Tuesday, January 26, 2010

German Apple Pancake

This recipe has been tacked up on the cork board that we have in our kitchen since September. When I found it in Cooking Light and pulled it out, apples were in full harvest. At some point during the earl fall we even drove down to Watsonville to pick them straight out of the orchards. Somehow in the midst of all the other feverish apple induced cooking, these pancakes were never made.

Maybe my reluctance to try this skillet pancake has something to do with the fact that I am not actually much of a pancake person. I love them in theory, but when push comes to shove and breakfast plans must be made, I am ALWAYS going to pick an egg dish for breakfast. I have this ongoing love affair with poached eggs and they trump pancakes week in and week out. I think this absence of pancakes makes Alex sad at times, but he is to sweet to say so. I do however make pancakes often when people are over for breakfast because they are easier to orchestrate than eggs for large groups. So this weekend, when I had my mom and brother over for breakfast, this recipe, oh so patient a recipe it has been up to this point, finally put its foot down and insisted that it be made. Thank god. It is delectable, and because it is from Cooking Light its good for you to right? Even with syrup all over it...

A word of warning for those of you about to make this dish, this is not your typical pancake. It's a sort of a crepe/pancake hybrid with a delicious crunchy caramelized bottom. Though not entirely like a pancake it is fluffy, and a bit sweet, and I am sure any fruit would taste wonderful embedded in its warm center. It also smells wonderful as it cooks and comes out looking so puffy and cheerful.

German Apple Pankake
Adapted from Cooking Light

-The recipie called for egg subsitute but I had one of those cartons of liquid egg so I used that instead and it worked fine.

Batter Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg (pregrated would be fine as well)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup liquid eggs-or substitute
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Mixture Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divded
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup thinly sliced apple, preferiable Granny Smith or similar. Our was a pink lady though and that worked well.
Begin by making the batter in a medium sized bowl. Combine the flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl and stir with a whisk.

In a smaller bowl combine egg substitute, milk, butter and vanilla, whisk together and add to the flower mixture and combine. Set the batter aside and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

While the batter sets, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cover the bottoms and the sides of an ovenproof skillit with cooking spray or whichever grease you choose. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and sprinkle this evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.

On top of the sugar, arrange the apple in a single layer along the bottom of the pan. A spokelike pattern looks nice, but as long is it is a single layer you should be fine. Once the apples are in the pan sprinle the last 1/4 cup of sugar over the apples. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and apple juices begin to bubble. Once at this point pour in the batter slowly.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, and then reduce the temp to 375 and cook for an additional 13 minutes. The center of the pancake should be set.

Remove the pancake from the oven and serve either directly out of the skillet or remove it with a spatula and serve on a plate. You can sprinle powdered sugar over the top for effect if you like just before serving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A break from the rain

As I mentioned before, we have had an incredibly wet week. There has been thunder and lightening, hail, and we got almost the same amount of rain in the past week as we had the entire previous year. Yesterday we got lucky though, and there was a break in the weather.

The morning began with brunch at the Poor House Bistro in downtown San Jose for my brothers birthday. It is this Louisiana style restaurant in a renovated Victorian downtown and the food is amazing. Out of everything the bignet's are by far the best thing on the menu, but the other food is nothing to thumb your nose at either. Its just hard to compete with those warm, heavenly little pockets of doughnuty goodness that peak out coyly from beneath their blanket of powdered sugar. It was during this morning meal that Alex and I noticed that the weather was clearing up quite a bit so we decided to head down to Santa Cruz for the afternoon.
The afternoon was overcast and we ran into a little bit of rain but it was an amazing day to be in by the coast and back outside again. Everything was so green from the rain and we had the most incredible hike.
These weird mushrooms were growing out of the side of logs, and I have never seen anything like them before. They were completely translucent.
By the time we made it back home both of us were in the mood for a simple dinner, so we went with salad. I realize that everyone can make a salad, but I feel its only right to prompt you to also make the dressing. It is cheaper, generally healthier and way more delicious. Obviously tossing the salad with oil and vinegar is a good way to go, but a simple vinaigrette is more fun. This is a Schrock family favorite and one has become our standby at the apartment.

Vinaigrette Salad dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • Fresh chopped herbs to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small bowl pour in the vinegar and add a bit of salt. Stir these together and taste. If the vinegar is still very acidic add a bit more salt and taste, continuing to do so until the vinegar has mellowed a bit and become slightly sweet. This process can seem a bit tedious and weird at first, but it improves the taste of the vinaigrette tremendously.

Add the mustard, sherry and herbs and stir with a whisk until combined.

Add the olive oil and whisk vigorously until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste

You can of course adjust this recipe as needed. These portions work well for a fairly large salad split between the two of us. You can also make more and store it in the fridge to be used again later.

Lasgana Madness

Alex and I have taken to making out own pasta sauce lately. On Friday we had people over for dinner and we made Lasagna so that dinner could be in the oven when they arrived and we could hang out while the food was cooking. We used our new favorite meat sauce recipe for the lasagna. This sauce is thick and chunky and tastes good on EVERYTHING (seriously everything, my favorite use for the sauce is to pile it on top of winter squash, heat it all together in a bowl and then I grate copious amounts of Parmesan cheese over the whole thing).

Oh my god, look at that cheese. Is there anything more amazing than fresh mozzarella cheese?

In the begining this particular sauce definintaly looks like it has too much liquid but after an hour or so of simmering the sauce reduces down to a thick, almost creamy consistancy.

When we assembled the lasgana we used the general method: sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce noodles cheese and so on. Sometimes the old fashioned way is the best way to go.

When I make lasagna I chop fresh herbs and garlic to add to the ricotta. Generally I mix the herbs and garlic into the ricotta and then let it sit together for a bit while I get everything together so the ricotta takes on some of those flavors. I found some amazing basil at Safeway of all places this week so we used that and garlic for the ricotta in this lasagna. The smell of the basil made me ache for summer. This past week our beautiful sunny California has had one of the biggest storms that I can remember, it has been all rain all the time. That basil was the closest I got to sun all week.

Soon enough there will be the occasional dinner that is prepared during the daylight hours. Maybe then not all of our photos will be yellow and lackluster. I think I need to start cooking in the morning in the name of slightly less anemic looking pictures of our food.

I have to apologise for the fact that there are no photos of the cooked lasagna. We pulled it out of the oven and everyone sat down to eat and I totally forgot to take pictures until dinner was over.

I am going to assume that anyone reading this knows how to assemble a lasagna so I'm just going to include the recipe for the sauce.

Meat Sauce

Adapted from Susan H. Gordon's Recipe featured in Rachel Ray Magazine.

  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup pancetta

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 carrot, finely chopped

  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped

  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • One 28 ox can tomato puree

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • salt and pepper

In a large heavy pot heat the olive oil over med heat and add the pancetta, cook for about five minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium high and add the carrot, onion and celery, cooking until the veggies are softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute and then add the beef. Break up the beef and cook until the meat is completely browned. Add the wine and allow to simmer until the liquid is cooked off.

Stir in the tomato pure along with a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and add the oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Partially cover and allow to simmer over a low heat while stirring occasionally until thickened. This should take at least thirty minutes, or up to two hours.

Once the sauce is cooked taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beer and cupcakes, ohh so many cupcakes

I finally figured out how to stretch the post section, thank god. I was so sick of being relegated to such a narrow little space, it felt so claustrophobic. Get ready for frighteningly large pictures of my food.

So, updates!

In non-food related news, I want to warn you that Alex is brewing his own beer, which he is extremely excited about. It's cute, he even is stealing beer bottles from parties etc. so that he has a place to store his beloved brew. The first batch is almost fully mature. We tried some tonight, its a bit under carbonated but it is begining to taste like beer.

See? How cute is all that beer just sittin' in the closet? Not to worry, it doesn't smell (thank god!) so all the clothes are safe.

In other news, my dad is turning fifty and we just had a big old party for him last night. Alex and I were in charge of making the cupcakes so we figured we would try a few things out. We made Molly Wizenbergs chocolate cake and turned them into cupcakes which were delicious but not really appropriate for the mega frosting presentation that my dad prefers. That man LOVES frosting. The cake was so light and flavorful that we could not bear to slather all of our (home made) peanut butter frosting on top of them so, they are now sitting in the freezer waiting to be eaten with some whipped cream. Because we were running out of time we were reduced to using a box mix for the chocolate cupcakes. I know!! for shame, but they were alright, we added vanilla and some chopped chocolate to boost the flavor a bit. It was for the best though because they were perfect for that frosting, and I don't think that all of the drunk fifty year olds would have appreciated the other cupcakes.

You should have seen all the oldies, dressed up in their old duds, reliving the glory days. Oddly I don't they many of them were old enough to actually remember most of the sixties, but that didn't hold them back one bit. And seriously these guy's can party, it was hilarious!! Us kids (grown up kids) were the most sober group at the party.

The above picture is actually a pretty big deal, I have been living without a handheld mixer for a VERY long time. the cupcakes gave me an excuse to break the new one in.

Back to the whole point, though we ended up cooking a slightly sadistic amount on Friday, our major triumph was the vanilla cupcakes we made from a recipe out of the Everyday Gourmet cookbook. These cupcakes were the perfect texture, light and buttery, but just hearty enough to be frosted without being overpowered by all that gooey goodness. Best of all they were not too sweet, a complaint I generally have about vanilla cupcakes. These actually tasted like vanilla and butter not just sugar. Huzzah for Gourmet!! There are about four of these sitting in my fridge right now in a Tupperware just waiting to be eaten. Life is looking pretty good right now!

Anyhow, the cupcakes went over well. The party was 60's themed so we frosted them and piped some brightly colored peace signs on top and they were totally far out. I did make one cardinal mistake however. I frosted the cupcakes at the apartment and then transported them over to my Dad's house. What was I thinking!!! oohh so many became so sad looking with droopy frosting. But luckily we had enough that survived the trip. Note to self: ALWAYS frost the cupcakes as close to serving time as possible!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Gourmet Today-Edited by Ruth Reichl

  • 3 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 tbl baking powder

  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoons salt

  • 3 sticks of softened unsalted butter

  • 1 and 3/4 cups sugar

  • 4 large eggs left at room temp for 30 min

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line your muffin tins with liners.

Sift together the flour, baking power and salt in a med size bowl and set aside

In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer set to med-high. Once the butter and sugar have combined to be light and fluffy add the eggs one at a time, beading after each.

Once the eggs have been Incorporated add the vanilla, then reduce the speed of the mixture and add the flour and milk in three batches alternating between the flour and the milk.

Ladle or pour the butter into the muffin tins and place in the oven for 18-22 minutes. Once they are finished (a toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean) remove from the oven and allow to cool entirely before frosting.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In the immediate wake of the holidays I was feeling a bit...well I guess whiped out. It happens every year, the excitement, food, family, presents etc. dies down and it's all I can do to drag my butt into work for the first week back to real life. Each year I sludge through that week after the new year like some sort of zombie and hope that enough sleep, relaxation, exercise and normal food will coax my usual self out of hibernation.

This Monday I woke up and decided out of nowhere that I HAD to make granola before work. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that a sudden urge to make granola is a sign that the undeadness that had taken up residence in my body has moved on and made room once again for my usual self. Thank god, because the lethargy was getting old. And the really good news is that the granola is amazing, REALY amazing.

I have a strange relationship with granola. I love it but I have a hard time swallowing the cost, and frankly the sugar/fat content, of commercial granola. So I try to make my own but I have not always had the best luck in the past. It's always just ok and most of it ends up going stale. Inevitably I end up living, yet again, a granolaless life. Boo. I decided that this time I would sort of fly by the seat of my pants and make granola with the things I want in it instead of following a recipie. I consulted Alton Brown to get the general rules for making granola. His recipes generally included 3 cups of oats, and a total of about 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup oil, and because he is almost always right about everything I stuck to these proportions (with a bit less sugar) and cooked the granola for 1 hour and 15 minutes as he suggested.

Looks Good right?!?!

You could use just about any add in, nuts, dried fruit. I bet it would be really good with chocolate chips mixed in after everything is cooled. Be creative and make it the way you like, but his is what I ended up coming up with:

Breakfast Granola
Loosely adapted from Alton Brown

  • 3 cups Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup honey (you could use 1/4 if you like a slightly sweeter granola)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon and nuts.

In a smaller bowl wisk together the oil, honey, salt, and vanilla. Add to the oats mixture and stir to combine. Spread the mixture out evenly on the lined baking sheets and place them in the oven.

Bake the granola for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown. I stirred my oats and rotated the pans in the oven (and switching racks, moving the one that was on the top rack to the bottom rack and placing the one on the bottom on top) every fifteen minutes to be sure that nothing was burning and that everything was cooking evenly.

Once the granola is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow to cool a bit on the baking sheets. When it has cooled transfer it into a large bowl and add the dried fruit. Stir the mixture until everything is evenly distributed. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Barefoot Lentils

I'm watching "The Hangover" right now. Those of you who have seen it, you know there is a part where Alan, the sad and deeply pathetic lone wolf comes through and his awesome card counting talent appears to have saved the day. Triumphant right? These lentils remind me of that moment. Yes, they are THAT triumphant. For those of you that have not seen the movie, which you should do immediately, what I am basically trying to say is that these lentils, though they seem rather drab or weird as a dinner dish, actually totally rule. The lentils are firm and nutty, the carrots are rendered sweet after the long simmering, the thyme infuses the pot with its wintry influence, and the curry lends it's exotic taste to an otherwise simple dish.
I want to go ahead and put my future nurse hat on for a moment and point out that this dish is as healthy as it is delicious. Protein, veggies, and very little added fat. Keeping this in mind, the dish is filling and satisfying, especially with some thick Greek yogurt on top and cornbread (recipe to come) on the side. I have to admit I never participate in the whole new years weight loss resulution madness, but I do ALWAYS try to eat healthy and nutritiuous food. So, for those of you that are trying to eat healthier in the coming year, this is a great choice.
Ohh, veggies, and lentils and curry and other awesome delicious goodness. MMM.....

It's the single best dinner that anyone could have, oh its the single best dinner that anyone could have.
Kudos to those of you that catch that one.
Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes
Recipe by Ina Garten, featured in "Barefoot Contessa at Home"
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups large diced onion
  • 2 cups large diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes, chopped either by hand or in a food processor
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 2 cups chicken stock (chose no added salt for a healthier dish)
  • 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or soup pan. Make sure that the pan you are using has a lid. Once the oil is hot add the onions an carrots and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and allow to cook for one more minute.

Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, curry, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover the pan. Allow the mixture to simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are to your liking.

Once the lentils are finished cooking, remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes, and then add the vinegar, stir, and season to taste.