Breakfast Potatoes

Not only good for breakfast, but that’s what they’re associated with.

I love potatoes in the morning, but it’s not something that I-As-A-Vegetarian can generally order when out for breakfast. Restaurant hash browns or home fries are usually fried on the grill (where the bacon/sausage/you name it just was, which makes them Not Really Vegetarian) or in the deep fryer, which isn’t great for you & sometimes is a place chicken hangs out too. So I usually limit myself to waffles and fruit when I’m out for breakfast and make the potatoes at home. They don’t cook bacon on the waffle iron to my knowledge, unless they make bacon-stuffed waffles, which I’ve yet to come across on a menu.

This serves 4-6, depending on if potatoes are the central breakfast item or not.

2 T. canola oil for the pan
4 large baking potatoes, (the ones I used this weekend were the *large* ones that you purchase individually by the pound – probably the equivalent of 6 reasonable bagged baking potatoes) scrubbed and cubed in about ½ in. pieces
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
a generous sprinkling of dried or fresh rosemary
a moderate sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
pepper *after* the potatoes are removed from the oven

Preheat the oven to 375. Pile all of the ingredients on a large nonstick baking sheet. Toss to distribute the oil and seasoning. Place in the oven and roast, turning the potatoes gently every 15 minutes to prevent sticking and promote even cooking and the evaporation of excess moisture. Mine usually take 75 to 90 minutes to get done. They’ll be tender long before they’re pleasantly browned. Patience.

Great Gobs of Granola

Ah! Granola! This recipe comes from With Love from Your Kitchen, published in 1976, authors Diana & Paul Von Welanetz. I made it in preparation for Michael’s folks’ visit this past weekend. My mother had this cookbook when I was little, and she made this delicious granola frequently. I spotted the familiar brown dust jacket in a used bookstore in Sterling, VA one day years ago and scooped it up. Now I can make this and the other famous (within our family) recipe from this volume, Lithuanian Mushroom Cookies, from my very own copy. (There are no mushrooms in Lithuanian Mushroom Cookies.)

The Von Welanetzes point out that you can zig and zag with this granola recipe – I’ll give it to you as written, but I’ll add that my ziggings and zaggings include the use of pecans, the use of maple syrup instead of honey, the addition of a plethora of dried fruit once the baking is completed, and substituting of various kinds of nuts for the walnuts. Not all in one batch, you understand. The version that’s in my pantry now has walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds.

Remember not to serve yourself a massive bowl of this stuff – it’s calorically dense like grape-nuts are. I keep a 1/3 c. measure in the canister I keep it in and serve myself about 2/3 of a cup for breakfast. That amount fuels you a lot longer than you’d think.

6 c. old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 c. chopped walnuts
¾ c. toasted wheat germ (without honey)
½ c. flaked coconut
½ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ c. chopped blanched almonds
1/3 c. sesame seeds
1/3 c. shelled sunflower seeds, plain or roasted
½ c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey
2 T. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325. Place the oats in a large rectangular pan, such as a roasting pan or jelly roll sheet, and bake at 325 for 10 minutes while measuring the other ingredients. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the walnuts, wheat germ, coconut, brown sugar, almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the oil, honey, and vanilla. Pour this over the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, stirring twice during the cooking time (I find that three bakings of eight minutes work well.) Let cool and transfer to a large container.

They counsel you to store it in the fridge, but I’ve never had any last long enough that it needed that treatment. This makes about 2.5 quarts.

(The Famous) Invisible Banana French Toast

I made this this morning, and realized with surprise that I had not put it up yet. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, and it came from the first cookbook I ever owned, the DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook, given by my mother on Christmas when I was 6 years old. My mother wrote in the frontpaper,

“Dear Jocelyn, This is to start you on your way with cooking. After all the times you’ve helped me stir and measure, you’ll be a cinch to cook up yummy goodies on your own. With much love, Mommy – Christmas 1981.”

This was a frequent weekend breakfast at my house growing up. If you have slightly to moderately overripe bananas, this is the place to send them. I know you can make banana bread with them, (as my mom does) but really, are you going to have the time and patience to make banana bread every time you have a slightly overripe banana? This is really easy and quite fast, and it certainly doesn’t require all of the effort of banana bread. It also freezes and reheats like a charm. More than once, I’ve made a big batch of this and set it aside in the freezer. You can pop the slices in the toaster oven to toast for a few minutes, and they’re as good as when they first come out of the pan.

Back to the book. I absolutely loved this book as a kid. It (and my beloved mother, who made my baby food from scratch using a Foley food mill and who was feeding me wheat germ well before she gave me this volume) really did start me on the path to healthy eating and cooking that is my vocation and avocation to this day. The book has advice about reading ingredients listings (“The first one listed is the one there’s the most of. So make sure you’re not buying mostly water or sugar. Look closely at the label.”) and a two-page spread in the front of the book that explains cooking terms like “CRACK,” “BOIL,” and “SLICE,” with Batman-style action typography and super-clear explanations.

All the recipes are associated with a DC character. There’s Ma Kent’s Whole Wheat Pancakes, (Clark Kent says, “I’d love to know how she gets them to taste that good, but she keeps the recipe in a lead box!”) Wonder Woman’s Paradise Pop “The Soft Drink of Amazons,” (fruit juice concentrate and sparkling water), My Secret Pizza by Green Arrow (pizza inside a pita bread – I think I might make this sometime soon, it sounds so good!) and Supergirl’s Heat Vision Chicken (which includes the instruction “Place chicken pieces side by side in pan and bake in oven for 1 hour at 375, or cook for 2 minutes under heat vision if you have superpowers.” Aren’t these great ideas? The food is very healthy, and the fresh fruit and vegetable quotient is very high, unlike most kids’ cookbooks, which are all hot dogs and cupcakes.

On the facing page of the food shot of this French toast are Batman, holding a magnifying glass, and Robin, along with him. Batman is saying, “Perplexing, Robin. The French Toast certainly TASTES like banana, but I can’t detect the PRESENCE of one. Very curious.” Robin replies, “The answer is alimentary, caped crusader. You get that taste by putting the banana in the Batman, batter…er, I mean, in the batter, Batman.”

This serves 2, and can be multiplied by however many eggs and bananas you have. Each egg-and-banana will cover about three slices of bread, which serves 2.

1 egg
1 banana
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 slices whole grain (important!) bread (This batter is heavy stuff, and needs a bread with good tensile strength.)
butter or oil for the pan (I find a combination works best, and I use a nonstick pan – if you find that your egg mixture is failing to stick to the bread, your pan needs more fat.)

Preheat the oven to 200. Put egg, banana, and cinnamon in the blender and blend until smooth. You can also mash the banana thoroughly with a fork if you are blenderless. I did that for years and it works fine. Pour the batter into a shallow bowl. Heat the butter or oil over medium heat. Dip the bread in the batter, coating both sides. Allow excess batter to drip off. Clean the edges of the bread against the rim of the bowl a little bit. Put bread in pan. It should sizzle pleasantly when placed in the fat. If it doesn’t, get the pan a little hotter. Fry the slice, undisturbed, for about a minute, then check the underside. When nicely brown, turn and fry other side. Repeat with other slices, adding more fat to the pan as you go. I set the finished slices on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet in the oven, because putting them on a plate all stacked together encourages sogginess.

This time of year, I serve this with sliced strawberries tossed with a little sugar and orange juice, plus a dollop of yogurt. It’s also great with sliced banana and maple syrup, or orange slices, too. You could also use chocolate syrup on it, (after all, what’s better together than chocolate and bananas?) but I wouldn’t want to encourage bad food choices that and that really makes this into dessert instead of breakfast.