Monday, February 23, 2015

Making Banana Pancakes

Having middle schoolers is so interesting.  I'm seeing things about them as people, individual humans that I am fascinated by.  I sometimes wonder which of these attributes will be forever parts of them and which ones are seasonal.  An interesting quality about my son is that he cherishes ritual and celebration. More than anyone in our home.  He's the one who thinks of special ways to honor me on Mother's Day, and wants to commemorate the first day of school, or the first day of summer vacation with certain foods and traditions. Food really is the main focus of his celebrating.  He comes by this honestly.  I really think food is the cornerstone of most celebrating.  
Like earlier this month for my birthday.  I thought of a few activities that were non-food related, like hiking at Radnor Lake and cleaning my laundry room (I know, glamorous…thank you Gretchen for indulging), but for the most part it was about food and coffee.  

So, one of the desires of my son is to have "Saturday breakfast".  A real one.  Seated around the table not standing around or perched at the bar.  Weekday mornings are on-the-go and running about.  People fend for themselves or request a smoothie or egg to be made while someone is already blending or flipping.  The kids usually sit at the bar and Dave and I stand.  So, when we can, I try to honor this Saturday Breakfast Ritual. I love it too.  And I love that he loves it.  

The four mainstays of our Saturday Breakfasts are:

 our favorite Oh Boy Waffles.  If you haven't tried them you must.  They are like no other waffles.
And the Mile High Biscuits.  You need to make them this week! I crave them very often.

And French Toast - inspired by the Pancake Pantry.

And Banana Pancakes.
We were not having great luck with our Joy of Cooking recipe- they were flatter than a pancake! 
But my friend Melissa B. pointed me to the Martha Stewart Classic Pancake recipe and BINGO it's a winner.  It's a great classic pancake- that you can tweak and add to.  I love a Buckwheat pancake, or cornmeal or grainy one, but my family would rather stick to these fluffy, classic ones.
And as long as we can add some toasted pecans and sliced bananas, I'm happy with these pancakes.  They are predictable and easy.

Basic Pancakes
by Martha Stewart

1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1 large egg

Butter or oil for pan

Assorted toppings or mix ins: chopped bananas, toasted pecans, berries, mini chocolate chips

Soft butter and syrup

Preheat oven to 200˚; have a baking sheet ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg.  Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not over mix; a few small lumps are fine).  If you are adding mix-ins, do so now.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Rub skillet with a little butter or oil on a paper towel.

For each pancake, spoon 2-3 Tbsp. of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round.  (Or use one of those fancy pancake pens- which I don't have or I would have provided photos to demonstrate. It's on my wish list.)

Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes.  Flip carefully with a thin spatial and cook until brown on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more.  Transfer to baking sheet; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven.
Continue oiling/buttering pan before each pancake pouring.

Top with butter, syrup, and/or fruit, nuts, etc.


I can't help but sing the Jack Johnson song, Banana Pancakes, every time I make them! Do you know this song? It's a great weekend, breakfast-making soundtrack.  That entire album is.  I looked up the lyrics so I could really sing along and realized that I really didn't relate to it at all  (except that I like to make banana pancakes), nor was it the most family friendly lyrically.   So, for those of you who get to lie in bed on a weekday with your spouse and tempt him/her to stay in bed and take the morning slow and eat banana pancakes, then this might be your anthem.  My anthem is more about choosing to wake up early so that we can steal a quiet hour of drinking coffee, chatting, reading and centering before the onslaught of children and busyness and tasks enter the scene.  Unlike the song, our banana pancakes are requested by our children who devour them in 8 minutes.  And after a  "thanks for the pancakes" they are ready to move on to the next activity of the day.  Nevertheless, I still play the song when we make Banana Pancakes.

It's such fun to honor my teenager's desire to sit around the table together and make a special Saturday breakfast memory. I don't assume that this will always be the case, though with him, it just might.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chocolate Shortbread Valentine Cookies

I love Valentine's Day! So fun! So much prettiness and love and sugar!  I have written about my adoration of this holiday in years past and have shared some of my favorite traditions, recipes and treats 
So, I will refrain from repeating myself and will make this a short post.  

In my home (and my home growing up) Valentine's was a fun holiday not a romantic, "Hallmark", pressure-filled holiday.  It's a day to say "I LOVE YOU" to people you adore- friends, family, co-workers, neighbors.  

Heart garland- fun to make and have love draping from your ceiling! My
friend Connie made this one for me several birthdays ago and I
bring it out each year!

Valentine BINGO played with conversation hearts

Meringue Cookies- heart shaped! 
I usually make heart cut out cookies because they are so pretty and delicious and lovely.  Hearts are my favorite cookie cutter shape and the easiest to frost, in my opinion. 

 I sometimes make sugar cookies or these linzer shortbread cookies.

If you are more in the chocolate mood, these chocolate shortbread cookies are a treat!  

They are soft and like a thin brownie!  

The dough is just a few ingredients that you mix together.

They are easy and fun to ice.

After a bit of refrigeration, the dough is easy to cut out.

Here's the recipe:

from Everyday Food- Martha Stewart
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add flour, sugar and cocoa; mix just until combined.  (Chill dough in refrigerator for 10 minutes or more…if you chill it for longer, set out to soften a bit before rolling as it becomes hard in the refrigerator with all of that butter!)

Pat dough onto a flat surface and roll out (using a dusting of powdered sugar or flour to keep from sticking). Cut with cookie cutter into hearts (or desired shape). Place on cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment for easy clean up and no sticking). Bake 10-12 minutes until firm but not crispy.  
Cool completely and then frost as you wish. (See below for ideas)

1. Ice with a simple glaze-
I scooped 1/2 cup powdered sugar, a heaping Tbsp cocoa powder, a few drops of vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirred and added drops of water until it was smooth and thin, but not too thin. Spread on cookies with a spoon.  Add sprinkles while they are still wet.
2.  Melt melting chocolate wafers (I use the Ghirardelli brand) and dip the cookies (half or entire cookie) adding sprinkles while still wet.  
3.  I had some buttercream frosting left over from making a Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake and decided to make sandwich cookies (inspired by the double-doozie cookies at the cookie store)

I think the key is frosting them in a way that makes them easy to stack and package for giving away! The sprinkles provide a nice barrier to cookies which keep them from sticking to each other. 

Bake some lovely goodies, write a kind note, make something pretty, bring warmth to this wintry month, share your adoration with someone!