Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole Wheat Waffles

Prep Time: Easy-medium (typical for waffles)
Source: Adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

This has been our go-to recipe for waffles ever since we got married. Made with white flour and sugar, as the original recipe calls for, it produces light, deliciously buttery waffles that crisp up just enough on the outside. After we got a wheat grinder this last Christmas, however, we used some of our freshly ground white wheat flour to make them, and oh my goodness, are they good! We made them probably 4 times in the days after Christmas, and have made them several times since. For classic white waffles, replace the wheat flour with white flour and the honey with white sugar.

1 3/4 cups white wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
2 T honey
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter
1 t vanilla

Preheat waffle iron. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, milk, oil, and vanilla. Gently scoop flour into bowl so that it sort of sits on top of the wet ingredients, and then add baking powder and salt on top of flour. Use your whisk or fork to gently sift the baking powder and salt into the flour a little, and then combine all ingredients together and mix until smooth. 

For our waffle iron, we've found that using about exactly 1/3 cup of this batter is absolutely perfect, but yours might be different! Cook according to the directions on your waffle iron. Serve hot with butter and syrup. Waffles typically come out of the iron a little soft and crisp up in the first minute or two on the plate.

Classic Pancakes

Prep time: Easy-medium
Source: Ray family recipe (I believe it's originally from the Betty Crocker cookbook)

This is another recipe I was shocked to not find on my blog! This is the classic pancake recipe I grew up loving, and it will always be one of my absolute favorites. The original recipe yield is only about 5-6 pancakes, so we typically will double it, depending on how many we're planning to feed.

1 egg
1 cup flour*
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 cup milk

Preheat griddle or skillet to about 350. In medium-sized bowl, beat egg until fluffy. Gently scoop flour into the bowl and add all other dry ingredients on top of them. Use your whisk or fork to gently sift the dry ingredients together a little bit (so that the baking powder is integrated into the flour and isn't clumpy). Add milk and mix all ingredients together until just combined. Cook each pancake 2-3 minutes per side, depending on your preferred level of doneness. Serve with maple syrup or fruit and fresh whipped cream. (For a delicious variation on these pancakes we like to make in the fall, try these!)

*Oddly enough, this is the one recipe in the world where I personally prefer white flour to wheat—it's something about the flavor and texture of the pancakes. However, they're also delicious with wheat flour.

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Rosemary or Coriander

Prep time: Easy
Source: Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe (I think)

Looking through my list of favorite recipes today, I couldn't believe that this one was somehow missing from my blog! This is one of our go-to methods for quick, easy grilled chicken, either to eat as an entrée with lots of yummy sides, or to use over pasta or in stir-fry. The original recipe used rosemary as the seasoning, but last year I also found a nearly identical recipe that used coriander. Both are delicious, and I alternate between the two depending on which sounds best!

Chicken breasts, thawed
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Black pepper
Rosemary or ground coriander

Preheat a skillet or grilling pan on your stove over medium heat (if your stove tends to cook low, try medium-high), for 5-10 minutes or until it's quite hot. (To test it, put your hand over the pan—if there's enough heat rising from the pan that it's uncomfortable to keep your hand two or three inches above it, then it's ready.) 

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. If desired, you can butterfly the breasts to make them thinner (I do this sometimes when I end up with fairly thick ones). Brush both sides of breasts with olive oil. Sprinkle tops of breasts with salt, pepper, and rosemary or coriander; place the unseasoned side down on the preheated pan (it will sizzle and smoke a bit). Cook 5-10 minutes on first side, depending on the thickness of your chicken and how thoroughly it was thawed. You'll know it's done when the edges have turned white and only a little bit of pink is left in the middle of the top. Using kitchen tongs, flip chicken so that the seasoned side is down and cook for 4-5 minutes on second side.

Remove chicken from pan and place on a clean plate. Drizzle with lemon juice and tent with foil (this helps keep the chicken deliciously moist and tender, and finishes up the last few minutes of the cooking process). Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simple Peanut Butter Cookies, Two Ways (Gluten-Free and Low Sugar)

Prep time: Very easy
Source: Adapted from my friend Sacha

I love peanut butter, and I LOVE peanut butter cookies! This recipe, which originally has only 3 ingredients and is gluten free, is super simple. Because I don't do well with much sugar, I prefer to sub half of the sugar for flour instead and get a less-sweet and more-healthy cookie. Each cookie in my version of the recipe has roughly 7 grams of sugar—pretty good for a sweet treat!

Version One: Gluten Free, 3-Ingredient PB Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in bowl until thoroughly mixed. Form into golf-ball(ish) sized balls and press onto cookie sheet using tines of fork. Bake 8-9 minutes. Cookies will be VERY soft and fall apart easily when they first come out, so allow them to cool on the cookie sheet (placed on a cooling rack or unheated stove coil) for several minutes before removing.

Version Two: 7-gram, 4-Ingredient PB Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 egg

Follow directions for above recipe.

Rosemary-Balsamic Roast Chicken

Prep time: Easy-medium
Source: My own brain! :)

For the last few years, I've been making and freezing chicken stock regularly. In the beginning, I did it with a rotisserie chicken, but about a year ago I got brave and decided to start roasting my own chicken instead. Now I roast a chicken at least once a month. We eat the chicken with a few sides for dinner one night and then I remove the rest of the meat and store it in the fridge for later meals (soups, pot pies, stir fries, pasta dishes, etc.) and use the carcass to make 5-6 quarts of stock. Lately, I've just been taking the veggies I used to stuff the chicken for roasting and using those to flavor the stock as well—simple, easy, and cheap!

1 whole chicken, cleaned and dried (I usually rinse mine and then set it on a paper-towel lined plate in the fridge for several hours; the dehumidifying action of the fridge helps dry it very nicely!)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 T balsamic vinegar
1-2 T kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1 T rosemary, fresh or dried
Whatever root veggies you have on hand (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, potatoes, etc.—I typically do one carrot, about 1/3 of an onion, 2-4 cloves of garlic, and the leafy parts of a few celery stalks)

Preheat oven to 475. Prepare a roasting pan with rack for the chicken. Prepare veggies however you need to (I typically peel the carrots and potatoes if I'm using, and roughly chop everything so that it will fit into the chicken cavity). Set aside.

In regular-sized bowl, mix butter, vinegar, and spices together until combine (it will take a little coaxing to get the butter and vinegar into a smooth paste). Use your fingers (I always wear gloves for this part) to thoroughly coat chicken in butter mixture; you can loosen the skin and rub it underneath, but I haven't found that it makes a ton of difference and so I usually just do everything over the skin. Be sure to coat the inside of the cavity, as well. Stuff veggies into cavity. If your chicken's drumsticks have a tendency to fall away from the rest of the bird, either truss them together with baker's twine or (my preference) use a knife to cut a small hole in the chicken skin near the tip of the drumstick, and then insert the round end of the drumstick into that hole to hold the legs close to the bird (so they don't cook faster than the rest). Place chicken breast side down on roasting rack. Reduce oven heat to 375 and place bird in oven.

The size of your bird will determine the cooking time—a good rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound, though I sometimes have to do a bit more. I usually cook mine for about 2 hours and they are always 4-5 lb birds. About halfway through your cooking time, turn the chicken breast-side up—I do this (awkwardly!) with 2 wooden spoons. Cooking it this way helps keep the breast meat tender and moist without basting.

To check for doneness, make a small cut in one of the legs and press with the edge of the knife to see if the juices run clear. (I also do this in the breast as well, since for some reason my chicken legs sometimes cook before the breasts.) 

When juices are clear, remove pan from oven and tent chicken with foil for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Black Bean Soup

Prep time: Easy

You may be able to tell from reading this blog, but I really like soup! This is another favorite we've made a lot over the last year or two.

About 1 T EVOO
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cans black beans (or about 6 cups home-cooked beans), drained and rinsed
1 large anaheim pepper or 1/2 bell pepper, diced
4 cups beef or chicken broth (I never seem to have beef on hand so I usually use all or part chicken)
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t black pepper
1/8-1/2 t chili powder, depending on how strong your chili powder is and how spicy you like things
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf if you have them

In a large saucepan or stock pot, saute onions, carrots, garlic, and celery for a few minutes (until onions are translucent garlic is browning). Add beans, anaheim or bell peppers, broth, and spices. Simmer (without a lid) for 30-60 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove bay leaf (if you happened to not have run out of them, which I always do!) and purée soup with stick blender or in batches in regular blender. Squeeze in the juice of one lime (or add about 1 T bottled lime juice). Top with chips, cheese, sour cream, and more lime juice, if desired. 

Cauliflower Soup

Prep time: Easy (about the same as most soups)
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Mahon is not a fan of cauliflower and gives me MAJOR grief for making this soup, but even he likes it once it's done! It's especially delicious with a little cheddar cheese mixed in. However, I have been having major problems with large amounts of dairy—especially cheese—lately, and so I ate it without any garnishes and it was still quite yummy. (Because of my dairy issues, I served the soup with the sour cream as a garnish rather than as part of the body of the soup, like the original recipe indicates.) I streamlined the original recipe a bit because I thought it came together in a really odd way, and tweaked a few of the proportions. I also decided after the last time that I made it that it needed a longer simmering time so that the cauliflower was softer and less grainy after the soup was puréed.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 whole carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 cup flour
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 T fresh parsley (or about 1 tsp dried), chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half (or 1/4 cup each cream and milk)
1-2 tsp salt (or more) to taste
Shake of pepper

In medium saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrot, garlic, and celery for a few minutes or until onions begin to look translucent. Add flour and cook until the flour/butter mixture is golden and bubbly. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring as you go until everything is integrated. Add cauliflower, parsley, and salt (err on the lower side for now) and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-40 minutes or until cauliflower is fairly tender. Add milk and half-and-half and simmer for another 10-20 minutes (don't allow the soup to boil), until cauliflower is very tender and all ingredients are heated through. Purée soup using a stick blender, or in batches in a regular blender. Add more salt if needed and a shake of black pepper. Serve garnished with sour cream and cheddar cheese, if desired.

Cindy's Imitation Maple Syrup

Prep time: Very easy, but be sure to start it before you start your pancakes/waffles/whatever you're putting the syrup on so that it has a little time to simmer.
Source: Adapted from a classic Ray family recipe!

I have always been a syrup snob. Ever since I was a little girl, I have REALLY hated regular imitation maple syrup. It's nasty stuff! I grew up with my dad's homemade syrup and it will always be my favorite. Lately I've been playing with the recipe a little to see if I could cut down on the sugar a bit, and have ended up loving my end result even better than the original recipe! It's by no means a health food, since it's still highly concentrated sugar, but hey—it's at least a little better. The dash of salt gives it a rich and complex flavor, too.

1 1/2 cups white or brown sugar (brown has a stronger flavor)
1 T cornstarch
A dash of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1 cup water
1/2 t imitation maple flavoring
1/2 t vanilla flavoring

In a small saucepan, thoroughly mix sugar, salt, and cornstarch together. Add water and bring to a boil on the stove. Once the syrup is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer until you're done making your pancakes (or whatever you're going to put the syrup on!)—about 10-20 minutes. Just before serving, remove from heat and add flavor extracts. Stores great in fridge (and also gets thicker as it cools).


Prep time: Medium
Source: Our Best Bites

I've really neglected this blog for the last year. Because there are a LOT of recipes we use and love that haven't made it up here, I'm resolving over the next little while to get this blog back up to date! I'm also going to try to be less of a slacker about taking pictures of stuff before we gobble it all up. We'll see how that goes!

We started using this crepe recipe a year or two ago and it is, hands-down, one of our favorite recipes. Our #1 favorite way to prepare them is layering several crepes together sandwiched with butter and maple syrup... it's to die for! We also love them with fruit and cream cheese or Greek yogurt, berry syrup, homemade whipped cream, and stewed apples (or any combination of the above—drizzling a little maple syrup over stewed apples with whipped cream is pretty divine!).

2 eggs
2 T canola oil
3 T sugar (or, if using wheat flour, honey; leave this out if you're making savory crepes)
1 C flour (it's equally great with white or whole-wheat)
About 1/8 tsp salt
About 1 1/3 cups milk

Combine eggs, oil, sugar/honey, and salt in blender and pulse to combine. Leave the blender running on low and alternate adding milk and flour. (If you're using a top-motor blender, like we now are, you'll have to add everything together and then open it up again to scrape the flour off the sides.) If any flour clings to the sides, scrape it down with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Like many recipes, the exact ratio of flour to milk can be a little fickle and depend on the weather/your ingredients/what your astrological sign happens to be doing at the moment. You're looking for a batter that is quite runny and easily pourable (not at all like pancake batter).

Pre-heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat on the stove and grease with butter (be sure to get part of the sides, as the crepes will often creep up the sides as they cook!). When pan is warm (you want the butter to sizzle, but not immediately turn brown), pour a small amount of batter into the pan. We use small omelet-sized pans to make ours, and pour only a silver-dollar sized amount of batter or less into the pan. (Experiment a little til you find the right amount!) Quickly use your wrist to swirl the batter in the pan until it has evenly and thinly coated the bottom (and bottom of the sides) of your pan. Cook until the crepe starts to brown around the edges and most of the center is no longer liquid (usually 30-60 seconds).

Although we've gotten pretty good at making crepes and can make them quickly and beautifully now, neither of us has ever been able to master either flipping them with the pan (HA) or using only one utensil to flip them. Instead, we take a heat-safe rubber spatula (the kind you use to get the last of the cake batter from your bowl) and gently work it around the edges of the crepe as soon as they begin to brown. Then, even more gently (thin crepes are pretty fragile—but totally worth it!), we take a regular flipping spatula and use that to flip the crepe to its other side.

Cook about 15-30 seconds on the second side and then gently flip finished crepe off onto a plate. Voila! You're now a master French chef! (Or something like that.)