Sheila O'Neil is a gracious, intuitive hostess and innkeeper with a flair for entertaining and a talent for creating delicious, beautifully presented dishes.
As the owner of The Gilded Cupid Bed & Breakfast in Jim Thorpe, naturally, the first meal of the day is one of her favorites to prepare.
Sheila recently invited me to spend some time with her in her large, well-appointed kitchen, where we cooked, chatted and ate.
For Sheila, food is a hobby, her business and much more.
"Food is love and an expression of yourself," says Sheila.
"If you are the preparer of food, your love goes into that food for your friends and your family."
While Sheila is busy preparing these terrific meals in her historic Jim Thorpe home, her efforts are more far reaching. She shops locally when possible, but also thinks globally.
Much of her ingredients are grown and produced nearby, either outside her kitchen door in her lovingly-tended garden where she grows her own herbs, or a few miles down the road, where she buys seasonal produce, honey and fresh eggs.
Other ingredients are produced in Pennsylvania, and if not, Sheila thinks globally and buys from manufacturers who produce sustainable, quality goods.
Sheila shared several breakfast offerings with us, and in order to feature them properly, we are going to have to spread this out over two weeks.
This week, we go to Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some South of the Border inspired favorites.
Check out next week's Comfort & Joy column in Wednesday's TIMES NEWS for more breakfast recipes from Sheila O'Neil. For past recipes, go to http://www.tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy .
Cake for Breakfast
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
2 tablespoons high quality cinnamon
Makes six small cakes.
Cream together cup of sugar, butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add with eggs and buttermilk. Do not overmix.
Apply non-stick spray to an English tart pan (a muffin top pan, whoopie pie pan or large muffin tin can also be used). Fill with about cup of batter per tart.
Combine remaining cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle two tablespoons of cinnamon-sugar on top of each cake.
You can use a combination of toppings for a variety of cakes, or just select your favorite. For our breakfast, Sheila made two each of three different kinds of cakes. This week we will feature the cake with sliced pears with whole pistachios, and the cake with sliced apricots and sliced almonds. Next week, we will offer the recipe with changes to create the cake with dried cranberries and a walnut crumb topping.
For the pears and pistachios, she arranged three thin pear slices in a pinwheel, and sprinkled about 10 whole pistachios on top. She followed the same process for the apricot and almonds.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about five minutes, then gently remove. A thin rubber spatula can help lift the cakes from the pan without breaking.
Sheila often changes the toppings on these little cakes depending on the seasons or what she has in her pantry, and suggests readers feel free to do the same, using their favorite ingredients.
Grilled Pineapple with Honey and Ginger
Fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into -inch slices
2 tablespoons raw, local honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 heaping teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Hold pineapple slice over an open flame to grill. It is done when char marks begin to appear on the pineapple. If you don't have a gas stove or barbecue, broil in the oven for several minutes, watching carefully not to burn it. Allow pineapple to cool, then slice it into bite-sized triangles and place in a serving dish.
Combine honey, lemon juice, lemon zest and ginger, then drizzle over pineapple and serve.
1/2 cantaloupe or honeydew melon
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Cut melon into bite-sized pieces and toss with mint. Refrigerate until serving.
Makes two servings.
2 6-inch tortillas
Grated sharp Cheddar or Mexican cheese
Black olives, sliced
Cilantro or parsley, for garnish
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Using tongs, hold each tortilla over an open flame for approximately 15 seconds on each side, then quickly place into an English tart pan. Place a small bowl or can over the tortilla to form a "cup" shape. For electric ranges, you can heat the tortillas in preheated cast iron frying pan.
Beat four eggs and less than a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Melt butter in frying pan, then pour in egg mixture, cook slowly over low heat. As sides of eggs begin to bubble, using a spatula to draw outside edges in, allowing uncooked egg to flow over and cook. When egg is cooked through, but not too dry. Scoop it into a 1/2 cup measure and invert into center of tortilla, forming the top part of the hat, while the tortilla forms the brim. Sprinkle the top of the "hat" with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese and place about 4 inches from the broiler, and broil until cheese melts, about 4 minutes.
Create a "hatband" around the eggs with salsa, and decorate with sliced black olives. Place a sprig of cilantro or parsley in the "hatband" to create a "feather."