Category Archives: Breakfast/Brunch

Easy Tomato, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Tarts

There is something about the word ‘tart’ that evokes thoughts of elaborate, complicated food. Innately elegant dining fare, whether savory or sweet, tarts always carry with them a little bit of wow factor. The good news for you and I is that most of the tarts that I make end up being some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them perfect for entertaining: packing maximum impact with as little work as possible.  We all know by now that individually sized food just sets my heart aflutter, so when I first saw Ina Garten’s recipe for her Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, you know that I was on board. I mean, buttery puff pastry topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and Parmesan?  As Ina would say, “How bad can that be?”

I followed her recipe carefully, substituting plain goat cheese and tossing in a half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes in with the caramelized onions, for just a little bit of heat. As I was assembling the tarts I remembered that I had some prosciutto di Parma leftover from an event, and I decided what better way to use it than to place a  deliciously buttery, salty slice on each of them (atop the caramelized onions, and underneath the goat cheese and tomato); because, after all,  what isn’t improved by the addition of cured pork?

I love the rustic, earthy look of these tarts. They are equally delicious right out of the oven or at room temperature, and can be assembled before your guests arrive and baked off right before serving. The flaky pastry, sweet onions,  salty prosciutto, grassy thyme, tangy goat cheese, nutty Parmesan, and juicy tomato are all harmonize together beautifully; and  no one has to know that making them requires little more than caramelizing some onions.  Serve it with a simple green salad and you have the makings of a perfect lunch or light dinner.  Simple enough for everyday, yet special enough for company. Enjoy!





This post made the Top 9!!!


Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Foodbuzz Top 9, Meat, Other

Jacob’s Kitchen: Scone Secrets Revealed (Project Food Blog – Challenge 7)

This post is my seventh entry for Project Food Blog,’s quest to find the next food blog star. (Click here to see my contestant profile.) In this round we were challenged to create a video cooking demonstration. Voting begins Monday, November 15, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first six rounds, I appreciate all of your support more than I can ever express!

I have always been in love with scones; there is something about them that really speaks to me. I think it’s the perfect balance that they strike between being earthy and rustic while at the same time also feeling fancier than other standard coffee shop fare. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I first attempted making my own batch at home. And let me just say, it did not go well. They were dry and crumbly, and had no real flavor to them, beyond that of any ordinary day old biscuit.

Determined to master the art of the scone, however, I spent quite some time experimenting with countless different recipes. Over the course of the next year, I tried everything; alternately making them with milk, half n’ half, cream, buttermilk, shortening, butter, and sour cream. I experimented by adding more salt, or sugar, or less salt and more baking powder. I tried adding fresh fruit to the dough, and brushing the tops of the scones with milk, or cream, egg wash, oil, or butter before baking to ensure perfect browning. In the end, I finally reached what I personally consider to be absolute scone nirvana.

Since then I have made more of these scones, in every imaginable variation, than I could ever possibly count. Scones have now become one of my signature dishes, and over the last couple of years variations of this basic recipe have walked away with a best of class award, two first place blue ribbons, and one third place white ribbon in the baked foods division at the Oregon State Fair. And, up until now, I have never shared the recipe with anyone.

Unlike many of the scones that one encounters out there in the world, my scones are moist, flaky, tender and full of fresh flavor. They can be made days or weeks in advance and baked off right before serving, which makes them absolutely perfect for entertaining. In this particular variation dried strawberries, white chocolate chips, lemon zest, and a vanilla bean glaze all harmonize together beautifully to create a flavor reminiscent of a classic strawberry shortcake.

Preparing delicious homemade scones like these doesn’t have to be daunting. A few simple techniques are all that you need to be making scones at home like a pro. It’s easy, I’ll show you how.

Variations – It’s sometimes difficult to find dried strawberries in the stores these days. What I can typically always find, however, are dried berry medleys (often including blueberries, cherries, strawberries, etc.) which would make a perfect substitution for these strawberry shortcake scones. But swap out the dried fruit and the flavorings that you add and you can create any number of different scone variations using this same basic recipe. Let your imagination run wild, the possibilities are really endless (cranberry orange, lemon, ginger, apricot or cherry almond, blueberry lemon, currant, pumpkin, rum raisin, etc.). To boost the fruit flavor in the scones even further, substitute one egg for a generous fourth of a cup of good quality jam.

Glazing Glaze the scones right when you pull them out of the oven. This way the glaze stays very thin (so they aren’t too sweet) and it easily coats the scones, locking in their moist texture, while adding a nice shine. Depending on the level of humidity on any given day you might need to make adjustments to the final glaze. You can really be casual about it; if it’s too thick add a tiny splash of milk, and if it’s too thin add a little more powdered sugar. In the end, the glaze should be thick but still pourable.

Storage – The cut scone dough can be made and stored in your refrigerator for up to a week, and baked off right before serving. To prepare the scone dough up to one month in advance, place the cut scones onto a baking sheet and freeze (uncovered) until frozen solid, then transfer them to a freezer storage bag. Bake the scones from frozen, adding an additional three to five minutes to the baking time. Because of the glazing, leftover scones (not that there ever are any!) can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days without a significant change in texture.

Egg Wash – I find that I get the best browning without the addition of milk/water/cream to the beaten egg for the egg wash. But feel free to use whichever you most prefer, or to omit the egg wash step entirely.

I think that it’s only natural for us to feel the most attachment to the recipes that we spend the most time carefully cultivating. For many years I wouldn’t share any of my recipes, period. It was my hard work, and I honestly felt like my ability to make perfect scones, biscuits or pecan bars would somehow be diminished if everyone else then also knew how to do it as well. As I began writing this blog, however, I slowly came to the realization that having this knowledge was so much less meaningful than sharing it all with you; after all, food is so much less enjoyable when there is no one to share it with. I hope that you really will make some version of these scones and that this recipe becomes a part of your family’s traditions, just as they have become a part of mine. Perfect for a portable breakfast, early morning business meeting, tea party, or a leisurely Sunday brunch with friends, these decadent scones are (literally) a winner every time.


Filed under Blue Ribbon Winners, Breads, Breakfast/Brunch, Project Food Blog, Snacks

Herb Baked Eggs

I have been making Ina Garten’s herb baked eggs ever since her Barefoot in Paris cookbook first came out. It is such a simple recipe, but it makes for a really satisfying meal, whether as a breakfast or brunch, or served along side a green salad for a casual late night dinner. They are a great alternative to omelets, and I love that you can prep everything in advance and make enough for a crowd in just a matter of minutes, without having to stand over the stove while your guests are having fun in the other room. I typically use a combination of whichever herbs I happen to have laying around be they parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, basil, summer savory, dill, cilantro, etc. I find that my broiler is a little hot for this recipe (since the rack underneath it is not adjustable) so I will often forgo the broiler and bake them in a 450º oven instead, following the same steps, and about the same cooking times. Here I combined thyme, rosemary, garlic, parsley, basil, and Parmesan cheese, and topped the eggs with a tablespoon or so of that mixture before baking. The eggs are moist and flavorful, with lots of golden, runny yolk to be sopped up with toast. Delicious!

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Filed under Breakfast/Brunch

Banana Bread French Toast

A couple of weeks ago one of my facebook friends said that he liked to make french toast out of slices of banana bread, and ever since then I have been obsessed with the idea. Last night I found myself with several over ripe bananas, and so at midnight I somehow found the motivation and decided that I would make a loaf of banana bread, just so I could make this french toast in the morning. What a deliciously sinister plot. I made the bread using one of my favorite stand by banana bread recipes from the Kona Inn which I have been making for many years. I always add a splash of pure vanilla extract, and a generous dash of both cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, and I typically omit the walnuts (because of my allergy).  I also almost always replace the shortening in the recipe with butter, unless I am for some reason out of butter (which is only very rarely). This morning, since the bread was so moist, I sliced it and placed the slices on a sheet pan and baked them for 20 minutes or so in a 300º oven just to dry them out a little bit, so they could absorb the batter without just disintegrating. Next I combined three eggs, a healthy splash of whole milk, a little vanilla extract, about a tablespoon of sugar, and a big pinch of both cinnamon and nutmeg. I soaked each slice in the batter for about one minute, and then browned them in a buttered skillet for approximately two minutes per side. Top them with sliced bananas, toasted walnuts (if you are fortunate enough not to be allergic to them), and a drizzle of pure maple syrup (preferably grade A dark amber). What a simple but decadent breakfast. Moist and flavorful, spicy and sweet, it is perfect for house guests, Sunday brunch, or just a special treat for the family. We always seem to find ourselves with extra bananas around the house so I frequently make banana bread, as not to waste them (and if I don’t have time to make it immediately, I freeze the bananas for bread making on another day). This will definitely become a staple in our house. Thanks for the great idea Matt! Enjoy!


Filed under Breads, Breakfast/Brunch

Banana Muffins

There is something so incredibly comforting about banana bread. I am not sure what it is. Perhaps it is the intoxicating smell as it bakes, or the comforting memories that I associate with it from my childhood. Whatever it is, it is so alluring that when I see the bananas in the fruit bowl beginning to turn brown, I get a little bit excited. I will often mix up loaves of classic banana bread, like my grandmother used to make, but occasionally I like to shake things up and make banana muffins instead. I have made Ina Garten’s famous Banana Crunch Muffins for years. People are always really surprised by what great texture and flavor they have compared to more commonly available banana nut muffins. I always add a dash of both cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, which her recipe doesn’t call for, and I will sometimes omit the granola (as was the case this morning), depending on what I have laying around the house. When I am making these muffins for myself I also leave out the nuts, since I am allergic to both walnuts and pecans, but they do impart a wonderful flavor and additional texture.  I remember when I first made these muffins the addition of coconut was a revelation. I mean, what a delicious idea, right? And to top them all off, a sprinkling of banana chips before baking, which is just so perfectly rustic and charming. Sweet and spicy, moist and crunchy, these muffins always make a splash. Perfect for that on the go breakfast, business meeting, brunch, or delightful little afternoon snack with coffee. Enjoy!

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Filed under Breakfast/Brunch

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Since blueberry season is upon us, and my friends and I just went picking, I decided to use some of my farm fresh berries in this delicious blueberry crumb cake. I used Ina Garten’s recipe which I have been wanting to try for a while (though I added more nutmeg to the streusel topping, and about a teaspoon of ground ginger into the dry ingredients for the cake). This cake is moist, light, and flavorful. The lemon zest and ground ginger are just enough to enhance the flavor of the blueberries, without overpowering them (much in the same way that coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate). Perfect for breakfast, brunch, an afternoon tea party, or as a light summery dessert after dinner. Enjoy!

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Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Desserts

Blueberry Pancakes with a Warm Berry Compote

After spending the afternoon yesterday picking blueberries, I went to sleep last night dreaming of the blueberry pancakes that I would make this morning. To go along with them I decided to make a warm berry compote. In a small sauce pan I added a couple of handfuls of fresh blueberries, a splash of water, the juice of one lemon, about a half of a cup or so of sugar, a little freshly grated ginger, about a third of a cup of my Oregon Berry jam, and a pinch of nutmeg. I let that mixture boil away while I made the pancakes. I used my favorite pancake recipe (but your own favorite, or even a boxed mix would work equally well) to which I added a splash of vanilla, the zest of one large lemon, a teaspoon or so of freshly grated ginger, and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. In a buttered skillet I ladled out the pancake batter, then placed a small handful of blueberries on top of each, and made them as one usually would, placing the finished pancakes on a sheet pan in a 200º oven between batches to keep them warm. Once they were all finished, I added another handful of fresh blueberries to the now thickened syrup, and stirred in a half pint each of fresh raspberries and blackberries. Top your stack of pancakes with a generous amount of the berry compote and a dusting of powdered sugar, and you have a delicious breakfast well suited for any leisurely Sunday morning. Perfect for house guests, Mother’s day, or just a special summertime treat. Happy Eating!


Filed under Breakfast/Brunch

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is the perfect thing, when fussing around with kneading and proofing yeast dough is just beyond your time and energy. It is very easy, much like making scones, and uses baking soda as its leavening (thus, its name). You can make it plain, or add whatever other flavorings you would like (cinnamon and raisins would be especially good!). Here I added currants and orange zest (á la Ina Garten), for a slight twist on the classic recipe. In a large bowl I combine 4½ cups of all purpose flour, 1/3 of a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of salt, and cut in six tablespoons of cold, diced butter, until it is about the texture of corn meal. In a measuring cup I mix together 1¾ cups buttermilk, one egg, and the zest of one orange. I pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix it until just combined. I add about one cup of dried currants, and stir to incorporate. I turn the dough out onto a floured board, and knead it several times, folding the dough over onto itself to develop flaky layers. I cut the dough in half and form each half into a round ball, and chill them in the refrigerator for one hour. (If you are in a hurry you can certainly skip this step, but I have found that without chilling the loaves turn out a little squat after baking). Take the chilled dough, and, with a sharp knife,  score an “x” into the top of each. Bake at 375º for a little under and hour, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when plunged into the center of each loaf. I like to serve this bread with homemade orange marmalade to really echo the orange flavor. Whether toasted or plain, hot out of the oven, or cooled, this quick, easy bread makes a fabulous addition to anyone’s kitchen repertoire. Enjoy!


Filed under Breads, Breakfast/Brunch

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls were not commonplace in our house growing up. Granted, we always had them on Christmas morning (a tradition carried over from several generations back), but throughout the year I don’t have many memories of having had them. So when they were made, they were an extra special treat. The whole house would fill with the warm, comforting scent of cinnamon, yeast, and butter. My mother (or grandmother) would whip together a simple cream cheese glaze, and smother the rolls with the rich, cheesy, vanilla flavored frosting. I would practically make myself sick eating much more than my fair share.  And these days, when I do make cinnamon rolls, it still feels luxurious and special.

With half of a batch of my grandmother Browning’s roll dough left over, I decided what better way to use it than to make a batch of cinnamon rolls, just like my grandmother used to make (with maybe a few extra touches thrown in for fun). (Store bought pizza dough, or thawed frozen bread dough would make a perfect substitution. I would simply take it out of its package, knead in a half a stick or so of softened butter.. and as much flour as is needed to make a tacky but not sticky dough, and then let it proof once before proceeding. And you can also do this process the night before and refrigerate, as cold dough is much easier to roll out.) I began by rolling the dough out into a rough rectangle, about a fourth of an inch thick, on a lightly floured board. I then melted one stick of salted butter, to which I added about a half of a cup each of light brown, and white granulated sugar, about three tablespoons of cinnamon, a small dash of freshly grated nutmeg, the zest of one orange, and a pinch of salt. I spread the cinnamon mixture evenly onto the dough, leaving a one inch border along the top. I decided to sprinkle on a few raisins (though, to be honest, I do vacillate between loving and detesting raisins in cinnamon rolls… but today, it sounded like a good idea. If I were not allergic to them, I might also add toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts, which would add a delicious flavor and texture, but alas.) I then rolled up the dough tightly, and pinched the seam between my fingers to crimp it closed. After slicing the log into about one and a half inch slices (best done with a sharp serrated knife), I placed them two inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. I covered them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until they were almost doubled in size (I have also been known to do this process the night before and let them proof over night to be slipped in the oven before breakfast… so feel free to be casual with the timing). They bake at 375º for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and set in the middle. While they were baking I softened one stick of butter and one 8 oz package of cream cheese in the microwave, and beat them together with about one and a half to two cups of confectioners sugar (or to taste….keeping in mind that the less sweet the frosting is the more you can pack on the rolls without it becoming cloying), a splash of vanilla (and vanilla bean seeds or paste certainly wouldn’t hurt), the zest of two oranges, and a little squeeze of fresh orange juice (though the frosting could also be made even days in advance and refrigerated). When the rolls are hot out of the oven, I spoon a generous amount of the glaze over each, and let it melt into the buttery layers of dough.

These rolls are light, feathery, sweet, cheesy, and comforting. The orange and cinnamon are a perfect pairing that make these decadent breakfast treats seem all the more special. Enjoy!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast/Brunch

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

I have to say, I make a lot of biscotti. Seriously, I could do it in my sleep at this point. They are pretty easy to whip up, they keep well for a long time, and are nice to have on hand for dipping in coffee in the morning, or in wine for dessert. A couple of years ago, this particular flavor won a blue ribbon at the Oregon State Fair. They are flavored with lots of almond extract (a shocking 4 tablespoons!), dried cranberries, toasted almonds, vanilla, and  freshly grated orange zest. Dipping them in white chocolate not only makes them more beautiful, but also adds a nice sweet, vanilla creaminess which is a nice compliment to the other flavors. For me, biscotti is more of a method than a recipe. I don’t really measure the ingredients, but I have made so many of them over the years that I have a good feeling of what the dough should look and feel like.

I combine a heaping cup of sugar, 4 eggs, a big splash of vanilla, the almond extract (4 tablespoons….which I realize sounds like a shocking amount, but it really fades with baking in this recipe…. trust me), and the zest of one large orange. I then beat the egg mixture for about five minutes until it is pale yellow and forms a ribbon. Meanwhile, I combine the dry ingredients: 3 cups of flour, two  teaspoons of baking powder, and a large pinch of salt. Once the egg mixture is at the ribbon stage, slowly add the dry ingredients along with  just enough extra flour to form a dough that is tacky, but no longer sticky (which on any given day might be another cup or so), then mix in a heaping cup of whole almonds, and a heaping cup of dried cranberries (which I combine in a bowl before hand and toss with a tablespoon of flour). I form two long, flat logs on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper, and bake at 350º for about thirty minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Next, after they have cooled completely on a wire rack, I slice the logs on the bias using a sharp serrated knife  (I like mine pretty substantial, but you can cut them any size you want). I then lay the slices cut side down on the baking sheet,  and return to the oven for about ten minutes at 325º, at which point I flip them, and bake them for about ten minutes more. (They should be dried, but not necessarily browned.) Once cooled, dip one side in melted white chocolate and let in dry on parchment paper. Stored  in an airtight container these cookies will last for months. And wrapped up in a cellophane bag tied with raffia or a pretty ribbon, I can’t imagine a more perfect hostess gift or holiday treat, that anyone is bound to appreciate. Enjoy!

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Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Cookies/Bars, Desserts