Crispy Waffles

The reason I try recipes over and over: perfection, or something close to it. In my mind, most foods can always be improved upon and so I try different versions and recipes until it’s exactly what I’m looking for (or good enough for the moment anyway). Growing up we often had waffles on Saturday mornings. Crispy, slightly eggy, soaked in syrup waffles – at least that’s how I remember them. My dad was the waffle master, separating the egg yolks from the whites and beating them until they were fluffy and peaked. The beaten egg whites were supposed to make the waffles fluffy and so we continued to make our waffles that way even when it felt like more work than measuring out a few cups of waffle mix and adding water. I remember the waffles were crispy and that you knew that by the sound they made when you dug the side of the fork tines into the waffle for that first bite.

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Eggs Benedict

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I love Eggs Benedict. I love the natural, buttery yellow of the hollandaise sauce, the rich sunset-orange of the runny egg yolk, and the English muffin that’s there to soak up all the good stuff. My mom used to make us poached eggs growing up. In fact we had a special pan with four perfectly round little cups that would allow the eggs to hover over the simmering water. I didn’t realize there was any other way to make poached eggs until I got older and realized that real chefs just flat out crack the eggs into an open pot of water and somehow swirl them into a dizzy circle to keep the egg together instead of somehow making egg drop soup. That takes serious skill. I’ve tried to poach eggs that way before and, well, it’s tricky. I prefer to stick to my egg poaching pan.

Though my mom made poached eggs often (and later bought me my own poached egg pan!) she never (if maybe once?) made hollandaise sauce, for which I don’t blame her. First of all it’s extra work, which usually means extra dishes, and second of all it’s extra calories. Now my mom wasn’t exactly afraid of calories when we were growing up, but she was like any woman surrounded by the confusing information of changing diet fads. She made her share of spontaneous brownie batches on a Saturday night and extra Christmas cookies when we surely didn’t need them. But, Mom also tried to sneak whole wheat flour into recipes whenever she could, and she went through a phase where she wanted to add ground flaxseed to EVERYTHING. And she recently tricked her stepson into eating cauliflower because he thought it was mashed potatoes. Anyway, I’m guessing it was more the daunting task of making hollandaise sauce that kept her from making it, and not the calories. Also, who honestly makes their own hollandaise, especially if that person has three young kids?

Well, today I made my own hollandaise sauce and Eggs Benedict for a number of reasons. First of all, I love Eggs Benedict! And second of all, I’m pregnant! Yes, indeed, it’s hard to believe! Four months from today I am due to give birth to my own baby girl, who one day perhaps will be sharing her own stories about her crazy, but loving mother. Now when you’re pregnant, the common knowledge rules say you can’t eat all kinds of things – in particular raw or undercooked eggs, fish, and meat. I love the runny yolk of a good Eggs Benedict, but as a pregnant woman, I’m not supposed to eat runny eggs. So I decided to make the dish myself, as I’m always afraid to order it at a restaurant and ask them to cook the eggs until they’re hard.

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And you know what? I did it! And it was delicious! And I’d do it all over again (maybe not after I have kids, or at least not until they’re older.) In fact making hollandaise sauce itself is not hard. The real challenge of the whole dish is the dance of all the different parts – poaching the eggs while you toast the muffins and continuously whisk the sauce and then assembling the whole thing before it gets cold and the sauce curdles. If you’re not bold enough, it’s okay. I totally understand. Maybe find a friend to help you. Or just don’t be afraid to screw it up. I’m rooting for you.

 

Homemade Hollandaise Sauce

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

2 T. unsalted butter

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. water

salt and pepper to taste

This recipe makes enough for 1-2 servings and can easily be scaled up. I made a small batch because it was just me eating it and in case I screwed up I didn’t want a huge, screwed-up batch.

Start by cutting your butter into about 6 pieces and set aside to come to room temperature. Or like me, microwave it at low power for about 15 seconds or until it is just soft to the touch. Set a small saucepan with about a 1/2 inch of water to simmer. Once it is lightly simmering, turn it down to keep it at a slow simmer (not boil!) and place a small, heatproof bowl over the water. You want the bowl to fit well and not touch the water below. If you have a double boiler, you can use that instead.

In your bowl, place your egg yolk, lemon juice, and water. Whisk for about 30 seconds to blend. Add one piece of your butter and continue to whisk until it’s melted and the sauce is beginning to thicken. Continue whisking and adding your butter pieces, one at a time, waiting until they are melted before adding the next piece. When all the butter is melted, continue whisking until it is thick and smooth. If it begins to look separated or curdled add a teaspoon of hot water, whisking to smooth it out. I added 3 teaspoons of water when this happened and it turned out and tasted great. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. If you are worried (like my husband) about the egg yolk in the sauce being undercooked, take the temperature of the sauce with a digital thermometer. Make sure you are not touching the bottom of the bowl or the pan below it or the temperature may be off. The sauce should be 160 degrees or more. Serve with cooked veggies, poultry, fish, or eggs.

Note: If making the full Eggs Benedict dish, I would get everything set up before starting the sauce. Put your English muffin in the toaster (make sure it is set to pop before it burns) and get your poaching pan ready with the eggs. Worst case if the muffin finishes before the sauce you can pop it in again briefly to warm it up and if your eggs are done just remove them from the heat and keep the lid on to keep them warm. I added fresh baby spinach to the extra cups in my poaching pan about 30 seconds before I was going to plate it to allow the spinach to wilt. Technically this is called Eggs Florentine instead of Benedict, but most people aren’t as familiar with the name so we’ll just leave it at that.

Post 97 – Christmas eats

You want to know something weird and cool? I have been obsessed with documenting my food way longer than this blog. Surprised? No, probably not. Upon visiting my sister in Ohio, she returned a journal of mine that had somehow gotten mixed up in her stuff. I flipped through it and found notes from a trip to the South that I took in high school, most of which consisted of the meals I ate as we traveled along. I guess some things haven’t changed…

I have eaten a lot of good food these past few weeks leading up to and during the holiday time. I enjoyed a wonderful time with my family eating and hanging out and having an overall good time and thought I’d share some meals with you. Here is the story of my stay in Ohio as told through food pictures.

Early Christmas dinner at my sister's

Early Christmas dinner at my sister’s

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Rum punch made by Sam

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Sweet potato salad

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The master crescent maker

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Family recipe from-scratch crescent rolls!

Delicious Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale with friends in Columbus

Delicious Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale with friends in Columbus

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Lunch at Olive – an urban dive in downtown Dayton!

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Falafel and sweet potato fries - yummy!

Falafel and sweet potato fries – yummy!

More cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast

More cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast

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Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner – Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and cranberry sauce.

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Christmas Blueberry Pie

Christmas Blueberry Pie

Gingerbread decorating creativity

Gingerbread decorating creativity

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Hipster close-up

Hipster close-up: note skinny jeans, hipster glasses, and V-neck shirt.

Six-pack abs

Six-pack abs

Hope you had a Merry Christmas! I can’t believe it’s almost 2015!

Post 82 – Birthdays

 

Growing up my birthday always felt like it lasted more than a day. Perhaps it was the anticipation, the build up, or the spread of celebrations with school friends and family and extended family. I used to count down the days until my birthday, write a birthday list at least a month in advance, plan with anticipation the cake I would eat (and often make), and feel giddy the night before thinking about my special day. And then it would be my birthday! And something about the day would be happy! and joyous! Everyone would wish me happy birthday and I would feel a glow of love and attention unlike any other day.

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Birthday buckwheat pancakes instead. And eggs!

Birthdays are different now.  There are fewer parties and no cake, (this year at least) and since moving to Boston family is farther away. Each year the days go by faster and there’s less anticipation and more grown-up problems to worry about (wah wah).

Homemade sushi that fits the restrictions of the elimination diet!

Homemade sushi within the restrictions of my elimination diet! Fresh avocado, fresh ginger, brown rice, smoked salmon, and nori.

Nonetheless a birthday is still a reason to be grateful for another year of life and a wealth of love and support. So despite a slightly different attitude toward birthdays now, I am grateful for all of the birthday love (so much love). Thanks for the text messages and phone calls and facebook messages that came pouring in, for my sisters sending me pictures of their goofy “missing you” faces, and the awesome voicemails with original rhyming raps from one of my best friends (you know who you are).

The Beatles said that all you need is love and I think that’s mostly true. Thanks for all of the birthday love and support. Here’s to another great year – the year of the spatulas! The year of scraping every last drop!

photo 3(24)Cheers!

Post 74 – Homemade Pierogi

My grandpa’s cousin, Eva, came over from Poland once when I was little and made us homemade pierogi, those beautiful, soft Polish dumplings. Though I remember nothing about her particular recipe, I remember being impressed that she could make them from scratch because we had only bought them in the freezer section.

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Now I am a sucker for any sort of fried or boiled dough pocket filled with delicious-ness and luckily most cuisines have their own version – ravioli, tortellini, empanadas, potstickers, and pierogi to name a few. There’s something so comforting about cutting into that pillowy or crispy goodness and finding out what’s inside. Mmmm.

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So while perusing the internet last year or maybe hearing about someone else’s pierogi eating, I decided I could totally make my own pierogies. In the end it wasn’t even that hard! Time consuming – yes, but difficult – not really (much easier than that damn potsticker dough!). You make a simple yeast-less dough, let it rest and prepare your filling. I love cheese and mashed potatoes and used to make those on a regular basis last year, but this time I had some ground beef to use up and I figured Sam would appreciate the load of protein within. I added onion and beef broth for flavor (and accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be eating any) and folded up a whole tray of these beauties. I can’t speak for myself, but Sam very much enjoyed them and is excited for the stash in the freezer.

I found a delicious recipe that I used last year and loved, but it seems to have disappeared from the internet. The one I used last year had sour cream in the dough, but this one is lower fat and dairy free and just as delicious I’m sure.

Meat-filled Pierogi (dairy free)

adapted very slightly from here

2 3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 tsp. oil

3/4 cup warm water

 

1 pound ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/3-1/2 cup beef broth

 

For the dough, mix flour and salt. In a small bowl whisk egg, oil, and water and stir into the flour mixture. Mix with your hands if needed until it comes together in a smooth ball. Let rest for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. If you are not going to use it after a half hour or more I recommend refrigerating it to keep it from getting too soft.

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For the filling, brown the beef in a medium skillet. When done cooking, remove beef and leave a tablespoon or so of the fat. Saute the onion in the beef fat with a bit of salt and pepper until soft and slightly browned. Return the beef to the skillet and add the beef broth until the desired consistency and warm for a few minutes. I found if I added too much broth, the filling would be too runny for the pierogi dough. Remove from heat and put into a separate bowl to aid in cooling.

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To assemble, roll out your dough to about an 1/8 inch thick. You don’t want it so thin that the filling will break through, but you don’t want it too thick either. Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass (as I did) cut out circles from the dough (about 3 inches in diameter or so) and set aside. Lightly stretch each circle and fill with about a tablespoon or more of the beef filling (you’ll be surprised how stretchy your dough is).

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Fold the circle over in half and pinch the edges to seal with your fingers. Press the tines of a fork around the edges if desired for a better seal and a different look. You may need to dip the fork in flour to keep it from sticking. As you make the pierogi, put them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

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When you have filled the cookie sheet, put it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to allow the pierogies to firm up. If you are saving them for another time allow to freeze, until firm enough to put in a freezer ziploc bag. Otherwise prepare a pot of boiling water, lightly salted. Add pierogies (do not crowd the pot) and cook for 3-5 minutes. If desired, carefully remove pierogies from the water, letting access water drain and add to a pre-heated and lightly oiled skillet (medium heat).

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Cook until pierogies are crisp, flipping once to get each side.

Serve hot with more sauteed onions, shredded cheese, and sour cream if desired.

 

I wish I had Eva’s recipe, but I promise you these will be equally delicious. Hope you try them!

 

Post 60 – Thanksgiving Feast

Just like every other highly anticipated moment in our lives, the day of stuffing our faces with turkey and pumpkin pie has come and gone too quickly. The giant bird taking up real estate in the fridge has been reduced to a tupperware of shredded turkey chunks and the once dreamy-creamy mashed potato have solidified into a bowl-shaped white brick in the fridge.

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OR If you didn’t host Thanksgiving at your place, you look into your empty fridge longingly, wishing there were leftovers and dreaming up another Thanksgiving meal to make just so you can have some leftover stuffing and pie. Well, that’s how I feel anyway.

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I celebrated a delightful Thanksgiving with my family – Sam, Mom, Boo-nater and Boo-natrix, my aunt Beyonce and her Jay-Z (don’t ask). Our hosts cooked up a mean feast of turkey, sausage stuffing, brussel sprouts and bacon, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green salad, and mashed turnips (special request). My aunt and I helped with the dessert spread, making an Alice Waters’ recipe pumpkin pie, vanilla creme brulee (another special request), and apple cider caramels. We also had an apple pie and pear and cranberry crisp brought by another guest. Here is my Thanksgiving in pictures.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Post 49 – Applesauce like Momma Makes It

This is starting to look familiar – a pile of fruit, a giant pot, and hours later a thick sauce of smooth, tart beauty. I’m getting good at this game. This time – it’s applesauce.

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My mom made applesauce when we were little.

No peeling – well except for that one year when we got out the hand-cranked apple peeler and whatchamacallit and had a go at it. We quickly abandoned that machine as you had to stop and fix it as often as you turned the crank.

Thanks to the food mill there’s no mashing and thanks to the flavorful apples, no unnecessary ingredients.

Love the colors!

Love the colors!

Apple cores

Apple cores

As a little girl, my family and I would go blueberry picking in the summer to stock the freezer with “beeble-berries,” as Momma called them. After the summer ended, we’d pull them out for blueberry pancakes, blueberry sauce for pancakes, or our favorite semi-dessert: a personal bowl of frozen blueberries sprinkled with sugar and doused in milk. After a few minutes of sitting, it became like blueberry ice cream as the sugar and milk froze in the crevices between the berries. It wasn’t exactly dessert, but it kept me fooled for a while.

In the fall there were apples. I don’t remember many apple picking outings with my family, but we must have gone once or twice or bought bags at the store. However we acquired our apples, Mom would make gallons of applesauce and, just the same as the blueberries, put some in the freezer for later. You knew it was homemade from its rose-colored tint, dyed from leaving the red skins on as it cooked. Then when it was done, we ground it through the food mill so it came out smooth and pure and apple-skinless.

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So I made applesauce this weekend, just like Momma made it. I cut up my apples, skins on, and simmered them on the stove until they melted and perfumed the apartment with the glorious smell of autumn’s coziest scent. The apples cooked down to half the height of the pot, but we still ended up with a giant bowl of applesauce. No fear – Sam the applesauce-eating maniac is here to eat it up in no time (and consequently I won’t have any to freeze like Mom did).

 

Speaking of Sam, he has taken to making me dinner a few nights a week now that I started cooking for this family (more on that later). This past week he made a wonderful Moroccan Chicken and the week before that a tofu stir-fry! It’s hard giving up my kitchen sometimes, but I love when he cooks for me! Below is a picture of the Moroccan chicken with butternut squash, dried apricots, and wild rice.

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Homemade Applesauce

There is no real recipe for this. I take some apples, core them, and slice them about ¼ inch thick. I put them in a big stockpot and add enough water to cover the bottom by an inch or two (depending how thick you like it). I bring it to a boil and then turn it down to simmer with a lid on until the apples are falling apart, stirring often near the beginning to be sure all the apples are getting an even amount of heat. Add sugar if you like (I didn’t) or cinnamon (either during the cooking or at the end).

When soft, run it through a food mill and let cool.

The food mill

The food mill

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The apple skins that remain

The apple skins that remain

If you don’t have a food mill, you can peel the apples ahead of time and use an immersion blender or food processor, being sure to puree in small batches. Freeze in gallon size freezer bags or enjoy right away. Be sure to try a bite when it’s warm – it’s delicious!

 

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Oh and if you’re wondering how many apples we have left from our original 35 ish pounds, here it is. I weighed them.

Apple count – About 12 lbs.

Happy Fall!