29 November 2010

pancakes: I cannot live without them

Oh, the holidays. This past week took me to the East Coast for some serious family time. It encompassed too many major events -- the holiday itself, a death in the family, a birth in the family, travelling, my folks, my in-laws... too much to take in over a week. Of course, the blogging suffered (I even brought along stuff to post! Really!). I needed every moment with my family I could manage. 

But now we're back home in our cozy-wozy apartment, with our yowly cat and our cuddly doggie (somebody decided it would be fun to roll in poop during doggie daycare while we were away -- just don't breathe in while cudding!). And I went to work, as normal. And finally, I can relax. How do I relax? Aha! Talk about food to you people! Yes! So this trip did involve some cooking (read: therapy), including apple butter crumb cake, soup (duh!), and of course, pancakes. You see, pancakes are an important tradition in our house. My husband and I make them every single weekend. In fact, a friend of mine recently told me that we sound like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, spending our weekend mornings leisurely making pancakes, clipping coupons, and watching Hulu and/or Netflix. The tradition goes back to our Bisquik-based batters in college, and has certainly progressed since then. We used the standard in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, other delicious iterations, then settled on an orange-blueberry cornmeal recipe for a good long while, incorporated a few good tricks from Baking Illustrated and have now honed these versions into our own standard. It seemed fitting them we made pancakes for dinner at my sister's house over the holiday -- it is pretty much the way I say "I love you" with food. I could write you a ten-page essay on pancakes, easily.

So I encourage you to make pancakes for dinner, not just for breakfast. Plus you know you are sooo over the pumpkin/cranberry/cinnamon-y recipes that everyone else is posting these days :). It's baking for mealtime!

Our pancakes!
recipe by tofusurprise

1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
3 T. cornmeal
1/4 c. oats
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1 T. sugar
2 T. butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk (we use milk soured with lemon juice)
1/4 c. milk (to thin as needed)
1 mushy, ripe banana, quartered then diced
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 200 F (lowest setting) with a cookie sheet inside. This is to keep all the pancakes warm so you can all eat them at once.
2. Combine flours, sugar, cornmeal, oats, salt, powder, and soda in a medium mixing bowl.
3. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix up buttermilk. While it sits, melt the butter and turn on the griddle over medium heat. 
4. Add the egg and vanilla to the milk and mix. Add the butter and mix well.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. With a rubber scraper, mix the batter about halfway (looks chunky, visible flour-y blobs) and then add the banana and chocolate chips.
6. Mix until just combined. If it looks too thick, thin with up to 1/4 c. milk. It should be thick enough to suspend the chocolate chips.
7. Time to calibrate the griddle! Take a tablespoon of batter and place it in the middle of the griddle (tee hee!). Wait one minute. Flip the mini-pancake and evaluate the golden-ness of the pancake. Cook opposite side ~45 seconds, and then either eat it (gotta make sure it tastes okay, right?) or stick it in the oven on the cookie sheet.
8. Once the griddle temperature is right, use a 1/4 c. measuring cup and pour out four pancakes onto the griddle. They should cook for ~1:45 to 2:30, until the bubbles on the edges of the pancakes pop and don't fill back in.
9. Flip the pancakes, cook the other sides for ~1:30, and put them in the oven. 
10. Give a quick stir to the batter and make sure it is homogeneous -- it tends to stratify, and you want to make sure each batch is just as good!
11. Repeat until done! Time for pancakes! Don't forget to turn off the griddle and the oven!
12. Serving suggestions: My husband says they are so good he prefers them plain (weird, I know). I like some protein in the morning, so I usually put plain greek yogurt on top if I have it, then maple syrup. Otherwise, I like standard yogurt, peanut butter, or mascarpone on top, usually with roasted cashews and/or almonds as well.


18 November 2010

tofu & broccoli curry

I guess I owe you all a recipe involving tofu, given this blog's title. I'm pretty stuck on the baked goods and soup recipes this time of year, but really I swear sometimes I cook things that have to be eaten with a fork. As it turns out, most of those forkable foods are curries. This one is pretty simple and sometimes I can even have the curry finished up before the rice is done. It turns out the hardest thing about curries is having the spices on hand. Peruse a few recipes, and you'll have the basics memorized: curry powder, turmeric (I am known at my workplace for my yellow lunches), cumin, coriander.

Tofu & Broccoli Curry
(adapted from Curried Cauliflower in The Complete Book of Indian Cooking)
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. flour
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. chili powder
1 T. ground coriander
1 t. cumin
1 t. ground mustard
1 t. turmeric
salt, to taste
2 stalks of broccoli, cut up to desired size (fun fact: peel the stalk and then cube it -- tastes good/no waste!!)
block of extra-firm tofu
14 oz. can of coconut milk
3 T. lemon juice
1 T. lime juice
plain yogurt (garnish)

1. Mix the flour with a little water to make a paste. Add the chili, coriander, cumin, mustard, turmeric, and salt. Add the remaining water and keep mixing to blend the ingredients well. (note: add cayenne if you want it to be spicier)
2. Heat the oil (we use a wok), add the spice paste and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. If the sauce has become too thick, add a little hot water.
3. Add the broccoli, tofu, and coconut milk. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook until the broccoli is done enough for you (al dente?). Add the lemon and lime juice, mix well and serve over white basmati rice, with a blob of yogurt on top.

Outtake: notice how jealous my cat is that I am taking pictures of the food for you.

11 November 2010

Must. Use. Peanut. Butter.

Coupon clipping, while well-intentioned, can sometimes incite some problems. And by problems, I mean, things taking over my pantry. I thought we didn't have any peanut butter (smooth, that is, for me, baking, cooking, and the dog), so I got two jars, saved some pocket change with a coupon. Turns out, I'd thought the exact same thing about ten days before that. Plus the already opened jar, there were five jars of peanut butter in my pantry. It isn't like people come over to judge me on the status of my pantry, but I feel compelled to whittle down my stock as fast as possible just in case someone decides to point and yell at me about saving up for the next Y2K or something.

So, peanut butter everything! I needed a recipe that required a large quantity of peanut butter (none of this 1/3 cup or less business). Ask, and ye shall receive! The next morning or so, this beautiful concoction was sitting in my Google Reader homepage. I followed the recipe as written and they came out just right.

07 November 2010

rigatoni with mascarpone & almonds

I have a guilty pleasure, and its name is mascarpone cheese. Okay, and lattes made with sweetened condensed milk, fine. Basically, whenever my husband is working in the lab and I'm out at the grocery store, I buy it (and illicitly grab a fancy coffee too from time to time). I never really know what I'm really going to do with it, but I want it. As it turns out, it is quite tasty on pancakes or on toasted crusty bread with honey. But I always have vague recollections of recipes that call for it, and for some reason I think that sounds fancy and good.

When the huzz is off at the lab, I also tend to get more gourmet-y than usual while making dinner. This way, he doesn't have to put up with any spectacular kitchen fails and I can go nuts with new recipes. One of these last times I had a) bought mascarpone (natch), and b) my friend from work had brought in a ton of beautiful, curly parsley for the taking so as to not waste it all in the first frost of the year, and had just so happened to grab a bunch. I found this recipe by the good people of Cook's Illustrated and it was a done deal.

Rigatoni with Mascarpone & Almonds
(adapted from "Fettucine with Mascarpone and Walnuts", in The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles)

1 c. roasted almonds
1 lb. rigatoni
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 lb. mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
medium bag of spinach
2 T. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
ground black pepper

1. Bring 4 qt. of water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
2. Grind up the nuts in a food processor (I suggest the Magic Bullet for these little jobs) to whatever sized bits you prefer. I had a range from nearly almond butter dust up to halves.
3. Wilt the spinach and set it aside.
4. Add 1 T. salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente. Reserave 1/2 c. of the cooking water; drain the pasta and put it back in the cooking pot. Mix in the butter, mascarpone, Parmesan, almonds, spinach, parsley, salt, and peppet to taste.
5. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist (the mascarpone will melt and disappear).

***And also, if you are not familiar with America's Test Kitchen, get off of my silly little blog and get on over to the Cook's Illustrated website. It's cooking for scientists! Or rather, it is cooking... with the scientific method! I love it! I like that they provide little essays on why their recipe works the best with their variables and results, it is so wonderful and nerdy. I recently saw that they are publishing a Soups & Stews cookbook, and I am pretty close to going back on my no-more-new-cookbooks! policy. Now if they just come out with a veggie-friendly cookbook (not likely), I would be way more likely to never ever buy a cookbook again.

03 November 2010

muffins: always a good idea

You know what's almost as good as soup?? MUFFINS. Well, actually, if we're going for the anything-other-than-mealtime category, muffins always win for me. Okay fine, they encroach the breakfast category too. They are better than cakes, cookies, bars, probably even ice cream if you ask me. The thing is, I sometimes forget how easy it is to throw a batch together (they do call them quick breads for a reason!). I made these on a whim one chilly night, and was pretty stoked to pack one up in the morning as my afternoon snack at work. They taste a lot like bran muffins, which is great, because I looove bran muffins. I think next time I'll throw in some frozen corn too, just to vary the texture a bit.

Also, check out how freaking photogenic these puppies are, even with my severely lacking photography skills:

Corn & Molasses Muffins
(a wee bit tweaked, from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, by Mollie Katzen)

butter or Pam (if muffin pan is non-stick)
1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. yellow corn meal
1 1/2 c. milk (I used whole)
1 egg
5 T. melted no-salt butter
4 T. blackstrap molasses
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
dash cloves

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, if need be.
2. Combine flour, soda, powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the corn meal, and make a well in the center.
3. In a separate container, beat together the remaining ingredients. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir just enough to combine thoroughly.
4. Fill the muffin cups just up to the edge of the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan right away, and cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before eating.