The Virtue of “Early Rising”

Bran muffin recipeIn keeping with our celebration of Mother’s Day, below is a reflection on First Lady and Mother Martha Washington, followed by recipes for a special Mother’s Day brunch (muffins, grapefruit and avocado salad, curried carrot coconut soup, easy curried chicken and grandma’s southern coconut cake).

“As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house”, wrote Isabella Beeton (1836-1865), an English woman concerned with the critical importance of the art of “making” and “keeping” a comfortable home.

In her book The Campaign for Domestic Happiness (1861), she describes all of the virtues, etiquette and duties that are essential formanaging a home with excellence, along with recommendations on everything from a suitable wardrobe to the treatment and pay of “domestic help.”

A particular favorite of mine is the importance of “early rising.” Ms. Beeton writes:

“Early rising is one of the most essential qualities which enter into good Household Management…when a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well-managed.”

It is always in the quiet of the early morning hours that so much can be accomplished, whether it be exercising, doing paper work, laundry, cleaning, writing letters, making lists, packing lunches or preparing breakfast.

Being an early riser is, in many respects, like running a race with the hours of the day but being given a head start before the gun goes off, hopefully resulting in the feeling of a “day well run.”

As referenced in a book about the Washington’s by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, getting up early wasn’t so much a benign choice for First Lady Martha Washington as it is in our modern day, but rather a necessary habit or duty upon which the sustenance of her family depended.

“Like her husband, Mrs. Washington was an early riser, up by dawn, and presumably seeing that breakfast was on the table at the family’s accustomed hour of 7am,” the book says. She was an “‘excellent housewife’ whose domain was notable for its ‘regularity and domestic economy.’”

As head of domestic operations, she and her housekeepers, stewards, etc. “were responsible for preserving and properly storing enough food for consumption during the winter and early spring” and “[u]nless these essential chores were correctly performed, members of the household would face hunger,” the book explains.

“She was a firm but fair employer”, recalls Martha Washington’s grandson, whose “household was remarkable for the excellence of its domestics…her skill and superior management greatly contributed to the comfortable reception and entertainment of the crowds of guests always to be found in the hospitable Mansion of Mount Vernon.”

And so, it is in the spirit of Martha Washington that we will “manage” to rise early on this Mother’s Day to prepare – in honor of all mothers, with remembrance of the sustenance that they provided – a special brunch (below) on this celebratory spring day.

Happy Mother’s Day – we hope you enjoy!

Good Morning Muffins (taken from Flour by Joanne Chang)

These muffins would be a good accompaniment or alternative to the Chia Seed Pudding recipe as a nutritious “on-the-go” morning breakfast.

1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
½ cup of fresh finely chopped pineapple*
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 apple peeled and chopped
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In medium bowl stir together the wheat bran and hot water until the bran is completely moistened. Add the raisins, pecans, coconut, and apple and stir until well mixed.

On medium speed beat together the sugar and the eggs until the mixture thickens and lightens (5-6 minutes). On low drizzle the oil slowly into the mixture along with the vanilla.

In another bowl combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture folding just enough to combine. Then add the bran mixture and fold again just until well combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups close to the rim.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Always check after 20 minutes of baking as muffins that bake too long end up being a little dry.

Serve warm with butter and strawberry or raspberry jam or with cream cheese frosting on top! Enjoy!

Note: This recipe called for 1 & 1/2 cups of grated zucchini; I didn’t have any and so I substituted 1/2 cup of fresh finely chopped pineapple.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Ingredients for the salad:
2-3 ruby red or pink grapefruits
2 ripe avocados
12 ounces baby spinach
1 cup or more fresh raspberries
1 cup or more honey-roasted almond slices (coat almond slices with honey, place on baking sheet and put in 350-375 oven and watch until golden brown)

Avocado salad recipe

Ingredients for the dressing:
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice (capture the juice from the grapefruit as you cut)
1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar (can use red wine vinegar with tsp. red raspberry preserves mixed in)
1 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste

On a deep platter or in shallow bowl place spinach and then add remaining ingredients. Make dressing ahead of time and refrigerate. When ready to serve pour dressing over salad and toss. Note: Begin with half of the dressing and toss so as not to drench the salad. Add more as desired.

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup (inspired by Jean-Georges Inspired Kauai Grill, Princeville, Kauai)

Approximately 8-10 carrots, peeled and chopped in med. sizes pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 med. sized onion, chopped
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. red chile flakes*
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. Paprika
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Coconut soup recipe

Using one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter sauté chopped onions until slightly tender. Add carrots and stir for several minutes coating the carrots with the olive oil/butter. Add chicken stock and water and slightly cover and let simmer on low, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes or until carrots are soft. Using food processor or blender puree the carrot/onion broth mixture and return to the pot.  Add the coconut milk and remaining spices and let simmer on low for another 20-30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and enjoy!

Note: This recipe makes for a somewhat spicy soup. For more of a medium spiced soup, eliminate the red chile flakes and use 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of curry. 

Easy Curried Chicken (served over rice)

3 medium sized boneless chicken breast
2 cups chicken stock
1 small onion, white or yellow is good
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 cup flour, for coating chicken
Kosher salt and pepper
Olive oil and butter for sautéing

Curried chicken recipe

Cut chicken breast into medium bite-sized pieces, coat in flour and set aside. Chop onion and sauté in pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Cook until tender, remove from pan and place in small bowl. Adding a little more oil and 1-2 more tablespoons butter brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Once browned add onions back into the pan and add the two cups of chicken stock, stir thoroughly and reduce heat to very low and let simmer for about 20 minutes or so. To finish add the cream and the curry powder and the salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes or more. Serve over rice with roasted carrots, asparagus or peas.

Grandma’s Southern Coconut Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
1 & 3/4 cup sugar
2 & 3/4 cup flour
2 & 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut (short shred)
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 egg whites, room temp.

Instructions for the cake*:
In a medium bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not too dry and then set aside. Using a third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In small bowl thoroughly mix the coconut with 2 tablespoons milk and set aside. Mix the water and the milk which you will alternate with the dry ingredients as you combine with the butter/sugar mixture. When smoothly combined add the lemon juice and then the egg whites thoroughly combining. Lastly, add the coconut stirring enough to evenly combine. Pour into two 9 x 1&1/2 inch prepared cake pans (lightly greased and floured). Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan.

Coconut cake recipe

Ingredients for the frosting:
1 stick of butter (room temp.)
4 ounces of cream cheese
3 & 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
6-7 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2-3 cups of coconut

Instructions for the frosting:
Cream the butter and the cream cheese. Alternate the confectioners sugar with a little milk slowly into the butter/cream cheese mixture. When combined add the vanilla extract, lemon juice and coconut. Combine until smooth and silky.

To assemble cake:
Place 1 cake on platter and frost the top with approximately 1 cup of frosting. Sprinkle approximately 3/4-1 cup coconut on top and then place other cake on top of this. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake. Using as much coconut as necessary sprinkle coconut on top of cake and lightly pat into the sides being sure to cover evenly. If desired, lightly sprinkle a lavender sanding or sparkling sugar on top.

Continue delving into all things mother’s day with:
a reflection on why mothers are so important
a Colombian mother’s influence on her son
a children’s book reminding us of a mother’s love
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ insight on motherhood
words used to describe our mothers (and their motherly advice)
and heavenly biscuits for mother’s day morning

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