Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pumping up Breakfast— no PSL required


The look of fall, without the latte.

Pumpkin, what have they done to you? They’ve made your name synonymous with every fall food creation, from the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte (now known simply as PSL) to pumpkin spiced popcorn, bagels, pop-tarts, waffles, yogurt, truffles, ice cream and even Oreo’s. For the savory minded there are pumpkin spiced tortilla chips, crackers, cheese dip, hummus…and at the end of the day you can unwind with a pumpkin spiced ale or tea or stir up a martini made with pumpkin spiced vodka.

Enough already! All these processed pumpkin things make me crave food made with the earthy flavor and texture of actual pumpkin and butternut squash.

I looked no further than the Bring It! archives to satisfy my craving, and used the excuse to do some experimenting. First, there is the ridiculously easy—Halloween Soup, which you may want to make for sustenance tonight. For apps, my fall fave is squash on toast featuring spicy roasted squash and maple caramelized onion. Deconstructed, the elements of this make amazing pizzas, quesadillas, grilled cheeses and, with a little more tweaking, a rustic bread pudding (ready for prime time soon I hope). Until then, get your casserole fix with butternut squash casserole or commit to butternut squash lasagnePumpkin rosemary hummus has the flavors of fall without the cloying PSL signature, and by subbing pumpkin or squash for banana in buckwheat granola, you’ve got a new, weird classic.

But let’s revisit that PSL. Its popularity underscores our need for something a little more substantial in our cups and on our plates for breakfast this time of year. Wrangling a good breakfast—that can be portable, reheatable, and versatile—into the household every morning  can take you down! Crustless breakfast quiches to the rescue. They make a brilliant go-to for any meal or snack and can be made in mini or regular muffin tins (though  mini versions seem a little bit mean). The cornstarch keep the texture silky even through freezing and reheating, and the filling can be tweaked with whatever you have on hand (hello roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion!) I meant to stage a proper photo shoot with them, but in one of those ironies of food blogging, the best things disappear before they can be properly photographed. So just trust me—these are man-, boy- and mom-tested and approved. Girls? Please report!


Before. Add whatever filling makes you happy.


After. Fully self contained–no utensils required.

Crustless Zucchini and Basil (or whatever) Mini-Quiches

Makes 48 mini quiches or 14 ish muffin sized quiches; adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine


  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream (if no cream, a combo of milk and sour cream works too)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Oil, for the pan


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 small zucchini, grated (or chopped vegetable of choice)
  • 1/2 cup or more grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese (it has to be a hard cheese to make a crust. You can add other cheese on top if desired)
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped (or herb of choice, all optional)

* filling can be adapted to use anything you like. Try chopped up ham and broccoli, apples and walnuts, sautéed corn and peppers, spinach and mushrooms, or of course roasted squash and caramelized onions.


Heat oven to 450°F.

Prepare Batter: Put the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisking steadily, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the milk, mixing until quite smooth. Whisk in the whole eggs and egg yolks, mixing again until smooth, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, the cream, salt, and nutmeg. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to one day. If using the next day, be sure to re-whisk.

Prepare Zucchini/Veggie Mixture: In a nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add grated zucchini, and stir until just softened, another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. (This is where you can freelance with other vegetables, herbs, meat, dollops of soft cheese or whatever you like)

Oil mini muffin tins well. Put a pinch grated cheese into each muffin cup, a teaspoon of zucchini mixture, and pinch of chopped fresh basil. Pour 1 tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup. (adjust amounts for regular muffin cups, making sure there is enough cheese to cover the bottom of the pan.)

Bake until the quiches puff and start to turn golden, 15-18 minutes (a bit longer for regular muffin cups) Let cool for 10 minutes and then carefully run a paring knife around the rim of each muffin cup. Carefully lift each quiche out of its cup.

Mini quiches freeze very well. Let cool, then freeze in a single layer in a covered container. Reheat on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes. They will also keep a few days in the fridge, to be reheated as needed.


Pear Tarte Tatin

The branches practically touching the ground they are so pear laden.

The branches practically touching the ground they are so pear laden.

When it comes to fruit, I rarely pick the pear as my first, second, third, or even tenth choice. I don’t know why, but they are just not high on my list of fruit. Pears are really good, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many other fruits that trump the pear (in my book anyway)….especially right now with apples falling off almost every tree you pass. Having said this, I recently found myself with a bag full of pears from a neighbor’s pear tree so I was in a situation where pears suddenly moved to the #1 spot on my list. This was fortuituous because pears don’t get nearly enough play in my house. And so I went to my stand by cookbooks and websites and found Pear Tarte Tatin. What a fun idea – make a pie-like dessert (NOTE: this is not a pie but pie-like….for those of you who know me you know I don’t make pies) and then flip it upside down. I was all in.

As an aside, I learned that a tatin is an upside-down pasty in which the fruit is caramelized  in butter and sugar before the tarte is baked.  It is gooey and yummy and great for this time of year.  I would even suggest this as a Thanksgiving dessert to go along with your pumpkin pie!

Enjoy and happy Fall season!


1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 firm, slightly under ripe pears, peeled, cored, and rubbed with lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
9 oz. frozen pastry puff, defrosted and brought to room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put sugar, vanilla, and 1/2 cup water into an 8 inch ovenproof, heavy bottom fry pan and bring to a boil. Simmer this syrup until it thickens to become a deep brown caramel (when making caramel, do not be tempted to stir the sugar, as it will impact the process of making the caramel).

Cut each pear into 6 wedges.   Put pears in the caramel and gently toss until coated. Stir in butter and continue to reduce until you have a thick, buttery, caramel sauce. Carefully take off the heat and sprinkle on the ginger and walnuts.

Next, roll out the puff pastry until it’s the thickness of a 1/2 dollar and cut into a circle that it is about the size of your fry pan. You will want to tuck the edges down into the pan so leave a little extra. Mix the egg with the milk, then lay the pastry on top of the pears and tuck in around the edges. Brush the top of the pastry with the milk/egg mixture.   Put the pan in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the puff pastry is nicely browned on top.

Once the pear tarte is cooked, now comes the super fun part – you have to flip it upside down for it to be a tatin!   To do this flipping, place a plate on top of your fry pan and using an oven mitt (or maybe two), flip the pan upside down and give it a little jiggle. With any luck, the pear tarte will fall out onto the plate. Voila, pear tarte tatin! Way to go.  If it doesn’t slide out easily, get creative and ask others in the house to help.  They will all want to be a part of this success.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy the fall and make pears a top choice. They are really good. 

Classic Champion Chip Cookies

Pro move: Lila's got the tools of the trade—parchment paper and high tech oven mitts.

Pro move: Lila’s got the tools of the trade—parchment paper and high tech oven mitts.

Honestly, do you really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe? Apparently, yes! These come to you from US Ski Team rising star Lila Lapanja, who contributed mightily to my condo survival guide in Ski Racing. Lila’s mom Margie is the baking legend behind Margie’s Cowboy Cookies and the author of four cookbooks that meld life and kitchen wisdom with soul-satisfying recipes. Margie is all about comfort food, so of course her chocolate chip cookies would be good.

I am not sure what makes these so fool-proof, but they are. Maybe it’s the combo of margarine and butter, or the nice round numbers that make the proportions easy to remember even if you cut the recipe in half or in quarters; or the way dough stays soft and easy to scoop even if it’s in the fridge for a while; or the way they cook evenly and stay just soft enough when cool. I’m not sure what the magic is, but it just is. The next time you’re making a care package (surely someone you know needs a boost!) try baking these and you won’t go wrong.

According to Margie and Lila, these cookies will bring you good luck if you eat them the night before your ski races or at lunch between runs.

Champion Chip Cookies


  • 1 cup margarine, room temperature
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 cups chocolate chips*

(You can cut this recipe in half to make it more manageable. No calculator required!)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large (at least 13-quart) mixing bowl, whip up margarine, butter, and sugars until fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix well. (Slackers note—if a fork is all you’ve got just make sure the butter and margarine are soft and whip it good!)

Blend the baking soda and baking powder into the flour and tap into the creamed mixture on low speed. Mix until it comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips with a strong wooden spoon.

Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment and scoop the dough with a small (1- to 2-ounce) ice cream scoop or with a large spoon. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (depending on your stove…), until lightly golden in color with tiny cracks on top of the cookies. Note your baking time for the rest of the batch. Makes about 4 dozen 2-ounce (Mrs. Fields’-size) cookies.

* Yes, there is a secret to this recipe: the chocolate chips. My favorite baking chips are, have been, and will always be Hershey‘s…or Trader Joe’s. I like to use half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate. On festive occasions, try tossing in white chocolate chips, a few toffee chips, or mini-kisses.



Strangely Awesome Buckwheat Granola

Buckwheat granola is a roasty toasty taste of fall

Buckwheat granola is a roasty toasty taste of fall

So here it is mid October, and where’s the apple post? Apples rule my life in the fall. They beg to be picked. Their fermented scent spikes the air when I step outside. They pile up on the ground until they are weaponized by the lawnmower. I can’t pick them, eat them or cook them up fast enough. So I was feeling badly about not doing an apple post…until I realized we did a pretty complete one last year. In case you missed it, here it is. It’s got you covered on apple scones, pie, soup, cake, sangria, sauce and a few more apple inspired extravaganzas.

That frees us up for something different, even weird, on this Columbus Day. It involves buckwheat groats, which sound sufficiently scary. I’ve always loved their rustic, earthy taste, even though I never really knew what to do with them. Now I know!

I fully admit that I have weird food tastes (my sister even advised I seek medical advice on the particular quirk at one point), so before posting this granola I tried it on many people. Even those with mainstream tastes either loved it right away or quickly warmed up to its sneaky, crunchy addictiveness. It’s good, it’s good for you, it’s super easy, it’s different and it’s indestructible. All that makes it wayyyyy Bring It worthy.

And here’s the October bonus: you can substitute applesauce for the mashed banana. So you get to try something new while staying seasonal and plugging away on that apple stash.

Buckwheat Granola

Very slightly adapted from Food52

Makes about 4 cups


  • 2 cups raw buckwheat groats
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed seeds and nuts (I use sunflower seeds and either almonds or pecans, roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ripe banana, or ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil or almond butter)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup


Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a bowl, stir the buckwheat groats together with seeds, nuts, coconut, and spices.

In a separate small bowl, smash the banana with a fork and add it (or the applesauce) to the groats mixture, along with olive oil and maple syrup. Stir until everything is nicely coated. Spread across a baking sheet (lining it makes for easier clean-up) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until fragrant and golden. Let cool before storing in a glass container.

Some for you and some for a friend. Granola is always the right thing to bring.

Some for you and some for a friend. Granola is always the right thing to bring.

Bun Control Strata-gy

 Pretty? Not so much. Tasty? Hearty? Perfect for a chilly fall morning? Oh yeah baby!

Pretty? Not so much. Tasty? Hearty? Perfect for a chilly fall morning? Oh yeah baby!

So, you made too many hot dogs or sausages. Worse yet, someone actually put the dogs or sausages in the buns and now you are left with slightly meaty tasting buns. Not to worry. We’ve got a solution, and it’s called strata. Not only will it solve your meaty-bun-surplus problem, but it will also serve your, what-the-heck-am-I-serving-for-breakfast problem.

Strata is assembled the night before, and sits in the fridge overnight while all the ingredients have a party and get to know each other. In the morning you pop it in the oven and have a dish of hot, savory, awesomeness that can be eaten as is or topped with a scootch of maple syrup.

This particular recipe was born from too many buns, but also from the pressing need to use up apples… as well as the daily desire for a tasty no-brainer breakfast. The purpose of strata (besides satisfying hunger in a very complete way) is to use up your surpluses or everything, so do not feel constrained by these ingredients. If your dinner leftovers happen to include, say, multigrain baguette slices and roasted onions and butternut squash that would be a fabulous combo. In fact, I’d probably show up unannounced.

If your buns are pristine (not meatified) you might want to consider using them for croutons, stuffing, bruschetta, berry bread pudding, chocolate bread pudding, P B and J bread pudding (ok maybe not), bread crumbs, gazpacho, French Dip, panzanella, meatballs. You get the idea. Too many buns is no cause for lamentation. This isn’t gourmet, but it will get your day started right and make you feel pretty darned ok about over-committing on buns.

Bun Control Strata


  • 1 package hot dog buns (8)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more if not using sausage)
  • 1 lb sausage, browned, or leftover grilled sausages, cut up. Meat is optional!
  • 1/2 onion diced (you can also use green onions, leeks, shallots or a combo)
  • 1-2 med apples, diced
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Rosemary, or whatever fresh herbs in your garden survive.
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheese (I married a Vermonter so I have no choice. It has to be sharp
  • cheddar. You have a choice. Unless you married a Swiss from Gruyere or Emmental.)
  • 3 c milk (or a combo of milk and half & half)
  • 6 eggs
  • Squeeze of Dijon mustard


Butter two 8″ pans (one for you, and one for the hostess whose leftover buns you took home) or one 9”x13” pan.

Make bun croutons: (If using heartier bread you can skip this step) Split buns through at the crease then cut lengthwise once more, then horizontally into cubes. Toss w 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 for 30 mins or so. Check and stir around. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Note: Fully expect all inhabitants including yourself will grab some of these as they walk by. Don’t be angry. Remember—you are trying to use these up! If they are transformed into a form that gets consumed that’s fine. Call it good, go to Plan B for tomorrow’s breakfast and ignore further instructions.

Brown sausage (if using). Add onion and apple (if not using sausage or using already cooked sausage, cook onions and apples in olive oil) and cook until softened. You could add chard, kale or spinach at this point if you are going for extra credit. Add herbs of choice at the end and cook for another minute.

Add apple/onion/sausage mixture to croutons. Add grated cheese. Stir to combine.

Pour the whole shebang in to the baking dish/dishes.

Whisk together eggs, milk or half and half and Dijon. Pour over crouton mixture, dividing if using two pans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove plastic wrap. Give strata another baptism of kosher salt for good luck.  Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until it looks set and is starting to brown.

Serve it up and be loved!