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Treats for the Winter Blues

January 28, 2010 By:
Linda Morel, Jewish Exponent Feature
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On Sunday mornings during the dead of winter, there are two types of people. There's the energetic kind who jump out of bed and go jogging, invigorated by the ice-cold air. They are the diametric opposites of the slugs -- people who love lying in bed, cozy in their flannel pajamas, as they dream up luscious comfort foods for breakfast.

I have to admit that I'm a slug. I find it excruciating to peel off my down comforter, until I catch a whiff of the coffee my husband is brewing.

By the time I amble into the kitchen, David has been awake for hours, reading the newspaper and checking e-mails.

"I'm starving," he says.

"I'll cook, and you do the dishes," I say. We go through this routine every Sunday.

Winter weekends practically beg for something sumptuous and warming first thing in the morning -- no matter what time that is. I'm talking about the kind of food served at bed and breakfasts -- omelets with tempting ingredients, fluffy French toast or a pile of pancakes as tender as cushions. At the very least, I crave a creamy bowl of oatmeal.

This is the season when I prepare luxurious Sunday breakfasts, since it's too cold for golf and outdoor tennis, gardening, and whatever else I do in the morning once spring arrives.

Instead, I put that all that energy into a saucepan or a skillet. I won't venture outside until the temperature climbs, perhaps at noon -- a much more civilized time of the day.

Feta-and-Tomato Omelet
(Dairy)
1 tomato at room temperature 
4 eggs or 8 egg whites 
kosher salt to taste 
freshly ground pepper to taste 
butter or nonstick spray for coating 
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese 
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley (optional)

Remove the seeds from the tomato. Dice the tomato and place pieces on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

Into a medium bowl, break eggs or egg whites. Add salt and pepper; whisk well.

On a medium flame, coat a medium-sized skillet with nonstick spray or melt enough butter to cover the bottom of the skillet. Give the eggs or egg whites an additional whisk and pour them into the prepared skillet.

Fry the egg mixture until the bottom side turns light-brown. Test the color by lifting about an inch of the eggs with the tip of a spatula. The top will be partially set, but also a bit loose.

With a wide spatula, turn omelet and fry briefly until it sets, for about 1 minute.

Return the omelet to its original position. Cover half of its surface with the tomato and feta cheese.

With the spatula, flip other half over to cover the cheese and tomato, closing the omelet. Continue frying for a minute or two, and then flip over the omelet to finish for another minute or two. By now, both sides will be golden-brown, and the cheese should have melted.

Move to a platter and sprinkle with chopped parsley, if using. Serve immediately with toast.

Serves 2. 
 

Banana Sour-Cream Pancakes
(Dairy)
11/2 cups flour 
31/2 tsps. baking powder 
1 Tbsp. sugar 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1/4 tsp. cardamom 
1 cup 2 percent milk 
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream 
1 egg 
3 Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted 
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed 
1/4 tsp. vanilla 
additional butter for coating pan

Place all ingredients (except butter for coating pan) in a large mixing bowl. Beat well until thoroughly combined.

On a medium flame, melt the butter in a large frying pan or skillet. Ladle out the batter with a 1/4 cup measure. Pour into the prepared pan.

When the batter starts to bubble, use a corner of a spatula to check if pancakes are golden-brown underneath. When they have achieved that color, flip the pancakes until the other side is golden-brown.

Add more butter, if necessary.

Pancakes will probably need to be prepared in batches. Serve immediately with maple syrup or black-cherry preserves.

Recipe yields 10 four-inch pancakes. 
 

French Toast With Strawberry Sauce
(Dairy)
4 eggs 
1/4 cup milk 
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
6 one-inch slices of challah 
unsalted butter for melting in pan
Whisk together the eggs, milk and cinnamon until well-blended and foamy.

In two batches, roll challah slices in the egg mixture on all surfaces. Let soak for 1 to 2 minutes, until thoroughly saturated.

On a medium flame, melt butter in 1 or 2 large frying pans or skillets. (You don't want to crowd French toast while cooking or slices will stick together.) Place challah in frying pans. Drizzle any additional egg mixture over the soaked challah slices. Add more butter to pan, if needed.

Check for doneness by lifting French toast with edge of a spatula. Turn when golden-brown.

Continue frying until second side is also golden-brown and the inside is cooked through. Serve immediately with Strawberry Sauce (recipe below).

Makes 6 slices of French toast. 
 

Strawberry Sauce
(Pareve)
1 lb. container of strawberries, hulled and diced 
1 clementine, pith removed, sectioned and diced 
1/2 cup apricot preserves 
1/8 cup water 
1 Tbsp. sugar
In a sauce pan, melt the preserves on a medium-low flame. Add the remaining ingredients and cover pot.

Simmer on a low flame until fruit softens and sauce thickens a little, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or cold. Recipe can be made three days in advance.

Makes 2 cups (for 10 to 12 pieces). 
 

Oatmeal Done Right

(Dairy)

While there are now many gourmet oatmeals on the market, I still prefer the brand I grew up with -- Quaker Oats, the old-fashioned kind, not the quick ones.

Every brand of oatmeal comes with directions on the package, and they are good up to a point. But there are things that no package can teach you -- things I've learned the hard way over two decades of stirring oatmeal.

First, select a deep saucepan, preferably nonstick. I can't tell you how many times I've turned my back on a shallow pot -- and it boiled over. What a mess!

Next, use the package directions for figuring out the amounts of ingredients needed. Ingredients usually include uncooked oatmeal, a liquid and salt.

However, no matter what the directions indicate, never prepare oatmeal with water or skim milk, or you'll get a gray, runny clump. The more fat in the milk, the creamier the results. If you are worried about calories and cholesterol, 99 percent fat-free milk turns out tasty oatmeal in an appetizing color and texture.

To achieve creamy results, it is imperative to cook oatmeal on a low flame. Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce the flame until the oatmeal simmers slowly. Stir oatmeal every couple of minutes.

When most of the milk has been absorbed, cover the pot and remove it from the flame for 5 minutes. This gives the oatmeal a chance to soak or rest, which encourages it to become fluffy and light.

Uncover the pot and return it to a low flame. Continue cooking, stirring, until all the milk is absorbed. Serve immediately. Once oatmeal cools, it turns pasty.

Serve with dark-brown sugar, fruit or maple syrup. During my childhood, my mother poured heavy cream on oatmeal and sprinkled brown sugar over that. It was delicious beyond belief. But that was before anyone knew about cholesterol.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: lindam212@aol.com.

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