January 31, 2009

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes

These pancakes make for a delicious weekend breakfast, and since you add blueberries and whole wheat flour you can fool yourself into thinking you're eating something kind of healthy.  Until you pour on the syrup.  

Here's what you'll need:
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour*
2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3 tbsp oil
1 cup blueberries

* You could probably adjust the flour amounts so you use a cup of white and a cup of wheat.  I was just a little hesitant to add too much wheat after some recent less-than-satisfactory breakfast cooking experiments.

Start by combining all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

If you're using powdered buttermilk, add the powder to the dry ingredients.  

To make 2 cups of buttermilk I added 8 tbsp powder.  In case you were wondering, I do not have color-changing bowls.  I realized that I needed my larger bowl to mix the wet ingredients, so I did a little switcheroo.  

Whisk everything together.

In a large bowl combine two eggs, two cups buttermilk (or 2 cups water if you're using the powdered stuff), and 3 tbsp oil.

Whisk away.

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  

Whisk just until combined, unless you want rock-hard pancakes.  If brick-like pancakes are your thing, then continue mixing for as long as you want.  I chose to stop before that.  

Get your blueberries ready.  I used frozen ones, so I thawed them and rinsed them off.

Then make sure you dry them off pretty well unless you want soggy pancakes.  

If you're lucky and your boyfriend gave you a cast iron griddle for Christmas, spray it with cooking spray and heat it over medium-high heat.  If you're not so lucky, use whatever comparable device you have.  

I used 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, and they were maybe 4" around.  You could certainly make larger ones, though.  

Pour the batter on the griddle.  If you needed me to tell you that in order to make these, then you should probably not be making pancakes.  Maybe you should start heading to Cracker Barrel.  And bring me back a biscuit, please.  Thank you.  

Right after you pour out the batter, throw some blueberries on top.  I learned from my big brother Bobby that it helps to kind of throw them on with a little force so they kind of go into the middle instead of resting on the top.  In decreases the chance of having burnt blueberries when you flip them over.  I trust Bobby.  He makes killer pancakes.  And he makes delicious raspberry-rhubarb compote to eat them with.  If you go to Portland to visit him, he just might make you some.  

Wowsa.  Look at all those berries.  

Just in case you run out of blueberries, you might want to keep a few chocolate chips on hand.  

Okay, you might want more than a few chocolate chips.  

I guess I should have taken into consideration how many pancakes this recipe would make and halved the recipe.  Call me crazy, but this is just a few too many pancakes for two people to eat. 

I took the giant chocolate chip pancake for myself as a reward for my time slaving over the hot stove.  He brought his little blueberry friend along.  

I've you've never had peanut butter on pancakes or waffles you should try it.  I was introduced to this heavenly combination a few years ago in a little apartment in Brooklyn.  It's a little rich (I could only handle about half of the giant pancake), but it is soooo good.  

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January 30, 2009

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts

One of my roommates in college would make chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and feta on a fairly regular basis. They always looked delicious, and for some reason it's taken me 4 years to make them. I had a couple chicken breasts leftover from when I made chicken curry, and I had four lonesome artichoke hearts that have been sitting in my fridge since the last time we had pizza - a few weeks ago. It was getting to the point where I needed to use the artichoke hearts or toss them out, so I made the right choice and used them up. I also had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, a bag of spinach, and a giant hunk (no, I'm not talking about Matt) of queso fresco, and they all seemed like the perfect combo for stuffing into chicken.

First I crumbled a little of the cheese. I was actually wanting to use feta, but after walking home from school in the bitter cold I did not feel like going back outside if I could at all help it. So I used what I had in the fridge, and luckily queso fresco is somewhat similar to feta - it's a little salty and it crumbles well. I probably used about 1/3 cup.

Here lie the four lonesome artichoke hearts. Which will soon be chopped into little bitty pieces. Still preferable to an existence in a landfill somewhere, if you ask me.

Chop chop chop.

Rinse rinse rinse the sun-dried tomatoes. I only do this because they're in a jar with oil, and I like to rinse off as much of the oil as I can. Please don't make fun of my fat thumbs. I was once told they're a sign of intelligence. I cannot dispute that.

Chop chop chop again.

Now comes the fun part. Oh my. I have found a new favorite thing to do in the kitchen: pounding meat. (TWSS). It is so much fun! I started with a sheet of wax paper topped with a piece of saran wrap. I set a chicken breast on that and topped it with another piece of saran wrap. And pound pound pound. You really have to put a little muscle in it, or you will be pounding and getting nowhere.

To give you an idea of the fun you can have and the great accomplishment you can have, here is the chicken before...

And here it is after. I did that! Yes, me! And it was AWESOME! It kind of looks like a flounder. The last time I ate flounder was when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Chapel Hill, and they took me to dinner at Lantern. If you ask nicely I will tell you what happened later on that night, but I will spare you the details unless you really, really want to know.

After your chicken is pounded to a fairly uniform thickness, you can shift your focus back to the stuffing. I thought it would be best to saute the spinach before stuffing the chicken to get some of the moisture out. First I pressed a few cloves of garlic and sauteed them in a tiny bit of oil over medium heat. Once they were a starting to brown I added about 5 handfuls of spinach.

Here's what I ended up with after about 10 minutes.

After the spinach cooled a little I added it to a bowl with the other stuffing ingredients and mixed it all together. Kind of looks like Christmas, doesn't it?

Spread the filling over each chicken breast. I didn't go all the way to the edge because I didn't want it falling out.

Roll it up fairly tight. Oh yeah, I sprinkled some oregano on it before I rolled it up.

Stick a few toothpicks in to keep it sealed.

Place them seam-side down in a baking dish. I knew they reminded me of something, and I just realized that they look a little like giant pieces of sushi.

I baked them at 350 for 30-40 minutes. I wasn't really sure how long it would take, so I ended up slicing one open to make sure the chicken on the inside was cooked. No foodborne illnesses in my kitchen!

We ate our stuffed chicken with some steamed brussels sprouts and Pioneer Woman's delicious Crash Hot Potatoes. It was really good and really fun to make. The only thing I would do differently would be to put some kind of sauce or something on top of it while baking so the top doesn't dry out. I'm not really sure what would work, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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Peanut Butterfinger Crunch Cookies

These cookies are SO GOOD.  If you're at all a fan of peanut butter cookies, you will love them.  If you've ever considered eating a peanut butter cookie but went for a chocolate chip instead, you will try them and you will love them.  My mom and her friend spent a summer on a quest to find the perfect peanut butter cookie, and this recipe was the winner.  I'm not really sure where it originally came from, but it came to me via an email from my mom.  I just copied and pasted the recipe, so read it, bake the cookies, and don't waste your time on another subpar peanut butter cookie.  

Peanut Butterfinger Crunch Cookies
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup golden brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter; room temperature
2 lg. egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup peanut butter, chunky (do not use freshly ground or "old-fashioned" style peanut butter)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
5 2.1 oz. Butterfinger bars; cut into 1/2" pieces (about 15 fun size bars)
Chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Blend sugars, butter, egg whites and vanilla until fluffy, stopping once to scrape bowl, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter and mix until combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt and blend until just combined. Stir in chopped Butterfingers. Mound dough by 1 1/2 Tbsp. onto cookie sheets, about 2 in. apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until dry in appearance and centers still slightly soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets 3 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Start out by putting the sugar in the bowl of the mixer.

And the brown sugar.  

Add 1 stick of softened, unsalted butter.  

Add two egg whites.  In case you're wondering why the recipe says to beat the sugars, the egg whites, and the vanilla together and my picture shows egg whites being poured into an already mixed batter, it's because I'm not good at reading instructions.  

Add 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Or 1/2 tsp. three times if you're lazy like me and don't want to have to wash more measuring spoons than you have to.

Beat for about a minute, until it looks something like this.

Measure your peanut butter.  There are few things as cute as mama and baby cups of peanut butter.  

Okay, okay.  Maybe these guys are cuter.

Regardless of which is cuter, though, we should probably focus on the cookies.  Add the peanut butter, and mix until combined.  

Then add the baking soda and salt to the flour.  I just wanted to show off my new salt container.  I get so annoyed when I'm baking and I have to pour salt out of the little spout and into a measuring spoon.  It always up everywhere, and I waste a ton of salt in the process.  I finally got fed up and bought this $.99 jar at Hobby Lobby.  It is so convenient, and I'm thinking about dropping another buck to get a container for my baking soda.  That little flap on the box will no longer be getting in the way of my measuring spoon.  

Add the flour mixture to the bowl, and mix.

Until it looks like this.  Then you can remove the bowl from the stand.  

Find your lovely bowl of chopped Butterfingers, and try to to nibble on too many before you add them to the dough. 

Dump 'em on in.  

Add a handful of chocolate chips.  I don't think the original recipe called for this, but my mom does it.  And who am I to disagree?

Mix by hand until all of the delicious parts are evenly distributed. 

I used an ice cream scoop to spoon out the cookies.  

Place them about 2" apart.

Try not to eat them just yet.  Raw eggs are nobody's friend.  Except makers of homemade mayonnaise, pisco sours, and body builders.  

Bake for about 15 minutes until they look as good as this. 

Behold the melted Butterfinger bits that have oozed out.  And ignore the weird things my baking sheets do to butter.  

This picture will hopefully influence you to add chocolate chips to your cookies.  I'm sure this cookie would be delicious sans chocolate chips, but would you take a look at that?  I know you want to bite right into it.  

Here are a few more, in case you needed more convincing.  I took some of these over to a friend's for dessert for our pre-class dinner, and they were eaten as both an appetizer and as dessert.  Yum yum yum.

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