Breakfast Ogre

Almost without exception (the exception being breakfast sausage), I love, love, love breakfast food.

I adore eating breakfast out.  The omelets and hash browns at Waffle House are the stuff of cheesy, carb-y dreams.  The crispy on the outside, creamy in the center French toast at Tra’Li at Brier Creek in Raleigh is more than delicious (The Kid really digs their traditional Irish breakfast, but once you put blood sausage on the plate,  my heart and appetite are broken).  In addition to perfectly cooked, creamy, rich eggs Benedict, Watts Grocery in Durham offers fresh churros with the best chocolate dipping sauce you’ll ever dunk into to.But, my very favorite breakfast experience, hands down, is a buffet.

The reason is simple.  I can eat fifteen or twenty different dishes at a buffet, without the judgy server, or the $75 breakfast bill that comes from ordering like a lumberjack with a hollow leg.  It’s heart breakingly frustrating to be limited to either French toast or pancakes because of the social stigma attached to life-threatening gluttony.

It just ain’t right.

And unless I plan on running seven or eight hundred miles a day or switching out all my clothes for caftans, sweat pants and elastic waists, giving rein to my darkest dining desires has to be a once-in-a-great-while occasion.

This is mine.  What are y’all eating?

But as every mother who’s worth her operator’s license will tell you (multiple times); “You gotta eat something!” “Do you wanna get sick?”  “Eat!  You’re breaking my heart”  “I’m cold! Put on a sweater!”

So, one needs to eat.  But ideally something that contains less than forty-seven thousand calories and doesn’t put you into a food coma for 3 days.

It may not sound exciting, but these days many of my breakfasts center around yogurt.

The thing is, traditional yogurt doesn’t move me.  In fact, I don’t really like it.I don’t know whether you’ve taken a gander in the dairy department lately, but we are living in the golden age of fermented moo juice.  Even in the smallest grocers your choices can easily number from 20-30.

There is fat-free, low-fat, and full fat.  Sweeteners from sugar, to honey, to lab created artificial supplements, and even no sugar in some savory versions.  Extra protein, gluten-free, even dairy free.  From organic yogurt from a goat named Gertrude to synthetic concoctions filled with Captain Crunch and Oreo crumbs.

And pretty much any flavor you can imagine is available for purchase

I like bigger flavors, like salted caramel and black cherry, which can cover any strong, yogurt-y tang.  And I always pick the chiffon-style.  Then I get to work tarting it up.The easiest and quickest way to do this is to have the dairy act as a dip for graham crackers.  Most of the time, though, I really get busy with it.I add fresh blueberries for brightness.  I add dried fruit for chewiness, and pecans for crunch.  I then stir in a tablespoon or so of chia seeds because they swell up when they sit in the fridge for a half hour.  Once activated, they’re just like tapioca, and I love the gelled pop they add.

Some of the factory fancified yogurt varieties can have up to 500 calories, so I steer clear—if I want that many calories, I’ll spend it on a stack of 15 or 20 pancakes, drenched in butter and syrup.But Chobani has something called “Simply 100 Crunch”.  The peach cobbler tastes like fresh, ripe peaches, only contains 100 calories, and shockingly, includes real peaches.

So, I’ve never owned a pair of yoga pants, The Kid has never played soccer, and I don’t drive a mini-van.  But gosh darn it, I can get behind some frou frou, fancy-schmancy yogurt.Oh yeah, ogre?  That’s how The Kid used to pronounce yogurt.

Oh yeah, ogre?  That’s how The Kid used to pronounce yogurt.

No that’s an ogre I can get behind.  Except for that damn black (blood) pudding.

Thanks for your time.

Pucker up

What’s better than lounging around your pool, drinking a thick, creamy, chocolate milkshake?  Or if you’d rather, a daiquiri; you be you.

How about Antonio Banderas holding that glass for you, and bringing the straw to your lips.

You know…I don’t even need the pool, the milkshake, or the boat.

What’s better than lounging around your pool, sipping on a drink held by Antonio Banderas?

Drinking from a glass held by Antonio Banderas while lounging around the pool on your disgustingly opulent yacht.

In that same vein, what’s better than a creamy lemon cheesecake?

full cheesecake

A creamy lemon cheesecake that’s unbelievably, insanely, easy to make, and topped with a lemony blueberry streusel, that’s what.

When I started cooking in earnest, I loved to pick up the little cookbooks in the checkout line in the supermarket.  My favorites are the Pillsbury Cook-Off booklets.  They have the top recipes from all categories.  I purchased my favorite, which I still have and use, in 1994.

Although there are quite a few dishes in it that I still prepare, there’s one recipe in it that I’ve made literally hundreds of times.  It alone was more than worth the price (which back then was all of $2.75).

As always, I played with it, tweaked a few things, and made the recipe my own.  The newest twist is the addition of blueberries.  I love them, but my mom’s really crazy for those navy nuggets.  She is whom I had in mind when I made the change.

It would make a terrific dessert for Easter dinner.  And it travels great, in case you’re doing dinner elsewhere.

Vanilla bean lemon cheesecake with blueberry streusel

lemon blueberry cheesecake

Crust:

1-18.25 ounce package lemon cake mix

½ cup butter, softened

Zest of 1 lemon

Filling:

2-8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

3 large eggs

1-8 ounce container lemon yogurt

1-16 ounce can lemon frosting

1 vanilla bean

Topping:

1-2 cups fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray bottom of 9 or 10-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Place a piece of spayed parchment that is about 2 inches larger all the way around over the bottom, then clip the bottom and ring together, letting parchment hang outside. 

Blend cake mix, butter, and zest in large bowl at low speed until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into bottom and 1 ½ inches up sides of pan.  Using a metal measuring cup to help form it will get a smooth, even, crust.

Beat cream cheese, eggs, yogurt, frosting, and vanilla bean innards in same bowl at medium speed with whisk attachment until completely smooth. Pour into crust-lined pan. Very gently, one at a time, place the blueberries evenly on top.  Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture evenly over berries and filling.

Bake 1 to 1 ½ hours or until center is set, but slightly jiggly and edges are light golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen. Remove sides of pan, then carefully slide the parchment off the pan bottom onto serving plate and trim the excess paper. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.  Slice with unwaxed dental floss or serrated knife dipped into very hot water.  Sliced thinly—and you really should, this serves 16.

lc4

Store leftovers in the fridge.

This makes a delicious lemon cheesecake.  But the only thing limiting the potential flavor is what kind of cake mix, frosting, and yogurt you pick.  You could also combine flavors, like chocolate and coffee, vanilla/pomegranate, or orange/caramel.

Heck, this fall you could go nuts and get your pumpkin spice on.

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Or not.

Thanks for your time.