Friday, June 20, 2014

Lazy Saturday Morning Pancakes

I have tried many a pancake recipe. I have been many a time disappointed. That is, until I finally have the perfect basic buttermilk pancake recipe! They are fluffy, light, tasty, easily altered (add in your favorite fruit!), super quick and require only basic ingredients.

So tomorrow, as you pull yourself out of bed, do yourself a favor and make a batch of these for your Saturday morning. You won't be disappointed. You won't be out of energy from cooking. You'll be full and ready for whatever Saturday has for you.
Best, Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes approximately 12 regular sized or 30 small pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk (or you can use regular milk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice mixed in...let it sit for a few minutes)
2 Tbsp oil (or melted butter)
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a large mixing bowl stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together
2. In a medium mixing bowl mix together egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla; mix well
3. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork JUST until there are no large areas of unmixed flour. Batter should be lumpy. Don't over mix or you'll have flat pancakes.
4. In a large non-stick skillet, lightly butter the skillet over med-low heat and pour approx 1/4 c batter for each pancake. Allow pancakes to bubble up on top before flipping over.
5. Flip. Cook for a few minutes on second side. Remove from skillet and serve with butter, syrup and fresh fruit.

ENJOY. Now go forth with your lazy morning.

Cinnamon Roll Face-off

While I was making 2 versions of lemon icebox pie, I decided I should surprise Senor with homemade cinnamon rolls Sunday morning for Father's Day. I have a recipe I've used for several years and it is great, but I was curious if there were any recipes that might be better!  So, in true me fashion...I could only narrow it down to two recipes.

I don't have great pictures of either recipe because they were GONE! I made 2 pans of each recipe and froze 1 pan of each for later. I had a few scrap pieces left from each batch that were left in the fridge to bake the next day but, they weren't pretty at all; tasted divine, but not pretty.

Both recipes were similar in complexity. One requires you to proof the yeast first before adding dry ingredients. One requires you to mix the yeast in with the dry ingredients. I much prefer the previous method in my yeast dough.

Recipe #1: Culinary Couture

Recipe #2: Averie Cooks
The only alteration I made to either one was I added 1 tsp of vanilla to each with the wet ingredients.

I prepared both sets of rolls & icings on Saturday, covered them, refrigerated them until Sunday morning. I let them sit out for about an hour Sunday morning and baked them both at 350F for about 15-17 min; just until they were turning light brown. I iced both sets and we had a very critical taste-testing!

the verdict? Culinary Couture was by far the better cinnamon roll. Both were extremely sweet, the filling could easily by decreased on both! But honestly, can you ever really have a bad cinnamon roll?

Meringue, Icebox or just plain Lemon Pie

Whatever you call it, which ever way you prefer it, lemon pie is the perfect cool, tart treat for summer!  I remember growing up we always had Edwards' lemon meringue pies at family events. I loved the tart, smooth filling but ALWAYS peeled off the meringue topping. It was like eating some form of flotsam to me. The texture was just wrong.

This past weekend we were meeting as a family to celebrate Father's Day and to do a little praying for my grandmother. I asked my Pawpaw what kind of cake he would like for Father's Day.  He quietly replied he wasn't really a big fan of cake.  He's so funny. He finally mentioned that he really liked lemon icebox pie and he hadn't had a homemade one in years. I told him I'd do what I could to see that request through.
My first step in researching recipes was to try and determine the difference between icebox and meringue pies...appears that meringue pies used the leftover egg whites to make the meringue on top, while icebox pies don't necessarily have a topping, other than whipped cream.  Other than that, I really couldn't pinpoint a huge difference. I looked through about 50 recipes and determined it boiled down to 2 main methods: 1) make a custard-like filling on the stove or 2) a filling mix you bake then chill.

I really wasn't sure which vibe my Pawpaw was going for in his lemon pie so I decided I'd make 1 of each genre to determine which would be my go-to recipe. Read on for the verdict!

For both pies I made a basic graham crust:
(for two 9 inch pie crusts)
1   14-oz box Graham crackers, crushed
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
12 Tablespoons butter (1.5 sticks), super soft
mini vanilla wafers, optional

1. Preheat oven 350F
2. In a food processor, process graham crackers until they're very fine, like sand; you should approximately 4 cups of crumbs
3. Transfer graham cracker crumbs to a large bowl
4. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well, the mixture should look wet and clump together nicely.
5. Divide mixture and place 1/2 into each 9 inch pie pan. Press it out, up along the sides evenly. You can press mini vanilla wafers into the top edge of the pie crusts.
6. Bake 8-10 min, until fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For Pie #1 I used Dana's recipe over at Dana Made It.
The only alteration I made was I used 1/2 & 1/2 instead of milk.
The mixture took quite a while to thicken up. It did eventually after probably 20-30min of stirring constantly. It had a nice pudding like texture to it.  I am not sure about the sour cream mixed in, it certainly didn't taste terrible but I wonder about mixing in greek yogurt or whipped cream instead.

For Pie #2 I used Life Love Sugar's Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe.
It came together very easily and baked up perfectly. I made no alterations. The texture was so smooth and delicious!

I topped both with simple whipped cream with a bit of vanilla and powdered sugar added. I did add non-flavored gelatin so that it would maintain it's shape and texture better, longer.

So the verdict?  Most people preferred the baked one. It was almost completely gone before even 1/2 of the non-baked one was eaten.  That's why I only have actual pie pictures of the no-bake. I forgot to take pictures until the next day!

Both were very delicious and it was very difficult, at times, for me to determine my preferred pie; they were both honestly, so yummy.

The stove top one definitely took more time but was not any more complex than the baked pie.

One word of caution, if you choose to make the baked pie, do not place any sort of wrapping over the top once it has cooled or you'll mare the beautiful, perfectly smooth surface!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pumpkin Oats

I wrote a while back about my obsession with slow-cooker steel cut oats. I ran out of apples and cranberries a few weeks back and REALLY wanted some more oatmeal. I remembered I'd come across "Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal" and had a few packs of frozen pumpkin puree from the fall left in my freezer just begging to be used. This version is so scumptious and has the added benefit of some vegetable involvement!

This makes a nice large vat of oatmeal and makes approximately 20 muffins worth if you are planning to use your muffin tin to freeze it in small batches.  (so for me this is 10 days worth of breakfast!) So just think, a few minutes of effort, a few hours of patience and you have a healthy, hearty, quick breakfast for TEN days! I found that I really liked mine topped with some sprinkled cinnamon, a tiny sprinkle of plain white sugar (like less then 1/4 tsp), a small bit of butter and dark chocolate chips!

2 c steel cut oats
6 c water
2 c skim milk (you can alter the ratio of milk and water a bit if you want more calcium)
28 oz canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
2 -3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves or allspice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Spray your slow cooker dish well with non-stick spray
2. Add all the ingredients, stir it up
3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until oats are done

To freeze, spray muffin tin well with non-stick spray, fill each tin with oatmeal mixture (fully cooked), allow to cool and them place it in the freezer for a few hours. When it's frozen, remove the pan from the freezer, carefully run warm water over the back of the muffin tin pan to loosen the "muffins" and pop them out, place them in a large ziplock bag, place them all in the freezer. When ready to eat, remove desired amount of "muffins" and place them in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 3-4 min or until fully heated. Stir and top as desired.

Chicken Meatballs & Stir Fry

So a while back it was determined that Senor was having some major issues with red meat and pork. For me, this was not a big deal...I was vegetarian for a while before we met and dated. For Senor, this was awful. So we've been eating alot more meatless meals and trying to find ways to adapt some of our recipes so we can keep eating them!

In the midst of recipe hunting and meal planning I came across these "meatballs" at the grocery store one day. They are tasty and so quick to toss into the oven, steam some broccoli and carrots, make some black rice...slice up some red pepper...delicious and QUICK!

We splash on some rice vinegar and a little teriyaki sauce/marinade and it's such a kid-friendly, tasty, healthy little dinner it's been in our rotation at least once a week for the past month.

Tomato Basil Soup and other easy recipes

A few weeks ago, it was cold, I was tired, & the groceries were running low. It was dinner time. What to do, what to do. I wanted soup. I wanted a sandwich. The thought of Nordstrom Cafe's tomato basil soup came to mind. MMMmmmmm. In that instant, I knew what had to be done.
I went scavenging for a recipe that didn't require cream or weird items. I came across this recipe and used it (modified) to create some very quick, yummy soup. Add a delicious ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwich on 5 grain bread and dinner was served!

Pantry Tomato Basil Soup:
1 cup onion, chopped (I used frozen)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 c low sodium chicken stock/broth
2 28-oz can of tomatoes in some form, I used one of crushed tomatoes and 1 of whole stewed really doesn't matter too much
2-4 Tbsp dried basil (the recipe called for fresh but my basil plant wasn't up to the job yet)
2 tbsp dried parmesan
1 c milk (skim, 2% or whole)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt (optional)

Topping: shredded parmesan cheese and bread croutons

1. Sautee onions in oil over med-high heat 3-5 min
2. Add in garlic and stir for another 3 min
3. Add in chicken broth, tomatoes and basil
4. Simmer for 20-30 min on low (I think I did this for maybe 10 min... I was lazy and impatient)
5. Dump it into a blender or food processor (work in batches if you need to); blend for 4-8 min until it's all smooth and creamy
6. Dump the smooth soup mix back into the stock pot. 
7. Stir in the milk and bring the soup back to a low simmer, add salt & pepper to taste
8.  Top with cheese, fresh olive oil and croutons

And here are some other recipes I've tried recently that went together pretty quickly and were yummy!
1. Roasted Asparagus Tomato Pasta with Goat Cheese...delicious. I loved the goat cheese and roasted asparagus
2. Banana Bread Waffles. If you have super ripe 'nanas sitting around this is a great way to use them up! I made a huge double batch, froze the leftover waffles and we've had them for breakfast a few days.
3. Carrot Cake mixer required. Does require some elbow grease for shreddin those carrots. I don't have any cutesy pictures.
1 c all purpose flour, unbleached
1 c whole white wheat flour
1/2-3/4 c sugar (I lean towards the 1/2 c)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice (optional)
1/4 tsp cloves (optional)
1/2 c oil
1/2 c applesauce--the no sugar added kind (or plain greek yogurt)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 c finely shredded carrots
1 c raisins
3/4 c chopped nuts (I recommend pecans or walnuts)
1 c very well drained crushed pineapple

1. Preheat the oven 350F, line muffin tin with muffin liners. shred carrots and drain pineapple, set it all aside
2. In large mixing bowl mix together all dry ingredients (flours, sugar, soda, powder, spices)
3. In a medium bowl mix together oil, applesauce, eggs, vanilla
4. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir well. Add in carrots, raisins, nuts, and pineapple, stir well
5. Plop approx 1/4-1/3 c mixture into each muffin container.
6. Bake 20-25 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean

You can top them with plain cream cheese (Publix makes a vanilla cream cheese flavor that is PERFECT!) or you can whip some cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla together. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The BEST Vegetarian Enchiladas

These enchiladas are a modified version of several recipes. And they are THE BEST black bean and avocado enchiladas, EVER. They also come together so quickly.

Seriously, whip some out for dinner, you won't be disappointed.  And don't panic...yes, the sauce is from-scratch, but it's so easy and quick. Just go with it, it's worth it.
3 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp APF
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1-2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 c chicken broth (or water...the broth is better)
1 c tomato sauce (canned, plain tomato sauce...check the canned tomato section)
1/4 tsp salt, pepper (or as desired for flavor...I didn't add either)

1  28-oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
1  15-oz can Goya black bean soup
2-3 med, ripe avocados, diced
3-5 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (extra for garnish)
2 c corn, canned (rinsed/drained) OR frozen (I used frozen)
30-40 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved OR 2-3 regular tomatoes, diced
6 oz plain cream cheese (or 8 oz if you are feeling generous and don't want that aggravating 2 measly ounces hanging around your fridge)
8 oz shredded mexican melting queso (or mexican blend...whatever floats your boat), divided
1-2 c cooked rice (optional) OR cooked quinoa
sour cream, garnish
lime wedges, garnish
lettuce, chopped (garnish)

20 fajita size tortillas, corn or flour.

1. Sauce prep: In a small sauce pan, on med heat, whisk together EVOO, APF and chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and oregano. Whisk continually on med-hi heat for 1-2 min while mixture is bubbling.
2. Gradually, carefully, whisk in 2 c chicken broth, careful not get lumps. Add in 1 c tomato sauce. Whisk all together well. Allow to come to a simmer and simmer for 5-10 min until desired thickness. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F
1. In a large bowl mix together black beans, goya soup, avocados, cilantro, 4 oz cheese, corn, tomatoes, and cream cheese. Mix it all together until cream cheese has been totally incorporated.
2. Divide mixture among tortillas (approx 1/3 c per enchilada) and 2 Tbsp of rice (if desired), roll them up, lay them seam-side down in a sprayed 9x13 pan.
3. Pour the sauce over the entire pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top.
4. Bake in the oven for 20-30 min until bubbly and heated through.
5. Serve with fresh chopped cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, chopped lettuce