Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Perfect Belgian Waffles

My friend came to visit and bought us some strawberries from farmer's market and all of a sudden, I HAD to make waffles for breakfast. Waffles are one of our favorites - my girls ask for frozen waffles if I'm not making fresh and I have started limiting the number of times a week they can eat them (not enough protein before school!).

My favorite waffle recipe is this one where you use yeast and let them rise overnight.  They're easy and delicious but the one problem is you have to plan ahead.  I use waffle mixes on occasion (to make these or the TJs buttermilk one isn't bad) but the other day I was out of that too. 

I'm glad I tried something new - the texture of these was fantastic. Stiffly beating egg whites seems like a pain and an extra step, but it's worth it.  My hand blender with the whisk attachment is awesome and does this really quickly (as would a Kitchen Aid mixer with a whisk attachment).   I didn't miss the sugar (none in this recipe), especially with the strawberries on top, but I'd add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla the next time.

Light and Crispy Belgian Waffles (made 8 8in round waffles)

egg yolks
2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
stiffly beaten egg whites

Preheat waffle maker. Put all ingredients except egg whites in large bowl. Stir the mixture until smooth. Gently fold in beaten egg whites. Pour 1/2 cup batter over grids. Close waffle maker, bake until steam no longer escapes, about 3-5 minutes. Repeat. Serve hot with your favorite topping. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring is here!

I'm excited for spring but not very excited that today is my last day of spring break.  Off to work with a new (and challenging) schedule tomorrow.  So, here are some spring things to share:

George, our pet tortoise, has emerged from hibernation much to the delight of the girls.  Little gets up in the morning and says "Turtle.  George.  Outside.  Turtle.  George.  Outside."  She loves looking for him but is scared to touch him.

We went to a park that we like last week and walked on a little trail.  It's a mini hike, perfect for little girls, and we saw 3 ducks and 2 lizards.  After the walk, I showed Big how to make clover necklaces.  Reminded me of sitting outside of the old Altadena church with Shayna and Sarah on Sunday afternoons.

While I was on spring break, I made one of my husband's favorite dinners (the Green Soup) and what I thought was Big's favorite dinner (spaghetti and meatballs).  She promptly informed me that her "new favorite" was hamburgers.  Good thing her Grammy is so nice and made those for her the next night!

With the green soup, I made this new salad/sandwich.  This would be perfect with fresh ingredients from your farmer's market.  You can eat it open face with a fork or knife or fold it like a taco and pick it up.  I loved it and had it the next few days for lunch as well.

Mediterranean Pita Pizzas (serves 2)

2 pitas (I used whole wheat)
1 roma tomato
1 small persian cucumber
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup hummus
2 T crumbled feta cheese
salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the pita pockets in for about 5 minutes - you want to warm them but not make them crispy.  While the pitas are heating, chop the tomato, cucumber, avocado and olives and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano and drizzle with a little olive oil.  You can make this part ahead too and set it aside to let the flavors combine.

Spread each pita with 2 tablespoons of hummus.  Top with half of the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of feta cheese.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekend in Eugene

Last weekend, I took Little to visit her auntie in Eugene, Oregon.  Little was an awesome traveller . . . she loved going "up up up" and "down down down" and eating snacks on the airplane.  On our layover in Portland, she ran all over the airport making friends (and climbing on stuff).  

It took her a little while to warm up (figuratively and literally) and start talking, but once she started, she didn't stop.  On Saturday, we checked out the beautiful public library and took a photo with Eugene F. Skinner, the founder of Eugene (why isn't the city called "Skinner"?).  

It was a lot of fun to just chill on Paula's couch, play some scrabble, work on a crossword puzzle (weirdest clue - "Anatomical cul de sac") and talk.  We explored Paula's neighborhood and I didn't take a picture, but one thing I noticed was how there are bulbs planted everywhere - the daffodils were so beautiful.  My daffodils come from Trader Joe's but how fun to live somewhere where you see those annuals come up in the springtime.  

Now, on to the food.  Paula introduced me to a new beer, the Red Chair IPA (a local brew) and Little and I were treated to dinner at the Pizza Research Institute (thanks, David!).  I highly recommend both if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods.

It was St. Patrick's Day while I was there so we made an Irish meal of Shepherd's Pie  and Irish Coffee Blondies.  I had a great time cooking with Paula and eating off of Grandma Vi's dishes.  We decided these recipes aren't just for St. Pattie's Day . . . Shepherd's Pie is really the ultimate comfort food and it was a lot easier (and less time consuming) to make than I had always assumed it would be.  The Irish Coffee Blondies were awesome . . . I ate way too much and the whisky icing was amazing.

Shepherd's Pie Recipe . . . we added dried thyme and some hot sauce but otherwise, followed the recipe.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hanging with my girls

It's spring break this week - woohoo!  I'm going to do some real cooking (not reheating), post about my awesome weekend in Eugene, and spend time with my little people.  Thought I'd give you a little update about them and share some pictures I took with my new Instagram App.

One of our traditions for my first or last day of work is to go out to breakfast.  This time it was the 50s Diner in the Village for pancakes:

Little sister loves taking her puppy for walks (see photo), pushing her baby stroller, picking up rocks, Curious George, making friends with strangers, and looking for animals.  Her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds every day . . . it's unbelievable how much she understand, remembers, and repeats.  

More photos of her coming in my weekend recap.

Big sister loves life, as always.  She's interested in learning how to spell things and sound out words.  Her biggest passion right now is Star Wars.  She just saw Return of the Jedi with her dad, has his old Star Wars toys, and bought a few of her own (with her own money) to add to her collection.  She loves to be Luke and even when I offered her a movie and a bunch of candy if I could be Luke, she said no.  A couple recent highlights for her (if you know her at all, you won't be surprised) were praying for the preschool chapel and being on the radio (Sirius XM Kids channel).  I can't believe she's going to Kindergarten in the fall . . . crazy how fast time goes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pappardelle with Scallops & Pesto

This is one of those great recipes that only uses a couple of store bought ingredients to create an impressive (and easy) main dish.

Pappardelle with Scallops & Pesto (serves 2)

8-10 scallops
8 oz pappardelle pasta (wide ribbons)
a small jar of pesto
salt, pepper, and olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook the pappardelle according to package instructions.  While it's cooking, heat 1/2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Rinse the scallops and pat dry.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put scallops in the pan and don't move them for 2 minutes (this helps to develop the crust on the scallop).  Turn them over and cook another 1-2 minutes or until the scallops are barely opaque.  

Drain the noodles and toss with a few tablespoons of the pesto.  Arrange the scallops over the pasta and drizzle with a little more pesto.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Case of the Missing Samoas

Act I, Scene I
A sunny afternoon at the park.  A girl scout in a uniform pulls a red wagon loaded with boxes and Big is trying to make a decision with her mother looking on.

Big:  How many boxes can we buy?

Mom (checking her pockets for loose change):  You can buy 2.
Big looks some more, taking the decision very seriously.

Big:  How about this red box and this purple box?

Mom:  Well, the tag-a-longs are Dad's favorites so that's a good choice.  But, we'd better not get those samoas.  Can you pick something else?

Big:  Why?

Mom:  They're my favorites and I might eat the whole box.

Big:  But I really want them - you just don't eat them all, okay?

Mom  (reluctantly):  Ok.

Act I, Scene II
Approximately one week later.  Dad is clearing dinner dishes and Big is excited about her treat of 2 girl scout cookies.  Mom gets down the box of Tag-a-longs and hands her 2 cookies.

Big:  No, I want the other kind.

Mom:  What other kind?  These are the girl scout cookies.

Big:  The ones in the purple box

Mom:  Those are all gone

Big:  WHHAAAATTT???   What happened to them??

Mom:  We must have ate them all

Big:  NOOO . . . I only ate a few of them!

Mom:  Well, I ate them.  I told you they were my favorites

The look on Dad's face changes from a look of disbelief to a look of disgust.

Big:  You said you wouldn't eat the whole box!  No fair!

Mom:  I'm sorry but they're gone.  Do you want these 2 cookies or not?

End scene (but not tantrum).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Now, these cookies aren't anything new (I've had them before when my mom and sister in law have made them) and the recipe isn't a big family secret - you can find it on the back of the bag of Trader Joe's gluten free oats.  But, they are so good I had to put the recipe here so everyone can make them.

My motivation in baking them last week was twofold.  First, I was at the park when Big sister came running over to tell me that "these girls are selling cookies in boxes."  Girl Scout cookie time!  I told her we could buy some, gave her some money, and then realized that my niece was standing there and couldn't have any cookies because the Girl Scouts haven't yet decided to make a gluten free cookie.  I felt so bad and we didn't open them there, but waited until we got home.  So, I wanted to make gluten free cookies to give some to my niece the next time I saw her.  (Funny story - she almost didn't get any because the adults scarfed down all the cookies except one while the kids were playing)

Also, we got invited to go to the Huntington Library with a new friend who I know from the internet & blogging.  It's always fun to meet someone whose writing I admire and whose life I sort of keep up with in a virtual way.  If you know me from my blog or from "real life," you'll remember that when I'm trying to make a friend or get on someone's good side, I bake.  Karin was gracious and patient with my kids (even daring enough to share snacks with them) and a lot of fun to hang out with.  The weather was beautiful and Big keeps asking when we're going back - it was a great outing.

I didn't get a photo of her eating the cookies, but how about these two chocolate chip faces??

My nephew enjoyed the gf dessert offering

I can't tell you how many cookies Little ate because you'd think less of me as a mother . . . 
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (makes 4 dozen)

1/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 c. gluten free rolled oats
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
6 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl.  Beat until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda.  Mix well.  Add the peanut butter and mix.  Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.  Place dough by heaping teaspoons on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I lined mine with Silpat, parchment would also work fine) about 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spicy Baked Salmon

I know that eating fish is healthy.  I know how to cook a few different preparations of fish.  I even like different kinds of fish (a miracle you will appreciate if you knew me as a kid).  But, I rarely think of it and make it for my family.  Good thing I have a husband who reminds me . . . and usually barbecues it up.  Last week I tried to recreate a honey/tabasco salmon that a friend made for me once and the result was a big hit.  The top crust was a little spicy for the girls but they liked the salmon a lot.  It was a good combination of flavors and easy to cook in the oven.

Spicy Baked Salmon (2 servings)

appx 1 lb salmon fillets
1.5 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T orange juice
1 T honey
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
dash of salt, few grinds of pepper
red pepper flakes and tabasco - amount depending on how spicy you like things

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients (except for the salmon) until the honey is dissolved.  Place the salmon in a shallow baking dish lined with foil.  Spray the foil with a little olive oil spray or cooking spray.  If your salmon has skin, put the skin side down.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush or drizzle half of the honey mixture over the salmon.  Bake for about 6 minutes and then brush or drizzle the rest of the honey mixture over it.  Bake for another 5-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon) or until the middle of the salmon is just opaque and the top flakes with a fork.