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Archive for April, 2011

A lonesome container of blueberries were inadvertently left behind when we went away for the weekend.  With a bounty of fresh berries and other fruits finding their way into the fridge upon our return, I decided to bake up the slightly-weepy blueberries.  I thought about my standby Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf, but figured the others in the house would prefer some variety.  So I settled on a morning favorite that my boys are always in the mood for. 

These whole wheat blueberry buttermilk pancakes are wonderfully light and flavorful.  The addition of buttermilk creates a tender, spongy “cake” with a hint of richness and tanginess.  The richness is offset by the tart succulence of blueberries and a little zing from finely grated lemon zest.  Rest assured, whole wheat flour does not create a dense pancake here.  Instead, it gives the pancake body an irresistibly hearty, nutty flavor – and an added nutritional boost.  So simple and unassuming.  So delicious.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

 

Ingredients, adapted Bon Appetit June 2007

    1 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    2 tbsp agave nectar, honey, or sugar
    2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt (check if your buttermilk has a higher salt content – omit if so)
    1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I used low-fat)
    1/8 cup water or milk
    2 large eggs
    1/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
    1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (more if you wish)
    1 tsp lemon zest
    Pure maple syrup for serving
 
 
 
Directions
  1. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. 
  2. Whisk buttermilk, milk/water, eggs, agave, and 2 tablespoons butter in medium bowl; stir into dry ingredients until just combined.  Important: I mean “just barely” mixed together.  You want small to medium-sized lumps in the batter.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a dense pancake.
  3. Fold in berries and lemon zest.  (Or, after dropping batter onto the pan, carefully “plop” the berries onto the pancakes.  I find this method produces an even layer of blueberries within each pancake – though you may not be able to tell from the pictures.)
  4. Heat large nonstick pan or skillet over low-medium heat.  (Err on the side of low so your pancakes do not become burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.) 
  5. Spray with cooking spray or add oil/butter.  Drop batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle.  Cook pancakes until edges brown and bubbles appear, about 3-5 minutes.  Flip only once.  Cook on second side for an additional 1-2 minutes.  
  6. Serve immediately with maple syrup.  Or, to keep warm, heat oven to 200 degrees F and place pancakes on a baking sheet for up to 45 minutes.  (They get a bit dry after that.)

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With the spring planting season upon us, I’ve got tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and avocados on my mind.  Of course, my own crops have yet to flourish but there is a bounty of spring vegetables at the local market.  This is a simple, refreshing preparation for tacos.  Cool, buttery avocado makes a soothing salsa – a palate-pleasing contrast to lean chicken breasts, sweet corn, and succulent tomatoes and mangoes.  For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute black beans.  Leftover salsa is excellent as a chip dip – and just about anything Mexican-inspired – huevos rancheros, a quick quesadilla or atop rice and beans!

Shredded Chicken Tacos with Avocado Corn Mango Salsa

Ingredients for Chicken (Can easily substitute with Beef, Pork, or Fish)

Coarse salt and ground pepper
3-4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for Salsa

1 large beef steak tomato or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small white or red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced (optional)
2 Hass avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned corn (drained if canned)
1/4 to 1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime, or more

Flour or corn tortillas for serving

Directions

  1. Rub sat and pepper over chicken
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side.  Alternatively, you can roast the chicken at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine salsa ingredients, being careful to fold in the avocado chunks.  Season with salt and pepper and additional lime juice, if necessary. 
  4. Lay shredded chicken in tortillas and top with salsa.

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Ever since I was a kid, I have had a banana aversion.  Something about their mushy texture (and lack of moisture) does not appeal to me as a standalone fruit or snack.  Happily for Rice Kernel and my Dad (two banana fiends), I love the flavor of bananas in baked goods and pancakes.  (Guiltless banana cookies are regularly on hand in our home.)  And, as I finally discovered, frozen bananas are not too shabby.  In fact, they are deliciously creamy.  You can make them in a pinch for one or for a crowd - and it’s a great way to get the kids involved (and keep them entertained on a rainy day!).

Frozen Chocolate Banana Bites (I’m almost embarassed to call this a recipe)

 

Ingredients

    1-inch pieces of banana (preferably ripened, brown bananas)
    Melted chocolate (you can use chocolate chips; we opted for 70% dark chocolate)
    Chopped nuts (we used pistachios and peanuts)Options: Use caramel sauce or melted peanut butter chips to coat the bananas. You can also dip in sprinkles, crushed graham crackers, walnuts, pecans and toasted shredded coconut.

Instructions

  1. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Freeze 1-inch pieces of banana.  Melt chocolate chips in a microwave until smooth, then dip the banana pieces in to coat; roll in chopped peanuts and place on parchment in freezer until chocolate firms.

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Sake-Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken may not make your mouth water like the fried or roasted variety – not until you make this dish, that is.  One of the easiest dishes, sake steaming makes the chicken aromatic, flavorful, and tender.  The hardest part of the dish is waiting:  after steaming the chicken, the key is cool it to room temperature (give or take) inside the pot.  This way it will retain its succulence.  If you pull it out of the pot and cut it up immediately, you’ll end up with dry chicken.  Patience is key. 

To me, the best part of this dish is the ginger scallion sauce.  Mildly spicy and wonderfully savory and aromatic, it is delicious on rice alone.  Or noodles.  Or the chicken.  Which is finger-licking good.  Without the grease.

Sake-Steamed Chicken, adapted from Harris Salad via New York Times

Ingredients for Chicken

    1 3 1/2 pound organic chicken, rinsed and patted dry
    1 1/2 cups dry sake (any inexpensive brand will suffice)
    3 thinly sliced scallions
    2 tbsp sesame seeds, preferably black
    Kosher salt

Ingredients for Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce

    2 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp orange juice
    2 tsp rice vinegar
    1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp mirin or sweet sherry
    1 tbsp chopped ginger root
    1 large garlic clove, minced

Ingredients for Ginger Scallion Sauce

    1 cup thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 large bunch)
    1/2 cup finely minced, peeled fresh ginger (I use a grater)
    1/8 cup oil (I use olive oil, but you can use canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc.)
    1 tsp Kosher salt, or more to taste

Directions

  1. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stockpot (I’ve used my Creuset or a wok).  Pour in equal amounts of sake and water, enough to reach the bottom of the steamer basket.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Generously salt the chicken inside and out; set breast side up in the steamer basket.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Steam the chicken until the juices just run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes within the pot.  To serve, carve and set pieces on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
  3. Citrus Sauce:  In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin, ginger and garlic.
  4. Ginger Scallion Sauce: Heat oil in a small pan.  When warm (but not smoking), carefully place scallions and ginger.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until ginger has lost a bit of its bite and scallions are wilted.  Remove from heat and season to taste with salt.

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FHE and I have a long history with wheat thins.  They were a constant companion in our dorm rooms, at the library, and in the house.  (I remember FHE smuggling them into the no-eating-allowed library on more than one occasion.  Two weeks of finals; twelve quarters.  You can do the math.)  I can’t say I was ready to give up boxed and baged foods, but at some point I became more ingredient-conscious of prepackaged foods.  One day I looked at the nutrition panel of my beloved cracker and noticed a litany of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce and more sodium than I could bear.  I wasn’t surprised; I was just in denial.  And so I slowly weaned myself….

Rice Kernel has yet to meet the authentic wheat thin.  But I bet he’s going to enjoy this copycat.  These crackers are incredibly easy to make and if you’re the type of person that likes to know what goes into your snack foods, this is the recipe for you.  Now all I need is a good recipe for triscuits – the other “staple” in FHE’s college pantry.  Anybody have one they’d like to share?

Homemade Wheat Thins, from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Cookbook

Ingredients

    1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for topping
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (or Earth Balance)
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla
    Salt (and other seasonings you wish, such as rosemary, cheese, thyme, etc.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl.  Then, using a pastry blender, mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly.  Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup.  Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.  (Add more water as needed.)
  3. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle.  Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it’s not sticking.  You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it’s 1/16-inch thick at most.  (Mine was a bit too thick; but my little helper insisted it was “fine.”)  Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.  Or take the opportunity to personalize your batch of wheat thins and use a cookie cutter shape of your choice.
  4. Transfer the dough squares to the prepared baking sheets.  Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt or desired seasonings.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining scraps
  5. Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes.  Check the crackers at 5 minutes; the crackers can burn quickly so you want to keep a close eye on them. (My stars took 9 minutes.)

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