Archives for April 2014

Breakfast for Dinner – The Best Pancakes + Easy Toppings

Breakfast for Dinner – The Best Pancakes + Easy Toppings

We’ve had breakfast on the brain all week! Chef J has some great tips to make this a morning or evening meal. So, what are we having, Chef J?

Breakfast is a magical thing. The food we eat in the morning sets us up for the rest of the day. Forget what side of the bed you wake up on; the level of your performance during the sunshiny 12 to 16 hours after cursing the alarm and rubbing the crusties out of your eyes largely depends on what the first thing you put in your tummy is.  A bagel and cream cheese isn’t a bad way to go. A banana for the road? Who are you kidding? A bowl of cereal? C’mon, you’re an adult; Captain Crunch is dinner food! There isn’t always time for a spectacular morning feast, but when there is you must seize it!

That’s why I propose two things.

Thing the first: Plan your breakfast ahead of time.

Do yourself a favor and make breakfast plans the night before when your brain is relatively functional. You know, after your second bowl of Captain Crunch. Your body wants sugar when you wake up; jump start your morning with a piece of fruit or glass of orange juice. But sugar is fleeting. It’s the summer romance of food: everything goes by so fast and when it’s over, your heart hurts. You also need protein of some kind to keep you going throughout the day. It’s the stable relationship of food: it might not always be sweet, but it will keep you from falling asleep with your shoes on. If you want a quick meal to eat in the car, try a banana and a handful of almonds. If you have a bit of time, mix up a couple of eggs with a handful of dinner leftovers in a microwave safe container; zap it for about a minute and a half for a quick omelet. But you’re not here to learn about how to properly ingest your morning nutritional requirements; you’re still going to cram 3 donuts in your face as soon as you get to the office.

So…

Thing the second: Re-purpose breakfast.

As a society, let’s put breakfast where it should be: wherever we darn want it!

Breakfast can be spectacularly comfortable and satisfyingly delicious. The people deserve to ingest it when they have the post-morning cognizance to enjoy it! Take back breakfast, my brothers and sisters! Fly your bacon banners! The streets will flow with syrup! Our revolution will not be over-easy!

In other words: make pancakes for dinner.

So often food tries to explain how wonderful it is with elegantly simple descriptions (see: meatball). If you say “pancake” nice and slow, you might see it. Pancake. Pan cake. Pan CAKE. It’s CAKE!!! Cake you can eat whenever you want! What a world we live in!

Here is my favorite pancake recipe, with some suggestions for alterations that may sway it more towards your particular fancy. As well, whip up a few toppings and put out a spread. And while we’re on the topping topic, the ingredients for maple syrup should read “maple syrup.” If you see “high fructose…” or “flavoring” on the back of the bottle of pancake sauce, throw it on the floor in a sensational act of defiance! Or just put it back on the shelf and reach for the real, pure maple syrup instead, if you don’t want to join me in the breakfast revolt.

Pancakes

  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz. milk
  • 2 oz. sour cream
  • 2 oz. melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Butter for the pan

Whisk the eggs, milk, and sour cream for about 2-3 minutes so it gets nice and frothy.
Mix in the vanilla and melted butter.
Sift the dry ingredients together.
Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Don’t over mix! Let it be lumpy.
Heat your griddle to medium or medium low.
Grease the griddle with butter and scoop about half a cup of batter on. Start with one test cake to make sure the griddle is at the right temperature.
After a couple of minutes, bubbles will begin to break through the top. That’s the sign to flip your cake (don’t be nervous!) and give it about another 1½ minutes.

That’s it. That’s pancakes! If you want to get a little crazy…

  • Replace a tablespoon of flour with cocoa powder.
  • Add a pinch of nutmeg, clove, cardamom, lavender, or cinnamon. Or any combination of those.
  • Throw a handful of chocolate chips in before cooking!
  • Leave out the vanilla and sugar. After you flip the cakes sprinkle some cheddar or American cheese on top of half of them, then top with another pancake. Pancake grilled cheese!!!

Easy toppings

  • 1½  cups water
  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • ½ cup sugar (or honey or maple syrup or agave…) or to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp water

Bring all of the ingredients, except cornstarch slurry, to a boil.
Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5-8 minutes until the fruit begins to break down.
Taste for sweetness. Careful! It’s hot.
Add the cornstarch slurry and mix well.
Let it simmer for another minute to thicken.
Boom! You got sauce.

To make it match your cakes…

  • Try a splash of lemon juice when using blueberries.
  • Add a tsp of cardamom and/or lavender when using strawberries.
  • Replace some or all of the water with Chardonnay when using peaches.
  • Add a tsp of vanilla any time!
  • Remember that everything is better with whipped cream or a big scoop of ice cream!

Printer friendly recipes: Pancakes and Toppings

Easter Celebration – Deviled Egg Chicks and Carrot Smoothies

Easter Celebration – Deviled Egg Chicks and Carrot Smoothies

With Easter right around the corner, Chef J is sharing some fantastically fun recipes for your enjoyment. His Deviled Chicks are appropriately twee for our pastel-themed celebrations, but the Carrot-Ginger Smoothie has a zip that will snap you right out of your candy-colored dreams. The Easter Bunny has requested we all start leaving one out for him the night before; it’s not fair that Santa gets all the midnight snacks! So, Chef J, why don’t you hop on over (see what I did there?) and share your treats!

National Deviled Egg Day might not be until November 2nd,  but I just can’t wait that long. Luckily there is another holiday on the calendar that prominently features these delightful little egg-filled eggs. Easter, some could argue, is the far superior holiday.

Easter not only plays host to eggs of the deviled variety, but provides a welcoming table for all manner of ova.

It’s also a fantastic excuse to eat chocolate by the basket! Everything feels nice and fresh; spring is blossoming all around us, there are pictures of bunnies everywhere, people are dressed in pastel. Oh yeah, and baskets full of chocolate! How can you not have a good time on Easter?
There are a few tricks to help your eggery go smoothly. Some maybe you know, some maybe you don’t.

  • Don’t use fresh eggs! The fresher the egg is, the more the shell will stick when you’re trying to peel it. For easy to peel eggs you want to use eggs that are about a week to ten days old.
  • Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water before you start cooking. This is an old trick that will help the peels come loose more easily, leaving you with a clean, smooth egg.
  • Soak them in ice water for 30-45 minutes before peeling. The shells are porous so they will let a bit of water in, reducing the amount of suction power the shell will have. Cold eggs are also easier to peel.

Deviled Egg Chicks

  • 12 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • large bowl of ice water
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 TBS mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (this is optional and can be replaced with Dijon mustard if you don’t like it hot)
  • 1 dill pickle, finely chopped (save a few pieces for the eyes, or use black olives)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A few little pieces of carrot for beaks

Place the eggs and baking soda in a large pot of cold water. Make sure the eggs are covered by about one inch of water.
Bring the pot to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover the pot and remove it from the heat.
Let the eggs sit in the hot water, covered, for 8 minutes.
Remove the eggs and place them in the ice water. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Gently crack the egg all the way around and begin peeling the shell away carefully.
Using a small paring knife, cut straight across the very bottom of the egg so that it sits flat, then cut a zig-zag pattern through the whites of the eggs about two thirds of the way up.
Pull off the top and gently squeeze the yolk out. Repeat with all eggs.
Egg
Mix the remaining ingredients, including the white part that you cut off the bottom, in a small bowl.
Blend it all together with a fork and season to taste. If you want a smoother texture you can push the yolks through a mesh strainer first.
Spoon the mixture (or pipe with a pastry bag) into the egg white bases and place the caps back on top.
Use the little pieces of pickle that you saved (or black olive) to make the eyes. Cut tiny triangles out of the carrot and place those in as the beak.

The result should look like a baby chick popping out of your shell (but you might need to practice on a few and use your imagination!).

easter chicks

And to wash down these delightful little chickies, a smoothie the Easter Bunny would be proud of!
Carrot Ginger Smoothie

  • 12 oz. almond milk carrot smoothie for easter
  • 2 medium carrots, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger, chopped
  • ¾ cup frozen strawberries
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1 cup ice

If you have a heavy duty blender, like a Vitamix, just throw everything in and blend away!
If you don’t, you can use 4 oz. carrot juice or just chop the carrots up very small.
Blend to your desired consistency.
Makes about 2 – 16 oz. smoothies.

Printer friendly recipes: Easter Recipes

 

Caring for Your Butcher Block

Caring for Your Butcher Block

Although my family in the Midwest would beg to differ, according to the calendar, spring has sprung.  Given I like to stick to a schedule, it IS time to at least talk about spring cleaning tips. Maybe it will even help the weather get on board!

Whether you have a traditional end-grain butcher block, a butcher block countertop, or the more portable cutting board version, caring for your butcher block is critical. Because butcher block is used in food preparation, maintaining a clean and sanitized block will help to keep your family healthy.

Given the cost of butcher block can be significant, caring for your butcher block now will protect your investment for years to come.

EVERYDAY MAINTENANCE:

  • Scrape – Remove any remaining food particles with a scraper or spatula.
  • Wash – Wipe the surface clean with a washcloth dipped in hot water and mild soap (do not soak wood in water). Rinse washcloth and wipe again.
  • Dry – Using a paper towel or dish towel, dry surface thoroughly between uses. Store cutting boards on edge to dry completely and save counter space.

BEST PRACTICES:

  • Separate your food – To avoid cross-contamination, designate one cutting board to be used for fresh produce and a second board for raw meats.
  • Wipe up spills – Always wipe up liquid spills immediately to avoid penetrating board or leaving stains.
  • Remove odors – Sprinkle table salt on board, quarter a lemon and rub the lemon into the salt across the board, squeezing the juice out as you rub. Let stand for 2-3 minutes. Wipe clean with warm water.
  • Sanitize – As frequently as required, clean your butcher block using a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to water. Wipe clean and dry.
  • Oil – Once a month apply a food-safe mineral oil (never vegetable oil) like Boos Mystery Oil to penetrate and moisturize the wood. Then apply Boos Beeswax Board Cream to help seal in the moisture.

caring for butcher block with oil

caring for your butcher block with cream

Do you have any butcher block that has been neglected? All will be forgiven after a nice oily massage!