Pear Pancake

red pears

 

Pancakes seem like such a quick, easy meal. And they are, except for the mess. All those little batter drips that get cooked onto the stove top..ggrr.

and waiting for pancakes to cook – it’s like watching paint dry!

I’d rather just pour the whole thing into one big pan and cook it.

Like I did here.

No drips, no mess. And with the addition of sautéed pears and walnuts, this is looking  a smidge healthier than plain old pancakes.

red pear pancake

pear walnut pancake

pear walnut pancake

 

(recipe to follow)

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Homemade Freeze Pops

homemade freeze pops

Let’s face it, most food that comes in tubes are not healthy.

*But it’s a fact that kids love to eat frozen food from a tube.

(*indicates that it is not really a fact and more of an observation)

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Luckily, there is an alternative to those sugar laced freezable yogurt tubes…

You can make your own and freeze them in small ziplock bags and your kids won’t even notice because they are just so happy to be eating sans silverware.

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Homemade Freezer Pops

This being more of a technique than a recipe, the flavor possibilities are endless and they are super fast and easy to make.

Supplies:

Blender

Snack sized ziplock bags

baking sheet

tape

Ingredients for natural yogurt pops

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup raspberries (mangoes, strawberries, pineapple or peaches can be substituted)

1/2 cup orange juice or pineapple juice

2 frozen bananas

1 Tablespoon maple syrup ( or more to taste)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Puree all ingredients in a blender and pour about 1/3 cup into each ziplock bag. Gently press the air out of the bag and seal. Fold the sealed edge over and secure with a piece of tape. lay flat on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bags and freeze for 3-4 hours. When ready to eat, snip one end of the bag.

Chocolate Flower Pot Cakes

I grant you full permission to eat one of these healthy chocolate cakes for breakfast on the grounds that…

 

chocolate flower pot cakes

most of the butter and sugar were replaced with a heaping scoop of speckled mashed bananas.

flower pot cakes

Leaving a perfectly balanced and perfectly cute partner to your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

coffee

And wouldn’t they make a totally awesome gift or spring party favor?

flower pot cakes

Chocolate Banana Cake Pots

Recipe adapted from Betty Groff’s Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup mashed banana

1 tsp. salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brewed coffee

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Before you start baking, wash and dry the terra-cotta planters and be sure to remove any stickers. Line the pots with parchment paper or lotus cup liners. The 3 1/2 inch planters are the closest size to standard cupcakes, but larger ones can be used, too.

Directions

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

1.Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add in the eggs, one at a time until smooth and fluffy.Beat in the yogurt and bananas.

2.In a separate bowl,  blend together the salt, flours, baking soda and cocoa powder.

3.Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and beat well.

4.Beat in the coffee.

5. Pour the batter into terra cotta planters no more than 2/3rds full.

6. For 3 inch pots, bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. ( increase baking times for larger pots)

flower pot cakes

 

 

 

 

cheese babka with raspberry sauce; polish easter bread

cheese babka with raspberry sauce

Babka floods my polish arteries but once a year, every Easter since birth.  There will never be a bread to match my beloved babka on Easter morning.

The chrusciki? Way too crunchy.

The Polish poppyseed  bread? Too much like bird food mixed with butter.

As a kid, I would sneak slices from the babka bread basket and eat it while nestled under the dining room table or while jumping on my grandmother’s bed. Later, my teenage angst led me to rebel against my parents,all traffic laws and polish food- laughing in the face of stop signs and sticking my nose up at anything containing meat or cabbage.

babka 4 (2 of 1)

But I always ate the babka. While everyone else was swooping down like vultures on piles of smoked kielbasa and pools of polish mustards, I was munching on my third slice of babka.

cheese babka

Although our traditional Polish meal was enthusiastically shared with friends, neighbors and passersby, only the traditional polish food was welcome at this table and any creative culinary variations were scorned as sacrilege.

I just hope my late grandfather never finds out that my dad grills the polish kielbasa instead of boiling it and may he never know that I infused a homemade cheese babka with (sssshhhh…) raspberry sauce.

 

Babka, Polish Easter Bread

Cheese babka is traditionally speckled with lemon peel and raisins, but this one has soft scented raspberry preserves swirled through the center.

Ingredients:

21/2 tsp. active dry yeast (equal to one packet)

¼ cup water (use a thermometer to get it around 110 degrees)

½ cup sugar

5 eggs yolks (or 3 whole eggs)

½ tsp. salt

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup melted butter

¾ cup warm milk, using more if needed

1 pound of flour (approximately 4 cups sifted flour)

Raspberry Cheese Swirl

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 ½ cups farmers cheese (or ricotta or cream cheese)

¼ cup confectioner sugar

¼ cup of raspberry preserves

 

Start by proofing the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the warm water. The temperature is important here, because the yeast cannot grow correctly if the water is too hot or too cold. Give a little stir and let sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s smelly and bubbly.

While the yeast is proofing, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar, salt and vanilla, beating until smooth. Slowly pour in the melted butter while continuously whisking until smooth. Pour in the yeast mixture and beat.  Add one cup of flour, then a splash of milk, alternating with each for the remaining milk and flour. If the dough is too sticky and wet, add more flour until it is firm enough to knead on a counter top.

On a floured work surface, knead the dough a few times until smooth. Place the dough in a clean, buttered bowl. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about an hour, until is doubles in size.

Prepare the filling. Mix the cheese with the confectioner sugar and vanilla. Gently heat the raspberry sauce in the microwave or a small pot until it loosens up a bit.

Prepare the bundt pan. Generously grease the pan with melted butter and a dusting of flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured work surface and shape into a 10 x 15 rectangle.  Brush the dough with the melted butter and then layer on the cheese filling. Spoon the raspberry sauce on top of the cheese filling, adding more if needed.

Begin rolling the dough into a log shape. Gently lift the log and place it in the greased bundt pan. Seal the ends shut and let rise another hour, until doubled in size.

Bake the babka for 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting on a plate.

Classic French Toast with Cinnamon Vanilla Butter Compound

So it’s Sunday morning and the troops are STARVINNNNGGGG!! All you wanna do is cozy up with a cup of coffee and catch up on current events, but everyone is soooo hungry, so you trudge over to the stove and make this…

french toast

Classic French Toast with Cinnamon Vanilla Butter. This is the best sort of breakfast for those days. It’s the “here’s a big plate of food and a pile of forks… so have at it “kind of food.

french toast with cinnamon vanilla butter

When you taste this while your still in your half-cup coffee coma, you might possibly start to go giddy like a group of gas-passing toddlers.

Why passing gas is so funny, I will never understand.

But I do understand that this cinnamon vanilla butter has the power to magically awaken you and your taste buds so much that you will forget that you didn’t even finish your cup of coffee. And your previous caffeine addiction will now be converted to a cinnamon vanilla butter addiction.

Don’t blame me.

Blame the butter.

And the cinnamon.

Classic French Toast

Adapted from William Sonoma

For those of you that have a fear of soggy bread (I know I can’t possibly be the only one). This is not just soggy bread. Trust me; I would not lie about something as seriously gross as soggy bread.

Soaking the stale baguette in the mixture for a few minutes allows the bread to absorb the eggs for a custardy center, but the crust remains slightly chewy and crispy.

Ingredients

1 stale baguette

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

Pinch salt

Butter, as needed for greasing the pan

Directions

Slice the baguette on a slight angle about an inch thick.

In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the egg mixture. Soak the slices for 5-7 minutes, then flip them and soak for another 5-7 minutes.

Melt a pat of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side on medium-low heat.

Serve with cinnamon vanilla butter compound and syrup.

Cinnamon Vanilla Butter Compound

1/2 stick butter, softened

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon of confectioner sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, blend all ingredients with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.

(Or you could make it from scratch by substituting the butter for 1 pint of heavy whipping cream and these directions.)

french toast

How to Grow Sprouts at Home

DSC_0637

-sprout-

  1. To begin to grow; shoot forth, as a plant from a seed
  2. To develop and grow

I can’t think of anything better to do on the first day of a new year than to grow sprouts!!

Sprouts have a unique crunchy bite and crisp grassy flavor that blends effortlessly on this Veggie Bagel layered with  red peppers, tomatoes and rich avocado slices and hummus.

Sprouting Seeds at Home:

Start with about 1/8 cup of alfalfa or red clover seeds …

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A mason jar with metal rings and cheese cloth or fine wire mesh…

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Fill the jar with water at least ¾ full and soak the seeds overnight for at least 4 hours.

Turn the jar over to drain out the water. Rinse and drain again. This step is perfect for little ones who love to dump water.

Water the seeds everyday for 4 days.

jar

You will begin to see little white shoots…

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The best part about growing sprouts is when you wake up on the third morning and they have a tiny green bud.

green sprouts (2)

They need at least one more day to fully develop and shed their brown husks.

DSC_0557

Once the sprouts are ready, rinse them thoroughly to remove the brown husks.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

Strawberry Vanilla Butter Compound

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.

-Joan Gussow

I am sad to say sayonara to strawberry season of 2012. It was a good run, and  I have but one pint of fresh picked strawberries left. I strategically hid them from my children, who will go to great lengths building makeshift ladders to the kitchen counter, spotting any berries left unattended. But this last little pint of puny berries were destined for something great. Something unusually simple that could transform a piece of toast is something extraordinary. Something like Strawberry-Vanilla Butter.

Now I could just whip the berries up with 2 sticks of good quality butter, or I could go ahead and make it from scratch. There are certain things in life that must be tried and tasted at least once. Homemade butter is one of them.

Here’s what to do:

1 pint of fresh cream (the better the cream, the better your butter will be. I love Seven Stars Heavy Whipping Cream, available at Kimberton Whole Foods.)

½ cup of fresh strawberries, chopped

2-3 Tbls Maple syrup

Salt to taste

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod

Pour the cream in a stand mixer and beat on medium. After about 5 minutes or so, the cream will inevitably turn into whipped cream, at which point you can stop the mixer, scoop out a few spoonful’s and eat this while you continue to make your butter. (this step is optional)

Now, turn the mixer back on, and in about 5 minutes, the cream will start to separate into chunks and buttermilk will be splashing around the bowl.

Scoop the butter out and put it into a sieve to drain out the buttermilk. Prepare an ice bath, (bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes) and drop the butter in the cold water to completely rinse out the buttermilk. Work the butter a bit, to squeeze out all the liquid.

Wipe the mixer clean and return the butter back to the mixer. Add the berries, vanilla bean seeds, salt and maple syrup. Mix until incorporated. This butter lasts about a week in the fridge. If you roll it into a log and wrap it in wax paper and aluminum, it will last about 2 months in the freezer.