Happy New Year! I hope you had as nice and restful a week as I did.
I don’t generally venture into resolution territory, but this year I decided I really need to do something about my “breakfast problem”. For several reasons (the main ones being that I am not generally hungry first thing in the morning and I am usually rushing to get my kids ready for school), I almost always skip breakfast opting to instead eat my first meal of the day at 11 or later.
With my background in nutrition, I know this isn’t good for you (it’s problematic for your blood sugar and metabolism), yet I still constantly struggle with the whole breakfast “thing”. So my main New Year’s resolution is to eat a healthy breakfast everyday within an hour of waking up.
Recently it occurred to me that ochazuke, one of my favorite dishes from time I spent in Japan, would be a great breakfast solution for me because it’s so quick to make and if you use good ingredients, it can be an incredibly well balanced nutritious meal.
Ochazuke is usually made with white rice and tea, and is often topped with some sort of fish as well as pickles and other salty “stuff”. My variation uses brown rice, so it’s higher in nutrients and fiber, and I use edamame and egg for protein. The green tea boosts your antioxidant intake, the seaweed is great for your skin and hair, and when topped with some naturally pickled ginger and toasted sesame seeds, it’s a really tasty savory breakfast.
You can vary this pretty much infinitely: add more veggies (different seaweeds, cucumber and/or carrot cut into matchsticks, or diced avocado would be nice), use a different grain (quinoa or millet anyone?), or choose another protein (some leftover grilled salmon or any other fish comes to mind). I like this simple version, though, because it’s easy to have frozen edamame, leftover rice and cooked eggs at the ready. You could also forgo the egg and just use the edamame if you’re looking for a vegan option.
Egg Ochazuke Recipe
Yield: 1 serving
* 1/2-3/4 cup cooked short-grain brown rice
* 1/2 cup cooked shelled edamame (young green soybeans)
* 1-2 soft or hard boiled eggs (or use a poached or fried egg or two)
* 1 tablespoon all-natural pickled ginger, minced (I like The Ginger People brand)
* 2-3 Tb. rehydrated wakame seaweed and/or 1/2 sheet nori (toasted seaweed used for sushi), cut or torn into strips or small pieces
* 1-2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
* 1/2-1 cup hot green tea (sencha, hojicha or genmaicha are best; matcha is probably not the best choice)
* pinch black lava sea salt or other coarse sea salt to taste (probably not necessary if using wakame in your ochazuke as it's pretty salty)
1. Mix brown rice and edamame in a small bowl.
2. Sprinkle pickled ginger over rice/edamame.
3. Place egg(s) on top (slice in half if using soft or hard boiled egg), and top with the nori and toasted sesame seeds.
4. Pour in the green tea and sprinkle with the salt.
Just because I’m suggesting this for breakfast doesn’t mean you have to eat it for breakfast, though. You can enjoy ochazuke any time of the day; it makes a great light lunch, dinner or snack, too!
It’s Christmas and I’d like to wish everyone a very happy day! Though it is not my holiday religiously-speaking, I am really looking forward to spending time with my family today and in the coming week.
I am sure you will agree that it has been a very busy month. I’m personally going to take a few days off from posting on the blog because I’ve caught kind of a nasty cold and I just need a break. I’m also hoping to catch up on some reading and start a new knitting project (and there’s always all that house cleaning that doesn’t happen by itself).
I hope that you, too, get some well-deserved time off, and that you have a very Happy New Year. I’ll see you in 2010!
Before I go, here is a recipe for a delicious fennel frittata. I had this for breakfast today, and I liked it so much I will probably make it again when I have guests for New Year’s brunch. It’s really simple to make but the flavor is quite elegant. Perfect for entertaining when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
For the tomatoes, I used defrosted slow roasted tomatoes that I made this summer with organic tomatoes from my garden. These tomatoes also have lots of garlic and herbs in them, so if you are using chopped raw tomatoes (or your own plain defrosted garden tomatoes), I would add a nice sized handful of chopped herbs of your choice to this recipe: basil, rosemary and parsley will all work, or use a combination. If you’re not using slow roasted tomatoes, I would also add some minced garlic (1/2-1 Tb. ) when you are sautéeing the mushrooms and fennel….
Recipe for Fennel and Tomato Frittata
*2 tablespoons organic butter
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
*3-4 large mushrooms, sliced
*2 cups defrosted slow roasted tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
*1 large handful of herbs, chopped (if not using slow roasted tomatoes)
*6 eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*2 tablespoons ricotta cheese-optional
*Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the butter and oil. Add the optional garlic and the sliced mushrooms and fennel and cook over low heat until they are very soft, about 10 minutes. If you are using uncooked tomatoes and herbs, add them in after about 5 minutes. If you are using defrosted cooked tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes), just mix them in at the end.
3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the ricotta and whisk well. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables.
4. If using a cast-iron skillet, you can use it to bake your frittata. If you are not using cast iron, or if you don't want to bake your fennel frittata right in the skillet, you can butter or oil a deep pie dish or other casserole pan and pour in the frittata ingredients.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the frittata is set. Allow to cool before slicing.
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
We were challenged to make a house “as big or as small as we’d like”, and it had to meet these requirements:
1. Everything needed to be edible – no glue or inner non-food supports allowed.
2. We had to bake the gingerbread ourself. No graham cracker allowed.
3. We had to use some sort of template.
4. The house had to be able to stand on its own.
Before we go on, I want to stress that if you want to make a gingerbread house from scratch, it’s a great project, but please leave yourself plenty of time. From start to finish, this takes a little while, so pick a day when you don’t have a lot of other stuff going on.
I started by making one of the challenge recipes but found it hard to roll out. I didn’t want to have to struggle with it, so I wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator and just made a second batch of dough using Martha Stewart’s Honey Gingerbread Cookie Recipe. I found the latter much easier to work with.
I also turned to Martha for a template; I used her Swedish Gingerbread Cottage Template to make my gingerbread house.
I have never attempted a homemade gingerbread house before. I’ve always been too scared to try, and have opted for the kits. But my general feeling about the kits is that they pretty much stink. My houses always fall apart and I think the actual gingerbread tastes terrible. So I was definitely eager to do this challenge.
Apart from having to make the dough twice, I didn’t have too many problems with this challenge. Rolling out the dough and cutting out the pieces of the template was pretty straightforward…
…and the simple syrup worked really well at holding the pieces together. In the past, I have always used frosting to hold the pieces together and it never worked. Simple syrup is your friend (but it’s hot, so be careful).
I did end up with one broken roof piece, though. I used additional simple syrup to “glue” it back together and then when I piped out the royal icing, I covered the break as best as I could. Break and all, everyone thought it was pretty cute.
My house was structurally sound while I took all my pictures, but wouldn’t you know it fell down shortly after. The dough was really delicious, though, so most of it was eaten up.
Then I managed to get the original dough workable enough so that we also made a bunch of cookies and ornaments; I let my kids do most of the work this time around.
All in all, it was a fun project. Not something I’ll do again right away, but next holiday season? For sure.