Monday, February 23, 2009

Fat Tuesday's Pancakes

We don't have a tradition of celebrating Fat Tuesday, but it was a good chance to have breakfast for supper. :o)

When I was in high school, I worked as a waitress/hostess at the Village Inn Pancake House out on the I-80/Hwy 81 interchange. It was there that I first tasted real maple syrup. I worked ther for four and a half years, and it took several years after that before I could stand the thought of eating pancakes or smelling maple syrup again. I will admit that VI has THE BEST pancakes of anyplace. I've never tried to replicate them, but can tell you that the secret to their lightness is whipped egg whites. Oh, and I only buy real maple syrup.

Once the kids were born, I started making Bisquick pancakes. After having the best pancakes of anyplace, these left a lot to be desired. Eventually I dug out the Betty Crocker cookbook I purchased a few weeks after we were married, and started making them from scratch. They were much better than Bisquick.

Several years ago when I started changing many of our foods to the muli or whole grain versions, and started using this variation of the BC pancake recipe. They're a bit denser than regular pancakes, really soak up the syrup, and are especially good with chopped pecans in the middle.

Oatmeal Pancakes (I call them multi-grain...)

1 egg

1/2 C quick cooking oats (I've also used regular oats and it was fine)

1/2 C whole wheat flour

3/4 C milk

2 TBS veg oil

1 TBS honey

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Beat egg w/ mixer til fluffy; beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth. Grease heated griddle if necessary. (I use a cast iron skillet, but I do spray it the first time w/ cooking spray.)

Pour batter onto hot griddle and cook until puffed and dry around the edges. If adding fruit or nuts, sprinkle them on as soon as you pour the batter.

Turn and cook other side until golden brown.

Most usually when I make these, I at least double the recipe (it triples and quadruples well, too) and cool, then freeze the leftover pancakes, 2 to a freezer zipper bag. They reheat in the toaster or microwave quite nicely.

Serve with real maple syrup. (Really - it's worth the cost.)

Menu Monday

This morning I prepped everything for supper tonight, so all I had to do was grill the chicken, saute the veggies, and warm the tortillas.
Monday - chicken fajitas, homemade refried beans
Fajita marinade (printed from Allrecipes in 2001):
1/4 Cup lime juice
1/3 Cup water
2 TBS. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 dashes liquid smoke
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (this time I used a dried chipotle pepper instead)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a zipper bag. Add meat and store in refrigerator overnight, or at least 2 hours. I've used this with beef, chicken, and shrimp.

Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) - whole grain pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage patties
Wednesday - Cube steaks w/ onion gravy, baked potato, green salad, ciabatta buns
Thursday - Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, steamed broccoli, mandarin oranges, garlic bread
Friday - Homemade mac 'n cheese, grilled chicken, green beans, pears

Friday, February 20, 2009

Valentine's Day Dessert

As promised, here is the recipe for the dessert I made to finish our Valentine's Day supper. A couple of years ago we went on a cruise where we were treated to gourmet dining each evening in the dining room. Since six of us went together on the cruise, we each ordered something different each evening, and then passed plates around to share. (Yeah, it was gourmet dining and we were passing plates around. You can take us out of the prairie, but...)
Anyway, this dessert was inspired by one we had on the ship. I didn't order it since the title of it had something to do with espresso. I don't drink coffee, and don't normally enjoy coffee-flavored food. Greg did order this dessert, though, and gobbled down the entire thing himself. He refused to let me have a taste. Leslie let me have a bite of hers. After all, we were there to experience new things, so I took a chance. I fell in love. That's when I looked to Greg to share his portion, and he moved his dish away from me and said, "No." No amount of pouting would change his mind. I came home and started a search for this yummy treat, and here's what I found at the Epcurious website. No espresso, but it's pretty close to what we had.
(I halved the recipe; my notes will be in red.)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Phyllo Purses
Bon Appétit March 2001
Each elegant phyllo "purse" contains a flourless brownie topped with peanut butter and chocolate ganache.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Flourless chocolate brownies:
9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
Chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 teaspoons sugar
6 17x13-inch sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla ice cream
For brownies:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
Line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
(I used an 8x8" pan)

Melt chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl until thick and pale. Stir chocolate mixture into yolk mixture.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.
Carefully fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.

Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Press down edges until even with middle of brownies. Cool completely. Using 2 1/4-inch-diameter cookie cutter, cut out 12 rounds. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.) (I just cut them into squares.)

For ganache:
Bring 1/4 cup whipping cream and vanilla extract to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.
Remove from heat.
Add chopped chocolate and whisk until completely melted.
Refrigerate ganache until firm, about 1 hour. (Ganache can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Lightly butter rimmed baking sheet.
Stir peanut butter and 4 teaspoons sugar in small bowl to blend.
Cut each phyllo sheet in half crosswise to form twelve 13x81/2-inch strips. Place 1 phyllo strip vertically on work surface. Brush with melted butter. Place second phyllo strip horizontally across first, forming cross; brush with butter.
Stack 2 brownies in center of pastry. Top brownies with 1 tablespoon ganache, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter mixture. Gather ends of phyllo strips together over brownies to form purse. Twist ends closed. (I had a little trouble with my phyllo tearing, so I didn't get to make them into a "purse". When I made these last time, it worked great and looks really neat.)
Brush purse with melted butter and place on prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining ingredients to form total of 6 purses. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve with ice cream.
These freeze nicely. I just thaw them before baking.
I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of the inside of the "purse" after baking. We gobbled them down too quickly. :o) The phyllo is crispy and chewy, the brownies just sort of melt with the ganache and the peanut butter. The first time I made these, I omitted the peanut butter, and I don't think they were any better or any worse. You decide if you want it or not.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Handy Tip

I've been making our own bread the past few weeks using the bread machine. The kind I like to buy was approaching $3.50 a loaf, and I don't care how much fiber it has per slice, that is just ridiculous. So I dug out the bread machine (was going to shorten that to b.m., but that just looked wrong...) and found the recipe booklet that came with it, and got busy. Actually, you don't have to get very busy to use the bread machine, but you know what I mean.
However, I prefer to get it going asap when I decide to make a loaf, so I'll tell you what I did as a shortcut. On Friday morning (during the 40-hundred inches snowstorm) I put a loaf in the machine to bake, then while I had the mess on the counter, I made up "kits" of the dry ingredients in quart-sized zipper bags. Now all I have to do for the next seven loaves I bake is grab a zipper bag, add my wet stuff, butter, and yeast, and I'm set.
Here you can see I went ahead and poured my flours, dry milk, and salt into bowls to make it easier to scoop. (The yeast is sitting there, but I put it away before assembling the rest of the ingredients. Oh, and pay no attention to the balsamic vinegars and olive oil in the background. That's just where they live.)
Here's a handy tip-within-a-tip: when you want to fill baggies and not make a mess, put the bag down into a container, then fold the top of the bag down over the edge. You can fill it up, fold the top up, pull it out of the container, and zip closed without having stuff all over the top. Here, I've filled it and folded the top back up. Make sure you squeeze all the extra air out of your bag while zipping it closed, too.
Make sure you label the bags in case someone else in your household gets the breadbaking bug and wants to help out. What? It could happen...
The filled bags are packed into a plastic container and stored in the pantry cupboard in the kitchen. You could store them in the freezer for long-term storage, but make sure the ingredients have come to room temperature before you assemble your recipe.
My particular recipe calls for 1 1/2 C bread flour, 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 TBS. brown sugar (packed), and 1 1/2 TBS. dry milk. Those are the ingredients I put into the bags. Then when I'm ready to bake I put 8 oz. +1 TBS warm water and 1 TBS. honey into the pan, pour the contents of the baggie on top of that, dot 2 TBS. of butter into the corners, and put 2 tsp. of yeast in the center.
Very little mess and I just tuck away the empty baggie for the next time I make up the "kits".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Dinner

As promised, Greg grilled a rib eye steak and some sea scallops for our Valentine's Day dinner. As a little "something extra", he sprinkled some crumbled Maytag blue cheese atop the steak. It added a little creamy sharpness and tang to the meat that went well with the garlic mashed potatoes. Maytag is a very strong cheese, so a little bit went a long way.
The scallops were perfectly done, still tender and moist.
We split the steak and divvied up the scallops - but I don't think I got quite half of either...
Our wine was a merlot from Canyon Oaks, California. I can't find a website for the vineyard, but there are lots of positive reviews for their wines. This was a bottle that was given to Greg by a vendor from work. It's not an expensive wine, but it was very good. Lots of fullness and flavor.

Dessert was labor-intensive, but delicious, and of course, chocolate. Check back later this week for that one - it's worth the wait. :o)