Monday, March 7, 2011

Breakfast of Champions: Cooking for Science

I have the pleasure of being involved in a group that offers statistical consulting services to faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in my department. Since we meet at 8 am (yay! mornings!) on Mondays, someone usually brings in breakfast to help everyone get a kick-start. I insisted on bringing in breakfast today and had an enormously good time designing a menu that involved four of the major food groups: dairy, grain, protein, and fruit. We had three "dishes", and I had my friends and colleagues rate them on their "yum" factor. I computed the average correlation between pairs as an estimate of the yum-reliability, and found that yum-reliability is incredibly low (r = -0.17). This gets to an super important point, though--everyone has different tastes! Some like things sweet, others savory. As such, I'm glad that I made enough dishes that everyone really enjoyed at least one.

Sausage, egg, and cheese braid:
I'd been wanting to make this for awhile--at least since last year. However, when I got around to assembling the ingredients, I became suspicious of the calorie count available on cooking light. Apparently, my suspicion was well-founded--the pizza dough alone comes in at 160 for 1/6th of the dish! I cut the oil and used reduced-fat "Mexican blend" cheese, and made sure we cut it into about 12 slices. My final count was 131 calories for 1/12th of the braid.

This was a lot of fun to make, and incredibly easy. I used Applegate's chicken and apple sausage, which I highly recommend--nothing like happy chicken meat! The one downside is that I thought the braid was somewhat dry. Perhaps this was because we reheated it, but it may just be due to the enormous amount of dough and salty ingredients. Overall, this received an average rating of 8.5, and a comment of "delicious sausage!". I'm telling you--Applegate is the way to go!

Sausage, egg, and cheese braid

Strawberries with Orange-Ricotta Cream:
For some reason, two of today's recipes called for blending already super soft and squishy ingredients. I ignored these instructions both times. In this recipe, I merely mixed everything up very well in a bowl. To mix things up, I used some vanilla-scented sugar (just put a vanilla pod, beans scooped out and used for something else in your sugar and wait) and blood orange rind. I gave half of a blood orange a squeeze over the dairy for a little extra orange kick. Of course, my favorite part of this (and the next) recipe is that I was able to put everything together last night. A half-cup of strawberries with two tablespoons of this mixture is 76 calories. The average yum rating for this was a 8.88. It also received the compliment of: "I normally don't go for dips with my fruit, but this  was so tasty and it complemented the strawberries so well!"

Strawberries with ricotta cream

Mini Mocha-Toffee Cheesecakes:
Finally, the breakfast's dessert. Here, I used egg beaters rather than a blender, extra instant espresso (no instant coffee 'round these parts), and only made 30. Thus, per cheesecake, we're probably closer to 65 calories than 55. Still, not bad, especially as they are deceptively rich, and you really only need one or two at a time. I liked the flavor of these, but wasn't the biggest fan of using the little cups. I'm brainstorming ways to make these in mini cupcake pans, and give them bottom "crusts" of toffee, graham crackers, and coffee. We shall see if this comes about! As is was, the average yum rating was 9, and qualitative comments reveal that these may be "a bit too sweet/rich . . . for breakfast".

Mini mocha toffee cheesecakes

Overall, this meal covers at least one serving of grain, one serving of fruit, and probably about a serving each of dairy and protein. Yum! And finally, here are some photos of happy eaters.

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