consider having a batch of these on call – click HERE to see how to make these delicious fall treats!
To pair with these breakfast beauties, I wanted a piece that evoked images of dawn and sunrise. That led me to Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite no 1, Op. 46: No 1, Prelude “Morning.” The work was written as incidental music to the play by Henrik Ibsen of the same na,e. While it may be a literal pairing, the muffins are remarkably akin to the style of this beautiful movement. Grieg paints a colorful daybreak using rich harmonies and gentle melodies. These muffins are filled with flavor while still having a light, airy crumb. Enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“Peer Gynt (Grieg),” Wikipedia.com