Good Mornings

Hurricane Little Bear

I haven’t slept in in months. As tired as I can get, however, this doesn’t really bother me. First, I like mornings. Second, I realized a couple of months ago that Little Bear’s consistent rising time is a blessing in disguise. Not only does it mean that he wakes up in a timely, chipper fashion for daycare during the week, but it gives me a little quiet time of my own.

M has been casting pretty regularly on Twitch the past few months. The dichotomous effect of this is that it makes me want to play video games while using up all the weeknight time for such an activity. Light bulb realization: wait, I have mornings! I figured out very quickly that, now that LB is very mobile, intensive games are off the table. Pausing mid-dungeon crawl in Skyrim to extricate the baby from a mess is frustrating at best (i.e., when I remember to pause). If I play the Sims, however, the worst that usually happens is that my Sims sleep through work and cook three dinners in an hour instead of eating leftovers. I can deal with that.

cheeky Little Bear

So the little man and I have quietly spent our weekend mornings the last few months. He crawls and, as of the past weekend, steps carefully while holding the coffee table, throwing all our DVDs to the ground and laughing when I sternly order him to leave the power cables alone. I start up Sims or SimCity 4 and let things play out, intervening when LB allows. And sometimes, I can snag enough time to make breakfast.

I love breakfast. The Frenchman in M gets by with a single muffin. I prefer savory breakfasts, with at least two food groups, though I am not opposed to baking something sweet. Lately, I’ve had the opportunities for both, and I took advantage. Here are a couple of recent favorites…

Herby Bacon Ricotta Quiche ingredients

Feel free to alter the herbs and other seasonings. I know the celery salt seems like a strange addition. M is obsessed with the seasoning Camp Mix, and so we’ve been trying it on everything. It is surprisingly good on eggs, so I couldn’t help but add some here. If you’d rather not, I like this quiche fine without. But it definitely adds something.

Dropping in bits of ricotta makes the resulting texture incredibly creamy. I love eggs in all forms, but this is especially luxurious.

baked quiche

Herby Bacon Ricotta Quiche

forkful of quiche

  • 1 pie crust, thawed if frozen, rolled out if homemade
  • 6 thick-cut bacon slices
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh lemon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • celery salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly press the crust into a deep 9-inch pie dish. Fit a piece of foil into the crust and fill with pie weights or uncooked dried beans. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the foil pulls away without sticking. Remove the weights, and set the crust aside for now.

Cook the bacon in a nonstick frying pan until crisp and set aside on paper towels to drain. Pour off almost all of the fat and add the butter to the pan. Add the shallot and cook gently until translucent.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, and ½ cup of the ricotta until smooth. (I tend to take pains to keep my dirty dishes to a minimum, so I usually measure the cream in my 4-cup glass measuring cup, then add the eggs and cheese and whisk right in the cup. It makes filling the crust later easier, too.) Whisk in the herbs, pepper, and celery salt until evenly mixed. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie crust. Dollop the rest of the ricotta over the top in little spoonfuls.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. If the crust browns too early, cover with foil, but don’t let it touch the filling, or it will stick. Let cool and finish setting for a few minutes, then slice and serve with a morning beverage of choice.

zucchini bread slices

Lemon Thyme-Zucchini Bread with Sweet-Salty Crust

Can you tell that I have a thriving lemon thyme plant in the garden? M suggested zucchini bread awhile back. I added the herb on a sudden inspiration, and likewise the salt in the crust. I wasn’t feeling a super-sweet breakfast, so that was a small concession. It worked perfectly.

zucchini bread ingredients

Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Makes one 8½-by-4½-inch loaf

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •  cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh lemon thyme
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans
  • For the crust:
    • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
    • 2 pinches fleur de sel
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease (I used salted butter, because I currently have a delicious tub of Plugra in my fridge) and lightly flour one 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan. Mix the crust ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the zucchini. You should have about 1 cup. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat vigorously with a whisk or with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the shredded zucchini until blended.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, lemon thyme, and pecans. Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and stir just until combined. The batter will be stiff. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crust mix evenly over the top.

Bake until the top is firm to the touch and the edges pull away from the pan sides, 50-60 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center of a loaf should come out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the bread out, place upright on the rack, and let cool completely. Serve with salted butter or a drizzle of a favorite honey.

Bon matin!

baked zucchini bread

GLAM-o-rama

Entrance, McKim building

I have been in the library field for over eight years (basically all of my professional life, including my brief return to school for my MS in LIS). I love information, and there are so many ways to find it in cultural heritage institutions. In the past eight years, I’ve had some amazing experiences and beheld some incredible treasures.

Astrolabe with Hebrew characters from Convivencia Spain (about 1350)

British Museum

The hull

Currently, I work in a rare books/special collections/art museum library. It has some truly spectacular collections, and I am really getting a kick out of it these days.

Freeport [No. 001]

Detail from an exhibition contender

These photos are [currently] part of a Flickr album with a variety of images from my work and play in galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. These run the gamut from pictures of my office to details of beautiful materials to touristy photos of institutions I’ve visited. I add to this album fairly regularly now. I know photographs are no substitute for personal experience, but I hope you enjoy these all the same. I try to give detail for those kindred souls who lust after data. If you ever want to know more about an object or other image subject, just ask! [UPDATE August 8, 2017: after some technical complications, Flickr is no longer my photo-hosting site of choice. When I find a new home for images, I will update links for this album.]

Even damage can be beautiful

 

The finished products

Banana-Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dough

The finished products

I made cookies the other day. They were not great. I tried a new recipe, and though I modified it slightly, it wasn’t enough to make them as meh as they turned out. They were edible, and oh, we ate them. But I’ve been brooding about their mediocrity ever since.

Tonight, I could stand it no longer. There was yogurt in the refrigerator, chocolate chips in the pantry, and a serious case of nibbles in my mind. To soothe my wounded pride, I decided to make an old favorite that I knew wouldn’t fail: chocolate chip-yogurt cookies.

The original recipe for these comes from one of those slim Pillsbury booklets of which my mother seems to have a hundred. I don’t know if they’re still sold, and I didn’t read any more of them after I found these cookies. The usual egg in the recipe is replaced with yogurt. This is apparently to make the cookies lower in fat, but more importantly, in my view, it renders the dough edible without fear of salmonella. Finding this recipe was a true eye-opener. It’s easy to whip up and a dream to vary. This version takes the original and injects a tangy banana flavor that tempers the sweetness.

The not-so-secret ingredientI don’t normally like to make recipes that require a specific branded ingredient, but for this variation, I make an exception. I adore Stonyfield’s BaNilla yogurt for its resemblance to banana pudding, and it only seems to come in gigantic containers. I first subbed it into this recipe to use it up, and now I use it because it’s delicious. That being said, this recipe is incredibly adaptable. Feel free to use the blended yogurt of your choice. (I’ve never tried it with any fruit-on-the-bottom flavors. It may alter the consistency. Proceed at your own risk.)

Chocolate chips

I frequently throw this dough together to eat like ice cream. Keep it in the refrigerator and grab a spoonful whenever you need a hit of something sweet. My husband is more of a traditionalist and likes me to actually bake some. Pro tip: keep the baked cookies in the freezer. They stay soft enough to eat without cracking your teeth, and the cold-chewy texture makes them all the more toothsome.

Loading the cookie sheet

Banana-Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dough


Adapted from Pillsbury’s Cookies Galore!

Makes some cookies and plenty of dough (I am not being flippant. I have never baked an entire recipe of these.)

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup Stonyfield Farms BaNilla lowfat yogurt
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add yogurt and blend well. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. (If you’re like me, you stop here, pack it into a covered container, and stash the dough in the fridge for later consumption. If you’d rather have the baked goods, read on.)

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let sit on the cookie sheet for one minute, then cool completely on a rack.

Baked cookies