Day 354–Reindeer Pancakes

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How cute is that?

We’ve been talking about the need to add a “breakfast for dinner” night to our menu and I found a way to make a pancake supper that also celebrated winter (although it’s still in the 60s here) and Christmas. Enter, the reindeer pancake. I saw this idea online somewhere and couldn’t wait to try it. The version I saw used candy for the eyes and nose, but I subbed out some of our frozen fruit instead. So easy, so cute and it put everyone in a cheery mood at the table–given the news this past week, that was really needed.

Reindeer Pancakes

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels or a tea towel. Sit a wire cooling rack on top of the towel and put in the oven.
  3. In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. As bacon is done, lay strips on the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm. This will keep your bacon crispy yet let it drain as well.
  4. Clean the pan, coat with a thin layer of butter or cooking spray and heat over medium/low heat.
  5. Make one 8-9″ pancake per person and one 3-4″ pancake per person, plus extra for eating later. As pancakes cook, add them to the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange a big pancake on the plate, with a smaller pancake (to be the muzzle of the reindeer) on top and toward the bottom of the larger pancake.
  7. Arrange bacon antlers on either side of the large pancake.
  8. Add blueberry eyes and raspberry/strawberry nose.
  9. Serve immediately with warm maple syrup and plenty of good cheer!
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Day 295–Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Granola

English: A chocolate chip granola bar made by ...

What’s in that granola bar? Read the labels! Or better yet, make your own!

We’ve learned a lot this year reading the labels of everything we buy–even cleaners and beauty products. It never ceases to amaze me what is allowed to be in our food and don’t even get me started about what is in makeup. Heather at Sugar Dish Me had an eye-opening experience as well with food that is labeled and recognized to be “healthy”. Instead of just being bummed out that some “health food” is not all that healthy (there are, by the way, no FDA requirements for a food to be labeled “healthy”), she took the initiative to make her own awesome granola packed with goodness. And quinoa (which is its own special kind of goodness)! I’ve never had quinoa in granola, but I’m looking forward to it. Check it out! I am totally making this over the weekend and plan to sprinkle it over my oatmeal.

HERE is Heather’s very funny story and her recipe!

Day 101–Dutch Oven Breakfast Scramble

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Camping out and canoeing with pre-teen girls means packing lots of satisfying foods. Girls 11-14 are growing at a rapid pace and most of them can pack away an astonishing amount of food. Add in being outdoors and active and that means hunger!

We came up with a local version of a camping breakfast casserole that Ellie and her BFF said was “amazing”! We made this over coals in a Dutch oven, but you could do this on the stove or on a propane stove. You could also add peppers, mushrooms or any vegetables you have. Whatever works!

Dutch Oven Breakfast Scramble

1/2 onion, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1lb. Coon Rock Farm sage sausage
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, grated
6 fresh farm eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups Hillsborough Cheese Co. mozzarella, grated
Salt and pepper

Prepare coals in a chimmney until hot
Put coals into fire ring and position Dutch oven over coals.
When oven is hot, add olive oil and onion. Cook onion until translucent.
Add sausage and cook until sausage is browned or no longer pink.
Add grated potatoes and cook about 10 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Add eggs and cheese and stir frequently so egg us cooked through and cheese is melted.
Serve to hungry campers!

Day 60–Steel Cut Oats to Fuel a Body

Traditional 28-ounce tin of McCann's Steel Cut...

I love to run. And that’s really pretty funny because I completely stink at it.

Growing up, I never ran and wasn’t even athletic. I was the “creative” one, and somehow that excused me from participating in sports. When I was about 30, a friend loaned me a book that changed how I viewed running. The book was “The Courage to Start,” and it detailed the progress of John Bingham from heavy, smoking, drinking, middle age dude to svelte, non-smoking, still slow-as-molasses runner. I wasn’t in terrible shape when I started running, but it was comforting to have someone tell me it was ok to be the penguin, not the gazelle.

It sounds dense now, but it never occurred to me that you could be athletic and not be consumed with competition. Or with being super fast. And maybe you get out and run every day and you are still last in every race. What is important is that you cross the finish line with a smile on your face. Because at the end of it all, you had a great day. I loved that book, and it encouraged me to find a love of running and an appreciation for what my body can do and not be critical of what it can’t. I will never be a gazelle, but I can be the penguin who thanks each and every child handing me water during the race. Even if the pace car is bumping me in the behind (really, this happened).

Running makes me hungry, and in the spring when I get back outside to run, I become voracious. But if I eat what I feel like eating, I will be way less of a gazelle and ultimately the pace car may be running over me. One of my favorite fill ‘er up foods is steel cut oatmeal.  If you haven’t tried steel cut oats and you think you don’t like oatmeal, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s a whole different animal from those paper packets of highly sugared, processed oats. Steel cut oats are very high in fiber, higher in protein and high in iron. In fact, I don’t know why Popeye wasn’t eating oats, because they have more iron than spinach!

Steel cut oats take longer to make (about 30 minutes) and that can be daunting when you’re hungry and tired. They are, however, a great make-ahead dish. I like to make a batch, pop it in the fridge and heat up single servings in the microwave as I need it. Also, steel cut oats can be made in a crock pot overnight, so you’ll have hot oatmeal first thing in the morning. Easy peasy.

Think oats are boring? Add dried cranberries or any other dried fruit and maybe even a tablespoon of brown sugar. Or maple syrup. Or chopped nuts. My favorite is dried cranberry, pecan and brown sugar. The trick is to keep the sugar to a minimum.

So fuel up, get outside and have fun! Just watch out for the pace cars.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (stovetop)

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • dried cranberries, chopped pecans, brown sugar, whatever makes you happy
  1. Combine oats and water in a small pot and heat to boiling.
  2. Boil oats for about 1 minute and turn the heat down to medium. Stir.
  3. Cook oats on medium for about 30 minutes or until it is very thick like porridge. Stir frequently to keep from sticking to pot.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (crock pot)

Note: you will need to experiment with your slow cooker to see what setting works best. For mine, the low setting was still too high, but the “keep warm” setting works like a charm.

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. milk or cream
  1. Add all ingredients into crock pot.
  2. Cover and heat on low or warm.
  3. Cook for 7-8 hours
  4. Ladle into bowls and add your favorite toppings

Day 56–Warm, Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes being cooked on a griddle.

A reader recently asked what we do for breakfast. I spend a lot of time blogging about our dinners, but nothing about breakfast (but see our smoothie recipe from Day 53). Typically, our breakfast involves toasted Ezekiel bread w/local apple butter, a bagel or, my tween’s favorite, homemade pancakes. Actually, our dog and cat love pancakes so much that they turn into little pancake lunatics when they smell them cooking. This past week, we had our one and only “snow” delay of the winter. It was so nice to make a fresh batch of pancakes, a pot of coffee and watch the 1/4″ of snow on the ground. Almost as cozy as a real winter.

Barring the rare snow delay, our morning schedule is pretty rushed (we are all out the door at 7:00 a.m.). There is no way this mom is making fresh pancakes every morning at 5:30 a.m. Fortunately, pancakes freeze well and warm in the microwave in just a few seconds. So, 30 minutes in the kitchen on Sundays makes for an entire week’s worth of hot, warm breakfast. Here is our recipe for whole wheat buttermilk pancakes that are much more nutritious and delicious than the frozen toaster variety you can buy in the grocery. While the first side of the pancakes cook, you can add fresh fruit, wheat germ or (if you’re feeling indulgent) chocolate chips. When I’m feeling like super mom, I even warm the syrup up for a few seconds in the microwave. YUM!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. organic sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. Maple View Farm buttermilk (or any good quality buttermilk)
  • 1/2 c. organic milk
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine milk, buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix.
  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moist.
  4. Spray a large skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium.
  5. When skillet is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into skillet for each pancake.
  6. Cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the raw side of the pancake with fruit, wheat germ or chocolate chips, if you like.
  7. Flip each pancake with a spatula and cook until golden brown. This could be 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove and pan.
  8. Keep pancakes warm on a plate in a 200 degree oven or just serve ’em up as they come off the skillet.
  9. Serve immediately with real maple syrup.
  10. Recoat your skillet with non-stick spray as needed and continue cooking until batter is gone.

For freezing and reheating:

If you are going to freeze these, cool pancakes completely on a cooling rack.

Pack in a freezer safe storage container, putting a sheet of wax paper between pancake so they don’t freeze together.

When ready to reheat, take however many pancake you want and wrap them in paper towel.

Put the towel wrapped pancakes on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds-1 minute. Start with 30 seconds and if that is not enough, heat in 10 second increments until pancakes are hot.

Serve to your family, making sure they take note of your super parent status.

Day 53–Fruit Smoothies

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What’s for breakfast???

In our house, we like to have breakfast together at the table, even though we are not all…ahem… “morning people”. One of the highlights of our morning is a frozen fruit smoothie. When local fruit is in season, I buy it fresh and store it in the freezer. By this point in the winter, however, it’s all store-bought, organic frozen fruit because the local fruit is long gone. I highly recommend the frozen fruit at Trader Joes, if you have one. Their prices are far below any regular grocery and they have a decent selection. Whole Foods has a better overall selection, but per ounce, their fruit is more expensive.

You can use any fruit for this recipe, but I recommend using frozen fruit instead of raw fruit because the consistency of the smoothie becomes very thick–almost like ice cream. If you’re using bananas, just peel them and stick them in the fridge overnight. But if you like it slushy, then you can adjust the recipe and use raw fruit with ice and make yourself happy! We do not add honey or sugar to our smoothies–the yogurt adds some sweetness and really, fruit is pretty sweet as it is.

We make our smoothies in a blender. Not just a blender, but the blender. A couple of years ago I invested (and I do not use that word lightly) in a VitaMix–the queen of all blenders. VitaMix blenders are flat-out expensive. I purchased mine on Amazon and got the previous year’s model (new) for $250 instead of $450. We have used the heck out of that thing, I tell you. It will puree frozen fruit in about 15 seconds with no huge fruit pieces floating around. As expensive as it was, it has been worth every penny. And at two years of daily use, our per day cost is .34. I can deal with that.

Fruit Smoothies (2 6 oz-ish servings)

  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 container yogurt (vanilla is always a good choice, but so is coconut!)
  • 2-3 cups soy milk or almond milk (the amount you need depends on the moisture of the fruit)

Put fruit, yogurt and 2 cups of soy milk into blender and blend at high speed. If mixture is too thick, add additional milk as needed and blend.

Scoop into glasses and serve with spoons and/or straws!