Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rainbow Pancakes

Last month, we had Alex's niece Charlotte over for the night.  I was excited to have a 3-year-old in the house to cook fun things for, so I got up early (really early... kids don't sleep late, do they?) and took charge.  I decided that rainbow pancakes would be awesome.  The idea came to me somehow, and I did a quick search to find this post from I am Baker.  It's a good one to check out because it's full of tips for making good rainbow pancakes, including:

  • Don't use butter, because it browns the pancakes, and you want the pancakes to be colored like a rainbow.  If one side gets overly browned, it's okay; just serve that one brown-side-down!
  • Have a lot of bowls ready, because each color is going to need its own.  I got lazy and only made four colors, but even still there were a lot of dishes!
Honestly there was more to making rainbow pancakes than I thought, so I was glad I read the post all the way through!  It was a lot of fun to try these out - and then fun for Rachael and I to eat them.  These are obviously not just for kids!  :)  I even got wild and mixed colors for a tie dye pancake at one point, but it got a little too burned so you don't get a picture of that one.

Charlotte claimed some colors tasted better than others, but I promise they're all the same :)  This is just a basic pancake recipe, but the batter is thin to help them cook quickly and thus avoid getting brown.  They still puff up nicely with the hefty dose of baking powder.

No more cute breakfasts after today... back to work in the morning.  I know I shouldn't complain because I had the summer off, and many teachers already went back last week, but still.  Complain I will!

Recipe:

rainbow pancakes
serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
liquid food coloring

Instructions:

1) In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2) Pour in milk, egg and oil, and mix until smooth.

3) Separate the batter into different bowls depending on how many colors you want to make.  Add food coloring (no more than a few drops is enough!).  

4) Pour the battle onto the heated griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles appear, then flip and cook on the other side until done.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mujaddara, or Palestinian Lentils and Rice


No matter what craziness is going on in my personal life, I still love middle eastern food and I like to learn new recipes.  It's always delicious and almost always healthy, and many recipes are naturally vegetarian.  Perfection.  And so is this recipe for mujaddara.  I'm pretty sure I am pronouncing it wrong every time I say it, but I don't even care.  I loved it and I will make it again.  It's quick, easy, cheap, healthy, filling, and reheats great.  What's not to love?

Mujaddara is lentils and rice.  There are thousands of variations on it, of course, but I like that this one has a half and half ratio for rice and lentils.  It doesn't traditionally have carrot, but this recipe does, which I was glad for.  It added a nice color to the dish, along with some more veggies.  Arguably the best part of the dish is the caramelized onions.  Don't skimp on those!  They sweeten up the dish and play nicely with the cumin-spiced rice.  I found myself wishing I had added more onions, which I definitely will next time - and there will be a next time.  I'm going to jack up the onion amount below.

Recipe:

mujaddara, or lentils and rice
from Arabic Zeal
serves 4 -6

Ingredients:
1 cup brown lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, chopped finely
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 medium onions
2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

1) Wash lentils and put in a large cooking pot with 2 cups cold water.  Add carrots and garlic.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

2) While lentils cook, start soaking the rice.  Place rice in heat-resistant bowl, cover with boiling water, and stir.  Soak rice for about 15 minutes.

3) Drain rice well and mix with the cooked lentils and 1 1/2 cups hot water.  Add cumin, salt, and pepper.  Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

4) While rice and lentils cook, halve the onions vertically and slice thinly.  Fry onions in the olive oil until golden brown.

5) Transfer the mujaddara to a platter and top with the fried onions.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

S'Mores Ice Cream Pie

This idea is genius.  Take s'mores, add ice cream, eat dessert.

Of course, like most recipes involving ice cream, this dessert takes a while.  You first make a graham cracker crust.  Then you soften some vanilla ice cream and then stir in some broiled mini marshmallows, chopped graham crackers, and Hershey bar pieces.  That becomes the base of the pie.  Once everything is frozen again, you top the pie with more mini marshmallows and torch them so you get that great toasted marshmallow taste!  Voila: s'more ice cream pie!

Unfortunately due to the time constraints of this pie, I never got to try it.  And I ran out of time before I could add the marshmallow layer.  I put it in the freezer and left for my trip to Colorado.  When I came home, the freezer had malfunctioned and no one got to try my melted pie!  But with a recipe that sounds this good, I will definitely have to try again.  And you should try it too - don't judge this pie based on my melted, half-done photo!  It will keep in the freezer, wrapped, for a week, so make it ahead of time if you must.  Perhaps it could be your Labor Day party contribution (OMG why is summer ending!?)

Recipe:

s'mores ice cream pie
from Two Peas and Their Pod
serves 8

Ingredients:
for pie crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or 10 full sheet graham crackers tossed in the food processor)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
for the ice cream pie:
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup chopped chocolate bars
1/2 cup chopped graham crackers
for the toasted marshmallow topping:
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Ingredients:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar.  Mix until combined.  Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Make sure the crust goes up the sides of the pie dish.  You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture into the dish.  Bake the pie crust for 8 - 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let the crust cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

2) While the crust is cooling, place the 3/4 cup of mini marshmallows on a baking sheet that has been lined with a Silpat baking mat.  Turn the oven on broil.  Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 2  minutes or until the marshmallows are slightly toasted.  Make sure you watch the marshmallows closely.  It won't take them long to toast.  Remove marshmallows from the oven and let cool.  When cool, carefully remove marshmallows.  They will be sticky but will peel off the mat.  Use your hands or a spatula.

3) In a large bowl, combine the softened vanilla ice cream, chopped chocolate, chopped graham crackers, and toasted mini marshmallows.  Stir until well combined.  Pour ice cream into graham cracker pie crust.  Smooth with spatula.  Freeze the pie for 3 hours or until the pie is completely solid.

4) When ready to serve, top the pie with remaining mini marshmallows.  Use a culinary torch to toast the tops of the marshmallows.  Be careful because they toast quickly and you want to just barely toast them.  Cut the pie into slices and serve!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cinnamon French Toast Bites

I think one of the best parts about summer vacation is being able to cook a nice breakfast for myself and my family.  Let's be honest - during the school year, I stay in bed until the last possible moment, and breakfast either does not get eaten at all, or I grab something to take with me.  Leisurely chopping up bread and turning the little cubes into cinnamon-sugar-coated french toast bites?  Unheard of - except for in August.

I've never been a huge french toast lover, but as soon as I saw these on Pinterest, I added them to our breakfast menu.  How cute are they?  Sweet little cubes that you can eat with your hands (or a fork if you're feeling sophisticated); dunk them in maple syrup or eat them plain - they're good enough either way.  I could see this being a huge home run with kids, although the youngest person who ate these was 27 and she loved them too.

I will strongly suggest that you make sure your bread is both thick (Texas toast again!) and kind of stale.  You don't want your cubes to suck up too much of the batter because they won't crisp up as well, and they will flatten out a bit.  You'll notice some of my cubes are more like rectangles; my bread wasn't stale enough.  The cubes get stir-fried, so they really need to have some strength to sustain all the stirring and tossing!  Go grab your stale bread and get cubing.

Recipe:

cinnamon french toast bites
from Recipe Tin Eats
serves 2 - 3

Ingredients:
4 thick slices of slightly stale bread
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, separated
maple syrup to serve

Instructions:

1) Cut the crust off the bread, then cut each piece into 9 equal cubes.

2) Whisk together the eggs, milk and salt in a medium bowl.

3) Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.

4) Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a  fry pan over medium high heat.  Don't let the butter brown.

5) Quickly toss half the bread cubes in the egg mixture and use your hands to shake off excess egg mixture.  Place the bread cubes in the fry pan and use a wooden spoon to saute them until browned on all sides - about 2 to 3 minutes.

6) Remove the bread cubes from the fry pan straight into the sugar mixture.  Toss to coat, then remove onto a plate.

7) Repeat steps 4 - 6 with remaining bread cubes.  Serve immediately with maple syrup for dipping.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spicy Brazilian Burrito Bowls

There's a new Brazilian place in Leominster, which is a big deal because we never get new places around here.  It's called Comeketo and it's where the old Al Dente used to be, for you locals.  It's awesome!  I have only ordered the same thing every single time - the Brazilian Sensation veggie plate.  It's collard greens saauteed with garlic, rice and beans, fried yucca, and fried plantains (with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice too).  It's sooooo good.  It inspired me to try out this recipe for spicy Brazilian burrito bowls, and fry up some plantains of my own!

Imagine a Brazilion burrito, full of beans, rice, fresh herbs and fried plantains.  Now take away the tortilla, serve it in a bowl, and you have this dish.  Delicious, semi-healthy (I mean the plantains are fried but everything else is good!), and only as spicy as you make it.  All of the parts are so great, you could totally just make the beans, or the rice, or the slaw, or the plantains, and serve them as side dishes.  But put them all together, and magic happens.

The rice is actually where the spiciness comes from; it's cooked with salsa, so you can decide whether you're going mild or hot (I went with medium as a compromise!).  The black beans are simply heated up with some cumin and chili powder, so they're simple.  Then there's a garlic cilantro slaw, made with shredded cabbage and lots of fresh herbs in a Greek yogurt base with some lime juice tossed in to brighten things.

And oh the plantains.  They get sliced, fried, then smushed a bit and fried once more.  They end up being slightly sweet and caramelized, and altogether my favorite part of the dish.  Don't skip them (like Rachael!).  They're what make the Brazilian bowls Brazilian!  I fried up 4 of them; I was a little worried that one of them was getting a little too ripe, but it actually ended up being my favorite.  It was the sweetest and softest one.  I guess in that way, they are kind of similar to bananas.  Either way, this meal will be happening again.  If you're more of a burrito than a bowl person, wrap it in a tortilla!  Go portable with dinner!  Go eat it outside; there's a great breeze out there today.

Recipe:

spicy Brazilian burrito bowls
from Pinch of Yum
serves 6

Ingredients:
for the rice:
1 1/2 cups white long grain rice, uncooked
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups salsa
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons oil of butter
for the black beans:
2 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
for the garlic cilantro slaw:
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 cups shredded cabbage (or a bag of slaw mix)
for the plantains:
vegetable oil for frying
4 green plantains

Instructions:

1) Make the rice: place the ingredients in a rice cooker and cook until done.  Or, if you don't have a rice cooker like me, bring the water to a boil, then stir in all the other ingredients, cover, and lower the heat to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes.

2) Make the beans: heat the black beans with the spices in a small saucepan until warmed though, adding a little water or oil if necessary.  Keep heat on low to keep warm.

3) Make the slaw: pulse all ingredients except the cabbage in a food processor until mostly smooth. Toss the cabbage with enough sauce to coat; reserve the remaining sauce.

4) Make the fried plantains: peel the plantains and chop them into chunks about 1 inch wide.  Pour enough oil into a heavy skillet to the plantains will be partially covered in oil.  Preheat over medium high heat.  Add the plantains; you should see bubbles if it's hot enough. Fry for a few minutes, then flip and dry for a few minutes more, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Smash them with the back of a wooden spoon until they break open slightly.  Put back in the oil and fry for another 2 - 3 minutes until golden-brown.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.  They should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside like french fries.

5) To assemble, serve a scoop of rice, beans and slaw into the bowls.  Add the plantains on top with a few cilantro leaves.  Drizzle with extra sauce.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai with Peanuts and Basil

Boring post alert!

I've been doing a lot of reading about copyright laws lately.  Most of it has been for a class I am taking on creating digital content for use in my teaching, but to be honest there has been a bit of research in my personal life as well for this blog.

A month or so ago, I posted a recipe from another blogger, and for the first time since 2012, I got a request from the original poster to take down the recipe and simply post a link to her blog (which I did).  She wants more traffic on her blog and was concerned that people could use just my site and not visit hers for her recipe.

I understand where she's coming from, but at the same time, isn't that what food blogging is all about?  Sharing good recipes and ideas with other cooks?  I always link to the recipe creator, but I suppose if you're looking for site traffic rather than acknowledgement, then that's not good enough.

I am not the kind of cook who likes or wants to make up my own recipes.  I enjoy cooking more when I know things are going to turn out well in the end!  Today I was reading a post that said that you "have to" create your own recipes if you want to have a food blog (this was posted by the creator of the recipe I have to share today, hence this post).  I disagree.  The point of my blog is not to make me rich or famous, but to keep track of what I have cooked for myself and my family.  And there may be a few other people who follow along :)  I don't think that my blog is very high traffic and doubt that it takes away from the "real bloggers" out there, but I'd also hate to upset anyone who felt like I was stealing their content.

The official recipe copyright rules are tricky.  You can't repost someone's pictures - which I would never do anyway - but technically you can post recipes.  However, to be safe, it's recommended that you change at least 3 ingredients and/or change up the instruction wording a bit, and then still link back to the creator.

So... I know that Lindsay from Pinch of Yum is of the mindset that real food bloggers make their own recipes and don't copy and paste hers.  To be fair, I never copy and paste; I always retype everything because the formatting is wonky otherwise.  I did make a few small changes in this recipe due to availability of ingredients, but mainly went with her absolutely genius creation.  Most of the recipes she posts are great and don't need any tweaking, but I also don't want to make anyone upset.  If you like this recipe, please visit her blog for lots of great recipes (and far more gorgeous photographs than I ever have.)

On to the pad thai!  It was delicious and flavorful and full of vegetables.  I didn't have my zoodle-maker, but I used my mandoline with the julienne blades on and it works perfectly (and saved me a lot of time).  The sauce was amazing even without the chili paste, which I scoured 2 grocery stores for and finally gave up.  Definitely a make-again recipe.  One word of advice - try to devour as much as you can.  I ate the leftovers the next day but they were definitely not as good.

Recipe:

rainbow vegetarian pad thai with peanuts and basil
from Pinch of Yum
serves 4

Ingredients:
for the pad thai:
4 ounces rice noodles
1 zucchini
1 red pepper
half a yellow onion
2 carrots
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used cilantro and basil)
for the sauce:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce (look for gluten-free if you need to)
1 teaspoon chili pasta/sambal oelek (I used some sriracha, about 1/2 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1) Place the uncooked noodles in a bowl of cold water to soak.

2) Spiralize or cut the zucchini, pepper, carrots and onion into noodle-like shapes.

3) Shake up the sauce ingredients in a jar or whisk in a small bowl.

4) Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the veggies and stir fry with tongs for 2 - 3 minutes or until tender-crisp.  Don't overcook or they will get soggy.  Transfer to a dish and set aside.

5) Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan.  Drain the noodles, which should be softened by now.  Add the noodles to the hot pan and stir fry for a minute, tossing with tongs.  Add the sauce and stir fry for another minute or two until the sauce is starting to thicken and stick to the noodles.  Push the noodles aside to make a little room for the egg.  Pour the beaten egg into the pan and let it sit for 30 seconds or so.  Toss everything around with the tongs. The egg mixture will stick to the noodles and everything will start getting sticky.

6) Add in the vegetables, toss together, and remove from heat.  Stir in the peanuts and herbs and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thai Chicken Salad with Orange Peanut Dressing

It's hot today.  So hot that I think I will lounge in air conditioning all day long, only leaving it to swim in the pool.  On days like these, the thought of cooking doesn't even appeal to me.  But alas, we still have to eat.  So salads will just have to suffice.  You know I am not a big salad person, so if I'm sharing one, it's got to be special.  Welcome to the blog, special salad!

Before you get distracted by the fact that the word "chicken" is in the recipe title, don't get too excited.  I don't love the name, because it's not a chicken salad.  It is a salad with chicken on it if you so desire - which I do not, but Kenzie, Nick and Mom marinated and grilled some chicken for theirs.  The salad itself is the winner here.  Romaine lettuce makes up the bulk of it, but there are also carrots, red peppers, edamame, cilantro, sesame seeds - even wonton strips if you can find them (which I couldn't, but those crunchy asian noodles worked as a great replacement and a good texture substitute).

Then there is the dressing, which is so fabulous I'd make it again to spice up a boring salad; it's called orange peanut dressing, which means peanut butter and orange juice and zest are definitely the stars.  Supporting actors include rice vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger, garlic, and brown sugar.  There's actually no oil in here, so I hereby pronounce this salad dressing healthy.  And amazing.

Mix everything together, and you have the perfect salad for a hot summer dinner.  Or lunch.  Or both if you're lucky enough to have leftovers (add the dressing later if you want it to last overnight!)

Recipe:

Thai chicken salad with orange peanut dressing
from Cooking Classy
serves 4

Ingredients:
for dressing:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 small clove garlic
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
for salad:
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
2/3 cup salted cashews, roughly chopped
1 cup wonton strips (or crispy asian noodles)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 pound grilled chicken breasts, sliced
white and black sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions:

1) Make the dressing first.  Add all ingredients to a blender, except the red pepper flakes.  Pulse until the ginger and garlic are finely minced.  Season with salt to taste and add red pepper flakes.  Pulse just to stir in.  Pour into an airtight container and chill until ready to serve.

2) Prepare the salad.  Add all salad ingredients to a large salad bowl.  Pour dressing over and toss to evenly coat.  Serve immediately.