Tropical Breakfast Bowl

think winter is almost over. I’ve almost permanently switched over to a spring coat, and I have worn capri tights more often than my winter leggings when running lately. And speaking of running, I have been running outside! I think the last time I stepped on the treadmill was two full weeks ago. Most importantly, champagne mangos are showing up at the grocery store.

So, with signs of spring and thoughts of warmer places, I made this 2-grain, 3-seed tropical breakfast bowl on Saturday. Eric said it reminded him of mango and sticky rice that we gobbled up in Thailand, and while it wasn’t inspired by that treat, it did certainly hit those notes.
Tropical Breakfast Bowl

Eric and I took the time to plan a year of trips while we still have the Southwest Companion Pass, which expires at the end of this year. We have some fun stuff coming up, including a weekend in the Florida Keys, camping in the Sawtooths in Idaho, and a week-long trip to Austin (Eric has a conference there) and San Antonio. We’ve decided to put off all international trips (except trips to Mexico on Southwest) until next year. My feet are seriously itching for something exotic, but we must take advantage of 2-for-1 domestic plane tickets while we can.

Tropical Breakfast Bowl (2)

Anyway, back to breakfast.

Tropical Breakfast Bowl (1)

Tropical Breakfast Bowl

The mention of two grains and three seeds above may be confusing, but buckwheat is actually a seed, not a grain. As for the coconut cream, often times a can of coconut milk will be separated into a thick cream on one end of the can and a watery milk on the other. If your can is not separated, just use the combined milk and add it to taste.

*Serves 3-4

1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1/2 cup buckwheat groats

2 tablespoons coconut cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 mango, cut into cubes
1/2 pink or ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 orange, peeled and cut into cubes
1 banana, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon flax seed powder (or whole flax seeds are fine also)
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Cook each of the grains separately in double the amount of water (ie, for 1/2 cup steel cut oats, cook them in 1 cup water) until all the water is soaked up and the grains are tender. Mix all the cooked grains in a bowl and, while still warm, add the coconut cream and maple syrup. Stir around until the coconut cream is melted and thoroughly combined. Taste and add more sweetener if you prefer.

Top with fruit, flax, and chia seeds.

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Irish Soda Bread

Two weekends ago, I was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day brunch – nothing special, just a little something to load our stomachs before a day of drinking green beer. Originally we were just going to scramble some eggs, buy some bagels, and call it a morning. Of course, nothing is that simple with me. I woke up that morning with a brilliant idea – I could make Irish Soda Bread! Now, to be clear, I have never, ever baked anything in my life. Somehow, I knew that Irish Soda Bread did not require the lengthy amount of time most breads need.  I didn’t know why and I didn’t care why, but I knew I could pull it together before my friends arrived.

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A quick internet search brought me 101 Cookbooks (does this surprise you?). The recipe looked amazing, and I happened to have bought spelt flour a few weeks ago. I know, I know, for a girl who doesn’t bake, that is a rather esoteric flour to have on hand. BUT, here’s my little confession: I have been wanting to bake bread for a few weeks now. I was in the flour aisle at this nice little gourmet grocer at one time and was mesmerized by all the whole grain flours. I bought some – intent on making bread – and so it came to be that I happened to have spelt flour (as well as bread flour, white whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, and all purpose flour) on hand.

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I learned that the key to this bread is timing. See, the rising agent in this bread is not yeast; it is the product of a chemical reaction that occurs between the buttermilk and baking soda (hence the name – soda bread). That product is carbon dioxide, and when the buttermilk and baking soda react together (almost instantly), the carbon dioxide bubbles start to rise – you want to get this bread in the oven ASAP at that point, so it can work its wonders while it is baking. You also don’t need to knead this bread, though a little bit up front will help spread the ingredients evenly in the dough (I did not do this for one of the loaves I baked, and I could taste some pieces were a bit more baking soda-y than others).

Anyway, it’s a really good bread that comes together quickly, is super easy for all you non-bakers like myself, and tastes great. We ate it slathered with butter and strawberry preserves. A couple days later, I dipped it in soup. And then, when it was pretty stale, I dried it out and made it in to breadcrumbs. It’ll stay fresh for a couple days if it’s wrapped properly, and we found it tastes best after a quick zap in the microwave to warm it up.

Spelt and Seed Irish Soda Bread

adapted from Heidi Swanson

*Note: I also made a version with whole wheat flour (just swap out the spelt flour for whole wheat). This is referred to as Brown Irish Soda Bread.

big handful each of different seeds – I used what I had on hand, which was sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and flax seeds
2 cups spelt flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 400° – the oven needs to be fully preheated before the bread goes in. Prep the pan you will be baking the bread on – I baked mine on parchment paper on the pizza stone that is always in my oven; so I readied some parchment paper to be placed on the stone.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Adjust the amount of seeds if you like – they do not affect the chemistry of the bread. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Mix together quickly. If you think the dough is too dry, add a splash more of buttermilk, but this amount worked perfectly for me. Knead it for just a minute or so, just to ensure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

Form the dough into a large ball, then cut a large, deep ‘+’ into the top of the ball. This, I believe, is what makes the bread Irish :). Sprinkle the top with more seeds, then bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.

Avocado Toast

This isn’t so much a recipe as an idea I picked up in Australia when I worked for a small coffee and sandwich shop. I have no idea why they hired me. I had no experience as a barista. I couldn’t answer the phone because I couldn’t understand Australians and they couldn’t understand me  (though in person, communication was fine). One time, someone ordered a “kiddie cappuccino” for their 5-year-old. Choosing not to be judgmental, I made what she asked, a pint-sized cappuccino – espresso topped with a touch of steamed milk and lots of foam. When the kid, however, spit it out and started crying, she informed me that a kids cappuccino was merely cold milk topped with foam. I think I cried harder than the kid. Needless to say, many lessons were learned at that coffee shop, but they paid me cash and let me eat free sandwiches, so it worked for me.

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Anyway, Saturday and Sunday mornings, we’d serve breakfast, and when my coworker and I came in early to start prepping for the day, we’d make ourselves some avocado toast. Each morning, we would have to run to the nearby bakery to pick up the day’s bread, which was always fresh, soft, and cut into inch-thick slices. We always had access to amazing ingredients, too – freshly sliced, quality meats, cheeses, and all kinds of delicious homemade spreads. Sadly, I learned the shop went out of business a few months after I was back in the States, but I still enjoy an avocado toast every now and then.

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Avocado Toast

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
handful of arugula
nice, crusty whole grain bread
salt and pepper

Scoop out the insides of the avocado and mix it in a mixing bowl with the greek yogurt. Use a fork to mash up the avocado pieces.

Toast your bread in a toaster or in the oven. Top it with the avocado spread, arugula, and a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper.