Tag Archives: breakfast ideas

Cereal in Review: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s

Gentle Readers, it is time to meet your new addiction. Perhaps you think you’ve outgrown the sugary cereals of yore (great recap of dead cereals here). Maybe you only watch cartoons streaming now. It’s time to think outside the bowl. Meet Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s.

My current cereal addiction: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe's

My current cereal addiction: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s

If you can’t find it, assume I bought all of the boxes in your location.

It’s both that delicious and extremely multipurpose. Dry, it’s like the best crumbled up dark chocolate oat granola bar you could imagine.

Bananas plus Maraschino cherries and walnuts? I say yes.

Bananas plus Maraschino cherries and walnuts? I say yes.

Paired with fruit (I’ve tried strawberries, cherries, and bananas) and plain yogurt, Chocolate Almond Granola is the pair of snakeskin shoes to the favorite black t-shirt and jeans. It just adds that something something.

Sliced strawberries with yogurt and a sprinkle of chocolate granola? Afternoon just got a whole lot more interesting.

Sliced strawberries with yogurt and a sprinkle of chocolate granola? Afternoon just got a whole lot more interesting.

It’s not overly sweet, relying more on cocoa powder than sugar, and the balance of crunch and almond, with enough fat to hold it together, it’s just amazing. As a cereal with milk, TPCs Junior favor a blend. This one features Oatmeal Squares.

Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

Cocoa Krispies and Cocoa Puffs hang their heads in shame near this venerable box. Yes, the milk still turns chocolatey, but you don’t get the mouth film effect. And it’s granola, it has to be healthy, right?

A Pyramid of Sugar Cereals

A Pyramid of Sugar Cereals

This is a multiple box buy situation. I’ll wait for your ingenuity in terms of application. You’re welcome. (Feel free to post your best combos in the comments section or on Twitter!)

Send milk, cartoons, and extra Saturday mornings to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways

Top 3 Reasons to Eat Breakfast

Gentle Readers, as long-time readers and close friends know, The Practical Cook is at war with her cholesterol (see For the Love of Grapefruit for the whole scoop). I am happy to say I am still winning this battle of the ages. It is possible to eat Fried and love it, and still maintain one’s health. There is a secret, do lean in and I’ll tell you. I eat.

Recovery Cereal

Recovery Cereal

Yes, I am not a meal skipper. As my London traveling companion will tell you, there is a reason for this. I get a smidge touchy when I don’t eat. In my experience, skipping meals always backfires. I mention the cholesterol because I had to fast for the test. The second I knew I couldn’t eat, I was starving.

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

At the same time, Crescent Dragonwagon (author of The Cornbread Gospels and the upcoming Bean by Bean <awesome!> cookbooks) shared this article on Facebook about the benefits of dessert with breakfast. Exactly. Just eat.

Oatmeal with Fig Preserves

Oatmeal with Fig Preserves

So this one goes out to the myriad readers who I know are drinking coffee instead of eating, grabbing a Little Debbie snack cake, or calling a lone banana breakfast. You know who you are, I shall not name names.

For the Love of Lattes

For the Love of Lattes: But It's Not a Breakfast Substitute!

Breakfast rocks, and here’s 3 reasons why.

1. Energy. It is the most important meal of the day. Did you learn nothing from the PSA’s of the 1980’s?? But really, coming from a farming family, breakfast is meant to fuel you through the majority of your heavy lifting. You’re getting kids to school, thinking, working out, why starve yourself?

Prepping Waffles for the Freezer

Prepping Waffles for the Freezer

2. Bacon. Need I say more? Morning is a good time to have some. I couldn’t resist sharing this picture I just found of a colleague hedging his bets, balancing his oatmeal and whole wheat toast with a side of Fried. Good work Virtually Cooking.

A working breakfast, with all the major food groups and some technology present!

A working breakfast, with all the major food groups and some technology present!

3. Cereal. Again, why miss a cereal eating opportunity? I’m a well-documented fan, but you can eat it dry or with milk. I sometimes have to take the bowl with me to the car to get The Eldest Practical Cook Junior to school on time, but don’t try to pry it from my hands. You’ll pull back a nub. Point is, it’s fast, easy, and varied. Find one you like and keep it on hand.

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

You have time to eat something of substance in the morning. Let yourself be hungry then, and answer the call. Cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, fruit, leftover pizza, even pie on occasion (assuming you balance it with protein), whatever floats your boat. Just don’t skip. I will be watching. (And if you ever hear I’ve missed breakfast, do not come near me without a bagel, muffin, or omelet in hand as a peace offering.)

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

Confession time. Do you eat breakfast? If so, what’s your favorite thing to eat in the morning? If not, why? Post a comment and share your thoughts! There is no judgment, but I won’t promise not to gently persuade. :)

Send cereal, bacon, and doughnuts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy

Bring the Biscuits Home: Simple Scratch Recipe

Gentle Readers, though The Practical Cook is deeply Southern, she has yet to settle on the perfect biscuit recipe. Though I’ve been eating them professionally (at least in my mind) for more decades than would be polite to mention here, that perfect home recipe has eluded me. Now I have some requirements: I don’t care for the hockey puck styles, I do like them fluffy, and please don’t make them wringable.

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

You know, wringable, as in so greasy you can squeeze them. There’s a certain Bojangles in Charlotte, NC, where I performed this feat many many years ago (looking at you Miss Clairol), and it was not appetizing. But shy of that, I like them big, I like them petite, I like them with flours of all stripes, I like them with cheddar and scallions, plain, with gravy, etc.

The Biscuits of My Childhood, Courtesy of The Practical Cook's Mom!

The Biscuits of My Childhood, Courtesy of The Practical Cook's Mom!

So when the Eldest asked for biscuits on a slow Saturday morning, we started looking for a simple recipe that used what we had on hand that she could help with. This one rocks.

Simple Scratch Recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits

After consulting various Southern tomes, we went with, gasp, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything recipe for buttermilk or yogurt biscuits. He uses the food processor, my fave trick in making dough (it’s the secret behind my scones, too, which are really British Biscuits, to my way of thinking).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon salt (I went extra scanty because my butter was lightly salted)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 5 Tablespoons cold butter (Bittman says more is better, and I took him at his word)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Yes, that hot. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in the work bowl of your food processor, a few pulses should do it. Add the butter, pulse it a few more times, until the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour mixture.

Mix the dry ingredients in the food processor. Lid on people.

Mix the dry ingredients in the food processor. Lid on people.

2. Add the buttermilk and pulse the food processor a couple more times to stir it in, just until the mixture forms into a cohesive clump. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it 10 times (Mark Bittman says NO MORE, we dutifully counted, an excellent way to involve the Juniors). If the dough is too sticky, add just a little flour, it shouldn’t be completely unsticky.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get it out of the food processor.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get it out of the food processor.

Biscuit dough that has been kneaded exactly 10 times per the instructions.

Biscuit dough that has been kneaded exactly 10 times per the instructions. (Thanks Eldest for shooting this, since my hands were floury.)

3. Press the dough to a 3/4-inch thickness and cut into rounds, the size of your choice. Now, he says that you can use a glass. I must respectfully disagree. Get a biscuit cutter, or a cute little set. We picked the middle size. Cut straight down, like a Ginsu knife commercial, don’t twist. Your biscuits will be higher, and you can thank me later.

My beloved pastry mat and biscuit cutter. It's sharp and lovely.

My beloved pastry mat and biscuit cutter. It's sharp and lovely.

Biscuits in the oven! Don't fret imperfect shapes, they still eat well.

Biscuits in the oven! Don't fret imperfect shapes, they still eat well.

4. Put the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet that’s been covered with parchment paper. Reshape any leftover dough gently and cut until you have no more. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, depending on your biscuit size, or until the biscuits are a light golden brown (see, No Hockey Pucks, above).

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Serve fast, and grab one for yourself on the way out of the oven. Otherwise, you may miss your chance.

My favorite, biscuit with molasses. On a pony plate of course.

My favorite, biscuit with molasses. On a pony plate of course.

What do you like on your biscuits? What do you like in your biscuits? Post a comment below!

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Fruit + Cereal: A Complete Breakfast

Gentle Readers, if you’re new here, perhaps you don’t know about The Practical Cook’s complete and utter obsession with Cereal. It’s a food, a dessert, a snack, a recovery meal, and an ingredient. And it comes in a  bazillion flavors and combinations. For today’s discussion, we’re going to focus on the building block cereals, the unsung heroes.

Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls, Grape Nuts, Trader Joe's Corn Flakes, and a Banana

Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls, Grape Nuts, Trader Joe's Corn Flakes, and a Banana

With cereal, I have a few guiding principles:

1. Cereal needs to be made of, you know, cereal. I borrow this fabulous and true line from my friend and fellow cereal guru, LibrEditor. Cereal is not made of sugar, or air, or vitamin C. Read the label and know what you’re eating. I’m not rebuking Lucky Charms, but I do reserve those cereals with much sweetness for dessert.

Note: I find Trader Joe’s Corn Flakes better than most corn flakes—the kids eat them, and I cook with them, but they’re standing in for Whole Wheat Chex, which I’m currently out of.

2. Plain cereals require fruit. My number one choice is the humble banana. After that, it’s fresh berries in season (I don’t love the frozen ones in there). I think pineapples, plums, and mangoes shouldn’t go into a cereal bowl, but peaches are okay. These are arbitrary guidelines, feel free to have your own quirks.

3. Better to pour two bowls than to be soggy. This is especially challenging with the flake family of plain cereals. No one like’s disintegrating cereal, with the rare exception of my Great Aunt. Just use a small bowl, pour lightly, then refresh. Corn flakes are corn flaps otherwise.

What are your cereal rules? Do you add fruit? Comment below! I can feel you lurking.

Blog ideas, questions, and commentary are welcomed at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Weekly Menus!

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Punt!, Snacks

French Toast, Simplified

Though a huge fan of all things Cook’s Illustrated, sometimes The Practical Cook can not be bothered. She devours the issues, and then takes the salient nuggets that she can bring into her own life, and runs with it. Such is the case with their French Toast recipe. It is delightful, but it requires steps, ingredients, measuring. Not something one wants pre-coffee.

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

French Toast, Simplified

The basics: 1 egg, at least 1/2 to 2/3 cup milk, splash of vanilla, teaspoon of sugar, melted butter, a Tablespoon or so of flour, cinnamon if you’d like, pinch of salt; whisk together, soak stale bread, fry in butter over medium heat. Consume with syrup or powdered sugar, never both in my book.

Since this barely qualifies as a recipe, here are some tips for success:

  • Use Seriously Stale Bread. This is not an optional item. If you use bread that is just slightly stale, it will collapse. Stale that stuff up. Leave it out overnight, toast it, use overly hard bread.
  • Use More Milk Than You Think. I grew up on French Toast that was very eggy, which I still like. But I appreciate the CI method of 1 egg to a whole lot of milk. It makes a real dipping batter, and it’s delish. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior noted the non-eggy nature of the toast with approval, and she’s an egg fan.
  • Adjust to Taste. If you like it sweet, add more sugar. Everything changes based on the bread you choose, so take these as guidelines that you adapt to the situation.
  • Serve It Hot. If you can’t serve it fast, hold it or toast in the toaster oven to reheat. I can’t abide floppy French Toast.
  • Make It Come Out Even. If you are short a little batter, add some milk to the bowl to stretch it. You’ll have softened, more lightly flavored fried bread, which is not a bad thing. Conversely, consider throwing an alternative bread into leftover batter. It’s a good time to experiment and see what happens.

And of course, don’t forget the presentation layer. Are you a French Toast fan? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your side of bacon to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Kitchen Tool Talk.

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Filed under Punt!, Recipes