Good morning!

 You know those days where you wake up refreshed and alert and feel like you’re ready to tackle the day? That’s how I feel right now.

Which is odd. I’m normally not a morning person. The first 15-30 minutes are tough. I hit the snooze button multiple times. I set 3-4 alarms, about 5-10 minutes apart, and I know which one is the last one, the one that I can’t ignore and still be on time. Once I get going though I’m fine. I don’t even need a morning dose of coffee. That’s reserved for the afternoon.

Anyway, this breakfast is pretty much an awesome breakfast of champions. It’s super easy and healthy. Quark, fresh blackberries, grape nuts (I haven’t made a batch of granola yet, something that’s on the agenda), honey, flax seed oil and mint. You feel healthy as you’re eating it.

To top off the start of this morning, here’s a lovely good morning song – my favorite. It’s an oldie but goodie, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. You can’t help but smile when you hear the song:

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Failure. Tasty, tasty failure.

Last time we had blackberries, I’d planned to make these blueberry muffins, substituting blackberries for blueberries. But my berries were a bit smushy, so I wasn’t sure how they’d hold up in the muffins. So instead I made blackberry butter bettys, with blackberries rather than strawberries (obviously). I had too much filling, so I quickly made a few more toast pieces brushed with regular butter (I’d used up all my brown butter), filled all the little tarts, and popped them in the oven. Btw, if you’re using other fruit that you’re not cutting into pieces, make sure you make less of the crumb filling – the filling sticks to the cut sides of the fruit, but if you’re using whole berries or other whole fruit, they won’t really stick, so use less crumbs. Or you could sprinkle them over some yoghurt with fruit. Or make sweet dumplings and coat them with the crumb mixture.

The blackberry bettys were so delicious that I scalded my mouth a bit while trying eat them while fresh out of the oven. (Note to self – baked fruit can get really really hot). I did eat one with a dollop of creme fraiche, which was an excellent serving suggestions. The blackberry brown bettys were polished off so quickly, I’ll have to make them again. Plus, they’re an excellent last minute dessert – you just need some toast and some fruit, some pantry staples, and you can easily toss this together. I bet the betties would be great with apples, too – a quick non-pie apple dessert.

Blackberry sinkhole

Back to the topic on hand. We were invited to our friends’ place for a birthday party/barbecue/cookout (remember my post on the birthday dress and apron), and they have cherry trees, red currant bushes, a gooseberry bush, apple trees and a lovely lovely blackberry hedge. What’s better than eating sun-warmed berries directly from the bush? We went blackberry picking together and a took a portion home to eat with yoghurt for breakfast. I couldn’t finish up all the blackberries and so here was my chance to try and make those muffins. For breakfast. Yum!

I started mixing the butter and the sugar and started whipping them up. In the meantime, I measured the flour, got my other ingredients ready, and went to get out my eggs. But – no eggs. They were all gone. Even though there were still 2 left the day before. Someone – you know who you are – was my saboteur and didn’t tell me they’d eaten my eggs. If I’d known that I didn’t have eggs, I wouldn’t have started making the muffins. And I didn’t have any of the common egg substitutions on hand – no tofu, no smushed bananas, no egg substitute. I did have homemade apple sauce that a friend had made, but when I opened the bottle, the apple sauced started foaming. Not a good sign. It probably wasn’t conserved properly. So no apple sauce available. I guess I could have tried soaked flax seed as a substitute but I just couldn’t imagine it.

Then I started searching for recipes of muffins where the butter sugar mix would fit ingredient-wise – btw, I’d already buttered the pan. I also wanted a recipe where I could use my blackberries. I finally found a recipe for black-bottomed cupcakes. They called for a cream cheese filling with chocolate pieces – yum! – and though I didn’t have any cream cheese, I figured I could try and mix up a filling out of blackberries, yoghurt and bread crumbs that could kind of work.

I had to do some math to figure out all my substitutions – I didn’t have enough brown sugar, I added some oil to the butter (and had to do some match to figure out the additional moisture requirement), and left out the cocoa powder. I had some doubts if all the recipe would work out with my modifications, but hey, I figured it would be worth the experiment. I added my ‘filling’ and, taking care not to overfill the forms, I sent them off into the oven.

Well, I’d overfilled the muffin forms. I got quite a bit of muffin top (which btw tasted delicious). And then I tried to get a muffin out of the form. Which I’d made sure to butter beforehand – but failed to put in cupcake liners since I didn’t have any. Clearly I need to stock up my pantry, because I seem to need to replenish my staples. Anyway, the cupcakes refused to leave their forms. No amount of loosening along the edges and careful prodding with the spoon got them out of their form. Finally I ended up spooning pieces out and eating them right then and there.

blackberries in muffins

As you can see, I had some ‘release’ problems

Since I couldn’t get them out of their form, you get a photograph of them pre-‘release.’ The berry filling made for a sunken filling – but also tasty. Overall, the muffins were soooooo delicious. They were a bit more cakey, which probably was part of the problem with them sticking. This is a recipe worth tweaking I bet I can ultimately get some awesome blackberry muffins out of this. Ultimately, this experiment was a failure. But a very very tasty failure. And it was a good reminder that baking is really about chemistry, about proper proportions, and that you just can’t substitute all over the place.

Or, I could just try and make these lemon ricotta blackberry muffins instead. Don’t they look delicious?

Why isn’t little bunny foo foo eating carrots?

Little bunny Foo Foo
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping them on the head
Down came the Good Fairy, and she said
“Little bunny Foo Foo
I don’t want to see you
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping them on the head.”
[…]

I have fond memories singing this song with a bunch of friends, crammed into a one of our friends’ two door car. I can’t remember what kind of car it was except that it was maroon, and that it was pretty tight with all of us jammed into the backseat. Being the rather silly kind, we found it pretty hilarious that we crossed a river named Pee Dee. Specifically little Pee Dee river. Imagine a bunch of silly college kids, a river that starts with pee, and it’s gonna set them off, right? Right. We spent a good part of the next hour making up little bunny foo foo versions. We’d already had a great time at South of the Border – I’d never been to it before, and we had a blast. We took many many silly photographs, and I ended up with a neon orange colored shot glass that unfortunately didn’t survive a trip through the dishwasher a few years later. Man, I was sad about that. It was a piece of memory, you know? But I should have known better than stick it into the dishwasher, really. Sigh. But that was a great May. Good times.

Back to that foo foo bunny. First of all, what bunny is named foo foo? What’s wrong with Thumper? It was good enough for Bambi. That was really a genius name. Secondly, why is the song about field mice? Why would a bunny bop field mice? What about carrots? I mean, any self-respecting bunny should be waaaaay more interested in carrots, right? Just ask Bugs Bunny. He wouldn’t bop field mice on the head. He’s too busy making fun of Daffy, thwarting Elmer Fudd and coming up with other forms of mischief. And say “What’s up Doc?”

So a little Google Fu shows that rabbits do indeed like carrots, and that they’re good for their teeth but that they it shouldn’t be their only food – too many calories. Huh. You learn something new every day. But they do still like them (the link is to a ridiculously mini lop rabbit eating a carrot. I think I want a bunny now).

Carrot cake pancakes with a dollop of mascarpone

I think little bunny foo foo should try these awesome carrot cake pancakes. I think it would then be too busy to bop any field mice. It might have to watch out for those calories though if bunnies need to watch their waistlines. I ate these with yoghurt instead of the cream cheese topping. They were just as great, and I saved a few calories. I’m making these again. Vegetables for breakfast, yay!

As you can guess, this was a post full of a lot of silliness. Yes, there is a river named little Pee Dee – it’s a tributary river to the Pee Dee river which is named after the Pee Dee Native American tribe (and it’s a pretty big river). I really do have fond times of Myrtle Beach. We really were a bunch of silly kids, not just at Myrtle Beach. For example, we’d do our own version of MSTK3000 on any random movies we’d find on TV. We dressed up one of our friends as Recycle Man for Halloween, which consisted of an outfit made out of newspaper and staples, newspaper shoes, and a Recycle Man scepter – it was awesome. (I have a picture of that somewhere). We camped out for Star Wars and decided on impromptu Padme Amidala make up. Yeah, we had lots of fun during and after college. And I do love Bugs Bunny, especially What’s Opera, Doc and Rabbit of Seville. It’s classic awesome Warner Brothers animation.

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs should be such an easy thing to make, right? I imagine it’s one those first-time-cooking kind of things. (I can’t remember what my first cooking thing was, my early kitchen experiments revolved around baking). You don’t need a lot of ingredients, you don’t a lot of utensils, it’s seems pretty straightforward, plus you’ll likely have eaten it before so you know how your finished product should taste.

Scrambled Eggs Super! Now, making a scrambled egg is different from making a great scrambled egg. A scrambled egg that is still fluffy and light, that isn’t dry and brown. It can incorporate other subtle flavors from herbs or cheese etc, without tasting too heavy or overladen. I remember Gail Simmons from Top Chef commenting on the difficulty to make a good egg that’s at just the right stage – cooked enough but still soft, and not rubbery. Of course, the chefs there had to cook under way more difficult circumstances over a fire pit on the beach (Season 2, Episode 7).

Sadly, I belong to those people whose scrambled eggs and omelets aren’t that great. There’s something about too much uncooked egg that makes me nauseous. I love me a sunny side egg, or a croque madame, but give me glibbery egg white that is too uncooked, or a yellow of egg that isn’t warm all the way through, and I’ll likely end up nauseous. Which is a bummer, since I also don’t like overcooked eggs.

Given the ‘basicness’ (no, that is not a proper word) of making eggs, it seems strange and at the same time completely logical to have a recipe for scrambled eggs. I like herbs in my scrambled eggs to reduce my fear (see above) of a too eggy flavor. It’s not a new idea – recipes of herbs and some form of cheese abound. Here are a few of my favorites: 101 cookbooks has a great herby cream cheese version. Just the pictures make you hungry. There’s also this lovely chevre and spring greens recipe. Mmmm, chevre. My aunt makes what are called buttered eggs around here with fresh chilis and salt, folding them over and serving them on toast or english muffins. Mom makes an excellent version that is a cross of a scrambled egg and an omelet, where she beats the egg with her mixer until the egg is super fluffy then she cooks it. She might drop a chili in there, either splitting it in two or dicing it finely. It’s all up to the recipient and how spicy they eat their food. It’s so delicious and fluffy – oh, I should call her version a scramlet. Sounds fancy, right? Lololol.

If I loved soft-boiled eggs, I’d so be all over these soft eggs buttery herb-gruyere toast. I mean, it’s a Smitten Kitchen recipe. You know I love those. Soft-boiled eggs are pretty much a Sunday breakfast or invite-guest-for-Sunday-brunch kind of food among my friends, how unfortunate for me. Oh, and you’ll easily find soft-boiled eggs on a breakfast menu in Germany. Which reminds me of the time we were Eurailing with my cousins. We arrived in Zürich in the early morning, and after some wandering around we decided to grab breakfast. I don’t remember what all we ordered, but I do remember that one of my cousins ordered eggs. Well, he hadn’t paid attention, and so he gave is egg a lovely knock against the side of the plate. You can imagine what happened – yes, he had an eggy mess in his hand. And he was pretty shocked that people would even order soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. Ha.

egg juggling as a metaphor for life from Calvin & Hobbes

Other fun facts apart from the Beatles and scrambled eggs can be found here.

If at first you don’t succeed…

I’ve been on a granola kick lately – eating it with granola, fresh fruit, yoghurt , so I wanted to make my own granola. I smushed these two recipes together – the granola part from a granola crisp recipe and this homemade granola recipe from Joy of Baking. I used spelt flakes instead of oats, crushed linseed, melted butter, a mix of honey and maple syrup and a little bit of flour. Well, the result looked delicious, but the granola was done earlier expected. My batch was very brown, almost charred.

granola

still looking good - that would change within a few minutes

I figured I’d make another batch of lighter granola and mix the two of them. So – attempt two, with a share of regular oats rather than the spelt flakes since I had only a little left, and brown sugar instead of honey or maple syrup. It tasted just as delicious as batch one. And it got brown even faster than batch one. Sigh. Now I have a lot of overly baked granola with a smoky flavor – ok it’s tastes a bit burned – but the consistency is great. I guess I can add some raisins, cranberries, dried apples or nuts to break up the somewhat ‘smoky’ flavor.

overbrowned granola

Yup, that's all granola, including those dark brown and black bits

Once I’ve eaten this big batch of granola I’m going to try again. I guess not everything homemade can be successful the first time you try it. I think baking the granola on baking paper instead of aluminum foil might help – hopefully the parchment paper will keep the temperature more even and keep the granola from getting overbrowned on the bottom. I’ll probably be trying Smitten Kitchen’s granola recipe.

Peanuts are not my friends

I so want to make this cabbage and lime salad – it looks like the perfect summer dish. Everyone else doesn’t seem to excited by the idea of a cabbage salad, but that just means that there’s more for me. Yay! Tangy and crunchy, what more could I want in a salad? Oops, the salad also includes peanuts. That’s a bit of a problem. You see, I don’t like peanuts. We’ve just never gotten along. I don’t like peanuts in all their incarnations – not raw, not cooked, not raw and salted, not as peanut butter, brittle or in M&Ms, and definitely not in cake. No Peanut butter just makes my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. And I’d rather eat Nutella, thank you very much. Hazelnuts and chocolate, what could be better?

I imagine that some almond slices would be a good substitute. Or some chopped up hazelnuts?