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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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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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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A tropical breakfast to warm up the chilliest of winter mornings

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

I’m still going strong on the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse and I have to say that the best part has been breaking out of my breakfast rut. For the past year my weekday breakfast has involved the same routine: a whole grain English muffin, toasted, slathered with peanut butter and a bit of honey. And it’s done me well — it’s a nice mix of protein, carbs and sweetness to get my day started.

But over the last 10 days, not being able to indulge in refined flours, I’ve had to mix things up.

My first experience with a breakfast from the cleanse resulted in the awesome discovery of quinoatmeal. After I polished off the last of that, I moved onto a new porridge in the form of Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal. This is a blend of everything from millet and barley to brown rice and oat bran. It all cooks happily together in a matter of ten minutes or so.

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Ultimate Autumn Breakfast: Apple Oven (Pan)Cake

Apple Oven Cake

Apple Oven Cake w. Powdered Sugar

I was leafing through Sunset magazine a week or so ago when a recipe for an Apple Oven Cake jumped out at me. Given my fixation on apple cider and butter, it’s a no-brainer that something involving apples and cake would be at the top of my fall baking list. However, my plans for it were a little off base.

Somehow I missed that this cake is more of a puffed pancake (a la Dutch baby) than a cake-cake. Good thing I read the reviews before I started baking because this isn’t the sort of cake that gets better as it sits! Oh no, it’s best eaten right out of the oven, spoonful after spoonful, while it deflates like a fallen souffle.

So while I had planned to ply my co-workers with apple-filled goodness, I baked this warm, caramel-y treat for my husband instead. It was a lazy Sunday morning and we had a long hard day of wine tasting ahead of us. I thought this apple cake would make the perfect (and filling!) fall brunch.

And this time around, I was right on track.

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