Molasses Syrup

Our family LOVES pancakes and it’s my husband’s specialty! Last week I made some (mostly forgettable) banana nut pancakes and was searching for a quick syrup to make to serve with them. We try to make our own most of the time since I’m not crazy about all the additives in store bought syrup. We do use pure maple syrup (but sometimes at an alarming and therefore expensive rate), however, we usually top pancakes with yogurt, fruit syrups, and/or homemade syrups. So, while I can’t take credit for coming up with this yummy syrup recipe, I was very excited to find it! I doubled Simple Bites Recipe because if I’m going to the trouble I want some leftover for other meals.

In short, this was DELICIOUS! We love molasses cookies and the flavor was very reminiscent of the warm, spicy flavors of a fresh cookie. A few notes – 1) a little goes a long way, 2) this was amazing on hot cereal like oatmeal and cream of wheat, and 3) it stores well and would probably be quite good on vanilla ice cream or gingerbread.

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MOLASSES SYRUP
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1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tb. salted butter

In a small pot, whisk together sugar, molasses, water, and cinnamon over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil and continue stirring until ingredients are fully incorporated and syrup thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Cool slightly. Transfer to a pitcher for serving or a glass jar for storing.

Yields: 1 1/2 cups syrup

**Of note, Simple Bites has 4 other great-looking syrups in this post!

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Cranberry-Apple Pancakes

We are big fans of pancakes around here (in fact my gluten-free husband only really starting loving pancakes once he switched to eating gluten-free, so that is a testament to a healing body and a really good recipe). Lazy mornings often find me whipping up a batch for breakfast. I’ve made the recipe so frequently, that I have it memorized. And while we love the simple taste of lightly cinnamon-spiced pancakes with a dollop of plain yogurt and a drizzle of real maple syrup, lately I’ve been experimenting with add-ins to fancy up our pancake fare. One day it was mashed banana and a handful of chocolate chips. Another day frozen blueberries. And most recently, chopped fresh cranberries and apples.

You can of course make this recipe with regular wheat flour, but for those of you that are gluten-free this is a great recipe. Perhaps your Christmas breakfast might include pancakes this year?

CRANBERRY-APPLE PANCAKES
(adapted from The Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking)
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1 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour (if your favorite does not include xanthan gum, add 1/4 tsp to the dry ingredients)
2 to 4 Tbsp ground flax-seed (opt.)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/3 c. rough chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add in the melted butter and mix. Add in the chopped fruit and stir once more to combine.

Heat a skillet over medium-high. Grease with cooking spray. Spoon batter into rounds in the skillet. Cook until bubbles have formed on the surface of each pancake. Flip and cook until the other sides are golden.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

Off The Shelf: Bean Appetit

Bean Appetit by Shannon Payette Seip, Kelly Parthen, and Carisa Dixon is a captivating cookbook for children. Its goal is to get kids excited about healthy eating. It certainly did just that for my daughter who couldn’t wait to try out several of these recipes.

The chapters cover topics such as: breakfast, snacks, going to the market, outdoor eating, food art, cooking-themed birthday party, winter food, summer food, international food, tea party, and book-themed food. There are activities and games interspersed with the recipes, making for a very fun book.

We tried the Stick Stacks and the Stack ‘N’ Sip — both were much enjoyed by my children (not to mention me!).

STACK ‘N’ SIP
(Bean Appetit)
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Make 3 different colored smoothies. Pour one color in the bottom of a glass. Layer the second smoothie on top. Add a top layer using the final smoothie. It’s a triple-decker drink!

Note: We used blueberry, banana, and strawberry smoothies.

STICK STACKS
(Bean Appetit)
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1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. flax meal
pinch of ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup milk
4 strawberries, cut widthwise into slices
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced widthwise into circles
1/4 cup blueberries (we used blackberries)

maple syrup, for serving

Chant “Pancakes! Pancakes!” as you combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, flax meal, and cinnamon.

Combine the eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and milk. Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until smooth. Chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Preheat a griddle to low. Lightly spray the griddle with nonstick spray. Ladle the pancake mixture onto the griddle to make 2-inch mini pancakes.

When the pancakes start to bubble lightly and the edges turn golden brown, flip them over. all the bitty bakers should flip around the kitchen, as if they were just flipped with a spatula. Cook on the other side for 1 to 2 more minutes, until the pancakes come off the griddle easily with a spatula.

Layer the pancakes and fruit on the skewers. Dip in maple syrup and eat one layer at a time.

Makes 12 to 14 mini pancakes.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Off The Shelf: March Magazines

(Heather) – Now that we are well into 2010, the food magazines have begun to arrive en masse. First up this month is Food Network. The March issue encompasses 140 pages. Along with all the normal features (such as Food News, Star Kitchen, Fun Cooking, He Made-She Made, and Copy That), there are a number of great feature articles which include: cooking with orange juice concentrate, 11,375 stir-fry possibilities complete with some amazing photos, easy green snacks for St. Patrick’s Day, Weeknight Cooking and Weekend Cooking — all of which have very appealing recipes, a Ravioli how-to, and a pull-out booklet on 50 Pizzas. The magazine ends with a lengthy spread devoted to the upcoming Oscars, including Hollywood-specific recipes.

I chose a recipe from the On The Road feature — Green Apple-SourDough Pancakes. I love the smell and taste of sourdough and these pancakes were lovely. And my kids ate them right up too!

GREEN APPLE-SOURDOUGH PANCAKES
(Food Network Magazine March 2010)
Print this recipe

For the sourdough starter:
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 packet)
1/2 cup apple cider (I had to substitute apple juice with 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the pancakes:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 small tart green apple (such as Granny Smith), unpeeled and diced
1-2 Tbsp. butter
maple syrup or honey, for serving
chopped pecans, for garnish (optional)

Make the sourdough starter: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat to about 110F. Transfer to a medium bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cider, brown sugar, butter and 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

The next morning, make the pancakes: whisk 1/2 cup flour, the egg, baking soda and apple into the sourdough starter. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. (Alternatively, cook on an electric pancake griddle.) Cook until the tops are bubbly and the edges set, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook until golden and cooked through, 1 to 2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter as needed. Drizzle with syrup and garnish with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

(Heather) – Next up is Everyday with Rachael Ray which boasts 462 easy recipes, tips & deals. The magazine opens with a number of regular features and this month includes a section on beating the winter blahs. There are focus pages on cauliflower, coffee, slow cookers, supermarket traps. My favorite section of this magazine is the five-page Meet the Grains feature, introducing us to brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. I hope to obtain most, if not all, of these grains and begin to incorporate them into our diet. (Perhaps you’ll read about the results on this blog!)

As always the magazine includes some great suggestions for 30-minute meals, as well as a section on classic dishes (think chicken noodle soup, chocolate cake, apple pie, lasagna). Recipes for Oscar night fill several pages and, wouldn’t you know, there’s a lengthy article on the nation’s best pizza and how to make it (do magazine editors consult each other?).

I will mention that my biggest pick with this issue was from their Supermarket Traps article. The article actually encourages you to “save produce shopping for last; this will prevent overbuying.” Their argument being that produce has the highest profit margin and supermarket owners want you to buy a lot. In my opinion, fresh produce is what you should be filling the bulk of your cart with. The more fresh food we eat the more likely we are to have good health.

The Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens from the $10 Dinners caught my attention. The recipe worked well and tasted great and one could even substitute regular pasta for the spaghetti squash.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND GREENS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray March 2010)
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1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (I used a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

The magazine has you cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Because I try to avoid microwave cooking I placed my halved squash in a baking pan, added about 1-inch of water and baked it at 350F for 45-60 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, comb the cooked squash into strands into a bowl. Toss with the parmesan and season with black pepper. Serve the spinach and sausage over the squash.

Serves 4.

(Alaina) – Everyday Food is focused on spring! It has some wonderful looking salad recipes, a whole section on poaching eggs and recipes for them, five different uses for homemade pizza dough (which all look amazing!), as well as their usual meal plan with grocery a list. I continue to be impressed with this magazine. They make gourmet food easy! The Beer-Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad, Almond Torte with Pears and Whipped Cream, and the Swiss Chard Pie are just a few of the recipes I would love to try!

I decided to try the Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce – Orcchiette is a small shell-like pasta which I didn’t happen to have on hand so mine was actually Orzo with Bacon and Tomato Sauce. Orzo is a small pasta that looks a little like rice. It worked well. This was a little spicy for my kids, so I would reduce the red-pepper flakes to 1/4 tsp. The smoky bacon is so good in this simple dish!

ORECCHIETTE WITH BACON & TOMATO SAUCE
(Everyday Food, March 2010)
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1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 lb. orecchiette or other short pasta
Grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add bacon and cook until browned and almost crisp, about 4 min. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 min. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes, breaking them up as you go, and season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, 15 min.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions. Reserve cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Add sauce and pasta water to pasta and toss to combine; cook over medium-high until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 2 min. Serve pasta topped with Parmesan and parsley.

(Alaina) – Cooking Light has a wide variety of recipes including many different proteins and vegetarian dishes. The photos are inspiring and the articles interesting. I especially enjoyed the article on 25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes – and yes, I’m definitely guilty of some of them! The Lentil-Barley Burgers with Fiery Fruit Salad, Apricot-Ginger Bellinis, Pear & Prosciutto Pizza, and Braised Short Ribs with Egg Noodles all look amazing.

I decided to try the lightened up Sour Cream Coffee Cake which was actually one of the Cooking Light staff favorites! And I agree – it was surprisingly delicious! I used yogurt which is the perfect substitute for sour cream if you don’t have any and since mine was fat-free plain, it reduced the fat in this recipe even more!

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
(Cooking Light, March 2010)
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3/4 c. old-fashioned oats, divided
1 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 lg. eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) carton light sour cream (I used fat free plain yogurt)
2 Tb. finely chopped walnuts (I used pecans because we love them!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown. Coat a 9-inch springform pan (I used a regular 9-in. round glass baking pan) with cooking spray; set aside. Reserve 1/4 c. oats; set aside. Place remaining oats in a food processor; process 4 seconds or until finely ground. Combine flours, processed oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with whisk.

Place a granulated sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/3 c. butter in a lg. bowl. Beat with a mixter at medium speed for 3 min. or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.) Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.

Combine remaining 1/4 c. oats and 1/4 c. brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 1 Tb. butter with a pastry blender until well blended. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool cake in pan for 10 min. Serves 10.

Pancake Day

I was twelve years old and living in the heart of East Africa when I first heard of Pancake Day. A few British friends invited us over for pancakes and a pancake race, all in the name of “pancake day.” We arrived to find little camp stoves set up outside with bowls dripping with batter placed beside them.

A table was laden with plates and lots of cut lemons and sugar bowls. Pancakes began to pile up and someone began shooing people over to the side for a “pancake race.” Each contestant was given a frying pan and a pancake. We were told to run the length of the driveway, frying pan in hand, flipping the pancake in the air at least once on the way. And then we were free to eat as many pancakes as we could, all dripping with melted butter, lemon juice and caster sugar. We kids thought it was a great idea!

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday as it is more widely known, is the day before the beginning of Lent. Pancakes were a great way to use up the excess of any fatty and rich foods before the beginning of Lent, and thus evolved Pancake Day. The pancake race is said to have originated in Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife ran out of the house on her way to church still clutching her frying pan with a cooking pancake in it.

Pancake Day is yet another excuse to serve pancakes, something my children are always eager to eat. Here are three different recipes to try:

PROPER BRITISH PANCAKES
(adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)
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1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. canola oil
pinch salt

Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the middle, then pour in about 1/4 cup of the milk and the oil. Start whisking from the center, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, milk and oil. Once all the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.

Finishing the batter: Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have a batter that is the consistency of cream. Traditionally, people would say to now leave the batter for 30 minutes for all the starch in the flour to swell, but there’s no need.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting the pan to move the mixture around for a thin and even layer. Quickly pour any excess batter back into the bowl, return the pan to the heat, then leave to cook, undisturbed for about 30 seconds. If the pan is the right temperature, the pancake should turn golden underneath after about 30 seconds and will be ready to turn.

Repeat with remaining batter. Store the cooked pancakes on a plate underneath a piece of foil.

Serve pancakes with butter, lemon juice and granulated sugar. I like to then roll my pancake up and eat it with my fingers.

Serves 3.

BANANA SOUR CREAM PANCAKES
(Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
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1 1/2 c. flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

butter
2 ripe bananas, diced (I preferred to mash the bananas)
maple syrup

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3-4 pancakes (I used a non-stick griddle, without the butter). Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake (or, alternatively, add 2 mashed bananas to the bowl of batter). Cook for 2-3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.

Makes 12 pancakes.

HEATHER’S ALL-TIME FAVORITE PANCAKE
(adapted from Betty Crocker)
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1 egg
1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat egg with milk and oil. Beat in remaining ingredients until smooth. For thinner pancakes, stir in additional 1/4 cup milk. Cook on a griddle or in a non-stick frying pan: pour about 3 Tbsp. batter from tip of large spoon or pitcher onto hot griddle. Cook pancakes until puffed and dry around edges. Turn and cook other side until golden brown.

I keep our pancakes hot by placing them on a plate and covering with foil.

Our family loves these with blueberries added — about 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries per batch of pancakes.

Serves 2-3. (I normally make 3-4 batches at a time)

Off the Shelf: January Magazines

Here are our January magazine reviews! Also this is the last day to enter our calendar giveaway!

EVERYDAY FOOD (Alaina) – This issue is packed full of recipes. It includes several “light” recipes heading into the new year with health and diet resolutions. It also features a great section with citrus recipes. I especially think the Fresh Orange and Yogurt Tart looks wonderful. They also have a nice section on stir-fry!

I decided to try the Chickpea Curry – it’s vegetarian. My older kids thought it was a little too spicy but the youngest really liked it. It has an international flavor and is definitely curry. It was quick and easy to put together. You can serve this by itself or over couscous or rice. I like the addition of the lemon wedge – I squeezed it over right before eating and it added some freshness but was not over-powering.

QUICK CHICKPEA CURRY
(Everyday Food, January/February 2010)

1 Tb. olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tb. curry powder
1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
ground cloves
2 cans (15-oz. each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 Tb. ketchup
coarse salt and ground pepper
chopped cilantro and lemon wedges (opt.), for serving

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until dark brown around edges about 6 minutes. Add garlic, curry, cinnamon, and pinch of cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add chickpeas, ketchup, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 2 c. water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high (I removed the cinnamon stick at this time); cook until sauce is lightly reduced, 5 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro, with lemon wedges along-side if desired.

COOKING LIGHT (Alaina) – This issue features quite a number of seafood recipes but it also include a variety of other proteins and main dishes. There are several soups and several vegetarian recipes.

The cover boasts superfast comfort foods and tips for eating healthier in 2010. The photos are (as always!) beautiful and inspiring. The Upside-Down Fudge-Almond Tart looked delicious and I really would like to try the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese. I tried the Carrot Cake Pancakes and they did not disappoint. They were quite good topped with the suggested honey butter and even though it doesn’t keep it quite as light, we added a bit of pure maple syrup drizzled on top. Yum!

CARROT CAKE PANCAKES
(Cooking Light, Januray 2010)

5.6 oz. flour (about 1 1/4 c.)
1/4 c. choppe walnuts, toasted (I didn’t have walnuts so I subbed pecans)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground ginger
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. low-fat buttermilk
1 Tb. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lg. eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. carrot, finely grated (about 1 lb.)

Cooking Spray
3 Tb. butter, softened
2 Tb. honey

Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just moist. Fold in carrots.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (I used my electric griddle). Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon batter by 1/4 c. into mounds in skillet, spreading with a spatula. Cook for 2 min. or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over and cook 1 min. or until borroms are lightly browned. Repeat until all batter is gone.

Combine buter and honey in a small bowl and serve with pancakes. Yields 12 pancakes (about 6 servings)

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina) – Perhaps the best feature of the January issue is the 50 dips pull-out. They have quite the variety of dips for your next party including several hummus recipes, aiolis, and southwest dips.

I thought their cupcake recipes looked divine. The White Chili With Quick-Roasted Garlic sounded good and as did the Bourbon Praline Cake, the Truffles, and the Hot Wings with Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce. If you are hosting a super-bowl party or any kind or party this would be a great issue for you!

I must mention that the section on Fast-Food Fix was quite disappointing to me. It seemed that it would be equivalent, healthy recipes – instead it used drive-through sandwiches and fillings to make different dishes. Not my cup of tea and far too many pages were devoted to it (four). Hopefully they will leave fast-food at the drive-through and come up with some creative alternatives in the future.

BON APPETIT (Heather) – This is Bon Appetit’s “review of the year” issue. In it you will find the dish of the year, cuisine of the year, ingredient of the year, party of the year, desserts of the year, and getaway of the year.

In the “fast, easy, fresh” section you will find a scrumptious looking Chocolate Nut Tart with Dried Fruit, Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots, and Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage to name a few. Fennel is their ingredient of focus this month, with four recipes to try, including the Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs which I tried and loved.

The rest of the magazine is devoted to large and beautiful articles on each of the “of the year” topics, including numerous recipes, complete with gorgeous pictures.

SPICY SPAGHETTI WITH FENNEL AND HERBS
(Bon Appetit, January 2010)
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3 ounces pancetta (or regular bacon)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
2 large red jalapeno chiles, seeded, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup) — I omitted these for our family
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, cut into thin wedges with some core attached (I used one)
1 1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth
4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
1 pound spaghetti
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. finely grated Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano cheese, divided

Saute pancetta in large skillet over medium heat until pancetta is golden. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; saute over medium heat 1 minute. Add fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Mix in broth, 2 Tbsp. parsley, lemon juice, and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until fennel is very tender, 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until tender; drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add fennel to pasta. Stir in 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/2 c. cheese, and pancetta. Add cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Toss pasta; transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. parsley over. Serve with cheese.

NOTE: Since most of my family does not like very spicy, I omitted the jalapeno chiles and substituted most of the grated Pecorino Romano with 1 c. grated pepper jack cheese. I then just garnished the top of the spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesan. The dish was delicious!

MARTHA STEWART LIVING (Heather) – I don’t often consider reviewing MS Living for this blog because it is more than just a food magazine and often its recipes are a little “over the top.” However, I was delighted to find a number of recipes in this issue which sounded very good and didn’t look that complicated. The first set of recipes comes under the title Dinner in No Time Flat and is a collection of three main dishes based on paillards (pieces of meat that are pounded thin) cooked in a saute pan and finished with a sauce made in the very same pan. Included in the article are Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce, Pork with Sour Cream-Paprika Sauce, and Veal with Mushroom, Mustard, and Sherry Sauce (for which I may substitute chicken). Cooking paillards in a saute pan is one of my favorite, easy dinners and I can’t wait to try these new versions!

Later on in the magazine there is a whole article devoted to chicken soup, with four options pictured just calling my name to be made. Recipes include Basic Chicken Soup, Thai Chicken Soup, Colombian Chicken Soup, and Spicy Indian Chicken Soup. Immediately following is a helpful article on Fresh Thinking: Organic, Local, Seasonal, meant to help you out when you go to the grocery store. The article includes The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen — foods with the lowest pesticide residue and foods with the highest pesticide residue. Of course there are other recipes and articles, including a focus on cabbage, and a menu featuring a hearty winter-vegetable soup with popovers. Yum!

MARY JANES FARM (Heather) – I also wanted to mention a magazine that has just come to my attention this week. Mary Janes Farm dubs itself “the everyday organic lifestyle magazine”. Sort of a Country Living for those interested in organic, simple, and seasonal. It includes a large section on food (this issue includes a great mini-section on an organic, gluten-free valentine’s day), as well as sections on gardening, community, quilting & stitching/crafting, city and town “farming”, and natural home care. Next time you are by a magazine stand, you’ll have to have a look!

Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

My  kids absolutely love to be in the kitchen with me. They are thrilled to measure, stir, sprinkle, etc. And I enjoy the conversations, the teaching, the laughter and the wonderful memories being made.

So for Christmas this year, my older boys (age 4) will each be receiving their own gourmet gift “basket” of cooking things. I went to an inexpensive superstore and found measuring cups, spoons, cutting boards, scrapers, whisks, and more. I ordered safe cutter knives from Pampered Chef – there is no way they can hurt themselves using them and they are $3 apiece. Finally, I ordered aprons and hats from Etsy – they are yet to arrive but for an embroidered apron, personalized hat, rolling pin, and hot pad it cost me $15/child. I also included a kid’s cookbook which I found at a Half-Price books for $3 or less on clearance.

You can mix and match whatever you like for your child to personalize it and to find the price point that works for you. I tried to choose colors that are the boys favorite and make it personal for them. All told, they probably cost around $30-35 with the apron being half of that but you could do it for much less. I think this type of gift would be perfect for children age 3 yrs. – 9 or 10 yrs.

I’m putting a mix into each boys basket so that have the start of something for us to make together. Either mix would be perfect for a gourmet gift basket for an adult. Make a Breakfast Basket with Maple Syrup, Coffee, and Pancake Mix or a Snack Basket with Popcorn, a movie, and Cookie Mix! Don’t forget to attach a tag with instructions on how to use the mix.

GINGERBREAD PANCAKES
4 c. flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 Tb. baking powder
1 Tb. baking soda
1 Tb. cinnamon
1 Tb. ginger
1 1/2  tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves

Combine all dry ingredients and store in an airtight container.

TO MAKE:
1 c. mix
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (opt.)

Combine but do not overbeat. Cook on a greased griddle until golden brown on each side. Serve with syrup, vanilla yogurt, or applesauce!

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP  COOKIES

1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 c. oats
1 c. chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container or bag.

TO MAKE:
1 1/4 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 package of the mix

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, egg, and vanilla. Add the oatmeal cookie mix and stir until the mixture is well blended. Drop the cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute then remove to wire racks. Makes about 4 dozen.

VARIATION: Instead of chocolate chips, mix in 1 c. of raisins or dried cranberries and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.

So the giveaway today is a kid’s cookbook! It would make the perfect gift for a child in your life (son, daughter, niece, nephew, sibling, friend…)! My children love looking at the pictures and helping decide what we will make. They take such pride in the things they have made themselves and getting your child involved is a great way to get picky eaters to try different foods. The cookbook today is Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook. It has easy instructions, a variety of recipes, and is spiral bound.

To Enter:
– Leave a comment telling us one thing you remember making with your parents,  something you like to make with a child in your life OR your favorite food as a kid.
– One entry per person and the giveaway will stay open through Tuesday.
– That’s it! I should have it in the mail in time for you to receive it by Christmas.