Monday, December 31, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 12

Name Pancakes

Important note about raising (a) child(ren):  Get help.  Lean on family, and if you don't have one, make one.  Same for friends.
Then you have more energy to be there for your kid(s) and later on, for your friends and family, rather than going out hard at the start and burning out spectacularly (or even slowly and insidiously).

And in that spirit...

I have a guest pancake maker today (and maybe for a few more days).  Gramma S - one of T's 4!  Lucky BOY!

And now;

The secrets of the best name pancakes.

Write the letters backwards,
so when you flip them over...
they are right-way-'round.

(I admit E is funny, because I photographed
sorta' upside down.)  And A is always correct.
A great lesson in symmetry, Name Pancakes are.    

Apply the Topping-of-Your-Choice.
3a. No pressure.  Of course on photographing day the Name Pancakes proved a bit runny and misshapen.  But who cares?  They are still tasty as heck!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 11


They bring out the creativity... or at least the fancy sweetened nut spreads.

Some people fear the crêpe. No need,  just do two important things.
You can also use the one from the Big Book
but for everyday stuff this is the
best bet.  Everything is easy to find,
and she runs the "basic recipe
and variations" groove I live by.

1.  Get the recipe from the modern Master.
Simple, straight forward, nothing tricky, but follow the directions, and do let the batter sit.

Photography is making this pancake look better than it is.
The true messiness is rather hidden.

2.  Remember what Quinn says about the 1st pancake.  This is totally a practice makes perfect endeavor.  You first entire batch of crêpes will likely be unpretty.  But they will still be tasty.  Don't sweat it.

My offspring went with a classic - Nutella Crêpes

I recently got a trip to My New Favorite Store:  Marx Foods.  This is like a crazy toy store for your tastebuds.  Anyway, I picked up a little jar of THIS

Not sure what the Italian exactly is,
but it functionally translates to,
"Pistachio Crack"
It is SO freakin' good.

And made this:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 10

Cottage Cheese Pancakes
In my world, they must always be accompanied with
Strawberry Butter.
(psst...  That'll be in my cookbook)

"You can't expect me to choose a boyfriend right away, that would be like eating the first
pancake off the stove. You have to feed one to the dog." - Quinn Morgendorffer

Totally random conversation tag:

A: So do you know the physics or chemistry or whatever as to why the first pancake always turns out that way?

Me: It's just impatience.  Almost no one can wait long enough to put the first pancake on the stove.  So, it's more biochemistry.

A: Behavioral psychology?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 9

Lacy Cornmeal Pancakes

If you are a fan of fried cornmeal... these are for you.

If you have no idea what fried cornmeal tastes like, you are missing something, and these are a GREAT way to try it with out having to mess with catfish, deep fryers and onions (see "hushpuppies") or egg wash.

Basically cornmeal, milk, a bit of fat, salt, baking powder and a dash of flour.  I'm betting these will covert to gluten free... but I'll have to test them before I give them a stamp of approval.

In the meantime thin, fried cornmeal pancakes.  I approve.  And will have one more.

The "lacy" comes from the bubbly fried edges.
I should have made them even thinner, and they'd have been
lacy all the way through.
Mmmm fried cornmeal in bacon fat next time.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 8

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I have been informed under no uncertain terms:
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes
are best enjoyed with a glass of milk.
Apparently powdered sugar is optional - not necessary

Needed to come back strong.

2 Tips:

You can make anything
chocolatey by replacing
1/4 to 1/8 of the flour
with cocoa powder

But - under no circumstances
can you forget the sugar
(or some sweetener) and
the vanilla - or it'll just taste
oddly dirty (dare I say...

Other cooking with chocolate trivial note.  Cocoa powder/chocolate can work without the sugar+vanilla boost in savory applications - but usually some sweet(ish) element is essential for the success - from a vegetable, fatty or fruit source, and some other aromatic flavor(s) that highlights a different aspect of chocolate needs to be there if you are going to go to the trouble of putting it in.

Pancake Challenge: Days 5-7

Nothing like the plague to derail 14 days of pancakes.

And make you end up sleeping through Christmas Eve... and most of Christmas.

Unless all you want for Christmas is lots of sleep.  So it could have been worse.

Worry not.  I'm better, and Christmas dinner happened without me - even though they made the baguettes with the decoy (brioche) dough.

Day 8 will return to its regularly scheduled place.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 4

Inspired by our trip to Amsterdam, I went with the Dutch, all purpose, any meal, pancake.  These are part of what made traveling in Holland SO easy with a kid.  Pancakes time is anytime - anywhere. Available for any meal.

And the Dutch relationship with pancakes makes me think of mischievous kids would do if given the chance of making their dream pancakes....

"Let's put fruit in them."
"And then after we eat those, we could make some with bacon and onions."
"And cheese, lets put cheese in too."
"And lets make them as big as the plate!"

And you can put powdered sugar on ALL of them!

Enough powdered sugar means different things to different people!

I would have made bigger ones (they make MUCH bigger ones in Amsterdam), but right now my only good pan for pancakes is the smaller one.

I coulda' made a bigger one on the griddle, but I might not have been able to flip it. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 3

After the mereingue dragon cookie fiasco, ("Dad! You ate my solstice dragon's head?!?!") reparations were desired.

So this morning it was dragon shaped pancakes.

Dragon Face & Flying Dragon (it's impressionistic)

I decided to try a pancake that was all crispy edges.

Success made even more successful with bacon and Cranberry Curd!
My new favorite flavor for breakfast!
(Thanks Susan!!!)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 2

Today I have a guest poster - the brain child (literally) behind the 14 day pancake challenge.

Me whisking an egg.

Sizzling blueberry pancakes.

The delicious blueberries in the pancakes have a
sweet and sour taste and a soft texture.
Me: So was day 2 a good pancake day?

T: Yes!  Yes it was.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pancake Challenge: Day 1

How did I get myself into this?

2 weeks "off" with my offspring - and somehow even Winter Break becomes a Match.

This time there are eggs involved so we all know it is serious.

The idea -

Me: "Hey! Wanna make aebleskivers for the first breakfast of break?"

T: "How many kinds of pancakes are there?"

Me: "Lots.  I don't know.  Why?"

T: "Can we make different pancakes every day of break?"

Me: "Ummmm..... (small voice, like a mouse trapped under a bowl) yeah?!  How about aebleskivers first?"

T: "Chocolate chip aebleskivers?"

Me: "Sure, then blueberry regular pancakes tomorrow?"

T: "Yeah!"

Me: "Well you need to measure out the dry ingredients tonight."

And somehow it is ON.

Day 1:

Chocolate Chip Aebleskivers with cinnamon sugar.
Why cinnamon sugar?  Beacause we said so.

Christmas Cookies 2012

The kitchen was taken over!

Cheese Crispies & Chocolate Ginger Snaps cooling
Plates of cookies ...
before they get baked

bags and bins

Packed and ready to go!
Last year I had an idea for a cookie.  It was Chocolate Ginger Snap Sandwiches with Nutella Filling.  It turned out...  AMAZING!  And I realized I didn't make enough.

This year - those went down like this:
Almost 900 of the little guys!  Sandwiches require the MOST cookies.

This year the cookie that took hold of my brain was:

Sriracha Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies.

I was thinking saté sauce for dessert.  But when the cookies aged for a few days, the spice took over the cookie.  It went from an interesting spice to TOO HOT!  Where's the cookie?  How is this dessert?

What - what to do?  So I poked around the internet.  After my Turkey Pot Pie Empanada adventure I was sure it had to be out there - some other ideas about Sriracha peanut butter cookies.  And there were.

Glut Life made an ice cream sandwich with Sriracha Peanut Butter cookies filled with Thai Basil ice cream rolled through toasted cocoanut.

And then I realized that I had definitely left the coconut out.  And the bitterness.  When you get saté, if it has been done right, it will have a char on it.  And the bitterness of those crispy burnt edges are balanced with the sweetness of the saté sauce.  The chili and the coconut and the saltiness - it all has to be there the make the magic.

The result?  Hundreds of cookies dipped in 60% bittersweet chocolate and rolled in sweetened coconut:

Bet you want the recipe!
Here: Sriracha Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
dipped in Bittersweet Chocolate and Sweetened Coconut  

The secret to my cookie success - the bulk bins at Central Market.  I was able to get a bit of different kinds of chocolate, different types of coconut and test them out.  And then go back and get a bunch of the right stuff.
The Russian Tea Cakes were back...  

The ground walnuts are still essential for the correct texture and sweet/bitter balance.  And this year I had a 1 Tbs disher that made scooping out perfect tea cake shapes a breeze.

Speed Cookie dishing this year.
This 1 Tbs size is too big for the bite size cookies...
next year I need a 1 or 1.5 tsp size one!
(The almost 2T size one is perfect for muffins and abelskivers!)

And Cheese Crispies.  I left out the rice crispies this year (the right decision) and left out the garlic powder (the wrong decision).  Look for my 3rd try next year!

Sriracha Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

dipped in Bittersweet Chocolate and Coconut

Dang, that is a mouthful.  But the cookies are phenomenal!

The 2012 Cookie of the Year Recipe:

I've put this together as cookie only first - and then dipping ingredients and instructions at the end because that's how you'll do it.

stand mixer
baking sheets
silpat or parchment paper or grease your cookie sheets
measuring cups & spoons
metal spoon (for dishing out the cookies)
small bowl of spare flour for portioning the cookies
cooling racks

1/2C butter (room temp if you are thinking ahead)
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar

1 C peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanila
2 Tbs or up to 1/3C Sriracha

1+1/2C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1C chocolate chips (bittersweet/semi-sweet is best)

Measure out and stir together the the flour, salt & soda.

In the stand mixer beat the butter until soft.  Add in the sugar, and beat to fluffy.  Add in the peanut butter and get it incorporated.  Stir in the egg, vanilla and Sriracha.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients (flour etc.) and mix until a smooth sticky batter is formed.  Add in the chocolate chips and let it stir a few times to incorporate them.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C).

Get your hands floury.  And have a small bowl of flour just for dipping your hands.

For palm sized cookies use about 1 Tbs of dough and roll into approx. 1in. balls.
Place these about 2 in. apart on your covered/greased baking sheet.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  Look for an evenly brown bottom, and light browning around the edges.  They should still be soft when you pull them out.  Let them cool for a minute or two before transferring them to cooling racks.

For bite sized cookies use about 1tsp of dough, rolled into a ball about the size of the top joint of your thumb.
Place these about 1 in. apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes.  Look for an evenly brown bottom, and light browning around the edges.  They should still be soft when you pull them out.  Let them cool for a minute or two before transferring them to cooling racks.

When they are thoroughly cool (They can be stored in a large tupperware or zip-top bag for a day or two - or frozen if you need to wait for the next weekend), get ready for dipping.

This was my hack - pyrex is fine because there is never
actually any boiling - not even simmering - just "warming" 

a double boiler set up - ideally a bowl that fits snugly inside a pan with a little room for water in the bottom
rubber spatula
container for the coconut
wax or parchment paper
baking sheet (if you only have half sheet pans use them upside down for this)

3/4lb (340g) 60% cocoa solids bittersweet chocolate - slab  (or a chocolate you find you prefer)
1 lb (450g) sweetened shredded coconut**

Get out your cookies - and have them ready to hand.
Clear off a large flat space to let your cookies cool.
Lay out the waxed paper on a baking sheet.  You will be transferring these to the large flat space as they fill up so the chocolate can harden - just slide the wax paper off, and replace with a fresh sheet.

Cut, chip or crush the chocolate into no larger than thumb sized pieces.

Put the amount of water in the bottom of your pan so that it doesn't squish out when you put the bowl in it.  Place in on the lowest setting possible on your stove top.

Pour the coconut in a wide flat container convenient for cookie dipping.

This is the cheater/short-cut/clever method for making dipping chocolate - it uses the temper already on/in the chocolate when it's in the bar.  It works for this sort of thing because the chocolate strength and appearance aren't primary.

Add about 3/4 or 7/8 of the chopped chocolate to the warmed bowl.  Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted.  Add in the unmelted chocolate and stir in the unmelted chocolate.  Turn the heat down if you had turned it up, or even off for a few minutes.

Dip a cookie halfway in.  Scrape off the back with the rubber spatula, so only a thin layer remains, and maybe neaten up the bottom edge.

Dip the front face of the cookie in the coconut.

Place it coconut-face down on the wax paper to harden.
Do another and test it for Quality Control.
If you are doing a bunch of cookies, watch the heat and stir your chocolate occasionally.

They'll take about an hour to completely harden for transport.  But enjoy then anytime if they are staying at home!

*Apparently THE PB cookie recipe. Same recipe from 1950's Joy of Cooking replicated everywhere - though sometimes double or tripled.  OK Joy of Cooking has it w/o the Sriracha

**  I tried 3 types of coconut - the large shaved pieces, the fine "macaroon" type and traditional sweetened.  This had the best texture and flavor for my purposes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why bother with a sous vide for beans?

So, I’ve done a little reading on the sous-vide bean thing, and much of the writing says that there is no real advantage to cooking beans in a sous vide.  My experience says otherwise.  The texture may not change particularly, but there are a few distinct advantages.

1) The amount of liquid the beans are cooked in is reduced a bit, and the amount of time the beans soak is increased a bit, so you can flavor the beans more than in the stove top method – by making very flavorful baths for the beans.

2) By placing multiple canning jars of different beans you can cook several varieties of dried beans all at the same time – even if their cooking times are different.

2a) The canning jar method lets you check on the progress of your beans – and you never need to worry about opening a bag and finding under (or over) done beans.

3) No scorching or boiling over worries – ever.

Sous Vide Beans
Not as fast as a pressure cooker, but another way to cook beans that requires very little attention from the cook.  And this way you can cook beans with different cooking times – all at once.

sous vide – or other water oven
2C or 1Q canning jar for each sort of bean
rings and lids for each jar (need not be “new,” just clean)
jar lifter or waterproof hot pad/oven mitt makes things easier.
bean of choice
flavorings of choice
(see below for suggestions)

For 2C Jar
     0.5 C beans - your choice
     1.5 C water
     aromatics and/or herbs

For 1Q jar
     1C beans - your choice
     3C water
     aromatics and/or herbs

For making chili - I used 1 clove garlic, 1 bay leaf, and part of a dried ancho chile in each jar.

1 clove of garlic is likely ALWAYS a good idea, and then add spices as they appear in the dish your beans are destined for.


Set your sous vide to 195˚F.
Bean times:
lentils .75 - 1 hr
black beans 3.5 - 4.5 hrs
cranberry beans/navy/Yankee beans 3-4 hrs 
garbanzo/chick peas/ceci beans 5-6 hrs
great northern/kidney/cannellini beans 3.5 - 4.5 hrs
pinto beans 4-5 hrs

Check them at the early end - because you can!

Drain them when they are done - and forward with your recipes.  

Well – now I have a bunch of cooked beans.  Now what do I do?

1. Make chili.  (Yes I know, for many chili has NO beans.  But mine does.)

2.  Make soup

3. Make bean salad

4. Garbanzo bean special :
Make hummus – and if you make it with the hot beans, it becomes especially creamy.

Make Falafel.  How... well, look it up!
(OK... I may get there, but not this week)

Think that worked well?  Check out Yogurt and Caramelized Onions

Happy cold weather cooking!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Potatoes & Parsley

Or storage shares and the end of the fresh herbs.

My freezer and other storage areas for food have gotten awfully full at the end of the bumper crop fall – all that sunny weather at the end.  And now I need to get out the row-boat and boots because boy-o-boy is it raining.

So I’m on a kick to use what I have in and around the house – and I currently have a thing for savory sour.  Spanish food is a fun place to look – and somewhere I haven’t looked much.  The storage shares of potatoes and onions from my CSA work in the Spanish milieu, as does the determined, but rapidly drowning parsley in my herb pots.
It might be a little weedy... and mossy,
but I can tell which is the parsley.
Now if you look up this sort of recipe on the internet (and elsewhere) it will be “Papas something.”  One of the most famous versions of this sort of roasted (and sautéed) potato dish is Papas Bravos, potatoes served with a spicy garlicky mayonnaise type sauce (an aioli technically).
Lots of others have tomato based sauces – spicy or mild , and most of the rest have an herby element.   And that is what I’m really after here.  Warm and cozy roasted potatoes with deep flavors, and a little kick at the end – today sour, maybe later spicy.

Since I am working in my kitchen, I have lots of the wrong ingredients.  In this case – Ponzu Sauce.  I used it at the end because my potatoes needed a little more seasoning, a little more of a savory flavor, and a last kick of sour.  Don’t have Ponzu sauce, don’t know what it is?  Don’t let the fancy names intimidate you.  It is basically soy sauce and lime juice, and you can easily sub that in – or any tart citrus.

Now lets get cooking!

Spanish Style Potatoes
(Use up the parsley version - and if you have cilantro, basil, spinach or arugula cluttering up your fridge use them instead)

large pan for the oven
sauté pan for the sauce
spatula for stirring
cutting board
fork – for testing potatoes and eating it all up.

3 medium – large potatoes
1 medium onion (or ½ a big huge one)
salt & pepper
cider vinegar
a whole bunch of parsley (a big handful?)
Ponzu Sauce (the secret ingredient!)
Turn on the oven to 425˚F.
Wash your potatoes vigorously if they need it.
Chop them into chunks about the size of the top joint of your thumb.  (I made some of my pieces too big, and they had tasty outsides but bland insides).  Place them on the large pan, drizzle with 1-2 tsp of oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss with clean hands until they are all coated.
Toss them in the oven – set the timer to 20 minutes.
Turn to the onion.  Cut it in half through the root end.  Peel off the outer dry layers. Make 2 or 3 cuts from near the root end to the tip.  Cut the onion into slices about the width of your pinky.
Rinse the parsley and pull the leaves off the big central stem.  Chop the parsley roughly.

Place your sauté pan over medium high heat for about 3 minutes with 1-2 tsp of oil in it.  When a small piece of onion sizzles merrily, the pan is hot.  Add in all the onion and a pinch of salt to help the onions sweat.  (Just a little, you’ll adjust for salt and pepper at the end.)
Stir the onions over the heat.  They should be getting translucent and soft, not really brown (if the edges are blackening, turn down the heat a little!) 

Somewhere in here – the potato timer is going to go off.   When it does, stab one with a fork, and bring it out of the oven.  Cut it in half with a fork, and blow on it until it is cool.  Try a bite.  If it is still a bit crunchy and raw, the potatoes may need up to 15 more minutes (but start with 10).  If the potato is almost done – but not quite – try 5 more.  And if the edges are brown, one surface crispy and puffed, and the inside is soft and fluffy – your potatoes are done.  So cook your potatoes ‘til they get there. 
When they do.  Take them out of the oven and put them to the side.

Back to the onions.  When they get soft and translucent, open a window or turn on a fan.  Then pour in about 1/4C of the cider vinegar.  Cook it down until most of the liquid is gone. 
(Did you add the vinegar without turning on a fan?  Bet you wish you had.)
When the onions are shiny and damp (rather than swimming in a pool of liquid), toss in the parsley, and stir it into the onions.  Then turn the heat to low, and stir in the hot potatoes. 

Taste one.  Add pepper and maybe a little salt if it really bland.
Then break out the Ponzu Sauce, and add about a teaspoon.  Stir it in.  Taste.  Repeat until you have savory, sour potatoes.

Serve with something else yummy.

(A Spanish tortilla, which is a sort of omelet, is nice.  Or spicy sausage and lentils – maybe with a little shrimp?     It makes for a great base to a hash – and the leftovers are great too.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sushi in the Dark

So, we start to make sushi...  (Condensed story - lived outside of Denver - sushi was far away and $$$ - so Alec learned how to make it a little over 10 years ago.  Been kind of a gateway drug.)

Anyway - the fish was sliced,

and so was the veg

 the rice was in the rice maker.

Then Boom! (well really, "click") the power went out.  Alec stood there - baffled.  "Well, the rice is toast."
"No it's not.  It's just rice.  We can go old school.  Ya know, use fire."

And that's just what we did.  Sushi by candle light.

 NO Broiler?!
Break out the (creme brulée - ok XTra large version we use for torching sous vide meats) torch to crisp the eel.

 Looks cool in the dark!?

And some miso soup.

Which reminded me of part of the awesomeness of Japanese food - perfect no electricity food.  In fact this is a whole cuisine developed in a preindustrial setting - and yet, still brought to high art.  And the general lack of need for ovens helps when the power is down.  Sure, the Japanese love their sweet white bread (anpan/Milk Bread) and other pastries, but those are the imports, their own cuisine goes on without the oven.

And then after the sushi - Pandemic of course.  To complete the apocalyptic theme for the evening. (Are sushi and the apocalypse compatible?)