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How to Renovate Your Wardrobe for Free {recipe: maple walnut shortbread}

1 Apr

So I have learned some things at work that are completely not work-related. Like how to tie a good scarf knot and how to make stellar cake balls and how to plant a container garden. And how to have a Clothes Swap.

Let’s face it. I just had a baby and those once-tight jeans are now too-tight jeans that would look great on you and the flowy top that you wore twice and now hate? It would look great with my baby-feeders. So, get all your lady friends together, bring the stuff from your closet that you don’t wear anymore, spread it our in a giant room and get your friends to do the same. And then shop. For free. Donate what’s left and go home happy!

Here are the rules for a Clothes Swap that go in an Evite. Just copy and paste them, and send to your own friends!

Bring your old clothes and an appetizer or a dessert or something to drink to the swap, along with a bag or two so that you can haul away your new goodies.

1. Clean out all of the Clothes, Shoes, Jewelry, Purses and other Accessories you don’t want (all of those things that you need to get rid of because no matter how many times you try them on, they will always be too small/too big/too tight-in-the-wrong-place/the wrong color/wrong material, or just plain ugly);

2. Come to the swap and take new-to-you clothes that you do want (free shopping!); and

3. laugh at what is just plain ugly.

4:00 – Show up and grab a drink and some appetizers while you sort your clothes. We’ll have all items divided into different categories of clothing in different rooms of the house.

4:30 – Go time. Start bagging what you want, try things on, solicit feedback from your peers (ask questions like, “does this make me look fat?” and get told you look fabulous).

5:00 – Have another snack and laugh at what is ugly (perhaps an award will be given for the worst piece?).

Later – Go home. Brag to husband/fiancee/roommate/mother how you just got bags of fantastic clothing and accessories for free, AND got rid of the crap in your closet.

Great, huh? Now go do it with your friends!

You can make these for your snack. They are quick and tasty. Eat the leftovers with coffee on a groggy Saturday morning.

Maple Walnut Shortbread

from Real Simple

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 300° F. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and egg yolk until smooth. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, and salt until combined.
Spread the dough into an ungreased 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet with sides.

Beat the egg white in a small bowl with a fork until foamy. Spread evenly over the dough.

Sprinkle on the nuts and press them gently into the dough.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the shortbread shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan. Do not overcook; you want them to be a little chewy. Cut diagonally into 3-by-1 1/2-inch bars.


Two Things For My Parents {recipe: chocolate chip muffins with clementine glaze}

24 Feb

The first is practical:

My mom and I have a lot of conversations that go like this:

Judy: Mmmmm this is good. Is this recipe on your blog?

Morgan: Yep, put it up last month.

J: Oh, I will have to look at that.

M: Do you read my blog?

J: I forget sometimes.

And with my dad,

Dan: Hey, Kim called and said she really liked your blog post.

Morgan: That’s great. Which one?

Dan: I didn’t read it, she said it was about carbs.

My parents don’t jump on checking blogs, but they do check their email lightening-fast. And they use gmail. They are very hip.

So, just for them, and the rest of you who are in the same boat, you can now get Saltimbocca posts in your inbox! Sign up here or click the “Subscribe to Saltimbocca by Email” link on the right of the page and each time there’s a new post, you’ll get an email that has the post in it.

And now for part two:

Last Friday morning, Shilah cried inconsolably. I tried the swing and the bouncy seat and the pacifier and finally I brought her into the nursery and sat in the rocker. We swayed forward and back while I sang to her.

I have a lot of song content because when I was in seventh grade, my parents took my brother and I with my grandparents on a trip to Germany to see the German countryside and the Black Forest and some estranged distant relatives that my grandma had tracked down. I am pretty sure I was a complete brat on that trip. Seeing scenery out of a car window wasn’t really what I had dreamed of at the age of 12. Instead, I sat in the backseat of the rental van and listened to my discman. When we left the house in London, I forgot to grab my cd case and as a result, had only the one cd in my discman to listen to for the entire trip: Jewel’s Pieces of You. I can sing every song. In order. I bet I listened to that cd 40 times that week instead of talking and hanging out with my family.

So this brings me to last Friday, singing to my crying daughter who will not stop and just enjoy the morning with me, and thinking about how I wouldn’t stop and spend the time enjoying my family at 12, and being thankful that I have 40 straight minutes of songs to sing, etched in my mind from sheer repetition.

About the time I started crying out of exhaustion and frustration, she finally stopped crying and listened. We sat, both with dried tears on our cheeks, enjoying the moment.

So, long overdue to my parents…thanks for taking me to Germany.

Chocolate Chip Muffins with Clementine Glaze (adapted from Vintage Victuals)

makes 24 muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, beaten until soft peaks form
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pans or line with paper liners, and set aside.

Combine milk and lemon juice, set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients, and set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine egg, mik mixture, and oil, mixing well.

Use a spoon to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Then pour the liquid ingredients into the well.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full (which is more full than you would with most muffins, these don’t rise as much as the typical muffin recipe.

Bake 12-16 minutes.

Clementine Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Zest and juice from one clementine orange

Mix ingredients together, add additional powdered sugar or water (1/2 teaspoon at a time) to make the glaze thicker or thinner. Drizzle on muffins and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

No Baby Yet {recipe: cranberry vanilla granola bars}

16 Jan

Dear Baby,

Today is your due date. It is 11:36 a.m. and you are not here. You have shown no real signs of wanting to be here. That’s ok. I am usually late to stuff too, so maybe this is the first quality that you’ll take from me. Together, we will annoy your dad for the rest of our lives.

I have done a lot in the past few weeks. I have cooked enough meals that if I did not leave the house for a month, we could still eat well. Don’t worry, if you tear my insides up on your way out, it doesn’t matter because I won’t be having to stand up in the kitchen for any length of time. The freezer shelves are packed carefully with lasagnas with homemade sauce and enchiladas and stuffed peppers and other things that are easy to thaw and throw in the oven. Those all sound like dinner foods, huh? Well don’t worry, because we also have roasted chickens and roast beef for lunches and breakfast food too: batches of muffins and pumpkin bread and fresh granola bars.  And snickerdoodles and chocolate peanut butter cookies and oatmeal scotchies for dessert. It is ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop.

There are still some things I have not finished, but I don’t know that they’re too necessary. Like I haven’t made the mobile to go above your crib (that your little eyes won’t even be able to focus on for months), and I haven’t made the clock (that you won’t be able to read for years). All of the important things are in place, you have a carseat an diapers and a crib an a beautiful room, and most of all, parents and grandparents and lots of friends to love you.

Today we planned fun stuff to do, in case this day comes and goes and you are not ready to come out yet, so that we are not sitting there, staring at each other, waiting. But really we are still waiting. Anticipating. We are just doing it at a coffee shop surrounded by life. There’s a table of four people next to us learning French, a couple who looks like they’ve just recently met and are getting to know each other. There are people reading and studying and to my left there’s a woman from Colombia writing letters, and today, an old friend is the barista. So, we will wait, and we will mask our waiting with activities and plans and conversation, but really, we are just excited for you to get here.

So when you are ready, we will be ready too. Ready to love you with a love that I don’t even thing we understand yet.



Here’s something I made for quick breakfasts in the mornings to come:

Cranberry Vanilla Granola Bars

Makes 16 granola bars, one 9×13 pan.

2 cups oats (old-fashioned, not quick-cooking)
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, loosely packed
2/3 cup honey
2 T. pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan and line it with parchment paper.

Pour the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Dump the ingredients into a mixing bowl and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Add honey, vanilla and salt to the oat mixture and stir until everything is coated in honey, then stir in the cranberries. Dump the mixture into your 9×13 pan and press it into the pan (if you wet your fingers, it’s a little bit easier because the granola won’t stick to your fingers. Get it packed in there as tightly as you can.

Bake about 25 minutes, until light golden brown.

Cool for a few hours, then wedge the giant granola rectangle out of its pan and place it on  a cutting board. Use a long, serrated knife to cut the giant rectangle into bars. Put the granola crumbles in a bag for yogurt topping later.

Now, here’s the key. Store these bars and granola-crumb bag in the freezer. They will last longer and be crunchy…rather than awkwardly sticky granola 🙂 If you want them for on-the-go eating, wrap them individually in foil and put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. That’s what I did.

original  post:

This Will Change Your Life (and mine) {recipe: starbucks banana walnut bread}

1 Sep

Back in May, exactly one day after Mother’s Day and two days after I had thrown a baby shower for my most wonderful friend, I, myself peed on the magic wand to discover some timely news.

I have not told you all yet, blog readers,  but I, two-years-and-change-into-marriage, what-should-I-do-with-my-life, oh-things-are-so-easy-to-not-have-kids, am pregnant. Yes, sometime in mid-January we are supposed to be having a baby. I am just sure ours will come via stork, clean and wrapped in a nice blanket and not with the traditional arsenal of medical tools awaiting every pregnant woman at the hospital. I am sure.

From starbucks banana bread

That being said, I have the normal pregnancy stuff, nothing that I can really tell you which would be out of the ordinary. But there is one little caveat. The only thing I didn’t expect is probably this craziness of feelings and thoughts and emotions. I am not a huge “feeler.” I would say, in any event I sort of guard myself from becoming too excited that I would be devastated if let down, and I also deny becoming too upset about anything, because what is that going to help, really?

Let me tell you what has changed. Not just my expanding waistline, or the fact that I am a human incubator harboring giant soon-to-be milk factories, or that any time after 2pm, I could slide into unsuspecting narcolepsy, or that I think if I don’t find out this baby’s gender, I can’t feel bad that I don’t feel prepared for this baby because heck, I don’t even know if it is a boy or a girl. Oh, there is more than that.

We shall call it a tornado of emotions. Now, I would not call myself an over-emotional person. Moreover, I think that I don’t get excited enough about things because I fear disappointment, or that I am not greived enough, because I am trying to shield myself from pain and hurt. Until now. Now, there is no filter. No shielding.

So, last Saturday, I was a huge jerk to my loving husband. I then proceeded to cry, uncontrollably, for at least 90 minutes and between sobs said things like, “I am so overwhelmed,” and, “I am just sad.” And Jon would have done anything to help, but all I wanted was for him to “sit there with me” to console me, after I was so rude. Then I got over the overwhelmed part and cried because I was being a horrible wife and how am I supposed to be a good mother if I am already a horrible wife? It went on. He stayed. Consoled. I survived.

Whew. So, I got through it and I am back now, in action, but something inside me thinks that will not be the last time.

Well, a few good things have come out of the last week. We had some friends and their cute baby over for breakfast last Sunday and I made this banana banana bread that is so, so good. I then proceeded to make it three more times within the following week. That’s how good it is.

All that being said, the banana bread will change your life; the banana bread AND the baby will change mine. Can you tell I am nervous?

From starbucks banana bread

I can’t take credit for this recipe. I started with a recipe for Starbuck’s Banana Walnut Bread that they posted on their corporate site. With a few modifications, this is awesome.

Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

makes one 9×5 in. loaf.

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/8 cup sugar

1 egg

1 T. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

3/4 t. cinnamon

3 very-ripe bananas

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Mix together oil and sugar until blended. Add egg and vanilla and stir.

Stir in flour, cinnamon and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mash bananas until creamy and then stir in  buttermilk.

Add banana mixture to flour mixture andstir to combine.

Stir in half of nuts.

Pour batter into pan and top with remaining nuts.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until wooden toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

From starbucks banana bread

Early Hours {recipe: morning glory muffins}

1 May
From Morning Glory Muffins

I have always been a morning person. Growing up with early-morning practices, I became accustomed to being up and alert hours before even the earliest bird. When I was swimming in the mornings, the sun would rise just at the end of a two-hour practice. We would be almost through a four-mile workout and my stomach would be wrenching for something to replenish the calories I had just expended. I would go home, shower, get ready for school, eat breakfast, drive across town for second period, park, get into the school and into class all before the 9am bell. I love the  mornings.

Now, talk to me at 11am and I was getting pretty tired. And by 8pm? Spent. I still would rather get up and going as early as possible, to make sure that everything gets done, and then rest at the end of the day if there is time. At least our friends know this already. Don’t call after 11 because we’re probably asleep and don’t invite us to go to any movies that start after 7:30 because we will surely be snoozing by the end of them. But, you need someone to help you set out things for your garage sale that is 30 minutes away and at 6:30 am? We can help! We will bring coffee and breakfast too! I will come at 6:30 am full of exclaimation marks! Really!

I like morning runs because if I get up and going quickly enough, I don’t have time to reason with myself that I really don’t feel like running. I also like early-morning meetings. Starting the day with crisp morning air, a nice cup of coffee, and challenging conversation is great. Friday mornings, I have coffee with a friend who I love dearly. We explore variuos coffee shops around Austin and meet to catch up on life, talk about what’s great and what is hard, we encourage each other to be better wives, daughters, sisters, co-workers and friends.

We’ve been to our fair share of coffee shops, and I can tell you for a fact that the reviews are right, Caffe Medici has the best coffee in town. And, after much tasting, Sweetish Hill has the best Morning Glory muffins. Go there, if just for the muffins. You will find many other things there to suit your fancy. Say, a ham and cheese croissant, or a giant decorated sugar cookie, or carrot cake, or a homemade yogurt cup. Just go.

I can’t go everyday, so I tried to re-create their Morning Glory muffins at home. My first go was pretty good for muffins and super-healthy, but not quite the same as the ones I am used to purchasing. Next time I try them I will probably increase all of the fruits and veggies by 50%, double the almonds, and add in a few tablespoons of orange zest and I think I will be closer to Sweetish Hill’s i-like-to-call-it-heaven-in-a-muffin Morning Glory muffins.

These are worth getting up early for.

From Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins

makes 48 muffins

2 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups oat bran

2 1/2 cups sugar+ some for sprinkling

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated carrot (about 3 carrots)

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 zucchini)

1 cup raisins

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 green apples, grated

6 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin cups or use muffin tin liners.

Mix the flours, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Stir in oil, eggs buttermilk, and vanilla.

Stir in the carrot, zucchini, almonds, raisins, coconut, and apples.

Spoon the batter into greased or lined cups.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 12 to 18 minutes or until springy to the touch.

Let muffins cool in tins and turn them onto a wire rack.

Moving Day Breakfast {recipe: juevos rancheros kolaches}

15 Mar
From kolaches

We have had a lot of friends move lately. Moving is fun, especially when it’s not your own stuff. When it’s your move, it’s pretty stressful, not to mention the weeks of packing leading up to the move. But, when it’s someone else’s move, you show up at a packed house at 7am and go go go until it’s done. That is fun.

You meet your moving friends’ other friends who are there to help, and you get to see your moving friends at their wit’s end and see how they respond when their favorite picture frame is broken, or when their new dryer doesn’t work. You get to nag them about having ten-dozen too many hardback books, or three times the cookie sheets they really need. You get to “stumble upon” their old yearbooks and laugh at their freshman year picture and how they wrote “don’t sign my crack” in the binding of their copy. You work until you’re tired and then you sit on moved boxes in the ‘new house’ which feels quite daunting and eat fast food and wipe your greasy fingers on your pants because no one can find the napkins, or the chairs, for that matter.

You move all the stuff and as you’re realizing that it’s all just stuff…matter, with an affectionate name like “memorabelia” or “antiques”, you go back to the old house. You help clean up the spot from a spilled soda on the carpet that was fought over and then just covered by a moved couch, and you wash down the back door once-laden with prints of doggy-noses, and you paint over where all the kids’ heights were marked each birthday on the wall.  You notice that the room where you once crammed 30 friends for an evening of fellowship now looks so small and lifeless without the warmth of family and sounds of laughter.

And you realize, that it’s not the stuff, or the structure that make the memories, it’s the people and what goes on inside.

All these emotions need a little comfort, and for us, kolaches are comfort. I will always have a special place in my heart for donuts, but you really can’t beat a kolache on any morning. Sweet dough and your choice of filling will make these delightful.

So, here’s to you, friends! Hope you’re enjoying the new places!

From kolaches
Norris House Kolaches*

makes 12

*recipe note: get creative with your filling…make these italian for dinner with cheese and pepperonis, and then dip them in marinara, or form our dough around a sausage!

1 1/2 T. yeast

2 t. salt

2 1/2 T. gluten

1/2 c. non-fat dry milk powder

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 T. sugar

6 T. butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 egg

1 1/4 c. milk

Put all ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer and  knead 2 minutes by hand, or with mixer, use dough hook on “4” setting to knead dough for 2 minutes.

Examine dough, if it sticks to fingers or sides of bowl, add 1/4 cup flour at a time and knead unto it is no longer sticking to hands or bowl. If the dough is too crumbly, add 2 T. milk at a time until not crumbly.

Knead or mix 10 more minutes. Leave dough in bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for about 6 hours (give or take two hours there, depending on your needs, and you will be fine!). Dough will double or triple in size.

Preheat oven to 350.

Punch the dough down to deflate and divide into 12 balls. flatten balls and fill with desired filling (see below). Pinch dough to form a wrapper around filling, and place on a greased baking sheet, 3 inches apart (you will need two baking sheets) pinched side down.

Bake 18-30 minutes, until kolaches have puffed up and are starting to trun golden brown.

Remove and enjoy hot, or freeze for later use. To eay from frozen, thaw on counter overnight and then heat in oven at 350 for 8 minutes.

Juevos Rancheros con Queso Filling

for 12 kolaches

12 eggs

1 cup salsa

1 cup shredded cheese

1 1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

Crack eggs and put in nonstick pan on stove. Scramble with salsa, cheese, salt and pepper.

From kolaches

From the Archives {recipe: banana cake muffins with cream cheese icing}

26 Jan

So I have a hard time with banana bread mainly because I am pretty picky about it. It’s just that so many things can go wrong with banana bread…too mushy, too dense, too gooey, too dried-out, too many nuts, not enough nuts…I know you know, we have all had a bad piece of banana bread.


(Until a few days ago) I never made a banana bread recipe that I liked, each one fell subject to one of the qualifiers above. But not today, friends.

This recipe is fantastic.


banana cake muffins with cream cheese icing.

adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, 2006.

makes 24 muffins.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 ½ cups well mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas. this is easiest is the bananas are in the turning-brown stage, they have more flavor and a better texture for the muffins)

½ cup sour cream

11 TBSP unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

6 TBSP canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. (note for all baking: if you are using a dark, nonstick pan – reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees) Line muffin pans with muffin cups.

Stir together the cake flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the bananas and the sour cream; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 45 seconds.

Add the oil and both sugars and beat at high speed until creamy and light, about 3 minutes.

At medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

At low speed, add the 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Then add 1/2 of the banana mixture and mix until just blended, then repeat (1/3 c flour mixture, 1/2 c banana mixture) and finish by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix until just blended, no need to overbeat in this step, it can make your muffins too dense later.

Optional: stir in the walnuts by hand. Scrape the batter into the muffin pans(I used and ice cream scoop).

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool and frost.

cream cheese frosting.

1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 pound (3 3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat well until smooth.