Migas: Tex-Mex Scrambled Eggs and Corn Tortillas

I guess I’m not surprised that the blogosphere has exploded with Cinco de Mayo recipes and party ideas. This is one psudo-holiday that North Americans have embraced with gusto…er, I mean entusiasmo. Devoid of religious trappings or forced familial obligations, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to let loose with friends, indulge in platter after platter of nachos, enchiladas and tacos, and drink a few too many margaritas — be they strawberry, mango, coconut, guava, or some other tropical but none-too-authentic flavor.

But Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States are unlike those in Mexico. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any real celebrations in Mexico at all. The military defeat of the French army by Mexican troops on May 5th, 1862, in the city of Puebla was indeed historically important to the the Pueblans, but it is not recognized throughout Mexico the way it is north of the border.

I recently listened to an NPR news story that encapsulated my feelings about the holiday. Entitled “Cinco De Mayo: Whose Holiday Is It, Anyway,” the story made the case that Cinco De Mayo celebrations in the United States are really Mexican-American celebrations…a way of recognizing Mexican cultural heritage in a uniquely Mexican-American way. And if Cinco de Mayo is a day to recognize the contributions and influences of the Mexican diaspora on the fabric of American culture, have I got a recipe for you.

Spicy, salty, comforting and crunchy, migas hits the spot at brunch

Spicy, salty, comforting and crunchy, migas hits the spot at brunch…or anytime

Migas are a Tex-Mex dish influenced less by traditional Mexican cooking than by Spanish and Portuguese dishes. In those countries migas are, at their most basic, a mixture of bread and eggs flavored with a variety of savory ingredients. But in the southwestern United States, where the influences of Mexican cooking are most widely felt, migas are a popular breakfast or brunch dish made with leftover corn tortillas, eggs, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of other things that can include bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, hot sauce and cheese.

Curious about migas? Keep reading to learn more and get our recipe for this great breakfast/brunch dish.

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Very Berry Granola (No Nuts!)

If Necessity truly is the mother of Invention, how do you think Invention acted in those early teen years? Was she — and I’m taking some liberties here, but in my mind Invention is surely a young lady — subject to hormonal angst, locking herself in her room and writing bad poetry? Did she skip school or stay out too late, or bleach a blond streak into her hair as I did at 13? And how on earth did Necessity stay sane during all that?

Maybe Necessity was married to Ingenuity, which would explain a lot. Or maybe she sequestered herself to the kitchen, baking batch after batch of treats like granola, which, when offered at just the right time to a hungry (a.k.a. irascible) daughter, can go a long way towards restoring peace and order.

If, however, Necessity were to have packed some of the aforementioned granola in Invention’s lunchbox, she’d better have paid attention to those “no peanuts, no tree-nuts” warnings many schools enforce. After all, she wouldn’t want Invention’s friend, Anaphylaxis, to end up in the emergency room. Again.

Well, Necessity, do I have a recipe for you. Very Berry Granola. No nuts. No coconut either (which is NOT a tree nut, but sill on the naughty list at our preschooler’s daycare). It’s also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Great for lunches. Great for snacks. Great in the morning with some milk or yogurt. You get the picture.

Very berry granola – get the recipe now!

Creamy Ham Gravy with Buttermilk Biscuits

You may have noticed that countries all over the globe are represented in The Stout Sprout kitchen. Regions, too, like the American South (ambrosia salad, anyone?), the Louisiana bayou (like this gumbo), and our home state of New Jersey (can’t wait to have more Jersey clams this summer!).

You may also have noticed that our dishes are often a combination of those cultural and regional influences. We recently made a return visit south of the Mason Dixon line but shook things up a little during our culinary travels. Sunday brunch, after all, is made for mixing it up, and here we took our cues from the Southern dish of biscuits and gravy, substituting the more commonly used sausage with chunks of fresh ham, some thyme, and a splash of sherry.

Biscuits with anything is good. Biscuits with creamy ham gravy is out of this world. Get the recipe here.

Blueberry-Coconut Granola….Because It’s President’s Day And Special Things are Happening

The wonderful food and lifestyle site The Kitchn just announced open nominations for their Sixth Annual Homies Awards — celebrating, as they put it, great food and home design blogs.

It’s a two-step process, with the top five nominated blogs in each category, plus five editor-selected favorites, moving on to the voting stage. And time is of the essence!

This President’s Day, exercise your democratic right to nominate, and vote, for your favorite blogs. Personally, I hope that The Stout Sprout will be among them. We’re currently nominated in the Family-Friendly Cooking Blogs category and would be honored to have your nomination, and then your vote if we’re lucky enough to make it that far!

To to put some pep in your step, here’s our recipe for blueberry-coconut granola.

Apple-Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Raisins and Cranberries

We’re in the thick of winter here in the Northeast United States, though my friends in the Southern states are also bundling up and shoveling out this week. All this unnaturally cold weather calls for a warm remedy in the form of comforting bread pudding.

We last wrote about bread pudding this past summer in our Spanakopita Bread Pudding post. Here we move away from the savory and into the sweet category with a new twist on a breakfast favorite. This version packs in bits of fresh apple and dried cranberries with the more traditional raisins and is quite creamy and moist — almost custard-like in its consistency, making it the perfect way to begin your day. It’s an especially welcome treat on the weekend, served in a shallow bowl with perhaps a drizzle of maple syrup or dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Served as dessert, it would be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Read more about our apple-cinnamon bread pudding here.

Cherry-Almond Granola: In Our Home for the Holidays

It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s breakfast. It’s a snack. It’s granola, and it’s so easy to make that you just might forgo store-bought granola from now on.

Not to get all crunchy on you but there is more than one reason to make your own granola. First, it tastes great. Much fresher than anything you can pick up pre-made. Second, it’s much more economical. Third, you get to decide what goes into your granola, from your choice of nuts (or not), to flavorings that include your favorite dried fruits and other add ins. And anything you don’t want stays out, from preservatives to stabilizers to artificial sweeteners.

Once made, you can have it with milk, sprinkle it on yogurt, or snack on it straight from the bag.

Kids seem to love the versatility. Daughter 1, who recently turned 6,  likes hers either with milk in the morning or as a snack later in the day. Daughter 2 almost always asks for it on yogurt — and sometimes as part of a healthy banana spit.

We made a special holiday version recently, using dried cherries and almonds with a hint of orange zest. Once in the oven the six-year-old couldn’t stop asking when it would be ready. Personally, I’d like to see individual servings of these on a platter at a cookie exchange. While I love a good pfeffernusse, taking home a little breakfast treat along with the other offerings is right up my alley.

Take your breakfast to go: these would be great as part of a holiday cookie exchange

Take your breakfast to go: these would be great as part of a holiday cookie exchange

On the local front, I encourage you to look for honey made in your county or state. There is a great local apiary — Birds and Bees Farm — that is currently selling honey at the Slow Foods Central New Jersey Winter Farmer’s Markets. Good stuff. Do yourself a favor and check them out, or look for a similar distributor in your area.

Local honeys are always the best - this one from Birds & Bees Farm

Local honeys are always the best – this one from Birds & Bees Farm

And when I said this was easy to make I really meant it. One bowl, one baking sheet, 45 minutes in the oven and you’ve got granola. Because we all know you need to get on to other things, like dying yak wool with hand-pressed huckleberries. Just kidding. After all, you’re only as crunchy as you allow yourself to be. But hey — this is vegetarian and vegan, so you can feel good about that!

Get your kids in the kitchen with this one. They will be amazed at what they are able to make in under an hour…and it might make breakfasts go that much easier when they start asking for “their” special granola.

Making granola

Making granola

Ours is a loose interpretation of the Cook’s Illustrated Pecan-Orange Granola with Dried Cranberries. (You’ll need a membership to access the link.) Make them both, and then work on a combo of your own. Happy crunching!

Cherry-Almond Granola

Ingredients:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from one orange)
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 cups (10 ounces) almonds
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (10 ounces) dried cherries, roughly chopped
*Optional: 8 ounces melted semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, honey, light brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and orange zest. Whisk in the grapeseed oil, mixing until well combined.

Some of the ingredients that go into this granola

Some of the ingredients that go into this granola

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are roughly chopped, with distinct large and small pieces. Do not over process.

Fold the chopped almonds and the rolled oats into the ingredients in the mixing bowl until well coated.

Folding in the almonds and oats

Folding in the almonds and oats

Pour the mixture onto the parchment-paper lined baking sheet, firmly pressing down on it until it is evenly and compactly distributed in the pan.

Waiting to go in the oven

Waiting to go in the oven

Place the pan in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking.

Remove the pan from the oven when the granola is a toasty golden color. Allow it to cool on the baking sheet for at least an hour.

Break the granola into chunks and mix in the dried cherries.

Granola will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

*Optional: for a real holiday treat, drizzle 8 ounces of good-quality melted semi-sweet chocolate over the cooled granola on the baking sheet before breaking it into chunks and adding the cherries.

Makes approximately 9 cups of granola.

Kid rating: four stars. Daughter 2 loves hers with French vanilla yogurt. Daughter 1 liked everything but the nuts in this version. The next time we make it I may try a no-nuts version, upping the oat and dried fruit ratio to compensate for the almonds.
Parent rating: four stars. This smells like the holidays when it bakes and I love the versatility in serving it. I also love how easy it is to make. My husband thought the cherries were very “fruit forward” in this version. I like that, but think he prefers a more subtle flavor. Highly recommend the orange zest though — it brightens up the flavor and pulls everything together very nicely.

Very Berry Smoothies

Whenever I get concerned about our kids’ eating habits (is eschewing spinach at age three a habit, or right of passage?) I think about the advice a friend of mine got from her pediatrician. “They won’t eat any vegetables” my friend confessed about her children, thinking she was about to get a lecture on nutritional deficiencies and how all good parents find a way to coax and coddle their offspring into loving leafy greens. “Yes, but do they eat fruit?” her pediatrician asked. “Can’t get enough” she truthfully shared. “Then you’re fine” he told her. “It’s all good.”

All I can say is, whew.

And while veggies are, undoubtedly, something we should all make a habit of eating, it’s reassuring to know that fresh fruits do our bodies good as well. Our girls will eat just about any fruit we have in the house. During a recent shopping trip Daughter 1 talked me into buying a pomelo just because it was a fruit she hadn’t yet tried. But even they grow tired of one-too-many clementines or sliced apples packed in their lunch. To keep things fresh (pun intended), we make smoothies. As we get into the colder months it’s really hard to find fresh seasonal fruit in the Northeast. All I can say is, thank goodness for the freezer…or the freezer aisle in the grocery store. It may not be seasonal now, or here, but flash-frozen produce retains the benefits of fresh and can be a welcome reminder of the warmer months that have just recently passed us by.

Banana, frozen sliced peaches and frozen strawberries

Banana, frozen sliced peaches and frozen strawberries

Chances are good that 1)if you’re a parent and 2)you’ve ever struggled to get something nutritious into your child, that 3) you’ve made them a smoothie too. It’s a tried and true equation: A+B=C. Pulling out the blender can be a seminal light-bulb moment for many moms and dads whose tots have progressed past watery rice cereal. At least it was for us, with the added benefit of being FAST which, I don’t need to tell you, is important when you have a child for whom every decision of the morning is something to draw out and savor. And debate.

These days, the conversation in our house goes something like this:

Mom: “Guys, we only have half-an-hour until we have to be out the door. With teeth brushed and shoes on. Soooo….who wants a smoothie?”
Daughter 2: “Shoes on????”
Daughter 1: “Me! I want a smoothie!”
Daughter 2: “Don’t you mean boots?”
Daughter 1: “I want a smoothie!”
Daughter 2: “My boots don’t fit anymore.”
Daughter 1: “Can I help make the smoothie?”
Daughter 2: “My boots…hey, I want to help make the smoothie!”
Mom: “You can both help make the smoothie. Just promise me you’ll drink it quickly.”
Daughter 2: “Yes, quickly. Then, can I put on ballet shoes? Because my boots don’t fit anymore.”

Someone's idea of a joke...the whole banana, plus peel, in the blender

Someone’s idea of a joke…the whole banana, plus peel, in the blender

Part of the fun in helping make the smoothies is dumping ingredients into the blender. The other part is the blender itself. When I run it, both girls tell me it’s too loud. When they run it (with supervision!), it’s a magical kitchen appliance, turning whole fruit into a delicious purée in seconds. (“Is it ready yet?”) We have a VitaMix and I love its speed and power, though the price tag was daunting. If you make smoothies often, invest in a blender that can tackle frozen fruit and ice cubes. There is nothing quite as disappointing as making a smoothie and it not being smooth enough sip through a straw!

Fruit, yogurt and juice = quick & healthy breakfast or snack

Fruit, yogurt and juice = quick & healthy breakfast or snack

Another tip: you can always sneak some veggies into your smoothie if you’re stealthy enough. Try a little bit of baby spinach, which seems to work especially well in berry smoothies. Somehow, though, our girls ferret out the veggies. I have another friend who makes green smoothies every morning for herself and her boys and even puts parsley in them, which her kids love. I’m not sure our girls would go for that, but they are pretty open to new combinations.

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to break out the blender and try something new. If you’re curious about the smoothie that has my kids lining up, here’s how we most often make ours.

Brilliant color to this delicious smoothie

Brilliant color makes this delicious smoothie even more attractive

Very Berry Smoothies

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, peeled
Approximately 3/4 cup frozen sliced peaches
Approximately 1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries
Handful (about 1/4 cup) of frozen wild blueberries
3/4 cup no-sugar-added 100% orange juice
3/4 cup no-sugar-added 100% cranberry juice (or cranberry/blueberry/raspberry juice, or pomegranate juice…I personally prefer a no-sugar-added, 100% juice variety)
1/2 cup low-fat French vanilla yogurt

Place all ingredients in the blender, adding yogurt and juices last. Start to blend on a low speed, and progressively work up to the highest speed. (This will keep your smoothing from doing that thing where the bottom gets blended and the top doesn’t so it just sucks in a bunch of air, and you have to stop the blender and allow it to “burp” before continuing.)

The smoothie is ready when it’s pureed to a smooth consistency.

My least favorite task — cleaning the blender — is pretty easily handled by partially filling the now-empty container with hot water and dish soap and turning on the blender at a low to medium speed. Turn it off, give the canister a quick wash and rinse and you’re good to go. But you probably already know this trick.

Serves: 2

Parent rating: four stars. I love a quick breakfast. So much so that we don’t necessarily wait for breakfast time to make this smoothie…instead making it as a nutritious and easy snack.
Kid rating: five stars. Our girls consistently finish these, serving after serving. No added sugar or sweetener necessary since the sweetened yogurt and natural fruit sugars do the trick. If you can sneak in a little spinach or other greens you get bonus points!