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Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

Now I know what to do with leftover pumpkin puree after my annual Thanksgiving baking sprees. This super quick, delicious and of course healthy pumpkin recipe was inspired by a post in Sunset Magazine. The initial results were good, but we couldn’t help but adapt the recipe to make it turn out as delicious as their photo.I happened to have cooked apples on hand the first time I made this, which was even more appealing.

This is a perfect post-Thanksgiving  breakfast option, and would work great on a weekday morning since it is a one-bowl process.

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Easy and Delicious Homemade Yogurt

Our family is nuts about yogurt. Especially of the plain and simple variety. I’m not exactly sure how, but my kids  – who love sweets in every other context – continue to prefer their yogurt rich, creamy and unsweetened. This all means that we were going to through 3-4 32. oz tubs a week. Cost not withstanding, recycling that many yogurt containers began to feel incredibly wasteful. I tried creative reuse at first but one can only hold on to so many empties before they overtake the house. Even the preschool had politely declined donations. I knew it was time to get over my fear of culturing my own food and forge ahead toward homemade. With one caveat: the finish product had to taste just like our favorite Straus Family Creamery yogurt or else. Actually, two caveats: the kids would have to eat it without complaint.

With very little trial and error and a few months of practice, I’ve earned enough yogurt-making props from family and friends to officially go public with the technique. As you’ll see, the beneficial bacteria really do all of the work.

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Weekend Special: Lemony Ricotta Pancakes

As I may have mentioned in the past, I am not a huge fan of traditional American pancakes. Which means I’m always trying to play with different versions that please my palette and that of the kiddos, who do love a good pancake in their weekend breakfast routine. Since I often order the Marion’s Pancake at Chow (on those weekends when breakfast is best eaten out of the house), I decided to see about making a homemade version. What resulted is this recipe, which yields delicious, light, lemony, not too sweet pancakes that go perfectly with any fruit or maple syrup of course. If you have Meyer lemons on hand, they add an even more interesting flavor. But plain old Eurekas work great too.

You’ll appreciate how quick these are to whip up, despite the special step of beating egg whites (hint: get the kids to make them!). They are also chock full of protein which makes the morning meal more effective at keeping mid-morning hunger at bay. I like mine small and stacked but you could do like Chow, and go for the large full plate version too.

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Winter Greens and Leek Frittata

With spring around the corner, I’ve been craving lighter foods but ones that still retain the heartiness of winter fare. This frittata is a wonderful option for this transitional time of year. Use the recipe as a base for any combination of vegetables. Little bits and mixtures are perfect.

The rule of thumb is to create a diversity of flavors and textures, adding herbs if you have any on hand, and a representative of the allium family (onion, leek, garlic, shallot, etc). I love how these humble ingredients are elevated to a far fancier status with the addition of eggs and a little milk. This frittata is super versatile – a full proof choice for any meal and a great option for a casual brunch. Make it the night before if that is easier, and warm gently before serving.

The recipe below features a winter combo. In spring, try gently cooked fava beans, English peas, scallions and chives. In summer, a mix of sautéed summer squashes and basil or cilantro will be delicious. The possibilities are endless. Now if only I could convince the kids to love this as much as I do…

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Surviving Back to School Step 1: A Family Meal Calendar

While it has been great fun posting about my baking endeavors and lazy summer meals, reality struck with a vengeance right around last Monday! This happened to be the first day of third grade for Ava, as well as the last day of “lazy” camp mornings for us. Despite my best intentions for the opposite, I found myself totally unprepared, perhaps because I haven’t yet adjusted to having to function at full throttle in the middle of August. Which to most people outside of San Francisco is considered the height of summer.

By morning #3, it was apparent that our usual patterns we’re failing. The “what do you want for breakfast today?” under duress left us frantic (duress in this case equals having to be out the door by 7:40 at the latest to make it to school on time) . Lunch went great for a few days, then we became the recipients of the nearly full lunch bag and “hangry” late afternoon tantrums.

Given all of this, I came up with a new approach that will hopefully set us on the right track: a food calendar. In its simplest version, it looks like this:

The plan was to pick a consistent breakfast idea for every Monday, Tuesday, etc of each week, so that everyone was on board in terms of cooking and eating expectations.  And while we were busy planning breakfasts, why not plan lunches too? It also seemed like an excellent way to engage the kids in the food planning process so that when they complained (as they surely will) about having oatmeal on Tuesday, for example, we would be prepared to remind them – gently and with the utmost patience of course  –  that it was their choice in the first place. I expect that monthly revisions at the outset, but that will still be a great improvement over daily scrambling (and I don’t mean eggs).

Witness the completed plan. We are very proud.

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Quick and Easy Whole Grain Yogurt Pancakes

My husband and I are in a food preparation sharing rhythm these days that leaves me in charge of dinner most nights while he covers breakfast. Breakfast is not usually a fancy affair in our house, but we do favor doing a hot meal in the mornings, and tend to make something different each day of the week. Don’t ask me how we got into this “what do you want for breakfast today” mess because I often find myself envying friends who make the same dishes every morning and avoid the paralysis of choice, 4 and 8-year old style.But we are where we are.

The other detail to this fine tale is that my husband travels quite a bit, which means I am not home free in the breakfast department by any stretch. Yet in recent months, he’s been away less than usual. So when I found myself up at 7AM on a recent Monday morning facing two hungry kids, very little time to spare, and totally out of my routine, I knew something had to be done.

That something involved figuring out a simple pancake recipe that both girls would eat. You see, Talia is essentially on a self-imposed Atkins diet but doesn’t like eggs, so breakfast is generally a bit of a nightmare for us/her. And I’m not a huge fan of doughy pancakes, from a texture standpoint and because Ava generally has a better day with a protein-packed breakfast. All of this context, coupled with the general realization that we never have buttermilk in the house on a regular basis, inspired this recipe.Whole grains, yogurt, eggs, it’s a lovely combo in one lacey, golden package. Most importantly for busy families, you can set up the batter in no time the night before, and use it straight from the fridge to make super quick and delicious pancakes even on a weekday morning.

Try it out. Tell me what you think. And most of all, enjoy!

Preparation

Serves 4 (it doubles beautifully for more servings)

Heat 12″/large skillet or griddle on medium high heat. Preheat oven to 200° if you need to keep the finished pancakes warm.

In the meantime, gently combine in a bowl the following ingredients:

  1. 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (this is a good time to use a coarser whole wheat flour if you have any on hand)
  2. 1/3 cup fine cornmeal
  3. 1/4 tsp, kosher salt
  4. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  5. 1 tsp. baking powder
  6. 2 tsp. sugar
  7. 1 cup plain yogurt (preferably full fat) or vanilla, maple, etc.
  8. 1 beaten egg
  9. 2 tbsp. melted butter
  10. orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla as desired, or not

Melt a bit of butter into pan (enough to cover the bottom but not so much that it pools). Ladle 1/4 cup or just less of batter per pancake. A 12″ pan should hold 4.

Flip when you see bubbles forming on top, when the edges are set and when the bottom is golden and lacy (you’ll need to peek to figure that out). These are fairly delicate pancakes on account of the low flour content so be gentle when you flip. I found using a slotted spatula to be an excellent tool for the task, if you happen to have one around. (Frankly, I could throw out all other spatulas and just use this one for all tasks, it’s that good).

Serve alongside an egg and/or with your favorite toppings. Our favorite these days is with yogurt and maple syrup on top.

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Baked Eggs with Spring Vegetables

Father’s Day is around the corner, and perhaps like many of you, I’m mulling over special Dad’s Day breakfast menu options. Which got me thinking about the awesome brunch my crew made for me a month ago, in honor of Mother’s Day, featuring Baked Eggs with Vegetables. All you need to pull off this gorgeous and delicious dish is spring/summer produce (asparagus, fava beans, tomatoes and green beans are excellent options) and about 15 minutes of your time. Plus a large skillet (or two, depending on how many you are making). Throw in some good bread or roasted potatoes plus the requisite Bloody Mary/mimosa/fancy cocktail, and you are on your way.

I also happen to appreciate that this dish satisfies anyone who is fussy about their eggs (namely, my children). You have total control over cooking time and thus how “done” the whites and yolks become. It’s fairly easy to end up with perfectly cooked whites and gorgeous runny yolks, which is my personal preference.

Preparation

Inspired by Esperanza Pallana of Pluckandfeather.com

4 servings per 12″ (oven-proof) skillet

Preheat broiler

Rough chop a combination of spring/summer vegetables – green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, summer squash, any mix you have on hand. Finely chop 1-2 cloves of garlic.

Heat olive oil in pan and gently saute garlic. Turn heat to medium-high, add vegetables and cook for 2-4 minutes, until they soften and brighten in color. Clear open a few spaces for eggs and break in the pan (you should have room for 3-4 eggs in a 12-inch skillet). Fry them sunny side up for a few minutes until the bottoms set. Place the pan under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the whites firmed on top, but the yolk is still runny (or leave them in a bit longer if you prefer hard yolks). Season with salt and pepper and serve.

This is for all the amazing Dad’s out there, including my own!

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Melt-in-your-Mouth Yeasted Waffles

Our family likes waffles but we rarely go through the trouble of making them from scratch. Who really has time to whip egg whites early in the morning, with hungry kids nipping at your heels? So we used to rely primarily on a good whole grain mix or tinker with a pancake recipe to make things work. But this usually results in a dense “healthy” tasting version that, as Ava would say, “is not my favorite.”

Enter the yeasted or raised waffle. A while back, we were served waffles like I’ve never tasted before at our neighbor’s house. When I asked her to disclose the trade secret behind such goodness, she mentioned they were “yeasted”. For some reason, it took me a few years to actually seek out a recipe – and as it turns out, they are a classic, from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook which I happened to have on my shelf as part of my vintage cookbook collection (total volumes at press time: 3). They are super easy – mostly made the night before which means you can whip them up even on busy weekday mornings, are a hit with kids and parents alike, and have the most unbelievably scrumptious texture. Light as air is beyond trite but I can’t think of a more apt description.

Preparation

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Eleventh Edition

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yields 6 Belgian-style large waffles

Note: the original recipe calls for white flour and 1/2 cup of butter. For a healthier version, I substituted fine whole wheat flour (white whole wheat works great) and made the waffles with 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup flaxseed oil.

Put 1/2 cup lukewarm water ((100-110° if you are curious what lukewarm means here) ) + 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast in a mixing bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups lukewarm milk, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup flaxseed oil (or other flavorless vegetable oil), 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Beat in 2 cups whole wheat flour.

Cover the bowl. Let stand overnight or at least 8 hours (but NOT in the refrigerator).

When it is time to cook the waffles, add 2 beaten eggs and a pinch of baking soda. Beat well. The batter will be VERY thin! Cook with a waffle iron and top with berries, marscapone and maple syrup (as shown) or any other favorite.