armadillas


Almost like my Granny

I’ve been craving me some biscuits and gravy! Mmm there’s nothing like a plate of gravy to fill your soul with warmth…or remind you that times are low. Poor man’s food at it’s finest without breaking out the Ramen. Actually, gravy reminds me of my Granny. She made gravy and biscuits, gravy and toast- whatever was on hand- all the time growing up. I remember standing by the stove as a little girl as she showed me to make the stuff. Melt the butter. Add the flour. Stir the roux. Finally add the milk and season to taste. Since she’s a vegetarian she always made a simple white gravy and that’s how I’ve always preferred mine. But today I’m feeling a little adventurous. Sausage, anyone?

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Aside from fond memories with my Granny (I really should go up for a visit!), biscuits and gravy is a cheap meal. I fed three people dinner and had some leftover for breakfast the next morning all for $4.65. Can’t beat that!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • Butter/oil if needed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Seasoned salt to taste

The first thing you need to do is brown your sausage. I personally prefer to do this in a pot, but you can use a deep skillet or I know lots of people that prefer to use a cast iron skillet. To each their own

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Make sure to break it up!

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Once your sausage is all browned up, you may need to add some extra fat. This sausage was pretty lean so I added about a tablespoon of oil. I prefer to use butter, but oil works just as well. Now that you have the needed fat, stir in the flour

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If you like, you can remove the meat and make a roux, but I’m lazy and find adding the flour directly to the sausage to be more convenient. Make sure to stir the flour in really well.

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Let it cook for a minute. This will make a nice thick gravy!

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Add the milk. I only like to use 3 cups, but if you prefer a thinner gravy you can add more. Bring to a little boil, stirring constantly. If you don’t stir, it’ll stick to the bottom, the milk will scorch, and all that bad stuff. So keep stirring. Once you get that boil going, turn the heat down to low.

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Season with salt and pepper. Go light on the salt because the sausage is usually pretty salty. If your tastes are anything like mine, go heavy on the pepper. I like my gravy nice and peppery. You can add some seasoned salt too (aka Red Robin Seasoning)

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Taste as you go!

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Allow to simmer until the gravy reaches your desired thickness, maybe 10 minutes. It’s usually done by the time the biscuits are ready. Don’t forget to put them in the oven!

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Oh yes, this is what I’m talking about! Plate up and serve!

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Not quite like Granny, but still pretty darn good!

 

 


Puppy Training

Today was so much fun! Recently, a friend of mine adopted a Bernese Mountain dog. Ohmygoshsocute! He’s only 11 weeks old and he’s the most adorable thing ever. I wish I had a decent picture of him, but every time I whipped out my phone, he would move, leaving me with blurry photos. Today we took him to puppy training. I never thought I would be interested in attending something like that, but honestly I had a blast with it. Today’s class was about loose-leash training and greeting, which means we walked the dogs around the store, luring them forward with treats. Little Max is not much of a walker. He gets tired so quickly! But he was a really good boy.

Ah, makes me want a dog of my own! Hmmm maybe I’ll consider it as summer approaches. By then I should be nicely settled in here.

Enough about pups, let’s get to the other good stuff. I would like you all to meet Laura. She is another recent Youtube discovery. I really enjoy her videos and thought it was about time I tested one out. Because it’s Sunday and Sundays are about brunch, I chose to make her hash brown recipe. I can’t say my attempt was A+ successful – practice makes perfect mind you- but they were pretty good all things considered. I did, of course, make a few alterations.

Recipe courtesy Laura Vitale

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Ingredients:
1 large russet potato, peeled (I used three Idaho potatoes)
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons grated onion or shallot (I only had onion powder on hand- season to taste!)
1 egg white
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil (I used canola)

Find some potatoes

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And peel them!

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Using a box grater, go ahead and grate them up. I only have a little hand grater so I grated the potatoes directly into a bowl of cold water. This helps to remove some of the extra starch

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Look at that murky water! Let sit for about 5 minutes while you clean up your work space -ahem- stuff everything down your dish disposal

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Now comes the fun part. If you have a potato ricer, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way like me. Take your shredded potato and place it in a cloth. Now twist the cloth into a ball around the potatoes and squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze until you get as much water out as your hands can muster

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Bravo!

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Put into a bowl and add all other ingredients except the oil: flour, egg, onion, salt, pepper. I took the liberty of adding parmesan-romano as well. To each their own!

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In a skillet, preheat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan on medium-high. Fill 1/3 of a cup with the shredded potato mixture

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Carefully place the potato mixture into the hot oil. Then using the bottom of the measuring cup, flatten out the hash brown

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These are supposed to take 5-7 minutes on one side, but I felt like mine were burning slightly. Adjust heat accordingly if you must. Once golden brown, flip and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown again. Remove from oil and continue cooking up the hash browns until there’s no more to be cooked. My batch made six (I ate a couple while cooking).

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As you can see, mine aren’t quite as pretty as Laura’s but they were tasty enough for my first go at hash browns. Next time I think I will add some more cheese…and perhaps some garlic. They tasted fine on their own, but if you had a couple burnt edges, a dollop of sour cream does the trick!

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By the way, no turkey recipe for us today- it’s still slightly frozen so maybe tomorrow. I sure hope it’s thawed out by then. I definitely plan on using it for dinner all week long. Turkey salad, turkey noodle soup, roast turkey sandwiches…

I tell you one thing, though. The downside to cooking here is the smell fills up the whole apartment and can last for a couple days. I’m not even going to tell you how sensitive the smoke alarm is. Pouring a bowl of cereal could make it go off!


When the going gets tough

There are times in the early evening when you both arrive home, hungry and tired, and realize that there is very little in the pantry to eat. This is because you’ve neglected to go to the market. But there are other reasons your pantry seems so bare. The first is the mere simple fact that you don’t feel like cooking. After being on your feet all day (or sitting in an office), the last thing you want to do is stand some more in the kitchen. Any prospect of cooking turns into life or death battle where raiding the food in your cupboards will lead to a certain and untimely end. You’re brain is just too fried to plan a decent meal. The second reason falls to the fact that you accidentally somehow forgot to eat lunch. Now you’re so hungry not only can you not think properly, but nothing can be cooked fast enough to sooth your roaring tummy. Pasta takes too long. Casseroles take too long. There’s no way you’re even going to consider thawing out the pork hidden in the back of the freezer. You need food now!  Also, take-out is not an option because you’re trying to cut back on spending and eating out all in one go. What to do, what to do?!

You make waffles. Unlike pancakes, you can accomplish this task with relative finesse. You make waffles like champion! Or you have your assistant, who is equally as hungry and exasperated as you, make waffles like a champion. The best part is you can easily have them prepare the whole meal without them realizing they’re doing all the work. That is the joy of having an assistant. You can even call them your little sous chef. You’d be surprised how far a title can get someone and their willingness to crack an egg. Seriously, you love your sous chef.

And no, we are not making waffles from a box. We do things from scratch in this household. But today we did decide to try someone else’s recipe as opposed to following our own. Remember how not so long ago I said I was steadily going through the Pioneer Woman’s recipes? Well, the same goes for Joy the Baker. Today’s waffles were borrowed from her. Boy, did they sound good. I mean, who would dare say no to brown sugar bacon waffles? Not I, that’s for sure. I was sold as soon as I saw the word bacon. So, one can imagine the ghastly horror I felt at discovering I had used the last of my bacon up earlier that morning. Guess that’s what happens when you unexpectedly decide to have breakfast for dinner. Oh, bother.  The only thing to do was omit the bacon and lament. Then EAT!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk (milk with 2 tbs lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Joy’s recipe also calls for 2/3 cup oil, but somehow in our dash to get food into our bellies…we managed to leave it out. The waffles turned out fine if you decide to follow our mistakes. Also, when omitting the bacon she recommends using cinnamon and nutmeg. I don’t much care for nutmeg, so I bumped up the amount of cinnamon. No worries!

In a large bowl, mix together all your dry ingredients

Find yourself an assistant/sous chef. Have them use their lovely muscles to whip together the wet ingredients. If you are making your own buttermilk, let the milk and lemon juice stand aside in a bowl for 5 minutes. This allows for the chemistry to take place. Grraaawwwwl

(What a lovely hand and forearm)

Now mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. When you’re all done, it’s okay if there are lumps in your batter. You just want to mix it, now kill it with the power of your wrist. Over mixing= no no

 You see that? That is my trusty waffle iron. His name is Olav, and if he didn’t exist I’d be cursed with making pancakes all the time. We’re going to plug him in and wait for him to heat up

Olav, as dear as he is, can be a little picky. Sometimes you try to cook some waffles and he just botches them all up in his mouth. So we’re going to feed him some PAM first. If Olav was a penguin and if our batter was a penguin, PAM would be the engagement pebble to unite the two together in holy lifelong monogamy. Random penguin fact for ya!

 Now that all parties are happy, take over for your wonderful sous chef and pour the batter onto your greased waffle iron. Close him up and wait as patiently as possible. Dinner will be served momentarily

In the meantime, giggle wholeheartedly as your boyfriend sous chef attempts to crack eggs one-handed into a skillet. He witnessed your amazing skills earlier and is determined to master you

Hehe

Haha

Hahahaha

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Laughter aside, feel free to frown when your assistant decides to take charge and declares he shall be serving cheeseless scrambled eggs. Say what?! Fervently ask what planet he hails from and when he refuses to hear your arguments against a plain scramble, begin plotting against him. Discretely chop up some of your leftover baby asparagus. You’re in enemy territory now…

Subtly, set asparagus aside and continue cooking waffles. When the waffles are done, plate ’em up and butter as generously as you please. Oh, look! One is missing a bite

Time for operation scrambled eggs! When your sous chef, who is trying to work their way up to head chef, exits the kitchen, quickly drizzle some olive oil in a pan and add asparagus. Don’t forget a spoonful of garlic. Salt and pepper everything

Sauteing the asparagus will take no more time than 2 minutes. Maybe even one. Throw in your plain eggs and cook until warm

Pour your yummy scrambled eggs into a bowl and top with a little bit of parm and mozzarella. Waltz on into the other room with your eggs and waffles and try not to look too snooty. Not everyone has as refined tastes as yourself

Hello dinnnaaaaaaaar! Leftover waffles make a lovely snack for later. Just toast and butter. Or you could put some fruit jam on them. Yummm

Tijuana


Sleeping in after a long night

Ah, there’s nothing like sleeping in on a Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the weather is breezy, and you aren’t obligated to leave the comfort of your chambers for nothing. Except, perhaps, your grumbling tummy. After all, you haven’t eaten in a good 17 hours. But it’s too late to make breakfast (in some opinions) and you’re not quite awake enough for something heavy. There, my friends, is the beauty of brunch. Not breakfast, not lunch, but a magical combination of both.   In college, brunch was probably my favorite meal…and I was always sad when I had to go into work and miss out on the yogurt bar which was only served on Sundays. It was a conspiracy, I tell ya!

Aside from a brunch bar with tangy yogurt, fresh fruit, and crunchy granola, I can’t think of anything more perfect to feast on for brunch than a yummy quiche. With a glass of milk. And a ripe peach on the side that smells impeccably of summer. Yes, we are about to die and go to heaven. Might as well write your wills out right now.

I must admit I had my doubts about quiche. You see, I’ve never tasted a quiche before. Souffles, yes. Quiche, no. So I was quite surprised when I padded to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, noticed the bacon and asparagus, and then pulled out the eggs, milk, and cheese. I knew exactly what to do with all these ingredients. It’s like I was possessed! With such a delightful outcome, I’d happily become possessed again. I’d volunteer!

Perhaps you’ve never had quiche before either. Maybe you’re not much of an egg person and would rather move on to the cereal cabinet or see if there’s any deli meat left in the fridge. I promise you will not want to miss this. The quiche is divine, not eggy like one would expect, and if I had known how good it would turn out, I would’ve been making it for years.

Ingredient:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1/2 package bacon
  • 1/2 tbs garlic
  • 1 handful baby asparagus
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (but I bet fontina would be a star in this dish)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Let’s start with the bacon! We’re only going to use half a package. We’ll save the rest for some BLTs. Go ahead and take your half package of bacon and cut it into bite size chunks. Place it in a skillet over medium heat and fry it up! Hello, love!

Set bacon aside. Next, drain the majority of the bacon grease from your skillet. Seriously, we aren’t cooking with it today, though a hint of flavor won’t hurt

Return skillet to heat and melt a pat of butter. Throw in your asparagus! On a whim, add the garlic. And a sprinkling of lemon juice. It’s habit! I can’t help it…

Oh yeah, and make sure you cut off the ends of your asparagus stalks. Oh, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Phew, that was close!

Now that your bacon and asparagus is all nice and cooked, whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Shake in your salt and pepper

Stir in bacon and asparagus. It would probably help if you chopped up the asparagus (this should probably be done in step 2). Stir in cheese as well

Your batter is ready. Spray a pie pan with nonstick spray (like PAM) and slowly pour in your quiche batter. I emphasize the slow part. No sloshing, please!

Pop her in that hot oven for 35 minutes. Our goal is for the center to be set…and for the top to be a Mediterranean golden brown! Ta-da!

Oh, baby! It was so good I had to have seconds. I probably could have eaten the whole thing by myself. No joke. Talk about scrumptious! You may want to pat your asparagus dry before mixing it into the batter. It makes the bottom of the quiche a little soupy, otherwise. Enjoy!

Tijuana


Of hearts and stomachs

The other day I decided I wanted to open up a bakery. Of course, this is not the first time I got such a whim up my butt and it certainly will not be the last time. I constantly waver between pursuing a career in food or a career in academia (along with careers in writing or nutrition or agriculture). This idea of a bakery was triggered by two things. The first is a book I’m currently reading, The Baker’s Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks. I find it very easy to get caught up in a character’s life, to escape into fiction for a couple hours. Before you know it, I’m romanticizing driving to work late in the night, setting a playlist on my iPod long after most people have gone to bed, and digging my fingers into flour until the wee hours of the morning. I suppose the book spurred on my early morning decision to type become a baker into my search bar. That’s how I discovered bloombakeshop.com, with its quaint and simple design. After reading the owner’s story of how she left the pharmaceutical world for a world of dough and entrepreneurship, I immediately wanted to jump on the band wagon. I’m pretty sure the tantalizing pictures of whoopie pies under her menu page helped with this sudden inspiration.

With origins in the Amish/German communities of the American north east, whoopie pies are traditionally made with a chocolate cookie cake and vanilla cream filling. We all know how I feel about chocolate, so I wanted to make a pumpkin whoopie pie with a -get this- lemon cream filling. It may sound like a strange combination to some (cough cough), but you’d be surprised what flavors can fuse together. Like Chinese and Mexican. Don’t knock it!


Unfortunately, the only store within walking distance (got to get my exercise somehow!) did not carry pumpkin puree, so I had to change my game plan. On my way home, walking up and down the streets for a little added cardio, a recipe began to form in my head. Why not make a tiramisu whoopie pie? With a hint of lemon! That way there’s coffee, there’s chocolate, there’s lemon, and there’s vanilla. Everyone is happy!

So I set about doing a little research, comparing recipes I found online and in cookbooks, and eventually came up with a pretty satisfactory recipe of my own. You know, as a child I wasn’t really much of a whoopie pie sort of person. It goes back to the not caring a lot for chocolate thing. But now as an adult inclined to spend a good chunk of my time in the kitchen, I have the freedom to experiment and these little babies have been calling my name going on a week now. Fortunately, it only takes one to satisfy the craving. Otherwise I’d probably be the size of a hippo! Remember, the great thing about baking is sharing! Send your goods over to a neighbor. Maybe you even have a cute, single neighbor. You find the heart through the stomach folks! Now, my whoopies are more cakey and less cookie-like. Just so you know.

Psst…feel free to ignore my chicken scratch. We do not live in an era of penmanship. My grandmother is quite ashamed

Ingredients:

Batter

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter milk

Orange Creme

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese or mascarpone, softened
  • 4 tbs butter, softened too
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp rum/Marsala (optional)

Quick tip! If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (which, who does?), it’s super easy to make. Put a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar into you measuring cup. Fill the rest with your milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Your milk will begin to look chunky- don’t panic!

Preheat over to 350 degrees. I always forget to do this step first. It really does save time to remember. We’re going to make the batter first. In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar

Once that’s done, crack in your egg and add the vanilla. Mmm I still have some homemade vanilla leftover from someone’s Nana…but I’m running low!

It won’t kill any of us to take a little taste. We’re lookin’ for a nice creamy consistency. Hey! It kinda looks like peanut butter. Eh, or smooth almond butter

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Mix mix mix!

By now, your milk will be nice and curdled. Not being  a professional, I don’t know if that’s really what happened between our milk and lemon juice. I’m just guessing. Definitely looks more like a divorce than a marriage, though! In an alternating fashion, pour milk and flour mixture into the batter

Look at the chunks!

Time for more tasting! I won’t tell if you don’t… Dollop batter onto a greased (or nonstick) cookie sheet with an ice cream scoop. Mine isn’t the clickedy kind. That would be most helpful in my kitchen

Bake your dollops for 10-12 minutes. Repeat until all your batter has disappeared! Let cookies/cakes/whateveryouwannacallthem cool on counter

In the meantime, we can make the orange cream filling! Originally, I was going to make a plain and simple vanilla filling. Then I got the urge to add some lemon. Addict, remember? But then I discovered some orange extract chillin’ in my spice cabinet and decided what the heck! So, take your softened cheese and butter and give them a nice little whirl with your mixer/beater in a bowl

Go ahead and add the vanilla and orange. If you have orange zest, that would be fantastic! At this point, you can go ahead and mix in your rum. All I had on hand was whiskey and wine, neither of which I felt would make a good contribution to my orange cream. No alcohol for us today. Finally, mix in your powdered sugar. Do this a little at a time if you don’t want it to suddenly cloud up into the air and get all over you

Oh boy! I think that was my favorite  part. Of course, another taste test is in order. We got this under control. No bad flavors are going to sneak into this kitchen! Put the filling into the fridge for a spell to help give it some extra body

Almost done! Now that the cookies are cool and the creme is stiff, time to assemble. We’re going to make use of our Ziplocs again. Make a piping bag and swirl the filling onto half of the cookies

Then top it off with the rest of the cookies. Ahhh! We now have a nice little cake sandwich aka a whoopie pie (black moon, gob, big fat oreo, etc)

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors. I’m dying to make one with a mint creme! Or perhaps a vanilla cookie with a berry creme for summer. Possibilities. They never get old.

Tijuana



Memorial Breakfast

I love breakfast for dinner. I love breakfast for lunch. Heck, I love breakfast for breakfast. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people prone to skipping early morning meals (I’m much too fond of that extra 15 minutes of sleep tsk tsk) so it’s a rare treat when I actually wake up, head to the kitchen, and crack open some eggs. Sometimes I even get inspired to whip up a pancake batter. But I have a secret. I am the worst pancake cook ever. I almost always ALWAYS burn them up. I think I get so excited about having pancakes that I keep turning up the heat (a no-no!) until it’s too late. Then I forget to learn my lesson and never turn the heat back down to its rightful position to cook perfect pancakes. This, folks, is why I invested in a waffle iron. It does the dirty work for me and I can focus on the bacon. Mmm. But today I wanted to give pancakes another go.

Since it’s Memorial weekend (and Sunday to boot), I figured today would be just the day to have a little breakfast in bed. Sort of. I don’t have any of those cute trays that you see on Mother’s Day commercials, but I believe in good old innovation. That’s what side tables are for. Am I right or am I right?

In my very good opinion, there’s no such thing as a good breakfast without bacon (or at least sausage if bacon can’t be found). I don’t know when my love for bacon emerged. I remember my first taste of crab legs. I remember my first taste of asparagus. I remember the first time I realized that coleslaw was an undiscovered delicacy! But I do not remember when bacon and I became lovers. I suppose it just always was and will always be. The reason I love bacon so much (you know, besides the fact that it tastes oh so good) is because you can pretty much add bacon to anything and improve it. Let’s make a list!

  • Bacon just on it’s own
  • Bacon crusted mac n cheese
  • Bacon flavored cupcakes (don’t knock it…)
  • Bacon wrapped asparagus
  • Bacon bits for salad
  • Nut and bacon brittle
  • Bacon dipped in chocolate

The list goes on and on and on and then on some more. Bacon also happens to shine quite divinely alongside some eggs. You see those eggs right there? Those are sunny side up eggs. I’ve never eaten them before which means I surely have never cooked them before. But there’s a first time for everything. I’ve never been much of a yolk person truth be told. My childhood was filled with fried egg white sandwiches thanks to my mom. That’s how she liked her eggs so that’s how I liked my eggs (I was quite the picky eater as a child- shocker, I know!). But now I’m more experimental and since today I wanted a semi-luxurious breakfast, sunny side up seemed like a good start.

Since I was frying up some bacon anyway… I went for it and cooked the eggs up in some of the leftover grease as opposed to butter. I guess this week is my glutton week, huh? We can start exercising again on Tuesday. And eating more fruits and veggies (there’s a zucchini in the fridge with my name on it). No worries! I decided to eat mine on toast with some cheese

As you can see, someone else decided to plop theirs onto a pancake. To each their own, to each their own

You know, the eggs really weren’t that bad. Not as runny and gooey as I imagined. Of course, my eyes were closed for each bite. Baby steps, okay? I didn’t burn the pancakes either! The syrup someone sent my way probably had something to do with the melt in your mouth taste, though. It was good, thanks! Overall, I’m pleased to say it was a very satisfying breakfast, and the milk was ice cold the way I like it.

Sunny side up eggs:

This was a lot easier than I expected. Warm up a non-stick skillet. I kept mine on medium-low since I tend to burn things. Also, the key here is slow cooking. Trust me on this one. I used a little bacon grease in my pan, but butter or a few tablespoons of canola/olive oil would do just fine. Once the grease is warm (not super super hot mind you) crack your egg into the skillet. I’ve heard that it takes practice not to break the yolk, but you’ll be fine. Mine didn’t break. I have confidence that yours won’t either. And that’s all she wrote! Let the egg and grease get to know one another, allowing the egg white  to firm up a bit. Once the whites start turning white, gently spoon the hot grease over the eggs and cook until they reach a consistency you’re comfortable eating. I cooked mine a little longer than necessary, but I have yolkphobia. I said baby steps!

As for the pancakes, I’ll share a recipe once I manage to perfect one. Did I mention pancakes aren’t exactly my forte?

Tijuana