Best places to eat breakfast in Ontario

Eggs Benedict at Cora's

Eggs Benedict at Cora's

Yes, there are poached eggs on English muffins under all that Hollandaise sauce! This breakfast plate of Eggs Benedict, fruit and home fries – served at Cora’s, a restaurant chain found in most of the provinces in Canada – was pretty tasty!

Besides Cora’s, there are many other great places to enjoy breakfast in Ontario. If you want to find some of the hot spots for brekky in your home town or perhaps another place in this province, look no further than www.getcracking.ca. That’s where you’ll find Ontario’s Best Breakfasts, a search tool created by Egg Farmers of Ontario.

(You’ll also find my new blog – Everything Eggs – with egg recipes, cooking tips, news about egg nutrition, egg cooking equipment, and more!)

And, if you have a great breakfast restaurant you’d like to recommend, please add it to our list.

Four Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City

Most mornings my breakfast consists of a piece of whole wheat toast slathered with peanut butter, or yogurt and Dorset cereal, or a microwave poached egg and toast.

On weekends, the breakfast bar often gets raised a notch. The skillet comes out, and soon the heady aroma of crisply cooked bacon and fried eggs (sunny side up is my fave!) fills the house. Aaaahhhh! The breakfast of champions!

You can never go wrong with bacon and eggs, but when it’s a special morning or you’re preparing breakfast for guests, it’s fun to serve up something a little different.

While in New York City recently, I attended a Four Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. The four-hour class was taught by Chef Chad Pagano. Besides me, there were 13 other breakfast lovers looking to learn some new recipes for the most important meal of the day.

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Fun, fun, fun! Sandwich cookie cake pans from Williams-Sonoma

How much fun is this sandwich cookie cake?? It would be perfect as a dessert for any occasion from a spring or Mother’s Day tea to a birthday party or backyard barbecue.

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma)

Sandwich Cookie Cake (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

I picked up the pans to make this fun dessert this evening, racing into the Williams-Sonoma at Sherway Gardens at 8:58 p.m. (the store closes at 9 p.m.). Just in time!

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Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

The 9″ cast aluminum cake pans are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and sell for $29.95 (US) for the pair. Bake your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe or mix in them, then sandwich the layers together with flavoured whipped cream, ice cream or buttercream icing.

Visit Williams-Sonoma’s website for more information and to read reviews about the pans. According to the online reviews, it’s really important to grease the pan well with cooking spray to remove the cakes easily.

I’ll have to hold off testing out the pans until next week as I’m off to New York City this weekend to take a Four-Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and visit with my sister Loreen who lives on Long Island. We’ve got afternoon tea reservations in NYC at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Friday.

Hard-cook eggs and bake muffins at the same time with Egg in a Nest muffins

Eggs in a Nest Muffins - the eggs hard-cook as the muffins bake!

Egg in a Nest Muffins (image from Egg Farmers of Ontario, circa 1990)

This “recipe” for Egg in a Nest Muffins has been around for awhile. Perhaps you can tell by the dated look of the picture. I scanned it from a photograph found in the archives of the Egg Farmers of Ontario; it was probably taken about 20 years ago. But the idea is still a good one and a fun festive way to say “Happy Easter” at breakfast tomorrow.

With this easy multi-tasking recipe, you hard-cook eggs and bake muffins at the same time. If you want to make things super-easy, use a muffin mix instead of your favourite muffin recipe.

Fruit, yogurt and juice would complement these protein-packed muffins nicely and make for a simple but delicious breakfast that will allow plenty of time to hunt for treats left by the Easter Bunny.

Egg in a Nest Muffins

Ingredients for your favourite muffins
Medium or large eggs, in their shells (1 per muffin)

Prepare muffin batter. Rub eggs lightly with vegetable oil. Fill lightly greased or paper-lined muffin cups with batter. Gently place one uncooked egg, in its shell, partially into each “muffin”.

Bake in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving as eggs will be hot.

To eat, remove the egg from the muffin, peel off the shell and enjoy with the muffin.

Tips:
* For a pretty Easter look, use paper liners with an Easter design and coloured eggs. A little of the color may bleed into the muffins, but it won’t affect the taste.
* Serve warm or cold but refrigerate if not eaten within a couple hours.

Crepes Galore!

crepes

I’ve been eating a lot of crepes lately.

Last night we dined with friends at the Village Creperie on Belmont Avenue in Kitchener. I’d eaten at this lovely, intimate restaurant awhile ago and really should have been back sooner.

On the menu are a variety of appetizers, salads, and galettes (savoury crepes made with buckwheat). The restaurant uses only organic flours, fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and dairy.

I chose the galette special of the day – a fajita crepe with seasoned chicken, sauteed peppers, guacamole and sour cream. It was a winner as were the galettes enjoyed by my fellow diners (Very veggie – spinach, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, portabello mushroom, goat cheese and pesto; Saumon et salsa – marinated salmon and salsa; and Le Complete – sunny side up or flat egg, aged white Cheddar, mozarella, green onion and ham).

Although everything on the dessert menu (including flambed crepes) sounded very tempting, we opted to share the dessert special of the day – a waffle crowned with strawberries, blueberries, syrup and creme fraiche.

I look forward to returning to the Village Creperie again soon, perhaps on a Saturday morning for a brunch crepe.

For a good assessment of the restaurant, read the review written by Andrew Coppolino, Restaurant Critic for the Waterloo Region Record.

A few weeks ago, work took me to the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket where I happened upon Crepe Delicious, a kiosk-style restaurant that sells crepes and paninis. I enjoyed a Popeye crepe with its filling of spinach, cheese and tomato. I expected the crepe to be served to me either filled and folded or rolled over like an omelette. Instead, the large crepe was folded in half, filled, rolled into a cone shape, and tucked into a pointed cone cup. The whole thing was then wrapped in foil. The result? A crepe that could be eaten out of hand, on the go, with any juices falling into the cup instead of dripping through your fingers. Genius!

Crepe Delicious has locations throughout Toronto and according to its website, is looking for individuals interested in franchise opportunities.

Back to the crepe marathon…. One night last week we enjoyed crepes with maple syrup and sauteed bananas for dinner. Yes, probably more a dessert than dinner entree, but oh well! They were very good.

The picture above is of the crepes we made when I visited my sister Loreen on Long Island last summer. These crepes were made from a Bisquick recipe. (Stir together or process in a blender 1 cup Bisquick mix, 3/4 cup milk and 2 eggs. Use about 2 tablespoons batter per crepe.) We let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes so the dry ingedients had a chance to absorb the liquid ingredients. This makes the batter less lumpy.

Here’s the recipe for the crepes I made last week.

Basic Crepes

(Makes 16 crepes)

1-1/3 cups (325 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
Additional butter for crepe pan

In a bowl, stir together flour and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the butter; pour over dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flour expand.

Heat an 8-inch (20 cm) crepe pan or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with butter. For each crepe, pour about 1/4 cup (60 mL) batter into the centre of the pan; immediately swirl pan to coat bottom with batter. Cook until top is no longer shiny and bottom is lightly browned, about 45 seconds to a minute. Flip crepe over and cook briefly on the other side, 25 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with butter between crepes as needed.

Variations:
* Buckwheat Crepes: Replace half of the flour with light buckwheat flour.
* Herbed Crepes: Just before cooking crepes, stir in 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g. any combination of parsley, chives and tarragon)
* Chocolate Crepes: Replace 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the flour with 1/4 cup (60 mL) cocoa powder, sifted. Stir in 3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar.

Tips:
* Crepe batter can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
* Batter should be the thickness of whipping cream. If it is too thick, thin with a little milk.
* Crepes can be made ahead. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before using.

Cinnamon Toast: sweet, cinnamon-y and simple!

The heady aroma of cinnamon greeted me a couple days ago when I entered the building where I work. It smelled as deliciously enticing as the aisle where the Cinnabon store is located in my local shopping mall.

Unfortunately I was not greeted with an oversized cinnamon bun oozing with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling and dripping with icing. No, a co-worker had simply made cinnamon toast to start her day, permeating the office with the sweet smell of the familiar spice.

It was a fragrant reminder that sometimes the simple things are truly the best.

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

To make Cinnamon Toast, you can either toast or broil the bread. Either way, it’s is a deliciously simple treat!

Cinnamon Toast

(Makes 4 slices)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated or brown sugar
1/2  teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
4 slices bread
Butter or margarine, at room temperature

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Method 1: Toast bread. Spread with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top.

Method 2: Place slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread each slice with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top. Broil bread 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) from grill until cinnamon-sugar topping is bubbly, about a minute or two. Watch closely so bread doesn’t burn.

Tips:

* Use the bread of your choice (whole wheat, white, Challah, French, etc.) or English muffins or bagels.
* Vary the proportion of sugar and cinnamon as you like.
* Make up extra topping mixture and fill a small spice bottle, container or sugar shaker so you can readily make cinnamon toast whenever the craving hits.
* If you’re a chocolate lover, add a little cocoa powder or some finely grated chocolate to the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

What to eat or drink or do during cold and flu season

Have you been hit by the cold bug that seems to be making the rounds?  Or caught a nasty flu bug?

If you haven’t been afflicted yet, count your blessings, and pray your turn won’t come! Then read on so you’ll know what to eat or drink to prevent getting your turn, or what to do if your temperature begins to soar or you find yourself reaching for the box of tissues.

If you have caught one or both bugs, you should read on too. Some of the suggestions below may help lessen the severity of your illness, and prevent additional bouts of cold or flu this winter.

When it comes to curing what ails them, some people turn to herbal remedies, others to pills. There are those who have their tried-and-true, often home-spun remedies handed down through the generations. Some of these “cures” may seem a little bizarre, although their proponents will swear by them.

I suffered from a nasty cold over Christmas while visiting my family in Winnipeg. My mom suggested I try something from my childhood – a mustard plaster, minus the mustard! I was a bit apprehensive, but felt miserable enough to give it a try.

First I placed a warm wet towel on my chest. That was followed by a piece of plastic, then a dry towel that had been warmed in the microwave. (Tossing it in the dryer briefly would work too.) I put on my pajama top over the layers, and then pinned everything together with safety pins so the layers would stay in place. Logically, you should be lying in your bed at this point so you can just pull the covers up around you, stay toasty warm, rest and get better. But I decided to wander around the house for a few minutes, then crawl into bed. By this point the warm towels had cooled off considerably.

I believe the theory here is that the heat of the layered towels will sweat out the virus/germs or whatever is causing the chest congestion/aches/pains/cough and you will feel much better the next day.

So, did it help?

Let’s just say it didn’t make things worse! To be fair, the towels had probably cooled off too quickly to be really effective.

I recall mustard being involved somehow in this treatment of my youth. I think a paste was made with dry mustard, flour and water and that concoction was applied directly to the chest. The towels and plastic were then layered over top. You had to be careful you didn’t leave the mustard plaster on too long or you could burn or blister your skin. Guess the layers generated a fair amount of heat that warmed the chest and and cleared out the congestion. Probably if you’d chowed down on a hot dog at the same time, you’d have been healed in minutes! LOL!

Here are a few other supposed “cures” for the common cold and influenza.  (Please Note: I haven’t tried any of them. I’m not endorsing any of them. I’m just reporting what I’ve read or heard because I find some of these suggestions rather entertaining. If you’re intrigued or brave enough to give the more interesting ideas a whirl, please proceed with caution! Following this list is a link to the Mayo Clinic’s remedies for colds and flu. Let me know if you have any remedies you swear by.)

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6 year old attempts to drive to school for breakfast and gym class

Did you hear about the 6 year old in Virginia who missed the school bus on Monday morning, so he decided to drive the family car the 16 km (10 miles) to school? It was the first day back to school after the Christmas holidays and the young boy was determined not to miss breakfast at school or gym class. His dad had left for work already and, depending on which report you listen to, his mother was either sleeping or busy with the boy’s sibling.

Miraculously, although he got within a mile or so of the school and then crashed the car, he was not seriously hurt. Thankfully, neither was anyone else.

Apparently, the boy had “learned to drive” by playing video games. Enroute to school, he had to cross over a bridge. He also passed other cars on a two lane road.

This really is an amazing story. And a tad sad. Whether the youngster wanted to get to school because he liked the breakfasts served there or because he was hungry, who knows? If the latter, thank goodness there are schools that have breakfast programs. At least the child knew where to go to get breakfast, and some physical activity (i.e. gym class). Just too bad he missed his bus and felt he had no option but to drive himself!

Speaking of breakfast, if you want some ideas for yourself or your family for delicious, nutritious breakfasts (the most important meal of the day!), check out these web sites:

* www.getcracking.ca

* www.eggs.ca

* www.mrbreakfast.com

* www.mrfood.com – breakfast recipes

Scrambled eggs for a crowd

One morning last week I and a couple colleagues cooked scrambled eggs for brunch for about 100 people. Although we didn’t have access to a full kitchen, cooking the scrambled eggs wasn’t difficult. One of us cracked the eggs while the other two whisked, then cooked 1-1/2 dozen eggs at a time in electric frying pans. (We prepared about 3 eggs per person.) Once cooked, the scrambled eggs were kept in large covered stainless steel bowls until about 25 minutes before the start of the brunch. At that time, we placed the eggs into a warmed chafing dish.

The group we were preparing the brunch for arrived about 20 minutes late (they were coming a distance by chartered bus). A few speeches preceded the meal which meant that brunch didn’t begin until nearly an hour after the eggs had been placed in the chafing dish.

If eggs are held too long over heat (like on a breakfast or brunch buffet table where they are kept in a chafing dish or steam table), “greening” can occur. This is a natural reaction which causes the eggs to turn an unappetizing drab greyish-green colour. We wanted to avoid this so we took a few precautions to try to prevent the phenomenon.

These tips can usually prevent greening in eggs:

  1. Use fresh eggs. Greening will occur more readily in older eggs.
  2. Use stainless steel equipment and utensils.
  3. Whisk in 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) lemon juice for every 1-1/2 dozen large eggs or 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) citric acid crystals for every dozen eggs.
  4. Cook eggs in small batches no larger than 3 L (3 qts).
  5. Once cooked, avoid holding the eggs over heat for more than 30 minutes.

We were able to follow the first four suggestions above (opting to add lemon juice as per #3 because that’s what I had on hand). We also cooked the eggs until softly scrambled instead of cooking them until they formed very firm curds since we knew the eggs would sit in the chafing dish for a while where they would continue to cook from the heat. We didn’t want them the proteins in the eggs to tighten so firmly from the heat that they squeezed additional moisture from the eggs causing them to weep or exude moisture.

Unfortunately we didn’t anticipate the delay in the start of the meal and the long length of time the eggs would sit in the chafing dish. By the time brunch concluded, the eggs had been in the chafing dish for nearly 2 hours. At that point, some egg had stuck to the pan, although it was not burnt on. (It washed off later with a little soaking and scrubbing. Next time, we’ll spray the chafing dish with cooking spray before adding the eggs.) There was also some minor greening of the eggs that were in contact with the chafing dish. Nothing too serious. No doubt following the tips above helped prevent a full-blown case of “green eggs” and bacon!

Sap’s running! How sweet it is!


Everything tastes better drizzled
with liquid gold!

With the Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira this past weekend signaling the springtime flow of maple sap and production of maple syrup in Ontario, it’s time to enjoy the regional abundance of what many consider a quintessential Canadian food.

Maple syrup is a highly prized commodity throughout the world. With it produced right in our backyard, it would be a shame to take this “liquid gold” for granted.

If it’s been awhile since you enjoyed pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup named after someone’s pancake-loving/cooking relative!), pick up a bottle soon and reacquaint yourself with the golden goodness of this special treat. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, crepes, cooked vegetables, cake or ice cream, or use it to flavour a salad dressing, a barbecue or grilling sauce for meat or fish, or a dessert.

Keep in mind the darker the syrup (or the higher the grade number), the stronger flavoured the syrup will be. Medium and Amber syrups are better suited for cooking as they can better withstand heat while Light syrups are typically used to drizzle over pancakes and waffles.

For maple syrup recipes, information and a list of maple syrup festivals in Ontario, visit the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association’s website.

This make-ahead breakfast or brunch strata (heck, it would make a great supper too!) with it’s maple and apple topping is a sweet way to enjoy one of the first treats of spring.

Cinnamon Toast Strata with Maple Apple Topping
(Makes 6 servings)

If desired, substitute 4 cups (1 L) sliced bananas for apples. Reduce brown sugar to 2 tablespoons (30 mL). Omit raisins. Reduce cooking time of fruit to 1 minute.

Strata:
10 slices egg bread
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, softened
4 tablespoons (60 mL) sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon (divided)
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
4 eggs

Topping:
2/3 cup (150 mL) maple syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter (optional)
5 tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup (75 mL) raisins
1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch
1 tablespoon (15 mL) water

To make Strata:
Trim crusts from bread. In a small bowl, mix together butter, 3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon. Spread on 5 of the bread slices; top with remaining slices. Cut diagonally into quarters to make triangles.

Arrange triangles, longest side down, overlapping and curving slightly, around edge of greased deep 10-inch (25 cm) pie plate. Arrange remaining triangles in a tight circle in centre. (Or arrange around edge of greased 11 x 7-inch/2 L) baking dish, curving slightly to fit; arrange remaining triangles in centre.)

Whisk milk with eggs until blended; pour evenly over triangles in dish. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon; sprinkle over triangles. (Strata can be prepared to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.) Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Baked, uncovered, in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Let stand on rack for 10 minutes.

To make Maple Apple Topping:
In skillet, whisk together maple syrup, orange juice and sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add butter (if using). Boil for 1 minute.

Add apples and raisins; cover and cook, stirring once, until apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve warm over strata.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step by Daphna Rabinovitch, Telemedia Communications Inc., 1999