Late winter and early spring are slow times for the ranch and the Deer Run Bed and Breakfast. It's a time to reflect on the past year, make plans, order seeds, have some time in my pottery studio, organize, and clean up. It's a good time to throw out or give away all the "stuff" you haven't used in a few years.
There's time, too, to file all those recipes I've been cutting out into some sort of arrangement where they are accessible - but I never seem to get around to that one. I wish they would magically organize themselves. Best of all, there's time to try out new recipes and menu ideas for the bed and breakfast - one of my favorite things to do.
Since we are such a small facility, and quite seasonal, we have the luxury of being able to tailor our morning menus to guests' preferences or requirements. Many guests have special dietary needs - and we can usually accommodate them if we have a heads-up ahead of time. Some just don't like certain foods such as mushrooms, pineapple or peppers. Often guests from abroad want "western" flavors. Avocados, Tex-Mex flavors, and corn dishes sometimes fit that bill.
We rotate sweet (waffles, pancakes, and the like) and savory (egg dishes) every other day. We try to use seasonal and local products as much as we can. Omelet fillings are a perfect place to showcase seasonal vegetables - asparagus this time of year, then spinach, and so on through the summer months and into the fall. Breads made with rhubarb, berries, apples and pumpkin are always seasonal.
The possibilities are endless, and we have made it a point not to serve the exact same thing to a returning guest that we served to them before. (And yes, I do keep a record of that!)
Holidays and special occasions are an obvious chance to do something different and timely. Today's recipe for chocolate waffles for a Valentine's Day brunch is a perfect example.
This recipe will serve 4 to 6 , depending on the size of your waffle iron. Serve garnished with whipped cream, shavings of bittersweet chocolate, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and a few raspberries or strawberries. These are rich and decadent, perfect for Valentine's Day.
Preheat your waffle iron(s)
Sift together into a large bowl:
2 cups flour
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder (such as Hershey's Special Dark)
1⁄4 cup sugar
21⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
Separate 3 eggs; put the whites in a medium bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together:
3 egg yolks
1⁄2 cup canola or vegetable oil
3⁄4 cup whole or 2 percent milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture and blend until there are no lumps. Then fold in the beaten white. Do a trial run if you want (that's the cook's waffle!).
My 7-inch irons take about 1⁄2 cup of batter, and about 2 minutes until the steaming stops, but yours may be different.
Serve immediately, with the whipped cream, shavings, chocolate sauce and berries.
• Muffy Vhay and her husband David own and operate the Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Washoe Valley.