Category Archives: Cooking

Behold the Breakfast Sandwich!


As an apology to you,  my dear readership, for my almost 6-month absence from blogging, I bring you something that will most certainly cause you to heap forgiveness on me without a second thought. I’m diving right in because while I do have much to tell you and many words in which to say those things, it’s also a bit of a crazy day. That’s just how much I love you. No beating around the bush!

I love the breakfast sandwich. When you think about it, it’s what breakfast is all about. Some brilliant chef somewhere (or perhaps someone with the munchies who was brilliant enough to do some experimentation) took the four most common breakfast elements in American culture – protein (or fat-laden meat with lean strips of protein), eggs, dairy, and carbohydrates – and slapped them all together in a glorious chorus of flavor and melted cheese.

While not for the calorie-conscious, a breakfast sandwich has the brilliant versatility of allowing for endless combinations of tastes and personal preferences while also being portable and filling. You can make them healthier by substituting egg whites for egg or low-fat turkey bacon for sausage. Today, of course, I didn’t do either of those things, but the possibilities are there.

To begin, my dear hubby and I took a quick jaunt over to our local grocery store – one of those places that has what you need when you need it at low, low prices. We picked up all of our main players – bagels, one pound of ground pork, locally-sourced eggs and cheese.

For this specific recipe, we found some excellent asiago cheese bagels to serve as our carrier for the rest of the sandwich. Why asiago? They’re hefty, soft bagels with that tangy cheese baked right on top. They also provide a lovely complimenting contrast to our choice of sweet sausage. For our cheese, we went with basic smoked provolone – nothing fancy, mostly because of our small selection (and small budget).

Some of our key players, lined up and ready to go

After slicing our bagels in half, we put everything else aside to focus on the wonderful and satisfying joy of mixing up our own sausage.
The best part about making your own is not only the cost – compared to buying some preservative-filled, overly-priced box of Jimmy Dean or Bob Evan’s patties, you can save a good chunk of change and personalize the recipe to your tastes or to the specific type of breakfast you have in mind.

Our chosen few seasonings (brown sugar and pepper not pictured

Maple syrup is one of our passions here at the Steinway, so I decided on a basic maple sausage recipe. Put your one pound of delicious pork meats into a bowl. Then, I added two tablespoons of maple syrup. Don’t get me started on that fake-o pancake goop. It’s GOT to be the real deal! NO FAKERS HERE! They’re not even TRYING to be vaguely maple-flavored! PAH! PAH I SAY!

Rant concluded. I then added almost a teaspoon of ground sage, a teaspoon and a half of salt (more or less to taste), a teaspoon of granulated garlic and a teaspoon of granulated onion, about a tablespoon of brown sugar (for a little extra glaze), and a few dashes of black pepper. I occasionally will add a little crushed red pepper for heat, but not today. If you like spicy, make it spicy!

After adding all your seasonings, it’s time to mix it all into a glorious mash of meat and spice. You can mix with a spoon if you wish, but if you really want to blend it up and get down and dirty, do what I do and get your hands in there and squish and mash until thoroughly combined and ready for shaping. If you’re wondering how to tell if your sausage is seasoned to your liking, put your skillet on the stove over medium heat and fry up a small piece. That’s really the best way. Otherwise, you can just cook them up and tweak them for the next time. It’s a learning process.

Once mixed, make about four-4 oz balls of meat (about the size of a billiard ball) and flatten them into patties. It may take a little shaping to get them to look beautiful and disk-like, but they’ll get there. Make sure they’re relatively thin.

Glorious pork, aglow with sunlight!

Since DH and I were the only ones eating this morning, we decided to freeze the extra patties for a later time – just layer them in wax paper and stick them in a freezer bag. To defrost, either leave in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave before frying up the next morning.

Eat them now or save for later 🙂

Now that our meat is prepared, we wash up and get ready for the whole ensemble to come together!
Start by giving your bagels a little pre-toast. You can do this in a toaster if you wish, but lacking a toaster big enough, I chose to use my oven broiler on low. Keep the door cracked open an a careful eye – they can go from delightfully light golden brown to burnt in seconds. One advantage to doing this method is the bagels are ready to go on a cookie sheet for when your sandwiches are ready for assembly.

Toast away!

With bagels toasting, start preheating two skillets for the eggs and sausage. For the eggs, throw about a tablespoon of butter (more or less to your liking) in the pan and let it start to melt and get a little bubbly. For the sausage (especially when using non-stick cookware), no grease needed. The little guys will produce enough fat of their own. Put the heat to medium for both pans.
In the meantime, take out your bagels and set them aside. Ours were a little more well done than I wanted, but still delicious and ready to be layered with morning joy.

Mmm, toasty!

Now your pans should be ready to rock – for the sausage, cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until brown, sizzling and reaching an internal temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I love using my cooking thermometer because so many recipes call for checking to see if the meat is still pink – who wants to tear about their lovely sausage to see if it’s done?
Once cooked, just set aside on a small plate lined with paper towels and let it rest.

Brown, delicious and maple glazed.

Now, onto the eggs – my DH was my sous-chef and helped me on this part to make the time go faster. Fried eggs are a new chefs best friend. Easier than scrambled in many ways, all you have to do is crack them into the skillet (trying not to break the yolk, but in the end, it all tastes the same) once it’s heated and let them sizzle away. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, or a little seasoning mix like Penzey’s Mural of Flavor, and occasionally spoon some of the melted butter in the pan over the yolk. When the egg white has all turned opaque and the yolk starts to set, carefully flip the egg with a spatula and cook on the other side, again sprinkling with a little seasoning. The egg is done when the yolk is cooked to your liking and the white has a little bit of brown along the edges – not too well done, just right.

It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be an egg (made by our chef-in-training)

As your eggs finish up, go ahead and put the sausage on the bottom part of the bagel. As each egg is through cooking, you can move them right from the pan to on top of the sausage.

As it all comes together….

Once both bagels have sausage and egg, lay your cheese on top and put everything under the broiler on low until your cheese gets melted and starts to bubble. Again, keep a close eye. The last thing you want is overdone cheese. I also flipped the bagels over so the asiago topping could get warmed up and reheated. Good decisions on my part!

Almost there….

Finally, cheese melted and the whole gathering reheated and toasty, remove from the oven and firmly put the top half of the bagel over all the layers to complete your sandwich. Voila! A breakfast fit for some budget-conscious hungry non-royalty! 😀

Delicious!

Besides being delicious, these sandwiches end up saving us a good deal in our budget. We love getting breakfast sandwiches from the restaurant just around the corner from our apartment. Those end up costing us about $3.50 each, or $7.00 if we both want one, and they’re about the size of a McDonald’s Jr. Cheeseburger. For these babies, we add up our ingredients:
Eggs: $1.81 a dozen, or 15 cents an egg,
Sausage: $2.48 a pound, or 62 cents a patty
Bagels: $2.29 for 4, or 57 cents a bagel
Cheese: $2.50 a package, or 25 cents a slice
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Add that all up, and for two of us can have a hefty breakfast sandwich each for $1.59 – $3.18 spent altogether on breakfast. How cool is that?

Best part is that we now have all the components in the house so we can make them anytime – and these were so filling, we both had some leftover that we saved for this morning. I love cooking, I love saving money, and I love sharing my passion with my friends!

Pair with a good cup of coffee, and nothing could be better

I hope this little sidetrack into the Steinway kitchen has thoroughly made up for my blogging laziness over these past few months. Happy cooking, and enjoy your good eats!

-H-

Recipe Notes:

– Be creative! Instead of asiago, use onion, everything, or plain bagels. If feeling a little soft, use kaiser rolls, english muffins or just some good hearty artisan bread! For any of the non-bagel options, consider spreading with a light layer of butter and toasting in a skillet.

– Feel free to purchase any of your pre-made sausage favorites in a pinch! I love the satisfaction of making my own, but I also appreciate convenience and reduced mess.

– On a similar meat note, don’t stop at sausage! Try bacon, ham, Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, your choice! I used to make super quick breakfast sandwiches to go in college using lunch meat (usually ham), shredded cheese, a well-seasoned fried egg and normal whole grain sandwich bread. Adapt to what you’ve got!

– Spices can vary immensely – if you don’t like sweet, try adding some crushed red pepper or Tabasco for a kick. Or, stick to your garden herbs and make a savory breakfast companion. Much like my beef breakfast sausage, there’s no rule as to how it should taste!

In short, get creative or stick right to the recipe. Have fun, and enjoy what you eat!

Sisyphus’s Kitchen – Beef is a Breakfast Food


Nota Bene: Many of my friends and readers have suggested that I share some of my recipes and cooking experiences. While I don’t want to be one of those bloggers with twenty blogs on twenty subjects to a million different audiences, I really want to share what I am learning with my readers. The encouraging response has been wonderful! Therefor, I am starting a new blog segment entitled “Sisyphus’s Kitchen” to share some of my cooking experiences, favorite recipes, one-serving cooking tips and helps for people looking to make great food on a budget. Stay tuned and good eating!

Being a fortunate student who has no early morning classes this semester, I will often wake up and have the urge to cook. Sometimes, it may just be baking some muffins to go with my coffee. I’ve ventured into the exciting realm of pancakes and bacon, breakfast sandwiches, baked oatmeal and even the simplest scrambled eggs and toast with a cup of Caribou Coffee’s Obsidian. I really enjoy starting the day with a solid breakfast, especially when I can eat slowly, savor my food and watch the sun rise… or just get higher in the sky.

The other night, I was getting ready for bed and felt the familiar prodding in the back of my brain. Hey Hannah, said Brain, you haven’t broken fast in a fancy fashion in a while. How about we do something traditional, like a scramble or sausage and eggs?

Brain was on to something. Early rising sounded like a plan! Only problem with this delicious decision – I had no sausage.

One thing that cooking on my own on a budget has taught me is how to be creative with the resources available to me. So, I started searching for recipe ideas online. I knew I had three pounds of ground beef in the freezer and, thus far, no ideas for their use. My inquiries led me to Allrecpies.com where a user had submitted a recipe for Beef Breakfast sausage.

Beef for breakfast? Beef is traditionally thought of as picnic-and-burly-American-man dinner fare. Steak, hamburgers, sloppy joe’s, spaghetti and chili are where beef belongs, but not at the breakfast table. Thanks to creative substitutions, beef can  be a wonderful, flavorful alternative to pork as a breakfast meat, and it can be enjoyed by those who are unable for whatever reason to eat pork with their morning noshing.  Since beef was what I had, I gave it a try.

In order to let the flavors blend, this may end up being as long as a two-day process or maybe just overnight. For the sake of time, I defrosted one pound of ground beef the night before and mixed in my seasonings so everything was ready for the morning. An alternative method would be to let the beef thaw one night in the fridge and then put the mixture together and let it rest for another 24 hours.

Homemade Beef Breakfast Sausage
adapted from papadooka’s recipe

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (originally marjoram)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

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Stir the brown sugar, sage, salt, basil, black pepper, onion powder, oregano*, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Place the ground beef in a large bowl; Drizzle with maple syrup and add spice mixture. Mix beef and seasonings thoroughly with your hands until well mixed and seasonings are evenly integrated. Depending on when you’re making the mixture, refrigerate up to 24 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Divide the ground beef mixture into balls and shape into patties. Depending on how much beef you use and the size of patty you prefer, the number may vary from 6-10. The beef will shrink up as it cooks, so if you like thinner patties, flatten them more as you shape them and press on them gently with a spatula as they cook.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the patties until firm, hot, and cooked in the center, 5 to 7 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). If you don’t have a thermometer, check one patty to make sure the inside is fully cooked and no longer raw and pink. Be careful of overcooking as these can get dry. Serve warm.

—-

I really enjoyed this recipe. Served with a poached egg and homemade wheat toast with jam, it was a good morning indeed. I made about eight patties and I ended up freezing the extras (one disadvantage to living alone – I’m often freezing my many leftovers so that they won’t go to waste). A few notes to consider:

  • If you don’t like spicy sausage, either cut the red pepper down significantly or remove it. I do suggest you replace it with another seasoning for some flavor and heat as the patties have the potential to be bland without it. I did notice a lot of spiciness in mine,  so for personal preference, adjust as you see fit. It’s a savory sausage more than it is sweet. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar.
  •  Adapt this recipe for a maple sausage – reviewers recommended adding some imitation maple flavoring or more syrup to enhance the maple flavor – something to try and experiment with. Do NOT use pancake syrup – it’s not the same as real maple syrup.
  • *Spice is nice – I had no marjoram, which I’m sure would be delicious in this recipe. Instead, I used oregano and doubled the amount (from 1/4 tsp to 1/2) to make up for the intensity of flavor.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try a few small batches to see what you like best. The difficulty with raw meat/egg recipes is that it’s not recommended that you add spice to taste before you cook – yuck. This is one of those times where you can add and subtract and find the perfect combination of ingredients to suit your tastes, but you’ll only know it worked after cooking – it may just take some time to get it just right!

Eat well and read on!

For Weight Watchers Points Plus, each patty is 2 points.

Note – I will also be changing my WordPress username to SisyphusFalls. It’s my username for most other sites that I am part of. Nothing about the blog will change, just the name you see with my account 🙂

A World of Pure Culination


I refuse to be a starving college student. College gets played up as being the place where penniless kids escape from home with only drier lint and gum wrappers to line their pockets. Ramen is a food group, sleep is non-existent, and food sent from home and Chinese take-out leftovers stolen from friends are the only reasons half the campus is still alive and semi-conscious. The college diet should properly consist of coffee, toast, noodles, cookies and canned soup. If an entire daily serving of vegetables is not cut into perfect cubes and soaked in watery chicken stock, life as we know it has jerked to a halt.

Those aren’t vegetables – they’re tiny little salty cubic lies.
 Bruised café apples are a luxury. Daily vitamins are a must.

Call me crazy, but I like making waves. I have never wanted to be that college kid.

I was spoiled rotten growing up with a mother who was such a fine chef. “Cook” seems to imply occupation and mediocre skill, but “chef” has an air of authority and respect. My sister and I occasionally wanted to go to McDonald’s or eat Lucky Charms, but it was never a first choice or a last resort. Mom always had food (and good food, mind you) on the table, hot and flavorful and ready to eat right when Dad got home. With a mom who can cook, really cook, you stop believing that fast food is actually edible. Sure, I sometimes enjoy going out to eat cheap grease-trap fare, but with a mother like my mother… let’s just say any other culinary offering is a step down from the best.

If we're going to be honest, Mom and I do enjoy the rare lunch of sweaty, overweight champions (aka White Castle). Shame.

Despite my well-fed upbringing, I had the impression that college was all learning and friends and had nothing to do with food. Living in the dorms, as I did my first three years, I did some dabbling in cookery in my spare time – the occasional ramen stir fry with my roommate or dressing up cafeteria leftovers (they looked great in little ties and hats). This was a step ahead of most of my friends.

Is it roast beef or shoe leather? Dressed up with mushrooms, onions and some soggy broccoli, it's edible. That's all that matters.

However, with work and a meal plan and itty-bitty kitchens with smoky electric stoves, as well as a lack of proper cookware, I refrained from doing much culinary exploration through junior year. The most adventurous I got was hand-kneaded homemade bread, and that was on Tuesdays when the only class I had was Philharmonia. Overall, I was content to eat bland cafeteria dinners and occasionally go out on the town to China Star or Subway. This pattern broke a little during summers at home when I would offer to help with dinner.

Form follows function follows an empty plate.

I also love to bake. The problem at Houghton is that, just like all the guys seem to play guitar masterfully, all the women bake. The ones who bake the most are praised and adored, and I just got tired of trying to fight them for attention even though I was confident that we were matched in skill. Baking was mostly set aside. I suppose I was a “typical” college student, but something inside me sang like Belle and plucked dandelions on hillsides and yearned for something more than this non-glamorous diet of carbs and processed cheese-flavored substances. Then, one day, it walked into my life. Rather, I walked through the front door.

My apartment was waiting.

In the frantic rush to escape from screaming girls and bipolar plumbing, I applied and was accepted for a Campus Living Option apartment (CLO) for the 2011-2012 school year. I had no roommate and was thrilled to be situated in a third-floor house apartment overlooking the woods behind campus. I have my own deck and back entrance, a spacious bedroom and bathroom, comfortable living and entertaining space. And then, there’s the piece de resistance; a medium-sized kitchen with wrap-around counter, cupboards, walk-in pantry, full-sized fridge, oven, 4-burner stovetop and sink. It also has a table for four. Compared to the card table and mini-fridge that had once been my entire cooking space, this kitchen is like a Grecian temple. On a college budget with a college mindset, this is a place of extreme luxury and ridiculous amounts of space. In reality, it’s a modified kitchen with the exact model stove from the dorms. But it’s my kitchen, full of my dishes and spices and ambition. This is my five-star experience.

Best seat in the house - having only seen a little of the house below me, I shouldn't judge. But I will anyway.

I have made more full meals in this kitchen that in my own kitchen at home. I have hosted many different guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I’ve baked and sautéed and fried and boiled and chopped and mixed and folded and kneaded in this kitchen. I’ve made soup and stews and bread and casseroles and salads and desserts and three-course meals. Out of all of my cooking adventures, I’ve only ever had one clear failure of method – Brethren Cider Pie. The flavor was outstanding, but it’s just too hard to fold egg whites into cider that has not yet been reduced to syrup. Despite this one occasion, I have carried on with determination and, according to my enthusiastic fiancé, resounding success.

Beef "Stewp" - I wanted to call it "Stoop" but it looks too close to "oops", which this meal certainly was not. Don't forget the homemade rosemary garlic bread.

One of the greatest successes that I have had while living here was not solely being able to cook “real” food. It’s the fact that I’ve been able to cook and eat healthy, balanced meals. I started Weight Watchers in May of 2011. In three months, I lost approximately thirty pounds, shedding all of the weight I had gained in the previous school year and more. It’s possible to be living as a full-time college student and still eat well. One of the beautiful things about WW is the ability to eat what you want, but in balanced moderation. I have loved trying new recipes, tweaking old ones and continuing to cook my little heart out.

Like this, for example... From a WW recipe, it's Brazilian Chicken with Lime-Cilantro Black Beans and Rice. Ole!

Especially in this place, full of “typical college students”, I have had plenty of feedback and opportunities to share what I love doing with people I love. I’m prepared to start a home with my better half in less than six months, and ready to test my skills to the max when I have a constant food critic in my house. The beauty of this whole experience is that it’s not just about the cooking – it’s about learning, growing and bringing myself and others joy and a delicious outlook on life.

Honey Wheat Quick Bread. Who knew "sandwich" and "quick bread" could be in the same sentence? I do now.

And everyone keeps asking themselves over for dinner.