Easy Cheese Danish

Easy Cheese Danish

My husband has been asking to make cheese danish for years.

You’d think I would have taken him up on that right away! I love to bake. I love to be bossy in the kitchen. I love cheese danish.

But for some reason, I felt intimidated. Do you ever feel paralyzed by the desire to do something absolutely perfectly the first time, to find the right recipe and execute it just right, and make the most delicious thing anyone has ever tasted?

I had made croissants exactly once: they were a lot of work, and in the end, they were only fine. Fine! How dare they. I knew that cheese danish was in danger of turning out the same way, so I put them on the back burner.

But this month, when I was cruising through Renee’s Kitchen Adventures for my Secret Recipe Club challenge, I spotted a cheese danish recipe…and I knew I would have to go for it. This recipe is somewhat unusual, as it uses puff pastry instead of a typical laminated, yeasted dough! This had the potential to be way simpler, and equally as delicious. Plus, I have been all about puff pastry lately.

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Mustard Greens on Toast

Mustard Greens on Toast

It may surprise you to learn that I don’t actually eat a lot of vegetables. I can go entire days without a vegetable, if you don’t count the tomato sauce in pizza.

The problem obviously isn’t that I don’t like vegetables…I love them! The real problem is that I am busy and tired, and preparing vegetables (plus, let’s get real: doing the subsequent dishes) takes more time than boiling an egg.

“But,” you protest, “you’re a vegetarian. How can it be that you don’t eat a lot of vegetables!?”

And that, my friends, is a beautiful question. As I have been trying to plot ways to actually model good health for my kiddos, I have made a resolution: I will make it a priority to eat greens at every meal. Seriously, even breakfast. I have been drinking green smoothies and tossing kale into scrambled eggs. I even made oatmeal with spinach in it. More on that later.

Greens are so good for you. Greens, and vegetables more broadly, are the one thing we never have to eat in moderation.

Jump on the greens train!

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Nutella Breakfast Strudels

Nutella Breakfast Strudel

I know you are probably getting sick of sweets from me. And I was all geared up to share a few simple savories…but then I realized it’s going to be Valentine’s day very soon.

And I have a long tradition of covering you in chocolate for Valentine’s day. Chocolate is, after all, one of my first loves.

So here we are. And you may, if you have been tracking with me for a while, notice something special about the amazing pastries I am sharing with you today: they are full of BUTTER!

Woot! Caitlin’s pediatrician cleared me to eat dairy again. This may or may not have happened two days after I had a small psychotic break and ate a cupcake that I totally meant not to eat.

Anyway. You better believe I have been loading up on all the cheese and butter and cream I have been craving for the last few months. Because as delicious as food can be without dairy, it’s hard to achieve true decadence in the absence of butter.

So I decided this year that we would indulge in breakfast instead of saving all our chocolate for dessert. (Though, let’s be honest, these strudels make an amazing dessert if you have the patience to wait for dinner time!)

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Brownie Baked Oatmeal

Brownie Baked Oatmeal

One of the hardest parts of giving up dairy has been figuring out what to eat for breakfast.

There have been a lot of mornings in the last month and a half that found me staring listlessly into the open refrigerator for five minutes, walking away grumpily, going back two times, and then opting to just drink coffee and wait until lunch. (P.S., those days also found me binge eating Triscuits with hummus at 11:20 because I was just too hungry to keep waiting…)

Before you go on suggesting all the things you think I should eat, let me just remind you: no dairy, no meat, no fruit (because yuck.), no refined sugar first thing in the morning. And let me nip it in the bud before you start telling me about all the great fake dairy I can use instead of butter.

Butter. I miss you. Nothing could ever take your place.

(P.P.S., I made a lot of my Christmas cookies with Earth Balance this year, and I would be totally lying if I pretended that my refrigerator standoff hasn’t ended with me hiding in the corner of the kitchen, despairingly eating butterless cookies for breakfast. At least three times. And then suffering the sugar coma consequences.)

Isn’t it amazing that in a world full of buttery, yogurty breakfasts, there are also dishes of baked oatmeal that are vegan and taste just like brownies?

Brownies are the best. I have been known to eat my feelings, and this is just the best possible way to do that! Brownies are indulgent and comforting, and yet we could even call this brownie healthy! There are whole grains, chocolate (we have to take care of our souls, too, people), chia seeds, healthy fats, and no refined sugars!

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Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

When I was a kid and someone brought out a carrot cake at a birthday party or celebration, I would seriously mope. No offense if carrot cake is your favorite…but who wants vegetable-flavored cake? Not even cream cheese frosting can redeem that.

Cake should be rich and sweet with a light but even crumb. There should be no carrots.

But I read recently that carrots are the only vegetable in season where I live during the month of October. So I made you some morning glory muffins—which, of course, is what we call carrot cake when we eat it for breakfast, which we should all agree is a much better time to eat “cake” made of carrots!

I love the idea of a healthy muffin, and these muffins really are pretty glorious: they have no refined sugar, they use whole grain flour, and they are full of shredded fresh carrots and apples, as well as coconut and pecans!

My son begs for these muffins, and I love to indulge him! Hiding a vegetable in plain sight while my son scarfs it down? Yes please.

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Confetti Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Confetti Greek Yogurt Pancakes

We like pancakes.

We like them so much that we have started eating them every week. It’s a delicious ritual.

Pancakes are pretty phenomenal, aren’t they? Do you know what makes pancakes more phenomenal (if you are 3 years old)?

Sprinkles!

And…sshh…do you know what makes them more phenomenal if you are 30 years old? Using Greek yogurt for a little protein, and raw honey instead of refined sugar. Because a sugar crash isn’t pretty, no matter how old you are.

I absolutely love these pancakes! I feel like the sprinkles are smiling at me. In fact, this may be the first time in my memory that sprinkles have actually improved a food for me! I might have to make sprinkles a habit.

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Rainbow Baked Eggs

Rainbow Baked Eggs

As you may be aware, my husband and I have radically different food tastes.

If he could eat whatever he wanted for the rest of his life, he would be staring down a long succession of barbecues, charcuterie, spicy chicken wings, corned beef and cabbage, anything that goes well with rice (basically all Asian cuisines, especially dishes that are spicy and beefy and porky), Irish black tea, buckets of cola, mountains of fresh fruits covered in sugar to make them super juicy. I’d wager you would find nary a vegetable on the list, unless it appeared incidentally with the meat.

I, on the other hand, would be wolfing down cheese pizza by the pie, any dessert that has chocolate in it (especially cookies, brownies, ice cream, cake, tarts…oh my gosh, sweet tooth), butter, cheese, bread, buttery cheesy bread, salmon, crab cakes, ripe tomatoes, toasted nuts, Riesling, gallons of black coffee…and let’s throw in some salads for good measure. Because as much as I would love to eat nothing but foods half held together by butter, I definitely spend hours each week obsessing over how to eat more vegetables and be more healthy.

As you may imagine, this can make dinner time a little stressful (and it’s one of the reasons we love to eat out: to each their own!).

Thank God for eggs.

Seriously, thank you, God, for eggs. Because without eggs, Dave’s and my taste buds might have to declare war on each other.

And because of these eggs, I have a favorite little memory tucked away: Dave came home from work the day after I made these colorful eggs for the first time, and he announced: “All day long I was craving bulgogi. And then I realized that I didn’t want bulgogi. I wanted more of the eggs you made last night!”

(Cue victorious fist pump. Dim lights. End scene.)

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Buttermilk Syrup

Buttermilk Syrup

Our family has started a weekend breakfast tradition.

It’s fairly surprising, actually, given my husband’s general apathy toward keeping traditions AND his venomous hatred for the morning…but on Saturdays, bright and early, when I holler up the stairs that pancakes or French toast are ready, he immediately appears and we have a special family breakfast!

Jake likes to help me cook. And set the table. And fetch Daddy. He’s a wonderful kitchen helper!

The only trouble with this delicious tradition is that I don’t actually care for maple syrup on my pancakes. For a while, this really made me resistant to Saturday morning breakfast tradition, until I realized that I had a grand opportunity to try all kinds of delicious syrups and spreads. What a great excuse to eat sugar for breakfast!

This buttermilk syrup is absolutely amazing. Don’t let the weird name (or the fact that it essentially looks like melted butter) throw you off: it is actually the simplest, most delicious liquid caramel you will ever make. The flavor is light and the syrup is thick and creamy. Pour it over your French toast with some butter and dig in! I dare you not to run your finger around the plate to lick up the excess when breakfast is over.

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Zucchini and Goat Cheese Quiche with Cracker Crust

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Quiche with Cracker Crust

I laughed out loud when I saw the name of my Secret Recipe Club blog for July: Why I Am Not Skinny. That’s a question I ask myself an awful lot, usually after a bowl of homemade ice cream or a third slice of pizza.

I was seriously tempted to make Maxine’s crepes…lately I have been all too eager to make breakfast, and dinner has sort of turned into a black hole into which I throw takeout and yes, more breakfast foods (and I wonder why all this baby weight is stubbornly sticking around….).

For some reason, both my kids have started losing their cool at exactly 5:00pm. Dinner is hard.

Which is why quiche for dinner is perfect! First of all…it is kind of like breakfast (but healthier and more filling than a plate full of carby sugar)! Second of all, you can prep quiche several hours before baking it, which makes the witching hour much less dreadful.

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Maple Coconut Granola

Maple Coconut Granola

Stop everything.

Make granola.

Have you ever wondered why your homemade granola doesn’t give you joy? Why you don’t eagerly look forward to throwing it into your yogurt every morning? I am willing to wager that it’s because you made it too complicated. And you didn’t use enough coconut. Coconut is the surprising key to everything.

This granola just fills me with nostalgia. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but it just brings me back to the afternoons I spent at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because there was always a chocolate chip Chewy bar waiting for me when I walked in the door after school…maybe it’s just because my grandparents were and are awesome, and so is this granola. I eat a cluster almost every time I walk by the container. And I have to admit that I am so greedy for this granola that I hide it from my preschooler. Sshh. Don’t tell.

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