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Protein Pancakes, or the Importance of Listening to Your Mother.

Protein Pancakes

When it comes to mothers, mine is (almost) always right.

When I was a little girl, I, being a child of the 80’s, wanted nothing more than crap for breakfast.  I watched the beguiling commercials – Super Golden Crisp!  Pop Tarts! Leggo my Eggo!  – and I asked, nay, begged my mother to give me this super-sugary stuff of my dreams for breakfast.  My mother, having come of age in the crunchy late 60’s and 70’s in California, wisely turned me down.  I had to eat healthy breakfasts, which always included protein.  Cream cheese, peanut butter, whole grain breads – on test days I always had eggs.  Protein in the morning was her mantra.  I, sulking, vowed that when I had children, I would buy Cocoa Krispies for breakfast!

Of course, my mother was right.  One day she gave in to my pleading  and let me have pancakes for breakfast (though it’s possible my father had a hand in this disaster).  2 hours later the school nurse called her – I felt awful – headache, stomachache, you name it.   My mother crisply told the nurse to feed me some cheese and lo and behold!  I felt better!  Low blood sugar.  (I wish I could say that from this day forward, I happily ate my eggs and turned my nose up at Lucky Charms, but, sadly, it took many years of collegiate hangovers and maturity before I submitted to her wisdom.)

Now I am a mother, and Karma is an ahole, because I have the same battles with my kids.  Every morning (or every weekend mornings, because weekdays I have learned enough not to ask), the girl says “Please!  Can we have pancakes?  You never make pancakes!” and the boy, who worships his sister, pipes in with his little voice, shouting “Pancake!  I wan’ Pancake!” and then adds, hopefully, “Frosting?” (Because cakes have frosting.  I am clearly more relaxed about sugar than my mother was.  Pancakes do not, however.  I’m not THAT relaxed.) And I repeat back to them my mother’s mantra, and try to wangle some sausages into them and the whole thing, is frankly, exhausting.

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Baked Scotch Eggs

Baked Scotch Eggs TXT

When you are a working parent, each weekday can feel like a battle, and each working day, a war.  Mornings are especially chaotic – the opening shots are fired at 5:45 am, when the alarm goes off (better – at least I can drink a cup of coffee in peace) or the toddler goes off (No chance of snoozing with that one.)  From then on, it’s a full charge ahead – getting two children and two adults awake, dressed in some semblance of reasonable clothing, fed some semblance of breakfast, out the door with all the appropriate gear (lunches, snacks, permission slips, changes of clothes, diapers, two matching shoes, laptop computers and wallets) requires, skill, strategy, manpower, and a great deal of cunning. By the time I actually (drive to daycare, drop off toddler, get to work, park and then) settle into my desk, I feel like my quiet cup of tea is a truce before the workday really begins (and then the whole process must be rendered in reverse).

Weekends, therefore, must be dedicated, not to rest, relaxation, or socializing, but to TACTICAL PLANNING.  Meal planning and grocery shopping are crucial, but so is the Sunday cook up, whereby I stock the kitchen for the week ahead.  I roast a tray of veggies and another of chicken legs (great kid foods), boil a dozen eggs, chop up and wash salad.  If something happens on Sunday to derail the preparation, I know that the weekday war can quickly spin out of control.

Breakfast is a keystone to my strategy. I know my kids and I all do better if we eat a good, solid breakfast – something with protein, that will last us reasonably well until lunch. There’s no time for pancake flipping and omelet making on weekday mornings, but I will stash pancakes and french toast from the weekend in the freezer, for a quick run in the toaster oven.  My favorite weekday breakfasts are portable – there’s no guarantee that I will get a chance to actually eat something before that cup of tea at the desk, and the kids can eat SO SLOWLY that taking breakfast in the car is essential to avoiding the tardy bell.

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Little Flower Cafe’s Breakfast Egg and Vegetable Terrine

Breakfast Terrine 2

I live in the suburbiest of suburbia.  Green lawns, swimming pools, sprinklers.  People walk in my neighborhood – all the time – but they’re walking their dogs or taking a walk, rather than walking to something.

But even in the suburbiest of suburbia, we have our little neighborhood attractions.  An elementary school is in walking distance. So is the local branch of the library, and a small park.  But best of all, we have a cafe.  And not just any cafe.  The kind of cafe you wish were in your neighborhood.  The kind that makes amazing lattes, and has a menu of interesting salads and sandwiches, cute kitchen items for sale, jars of homemade caramels by the cash register,  art by local artists, and the most mouthwatering bakery case you ever will see.  Buttermilk pretzel rolls.  Honey lavender scones.  Kale and Gruyere croissants.  Tomato Tartines. Salted caramel sticky buns.

Is it any wonder that we’re in there for breakfast nearly every weekend?

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Rhabarberkuchen or Rhubarb Coffee Cake

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I am something of a rhubarb fiend. My great-grandparents had a big patch of it when I was growing up, and stewed rhubarb featured heavily in visits. I love that tart-sweet unique flavor, and the glorious PINK color. It fulfills all my girly food fantasies.

I haven’t been able to find rhubarb for most of this spring. I forlornly cross-examined the clerks at Whole Foods (“But WHEN will you have it in stock?”), fruitlessly haunted farmers’ markets and researched growing my own, so I would not be left rhubarb-less forever (Apparently, Los Angeles used to be a huge center for commercial rhubarb growing, but sadly, it’s impossible to get the varieties that grow well in the heat any more).
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Pumpkin Pie French Toast, or the Hope of Autumn

Pumpkin Pie French Toast>

I knew, when I moved back to California from New York, that I’d be losing fall. Fall in the Northeast was my favorite season — the crisp air, the brilliant colors, the smell of rain. I was always eager to don my sweaters and pull out the soup pot. We do get a semblance of that fall in Southern California — it just arrives in November or December and lasts until February.

September this year has been especially trying. I know intellectually that September is the hottest month of the year. But the seemingly endless string of days over 90 degrees are making me yearn for autumn relief more than usual. I am tired of grilled chicken and gazpacho. I want sweaters! Brussels sprouts! Bean soups! But really, the idea of eating bean soups when it’s 103 in the shade is … off-putting.

This french toast, then, is my brave attempt to bring a little autumn to my life. The Nuni loves french toast, and while pancakes seem daunting even for a weekend breakfast, I’m always up for a quick egg soak and a fast saute. The five cans of pumpkin puree in my cupboard (we can call it what it is — aspirational pumpkin) inspired me to spice up my usual quick and easy French toast with a little fall flair. I thought that pumpkin pie filling is really just pumpkin added to eggs, cream, sugar and spices — change the proportions slightly and you have the perfect soak for french toast. After all, I may not feel like turning on the oven, but I can handle 10 minutes on the stove.
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