frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes

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Several weekends ago I woke up with a start (I do this sometimes) because my belly was trying to tell me something: I was hungry.  It was already like eleven o’clock in the morning (Don’t tell my dad. He’s always made fun of my incessant sleeping. In college, it was not a rare occurrence for me to take three or more naps in any given 24 hour period.) and my husband and I had spent the entire day before moving mounds of chunked granite from our backyard to our front yard. Cereal wasn’t gonna cut it. Plus, our newly purchased house was so still and quiet when I awoke and the sunshine was trying so hard to beam through the little cracks in the window blinds that I felt like I needed to turn into a storybook princess and twirl around while opening the windows and sing while the little birds helped me pop the tablecloth and lay it gently on the tabletop. This was no morning for an ordinary breakfast.

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A frittata seemed obviously perfect. I didn’t have much in our refrigerator (the unpacked boxes lying around the house demanded more of my attention at this point), but we did have eggs and a handful of random vegetables. And a frittata is one of those pretty foods, not even counting the fancy name, that you would expect to see on a brunch menu at a bistro. It’s hearty, but simple. And perfect for princess mornings with a not-so-stocked fridge.

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frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings
ingredients
3 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced bell pepper
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cheese, shredded (use whichever kind you prefer)

create
Preheat the oven to the low broil setting.
In a cast iron skillet (or an oven safe sauté pan), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the tomato, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, beat together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese in a medium bowl.
When the vegetables have turned soft, add the egg mixture and quickly combine the ingredients using a rubber spatula. Cook for 5 minutes or until the bottom is set and the top begins to set.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until the top is set and begins to look fluffy.
Serve immediately.

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mrs. patmore’s rosemary oat crackers

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I wanted to start this post with a way to immediately transition into talking about Downton Abbey, so I thought it would be relevant to mention the fact that my 23rd great grandfather was King Henry III. But then I decided that may be a bit haughty. And then I thought I could transition with telling you all that my 16th great grandmother was Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of England or that my 12th great aunt was Catherine Howard (yeah, yeah, another queen). But then I thought, “…eh, boring.” And then I thought I would mention that most of my ancestors belonged to the Plantagenets and Arundels or that Elijah Robosson, Colonel in the American Revolution, was my fifth great grandfather. But I know you guys don’t want to hear about my (awesome) family. Besides, I’m no closer to living in Buckingham Palace than any other Joe Blow walkin’ down the street. Let’s talk a little Downton Abbey.

“What’s Downton Abbey?”

Screechy record sounds.

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I’m sorry…what? What? It’s only the best, most tenaciously addicting show, a socially acceptable way to watch a soap opera, disguised with elaborate turn-of-the-20th-century fashion and extreme character development and a set design that is perfected by it being set, well, in a real castle. It’s a fascinating story of high society and working class people and, almost surprisingly, you, as the viewer, end up pulling for both sides to win in their separate and sometimes intertwining stories. I’m like an old soul when Sunday nights roll around. I’m glued to PBS, turning up the volume and sitting silently in case I miss some tiny detail that can change the whole meaning of the season’s story. I, undoubtedly, highly recommend it.

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I remember watching the wedding episode (Mary and Matthew, of course) and feeling slightly restless when the kitchen was shown. Just imagine it. It’s the biggest wedding to-do anywhere around. VIPs, and I mean V-I-Ps, are arriving to celebrate. History is throwin’ itself down. And you’re the cook. The cook. And you are asked to make, not just a pan of BBQ or hamburgers kept warm with a dirty Sterno, but platters of luxuriously decorated roasted game and perfectly whipped sugared meringues and piping hot silky soup in the purest white and gold china available. Phew. And as much as I love making wedding cakes, I still stress with that one simple task. Props to Mrs. Patmore and her staff. Lots of props.

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These crackers would have been made by Mrs. Patmore for guests and/or tea time. They’re not as crackerish as, say, a water cracker, but are a little more hearty, almost like a savory cookie. If you can remember back to when I was cooking a lot of Harry Potter recipes last year, you may remember the book The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. This recipe for Mrs. Patmore’s crackers is from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, having the same publisher as the Harry Potter book, and is written by Emily Ansara Baines. It’s totally cool and gives you recipes for each course for a typical dinner, plus a few recipes that the downstairs staff may have eaten. It’s awesome. Exercise that library card, kids.

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mrs. patmore’s rosemary oat crackers
yield: 50-60 crackers
from Emily Ansara Baines’ The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

ingredients
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped
1/4 cup whole milk

create
Preheat the oven to 350º. Pulse oats in a food processor until chopped and fine. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic powder, 1/4 cup flour, baking powder, and butter. Pulse until mixture turns into coarse bread crumbs. Pour in milk and pulse until the ingredients combine to form a dough, approximately 45 seconds.
With a rolling pin, roll dough until it’s 1/8-inch-thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut about 50-60 squares (or rounds). Place squares on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until crackers are lightly browned on the bottom. Transfer crackers to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.
Note: My final product made a cracker that was hearty, but still a little fragile. I think these may be better for eating plain rather than using them to serve other items on, such as chicken salad or a heavy spread.

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And now a shoutout to my twin who did a ton of family history research to find out that (switch to rich person voice) our family is royalty. (Switch out of rich person voice) Just kidding, y’all. But ancestral history is so neat and allows you to see how you got where you are now, whether your family is English or from Germany or even if your ancestry stops at a dirt road in the middle of South Carolina. Whoops, I just turned into an old soul again. It actually happens a lot. I’m okay with that.

cranberry hand pies


If I may, I will now bore entertain you with the list I wrote to my grandmother six years ago of the things I love about my family’s Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

1. The traditional football game between the boys and the girls.
2. Wearing a sweater – even if it’s 73 degrees.
3. Getting out of the car in your driveway holding some kind of food.
4. Walking to your front door and smelling the food cooking.
5. Getting inside and being told it isn’t ready yet.
6. Washing my hands before dinner with 15 other people in the bathroom and only 1 sink.
7. Lisa’s (my aunt) potato salad.
8. Sweet tea.
9. Walking in the living room and seeing all the men and LaLa (my cousin) sleeping on the chairs, couch, and floor.
10. Smelling cinnamon and apples.
11. Going outside when the sun is just going down and feeling the Autumn wind blow.
12. Seeing the brown, yellow, orange, and red leaves.
13. Walking on the grass with leaves crunching under my feet.
14. Taking pictures of everyone preparing the food.
15. Listening to Brandon (my cousin) say the blessing before we eat.
16. And really being thankful for God and what He has given us.
17. Being able to say across a huge table, “Hey, can you pass the ____?”
18. The actual process of passing around each dish of food.
19. More football.
20. And simply spending time with family that I feel like I haven’t seen in months.




cranberry hand pies
adapted from Cynthia Wong’s recipe, as seen in bon appétit
yield: 16 servings

dough
ingredients
3 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), frozen
ice cold water

filling
ingredients
1 pound fresh cranberries (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten to blend
natural cane sugar

create
For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture and toss together, rubbing any big pieces of butter into the flour with your fingers. Add ice cold water to the mixture one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together. Turn onto a floured surface and knead just a few times until smooth and even. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and then flatten slightly to form a disc. Tightly wrap each half in plastic. Chill for 2 hours.
For the filling, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice, cornstarch, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Let stand for juices to accumulate, about 10 minutes, then cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken, 5-6 minutes. (Some cranberries will have burst.) Let cool completely.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until very thin, about 1/16-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles.
Brush edges of 8 circles with beaten egg. Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling in the center of each egg-washed circle. Top with remaining circles to form 8 pies. Using a fork, crimp 1/4-inch around edges to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, egg, and filling. Divide pies between prepared sheets; chill for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°. Working with 1 baking sheet of pies at a time, score dough, forming a small X in the center of each pie. Brush tops of pies with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake pies until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles out of Xs, 17-20 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining baking sheet of pies.



Happy Thanksgiving!