Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Food: Oatmeal Pancakes

I love breakfast. But during the week my morning diet is pretty regular, consisting of cereal or a banana and raw nuts. But weekends? Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for something special. I mean what's more perfect than sleeping in, taking the dog for a nice long walk around the neighborhood (weather permitting, of course), and then coming back and having a warm, homemade, delicious breakfast with good company, a hot cup of tea, and the Wall Street Journal.

Although I love my waffle maker, lately I've been experimenting with pancakes. A couple of weekends ago I made some whole wheat apple cakes topped with fresh strawberries (I'll post the recipe once I tweak it a little bit more). And the variety I decided to make this past weekend are oatmeal. These are a little denser of a pancake than I've made before - even thicker than one of my favorite whole wheat from growing up. Although typically I like to make buttermilk pancakes (very traditional), this is a nice departure. And no, if you think pancakes should come out of a box or a whipped topping style really must try to make them from scratch. They're not that difficult - no excuses.

When I first discovered this recipe, I couldn't believe how much butter was in it (Over a stick! Wow! I almost fell over!). So I decided to modify it significantly and only incorporate 1.5-2T of butter. It didn't seem to affect them a bit. The batter is pretty thick, so you can add a splash or two of skim milk if you'd like to thin it out a little...would probably result in slightly thinner cakes as well. They're even good cold, eaten right out of the fridge the next day (yes, I'm guilty of taking one out and eating it with my fingers).

Oatmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Orangette

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted but not hot
  • Cooking spray to grease the pan
  • REAL maple syrup, for serving
Evening Prior:
Combine the oats and buttermilk in a bowl. Stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Next Morning:
  • Remove the buttermilk/oatmeal mixture from the refrigerator. Set aside.
  • Add the eggs and melted butter to the bowl, stir well.
  • Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir to combine. If the mixture seems too thick, add a splash or two of skim milk.
  • Heat a nonstick griddle (or large skillet) over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray,
  • Allow to heat and then scoop out the batter into 3-4 inch puddles. When the top starts to bubble, check to see if the pancakes are ready to flip (the bottoms should be a nice, golden brown...but not deep brown).
  • Flip the pancakes and cook for a few minutes longer until the batter is fully cooked and both sides are a lightly toasted color.
  • Repeat process until you have gone through all of the batter. If the cakes seem to be browning too quickly, slightly turn down the heat.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Food: Tomato Pasta Bake

Jonathan's parents are coming into town and I plan to make this at some point over the weekend. Actually, I think it'll be the perfect thing for Saturday dinner since we're going to an early evening play at his niece and nephew's we'll need a quick and hearty meal before the show.

I actually discovered this recipe by accident. For some reason, a couple of months ago, both Jonathan and I came home from the store (separate grocery trips) with Havarati cheese. It's not something we'd normally buy for a "dice into cubes and snack on" sort of cheese. And I don't think either one of us has ever made anything with it before. How on earth we both decided to buy it and bring it home on a whim, I have no idea. So...with two blocks of cheese in the fridge I decided I needed to find a way to use it up. A quick internet search for Havarati recipes resulted in this pasta dish. And this was more than a perfect recipe - so delish, hearty yet not too filling.

This "Tomato Pasta Bake" is more adult and less greasy than macaroni and cheese and more filling than just sauce and pasta. Yes, it's kind of crazy in the fact it uses THREE large cans of tomatoes (be sure to drain them first...I almost missed that step the first time I made it). But it's so could you resist? It also makes quite a lovely presentation even in a plain, old, glass pyrex baking dish. Add a glass of red wine and some fresh bread from the local bakery and you're good to go. Heck...even feel free to invite a few friends over for dinner. After all, what could be nicer than something that's quick, tasty, neatly presented, and even better with a bottle of wine and company?

Tomato Pasta Bake
Adapted from Epicurious

  • 6 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3, 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 T dried basil
  • 1 1/2 t crushed red pepper
  • 2 c low sodium broth or stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 14.5 oz protein enhanced, whole grain penne
  • 1 7-oz block of Havarati, grated
  • 1/3 c sliced, pitted, kalamata olives
  • 1/3 c grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c torn fresh basil
  • Heat 3 T of oil in a deep pot over medium-high (a Dutch or French Oven works great for this). Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent (5-8 minutes).
  • Mix in drained tomatoes, dried basil, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, crushing tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon (be careful not to splatter as the liquid will be very hot).
  • Add broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture resembles a chunky sauce, about 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta per directions on box, drain well and toss with 3 T of olive oil.
  • Pour pasta into pot with sauce. Mix in Havarati cheese. Toss to coat and then transfer pasta into a 13x9x2" glass baking dish. Sprinkle with olives (if desired) and then with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake pasta for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with fresh basil prior to serving.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gardening: The First Sign of Spring

You can't imagine how excited I'm getting this week here in Detroit...the sun is shining, it's getting close to 60 degrees outside...and the first peeks of spring flowers are starting to appear! Welcome back Spring!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Food: Turkey Breast Roulade

This morning when I went outside, I saw one of the first true signs of Spring. Sure, the birds have been chirping more in the mornings and the sun is rising sooner and setting later and the snow is finally starting to melt with daily temperatures in the 40's (can't believe I'm excited about 40-degree weather)! But the real indication of Spring was just outside my front door...the first peeks of a hyacinth rising from the ground. I couldn't have been more excited. Seeing this sent me into daydreams of late spring flower planting and summer vegetable harvests and the smell of freshly cut grass. But I digress....I'm getting ahead of myself and the season...back to the coming of Spring.

With the arrival of Spring, many of our minds are filled with thoughts of Easter. After all, it's been the Lenten season for a few weeks now. And if any of you have checked your calendars lately or started planning trips to visit relatives over the holiday, you've probably realized that the holiday is less than a month away! Oh my, that's really soon!

An Easter tradition for many of us includes a morning filled with family, church, and Easter egg hunts followed by a lovely afternoon meal. And although ham is generally a common main dish for a lot of folks, if you're having a smaller gathering this year, I recommend making a little change to your menu. This year, try serving turkey roulade. "Oh, that sounds too fancy and difficult," you might say. But honestly, it's really simple and the smell of apricots, golden brown turkey, walnuts and sherry is nothing short of heavenly. Unlike Thanksgiving, this turkey doesn't need all the rich sides like stuffing and candied sweet potatoes and cranberry relish. There's so much flavor in it, it'd be perfect served with some uncomplicated, oven-roasted sweet potatoes (olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt, coarsely cracked pepper), tender green beans, and a simple roll with a twist like these light and fluffly coconut bread rolls. Is your mouth watering yet?

Apricot Stuffed Turkey Breast Roulade
Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens

  • 1, 2-to 2-1/2-pound boneless turkey breast half
  • 1-1/2 cups soft bread crumbs (2 slices of fresh bread pulsed in the food processor)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots*
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans*
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth or stock
  • Preheat oven to 325F
  • Butterfly turkey breast and place between two sheets of saran wrap or wax paper
  • Pound meat to about 3/4 inch thickness
  • Slice into 3-4" wide strips and pound slightly thinner to even each strip out
  • In a mixing bowl combine bread crumbs, apricots, pecans, garlic salt, sherry, rosemary, and 2 T olive oil, mixing well
  • Spoon "stuffing" on the flattened turkey breast strips, starting from the center and spreading out to cover the strip, leaving a border around the edge
  • Fold the side edges of the strips in and roll from one end to the other, securely fastening the opening with toothpicks or tie with heavy string
  • Stir together mustard and 1 T oil; set aside
  • Place a large, oven-safe skillet on the stovetop, add 1 T olive oil and pre-heat to medium-high heat
  • When the oil is hot, add turkey roulades, cooking until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side
  • Pour the chicken broth/stock over the turkey
  • Brush the tops of the turkey with the mustard-oil mixture
  • Move the skillet to the oven and cook until the turkey breast registers 170 degrees F, about 45 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and let the dish stand for a few minutes prior to slicing the turkey breast
* MM Tip: A small food processor works well to chop the two of these ingredients at one time without your hands getting sticky from the apricots
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