Pancakes… and salad

Panckates_IMG_2890Some nights, a batch of pancakes is the best one can do. I think that if you add a simple salad, this counts as a balanced and relatively healthy (albeit sugary) meal.

I use the Basic Pancakes recipe from the New York Times Cookbook. The recipe can be found here, and the recipe for a small batch (for 2 or 3 people) is here.

Those of you who read this blog regularly, or know me personally, know that I’m a dairy addict. I think that cheese and butter can solve most problems. So, you might be astonished to hear that the pancakes pictured above are dairy-free. Oh, except for the blob of butter on top.

I’ve had to cut down on dairy, due to the baby having a sensitivity. I haven’t been able to cut it out completely (I’m an addict, after all), but I have cut down significantly.

I made tonight’s pancakes with almond milk in place of cow’s milk and canola oil in place of melted butter. And guess what? They tasted darn good. Rose and Shane didn’t even notice a difference.

Good morning! I mean, good night.

A twofer

Penne_Tomato_Anchovy_IMG_2876It’s been unbelievably hard to find time to post these days, but our family dinners have been going strong. Even the baby joins us while we eat, either nursing, napping, screaming his head off, or some combination of the three.

I know I haven’t been giving you much lately, so today (unless he wakes up right now), you’re getting a twofer. Both dinner and dessert. For dinner, Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Anchovies and Garlic, and for dessert Lena’s Shortbread, with a bonus vegan option!

Suffice it to say both recipes are really quick and easy, and can be made with a baby strapped to your chest.

• Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Anchovies and Garlic •
from my dad

1/2 lb penne
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6-10 anchovy filets (depending on how satly/anchovy-y you want it)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
salt

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Melt the butter and oil in a medium to large skillet. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook, stirring frequently, until the anchovies are melted (this might take a bit of mushing with a wooden spoon). Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften.

Cook pasta until al-dente then drain and add to skillet with the tomato anchovy sauce. Alternatively, you can use one of those sieve-like spoons and scoop the pasta out of the water and directly into the skillet*, a little of the pasta cooking water won’t hurt the dish.

Turn heat to high and stir for a minute or two, until pasta and sauce are combined. Serve right away.

Zucchini sauteed in butter and/or olive oil and topped with slivered basil is a nice accompaniment.

*I recommend this method if you have a baby strapped to your chest. I do not recommend draining a big pot of pasta while baby-wearing.

Lena's_Shortbread_IMG_2877• Lena’s Shortbread •
an old family recipe – possibly the easiest dessert you’ll ever make from scratch

1/2 lb (two sticks) softened butter, or for a vegan/non-dairy option use 1 cup coconut oil
2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter, add the sugar and mix to combine. Add the flour and mix to combine. Press the dough into an un-greased 8″ square pan. You can use another pan of the approximate size if you don’t have an 8″ square, this recipe is forgiving. 

Bake for 45 minutes. Cut into squares or fingers while hot, cutting from the edge in. Remove fingers from pan once cool.

Here’s the copy of the recipe that I’ve been using for years:
Lena's_Shortbread_Recipe_IMG_2878

Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach and Smoked Paprika

Orecciette_IMG_2734Newborn weeks 4-6 sure are rough. Now that baby Sid seems to be past the constantly screaming his head off phase (knock wood), I’ve got a post for you!

This is not the post I’ve been writing in my head, which is a response to Britta’s blogging challenge. That post is coming soon, I promise.

Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach and Smoked Paprika is a dish I’ve never tried before. I think that finding and trying a new recipe with a screaming newborn on hand and no help around, is tantamount to cooking a fancy 5 course meal on a busy weeknight. Or something.

It’s an interesting dish, I would never think to use smoked paprika on pasta, but it works. The recipe makes a lot, I’ll be eating it for lunch for the rest of the week if you’d like to stop by for a sample.

• Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach and Smoked Paprika •
original recipe from food and style via Gojee

sea salt for the pasta water
12 oz (3/4 box) Orecchiette
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for garnish
6 large garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne or to taste (optional)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups cooked chickpeas, (canned is fine too)
12 oz baby spinach (use the pre-washed kind that comes in a box to save time)
1/3 cup cooking liquid from chickpeas or pasta water
salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Aged Manchego or Grana Padano shaved (use vegetable peeler or cheese slicer) 

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds until the garlic begins to sizzle, stirring constantly and making sure it doesn’t brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

About 3 minutes before the pasta is ready, reheat the garlic oil over high heat. As soon as the garlic sizzles, add the smoked paprika and chickpeas. Toss well and add half of the spinach. Toss the spinach with two spoons, as if you were tossing a salad, until wilted. Add the balance of the spinach and continue tossing until wilted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta, cooking liquid from chickpeas or pasta water, salt and pepper. Toss quickly and remove from heat.

Spoon pasta into bowls. Garnish with shaved cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

New baby meals: 10 tips & 10+ food suggestions

NewBabyFoodBaby Sid turned 1 month old yesterday. This post is inspired by all of the wonderful friends and family who provided us with food (and otherwise cared for us) as we adjusted to being a family of four. Without you, this first month would have been a lot harder.

While it’s fresh in my mind. I thought I’d share a few dishes and tips that are great to have when there’s a new baby in the house.

Tips:
Whether making the recipes below, or something else, here are some good tips on cooking for a family with a newborn.
1. Veggies, veggies, veggies. It’s surprisingly hard to get enough vegetables in your diet with a newborn in the house.
2. Consider one-handed food or snacks. It’s hard to put down a newborn sometimes (okay, all the time), food that can be eaten one-handed is a lifesaver.
3. Provide the condiments or toppings too. Your friends are not going to have the time or manpower to grate cheese, chop fresh herbs or make salad dressing.
4. Think whole grains and high-fibre, if bringing food in the first week of a baby’s life. The mom will thank you.
5. Nursing moms often crave sweets, bring oatmeal cookies or whole-grain quick breads, laden with nuts and dried fruits. The more fruit and nuts the better.
6. Fresh fruit is wonderful. Pre-washed and no-need-to-peel fruit is even better (see #2 above).
7. Think beyond baked pasta. Personally, I could eat baked pasta every day, after all, macaroni and cheese is my signature new-baby dish. But other folks will be bringing baked pasta dishes too, try your hand at something non-pasta, if you can, to give your friends a change of pace.
8. Bring something they can freeze and reheat later, in case they’ve already been given a lot of food. Bonus points for includng freezing and reheating instructions.
9. If you live far away, or just don’t want to cook, but still want to provide a meal, send a gift certificate to a restaurant in their area that delivers.
10. It will make the new parents’ day if you throw in a couple of beers or a bottle of wine with dinner.

Recipes:
1. Spicy (or not-spicy) Vegetarian (and Turkey) Chili Chock full of vegetables and protein-packed beans, this is a great one for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. It only takes a couple of minutes to heat up on the stove. Bring to a friend with the toppings already prepared, take your pick of grated cheddar, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream or avocado chunks. Be sure to leave the pit in with the avocado pieces, and toss with lemon, so they don’t go brown.
2. Torta Verde (Swiss Chard Pie) I like this because it can be eaten warm or at room temperature, it has a lot of nice green veggies in it and can be eaten with one hand.
3. Macaroni & Cheese  It didn’t take me long to get around to baked pasta did it? But really, this is my signature new baby dish, so how could I not include it?
4. Lasagna. Try Spinach & Bufala Mozzarella, Rita’s Lasagna or Butternut Squash.
5. Pasta Sauce, this is something they can easily keep in the fridge for a while or even freeze. Try Marcella’s Famous or Sweet Italian Sausage Sauce. Include some grated parmesan and a box of pasta with your delivery, so all they’ll have to do is reheat the sauce and cook the pasta.
6. Easy Chicken Cacciatore. My family loves this one, it’s quick and easy to make despite the fancy name.
7. Oktoberfest Stew. I’ve never met a meat eater who didn’t love this, make this on a weekend, when you have some time. Shane recommends a side of potatoes.
8. Anna’s Oatmeal Cookies (recipe below). See tips #2 and #6 above. My neighbors and sister each made us a batch which kept me going over the first couple of weeks.
9. A big salad (your choice of veggies) with a jar of homemade dressing on the side. Dressing on the side will keep the salad from wilting if not eaten right away. Try my version of Rita’s Dressing, Homemade Ranch (you can also do ranch with crudite) or a simple Tart Dressing.
10. Soup! Try White Bean with Rosemary Oil or Pasta e Fagioli if you don’t have a lot of time, and Minestrone or Kale, Cabbage & Farro if you do. All of these soups are full of veggies and beans, lots of healthful nutrition in there.

None of these dishes float your boat? Check out our recipe index for more great ideas.

• Anna’s Oatmeal Raisin Chip Cookies •

2 sticks butter (salted)
1 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cup old fashioned Quaker oats (not quick cook)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add combined flour and baking soda; mix well. Stir in oats then raisins, chips and pecans. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: feel free to play around with the chocolate, fruit and nuts. Anna sometimes uses coconut, white chips, dried cranberries and lots of other stuff. Substitute as you like.

New Year’s Sweet

Baked_Alaska_IMG_2612This New Year’s Eve was nothing like last year’s. The baby and I snuggled off to bed at 9:00. Shane and Rose stayed up until midnight playing cards, Spot It and who knows what else.

At midnight they went up to the roof—so as not to wake us up—and set off some questionable poppers that my sister bought from a street vendor. I don’t know the details, but word is the poppers were kind of scary.

There was no elaborate meal, just a simple lasagna, roasted asparagus and a bottle of bubbly that we couldn’t finish. As I said, nothing like last year… except for the dessert.

Rather than a recap of this tumultuous, but ultimately rewarding year, I’ll leave you with this, New Year’s Cake (aka Baked Alaska). Something sweet for the New Year, and a tradition to carry on. Wishing you all the sweetest 2014, I think we’re off to a good start.

• New Year’s Cake (aka Baked Alaska) •
original recipe from Saveur Magazine

For the filling and cake:
2 pints strawberry ice cream, slightly softened (you can use whatever flavors you want, of course)
Unsalted butter, for pan
½ cup cake flour, plus more for pan (cake flour is good but not essential, it will come out fine if you use all purpose)
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. grated lemon zest

For the meringue:
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
4 egg whites
½ cup sugar

For topping:
Toy penguins (optional, and yes, we know penguins don’t really live in Alaska – you can use caribou or polar bears if you prefer)

Instructions:
1. For the filling: Line a 7″-diameter bowl with a 15″ piece of plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over rim of bowl. Pack ice cream into bowl, smoothing top, and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.

2. For the cake: Heat oven to 325°. Grease and flour an 8″ round cake pan; set aside. Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl; set aside. Beat sugar and eggs in a bowl on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Stir in juice and zest; fold in flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely, invert onto a rack, and set aside.

3. For the meringue: Heat oven to 450°. Place cream of tartar and egg whites in a large bowl; beat on medium speed of a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Add sugar, and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 2-5 minutes.

4. To serve, place cake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Invert ice cream onto cake and peel off plastic. Cover ice cream and cake with meringue. Bake until meringue begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Using 2 metal spatulas, transfer to a cake plate and serve immediately.
Baked_Alaska2_IMG_2612