So the Danish. The Norwegian. Scots and Canadians and Alaskans. How in the world do these nearly-Arctic people survive winter? Not only are the temperatures rock-bottom, but it’s so dark, so very dark. I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter, and I see the sun on a near-daily basis. I’ve been doing some reading on Scandinavian happiness, which is consistently off the charts. The Danes in particular have been getting a lot of press for their concept of “hygge,” (pronounced ahh-choo and gesundheit, I’m pretty sure). It seems our chilly friends have figured out the secret of blissful winters, even in their very cold climate. Candles, fireplaces, light, soft blankets, lots of books, friendly feasts and mulled wine all have a little something to do with it. It’s fascinating, especially for a Southern girl who misses summer nights on the front porch. I’m on a campaign to hygge-up my winter routine and break the winter blues this February, but I’m no expert. My best suggestion for happy winter nights? Brinner.
Mmm! Breakfast for dinner is always a favorite round here. I’ve successfully roped my friends in for lots of brinner nights, and the smorgasbord (see what I did with the Swedish there?) of baked goods, bacon, steaming sausages, cheesy eggs, and bowls of fruit is happy enough for Pharrell and Bobby McFerrin both. Throw in some coffee and have yourself a merry little midwinter.
The best thing about brinner is you aren’t running out the door to get to work, so you get to go a little above-and-beyond with your breakfast dishes. I’m not one to get up at the crack of dawn and make pastry, but I can do it in time for supper. Do a little savory and a little sweet, or better yet, invite some friends to contribute their favorites, and brinner can be a beautiful feast. Good enough for hygge-loving Danes!
Here are some of our favorites:
German “Puff Pancake” with Butter Syrup, recipe credit: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/german-pancake-butter-syrup/
This is really good with a warm fruit compote or jam if you want to skip the syrup, but that butter syrup is kind of to die for, too. It turns the whole thing into something reminiscent of gooey butter bars.
- 2 T. butter
- 6 large eggs (about 10.5 ounces)
- 1 cup milk (I use 2%)
- ½ t. vanilla extract
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
- 1/4 t. salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put two T. butter in a glass 9X13-inch baking dish and pop the pan in the oven to melt (but don’t let it burn).
Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla in a blender and process on low speed until smooth, 10-20 seconds. Add the flour and salt and blend until just combined; the batter should be smooth but not overblended.
Take the preheated, buttered pan out of the oven and swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter into the pan and immediately return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until the pancake is puffy and lightly browned on the bottom and edges.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup (8 T.) butter
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 1 t. baking soda
In a big old saucepan (it will foam and triple in volume at the end), combine the sugar, buttermilk and butter and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and baking soda until well-combined. Serve warm over pancakes.
Polenta and Mexican Eggs
Polenta isn’t something I grew up with, but it is essentially a mixture of ready-to-fry grits. It comes in a tube; simply slice like you would slice-and-bake cookies, and fry. The key to this dish is timing. Start by getting the toppings ready to spoon on while the eggs are hot. You can set the table with bowls of beans, salsa, avocado, cheese, and cilantro and let everyone serve themselves.
- 1 tube polenta
- eggs, 1 or 2 per person
- black beans
- 1 avocado, chopped
- shredded cheddar
Fry up the sliced polenta and pile on beans, a dollop of salsa, and a sprinkle of cheddar. Top with fried eggs over easy. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with avocado slices on the side.
Banana Cottage Cheese Pancakes
This recipe is quite flexible and can be modified to suit your needs. The pancakes are delicious — moist and dense, with a consistency somewhat like crepes. Best served with maple syrup or fruit preserves.
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup cottage cheese
- 2 T. cooking oil
- 1/4 t. salt
- 2 small overripe bananas
- 1 c. flour
- milk, as needed
Combine eggs, cottage cheese, oil, and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add bananas, one at a time. Slowly add flour, by tablespoonfuls, until well incorporated. If the mixture is too thick, add milk, by the teaspoon, until it blends smoothly. Cook on a lightly greased skillet or frying pan until golden.
I have made this with almond milk to satisfy a non-dairy request and it was great! You can mix up all of the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately the day before and combine just before baking if you want to prepare ahead. Serve with whipped cream if you want to be decadent (or yogurt if you don’t) and fill up on a big bowl of fruit salad.
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 t. ground cinnamon
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup melted butter
- 2 t. vanilla extract
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in dried cranberries. Spread into a 9×13 inch baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
Baked Blueberry-Pecan French Toast
This is meant to be soaked overnight and baked in the morning. If you are having it for brinner, throw it together in the morning and soak all day, then bake before supper.
- 1 French bread baguette
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- ½ t. nutmeg
- 1 t. vanilla
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar, divided
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- ½ stick plus 1 t. butter
- 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Cut 1 ½ inch slices from the baguette and arrange in one layer in the dish (about 6-8 slices). Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and ½ cup brown sugar in a large bowl and pour evenly over the bread. Refrigerate mixture, covered, until all liquid is absorbed by the bread, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
When you are ready to bake and serve, preheat oven to 350 F. Toast the pecans in a skillet in one layer over medium heat, stirring often. Toss with 1 t. butter.
Sprinkle pecans and blueberries evenly over bread mixture. Cut remaining ½ stick butter into pieces and heat with remaining ¼ cup brown sugar in a small saucepan, stirring, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake mixture 30 – 40 minutes or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling.
Quick Cheese and Sausage Grits
I use the basic recipe for cheese grits from the Quaker Instant Grits box, with a few changes. They recommend fake cheese, like Velveeta; I always use sharp cheddar. I tend to eyeball, it, too—white grits ought to turn a nice pale orange if you have enough cheese. Quaker omits pepper, I use it generously. And in this case, I have listed crumbled sausage as an optional ingredient.
- 4 c. water
- 1 c. instant grits
- 1-2 c. shredded cheddar
- 1 c. cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage (optional, but yummy)
- pinch of garlic powder
- pinch of salt
In a heavy saucepan, stir grits slowly into boiling water. Beware, grits will pop and spatter as they heat up. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 4-5 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Add sausage, cheese and spices, stir until cheese melts.
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