A happy {sweet potato} hash worth waking up for

Sweet potato hashbrowns with sausage and egg

It is really easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut — often it’s a “peanut butter toast with honey or jam” rut. I’ll branch out into oatmeal, quinoatmeal or other more hearty things for a while, but, in the end, my old ways win out and it’s back to my trusty favorites.

The only break in my habit tends to be the weekends. Finally I have the time and motivation to create something a little more involved. This breakfast is one I whipped up a few weekends ago. It was so good I’ve brought it back for several encores.

I think the part I love the most is how the flavors in the pork sausage combine with the sweet potato in such a perfect “tastes like fall” type of way. The sausage is actually one I made myself — much easier than it may sound — and contains onions, shredded apples and sage. It seems like pork, apples and sage should be their own holy trinity, especially this time of year. It’s really hard to go wrong with that combination!

The hash doesn’t play second fiddle though — its crispy in parts and slightly sweet from the caramelized sweet potato and onion. Take all that, put an egg on it (in true Portland style) and dig in to a breakfast so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner.

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Roasted delicata squash boats bear delicious cargo

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Conversations at my job vary among a few recurring themes: crazy customers, how much we hate chicken, how we’d kill for a glass of wine, and food. While the first three conversations could practically be played on repeat, the fourth is constantly changing.

We talk about what we’re eating, what restaurants we’ve been to lately, what we ate for dinner the night before and what we’re going to eat as soon as we get home. Food talk starts when we open and continues until the office is closed and is often accompanied by photos and/or shared samples.

The two most obsessed eaters seem to be me and my co-worker Breezy. We both used to work in kitchens around town and we spend a lot of time between phone calls chatting about recipes, techniques and ingredients. This is pretty handy because it’s nice to have someone to bounce food ideas off of when I’m in need of inspiration.

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I can’t quit you: My summer love affair with shakshuka

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

This summer was the Summer of Shakshuka.

It started on a whim (“hmmm…never made that before…”) and turned into an all-out obsession (“must make more!”). Months later, my infatuation is still going strong and even though I’m no longer using tomatoes from my garden, I have happily discovered it still tastes great using high quality canned tomatoes.

If you’re not familiar, shakshuka is a spicy stewed tomato dish, usually made with onions, chilies and cumin. Most versions boast a simmered-to-perfection egg and the best versions (in my opinion) also include a nice salty cheese. While the egg certainly makes it seem more “breakfast-y,” this one-pot wonder makes a great lunch or dinner as well.

It’s also a fun dish to play around with, adding or subtracting ingredients depending on what’s in season — or by what’s in your fridge. My favorite batches this summer included sautéed zucchini and summer squash and lots of kale. I’ve even thrown cooked farro or quinoa in at the end to bulk it up.

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Zucchini pancakes with fried corn & sungolds, for when summer continues to linger…

Zucchini Pancake with Roasted Corn, Sungolds

A rainbow of happy vegetables!

I was getting ready to post about a fantastic braised shortrib pie that I made on a recent rainy day when suddenly the weather here in Portland did a swift about-face. While braising beef sounded good a week ago when it was blustery and cold, the sun is now blazing and we’re enjoying 80 degree weather with only more blue skies on the horizon.

So I decided instead to revisit a recipe that I made a month or so ago, when I was too swamped with summer’s craziness to edit the pictures, let alone write a post about it. And since I’ve still seen plenty of pretty produce in the markets, there’s time left to fit this in before the cold is upon us!

This dish came about because my friends at Gourmandistan posted their zucchini pancake recipe (accompanied by their recipe for a fried corn relish) and it all sounded too good to pass up. My parents had just handed off several zucchini and summer squash from their garden and I’m a sucker for anything with fresh corn so Michelle and Steve’s post was a basically a double whammy of perfectly timed temptation.

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Pearl Sugar & the Liege Waffle: A story of sweet obsession

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

I have always been a waffle lover. I remember my mom making them for my friends the morning after slumber parties and as an adult, they remain a favorite of mine.

While nothing beats the beautiful simplicity of a buttermilk waffle with melted butter and real maple syrup, I have branched out quite a bit in the waffle department: gingerbread waffles, corn waffles with pork belly, waffles with berries soaked in vanilla rum. Heck, I even threw a Waffle Party once, a slightly crazy soiree filled with fruit curds, compound butters, whipped cream and lots of sparkling wine.

But, sadly, I didn’t discover the reigning ruler of waffles until a few years ago — the liege waffle, made with Belgian pearl sugar. The specialized pearl sugar is added to the unsweetened batter before cooking and melts in the waffle iron, creating crispy crunchy pockets throughout the waffle.

Belgian Pearl Sugar

Belgian Pearl Sugar

The sugar also caramelizes the entire outside of the waffle, making it sweet enough to eat on its own. In fact, these are a popular street food in Belgium where people often buy a waffle to snack on while they walk. The sweetness of the waffle negates the need to dress it up with messy toppings (though that’s part of the fun!) making it a great thing to eat on the go.

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Adios breakfast burritos, hola sopes benedicts!

Breakfast Sopes topped with chorizo, a fried egg and salsa

Breakfast Sopes topped with chorizo, a fried egg and salsa

Like most of Portland, I love brunch. Unlike most Portlanders, ninety percent of the time I am unwilling to wait for two hours to eat it. And while I wish my husband and I went to brunch more often, it’s just a huge time waster: wait forever, suck down a few cocktails at a nearby bar while waiting, finally get seated, stuff your face for 15 minutes because you are so hungry and then go home and nap the Bloody Marys off.

Going to brunch basically means that will be my only accomplishment of the day (which is not necessarily a bad thing, I admit).

But I’ve found cooking brunch at home is so more rewarding. My husband is usually still sleeping or just waking up when I start cooking, giving me free reign to make whatever I want.

Usually I go fairly standard — eggs and a veg-heavy hash for instance, but a few weeks ago I was feeling the need to mix it up. I had leftover masa dough from the night before and the idea of making breakfast sopes was too enticing to pass up.

I made the shells just like I did in this post and then focused on the toppings. I cooked up some chorizo, adding in some leftover carmelized onions and black beans. Garnished with a bit of queso fresco and paired with a cabbage slaw, they looked tasty enough…

Breakfast Sopes - chorizo and queso

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