Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whole Wheat Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup

Do you like waffles? I don't really, I'm a pancake kind of gal.

I've been in a season of incredible busyness for over a year now, but am finally starting to get settled into my new job and shed of my other time consuming side jobs. Life is settling down and feeling a bit more manageable. I'm just barely starting to feel like a normal person. I've been craving this for so long now. God provides.

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

—Ecclesiastes 3: 1-9

I can relate to so many of these 'times' right now—I'm sure many of us can. I find it so encouraging that God knows the times we go through, he's created these 'times'—hard and simple. It's easy to look at the hard times as bad and the simple as good, but I know that's not right at all. We go through those hard times for two reasons, I think. First, because God created us to have seasons of life. Sometimes life is busy, sometimes slow, sometimes happy, sometimes hard, sometimes full of laughter, sometimes full of angst, but that's okay, because that's life. Second, because it's during those hard times that we learn more about God and his grace and mercy. We depend more solely on him and exercise a level of faith that's often challenging to act out when things are 'well'. And each one of these faith exercises is a step toward honing our everyday dependence on God.

As a result of some of my new found extra time, I'm starting to make time for homemade weekend breakfasts (among other wonderful things like reading and eating dinner with friends). Pancakes have been on the menu for the past two weeks—this post will cover last week's recipe—Whole wheat greek yogurt blueberry pancakes with (super simple) homemade strawberry syrup. These pictures were all taken with my new HTC Evo phone! I've been loving having a relatively nice phone camera...however, I pulled out my fancy camera today and was quickly reminded of the vast difference between my phone camera and the nice camera.

Strawberry (or any berry) syrup:

This is a really versatile syrup recipe and so incredibly simple! You can really choose whatever flavor you want—blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry...maybe peach? mint? lemon? All you need is honey and your flavor of choice (e.g. strawberries, blackberries, peaches...) I've always used frozen fruit, and imagine really ripe fresh fruit/berries would work alright too.

You can also make as much or as little as you need. I never measure when I do this, so feel free to eyeball it yourself. In theory, you might want to use about equal parts honey to berries, but that's really up to you. For this syrup I used about 3/4 c strawberries with 1/3-ish c honey. I knew the strawberries would cook down and get small and liquidy really quickly, so I measured my honey off of that fact. For blueberry syrup, I follow more of a 1:1 ratio since they don't cook down very much. I always thrown in my fruit frozen, you could definitely do it thawed as well.

Simmer/boil for about 10–15 minutes, or until the berries have broken down to your likeness. I wanted my strawberries to be as mushy and syrupy as possible, so I let this cook the whole time I was preparing and cooking the pancakes. Turn off the stove with enough time to cool a bit before you are ready to eat though, the syrup will be hot!

After about 7 minutes of cook time.

After about 15 minutes of cook time. 

The pancake recipe is based off of this one from (never home)maker, which is definitely one of my favorite foodie blogs—all health-food related. I don't always find the flavor of the recipes on this blog to be top notch, but I definitely get inspired by the recipe concepts, which are a good jumping off point. I've cooked quite a bit from this blog, and certainly will continue to do so. 

To that recipe I added 1T sugar and sprinkled some super healthy blueberries onto the batter once it was on the pan. Look at those perfect golden pancakes...

Top with your homemade strawberry syrup and enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy 30th A-man

Happy birthday young man! I'm thrilled to spend another birthday with you. I hope your 30th year is magical and full of so much laughter. As we said, you're still a young duck, but now you've got an old waddle...whatever that means. Nevertheless, I'm excited to continue watching you grow in wisdom. You are an awesome guy!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trader Joe's Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat: the ultimate French pastry. Have you tried Trader Joe's magic overnight pain au chocolat? $3.50ish for 4, you have no excuse not to. 

Just set them out before bed, and voila!, in the morning your tiny frozen pain au chocolat have grown into a beautiful plump pain au chocolate. Crazy, huh!

And when you wake up, you bake them. Simple and effective. Out come flakey, golden, buttery, delectable "homemade" pain au chocolat. Your house smells like a french bakery and your day is off on the right foot. No need to tell anyone you didn't make these by hand. I mean you could make them by hand if you really wanted, so who's to say... right? You're secret's safe here.

Now I'm not going to lie, these aren't exactly the best pain au chocolat I've ever had. And the fact that I'm eating it at home kind of kills the French Cafe vibe. Nonetheless, these are are worth a try—I will probably buy them again—and if nothing else, you can bake them to make your house smell delicious next time you have people over.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

French Onion Soup, Grilled Veg Quinoa Salad + Dan and Carrie

Dan and Carrie are great, no they're wonderful friends. Carrie has great style and loves food—we're kindred soles. But most of all, she loves the Lord and is an amazing listener. Don't you admire people that can hold themselves back from bursting out every thought? I'm definitely not one of those types.

I made them French Onion Soup and a Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad that bursted with flavor. My family has always had a tradition of eating french onion soup on or around Christmas...usually with king crab legs, mmm. I've never made it on my own, let alone during summer, so it was sensory overload to have my apartment smell of Christmas near August. A delight to say the least.

I haven't had a Le Creuset (or any French/Dutch oven for that matter) until very recently. I have never had such a wonderful onion cooking experience, no burning, no sticking, no nothing bad. Just moist, slow cooking, drool-inducing onions. Onions on the stove are one of the best things in the universe. I take that back—Onions cooking in a stick of butter on the stove are one of the best things in the universe. I'm pretty sure I could have left these onions for an hour without them burning. Get a dutch oven, it's so worth it!

Note: To give you a visual landmark, the onions cooked for about another 10 minutes after the second onion photo above. They should be near falling apart, goopy and stringy. 

An important part of french onion soup is the crusty bread. Shame on the person with no bread for their french onion soup. 

Crusty, Cheesy Crostini:
Slice a baguette (preferably a day old, but no biggie if not) in 1/4"–1/2" slices. Drizzle or baste with olive oil. Salt and pepper (pep is my secret trick to awesome toasts) the top of the toasts. Put under the broiler until golden and crispy. Turn the toasts over, salt and pep again and top with the cheese you are using for your soup (we usually use Gruyere and Swiss). Broil again until bubbly and crisp. Set aside until dinner is ready.  

Don't you love the way Carrie tied her belt? I do. 

Frankie also came for dinner. Mia wasn't excited about her arrival, but retreated to the bedroom for some solace. 

Dessert was Chocolate Pots de Creme. These are so easy to make and so perfect to make ahead for a dinner party, so long as you have space in your refrigerator (no baking required). They were somewhat of a cross between a chocolate mousse and a chocolate pudding—closer to the pudding side.  I topped them with a spoonful of fresh-made whipped cream. There are so many flavor possibilities with this dessert! A fantastic night it was!

Special Tools: Crockpot, French/Dutch oven, Small ramekins (Pots de Creme), Oven with broiler, Blender

Grilled Vegetable and Basil Quinoa Salad:
The Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad was wonderful and will certainly be on my dinner rotation list for life. You could replace the quinoa with lettuce, cous cous or even pasta. I used red quinoa, which is available at Trader Joes, I just love the color.

Check out the inspiration recipe here. For my salad, I used cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, thin asparagus, crimini mushrooms, jarred roasted red peppers, and bocconcini mozzarella (added at the very end when assembling the salad. Don't cook this!). The simple dressing and the addition of basil to the quinoa is phenomenal!

I presented the salad with all the grilled veg on top and we tossed it at the table.

Note: I used 2 cups dry quinoa to feed 4 people well.

French Onion Soup:
This happens to be the recipe my family has always used. I highly recommend using Vermouth instead of Cognac. Vermouth is really inexpensive—about $5 at a liquor store.

I used a 50/50 mixture of sweet onions and red onions. I only used the red onions because I have a bag of them on hand. I would recommend using all sweet onions, but it honestly doesn't make too much of a flavor difference. I've read in the past that red onions make your soup murky. I didn't notice it doing so, but maybe if that's all that I used. Who knows..

Note: I double this recipe to feed 4 people with enough left for dinner for two the next day. Because of this, I increase the cooking time to 4-5 hours in the crockpot.

Chocolate Pots de Creme:
Recipe from my Aug/Sep 09 issue of Food Network Magazine, found online here. It says it feeds 6–8, but I would say 4–6 is a better portion. The image above is a 4-serving portion size.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pregnant Ballerina

Remarkably beautiful. I watched this video almost a year ago and it has never left my mind. I love everything about it, especially that she is a pregnant real ballerina.

Duet from Robin Cantrell on Vimeo.
Music: Beirut

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Raspberry Lavender Gelato

This gelato is perfect. No lie, I'm pretty sure it's the best thing I've ever made. Let's just see how many times I claim that...

A delicate marriage of comforting lavender and fresh raspberry. This gelato is perfect for a hot summer day. Don’t be afraid to use frozen raspberries (no one will ever know). Also, don’t forget to freeze your ice cream maker bowl 24 hours ahead (flashback to the great chocolate cherry froyo disaster of '08).

Tools: Food processor or blender, fine mesh sieve or chinois, spatula or wooden spoon, 2.5 qt heavy bottom saucepan, whisk, extra bowls, food thermometer, measuring cups & spoons, ice cream maker (I have a 2qt Cuisinart)

Raspberry Lavender Gelato
4 c. Red Raspberries (thawed if frozen)
1 c. granulated sugar
2 1/4 c. half-and-half, divided
6 large egg yolks
1/4 c. fat free powdered milk
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. dried edible lavender flowers
a few drops of red food coloring (optional to enhance color)

Place raspberries in a food processor fitted with the metal “s” blade or in a blender (if using a blender, 2 cups at a time for best results). Process until completely pureed and smooth. Press raspberry puree through fine mesh sieve with a spatula. Toss out the seeds and you should be left with about 2 cups of puree. Set this aside.

Mix sugar and 1 1/4 cups of the half-and-half in a 2 1/2 qt heavy bottom saucepan, add lavender. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Keep warm over low heat. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until thickened, about 2 minutes. While whisking, add 1/2 cup of the hot half-and-half/sugar mixture and whisk until blended. Stir the egg mixture back into the saucepan; increase heat to medium. Stir the mixture constantly until it is thick like a custard sauce and registers 180º with an instant read thermometer. 

Stir in remaining half-and-half, powdered milk and heavy cream. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Stir in reserved raspberry puree, vanilla and optional food coloring. A natural substitute could be beet juice, if you would rather. This may slightly affect the taste, but I haven’t tried. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before continuing.

Make sure your ice cream maker’s bowl is completely frozen. If you hear any sloshing inside the container keep freezing. Mine usually takes about 24 hours to completely freeze. Turn the machine on and pour your chilled mixture into the frozen bowl. Mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes. The gelato will have a soft, creamy texture. This is my favorite point to dig in! However, if you are looking for a more solid consistency, transfer the gelato to an airtight container and freeze for about 2 hours. Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving for easy scooping. Happy churning!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Baptism at Golden Gardens

July 14, 2010 I was baptized at Golden Gardens in Seattle, WA. The day was certainly blessed. The weather perfect, more friends than I could count on two hands, veggie burgers, worship in the sand, a bike ride there, smiles, and Molly Moon's ice cream afterward (I had Raspberry Hibiscus Sorbet). Thank you to those whom I love that came out to support me on this wonderful day. Watch the awesome video AK put together here.

"And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" // Acts 2:38

Images by my new friend and community group leader, Jeremy Allen. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Vanilla Bean Cupcake

Lemon Curd filled vanilla bean cupcake, with blueberry swiss meringue frosting. A treat for Grandma P's 91st birthday, these cupcakes would be perfect for any summertime barbeque/pool/garden party. The Blueberry Swiss Meringue is pretty subtle in blueberry flavor. If you would like, add a few drops of blueberry oil to take your cupcake to blueberry heaven.

Lemon Curd
1/2 c. Freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3/4 c. White sugar
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

With your microplane, grate enough lemon zest to measure 2 teaspoons. It is much easier to do this before you juice your lemons. Now, juice your lemons (I love this orange-size juicer). Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs in a metal bowl and add softened butter. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth and an instant-read thermometer registers 160ºF, about 5 minutes. Force curd through a fine sieve set into another bowl.

Serve warm, or let cool slightly and cover the surface of the curd with wax paper until cooled completely. The curd will keep covered and chilled for up to one week.

Please don't hesitate to eat the curd straight from the bowl :)

Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 Egg whites
1 1/4 c. White sugar
2 c. Room temperature unsalted butter (4 sticks or 1lb), cut into very small pieces
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp Blueberry puree (Instructions to follow)
Pinch of salt

Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; you shouldn't be able to feel any sugar granules. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has almost completely cooled and formed still and glossy peaks, about 8-10 minutes. Stiff peaks should be able to stand without falling over when you lift the whisk straight out of the bowl and turn it upside down (frosting pointing toward the ceiling).

Now to add the butter. If it is truly room temperature, it will be too soft to cut. So using your spatula, scrape no more than 1 tablespoon of butter into the egg mixture at a time. Beat until incorporated after each addition. The buttercream may appear curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add blueberry puree and salt and beat until just combined.

Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using the buttercream within several hours, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Blueberry Puree
1 lb Blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Bring blueberries to a boil in a sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated—about 1/2 hour—and the mixture is thick, stirring occasionally.

Cool blueberries slightly and transfer to a blender. Mix until smooth. Once pureed, pass the mixture through a fine sieve set into another bowl.

This recipe makes more than you really need. Use the the rest on top of pancakes, waffles, ice cream, meat (or tofu!). Or simmer the leftover with a bit of honey to make a blueberry honey syrup.

To assemble cupcakes:
Make your favorite vanilla (or vanilla bean) cupcakes—I haven't found a favorite yet, any suggestions? I like a dense, but not too dense, super moist cake, with a pronounced vanilla flavor. No luck so far in life.  Anyways, once cooled, using an apple corer or melon baller, scoop about 2–3 tsp of cake out of the center. Don't throw away these insides, that's the best part of the cupcake! Eat them or package them up for a kiddo. Fill holes with the cooled lemon curd using a pastry bag, or by simply snipping the corner of a Ziploc bag filled with curd (I prefer this easy-to-clean-up method). You should have just enough curd to fill the entire batch of cupcakes—with a few extra spoonfuls (for your liking) built in.

Top with a swirl of the blueberry swiss meringue and a fresh blueberry for good measure. You should have enough frosting for one batch of cupcakes with about a cup left over, if frosted like I did in the image above.