A Breakfast Picnic

SCCoffeeCake

If you were to look in Little Man’s cave of a mouth, you would see some newly formed pearls desperately trying to make themselves noticed in this world.  They are quiet obnoxious, their mischievous shenanigans during the afternoons have deprived him of enjoying simple things like completing a puzzle or smooshing play-doh into the carpet.  Crayons are being bitten and he is miserably demanding popsicles and ice cream for all meals.  By far, their worst offense is coming out late at night to play, waking LM up from his silent slumber with their raucous soirees.  Three in the morning or five seems to be when they are particularly devilish.

Just as most adults, LM hates being miserable alone and often extends the invitation for me to come and be miserable along with him. (Mr. H does help out, too, but lacks the super-sonic bat-hearing I possess.)  After a while a tooth matures, takes its place among the other decent teeth, and has become useful member of society.  This development takes about two weeks or so.

Unlike most adults, LM doesn’t realize that sleep is a glorious institution to return to after such an ordeal and he must be re-trained to sleep through the night for a day or two.  By then, while I quite remember and desire to return to a normal sleeping habit, I discover that I am in the god-awful habit of rising at five in the morning and wondering what to do with myself.

Sunrise

My go-to routine: make coffee, open the windows to watch the sun rise, enjoy a little uninterrupted reading, and possibly make a delicious breakfast.  On a recent morning with a glorious apricot-pink sunrise I was craving coffee cake.  Not any coffee cake but the coffee cake of my childhood.  Not because we had it often but because we didn’t.  It was my mother’s standard contribution for my dad’s work functions or church brunch potlucks.  The torture my siblings I would endure as we smelled it baking knowing that, unlike cookies or bars, obtaining a taste would not go unnoticed and we should therefore abandon the idea of such luck.  On the rare occasion the cake was for us, we devoured each piece, licking the jam and crumbs from our fingers.

My mother’s recipe calls for Raspberry Jam and Almonds, which is divine.  Of course, the morning I wanted to make the coffee cake I was out of both.  I substituted Apricot Preserves and Hazelnuts, and decided to add bit of Cardamom because I cannot help myself.  (If I were a spice...)  For not being the nostalgia-evoking original, this cake was scrumptious.  Like raspberry, apricot is tangy and balances the richness of the cream-cheese layer.   The cake itself is tender and delicately sweet.  And of course the best part is the crumb topping with crunchy, toasted nuts – it is absolutely impossible not grab little bits from the edge while the cake cools.  You have been warned.

Fog

A new cake demanded a new memory.  The weather was just warm enough for me to conceive the idea of a breakfast picnic on our patio; moreover, to convince Mr. H. (He is fond of spending his mornings in a warm robe, on a warm couch, inside the warm house, where people should be at such a time.)  Freshly baked cake and hot coffee are also powerfully persuasive.  We sat bundled up in our sweaters, quietly eating, ritualistically licking jam and crumbs from our fingers.  We sipped coffee as the fog rolled in, dimming the sun and adding a chill to the air.  It was a glorious morning and hopefully to be repeated as the next set of  little molars make their unsubtle debut.

 

SCCoffeeCake2

Apricot, Hazelnut, & Cardamom Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

2 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour

¾ cup Sugar + ¼ cup

¾ cup Butter + a little for the pan

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Baking Soda

¼ teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cardamom

¾ cup Sour Cream

2 Eggs

1 teaspoon Almond Extract

8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened

½ cup Apricot Preserves

½ cup Hazelnuts, chopped

Grease and flour a 9 or 10” spring-form pan.  In a large bowl, combine flour and ¾ cup of sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs.  Reserve one cup of the crumb mixture and combine with hazelnuts.

To the remaining mixture add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom.  Stir in sour cream, one egg, and extract; blend well.  Spread batter in the pan pushing up the sides, about two inches.

In a small bowl, blend together the cream cheese, ¼ cup of sugar, and remaining egg.  Pour over the batter in the pan.  Spoon preserves over the cream cheese filling, gently spreading out evenly.  Sprinkle the hazelnut-crumb mixture on top.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 55 minutes. The cream cheese filling should be just set and the top of the cake golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and serving.  Serve warm and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

 

– One of my mother’s old Pillsbury Cookbooks.

* For the original recipe: swap the Apricot Preserves for Raspberry, sliced Almonds for the chopped Hazelnuts, and omit the cardamom.

Beautiful Mornings

 

Sunrise1.3

 

I am, by nature, not a morning person.  I am a creature of the night, or so Mr. H lovingly calls me.  The jive of the stars, the occasional sonata of the moon, the aria of the darkness swelling with mysteries and discoveries make me such a creature.  I am captivated by wonder and comfortable in the unknown – this is where I thrive and my imagination gorges itself on all possibilities and impossibilities.

Unfortunately for me, we live in a sunrise-to-sunset society.  This is my bane.

Mr. H works a 9-to-5, or later, grind and the Little Man is up with the sun.  And when I say “up with the sun” I mean “sprinting with the sun” until he falls in a heap at some undetermined time in the evening.  What is unnatural for me is only natural for them.  What is also very natural for me is to be reticent and aloof before 10 AM.  While I am usually boasting that embracing one’s nature is healthy, I began hating how much I loathed the morning.  The blurred rush of covers tossed, feet on the ground, diapers changed, coffee made, poured, and drunk did little more than put me in a foul mood for the rest of the day.  Not to mention feeding people.   It appears that morning people like to eat at odd hours.   The morning may not be my favorite but the start of one’s day shouldn’t be detested.  This much I know.  And so I decided to take on the Herculean task of making my mornings beautiful.

Morning-Coffee

I began by rising a little earlier and beginning my day in personal solace – orienting myself in these foreign hours.  As my amicable attempt at a relationship with the morning continues, I am finding there is indeed beauty in it, unique to itself.  The light filling the sky and breaking the barriers of our place, casting its golden life onto every surface is a constant intrigue.  I smile at waking sighs of my loves: heavy and stalling groans from the taller one and high-pitch coos and laughter from the smaller one.   Even the singing of the birds, which once grated, gnawed, and drilled against my ears, can, on occasion, transform itself into a melodious sunrise concert.

As I find beauty in these first moments, breakfast has also become a pleasurable moment as opposed to a necessary chore.  On most occasions we stick to toast or yogurt.  However, the need for variety has me looking for simple, fast, and energizing starts, such as our new favorite: Oatmeal Pudding.

Oatmeals

It is actually Baked Oatmeal but we found it to be of similar consistency to Bread Pudding, and so have named it thus.  (Yes, pudding for breakfast!  I wonder how long the Little Man will believe this one.)  The best part is that it is made the night before, kept in the fridge overnight, and baked the following morning.  As the kitchen fills with the delicious aroma of the false notion that I have been up before dawn preparing a scrumptious breakfast, I can sip coffee, read BBC, and feel particularily awesome about myself.  The second best part is that this pudding is a blank canvas and easily adaptable to a variety of tastes and preferences.  The boys love Peanut Butter, Bananas, and Maple Syrup while I love Yogurt and Fruit.  There also the classic standby of Raisins, Milk, and Brown Sugar.  Butter, Jam, Honey, Toasted Coconut or Hazelnuts… the possibilities are yours for the making.

Enjoy! And may you have a beautiful morning.

____

 

Overnight Oatmeal Pudding (or, Baked Oatmeal)
¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Honey
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 ¼ cups Old Fashioned Oats
½ teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg

Grease a 9 x 9” pan with a little extra olive oil or cooking spray. Sift together the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, honey, milk, and vanilla. Add the baking powder-spice mixture and oats, and stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and using a spoon or spatula press the top to even out. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the covered dish in the hot oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before cutting into nine slices. Serve warm with desired accompaniments.

Store remaining oatmeal in the refrigerator, reheating individual pieces for future breakfasts.

Adapted from various recipes

Oatmeal-Baby1

See more of my daybreak inspirations HERE, on my Good Morning Pinterest Board.