I understand there’s a fine line between normal, healthy love and crazy, obsession-based love. My feelings toward pancakes tend towards the latter. It means I spend a lot of mornings thinking about pancakes, and a lot of time looking at pancakes in the interwebs, and a lot of time thinking “hey, this would be great in pancakes!” while trying to shop for groceries. So I think about pancakes a lot, and I make pancakes… A LOT. Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, however, I rarely make the same recipe twice, so am always looking for pancakes that break the mold, like showcasing an ingredient I never would have thought to put in a pancake.

I came across a recipe for spinach pancakes and, what can I say, it was all I could think about until I got the chance to make them. I could simultaneously pretend my pancakes were healthy because they included some super food AND giggle to myself constantly because I was eating green pancakes. I was so awed by these spinach pancakes I couldn’t figure out how else to express my feelings other than by composing a short poem and dedicating it to all the amazing pancakes out there, those I have tried and have yet to try. I hope you enjoy the fruit of my creative labor this morning. Ahem.

 Pancakes

 Oh pancakes,

I love you all;

Big, medium, or small.

When you’re on my plate,

All you do is wait

Until I’m ready to eat.

Some like you sweet,

And some prefer not,

But it’s always easy to eat a lot.

I’ll lather you with butter,

And you don’t even mutter,

Or I’ll eat you plain,

And still my love won’t wane.

Put your toppings outside or in,

And all you’ll do is grin,

Because pancakes are the best!

Spinach Pancakes

(Recipe found at nytimes.com)

Yields 14 five-inch pancakes

Notes: I decided to puree the spinach for a more uniform texture, but the original recipe calls for chopped spinach, folded into the batter at the end of the process. In terms of ingredients, I added a teaspoon of baking powder, to give the pancakes a little more lift, and an extra tablespoon of granulated sugar because I have an addiction to maintain. You can barely taste the spinach, so I served them with my normal pancake toppings- jam, almonds, butter, and syrup, but if you have a low tolerance for sweet and savory combinations, you can always sauté some mushrooms and serve it with eggs, or roasted squash or pumpkin.

Ingredients:

10 to 12 ounces fresh spinach, washed, or one 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ½ cups buttermilk, or milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar, plus extra for thinning

2 eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Extra butter for greasing pan

Method:

1. Place washed spinach in a covered saucepan over medium heat, either with just the water that clung to the leaves or, if using pre-washed bagged spinach, with a splash of water. Heat spinach just until it wilts, only a couple of minutes. Drain spinach well and cool to room temperature. Once spinach is cooled, puree in a food processor until smooth.

2. Preheat skillet over medium-low heat.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.

4. In a medium mixing bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, and spinach puree. Whisk until foamy.

5. Add liquid ingredients to dry and whisk pancake batter until smooth and combined. If batter is super thick, add up to ½ cup milk until mixture reaches desired consistency.

6. Grease preheated skillet and drop batter into pan using a heaping 1/3 cup or large spoon. Cook pancakes for 2 to 4 minutes, until bottom is browned and lots of bubbles appear on the surface. Flip pancake and cook for another minute or two. If necessary, grease skillet between pancakes.

Serve warm, or heated in a 200 degree F oven for no more than 15 minutes. Pancakes will keep in the fridge up to 2 days, or in the freezer up to a month.

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For a few months, I was making waffles left and right. If I had an ingredient, I put it in a waffle (which sounds a lot like both my chocolate chip cookie and oat bran philosophy – creature of habit and hedonism, I guess). Chocolate waffles! Bran waffles! Malt waffles! Pumpkin waffles! All of the waffles! One fateful morning, however, I attempted to make waffles and the result could only be described as waffle genocide. So many good waffles split in half, burnt, and crumbled in my hands. I thought it was the recipe, and then I thought it was me, and then, having rejected the first two options as improbable, I decided to blame the waffle maker. And then I was stuck. I didn’t want to look into buying another waffle maker because I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was malfunctioning, but I didn’t want to try another waffle recipe because I couldn’t deal with the sadness and guilt that comes from massacring one of the breakfast treats I consider most sacred.

This dilemma kept me from making waffles for far too long. In every bizarre-o kitchen appliance grudge (those who use a lot of kitchen appliances hopefully know what I mean), there comes a time where someone has to give in, and that someone is usually the person. Because it would be hard for the appliance to give in. And it would be a little scary, too, if it actually had the capability to give in. Anyway, the waffle maker and I had a long talk (which, if you’re wondering, looks a lot like me glaring at a waffle iron until tying up my apron and getting on with it), and I decided to give it another go. Turns out my waffle iron responds really well to aerosol oil and not well at all to any other method of greasing. Huh. Looks like Colleen the Waffle Machine is back in business.

These waffles are amazing, though on the hearty side of the breakfast good spectrum. My roommate, K, really enjoys them, and she prefers her breakfasts to be more healthy than sweet, whereas I’m the opposite. We both agree that these waffles make a great breakfast, though! Something about the quinoa-banana-cornmeal combination and the fluffiness on account of whipped egg whites makes these waffles suitable for any kind of breakfast eater.

Happy Breakfast Tuesday, because it’s a happy one indeed!

Banana Quinoa Waffles

(Recipe adapted from The Family Kitchen)

Yields 7 Belgian style waffles

Notes: The original recipe is for spiced waffles – add one teaspoon ground ginger to dry ingredients. For my particular waffle iron, I got the best results with the heat set at six (out of eight) and leaving the waffle in iron for 5 minutes, then flipping the waffle and letting it heat for one more minute before taking it out.

Ingredients:

½ cup, or one stick, unsalted butter

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup fine cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ripe bananas, mashed

3 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons honey

¾ cup cooked and cooled quinoa

1 ¼ cup milk

Method:

1. Preheat waffle iron.

2. In a small saucepan or microwave, melt butter. Set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk mashed bananas, honey, egg yolks, melted butter, quinoa, and milk together until combined. Set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and spices together.

5. In yet another mixing bowl, or bowl of stand mixer, whip egg whites to stiff peaks.

6. Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined, and then gently fold in egg whites.

7. Waffle according to manufacturer’s instructions, using 2/3 cup batter per waffle and greasing waffle iron between each waffle.

There are those mornings where everything is awesome, then continues to be awesome throughout the day. Example: I woke up early! I went for a long run! I sat down and studied! I made/wrote/published my awesome Breakfast Tuesday post! Yeah! Ready for the day! (Cue variation of the ready-for-the-day dance.)

Then there are those mornings where everything seems awesome, then something goes horribly wrong, points out all the other failings of the morning, and then you have to stifle tears of frustration all throughout the day. Example: I woke up early! I went for a run! I took out my books to study! I made my breakfast and… burnt it to crisp! I didn’t even wake up that early! I whined inside my head the entire time I was running! The thought of studying made me so nervous I almost had a minor panic attack! I can’t do this! (Cue laying on the carpet and staring at the ceiling.)

Wanh wanh.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this morning was more the second than the first. I thought everything was good, and if not good than pretty standard, and then I destroyed my breakfast and couldn’t help but look back on the morning and begrudge myself for everything. Seems dramatic because it totally is. I realized how very dramatic it all was just before I resorted to spending my day off curled up, most likely in the fetal position, on my carpet. I took a breath and sat down, looked out the window and watched the sun bounce on and off the leaves. Enter perspective. I’m only human, and if burning my breakfast is the worst thing to happen all day then it’s a darn good one. Still hungry, I got up and went to work on a second pancake. The only thing I had to do differently was lower the heat. That’s it. Problem solved and breakfast on the table. Can I apply this reasoning to everything else today? Who knows. For now, enjoy a skillet apple pancake and say “Hello” to fall!

Skillet Apple Pancake

(Recipe adapted from delish.com, originally “Puffy Apple Pancake”)

Yields one 8 to 9 inch pancake, perfect either for yourself, if you’re also a breakfast monster, or two people

Notes: I substituted oat flour for all-purpose and brown sugar for granulated, so I imagine this recipe is ripe for any number of flour-sugar combinations. My only concern is that I didn’t add any baking soda to balance the acidity of the brown sugar, though I’m not sure it’s important when the quantities are this low. I could be wrong! I used a Cortland apple instead of Granny Smith, so it seems like you could use any apple that you would use in an apple pie or crisp – one that will retain its shape and texture when baked. As for the slicing, you can dice the apple as well. I made some slices thicker for varied texture, but none of the slices were over half an inch thick.

Ingredients:

1 medium to large apple (see note), cored, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup oat flour (see note)

2 tablespoons brown sugar (see note)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup milk

Optional (but delicious): Powdered sugar for serving

Method:

1. In medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk in egg, vanilla, and milk until just combined. The batter will probably be lumpy, which is totally fine.

2. In an 8 or 9-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, add apple slices. You don’t have to do any meticulous apple slice arranging, just make sure the apples are distributed as evenly as possible over the bottom of the skillet. Pour batter evenly over apple slices. Cover skillet with lid or aluminum foil.

3. Bake pancake, covered, over medium-low heat 10 to 12 minutes. Keep an eye on it after 8 minutes though, as it seems like this pancake wants desperately to burn.

4. When top of pancake is dry and puffy, and edges are golden brown, take off the heat. Put a plate, large enough to cover the skillet with room to spare, upside down over top of skillet. Using potholders, flip skillet upside down over plate, so the apple side of the pancake is now the top.

Serve immediately!

To spice things up a bit, I’m stepping into my savory baking shoes this morning. I have a considerable amount of baking experience, but very little of that experience consists of baking outside the sugar box (I just got a little overwhelmed by the thought of a “sugar box”, where all your wildest sugar fantasies are kept, neat and compartmentalized, until ready to be unleashed upon the world. I’m not sure whether it’s a beautiful, happy thing or a terrifying one). A lot of it has to do with what I like to eat and what I like to share, sweet goods as opposed to savory, but a little part of me shies away from savory baking because it’s unknown territory. Sure, I’ve baked a few loaves of bread and kneaded some pizza dough in my day, but never have I made soft pretzels, or bagels, or any number of delicious non-sugar inundated food items. Seems downright silly to allow my lack of experience to take control over what I decide to bake in any given week.

I’m going to start small, literally, with a cheddar cheese mini loaf. And this isn’t just any mini loaf, everyone, this is a mini loaf from America’s Test Kitchen. You’re already well aware of my love for them, their kitchen, their recipes, their people, and their books/magazines, but I’ll say again how much I love the accessibility and ease of their recipes. For someone who was more than a little afraid to tackle a very little loaf, it was comforting to know that it would be very difficult for me to not end up with something that would be tasty and satisfying.

According to my calculations, I could create a mini loaf storage container out of this copy of War and Peace. Convenient AND classy!

This mini loaf did the trick for breakfast, but will also have a spot at the dinner table this evening. Another thing I’m coming to love about savory baked goods is that they can be served at any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer, snack- without the guilt pangs that inevitably come from substituting a bowl of ice cream for dinner, or countless mini chocolate bars for snack.

Hopefully this means I’ll be branching out a little more in the coming months, but for the time being, enjoy some cheddar cheese mini loaf and happy Tuesday!

Cheddar Cheese Mini Loaf

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011)

Yields one 5 ½ by 3 inch loaf

Notes: For the grated cheese you could either use a variety of cheese combinations (I used some sort of Mexican-themed grated cheese mix from a bag) or freshly grated Parmesan. The original recipe suggests the latter but other cheese will do in a pinch. The recipe also suggests that, after greasing the pan, you sprinkle grated Parmesan over bottom of pan. I omitted this step just because I didn’t have any Parmesan on hand and wasn’t sure whether or not other would burn.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grated cheese

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of both cayenne and black pepper

2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes and totaling about ½ cup

¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan

1 large egg

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 5 ½ by 3-inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and peppers together until ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout mixture. Add cheddar cheese cubes and stir, breaking up clumps, until cubes are coated in flour mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, sour cream, butter, and egg together until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry, and gently fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Take care not to overmix batter!

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle grated cheese over top of loaf. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until loaf is puffed and golden brown. A tester inserted into middle of loaf should come out with just a few crumbs attached.

6. Let bread cool in pan for five minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and cool for at least an hour before serving.

Store bread wrapped in plastic at room temperature up to three days, or refrigerated up to a week. This bread toasts beautifully in the oven or toaster oven, and I’m kind of excited to try to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches!

Nutty (for) Granola?

September 13, 2011

The girl who cried “I don’t like granola!” is making granola… again. I made granola a few months ago, for the first time ever, and remember not feeling anything strong either way. The kicker is that, after thinking about it for an embarrassingly long time, I have what seems like a vague and distant memory of being sad when I had eaten it all. Time-wise, it didn’t make any sense. Why was my initial dislike so bright and vivid, and then my learned appreciation so small and distant?

The answer is pretty simple: I’m so stubborn that it affects how I remember things. That’s pretty ridiculous. Excuse me while I stomp my feet on the ground like a two year old and throw a frustration-induced tantrum. Phew. Okay. Time to put on my big girl pants. I decided to try another granola recipe today, for Breakfast Tuesday, just to see what would happen. Would I try it and be dissatisfied, only to gobble it up within a week? Would I like it upon initial taste-testing? Would I not like it all? I was pretty excited to find out.

I mixed all my ingredients. Preheated the oven. Melted the butter and honey. Tossed everything together. Spread it out on baking sheets. Put them in the oven. Crossed my fingers. I watched it like a hawk and stirred it every three minutes instead of five, but to no avail. The granola starting burning in the oven about eight minutes before it was supposed to come out. So I took it out of the oven early and let it cool. I tried it and I liked it! Despite the small, burnt walnut pieces and the fact that it was, indeed, granola, I liked it! I’m glad to see that my stubbornness, while getting in the way of lots of things, will not get in the way of enjoying my breakfast on this beautiful Tuesday morning.

Nutty Granola

(Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse at Foodnetwork.com)

Yields 7 cups granola

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned oats (rolled)

½ cup slivered or coarsely chopped almonds

½ cup flaked coconut, unsweetened

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup raisins

½ cup dried cranberries

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, almond, coconut, walnuts, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and sea salt.

3. In a small bowl or saucepan, melt together butter and honey. Stir until smooth, and then pour over oat mixture. Stir until butter mixture evenly coats oat mixture.

4. On two non-stick baking sheets, spread oat mixture in a thin, even layer.

5. Bake granola for 15-20 minutes, stirring and switching trays every 5 minutes.

6. Let granola cool to room temperature and then stir in dried fruit.

Store in an airtight container or jar at room temperature for up to a week.

I’m going to present a little anecdote this morning in order to put things into perspective. Imagine me and a few people out to dinner, laughing, talking, eating, the usual. Imagine a black and white (chocolate and vanilla) malt milkshake sitting on the table in front of me, a glass and a metal tumbler filled with extra milkshake, beautiful in its frosty, creamy deliciousness. If it weren’t for the restaurant chain, I’d name myself the dairy queen and if there’s malt powder in my house it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t last the week. About three quarters of the way through dinner one of my friends (a very, very dear friend) asked if they could sample my milkshake. Hah. I blushed because my milkshake had been long gone by the time she asked. It was pretty embarrassing but, hey, chocolate and malt. Chocolate and malt. One of the best flavor combinations of all time.

I may not be making milkshakes for breakfast today but I am combining chocolate and malt with another food that I love dearly: pancakes. I’ve made malted waffles with great success and wanted to see if I could do the same with pancakes, adding a little chocolate to the mix as an added bonus. I came across a recipe for pancakes using malt powder at King Arthur Flour and, while liking the flavor, was a little disappointed by how little the malt stood out. Though the malt in the original recipe, linked below, was only added to replicate the taste of the famed diner pancake and not to make a “malt pancake” and, wanting a “malt pancake”, I started adding malt, and more malt, and more malt, and then chocolate, until finding a balance that worked for me.

The pancakes are very good – rich with just a touch of chocolate and a hint of malt flavor –  but there’s still room for improvement. I plan on trying these again once I move, maybe with buttermilk and chocolate chips and probably with a lot more malted milk powder. For now, though, maybe try these and see what you think? I’d love ANY suggestions and, if you have a malt-chocolate combination pancake recipe that you think is awesome, let me know!

Chocolate Malt Pancakes

(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Yields 10 to 12 pancakes

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups milk

3 tablespoons melted butter (or unflavored oil, such as vegetable or canola)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup malt powder

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Butter for greasing skillet

 

Method:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, malt powder, and cocoa powder to combine.

2. In a separate bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk eggs and milk for three minutes until foamy. You can do this by hand or with a mixer. Add melted butter and whisk again until combined.

3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir gently to combine, taking care not to over mix.

4. Preheat griddle (or cast-iron skillet) over medium heat and let pancake batter sit for 15 minutes to allow it to thicken.

5. Once griddle is preheated and batter rests up, lightly grease skillet with butter. Scoop batter into pan by the ¼ cupful. When bubbles rise to the surface and bottom is lightly browned, about 2 minutes, and flip pancake and cook until other side is lightly browned. Serve pancakes immediately.

If you want to keep pancakes warm, preheat oven to 200 degrees F while preheating skillet and place pancakes on baking sheet, tented with foil, until ready to serve.

 

I’m a regular customer of a certain bookstore in my area; it’s close to my work, close to my friends, and full of books – what more could a girl want (except maybe a book vending machine, but that’s another rant for another time)? It follows that one of my favorite lazy afternoon activities is going to said bookstore and browsing, page after page, cover after cover, until feeling all browsed out.

For the past few months, ever since this cookbook came out, I’ve been flipping through it every time I go to the bookstore. I love everything about it, the photography, the writing, the recipes, and, I’ll repeat for emphasis, the recipes. And, shortly before the book came out, I saw a lot of the same dish from the cookbook in the interwebs. Everyone was making baked oatmeal and raving wildly about it. Every time I saw it on a blog I had to stop myself from drooling and do everything in my power to wriggle free from the cinnamon spiked, warm, berry-filled baked deliciousness that would take hold of my brain. Every time I flipped through the cookbook, on one of my lazy afternoons, I always thought to myself, “why the heck haven’t I made this yet?”

So why the heck haven’t I made this yet, eh? It’s always something, you know. There’s some other breakfast treat that catches my eye right before I make my Breakfast Tuesday decision and it steals the spotlight. Not today, friends. The spotlight is shining directly on baked oatmeal. I’m letting it fully take hold of my brain and taste buds and I finally understand the perseveration and power of this particular breakfast recipe. It’s easy, you have most of the ingredients on hand, and it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a breakfast blankie on a cold day (it may be August, but in Boston it has been cold and gray this entire week, so a breakfast blankie was definitely in order).

 

Baked Oatmeal

(Recipe adapted from Lottie and Doof, from 101 Cookbooks)

Serves 6 to 8, or more if part of a brunch spread

Note: I did not change the recipe but substituted some ingredients for ones that I had on hand. The original recipe calls for more butter in order to pour it on top when finished, but I left out that step. Below is the recipe exactly as I made it and I strongly suggest you click the link above for the original recipe so you can customize it accordingly!

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled, or traditional, oats (not quick cooking)

½ cup walnut pieces, chopped and toasted, separated into two ¼ cup portions

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 cups almond milk

1 egg

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 peach, medium ripe, sliced on the thin side

1 ½ cups cherries, pitted and quartered

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter bottom and sides of an 8 inch baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, sugar, ¼ cup walnuts, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth.

4. Arrange peach slices in a single layer on bottom of baking pan. Sprinkle 2/3 of the cherries evenly over peaches. Cover fruit evenly with oat mixture. Pour liquid ingredients evenly over oats. Drop baking pan on counter a few times to make sure liquid permeates oatmeal layer. Sprinkle rest of cherries and rest of walnuts over top.

5. Bake oatmeal in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is golden and oatmeal has set. (I put the baking pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips because my pan was full to brim with oatmeal goodness.)

6. Let oatmeal cool for 5 to 10 minutes once out of oven. Serve warm with extra butter, syrup, or cream!

I’ve had good luck with storing oatmeal in the fridge and reheating as needed.