Breakfast

Maple Bacon Biscuits

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Bacon. Is. Good. So are fluffy biscuits. No wonder they are breakfast staples. I don’t usually buy buttermilk (why does it only come in a big carton when you almost never need more than a cup??) but in this case it was definitely worth it.

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These came together pretty quickly on a weeknight, but you could also include them with weekend brunch or dinner, such as pulled pork, roast chicken, or soup.

Maple Bacon Biscuits
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman

Makes 6-8 biscuits

3 slices bacon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 4 tablespoons butter, chilled and chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup buttermilk

Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour the bacon fat into a measuring cup and put in the freezer until fat is solid.

Chop the bacon into small bits and place in a small dish. Pour the maple syrup over the bacon and stir; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the solidified bacon fat from the freezer.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat. Adjust the amount of butter up or down to have 6 tablespoons total. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub the bacon fat and butter into the dry ingredients until mixtute resembles coarse meal. Add the bacon-maple syrup mixture and buttermilk and blend together with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

Gather the dough into a ball and pat out to a 1-inch thickness on a well-floured surface and cut into biscuits with a 2-inch cutter. Arrange biscuits on the baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve warm.

Cornmeal Johnnycakes

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When I woke up Sunday morning, it was cold and rainy. I did not sign up for cold and rainy in August when I moved from Nebraska to Virginia. To be clear: I signed up for unbearably hot and humid summers that creep mercilessly into late September.

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Anyway, when I woke up and it was cold and rainy, I wanted to go back to bed. But going back to sleep isn’t an option on Sundays: I teach a 9am BODYPUMP class, and rain or shine, there will be a group of folks waiting for me to be all chipper and hard-core and beast out some push-ups.

At home later that morning, I decided the antidote to 60-degree weather in August was a hoodie and a big breakfast.  Surveying my  pantry and refrigerator contents, I opted for johnnycakes — essentially a cross between a corn muffin and a pancake — with a drizzle of real maple syrup, pork sausage patties and a couple of eggs over-easy. I first found this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma catalog years ago, and I like the flavor and texture the blackberries and toasted pecans add.

It didn’t make the rain go away, but it was a nice precursor to my afternoon nap. :)

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Cornmeal Johnnycakes

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Makes 12 cakes (serves about 4)

3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup fine-ground yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
3/4 cup sliced blackberries

In a large bowl, stir together first five ingredients; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm milk until small bubble form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise; remove from heat.

Put cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add milk and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in butter and eggs. Stir cornmeal mixture into flour until thoroughly combined. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Butter, grease, or spray a griddle or large fry pan. Heat over medium heat. Pour batter in scant 1/4-cup measures; sprinkle each circle with pecans and a few slices blackberry. Cook until golden and puffy, 1-2 minutes. Flip cakes; cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh blackberries, blackberry syrup or compote, or maple syrup.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in the DC metro area who doesn’t love brunch. It’s not that I hate brunch — really, I don’t — I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Whenever I go out for brunch, I can’t shake the feeling I’m being herded through like cattle. The restaurants are overcrowded and understaffed. I don’t feel like I have time to taste my food, let alone enjoy a leisurely meal or enjoy the conversation. Sometimes I don’t think the wait staff even refills my water… because I haven’t had enough time to drink it.

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Maybe my problem with brunch isn’t brunch so much as it’s going out for brunch. I enjoy a hearty breakfast after my Sunday morning BODYPUMP class, especially if it involves something I can’t readily make on a weekday before work. And I love the company.

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So when a work trip was unexpectedly canceled and I found myself hosting a friend for Easter, brunch seemed like the ideal choice. This casserole comes together quickly the night before, and falls somewhere between a bread pudding and egg casserole. I served it with a spinach salad, a bowl of fresh strawberries, and mimosas. We decorated a bunny cake, watched a movie, and caught up on life. If you ask me, as holidays go, this one was pretty perfect.

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Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Yield: 4-5 servings

8 oz. ciabatta bread, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb. pork breakfast sausage (or substitute turkey)
1 1/4 cup milk
6 eggs + enough egg whites to make 1 1/2 cups
4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until toasted.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Remove any casings from sausage and add to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. (If using turkey sausage, you may need to add a little grease to your pan.)

Combine sausage and bread in a large bowl. Combine milk, cheese, eggs and salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to bread mixture, tossing to coat bread. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish generously coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover casserole. Toss the ingredients. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until set and lightly browned. Serve immediately, and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.