A plethora of pancakes

One of the things I love about cooking is the enormous amount of variation that can be found in even the simplest of recipes.
For example, take the humble pancake. Flour, leavening, eggs and milk combined into a thin batter and poured on a hot griddle. What could be simpler? And yet I doubt I have ever gone to a restaurant or breakfasted at someone else’s home without encountering a new variation on the theme.
I grew up on Bisquick pancakes. Everything was ready to go in a box except the milk, so pancakes were one of the earliest things I learned to make. Bisquick pancakes tended to be very fluffy, big, and slightly dry, which wasn’t a problem since we always drowned our cakes in Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. Come to think of it, I don’t know if they sell Mrs. Butterworth’s down south. The syrup bottle was shaped like a woman in an apron. Do they still sell it like that?

But I digress.

Sometimes, if dad were in the right mood, we would break tradition with Bisquick, and he would make ‘silver dollar’ pancakes. I don’t think the batter was anything special, but it was very thin, and he would make piles and piles of little tiny pancakes, and we girls would see who could eat the most.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, my best friend used to invite me to stay with her at her grandparents house for a few days every summer, and they would take us to the Weyerhauser mansion for breakfast. There, my scrawny, nine-year-old self would order the “Lumberjack Breakfast”. In addition to bacon, sausage, eggs and hash browns, it came with a stack of pancakes big enough to cover an entire plate, and an ice cream scoop of butter on top. Not surprisingly, I never finished it.
I also remember a few times when one of my uncles would come over on Saturday mornings and make us buckwheat pancakes, just like his mom used to make them. Oh, those heavy, wheaty flapjacks were a trial for our picky, white flour palates, but we tried our best to muscle them down, so as not to offend him.
And speaking of uncles and pancakes, every year at our family reunion, another of my uncles would make fabulous blueberry pancakes, using a closely guarded secret recipe. There were rumors that there was vodka in the batter, but I never found out for sure.
There are the round Aebleskivers my Danish cousin taught me to make, and “skinny pancakes” that a junior high friend introduced me to. I later found out they were really called crepes.
Then there is the dutch baby, the german pancake, or as we call it, the puff pancake, because it rises to such heights in the oven before it collapses.

I think I’ve made my point.

The pancake recipe I am going to share today is different than all of the above, since it’s main ingredient is sour cream. I got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s blog, but I have altered it some to suit our needs. I was reticent to try this recipe for a long time because I couldn’t imagine a pancake with so much sour cream could look or taste like a pancake. But once I finally did, it became our family favorite. Oh, and it’s super simple. So here we go.

Here’s what you need-


Crack four eggs into a bowl.

Then just dump in the whole 1 lb container of sour cream, along with a good splash of vanilla extract.

Mix it up.

Then just stir in
2 cups of flour
2 tsp baking soda.


It’s going to be lumpy, and that is good. “Leave it lumpy” was the first law of pancake making, according to my mother.


Now because I altered the original recipe, I sometimes find that the batter is too thick, so I thin it down with a little milk or buttermilk until it is the desired consistency.

Then just find your favorite griddle or skillet. I use my Cuisinart Griddler. Even thought it is non stick, I always use plenty of butter.

Cook them like any other pancake, letting them get bubbly on the edges before you flip them.

And there you are! We’ve graduated from Mrs. Butterworth’s to real maple syrup around here, so that’s how we serve them, but jam is very nice too.

What’s your favorite pancake?


Summer’s Bounty (otherwise entitled- Too Many Tomatoes!)

I’m going to pretend that I have made all the necessary excuses for my long blogging absence, and just dive right back in here. Or at least put my toe in. Life’s a little unpredictable these days.
It’s been forever since I have posted a recipe, which I blame mostly on the fact that I haven’t been cooking much lately. People have been bringing us meals, and we’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches, but I could no longer ignore the produce that seems to be bursting out of my garden this year, so it’s back to the kitchen I go.
Gardening is a funny thing. Last year I spent hours upon hours nurturing my garden, only to have it all rot in the excess rain. This year, too pregnant to care much, I haphazardly threw some tomato, pepper, corn and squash starts into the ground, and I am getting a bumper crop- especially tomatoes. Go figure.
So what to do?
One of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes is in a caprese salad- you know, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil with a splash of balsamic vinegar? Well, this super easy recipe just takes that idea one step further. It’s a bread salad, and makes for a very light, satisfying dinner. It’s also a great way to use up any leftover crusty bread you may have lying around. Here’s what you need.

And for the dressing

The only cooking involved here is making the croutons. But I warn you, once you start making homemade croutons, it’s hard to go back to the store bought ones in a box. I happened to have this chunk of wonderful sourdough staling on my countertop, but most french style breads will work. Just cut it up into rough cubes. I like mine on the big side.

Then throw them in a pan and liberally drizzle olive oil over them.

Also a generous sprinkling of salt.

Turn the stove on to medium high, and shake the pan occasionally to toast them evenly. Let them get nicely golden brown and crispy on the outside, but still a little soft on the inside. Remove them from the heat.

Now just dice up the tomatoes and the fresh mozzarella.

Then slice up a few basil leaves, which I do by stacking them, rolling them up tightly and slicing thinly. This is called a chiffonade, I think.



Put the bread in the bowl, followed by the cheese, basil and tomatoes. Or the other way around. It doesn’t matter.


A good dousing of olive oil is called for here, and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar.

Toss it with a little salt and pepper and garnish it with a sprig more of basil if you have it.

And that’s it. A great way to make a dent in your pile of tomatoes, if you have one. We have also served this with leftover sliced chicken or beef for a heartier meal. Quite delish. But serve it quickly or the croutons will be soggy. Enjoy!

Fries for a Friday night

“Easy to make” is a relative term. Any skill is going to vary in its ease, depending on the person. Are they experienced at all in the skill? Have they practiced it? Are they determined to make it work? Do they have the necessary tools? Or perhaps, are they nine months pregnant and a little brain dead?
I tend to have a slightly different view of how easy a thing is to make when it comes to cooking. I don’t know how many times people have asked me how to make a recipe, and I have responded with “Oh, it’s so easy to make! You start by chopping an onion and some garlic…”
Then I get an eye roll, which says only too plainly- “You lost me at onion chopping. I want an easy recipe.”

So when I say these fries are really easy to make, I suppose they are not quite as easy as throwing a bag of frozen fries in the oven, but if you want a really delicious homemade fry, it doesn’t get easier than this.

When I am pregnant, I can easily dispense with the ice cream and the secret candy stash. I’m a sucker for the salty fried stuff. But it took me many years to get up the guts to deep fry at home. I always heard those horror stories of people getting burned in oil fires, and I myself once almost burned a house down while messing around with hot oil. And then there is the mess of it all and the expense of using all that oil, not to mention it doesn’t do much for the waistline. I’ve tried recipes where you soak the fries in cold water, dry them individually, toss them in corn starch and fry them once, sometimes twice in huge vats of hot oil. Tasty, but so much work.

All that to say, I didn’t do much frying until I came across this method on one of my favorite shows, America’s Test Kitchen. I sometimes wish I hadn’t discovered it, because I make fries probably more than I should now. But the America’s Test Kitchen method was discouraging because they required the potatoes to be squared off first, and then cut very small and exact. I think they even suggest using a ruler to get the precise 1/4 inch measurement. If you know me at all, I don’t use rulers in my kitchen. Even measuring cups are optional. So I decided to use the method on steak fries instead- just big hearty wedges of potato. And it worked beautifully. So here goes. This is what you need.

Start with your potatoes. Yukon gold work best because they are tastiest and you don’t need to peel them, but russets would work too. Give them a quick rinse and cut off any imperfections.

Then just slice them in half.

Then slice the halves into four or five wedges each.

Fill up a deep, heavy bottomed pan with as many fries as you want to make. I used my dutch oven here, and got the boys to help.

Set your pan on the stove.

Then add your oil. I love this recipe most, because instead of four quarts of oil, it only takes about four cups. It also doesn’t require any thermometers. Just pour the oil in (I use peanut oil) until it almost covers the potatoes. It’s okay if they aren’t completely submerged.

Then turn the stove on high. That’s about it!

These are going to take about 25 minutes to cook, but it’s hands off, so you can work on the rest of your meal.
After about 5 minutes, you will start to see little bubbles floating up.

After about ten, the oil will have come to a full, rolling boil. The oil may splatter a tiny bit, but it won’t overflow.
Just let it go, and don’t stir it. The potatoes are very soft right now and will just get mashed up.

After ten more minutes, you will see the edges start to brown a bit.

Once they start getting really golden and have a nice crust, you can gently stir them with some tongs, or a slotted spoon, just so the bottom ones don’t burn.

Then we are about done. Once they are a deep golden color, just remove them to a plate lined with plenty of paper towels. I usually do two layers, salting generously as I go.

Serve them with whatever you want, like a big pack of pre-made Costco chicken wings and a big bag of precut Costco broccoli that the hubby brought home. Because who am I kidding- I am nine months pregnant and a little brain dead. I’m not deep frying and grilling at the same time.

Oh, and quick clean up tip. I wait for the oil to cool down, then put a glass jar with a strainer in my sink (in case a little oil spills)

Then I strain the left over oil into a jar and save it for the next time. I usually use the oil for three batches before I discard it.

So that’s that! A fantastic, crispy homemade french fry that is “so easy to make!”

Bread for the down days

I know that bread is a loaded word these days.  My family does not seem to have a hard time with gluten, but I often avoid even mentioning the word gluten in public, for fear of what I might stir up.  It’s a tricky and sometimes exhausting topic.  I have read many books and articles, trying to figure out what is evil and what is not, in the carb world. I have tried my hand at new kinds of bread- sprouted grain, soaked oat breads, home made sourdoughs- all in an effort to eat less white flour and avoid chemicals.  I grind most of my own flour.  We’ve tried going without bread entirely, but I am a carb kind of girl- especially when I am pregnant.  And when I want comfort food- keep your chocolate and your ice cream- I am looking for a thick slice of warm bread with lots of butter on it.

Today was definitely a comfort food kind of day.  My house, undergoing a huge surge of nesting instinct, is currently all topsy turvy.  Closets are emptied out- bags of give away clothes and trash keep multiplying.  Every time I pull something out of the back of a cupboard, the boys seem to be full of fond memories for it and fight me tooth and nail either to play with it or keep me from tossing it.  I am shifting all the winter clothes out to make room for summer, but winter keeps coming back!  There are snow flakes and white cherry blossoms dancing all over my yard as I speak, and I can’t straighten my house out until the seasons straighten themselves out.

So whenever I feel my life is going to pieces, I head to the kitchen.  Baking is my stress relief, and recipes that can be trusted are a link to sanity.   No hunting the internet for something new and exciting-  it’s time for my worn out, trusty old cookbooks.  Books like my old church cookbook-


And recipes like this- an old classic from my Auntie Frances that I hadn’t made for many years, but had fond memories of.  As far as bread recipes go- it’s a very easy one- no kneading required.


You will notice that not only does this recipe contain plenty of white flour and sugar- it also contains two sticks of butter.  So if you need to jump ship here, go ahead.  I am going recklessly on.


I was struck with the monochromatic ingredients of this recipe, combined with the white countertop, but it seemed to fit my mood, so I left my rainbow colored spoons out of the picture and went with white on white.


I have altered the ingredients and the process of making this bread slightly, so I will walk you through it.

Start proofing 1 package (2 1/4 tsp)  of dry yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.  It needs to get nice and foamy.


Melt one stick of butter in a large bowl.


Add 1 cup of milk and two eggs.


and 1/4 cup of sugar.  (I cut the sugar content in half- that counts for something, right?)

Stir all that together.


Now add three cups of all purpose flour and 1 tsp. of salt.


Your yeast should be foamy by now, so go ahead and add that too.


Stir it all together until you have a very wet, sticky mass.


That’s it!  Now cover it up and let it rise in a warm place, about an hour.  You can also put this in the fridge and it will keep for several days until you are ready to use it.


After an hour, it will look nice and puffy.  Just stir it all down again and turn on your oven to 350.


Now comes the fabulous part.  I hope you haven’t forgotten about that second stick of butter, because it needs to go in a 9×13 pan.  Stick it in your preheating oven until it is all melted.

DSCF1383 DSCF1384

Once it’s melted, take your very sticky dough and plop it in big spoonfuls, as evenly as you can, over the butter.


Then it needs to rise again- only about twenty minutes, till it starts to get puffy again.


Then into the oven for about 30 minutes.  It should be nice and golden on the top when you pull it out.


As a side note, the first time I made this for my hubby, he was elated because he thought I had finally figured out how to make brioche the way he remembers eating it as a child in France.  This isn’t really like other brioche recipes that I have tried (except for the butter content) but apparently it’s a pretty close match to the real thing.  So next time the hubby asks me to recreate a childhood recipe, I guess I’ll just keep adding butter until I get it right.


Either way I can’t describe to you the amazing buttery, yeasty smell that will permeate your house when you make this, and it will lift your mood instantly.

I was so cheered up, I used a bright blue plate to serve it!



No need to serve it with butter, but jam isn’t half bad.

And now I can tackle the pile of shoes in my bedroom with renewed vigor!

Picnic Pasta!

Just a real quick post for a Friday night.  I meant to post this a few weeks back, when the weather was balmy and I was sure that spring (and picnic weather) had arrived for good.  Joke’s on me I guess, seeing as we went from 80 to 30 degrees in a 24 hour period.  But that’s what spring is, I suppose- as uncertain and changeable as the appetite of my three-year -old.

But I digress.  Enough about the weather. Bring on the food!

I call this my Picnic Pasta, because it is an all in one sort of meal that is quick to throw in a basket with some paper plates and plastic forks, and I find it a little more exciting than sandwiches.  But we eat it at many other events as well, particularly potlucks.  And like all pasta salads, it can be made with an infinite variety of ingredients.  This is just how I (and my kiddos) like it best.

Lots of peppers, tomatoes, meat and cheese!


Start by boiling a big pot of water.  When it’s roiling along, add 1 lb. of pasta- your choice.  I like to use penne rigate because it is easy to spear with a fork, or for little fingers just to grab.  It’s a picnic food, after all.


While that is boiling (about ten minutes) chop up your veggies, meat (usually some form of salami) and cheese. (I had cheddar in my fridge, but blue cheese is nothing to sneeze at)  Don’t you love the colors?  And if I had my way, there would be some red onion added to the spectrum, but I am usually out voted.


When the pasta is done, drain it and run it under cold water so it doesn’t get all sticky and mushy.


Then just throw it all in a bowl and toss.  So easy!  And if you are really going for easy, pack a bottle of ranch dressing along side it.

DSCF1277 DSCF1278

But for those of you who want a little something extra special, toss the salad with this french vinaigrette I posted a while back.  Just be sure to double it.  A little avocado wouldn’t go amiss here either, but make sure you add it at the last minute, since it turns brown very quickly.  It is such a yummy combo!


Either way- enjoy at a picnic, a potluck, or on your own private patio.  (I like alliteration. Sorry.)

Now that it’s Spring

I know I am speaking too soon, even in the South, but on a day like today, I can’t help but feel that Spring has arrived for good.  Sunshine, 70 degrees and blooming daffodils will do that to you.

As soon as it starts getting warmer around here, I immediately start craving lighter foods.  I pulled out the vitamix and made a smoothie for the boys today after months of using it to make hot soups.  And I wanted a salad for dinner in place of our usual wintertime roasted veggies.

I thought I would share this recipe with you all.  It was the first salad I ever learned to make.  Sure, I already knew how to chop up a bunch of lettuce, throw some diced carrots on the top and serve it with a bottle of ranch dressing, but a specific salad recipe?  That was new to me at age 18, and what makes this salad special was that I learned to make it in France, from a genuine French woman.

There are lots of golden memories floating around the making of this salad.  When my friends and I lived in southern France, we often visited our missionary friends on Sunday afternoons for dinner.  It always seemed to be a glorious sunny day with the French doors opening onto the terrace, letting in a light breeze that carried with it the scent of wild thyme and rosemary.   Madame B would be in the kitchen with a huge olive-wood salad bowl in front of her.  As I watched, she would cut open a big clove of garlic and rub the whole interior of the bowl with it.  Then in the bottom, she would mix her dressing, asking one of her children to run find some fresh thyme in the yard outside to sprinkle on top.

She would toss all the ingredients together and serve it with roasted lamb, or whatever else was sizzling in the oven that day, and of course, fresh baguette.   All of her food was good, but this salad- it was fresh and bright and garlicky and almost rich, as far as salads go.  I fell in love and insisted she give me the recipe.  And now I give it to you.

Here’s what you need for the salad.


And this is for the dressing.  So easy!


(that’s balsamic vinegar- sorry it’s so blurry.  And any dijon style mustard will do.)

Begin by either rubbing a garlic clove around your bowl, or smashing a couple cloves and throwing them in the bottom.  We like things garlicky around here.


Then the dressing is very simple.  Depending on how big your salad is going to be, use the following ratio-

3 parts olive oil

`1 part balsamic vinegar

1 part mustard

This is enough for a moderate amount of lettuce- say- two hearts of romaine.  I use a Tablespoon as a “part”.

Mix this in the bottom of your bowl with a good pinch of salt, pepper and thyme if you have it.

DSCF1159 DSCF1160

That’s it for the dressing.

Now dice up an avocado.


And a couple of tomatoes.  Throw those in the bottom of the bowl as well.


Then just chop up your lettuce (again, I used a couple of hearts of romaine).


Toss it up, and voila!


It’s great as a side, but sometimes I add some diced chicken and or bacon, for a full meal.

Enjoy, and here’s hoping spring is here to stay.  And for those still buried in snow, remember- spring will come again!

The Great Cake Competition

So it’s almost Valentine’s day, and I thought I would change things up a bit in my cooking section, by posting a blow by blow account of the contest my hubby and I had against each other last weekend.  We were having a Valentine’s dinner/fundraiser at our church under the guise of a cake auction.  The hubby and I both decided to donate a cake, and the contest was just between the two of us to see who could get the highest bid- merely to make things a little more interesting for us, and of course, to increase marital harmony at home.

We hunted high and low for good recipes, but in the end, we both chose a cake from the same web-site-  http://www.annies-eats.com/.  I know from experience that her cakes not only look amazing, but taste fabulous as well.  The challenge, of course, would be to imitate them.  I was fairly confident that this contest would be a cake walk (pun intended) since, well, my hubby had never made a layer cake.  But a few minutes into the process, I could see that he meant business.

I mean- look at that towel over his shoulder, and the perfectly greased and floured cake pans.

DSCF1189 DSCF1187

I had a few chances to snigger, like when I told him to be careful measuring cocoa powder because it can be very messy-DSCF1190

but once his cakes were in the oven and he started in like a pro on the salted caramel Swiss butter cream, I was starting to sweat.

DSCF1196 DSCF1204 DSCF1200 DSCF1203 DSCF1208

I mean, how was I supposed to compete with that much butter?


I quickly checked my own recipe and was relieved to see that my recipe used just as much butter, if not more.

There were a few more hopeful moments, like when his caramel started to harden too quickly.  But he pulled off a spectacular buttercream and slathered it generously between the layers, ready to set in the fridge all night.
(notice his forethought as well.  He made himself a mini cake for sampling.)
DSCF1209 DSCF1211

And ladies, here is an indicator of true marital bliss.  He did all his own dishes.


The next morning, I was up bright and early.  It was my turn, and this was no longer a light-hearted affair.

I had decided on a chocolate cake as well.


But I had a secret weapon.

Raspberries baby.


I melted and mixed and pureed.

DSCF1218 DSCF1224 DSCF1225 DSCF1226

I mean, how can you beat that color?


And there is just something about the word ganache.


It was touch and go for a while as I assembled the three layers.  But I remembered what my mother -a cake maker extraordinaire- had taught me at her knee, and I persevered.


At last, mine was ready to set in the fridge for a bit as well.

Then it was the two of us together, as we neared the end, smoothing and scraping and adding the finishing touches.


The tension in the room was palpable as I willed my glaze to gloop down the sides just so.


And then with a final flourish of raspberries on mine and a sprinkling of sea salt on his, we surveyed our handiwork.


Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera to the auction, and so I was unable to document the thrilling show down between our two cakes.  I have to admit the thing was rigged, since my cake went up last, and who was going to outbid a pink cake made by a lady who had just announced she was having a girl after four boys?  But it was a close thing, and made for a very memorable Valentine’s.  Now maybe this weekend we can go somewhere for cake and actually eat it too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too

ickle me

I know, that may seem like an odd title for a recipe post, but for some reason, a lot of my cooking memories go back to my dad. (which is really unfair since my mom did the bulk of all the cooking for us growing up.)  Maybe because every time he did cook, it was such an event and he turned up the music really loud and he used every dish in the house. (which my mom always had to clean up after).  And then he would come up with funny little sayings that soon became household quotes like,

“Mmm, butter. The other white meat.”

My dad also read a lot of Shel Silverstein to us when we were little.  (bear with me, this story is going to come together eventually – I think) One of my favorites was-

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too
Went for a ride in a flying shoe.
“What fun!”
“It’s time we flew!”
Said Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle was captain, and Pickle was crew
And Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew
As higher
And higher
And higher they flew,
Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

That’s part of it, anyways.  The important thing to note is the fact that ‘Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew’.  I always wondered what mulligan stew was, and then one day, my dad announced that he was going to make it.  At least that’s what I thought he said he was making, and for many years I thought one of our family’s favorite soups was the famed mulligan stew of the flying shoe.  Turns out, traditionally, mulligan stew is a hobo dish comprised of whatever ingredients can be found on hand and cooked over a fire in an old coffee can.  What my dad really made that day was Mulligatawny, an Anglo-Indian curry flavored soup,  but I still can’t separate the soup from the poem.  So there you are.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s make some soup! It’s cold out there!

Here’s what you need-


You have your basics like Onion, Celery, and Carrots. That iffy looking pile in the front is shredded chicken, and the pitcher is homemade chicken broth (store bought works fine).  We also have cream, rice, curry powder and a little surprise ingredient- an apple.  Oh and of course butter- the other white meat.

Start melting the butter in a big pot. I only used half the stick here. Pay no attention to the state of my dutch oven.  It is not dirty- it is simply well loved. DSCF1042

While that is melting, roughly chop up your veggies, and toss them in.


BTW, did you know the French call this combo of veggies a mirepoix? I have also heard it called the holy trinity of French cooking.  I don’t know what you call it when you add an apple. Anyways…

Let your veggies soften at medium heat while you peel and dice your apple.


Once your veggies are soft, toss in the diced apple and about a tablespoon of curry powder.


Stir all that up and then pour in enough broth to generously cover the veggies and apple.


Look, the apples float!  Turn up your heat and get things boiling.  Then to thicken it all up, you need to add either two cups of precooked rice (a great way to use up leftover rice) or one cup of raw.


Then we add our seasonings.  A good tablespoon of salt, lots of pepper and a bit of dried thyme if you have it.


I usually let the rice cook all the way before I add the chicken, so it doesn’t get overcooked.  Once the rice is cooked, you may need to add more broth, depending on how thick you like your soup.  Then just add your chicken and a hefty splash of cream.  Coconut milk is also very nice in this dish, but I didn’t have any on hand.DSCF1056

Then just stir it up, adjusting your seasonings as you go!


Hope you enjoy, whether flying in a shoe or sitting at home.  And stay warm!


Sprouts, by request

I had an interesting conversation on facebook last week, about the fact that my boys love to eat brussels sprouts. I had many comments of surprise, a few compliments from people who had tried my sprouts before and a request for a recipe that would avoid producing a pan full of “slime balls”. So here goes.

But first, I believe brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. Growing up, if I ever read a book about a child hating to eat his veggies, it always seemed to involve brussels sprouts, or lima beans. Therefore, I grew up with an enormous aversion to them, even though my mother never once tried to get me to eat either. In fact, I never knew anyone who ate sprouts, and such still might be the case if it weren’t for one of my sisters. She returned home from foreign lands, where brussels sprouts apparently had less of a social stigma, and served them for dinner one night. I was a little repulsed by the little mini cabbage heads, but decided to be mature about it and give one a try.
I can’t say that my life was forever changed at that moment, but the old childhood dread was overcome. I was willing to learn more about this new (to me) veggie, with it’s slightly bitter edge and pungent flavor.
I think my sister sautéed her sprouts on the stove that night, but I, who am a fan of the Pioneer Woman Cooks, liked her method of preparing them a little better (no offense sis!)
I think the key to avoiding slime balls is to avoid water at all costs. Do not boil them, do not steam them, and do not, (as the packaging suggests) microwave them in the plastic bag they came in!


Now there are two ways I do this, but they both involve roasting. Turn your oven up nice and high- about 450 degrees.
If I am short on time, I will toss them in olive oil (2-3 Tablespoons per pound) and a generous sprinkling of salt, which is very good. But there is a slightly tastier way that involves -you guessed it- bacon.
I used about 5 slices of chopped, thick cut bacon here.


Get that cooking while you prep your sprouts. You will sometimes find, in a bag of sprouts, that they vary in size, like this.

So for even cooking, I usually cut the bigger ones in half, and place them all on a rimmed baking sheet. I went ahead and used the whole two pound bag here, since we eat them like candy (and since we are leaving town and I don’t want to come back to a rotten bag of sprouts in the bottom of my fridge).

Once your bacon is nice and crispy, remove it from the pan, but save those drippings!

Pour the drippings over the sprouts with an even sprinkling of salt over the whole pan, and stir together till everything is nice and coated.

Put your pan in the oven, and let the high heat do it’s magic.

While they are in there, let me just say that roasting vegetables has become the number one preferred method of veggie preparation around here. If I can’t convince you to try sprouts, then next time you want broccoli, or cauliflower, or green beans or asparagus, just toss the chopped veggies in olive oil and salt and roast away. The heat brings out the natural sweetness in the veggies and gives them a far better flavor than steamed or boiled. I have even had success with roasted wedges of cabbage. My kids love it all! But I must say that frozen veggies do not come out nearly as well with this method, so stick to fresh.

After about fifteen minutes, they will be starting to get brown. Go ahead and stir them up a bit.

But we want them really brown, even slightly burnt at the edges, so keep roasting another ten or fifteen minutes until they look like this.

This is when the boys start wandering towards the kitchen, sniffing expectantly.
Throw them in a bowl and serve as is, or sprinkle with your reserved bacon bits.
And since it is Christmas time, try a few dried cranberries on top.

They add a sweet, tart contrast and a lovely red color that is very festive with the green sprouts. (Just ignore the grubby hand snitching from the bowl).

I hope you’ll give brussels sprouts a chance!

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake Cake

I’ve always loved the concept of brunch. It speaks of having the freedom to get up late, fix a leisurely meal, and take so long eating it that you run into lunch time. It speaks of holidays, vacations and quiet Sundays. And for me, it also speaks of my dad. My dad worked in the restaurant industry for most of his adult life, and sometimes, particularly during the busy holidays of mother’s day or Easter, he would have to work on a Sunday.
There was one restaurant in particular that had him working more often on Sundays. But when he did, that meant we got to join him at his restaurant after church for Sunday brunch. It was a very fancy restaurant called the Rose Room, and it was located on the top floor of one of the nicest hotels downtown. As a little girl, I remember the enormous feeling of importance I would get as we entered the elevator and fought over who got to punch the button for the top floor. And then we would step out into the lobby of the restaurant, which was all decorated in soft rosy pinks and sparkling crystal.
We were always made much of when we came. Six little girls in their sunday best trooping behind their mother was always a sight to see, and heads would turn as we found our way across the room to our table. Dad would come out, beaming with pride, and introduce us to some of his regular diners. He would pick up his baby and show her off as he visited different tables, and then, we were allowed to order our drinks. This was always an exciting thing, even though we invariably ordered the same drink every time- a Shirley Temple with a maraschino cherry on top.
On one memorable Sunday, before we even had a chance to order, six waiters, dressed in their crisp black tuxedos, came gracefully out of the kitchen doors, each bearing a tray held conspicuously high, with a single Shirley Temple in the center of each tray. They took a long time to reach us, winding their way through all the tables in a dignified parade, dipping and tilting their trays without spilling a single drop and drawing every eye in the room. They finally delivering our drinks individually with a bow and a flourish. We were delighted.
Then we would take our plates and move through the buffet line, skipping the cold salmon and caviar and moving on to the fruit and pastries. What can I say, my eight year old palate was not so well developed as it is now. But those were good memories, and I try to find an excuse for brunch whenever I can.
Thanksgiving works fairly well, since we don’t usually sit down until 2 or 3, but it is such a busy cooking day, that a simpler brunch is sometimes called for. I used to make the french toast casserole that can be made the night before and thrown in the oven in the morning. But then I found a recipe for blueberry pancakes that you bake in a casserole and I was intrigued. I tweaked it here and there and it quickly became a family favorite, and so, without further ado- Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake Cake.

Let’s start with our blueberries. You will need two or three cups of fresh or frozen blueberries. Toss them with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Then mash them slightly, just until they get a little juicy. Set them aside

This next step is not necessary, but it makes the dish oh so special. Get a lemon and a grater or zester.

Zest the whole rind and mix it with another 1/4 cup of sugar.

20131127-230234.jpgThe oils in the rind mix with the sugar and will make a crunchy, lemony topping. Set this aside.

While you make the pancake, get your butter melting. Turn your oven to 350 and throw about six Tablespoons of butter into a 9×13 pan. Put this in the oven. You want your pan hot and your butter sizzling by the time the batter is ready.


The cake itself is incredibly easy. Just
2 cups of flour (I used one cup of all purpose and I cup of whole wheat here)
1 Tablespoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt.


To the dry ingredients, add
2 cups of buttermilk

And 10 Tablespoons of melted butter.

Thats it. Just mix until smooth.
Your pan should be ready by now, so pull it out.

Pour your “pancake” batter into the hot pan. The melted butter will pool up around the edges, which makes the edges of this dish something we all fight over.

Now grab your reserved blueberries and spread them over the top of the batter.

And then, if you didn’t skip this step, sprinkle the lemon sugar on top.

Bake this for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are a deep brown, and it is no longer jiggly in the middle. Oh, and it should smell pretty fabulous too.

See the crispy, buttery edges. Man, that stuff is good.

Serve yourself a generous plateful, and enjoy your leisure time. Or rush to pop your turkey in the oven as the case may be.

Happy brunching, and Happy Thanksgiving!