Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Caramelized fruit pancakes with cinnamon-sugar and oats (as good as they sound!)

Monday, April 11th, 2011

gourmet pancakes

Here’s what I think is a most innovative way of preparing pancakes.  At the restaurant these were a signature item for our Saturday brunch.

This technique for making pancakes produces a light, fluffy cake that has a sweet fruity caramelized crust on one side.  Let’s walk through the procedure and ingredients.  You’ll need a few teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar (1/4 cup sugar to 2 teaspoons cinnamon), some rolled oats (the quick cooking kind), a fruit of your choice and a batch a buttermilk pancake batter.

Prepare your batter and spoon it onto the hot griddle as you would normally.  As soon as the batter is down and cooking on the first side dot it with some small pieces of chopped fruit, fresh, frozen or canned.  You can use apples, pears, peaches, pineapple, all kinds of berries.  Dot enough fruit over the batter so you get a piece in every bite.  Then sprinkle some rolled oats over the fruit (about a tablespoon per cake) and finally sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon-sugar over the fruit and oats.  You need to use a lot to develop the caramelized crust we are after.

When the pancake is cooked on the first side, flip it over and cook the second side which is the side with the fruit, oats and sugar.  Let it cook long enough, on the second side, so that the sugar begins to melt and form a sweet crust.  It takes longer than usual and the underside of the pancake will develop spots that are a deep golden color.  When the pancakes are done take them to the table and serve them with your favorite syrup.  They are out of this world.

Granola bars – true granola bars

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011


A true granola bar recipe is hard to find.  This is the real thing, reminiscent of the ones they sell in the stores.  After all…isn’t that our goal –  to duplicate store bought products?  I was given this recipe years ago by a young woman who helped us at the restaurant.  She got it from a niece who got it from a seventh grade home economics teacher.  I will ever be grateful.

The recipe and instructions follow.  It is very easy and allows for any variations you care to make.  The recipe is not at all difficult but there are three techniques involved that will insure your success. 

1) For the full recipe, use the pan size designated

2) Make sure the mixture is spread perfectly even in the pan

3) Do not overbake

Bear those three things in mind and you will have great results.  Here we go…

Basic Granola Bar Recipe:

1 cup sugar

5 ounces butter or real margarine

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons karo syrup

2 tablespoons peanut butter (optional)

4 3/4 cups rolled oats (quick not old-fashioned)

4 cups added ingredients (total)- this can be a combination of different nuts, chocolate chips, other baking chips, coconut, raisins and other dried fruits, anything you care to try.


In large bowl combine first five ingredients.


Cream together well.


Add oats and your choice of 4 cups of personalized ingredients.


Mix well and then spread evenly in greased baking sheet.


This recipe is perfectly suited to what is known as a half pan or a pan 12×18.  If you decide to make a half recipe, then adjust the pan size accordingly.


Press the dough with fingers making sure the granola is perfectly even all across and not thinner of thicker in any part.


Bake in 350 oven between 15-20 minutes.  You want the granola to be set but not brown around the edges.  Believe it or not the picture above is baked.  Notice that the edges have not begun to turn brown.  This is the tricky part and might take some guesswork the first time or two.


When the granola has cooled slightly but not completely, cut in half using a folded sheet of parchment of paper as a guide.


Then quarter the pan, again using the paper as guide…


and from there cut as many portions as you like in whatever shape you prefer.  Once the granola is cut, allow to cool completely and then store in heavy ziploc bags or nice airtight containers.  This truly is the best recipe I have ever worked with.  My favorite combination of ingredients is 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup pecans and one cup raisins…but honestly…any combination tastes great!

The best pasta machine on the market (I think)

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

When I think about what my mother taught me about food and cooking, two things come to mind.  First, she was very adventuresome in her eating; loved ethnic foods and made sure that we tried all kinds of “foreign” foods.  I value that example greatly.  The second thing I always thank her for is that she introduced me to the traditional, basic Italian hand-crank pasta machine.  She had acquired one later in life and as each of us girls got married she made sure we had one in our possession.  I have been grateful for that ever since.  In fact, I have given my daughters-in-law and many friends the very same machine.  It probably hasn’t changed in a hundred years!


I love this machine for several reasons.  It’s easy to assemble.  It’s easy use.  It’s easy to clean.  My children and now my grandchildren love to operate it.  If you were cooking pasta for huge numbers, then a commercial electric machine might be better but for the daily family use, it is ideal.  It has several attachements, most of which I don’t own.  The basic machine, which is sold in a gold box, has four parts.


The body of the machine clamps to the edge of the counter with a C-clamp.


The hand crank is inserted in the whole above.


There is a number dial on the side that controls the thickness of the dough.


And included with the basic machine is an attachment that is used for cutting noodles.


You have the option of cutting a sheet of pasta into thin spaghetti noodles or wider fettucine noodles.


And the best part is… the machine should not be cleaned.  My mother (who was a clean freak) washed hers with soap and water and over time it rusted out.  DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER.  Simply brush the flour from off the machine.  It truly couldn’t be easier.  We’ll make and roll some pasta in subsequent posts.

Hot chocolate – Brazilian style (kinda sortof)

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010


There are lots of great ways to make hot chocolate.  I grew up under the influence of the Brazilian cuture which made chocolate much the same way coffee is made; brewed in water with no sugar.  So what follows is a merging of the American/Brazilian technique for making this beverage with plenty of twists to go along.

The recipe, simply stated, is as follows:  for every serving needed use one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, one tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 cup of both water and milk.


In a small saucepan (or large kettle if you are making it for a crowd) measure the cocoa and sugar.  I am making a small batch for my husband and myself so I used 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons sugar.


To those dry ingredients add your water first.  In this case (for the two of us) I added one cup of water. 


Whisk and bring to a simmer.  Allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes.  There seems to be a correlation between simmering time and the amount of chocolate that will settle at the bottom of your cup.    It is this simmering period that helps minimize the settling that is inevitable when making chocolate from scratch. 


Then add your milk (I added one cup for the two of us) and bring that to a simmer.  You are ready to serve.  Having presented the basic recipe you are free to tweek it in any way.  If after making this basic recipe you decide you like it sweeter or stronger simply add more sugar or cocoa next time you make some.  BUT…the real fun in making chocolate is making each batch unique in some way.  For example…


At the conclusion of the milk simmering time you could add a few drops of extracts for flavoring.  If you are making small batches you might want to pick up an eye dropper so you can control the amounts you are adding, especially extracts like peppermint.  It’s always better to start small and add more if you want.


You can also add real vanilla beans, if you have those on hand and let those simmer and steep with the water.


After adding the water you could include ingredients like cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, cloves, star anise, etc.  Anything to give it a unique character each time.  If you add those ingredients when you add the water they can impart their flavor as the water simmers.


Another very daring but fun and extremely successful option is to add whole peppercorns, red pepper flakes and annatto seeds.  This is how Montezuma used to take his chocolate.  Personally, I love the inclusion of a few chile flakes.  It perks up each sip and leaves a wonderful sensation in the mouth.

The idea is this…own it!  With the basic recipe you can and should alter the chocolate to your liking.

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