Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why Buy? Pancakes

With all that we have going on in our busy lives, it's no wonder people turn to pre-made, pre-packed, already prepared foods. But pancake mix baffles me. I've been in well-stocked kitchens and had the chef announce that they were out of pancake mix and sadly there would be no pancakes for breakfast. I know it may take awhile for this to sink in for some people, but you don't need the mix. Pancakes are easy to make, even from scratch. And still tasty! Just think, you'll be able to impress that impromptu overnight guest without excusing yourself to run out to the mini-mart or wrecking the inimate mood by heading to the nearest diner.

These pancakes come to you via Jane, who I believe is the ex (girlfriend? wife?) of an old friend of my parents (Tom?) that I'm pretty sure I've never met. Jane may not have made it for the long haul, but her pancakes certainly did.

serves 2 (makes 4 small-medium pancakes) go ahead and double (triple? quadruple?) if you're cooking for a crowd.
recipe by Jane, via my mother

3/4 C milk
1 egg
2 T melted butter (plus an extra couple T for the pan)
1 C flour
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Melt the butter in the microwave and set aside to cool a bit. In a bowl mix your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt). In another bowl (I just use my Pyrex measuring cup) mix the milk, egg and now cool butter. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients all at once. Stir just enough that the dry mixture is throughly incorporated. It won't be lump free by any means, but there shouldn't be any nasty floury pockets either. Use a large pan or skillet. On my gas stove, medium low is quite hot enough, but yours may vary. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan, making sure the whole surface is covered. Once the surface is hot and buttered, use a measuring cup to pour in some pancake batter. I used 1/2 C measurer for medium pancakes, I think the 1 C would make pan sized ones. Watch the pancakes closely. Little bubbles will form and pop on the top side of the pancakes. This took about 3 minutes for me. When the very first few start to form, this is when you would normally add any chocolate chips, blueberries or other tasty morsels. When there are lots of little bubbles, it's time to flip (like I said, this was 3 minutes for me). Flip (TIP: the larger the spatula the better). The second side needs much less time, maybe 1-2 minutes. Remove and place on a plate. You can keep these in an oven set to warm until everyone's are ready. Repeat until they're all cooked. See? Most of that was the cooking part, and you'd have to do that with the mix anyway. Top with syrup, fresh berries, preserves, whipped cream, butter, whatever you want!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Behind the Curtain

Given that I go through phases of infrequent posting I've often wondered what you all think I'm doing about food during those times. Do you picture me huddled over a bucket of KFC or microwaving my Lean Cuisine? Slathering two slices of bread with peanut butter and jelly ready to smack together a sandwich? Dining out at top restaurants?

The truth is neither damning nor glamorous. Most of the time, I'm making something I've already posted on the blog, dashing back and forth between the computer and the kitchen. Sometimes I'm trying to be patient and focused enough to write you a recipe for something I make and haven't told you about. Once a week I am eating out, although rarely glamorously.

And sometimes, I'm making this -

It's technically called Spaghetti alla Ceci, but around here we refer to it as Chickpea Pasta. It's not fancy or all that pretty to look at, but it is seriously fast to make and tasty.

from Rachael Ray's Expresslane Meals. Okay so a little damning.

1 lb pasta (I use spaghetti)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 C dry white wine (or vermouth) or chicken stock
red pepper flakes (1/2 t to 1 t depending on how spicy you like things)
black pepper
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes

Boil the water for pasta. When the water boils, cook your spaghetti according to the directions on the box. Meanwhile, mince your garlic. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and over low heat saute the garlic until golden. Add the red pepper flakes. Pulse your chickpeas in a food processor until they're finely chopped, but not pure mush. Add the chickpeas to the garlic and red pepper. Add thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 30 seconds to let the alcohol burn off. Add the tomatoes. Heat through. Serve over the pasta.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lazy, Lazy, Stir Crazy

I am B-O-R-E-D. I have spent today at home courtesy of the lovely March snow, and I have barely budged from my sofa and now I'm BORED. So just in case you are housebound like me and have spent hours clicking on everything you ever bookmarked online or hitting refresh on your browser while hoping desperately that someone has e-mailed you, here's a little something to perk you up. If you haven't started making dinner you can even use it as an excuse to get off your lazy butt. Not that you're lazy. That's probably just me.

In the interest of fighting boredom I present you with my mother's list of ingredients recipe for enchiladas, with some slight modifications (including directions, which she did not include). These are not restaurant quality enchiladas. I made those once from a Cook's Illustrated recipe and it took a few hours and about half the dishes I own and a strainer. We still have them occasionally, but Ryan makes them, because I refused. So yeah, not best-restaurant-I've-eaten-in quality. They are however easy, tasty and good home cooking.



1 C broth (use whatever broth matches your main ingredient if possible - beef broth for beef chicken broth for chicken)
1.5 C chopped canned tomatoes
1/2 t garlic powder
4 T chili powder (feel free to up this if you like more spice, I was running out)
1 t cumin
2 T cornstarch (I have never in my life cooked with cornstarch. I usually make a slurry, but I could not even begin to tell anyone how to make a slurry so buy some cornstarch and make things easy on yourself.)

1/2 C chopped yellow onion
3 garlic cloves minced
1 lb chicken sliced thin
1/3 C chopped black olives
1 C sauce (see above)
1 C cheddar cheese

1 package flour torillas
1 C cheddar cheese (additional to what's in the filling)
sauce (whatever's left after you've used the 1 C for the filling)
sour cream

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Combine the broth, tomatoes, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Cook on medium high heat until it thickens and reduces. I'm not sure how long this will take as I used a different thickening method, but it should reduce by about a third and the sauce should be thick enough that it leaves a coating on a spoon. Lower or turn off heat and set aside.

In a nonstick pan, saute the garlic and onion in a tablespoon of olive oil, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for about 6 minutes, turning once, so that it is mostly white, not pink. Add 1 C of the sauce you made and the olives. Cook the chicken in the sauce for about another 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Using leftover cooked poultry? Just add the cooked meat to the garlic and onion and toss with sauce, only heat up until the meat is warm again.

Find a large baking dish, my 9 1/2 x 11 was too small. Along the bottom, smear some of the remaining sauce. Lay down a tortilla. Scoop 1/3 C of enchilada filling into the tortilla and give it a good sprinkling of cheddar.

Fold up the right edge like so:

Then fold it over one more time so the seam side is facing down. Continue until you've filled your whole pan with enchiladas. Take whatever sauce you have left and combine it with any of the saucy bits left from your filling and pour this all over the enchiladas in the pan. It is very important that the tortillas have sauce over all of them or they will become hard and yucky in the oven. After the sauce, sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar over the top like this.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Top with a dollop of sour cream.


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