Hello! We're happy to have you!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ja-PANcakes - Japanese Cotton Pancakes

I'm all about Instagram. You've probably seen these adorable little Japanese Pancakes all over Instagram, in fact, and I frankly couldn't resist the siren song of Keeping Up with the Joneses. Everything about these are just so satisfying to look at! Perfect uniformity, height...anyway. 

See, B and I are pancake fiends. I've got my stand-by recipe that I do if I want them quickly and they haven't failed me, yet. I have my recipe from Martha Stewart, adapted for our dairy-free lifestyle. I'm not horribly lactose-intolerant, but having a partner that is severely so, you learn to work around it, and it's actually been quite a bit of fun to learn under constraints. Coconut milk has been a spectacular dairy alternative, and I'm a big fan of lard as a butter alternative for cooking and baking, as well as coconut oil. Coconut oil is also really good for your scalp, so if I'm at home, alone, not baking for anyone other than me, and I get some coconut oil on my hands, I'll rub them on my scalp or my ashy knees or lips or something. (Don't judge me or pretend like you don't also have secretly sorta gross habits. You do.)

The thing about these pancakes is that you actually do need some special equipment to do them exactly like these. You'll need:

  1. A blender(pitcher or immersion)
  2. A few metal ring molds of same size
  3. A nice nonstick skillet
  4. A disher*
You CAN get passed the blender bit, but it'll require several extra steps. Either way, here we go!

Japanese Cotton Pancakes
adapted from Popsugar's recipe
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 fl oz coconut milk + 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 oz AP flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pan-spray A/N
Heat your skillet on a medium-low flame and prepare your ring molds. I used pan spray for the molds, but you can use some vegetable oil with a pastry brush, if you prefer, just to make sure that both the pan and the molds are well lubricated. Have your disher or large spoon set up, as well, just to make sure you're ready to cook at your pancake station. Pop your ring molds on there, too, and 

In the pitcher of your blender, combine the eggs, coconut milk, vinegar, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Blend together, starting at the lowest setting, to combine, then turning it all the way up to high just for 3 seconds, to really whip those eggs up. (It's the fluffy eggs that make this pancake rise!)  Add in all the rest of your ingredients and blend on a low setting for a few seconds, until it's a smooth batter with no lumps. You may have to stop and scrape your blender down, and that's fine, so long as you end up with a lump-free product in the end.

By now, your pan should be plenty warm, so go ahead and turn it down to the lowest possible flame you can. If your pan also has a lid that fits on it, go ahead and grab that, too; it's not necessary for success, but it will help you in the end, especially when it comes time to flip your cakes.

Using a disher, drop some batter into the center of your prepared ring molds until they're half-full. If you have a lid, use it now, and put it on. Set your timer for 4 minutes, and walk away. Don't mess with them, don't poke at them...just let them do their thing. 

I only had two ring molds of the same size, so I did two at a time!
Your leaveners are creating bubbles, along with the ones created by your eggs, and as the heat transfers from the pan to the cake, the cake around the bubbles is getting firmer and firmer. You don't want to jostle your cakes at the wrong moment, or your bubbles will collapse and fall flat...which is the absolute opposite of what you want. 

Image may contain: food and indoor
I also made a couple using an egg-shaped cookie cutter, just because I was curious...

While we're waiting, let me tell you a quick way to get past the "no blender" thing, if you're dealing with it...

Before you begin, separate your egg yolk from the whites. In a medium bowl, using a whisk, whip my hand the egg yolks, salt, vanilla, and sugar, until they're light-colored and thick. Add in your coconut milk and vinegar, slowly, to create a thick sort of custard. In a separate bowl, take your egg whites and beat them with an extra teaspoon for sugar using a hand mixer (or in the bowl of a standing mixer) until stiff and glossy peaks form. Fold in your whites to your yolks, one third at a time, until combined. Simply sift in your dry ingredients, a little at a time, folding in gently until everything is incorporated. You've just created, basically, a sponge cake that's ready to be fried. Awesome!

Once your 4 minutes are up, remove the cover(if you're using it) and carefully flip over your cake-in-mold and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Once it's done, you can simply remove your cake from the mold and pop them in a warm oven on a plate while you make the rest, repeating the process until you have no batter left. If you have made too many pancakes(somehow) then simply wrap the remaining cakes in plastic and pop them in the freezer. Pancakes and waffles freeze perfectly, and are easily brought back to life with a quick blast in the microwave or on the stove. (Side note: waffles will reheat fine in a toaster.)

These may not turn out perfectly your first time, but that's okay. The fear of doing something wrong should not stop you from trying anything new. It's exceedingly rare to get something perfectly right on the first try, so don't beat yourself up if they haven't perfectly risen. After all, at the end of the day, you'll still have pancakes. 

Image may contain: 1 person, food
Plus, if you have a few that have risen uneavenly, you can have fun stacking them in different ways...

Enjoy with maple syrup if you want to go the American way, but in Japanese restaurants they use fresh fruit and custard sauces to eat them! They're still pancakes, though, so they're 100000% up to you on how you eat them. I personally love this date syrup I found from a company called The Date Lady. Date syrup has a really exotic and deep flavor to it, and it's a great alternative to honey! These pancakes are quite sweet already, so I don't think they need a lot of syrup, but you be the judge on what you like. They're like little cakes, but with a crispy exterior...super fun and expertly delicious!

Image may contain: dessert, food and indoor
Another great thing about date syrup is that it goes great with maple syrup, because you CAN have it all.

I hope you've enjoyed this simple recipe! If you try it for yourself, please comment below, and let me know how it went. I love hearing from all of you, and I love answering the questions you all send in. Seriously, it makes my day to know that at least one or two people are somehow benefitting from these silly little recipes. As always..

Happy cooking and happy eating!
Image may contain: food
If you wanted to eat these by hand, I wouldn't judge you.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quiche - Not Quickie (But Fairly Quick)

Personalized cutting board not included
I was promised a Snowpocalypse. I was promised an Ice-pocalypse. I was also promised a regular apocalypse back in 2012. It was supposed to be over already; but it's not. The world is still here and we're still in it. If you're reading this now, that means you made it, too. Lucky you!

I've already made my New Year's Resolution to be more impactful. What does this have to do with quiche? Not much, unless you count "learning a new recipe that's easily customized to suit many different tastes and easily made ahead and kept all week" being impactful. It'll have a great impact on your life to learn a simple dish like this, and I promise you that you'll not regret learning it.

For this easy quiche recipe, which can be a breakfast, lunch, or dinner item, you'll need a pie crust, ideally of the 8"/9" variety for your 8"/9" pie tin. Make your own? Of course. Can you do store-bought? Of course. Why is the "of course" included in either one? I'd rather you have a fake n' bake quiche than no quiche at all. Just in case, though, here's my basic pie recipe:

Basic Pie Crust
yields 3 8" pie crust

  • 10.5 oz All-purpose flour(2 cups and 1 Tablespoon)
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter OR organic lard(1 cup)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg 
  • Vodka A/N
  • Parchment paper 
  • Pan spray
  • Bench scraper/Dough scraper
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine your flour and sugar. Cut your fat into small pieces and pop in your mixer. Using a paddle attachment, stir your mixture until it comes together in fatty sort of crumbles/pea-sized bits. Add the egg. If this egg is not enough moisture to bring it all together in a dry sort of ball, add a drop or two of vodka until it does.

Why vodka? Simple!

The enemy of pie crust is: gluten. Gluten is the reason your crust shrinks from overworking. Gluten happens when wheat meets water, and that's a bad thing for your pie crust! Another reason you want vodka instead of water? The low boiling point!

See, alcohol boils/evaporates at a measly 90 degrees F while it takes a whole 212 degrees F to get water to boil! This is why your pie crust remains with a soggy bottom with your fruit pie, which is likely already chock-full of water as it is! See? Science is cool. Use that vodka...or any spirit you have. I hear Wild Turkey is great for using a crust to make apple pie...

So, now that you've made your dough, turn it out on to a liberally sprayed parchment sheet and smear the dough all across the paper, folding it up and over again, and smearing again, until everything is nice and uniform. This technique is called "fraiser", and it's my absolute favorite to boot! 

It's a short video, but you get the idea of smearing with the heel of your hand...right? Totally.

So, for your pie dough, simply roll it out into a nice circle to overlap on your chosen vessel. Instead of pressing the dough into the shell, may I suggest simply laying it down and letting it settle for itself(about 5 minutes) in the pan, so any glutens that may have formed can relax a bit? This extra step will prevent shrinkage, and that is a good thing.

Now that you've trimmed your shell, you can decorate the crust ring. You can pinch, use a fork, or use a spoon to create scalloped edges, like this one here. No matter what you do, though, make sure that your crust goes immediately in to the freezer. You'll want your dough frozen(or near-frozen) for this application, if you can at all help it (which you can).

Now that we've discussed crusts, let's move on to filling. A basic quiche custard is simple, and this amount is perfect for a single 8"/9" pie. What you put in it is up to you! Try not to go overboard or too complex with your fillings, and choose lightly cooked items as well. For example, do not put raw bacon in these quiches, as the results will end up greasy and gritty. I also suggest lightly sauteeing any vegetables you may put in there, as you don't want to ruin the pretty, light custard when you cut into it by hacking a hard carrot or stiff pepper. Remember, this dish cooks in the oven for 30 minutes, and that's it. The custard is not going to suffer because you need to make sure that ham is hot. Understand?

Alright. Here's the filling.

Quiche Custard
adapted from Pies & Tarts 

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 4.5 oz sour cream OR plain yogurt(just dear God not vanilla)
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk(cashew milk works as a dairy-free alternative)

That's it. That's literally it. Beat your eggs with the salt, then whisk in the sour cream until it's thick and evenly all come together, and then whisk in your milk. Isn't that crazy? Add your fillings to the shell, then pour the custard over, and put it on a sheet tray(just in case it spills).

This one has Hen of the Woods mushrooms and gruyere cheese in it with fresh herbs!
Pop this into the bottom half of a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Do you read? 30 minutes. It should take at least this long, but don't pull it out if the middle isn't set, with just a hair of wobble.

Let this cool for at least 15 minutes before you cut into it. The bubbles in this are rather fragile, and if you poke them too soon, the quiche will rupture and a ridiculous amount of water from the eggs will all come spilling out and you'll be left with a gross, goopy mess by the end of it. So, for real, patience is a virtue.

I personally like quiches to be served at "body temperature"(about 90 degrees) with a nice rocket salad and a light vinaigrette, perhaps for lunch. Quiches are great for light dinners, too, when you don't feel like eating a whole plate of spaghetti and meatballs or an entire rotisserie chicken. They're cheap, they're relatively easy to put together, and they can feed a whole family, if need be.

Still need some guidance? Here are my favorite quiche flavor combinations:

This one was smoked gouda with lots of black pepper

  • Corn and white miso
  • Bacon and cheddar
  • Chorizo and green tomatoes
  • Sauteed leek (just by itself!)
  • Spinach with white cheddar and black forest ham(spinach down first, then ham, then cheese on top, all finished with the poured custard...this weighs the spinach down and allows for nice cooking!)
  • Dandelion leaves and havarti (No really. This was an experiment and it worked out NICELY.)
  • Leftover roast beef with bleu cheese

Go nuts with the flavor combinations and make sure you let me know if you come across any great ones on your travels... Happy cooking and happy eating!

Poached chicken and sauteed wild mushrooms filled this little beauty...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017

Just wanted to take a moment to wish my followers, and the rest of the world, a Happy New Year!

My New Year's Resolution? It's pretty simple. You can do it, too, if you like.

All I want to do this year is to make an impact. That's it! just make an impact. You can make an impact in big ways or little ways. What's a big way you can make an impact?

No Kid Hungry is an awesome charity that you can organize a fundraiser for

  • Organize a fundraiser for your favorite charity
  • Get out to your local county office and voice your concerns about your community
  • Petition to keep cursive in a primary curriculum
  • Call your mayor, senator, etc., and voice your concerns about the future 
  • Volunteer on your local school board
  • Go to a pet shelter and adopt a pet
  • Go to a pet shelter and volunteer there
  • Find a local assisted living facility and volunteer to help out there, too
Do those seem small? No way. Those are huge. Those things to do impact a lot. You will likely not see it on a global or national scale, but you will touch the lives of every person you meet on the way to getting those goals accomplished. 

Nothing better than getting a new best friend at your local shelter...

You don't think that volunteering at a pet shelter is having an impact? Look at the dog you're walking. Look at the workers that are tired and drained from watching those poor animals get sick or be passed over for younger or prettier dogs. Look at those animals with nobody to give them a forever home. You're helping them because you are becoming a positive presence in their lives. Look at what you can do. Yes, you.

Don't have the time or resources for the big ways? That's fine! Making an impact in a small way is good, too.

You can change the world with flowers, if you like

  • Say hello to your neighbors and ask them how they are
  • Walk your dog in your neighborhood
  • Plant a small garden
  • Take shorter showers
  • Go vegetarian for one day out of the week
  • Help someone else with their groceries
  • Smile when you make eye contact with someone on the street
  • Say "please" and "thank you"
Whoa, are these actions really something that makes an impact? Absolutely. These small, seemingly trivial acts will make an impact, but you might not see it right away. 

Tiny actions are like pebbles. You cast a small pebble in a pond and it ripples the surface; they're small, but look at how they grow! Someone, however, has to start them. You might not think that a simple walk around your neighborhood is much, but it's a step to being more active, so it's good for your health. Your neighbors will be conscious of your actions, too, and notice you more, which is safer for you if you start a routine and they notice you haven't done your daily walk in a long time...you'll also notice more things in your neighborhood, and maybe be more aware of the goings-on in your own backyard, which can be safer for everyone. 

Planting a small garden reduces your carbon footprint by adding a tiny bit more greenery...and if you plant things like lettuce or tomatoes, it'll cut down on your grocery bill! Maybe it'll grow into a hobby that you love, that gives  you a little bit more purpose, that brings you about 10% more happiness.

Going vegetarian for one day out of the week will impact your health in huge ways, as well as be better for the environment. There's a huge environmental impact that goes on when you choose meat every day, especially grass-fed beef. As horrible as it sounds, grass-fed is worse for the environment than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed animals need about 5 times more food than grain-fed, emit exponentially more methane(fart way more) than grain-fed, and takes all that much more land and water to maintain all of that grass than grain-fed animals do. Buying produce, however? That's good for your body, good for your wallet, and ultimately good for the planet. If everybody in America went vegetarian just once per day, you'd be shocked as to how much of an impact that would make for the planet. 

There was a point, in spring, that I didn't go to the grocery store for two weeks because of all the stuff I was growing.
You can only imagine how much money I saved.
Don't think that helping someone else at the grocery aisle is something powerful? Oh, ye of little faith. What if you became the highlight of someone's day by being that stranger, that random act of kindness? What if you were the sole reason a stranger smiles today? Can that be bad? Can that be harmful? Of course not. It's little changes every day that matter. No one person can change the world, but they can change their world. Let me say that again.

No one person can change the world, but they can change their world. 

So, yes. My resolution is to make an impact, even if it's a small one every day. 

And, of course, spend more time with my friends!

Happy cooking and happy eating.