Sqirl

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Sqirl is a popular eatery on the east side of Los Angeles, and I try to go every time I’m in the area and the line isn’t crazy long. Weekdays are less crazy, and weird times are even less crazy. If you’re going at 11AM on a Saturday then just be prepared to wait.

Everything I’ve tried has been worth trying, including the sorrel rice bowl, the seasonal hash, stewed chickpeas with eggs, and the oft-grammed ricotta toast. It’s all simple and fresh and flavorful. Thumbs up!

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Sqirl

Fluffy Pumpkin Muffins

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I know, I know. More muffins? You might as well call yourself The muffin (wo)man. Fine! I’ll call myself that. I just like a good muffin sometimes—they can be nutritious* and they’re easy to make and they freeze well, making them a go-to breakfast. I tried this recipe a couple of weeks ago and I am still heating up frozen ones. They’re still delicious! Super fluffy and moist and everything.

Fluffy Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Elle Krieger’s recipe
Makes about 12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice (or a combo of nutmeg and clove)
1/2 cup well-packed dark brown sugar, plus sugar for sprinkling on top
3 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs or 2 flax eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease one 12-cup muffin pan.

In a bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large bowl, whisk sugar, molasses, oil and eggs until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, adding the yogurt and milk in between batches. Mix just until combined.

Fill the muffin pan slots about 2/3 full and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes a muffin passes the toothpick test.

*not all muffins are nutritious

Fluffy Pumpkin Muffins

Pressure Cooker Oatmeal in a Mug

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You guys! Did you know you can make steel-cut oatmeal in your electric pressure cooker in a mug? This means you can 1) make oatmeal for just one or two people, 2) flavor each individually however you like, and 3) it’s so easy and there’s basically no clean-up. Magical.

Just do this:

  1. Pour 1-2 cups of water into your pressure cooker pot and add the trivet.
  2. Add 1/4 cup steel-cut oats, 3/4 cup water (or part water and part milk), 1 pinch salt, 1 teaspoon butter or oil, and any flavorings to a mug (you can also add flavorings after you cook it). Stir.
  3. Set your mug (or mugs—most pressure cookers will hold two) on the trivet. Secure the top and cook at high pressure for about 20 minutes.
  4. Use a natural release! Trust me.
  5. Carefully remove the mug(s) and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir and add any mix-ins. EAT IT.

Note: Make sure your mug is heat-proof and ceramic. Glass will work too, but it must be tempered.

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Pressure Cooker Oatmeal in a Mug

Blueberry-Almond Scones

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If you think of scones as dense, dry mounds of dough, then you haven’t had a good, fresh scone. The trick to making them moist, tender and flavorful is lots of butter and a healthy dosing of buttermilk. At least, that’s what this recipe uses. Also in this recipe: a mound of blueberries and almonds add welcome fruity and nutty flavor.

We could argue about what makes a scone a scone and maybe these are just weird, extra buttery muffins? But why spend our time arguing when we could be eating these scones?

The base of the recipe below comes from my mother, which comes from a tea shop in my hometown. If you’re ever in Robertson County, Tennessee (you never know), make sure you stop in at Burdett’s Tea Shop. The quiche is named after my mother and is delish.


Blueberry-Almond Scones

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Sift the above dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is pea-sized.

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh blueberries (see note for frozen)

Add the buttermilk, almond extract, and blueberries and mix with a spoon until a dough forms. Dust a counter with flour and add dough. Pat or roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick disc, using more flour as needed. Cut into eight wedges and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.

1/4 cup heavy cream or buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Brush the tops with cream or buttermilk, sprinkle with sugar, and top with almonds, lightly pressing them in.

Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Scones are done when they are golden brown, tall, and brown but not burnt on the bottom.

Notes:
If you use frozen blueberries, toss them with a tablespoon of flour first to keep them from bleeding too much.
Eating one later? Reheat your scones in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

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Blueberry-Almond Scones

My Favorite Places to Eat in LA Right Now

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olive oil pistachio cake from Lincoln

We’ve had visitor after visitor and I haven’t been cooking as much as I like, so I thought I’d write a little round-up of my current favorite places to eat and drink in LA (or really close to LA). This is in no way definitive and is subject to change at any moment, and the list is totally east side-biased. But all of these spots are worth a visit.

  • Lincoln in Northern Pasadena is a revelation in breakfast/brunch/lunch cafe fare. Everything I’ve eaten here has been wonderfully simple and simply delicious.
  • BS Taqueria in downtown has my current favorite happy hour. It’s only on weekdays which is a bummer, but they offer 4 really great cocktails for half price and $2 tostadas, which might be my favorite thing on the menu.
  • ETA is the new cozy-chic cocktail bar in town and is within walking distance of my house in Highland Park. Need I say more?
  • Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market has surprisingly delicious vegan ramen. Skip the vegan egg.
  • Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea serves up breakfast and lunch, including sandwiches on great bread. I had one of the best donuts I’ve ever eaten there (and I really love donuts).
  • China Tasty in Alhambra is worth the short car ride. They serve up huge servings of perfectly chewy hand-pulled noodles at low prices, and you can watch them being made through the glass. Bonus: it’s next door to an old school bowling alley.
  • Block Party is my current favorite beer and wine bar in Highland Park with a killer outdoor patio featuring shuffle board. They let you bring in your own food, too.
My Favorite Places to Eat in LA Right Now

Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

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Breakfast, amirite? I adapted a blueberry bar recipe for a site I sometimes write for, and since the article never went up I’ll share this recipe with you. Because it’s too good not to share.

These bars are basically a riff on blueberry oatmeal. They’re hearty and full of whole grains and fresh blueberry goodness, but they also travel well and feel more like a treat than a bowl of goopy oats. Don’t let the list of ingredients intimidate you: you’ll have most of it on hand anyway, and it’s all good stuff that’s worth having around. Make a pan of these, cut them up, and take them on the go all week long.

Pro tip: They’re super easy to make vegan (as noted in the recipe). And if you’re not vegan and are enjoying them at home, top them with a big dollop of Greek yogurt.

 

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Blueberry Oatmeal Bars
serves 12 to 24, depending on the size of the bar

1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ chopped toasted almonds
4 tablespoons butter or butter substitute, cut into pieces
⅓ cup salted almond butter
2 tablespoons milk or milk substitute
1 (11 oz) container fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom and two sides of a 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, ground flax, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and chopped almonds.
  3. Add the butter and work into the oat mixture using your hands until evenly distributed. Add the almond butter and milk and mix well with a spoon.
  4. Dump a little over half of the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan to form a solid bottom crust. Reserve the rest to top the bars.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add all but ½ cup of the blueberries, the lemon juice, and the honey. Roughly mash the blueberries and cook until boiling. Add the cornstarch and remaining blueberries, mix, and pull off the heat. Add the vanilla and mix.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly onto the oat crust. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture on top and press in lightly with your hands.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan using the parchment paper. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, in the fridge for 4 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.
Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash with Fried Eggs

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While attempting to cobble together a weekday lunch, I peered into my refrigerator to find a few eggs and a mostly full bag of spinach. I snagged a sweet potato and clove of garlic off the counter and a meal was born—one that was good enough to share with you.

Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash with Fried Eggs
serves 2

1 large sweet potato, cut into small, 1/2″ cubes
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2 to 1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach
1 oz crumbled feta cheese
4 fresh eggs

  1. Add 1 cup of water to a large skillet and heat over high heat. Once bubbling, add the sweet potato cubes and spread out into a single layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing once, or until about halfway cooked through. Drain the potatoes and wipe out the pan.
  2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Return the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper and toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes don’t put up much resistance when poked with a knife. It’ll take about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a glug of oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add two eggs (or four, if your skillet is real big) and fry until over-easy. I cover the pan with a baking sheet to cook the whites through. Just make sure you check often and remove the eggs when the bottoms are crisp but the yolks still giggle. Repeat until all four eggs are fried.
  4. Add the garlic and toss, cooking for one minute. Add the corn, if using, and stir. Add the spinach and toss, stirring and cooking until the spinach is completely wilted. Test the potatoes to make sure they are tender enough.
  5. Split the hash between two plates and top with crumbled feta cheese. Top the hash with eggs and serve with hot sauce for anyone who likes that sort of thing.
Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash with Fried Eggs