Monthly Archives: May 2013

Easy like a Saturday Morning

There are few weekly meals better than lazy, weekend breakfasts, enjoyed after you can sleep in a little (or a lot) and spend the morning lolligagging before facing the freedom of the day ahead. Most typical days I stick to my trusty bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios or Cocoa Pebbles, a cup of coffee, and a tangerine. I am truly a creature of habit. But on those rare Saturday and Sunday mornings when time is not particularly of an essence, I revel in the opportunity to put together a more culinarily adventurous meal. Now, that does not mean I go crazy – I’m not making bagels from scratch or anything. After all, it is a lazy weekend morning. Instead, I tend to channel my inner-Sandra Lee and go all Semi-Homemade, just without the insane tablescapes that often make Sandra Lee’s dining room look like a craft store exploded (and not in a good way).

On a Saturday not too long ago, the universe conspired to give Bryce and I that perfect lazy morning. We had just moved the week before and definitely earned a laid back start to the weekend. So, for our first substantial breakfast in our new home, I found inspiration in a pint of blueberries chillin’ in the fridge. I contemplated making blueberry muffins or blueberry syrup before settling on fresh blueberry pancakes to go along with some crispy bacon and white cheddar scrambled eggs. For the pancakes, I started with the Bisquick recipe and then let my semi-homemade inclinations kick in. I mostly followed the instructions on the side of the box, which just combine Bisquick with milk and an egg. I changed a couple of things and added a few others – ta-da! Semi-homemade!

Truth be told, there is nothing wrong with traditional Bisquick pancakes and Golden Griddle Syrup. They remind me of my childhood, when we would have breakfast for dinner and my dad would make pancakes and bacon. He always turned those simple flapjacks into a special treat by transforming ordinary discs into snowmen or animal-shaped pancakes. On top of that, if we asked for a certain shape, he would attempt to make it. Dinner thus became more than just pancakes, it was an interactive and exciting adventure because my brother, sister, and I were involved in the creative cooking process. Experiences like those helped to inspire my own culinary evolution. Therefore, I aspire to recreate that sense of joy and human connection when I cook, much the way many cooks and chefs do (I assume).

Combining my semi-homemade skills with my proclivity to not leave well enough alone, I concocted a version of blueberry pancakes based on an alteration of the Bisquick recipe. I read somewhere that adding soda water to pancake batter helps make them fluffier, so I substituted 1/4 cup of soda water for some of the milk called for by the Bisquick recipe. I did not really notice a difference, but then again, I don’t make pancakes all that often and perhaps I did not use enough soda water. It definitely didn’t hurt the pancakes, so why not go with it? Then I added a little sugar and vanilla to amp up the flavor. Some melted butter lent a little more richness. And to compliment the blueberries, I stirred in the zest of one lemon, which provided an extra punch of freshness. Just to make sure things are coming together as planned, I usually taste-test my batter before taking the plunge and cooking it. Yes, raw eggs and all. I ain’t scared. The batter was ready. Once griddled and topped with a pad of butter and some warmed maple syrup, the resulting blueberry pancakes were not only scrumptious but easy like those wonderful Saturday mornings.

Blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, and crispy bacon.Easy Blueberry Pancakes
2 c. Bisquick (or similar baking mix)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 c. of milk
1/4 c. of soda water
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 to 1-1/2 c. fresh (or frozen blueberries)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except for the blueberries. When the batter is just combined, gently stir/fold in the blueberries so as not to break them open. Part of the fun and yumminess of blueberry pancakes is when the blueberries pop open in your mouth and their gloriously tangy juice mixes with the pancake and maple syrup to make a perfect bite of breakfast. To keep them from bursting open, you can also sprinkle the blueberries into the pancake batter once you’ve started cooking it.

Ladle a spoonful of the batter onto a non-stick griddle preheated over medium heat. (Sometimes I put a little vegetable shortening on the griddle to give the pancakes a crispy edges.) When bubbles form on the raw batter side after a few minutes, flip the pancakes over to reveal the golden brown goodness that defines a great pancake. Within a few minutes after the big flip, the pancakes will be done. Serve immediately. If you aren’t quite ready to eat them yet, place them in layers on a cookie sheet lined and separated with wax paper. Pop them in an oven set around 150-175 degrees to keep them warm. Too many pancakes? No problem! After you finish enjoying your meal and cannot eat another bite, cool the pancakes completely on a cooling rack. Once completely cooled, wrap each individual pancake in plastic wrap, toss into a freezer bag, and store in the freezer. When you have a hankering for a pancake, reheat the semi-homemade goodies in a toaster oven. How’s that for an instant breakfast? Whether fresh or reheated, top the pancakes with a little butter and your favorite syrup and enjoy!

Words of caution – you may have to play with the heat settings on your stove or electric griddle so the surface is not too hot – you don’t want pancakes that burn or cook too quickly on the outside but stay raw in the center. Gooey pancakes are good, runny ones are not.



The Perfect ‘Coffeeness’

Well, I mentioned on Facebook towards the beginning of the year that I had perfected Coffee Ice Cream and promised a recipe would follow shortly thereafter. Days flew by. Then weeks. And now, nearly four months have passed, and I am finally getting around to spilling the beans. May is still ‘soon’ after January, right? I guess that’s what I get as a grad student. Now that the first year is said and done, I am looking forward to blogging a little more consistently and hope to find a way to keep up more regular postings once grad school starts up again at the end of August.

Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand – Coffee Ice Cream and perfecting the recipe…

Late last fall, Bryce whipped up some delicious coconut bars that used only half of a can of sweetened condensed milk. Pondering what we should do with the remaining half of a can got me thinking about ice cream, as is typically the case. What better use for sweetened condensed milk than an ingredient for my next ice cream making adventure? I thought it could serve multiple purposes – as milk, as sweetener, and as a thickening agent. Why I chose coffee ice cream for the trial run I could not tell you, but I was suddenly struck with a craving and went with it.

My previous attempt at making coffee ice cream turned out to be rather uninspiring. I had not yet tried the whole egg yolk tempering thing and therefore had no need to heat up the milk and cream mixture prior to freezing. As a result, the instant coffee only partially dissolved into the liquid and the undissolved granules ended up speckling the ice cream. Just not in a good way. Heating up the sweetened condensed milk, cream, milk, and instant coffee did wonders for the mixture. I also thought to myself, “Hey, Food Network chefs are always adding instant coffee to chocolate recipes, commenting that the coffee helps to make the chocolate flavor more intense. I wonder if the same is true in reverse?” So, on top of the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder to my new coffee ice cream mix. Even before freezing, I knew I had stumbled upon a great combination. I mean, I had to taste test throughout the cooking process, right? And the resulting ice cream proved even better than expected. It was thick, creamy, and smooth with the perfect balance of milkiness, sweetness, and coffeeness. That’s right, I just made up a new word. That’s how good the ice cream was, and the recipe will be my go-to whenever we’re craving a little coffee ice cream.

Bowl of coffee ice cream.
Coffee Ice Cream

2 c. heavy cream

1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk

1 c. whole milk

3 packets of instant decaffeinated coffee

1 tsp. cocoa powder

2 egg yolks

1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Add the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, instant coffee, and cocoa powder to a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. While the cream/milk/coffee mixture is heating, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a mixer on medium speed for approximately two minutes (in a medium-sized mixing bowl). Once the mixture on the stove reaches a simmer, reduce the heat and get ready – it’s time to temper the eggs! In a slow, steady stream (to prevent scrambling), add the heated cream mixture to the egg yolks while running the electric mixer to blend all ingredients together. After incorporating the eggs into the cream mixture, return the ice cream base back to the sauce pan and heat until the custard thickens, stirring constantly. This step takes approximately 5-7 minutes. You will see and feel the ice cream thicken. For a foolproof way to check if the ice cream base is thick enough, dip a spoon into the liquid and run your finger along the backside of the spoon. If your finger leaves a clean trail, it’s done. If the liquid is thin and runny, cook for a while longer. Transfer finished ice cream base to a bowl, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate overnight. Freeze the cooled ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. Enjoy! (Pictured above with a Timtam cookie.)