Saturday, July 4, 2015

Buttermilk Pancakes, for Two


On weekends, I like to treat my men to homemade pancakes with pure maple syrup. Oh, wait! I'm now living with my one man, now that my son has flown he coop and is living (quite happily) in Texas.

I've posted many recipes for pancakes, but I'm always game to try new ones.  I especially like recipes that have been adjusted for just the two of us. I think it'll take time for me to wrap my head around my son's absence, and I do miss that. But, as long as he is happy and enjoying his new career, this Mama is cheering him on! 

You will see me posting, often, from this cookbook.  I've said it many times. and I will continue to say, that I really like the cookbooks from the America's Test Kitchen (who also own Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country).  They test their recipes over and over again, until it's just right. I can, pretty much, know that as long as I follow their recipe-- I'm going to like it.  I particularly like to read the preface to each recipe about "WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS".

The day that I received this cookbook, I bookmarked a lot of their recipes.  I've already shared the secret to their "Perfect Fried Eggs" recipe.  So, now I'll share their recipe for perfect buttermilk pancakes.

..."We loved the tangy flavor that the buttermilk imparted, but too much made our batter runny; we found the supplementing the buttermilk with sour cream gave us the tang we were after without diluting the batter."-- "America's Test Kitchen"

There's more about why this recipe works-- from adding a little sugar for the perfect balance of sweetness, to a reminder not to over beat the batter--lest you get tough pancakes.

 A combination of baking powder and baking soda gives the pancakes a perfect rise.

Of course, pure maple syrup is the perfect finishing touch for homemade pancakes.  It costs a lot more than pancake syrup, but there isn't any artificial flavor or icky ingredients. Plus, I use maple syrup for so many recipes-- so it's always in my pantry.

TASTING NOTES:  You might wonder if you can make your own buttermilk with milk and vinegar or lemon juice.  I've posted a recipe like that here that works just that way.  For this recipe, I wanted to stick to real buttermilk. Since I'm a baker as well, I use buttermilk often-- so I always keep a quart on hand.
The pancakes were, indeed, tender.  You can't taste the sour cream, and these were a success. Best of all, we each ate three pancakes and weren't tempted to go for more-- because there weren't any.  Perfect!

I recently posted these Cornmeal Pancakes, that are also really REALLY good.  I just need to work on scaling the recipe down to make just six pancakes.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Grilling Favorites, just in the time for the Fourth of July!

Craig and I just returned from a week long trip to Central Texas. In short, we had a great time. We had a chance to see my son, and meet his new friends (all with great approval).  We took a family trip to Texas Hill Country for a quick tour of San Antonio, New Braunfels and Austin Texas. 

We wanted to experience some Texas Barbeque, while we were there, and so we did. Our favorite kind of barbeque is smoked meat, and there are plenty of those places to be found wherever we visited. 

 Beef Brisket from a place in San Angelo, Texas

We tried some Texas smoked brisket and pulled pork. I don't want to mess with Texas-- but I'm going to be honest.  The places we tried were "good".  The brisket (pictured above) looks dry, but it actually wasn't.  It had that smokey taste we hoped for, and the barbeque sauce was quite good.

 Beef Brisket from our own backyard in Salinas, California

My husband and I agreed that our own Slow-Grilled Smoky Beef Brisket was just as good, and you can make this at home yourself.  (I think this is what we'll be making this weekend.)

We felt the same way about the pulled pork we had in Texas.  The Pulled Pork Recipe that we've been making for a few years, is just as good as any we had in Texas!  (I love the burnt ends... those crusty, charred bits. Yummy!)

Now, here's a cut of beef that isn't so easy to find in Texas-- and this is one of California's pride and joy.  Hello Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip!  

The night before, I prepare a paste of fresh garlic-salt-oil paste, and seal it with plastic wrap.  Salt & Pepper are the only added seasonings.

We like ours medium-rare-- but I won't judge if you like yours more well done.  I like to layer mine on some garlic bread and enjoy it with a side of pinto beans.

These Grilled Steakhouse Tips are one of my personal all time favorite recipes.  This recipes uses an inexpensive cut of steak, and caramelizes beautifully from the brown-sugar that's in this easy marinade. 

This Smoky Grilled Chicken is brined for an hour with a combination of sugar and salt.  It is then slow-grilled for about 1-1/2 hours with wood chips-- yielding a beautiful golden brown color with plenty of smoky flavor.

We've made this Spatchcock Chicken several times.  I prepare the chicken with plenty of lemon slices and rosemary with an aromatic garlic paste that is rubbed under the skin (and chilled for about an hour).  The skin turns out crunchy and flavorful-- and the chicken is really moist.

This Cedar Planked Salmon with Tarragon Herbs is also a memorable summer grilling recipe.

Last, but certainly not lease, is this Chinese/Asian-Style Glazed Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe.

There are plenty of other grilling recipe ideas on my Recipe Index, but these are a few of our very favorites.  We will be hosting a small gathering of friends and family this weekend, that always gives us a chance to fire up our grill.

So, we toast you, Texas!  We only got to see a teeny tiny section of this huge state.  I will say that the Texas hospitality we received exceeded our expectations.   My son will be living there for at least a few years, as he completes his electrician apprentice program.  That just means that we'll be visiting there again.  The next time, we will visit in the Spring-- where the temperatures are a bit cooler, as we are used to on the Central Coast of California.  Hopefully, I get to try some Bluebell Ice Cream (which was on "recall") and some Texas Pecan Pie-- both of which eluded me this time.

I'm on summer break for three more weeks-- and this time, I really and truly hope to be posting recipes more often.

Happy 4th of July!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Perfect Fried Eggs - Plus, we're off on our summer getaway!

Seriously? Do you really need a recipe on how to fry an egg? I never thought so, until I tried this technique by America's Test Kitchen.

Now, I get it! I've been frying eggs the wrong way for all these years. When I share with you how to achieve perfectly fried eggs-- a little crispy on the edges, and tender with perfectly cooked yolks...  you'll want to try it for yourself.  I'm sold, and this recipe/technique will be my go-to from now on.

 No broken yolks. No eggs to flip over.  Just some very simple steps, and there you go!

Allow me to digress for just a moment. Thank you.  For those of you who have been following my blog sometime during the last eight years-- my recipe posts have slowed down to a trickle, and I apologize for that.  It's not that I'm tired of blogging.  No, that's not it, at all.

You see, I'm a new empty-nester, and I'm having to come to terms that one of my biggest taste testers has moved halfway across the country.  My only child-- my son, who stands tall and lean at 6'4 was always happy to eat anything I cooked or baked has flown the coop.  He was truly one of my inspirations to try new recipes. I was a win-win, because hHe needed the body weight and hit critiques were always honest.  I still love cooking for my husband, but the two of us aren't as young, tall and lean as him.  So now, I need to learn to re-think the portions that I cook for just the two .  So, I bought America's Test Kitchen's Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook, and I am really excited to make many of the 650 recipes!  I decided to start with the "Perfect Fried Egg" and it did not disappoint one single bit.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

One Pot Meal: Man-Pleasing BBQ Chicken Pasta

One pot meals have become one of my favorite ways to prepare dinner, after a long day at work. If I can make a pasta meal, using only one pot, then sign me up! I discovered this recipe, after spending a day in the kitchen baking and canning jam. I realized that dinner time had snuck up on me when my stomach reminded me with a few growls and I'm sure my husband was feeling the same.

I had one uncooked chicken breast, and I wanted to make something that was quick and easy.  So, I searched for "chicken and pasta recipe" and I found this recipe.  I needed bacon onion, diced tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, rotini pasta, BBQ sauce and cheese.  Score!  I had all the ingredients.

I keep individually wrapped bacon slices in my freezer for when I need them.  I simply cut them, frozen, and then cook up in no time at all.

After removing most of the rendered bacon fat,  I cooked the chicken that I had cut up into small chunks.
Add onion, garlic and a little red pepper flakes, and cook until tender.

Here's the fun part-- add uncooked pasta, chicken broth, milk and diced tomatoes (salt and pepper, to taste), cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Stir in some sharp cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce and give it a good stir.

Ring the dinner bell, and get ready to sit down and enjoy dinner (knowing that you've washed all the knives and mess you made while the dinner cooked).

Best of all, watch your husband smile while he gets a taste of BBQ chicken and bacon.  It doesn't get any better than that!

TASTING NOTES:  I was a bit skeptical about putting BBQ sauce together with pasta.  I can assure you, that this combination works really well.  The red pepper flakes gives this pasta a bit of a heat kick, so adjust accordingly to your level of spice that you like-- or leave it out altogether.  Next time, I'll use two chicken breasts and remove the lid for the last 5 minutes, to reduce the liquid.   This pasta makes a LOT, and nowadays I am only cooking for two.  This dish fed us for two additional meals, and we both noticed that the bacon flavor really came through when reheated.  This is very simple cooking, folks, but a "go to" recipe that I think my husband will appreciate.  Judging by his second helpings, this is definitely a keeper!
(Recipe source: Damn Delicious)

Another favorite One Pot Pasta meal is this Linguine,with  fresh tomatoes and basil dinner. So easy and good! 

As always a printable recipe card is at the very end of this post.

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