Back to Busy: Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa

quinoa 1 Back to Busy: Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa

Every September, I come to a screeching halt and resume eating warm oatmeal for breakfast in the morning in place of my standard summer pie/crumble/piles of granola with berries and yogurt. This year was more abrupt than usual, when we went from a sunny 25 degrees to zero overnight, with enough snow to crush nearly every tree in the city.

Early mornings in the dark combined with enough wet snow to keep us shoveling off everything beyond the front door and going from flip flops to damp, cold socks really requires some extra effort to adjust to being awake – at the very least, plenty of espresso and a bowl of something warm. (Half a foot of snow a week into school is also a free pass to get a pain au chocolat at the coffee shop, just FYI.) Oats are my usuals, although I recently discovered that quinoa can be eaten for breakfast in the same way – warm with brown sugar and raisins and milk. Its light texture and mild flavour reminds me of the cream of wheat I grew up with, only quinoa is far more nutrient-dense, with more protein and fibre. (I usually make blonde quinoa, but happened to have some red on hand.)

quinoa 2 Back to Busy: Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa

I’ve heard rumours that you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker. I’ve never owned a rice cooker, nor even used one, but know owners of them, and from what I do know those who own rice cookers tend to be over-the-top enamoured with them. And so to make up for my extended lack of kitchen, I’ve allowed myself to accumulate a small army of small appliances in the dining room. Who needs a kitchen? Maybe we’ll just keep it taped off and keep doing the dishes in the bathtub forever.

steel cut oats Back to Busy: Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa

With a rice cooker I can go back and forth between quinoa and steel-cut oats, which also do well in a rice cooker – combine 1 part oats to 3 parts water and turn it on – add some cinnamon, stir in some raisins, whatever your usual is. I like to chop up a tart apple and stir it in – the apple softens but doesn’t compromise the texture of the steel-cut oats, which hold their own.

For my first rice cooker experience I decided to go a little higher-end with a Cuisinart, partly because it’s BPA-free, partly because I was wooed by the insert that allows you to steam veggies, chicken or fish at the same time, and once the machine detects that all the moisture has been absorbed from your rice (or quinoa), it flips itself over to warm until you’re ready for it.

I’ll be honest – my first try didn’t go well. Not sure if I wound up with a dud.. it kept prematurely flipping itself over to warm, and when it did get going boiled violently, spewing much of the liquid out from around the lid and through the blowhole. Maybe it’s me? It can detect my indifference to rice cookers? So many have convinced me they’re worth the cupboard space though – one friend set hers out on the table at a party recently, so that friends to serve themselves rice bowls and Korean lettuce wraps – and I do love the idea of not having to tend to a pot on the stove-especially when I don’t have a stove. There are plenty of other rice cookers in the sea, so if this relationship fails, I’m moving on.

Because I do love the idea of dumping quinoa + water into it in the morning while I make coffee and starting the day feeling like I’m on top of things.

Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa

2 cups water, or half milk, half water
1 cup quinoa (rinsed in a sieve if it needs it)
a shake of cinnamon
1 cup fresh raspberries, blackberries or blueberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
a drizzle of honey or maple syrup
milk or cream, for serving

Combine the milk, water, quinoa and cinnamon in the rice cooker. Cover, turn it on and let cook until it turns itself off. (Alternatively, combine the milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes.)

Transfer to bowls and top with berries and pecans. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and serve with milk.

Serves 4.

* This post was sponsored by London Drugs to help get through the back to school crunch – and to help me pay my web hosting fees – but all words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!

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September 11 2014 | breakfast | 6 Comments »

Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

Salted caramel birthday cake Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

It was 27 degrees today with sun and blue skies in Calgary. Tomorrow, the forecast is for snow and a high of 2. Back off fall, you’re coming on too strong.

The (very small) consolation of going from high twenties to zero is that you can pull on your woolies, turn on the oven and bake a pie. Or a cake. And eat the whole thing yourself because fall just up and snubbed you altogether, just like spring did. It’s tough getting the shaft.

salted caramel cake 5 Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

With my condolences, I offer a spice cake with salted caramel. (Now that swimsuit season is about as far away as it’s going to get.) Granted, I still have no oven to turn on. This is a cake I made way back when I had an actual kitchen, not a microwave on a cart in the dining room and a barbecue in the back yard. I made it to use up overripe pears and salted caramel that did so well on chocolate cupcakes, and then I shared the cupcakes and the cake seemed like leftovers.

salted caramel cake 4 Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

I’m about ready for more salted caramel, and the pears are starting to pile up. And if I can’t make our house smell like butter, sugar and cinnamon to offset the blanket of wet snow we’ll be scraping off our cars a week into September, I’ll take comfort in knowing you guys can.

salted caramel cake 31 Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

Besides, it’s always somebody’s birthday somewhere.

caramel cake 2 Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel

This recipe may look long and complex, but it’s really just cake, frosting and salted caramel, each easy enough to make on their own, then put together. The caramel can be made at least a day ahead, if you want to make it on another day.

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each cloves and allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ripe pears, coarsely grated

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups icing sugar, plus extra if needed
2-4 Tbsp. milk or cream

Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray two 8 or 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat the sugars and eggs for 2-3 minutes, until thick and pale. beat in the oil and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture along with the grated pears and any juices that have accumulated underneath them (grate them onto a cutting board or into a flat bowl or cake pan), beating on low speed or stirring just until combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then invert them onto wire racks to cool. If you like, slice the domed part off the tops of the cakes using a serrated knife.

To make the frosting, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar and milk or cream, adding extra sugar or milk if needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cake layers, and if you like, spoon some into a frosting bag with a star tip and pipe over the top of the cake – this will provide ridges for the caramel to drip from.

To make the caramel, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring and swirl the pan often, cooking until it starts to turn golden. When it starts to change colour don’t leave the pan – swirl it often until it turns a deep golden – the colour of maple syrup. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream – it will foam up. Whisk in the salt and let cool to room temperature – it can be slightly warm, but not so warm that it will melt the icing.

Once cooled, dribble the caramel over the cake. Serves 16-20.

pixel Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel
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September 07 2014 | cake | 11 Comments »

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