Sunday, December 9, 2012

christmas wishes 2012

chad thinks i need to prioritize, so here's some helplful hints to anyone whose asked about christmas gift ideas this year!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Thank you to eHappyHome for the image.

I'm not generally obsessed with pancakes. But lots of people are, so I want to be good at them. Nothing worse than rubbery/too thick/too dense/burnt/wet-middle things. This holds true, generally, for all my food preference. Except burnt bacon. Which I LOVE. Am I RIGHT?! Yes.

Onward.


Tips for Better Pancakes: AKA Don't Be A Slouch In The Kitchen.

First off, for you pioneers who think they can skip ahead without fear: let me just get this out in the open on the front end:

To add something extra to your pancakes, sprinkle chocolate chips, granola or bits of fruit over the batter after you have ladled it onto your pan. This evenly distributes the tidbits and makes it less likely that they will stick to the pan and burn.


Okay. Let's talk mixes. You want to use Bisquik? Fine. Don't be ashamed of yourself. Just please eat some fruit and try to choose non-processed food as much as possible. This is my favorite, made my my hero - the Jewish Martha Stewart, Ina Garten. (oh, and thanks to Obviously Omnivore for the beautiful pics and wit. That's why I linked to her post rather than the food network. But let's be straight: it's Ina's Recipe. My hero.

First, combine dry ingredients thoroughly, breaking up lumps either by sifting them together or by stirring them well with a whisk. Thoughts: if you're reading this post, then you're most likely just like me and the clumps in dry ingredients inherently drive you crazy. Kindred spirits! (or you're related to me. Hi mom.)

Next, combine all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Don't skip this step. Don't skip this step with anything that uses both wet and dry ingredients, by the by.

Then pour the two wet ingredients into the dry. Stir gently, just enough to mix the dry ingredients. Over-mixing leads to tough pancakes because the gluten in the flour begins to develop as soon as liquid touches it, and the more you mix, the tougher the gluten becomes. Don't worry about lumps in the batter. And you know this is fine when it's coming from a lump-worrier like myself.

Light & Fluffy Hot Cakes

1. Give your pancakes the airy texture of soufflés and meringues by borrowing the technique that gives them their cloudlike consistency: beaten egg whites.

Using the number of eggs called for in the recipe, separate the yolks from the whites. Mix the egg yolks with the rest of the wet ingredients, following recipe instructions. Combine with the dry ingredients to make the batter. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold the beaten whites into the batter and cook the pancakes immediately.

2. Or try replacing some or all of the liquid in your recipe with a carbonated beverage (plain or flavored seltzer water, beer, cider, ginger ale) to make your pancakes very light and tender. Add the carbonation just before you're ready to pour the pancake batter on the griddle.

3. This next trick works with any batter that includes double-acting baking powder: Mix the batter and let it rest in the refrigerator for several minutes, or even overnight. This allows the gluten to relax so the pancakes will be tender, and lets the baking powder form bubbles in the batter. After the batter rests, do not stir it or the bubbles will deflate. I got this trick from a third party and have never tried it, but it seems very-professional-cook-like.



How to Cook a Pancake

Preheat your griddle, heavy-bottomed nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet to 375 degrees F (185 degrees C) or until a drop of water skitters across the pan. Can I make a note here about non-stick pans? Please don't buy cheap ones. They're terrible. You should be spending $50+ on a good non-stick. Just buy one good 10-12 inch pan and use it exclusively when you need non-stick. Hopefully I don't have to make a PSA about teflon flaking off and poisoning your body. Okay.

Lightly coat the hot pan with vegetable oil, cooking spray, or margarine (regular butter burns too quickly).

Do a test run with one sacrificial pancake and adjust the temperature up or down as needed. If your pancake is scorched on the outside and raw on the inside, turn down the heat. You only need to do this once. When you know your materials, you just repeat what you know. No other pancakes should be harmed in the making of this breakfast.

When you're satisfied that you've reached the perfect pan temperature, ladle in as many pools of batter as your pan will comfortably hold, leaving a little room between pancakes for comfortable flipping. I'm a bad flipper, so I say: no shame! Better to have your pancakes turn out great than to have them all run together and break apart during the flip.

Also, this is a great tool: Flexible Spatula.


Oh: Don’t Press Your Pancake

A pancake is ready to be turned over when it's dry around the edges and bubbles have formed over the top. You are allowed to peek to see if the bottom is golden brown before you flip it. While you're waiting impatiently for the second side to cook, resist the impulse to press down the pancake with your spatula. Pressing will not cook it any faster, but will undo all the effort you've made to achieve fluffy, light, perfect pancakes.


Waiting is the Hardest Part. Pancakes are best eaten fresh from the griddle so you can enjoy their crispy, fluffy goodness. This may mean serving them a few at a time. If you absolutely must keep the pancakes waiting, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them, uncovered, in a warm oven. Never stack or cover them--the steam makes them soggy.


To add some fun to the breakfast table, use a turkey baster to squeeze batter into designs, initials and other fun shapes. Pour batter into nonstick pancake molds or oiled metal cookie cutters for extra fancy forms. Butter and syrup are classic toppings, but try jam, honey, nut butter, lemon juice, powdered sugar, whipped cream or fresh fruit. Better yet, set up a pancake condiment buffet and let everyone build their own. Go crazy. Check me out on Pinterest to see some great ideas!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

White People Problems: Finding the Perfect Hot Chocolate Mix


Image Courtesy of Magic Beans.

Maybe you know this about me, maybe you don't: I'm a fiend for hot chocolate. I like coffee, too, but with so much cream and sugar that - let's face it - I'm no favorite among the coffee elite. (note: WHY are there coffee elitests?!)

Historically, I'm a Nestle Quik girl. If anyone over at Nestle wants to send me a ton of product for review, I can say with confidence that I'm ready to say good things about you. It's nostalgic, for one; I've been drinking their hot chocolate mix since I was a little girl. It was practically the only sugary thing I was allowed to have as a child. In fact, I used to eat it straight (dunked in milk.)

No judgement: some of you ate BUTTER. Or Worse. So I don't want to hear it. (Truth is, I thought I was pretty strange, myself, until I saw Charlize Theron's character do it in the not-so-classic "Sweet November." Sweet vindication. If Charlize does it, it can't be wrong!*)

Anyway.

Hot chocolate is an every morning thing. Sometimes the afternoon, too. And for those of you who also buy organic milk at $5/gallon, I don't have to tell you that going through milk at that rate gets pricey. But water-based hot chocolate is for people who accept weakness. I am not one of those people.

So, I give you: My Mother In Law's Famous Hot Chocolate Recipe That's Great Made With Water!!

Enjoy.

8 cups of powdered milk
1 lb. box powdered sugar
1 lb. of nestle quik - (yes!)
1 lb. dried coffee creamer (I like vanilla flavored Coffee Mate.)
Get an enormous container and mix it well.

Three tablespoons per mug of hot water and you have solved a problem that most people in the world will never have time to worry about!

Thanks, Mom.

Love, Erin



* More of what White People Think.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Obviously a Diet isn't in my January Resolutions

Think I'll Try:

Copycat Recipe for
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY LOUISIANA CHICKEN PASTA

Cajun Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
4 tablespoons julienned basil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper

Pasta
1 package bow-tie pasta, cooked according to package directions
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for serving

Chicken
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/4 inch thick

1. Do ahead: Make the Cajun sauce by sautéing the yellow and red peppers, onion, garlic, and pepper flakes in the butter. Add the cream and chicken broth. Bring to a quick boil then lower the heat and simmer until reduced by one cup. Add the basil, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer a few minutes more, until all ingredients are combined. Set aside or refrigerate in a covered container and gently reheat the sauce when ready to use.

2. To make the chicken breasts, combine the bread crumbs, flour, and Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl. Put the milk in a separate bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Dip each breast in the bread crumb mixture, then in the milk, and one more time in the crumbs, pressing gently to make sure the crumbs stick. Sauté until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Keep each breast warm until all are done.

3. To serve, toss the cooked pasta with the Cajun sauce, ladle into individual bowls, and top with a chicken breast. Garnish with a little more Parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 6

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012

And it begins!

In every new beginning is some other beginning's end...

Friday, October 14, 2011

While I'm On The Subject Of Cooking



I've just gotten an old cast-iron pan (this is going to be great for the fall...hello cornbread, flapjacks, and seared steak!). However, there's a whole method to treating this pan right, and I didn't realize it!

#For crusty cast ironware that you inherited or picked up at a garage sale: Your cookware may have some combination of rust and thick crackly black crud. It can be restored fairly easily to good as new condition! First place the cookware in a self-cleaning oven and run one cycle OR place in a campfire or directly on a hot charcoal fire for 1/2 hour, until dull red. The crust will be flaking, falling and turning to white ash. Then, after allowing to cool a bit to avoid cracking your cast iron,use the following steps. If you have more rust than crust, try using steel wool to sand it off.

#Wash your cast iron cookware with warm water and soap using a scouring pad. If you have purchased your cast iron cookware as new then it will be coated in oil or a similar coating to prevent rust. This will need to be removed before seasoning so this step is essential.

#Dry the cookware thoroughly, it helps to put the pan in the oven for a few minutes to make sure it's really dry. Oil needs to be able to soak into the metal for a good seasoning and oil and water don't mix.

#Coat the pot or pan inside and out with lard, Crisco, bacon fat, or corn oil. Ensure that the lid is also coated.

#Place both the lid and the pot or pan upside down in your oven at 300F for at least an hour to bake on a "seasoning" that protects the pan from rust and provides a stick-resistant surface.

#For best results repeat steps three and four and five.

#Ongoing care: Every time you wash your pan, you must season it. Place it on the stove and pour in about 3/4 tsp. corn oil or other cooking fat. Wad up a paper towel and spread the oil across the cooking surface, any bare iron surfaces, and the bottom of the pan. Turn on the burner and heat until smoke starts to appear. Cover pan and turn heat off.

And enjoy!

TGIF



Finally the heat has broken and it's that magnificent time of the year when every day has nearly perfect weather. Also, these activities have moved to the top of my to-do list:

Wash the exterior windows of our house
Fill the porch with pumpkins
Buy a huge bag of candy for trick-or-treaters
Pull out my riding boots
Summer clothes in spare closet
Dig up recipes for my crock-pot
Start designing our Thanksgiving invitation
Sharpen all my knives (lots of holiday cooking ahead!)
Put the winter linens on the guest bed
Start thinking about our Christmas CD, Happy Holidavis, Vol. 4!

Happy Fall, everyone!

love, erin