Originally created 10/06/04

Vegetarian breakfast recipes



CONCORD, N.H. - Few things can make a man who loves to cook feel more utterly useless than a newborn.

Admittedly, I'd gotten a bit ahead of myself by the time my wife and I brought our son home from the hospital recently. My head already was full of tastes and textures I wanted him to experience as soon a possible.

Would he pucker at Parmesan dunked in balsamic? Would he savor the crisp tartness of Cortland apples picked from the orchard down the street? And what about tomatoes, lightly seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper?

More important, would my wife let me near the child once she learned what I was thinking?

It probably is for the best that her more informed opinion that solid foods should wait prevailed. Nonetheless, this leaves me rooting about, searching for some way to feel useful and satisfy his needs (beyond diaper drudgery).

When Parker cries for his 3 a.m. feeding, there is little I can do to comfort him, a frustrating position for the house cook. I admit 36 hours of labor entitles my wife to her monopoly on the joy of feeding our little bundle, but it still leaves me feeling lame.

Truth is, I wasn't sure I would even face this problem. Plenty of people warned that once the little guy came along, I'd be so tired and so overwhelmed I would lose all interest in cooking.

Overwhelmed and tired? Certainly. But not at the expense of my need to cook. Blame the nesting instinct, and a dad's desire to help his son along on his culinary explorations. Autumn's abundance of great food doesn't hurt, either.

The obvious answer, of course, is cooking for his mom, who is entitled to some pampering - and, after nearly a week of hospital food, to something more than Jello.

Breakfast seemed the best bet for giving her a treat. Dinner is predictable and too often interrupted by crying. Plus, a Sunday morning spread seemed the perfect way to celebrate our little one's one-week anniversary at home.

For inspiration I turned to Mollie Katzen's "Sunlight Cafe" (Hyperion, 2002, $29.95), which is dedicated to all things breakfast. Many of her recipes are simple and speedy - essential ingredients for a peaceful breakfast with a baby in the background.

I decided to start off with a vanilla-pear smoothie that calls for ripe pears, apple juice and yogurt. The pear tree in our back yard is laden and the little one has kept us from preserving the fruit as we had hoped. Now at least my wife will get a taste.

To continue the seasonal fruit theme, I also opted for Katzen's caramelized fruit, a deliciously different take on fruit salad. Any combination of fruit works, but I found fresh pineapple best. If you use more delicate fruits such as apples, reduce the cooking time, else you will end up with apple sauce.

Finally, a batch of pumpkin muffins warm from the oven. Not only did I like the seasonal element of this item, I also figured muffins are easy to eat with one hand, just in case Parker had grown pouty by this point.

And maybe when my wife isn't looking I can sneak him just a drop of smoothie on his tongue.

Vanilla-Pear Smoothie

(Preparation 5 minutes)

2 medium ripe pears, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup vanilla yogurt

Pear nectar or apple juice

Maple syrup

Combine the pears, lemon juice, vanilla and yogurt in a blender and puree until smooth. Use the apple juice or pear nectar to thin the smoothie to the desired consistency. Sweeten to taste with maple syrup.

Makes 1 to 2 servings.

(Recipe from Mollie Katzen's "Sunlight Cafe," Hyperion, 2002, $29.95.)

Caramelized Fruit

(Preparation 20 minutes)

½ to ¾ pound fresh fruit (apples, pears, apricots and pineapple are nice)

1 to 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vinegar (raspberry, cider or balsamic)

¾ to 1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup orange juice

Lemon or lime wedges

Leaving the peels on, cut the fruit into thick slices.

Heat a medium skillet over a medium flame for 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl to coat the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Place the fruit skin-side down in the melted butter and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it softens slightly. Turn the fruit with a spatula and gently press down. Drizzle with vinegar and cook another 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the fruit with sugar and cook until the sugar melts.

If desired, place the pan under a preheated broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sugar turns golden. Be sure to check the fruit every minute after the first 3 minutes to prevent burning.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the fruit to a plate with a rim. Pour the orange juice in the pan and stir to deglaze any sugar. Spoon this syrup over the fruit.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

(Recipe from Mollie Katzen's "Sunlight Cafe," Hyperion, 2002, $29.95.)

Pumpkin Muffins

(Preparation 15 minutes active, 25 minutes baking)

Nonstick spray

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon allspice

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoons chopped orange zest

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 cup mashed pumpkin

1 large egg

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly spray 8 muffin cups with nonstick spray.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, spices, regular sugar and orange zest in a medium bowl. Crumble in the brown sugar and mix with a fork or your fingers until thoroughly combined.

Place the pumpkin in a second medium bowl. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and beat with a whisk or fork until smooth. Slowly pour this mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients.

Using a spoon or rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don't overmix; a few lumps are fine. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tins and cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack.

Makes 8 to 10 muffins.

(Recipe from Mollie Katzen's "Sunlight Cafe," Hyperion, 2002, $29.95.)

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EDITOR'S NOTE: J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at jhirsch(at)ap.org.