Pear and granola muffins

A whole muffin and one split muffin on a plate. One half of the split muffin has been buttered, and you can see the used knife and crumb-covered fork sitting on the rim of the plate. There is a crumpled napkin sitting next to everything, and you can see a mug of coffee or tea in the upper left corner of the image.

It’s no secret that the only meal I’m really good about remembering to feed myself is dinner. Lunch is about a 50/50 shot, depending on how absorbed in work I happen to be that day (and whether or not Jackson’s working from home), but I can be pretty good about breakfast – if I set myself up correctly. Normally that means making a batch of something that I can grab from to eat all week, since I am not, despite my best efforts, a cereal or eggs person. 

Enter pear and granola muffins. 

They’re exactly what I’m looking for from a grab-and-go breakfast perspective – sweet, but not so sweet that you feel like you’re eating dessert, with enough texture to keep things interesting, and enough substance that two muffins (and maybe a piece of fruit) will keep me full and happy through lunchtime. 

Ingredients for pear and granola muffins laid out in glass and wooden bowls on a white countertop.

Admittedly, they were also an excuse to play with the idea of baking from ratios – a concept I picked up from Michael Rhulman’s blog (and also his excellent book, Ratio*, which I placed on hold at the library the second I discovered it and am now devouring). 

*Not an affiliate link, I just think you should read this.


Cornmeal ricotta pancakes

A stack of five pancakes topped with strawberries and strawberry jam with a wedge-shaped slice taken out of the stack. The pieces that have been cut out are stuck on the tines of a fork that rests on the edge of the plate. A blue coffee cup is visible in the background

I made Mariana Velasquez Villegas’s arepas de choclo probably six months ago, right at the peak of sweet corn season, and was immediately seized with the desire to bastardize them into an American breakfast food. 

And now that it comes time to write about how I did it, the ratios I followed and the tweaks I made, I’m conflicted about the right way to go about it. 

After all, arepas are one of the few pre-colonization traditions that are still widely popular in modern Venezuela and Columbia. For context, Venezuelans eat about 750 arepas per person, per year – that averages out to about two a day! 

I’m a white girl from Georgia who made arepas all of once before deciding I wanted to turn them into something that more closely resembles the pancakes I grew up with. 

All the ingredients for cornmeal ricotta pancakes (except eggs!) sit out on the counter. From left to right, the image includes all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, butter, masarepa, granulated sugar, frozen sweet corn, milk, and ricotta cheese

How do I write about that, and do it in a way that neither appropriates nor commodifies an integral part of Columbian and Venezuelan culture? 


Sheet pan breakfast hash

A close-up shot of a plate of hash, topped with a sunny side up egg and sliced scallions. The plate is sitting on a grey striped napkin with a silver fork, and you can see a mug and another plate of hash out of focus in the background.

Hash is one of my favorite things in the world – crispy, golden, perfectly pan-fried potatoes, tossed with lightly charred veggies and topped with melty cheese and a runny egg. It’s heaven on a plate – which is unfortunate, since getting there is so often hell, at least for me. 

The crispy parts of the potatoes glue themselves irrevocably to the bottom of the pan, the veggies sog out whatever crisp the potato has managed to retain, and the whole thing takes forever to cook. 

So instead of tying myself to a pan in the morning, I turned to the oven – and sheet pan breakfast hash was born. 

Jessi's hands slice red onion. The slices are about 1/8 of an inch thick and run parallel to the root end. You can see a whole bell pepper and a few whole potatoes surrounding the cutting board.

Oven-roasted potatoes are good, excellent even, but they’re not what I want from a hash. They’re too often pallid, with tough, dried-out exteriors and interiors that lean more creamy than fluffy. And while an oven potato is never going to quite equal the french-fry-like platonic ideal of something shallow fried, we can certainly get a lot closer than that. 


Jessi Spell

A culinary degree and two years of professional experience has not stopped Jessi from making stupid mistakes – she just makes them more efficiently. She habitually reads cookbooks before bed, loses track of time on Wikipedia, and yells at cooking shows like dads watching football. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Jackson, five plants, and more cookbooks than a 600 square foot studio should hold.


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