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Time for Breakfast (for Dinner)!

It’s in the sixties in January here in Harriman, which is unheard of for this time of year, but I’ll take it! Today there were two great articles that are food-related in the New York Times. The first, written by Leslie Kaufman, closely relates to what I am trying to do at home and here on the blog. She has her sons cook one meal a week, which includes the planning of the meal, detailing ingredients and doing the cooking. Her sons are 14 and  10 and do the actual cooking with a parent within earshot, but this is something I have been working on doing with Sean for a while. It’s a great way to get kids involved in the meals, gives them some responsibility, let’s them know what you have to go through every day to cook for them, and makes them more interested in doing things in the kitchen. I think it’s a great article, so take a look at it if you get the chance.

The second article is written by Mark Bittman, the author of ‘How to Cook Everything.” It’s a good article on how the Department of Agriculture is making schools change up their lunch menus to make things better for our kids. It gives you a good look as to what the changes are going to be, and while there may still be work to do on this, it’s a step in the right direction.

Now on to our meal for the day. Today is Michelle’s choice, but it also one of Sean’s favorites. We all love breakfast for dinner nights, actually. It gives us a chance to eat the breakfast food we love but don’t always have time to make during weekday mornings when things can be a bit hectic. We are making this meal our meat-free meal for the week as well, which disappoints Sean since that means no bacon or sausage tonight, but we’ll still have a great meal with Pancakes, Hash Browns and maybe an egg or two. Since a vegetable doesn’t really go too well this meal, we are going to opt for a fruit salad instead.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make, whether it is from scratch or from a box. We often use Bisquick ourselves when you need something done in a pinch. It tastes good and it’s quick, but today I am going to post a recipe for some homemade pancakes. The recipe I am using calls for buttermilk, but if you don’t have any on hand, whisk 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with two cups of milk and set it aside for a few minutes to thicken, and voila, you have buttermilk. This type of buttermilk is fine for cooked applications, but I wouldn’t use it for raw recipes like the ranch dressing we made yesterday.

Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups buttermilk

1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, and then the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Brush the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, add the batter to the skillet (only 2 or 3 pancakes will fit at a time) and cook until large bubbles begin to appear, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Spread the pancakes out over the wire rack on the baking sheet (they shouldn’t overlap) and hold in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with oil as needed between batches.

If you have any leftover pancakes (which we usually do) let them cool to room temperature, then wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. They will keep for up to a week while still maintaining most of their original flavor and texture. Defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then heat in a 350 degree oven until warm, about 5 minutes. I usually leave a couple on the fridge for the next day and my buddy Liam and I have them for breakfast.

Of course, there are a lot of things you can add to pancakes or top them with. I love adding bananas or blueberries; once you add the batter to the skillet, just sprinkle a few slices of banana or a few blueberries over each pancake, or just top the pancakes with the fruit after they are cooked.

We decided to make some hash browns tonight to go with our pancakes. Hash browns go great with bacon or sausage, and we’ll do that another time I am sure, but they are fun to have any time. They don’t take long to make, and I use the food processor to grate the potatoes, sparing my knuckles the use of the box grater.

Hash Browns

1 pound russet potatoes (2 medium) peeled

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Grate the potatoes using either the large holes of a box grater (watch your fingers!) or the shredder attachment of a food processor (you should have about 1 1/2 cups when your done grating). Wrap the grated potatoes in a kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly of excess moisture, then toss with the onion, parsley (if using) salt and pepper.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to brown, swirling to coat the pan. Scatter the potatoes evenly in the skillet and press firmly into a cake. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until dark golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 8 minutes. When the first side has browned, slide the potatoes onto a large plate. Carefully cover the plate with another large plate, and flip so that the potatoes are on the plate, browned-side up. Melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, then slide the potatoes back into the skillet, browned-side up, and continue to cook over medium heat until the second side is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Slide the hash brown cake onto a plate or cutting board and cut into wedges.

There’s nothing like hash browns with some eggs. I prefer a fried egg or an egg over easy, but for tonight we’ll just whip up some scrambled eggs and save the fried egg for another time, maybe for a nice egg sandwich with some sausage or bacon.

Scrambled Eggs

8 large eggs

1/4 cup half and half (you can use milk instead, but the eggs are creamier with half and half)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the eggs and cook while gently pushing, lifting and folding them from one side of the pan to the other, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, until they are nicely clumped, shiny and wet, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked eggs from the pan quickly and serve.

We’ll get more into eggs another time when we’re using some meat with breakfast, but you can always add cheese, chives, onions, thyme or countless other herbs to add some flavor.

We’re finishing off with a simple fruit salad of what we have on hand – bananas, blueberries, blackberries, grapes and mandarin oranges, sprinkled with a little sugar and lemon juice. Of course, you can always use whatever fruits you like, are in season and taste the best to you.

Boy, for such a simple meal, I did a lot of writing today! There are lots of different variations you can do when doing breakfast for dinner. I’d love to hear what other people do when they make this for a meal. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them and I’ll try to comment as quickly as I can. Tomorrow is a leftovers night for dinner, but I have decided to write about some good ideas for Super Bowl snacking, since the game is Sunday and you want to be prepared. Let me know if you have any snacks or recipes you’d like to see to use for the big game. Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Garam Masala? Isn’t He a Jazz Musician?

No, he’s not a jazz musician, but I hope it got your attention. You probably don’t need to have garam masala in your pantry (unless of course you make a lot of Indian or Asian food, in which case you might), but there are lots of other things that I think would go very well in your pantry. I am going to name a few things that I use on a regular basis that help me tremendously in the kitchen. Most of them you probably have around all the time, and if you do, it can help you create a meal on the fly for a quick weeknight dinner when you don’t want to put a lot of effort in, or for when you have unexpected guests drop by and need something quick to throw together. When it comes to items in your pantry, brand is a personal choice. Use what you and your family like best and has the best flavor for you. There are a few brands I will recommend that I really like using, but do what fits your taste and budget the best.

Everyone has their own list of things they like to keep around in the pantry based on what their family likes best. There are basics like flour, salt, sugar, pepper, butter and milk that most people have around in one variation or another, depending on what you like and what your dietary restrictions may be.These are a few things I always have in the house:

Rice – I always have whole grain rice, sometimes brown rice, but always whole grain. It doesn’t take long to cook and to me tastes better than any quick rice or minute rice.

Eggs – We always have a dozen eggs on head and use them for baking, breakfast, hard boiling to have for lunches or appetizers, or when we have “breakfast for dinner.”

Pasta – While I personally don’t eat it, we always have it in the house, usually in a couple of varieties. If I had the counter space, I would like to make my own, but since our kitchen is the size of a closet, we make do. If you have pasta around, you always have a meal. There are dozens of quick sauces to throw together, or just saute or roast some vegetables to go with it, and you’re done.

Oil – I always have vegetable oil on hand as well as olive oil. I probably use the vegetable oil more, but the olive oil is good for making dressings and sauces. I also keep some cooking spray on hand to use to keep things from sticking.

Vinegar – again, it’s good to have on hand for dressings for salad, and I usually keep white, red wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar to use with various recipes.

Herbs & Spices – There are hundreds of different herbs and spices you could get (like garam masala), but I have found that I really only use about ten or so regularly. I try to use fresh parsley, thyme and basil, as there is a real taste difference over the dried versions. For dried spices, I use oregano, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder and cumin. I have others, but rarely use them. Check you dried spices after about 6 months because they tend to lose their potency by then.

Tomatoes – Sadly, fresh tomatoes available in stores here in New York have been bad, to say the least. Unless you grow your own around here, I have found that the canned tomatoes are better. I buy diced tomatoes often to use for things like chili, and keep a couple of jars of crushed tomatoes around for sauce. I do love fresh tomatoes, and ripe ones give great flavor, we just haven’t had good ones in a while.

Broth – I make my own broths now.It may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t and it is so worth it. Homemade chicken stock tastes 100 times better than anything in a box or can and is very easy to make. The same goes for beef, fish or vegetable broth and you can freeze them to use whenever you need them (I plan to use a day of blogging to talk about stocks). If you don’t have the time to make your own, I have found that Swanson’s seems to taste the best among the chicken and beef broths available.

Beans – We always have some kind of beans on hand, either dried or canned. They are a great source of protein and can be used in a lot of side dishes, soups, stews and chili. I almost always have red kidney beans, white beans or black beans around to use.

Produce- If you are going to have produce around, you should always have carrots, celery and onions. Use those three and you can pretty much make anything. They are a great base for most sauces, soups, and stews or great for roasting with meat or poultry.I also regularly have white potatoes and garlic on hand to use as well. I try to use fresh produce for our vegetables every day, and when I can’t I do buy some frozen items to have on hand. I am not a fan of canned vegetables – they have a metallic taste to me, usually have too much salt in them to preserve them, and don’t seem to taste as good once cooked. I also always have some kind of fresh fruit on hand, depending on the season. Fresh fruit can be a simple and quick dessert anytime, a nice addition to breakfast, or a great afterschool snack.

Beyond that, there are things I buy from week to week, varying on what our meal plan for that week is going to be. I’ll get more into the meal plan itself tomorrow when I start writing about what’s cooking for the week, but the plan itself basically maps out my shopping list for the week so I know what I am going to buy. I try not to stray beyond that list, with the exceptions of items that may be household necessities that week (i.e. toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, Sean’s lunch snacks, etc.). It helps me budget our food shopping for the week and keeps me from buying empty calorie foods we don’t need or shouldn’t have.

So tomorrow we get started on the meal plan. I can tell you, tomorrow’s dinner is nothing fancy, it’s pretty straightforward and easy, but I think that works for a lot of weeknight meals. We don’t often have time for an elaborate meal during the week, so I do try to keep things simple. Get your equipment ready and your pantry set, and we’ll hit the kitchen tomorrow!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Pasta, Produce, Soups & Stews, Spices

 

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