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I hate pancakes.  It is a common known detail about me, mostly because I talk about it frequently to anyone who will listen. I think they are a pointless food. Pointless, because they always leave me hungry an hour later and I don’t even think they taste all that good.  I much prefer a savory breakfast – eggs, cereal, even a smoothie with protein powder gets my vote before pancakes.

So, it may surprise you that this is my new favorite dish…

Fluffy, fruity, oven-baked pancakes.  The secret to this (still pointless, but at least delicious) breakfast food is to whip egg whites and fold them in to the batter, making the pancakes unbelievably light, like a souffle-cake.  You have folded egg whites before, no? Well, I am not known for my baking abilities and had to research some folding techniques before getting it right.  At first, I would just gently stir, but that did not result in the fluffiest of batters.  This fancy-chef method is actually pretty easy and efficient.

You create a batter of milk, flour, eggs, and some spices.  Then, you whip two egg whites until they form stiff peaks, like this:

 

Then, you take about 1/3 of the egg whites and gently stir into the batter.

This is a gentle stir, not time for the folding yet – we are just introducing the egg whites to the batter at this point.

Now, slide the rest of the egg whites into the center of the bowl of batter.

And start the folding!  There are three steps to the fold:

1. Cut – place your plastic spatula directly into the center of the egg white/batter, all the way through to the bottom of the bowl.

2. Fold – run your spatula along the bottom of the bowl, slowly, and bring the batter up and back to the center.

With a gentle and slow flip of the wrist.

3. Turn – now turn the bowl a quarter turn.

Repeat, repeat, repeat until all the whites are incorporated.

Keep repeating…

Until it looks like this:

Next, you heat up a small 6 or 8 inch non-stick pan and add a half a tablespoon of butter.  Gently pour the batter into the pan and check after 30 seconds or so for the edges to set.

Then, add whatever cut up fruit you want!

Pop it in a 400 degree oven for 7-10 minutes.  Check the pancake and with a toothpick comes out clean, the pancake is done.  Repeat with additional servings.

Lastly, top with honey, syrup, or whip cream…

Have I changed my tune on pancakes for good?  At least these pancakes don’t have a lot of sugar (only honey) and have extra eggs.  After eating I think I made it two hours until I was hungry, which, come to think of it, is actually pretty standard for me!

Fluffy Summer Pancakes – makes 2 servings
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp of honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp of baking powder
2 eggs
2 egg whites
sliced fruit
toppings: whipped cream, maple syrup, and/or honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together warmed milk, flour, honey, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and two eggs until well-blended and no longer lumpy. Whisk egg whites until they form peaks. Gently fold egg whites into the rest of the batter – starting by adding 1/3 of the whites and mix, then gently fold the rest. Heat a small 6 or 8 inch non-stick pan on the stove with a half tablespoon of butter. Pour in half the batter, saving the rest for the second serving (unless you have two pans that will work, then make both at the same time). After the pancake begins to set, add the fruit. Put pancake in oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.

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Um. Hi guys!  What’s new?  I am sorry for the lack of posts, but sometimes get a little paralyzed by the blog.  There are so many things I want to say – things about recipes; feelings about life; brilliant, witty observations – that I get overwhelmed and then don’t publish any of my many, many drafts I have started.  After a while nothing seems good enough, so I don’t post anything.

Well, that kind of sucks for you. Doesn’t it?  So, I am going to just say hi and give up a quick update on what has been going on with me.  First of all, Erik and I are engaged!  The wedding is in a few months (eeeek! tiny freakout based on the amount of decisions that still need to be worked out).  Without getting too lovey-dovey mushy, I am grateful to be marrying someone so fun, loving, and inspirational. I can’t imagine my life without him.

Our wedding planning so far has been a lot of fun, because we have agreed on almost everything. As someone that tends to obsess over things, it is really comforting have something so important go smoothly.

Other than this huge life change, everything else has been pretty mellow around these parts. I am a little obsessed with the site, pinterest, and have even added a side bar so you can see all my latest pins. You should be warned, it is a little addicting.

In the food related world, I have been referring to a cookbook I got as a Christmas gift from my Dad, All About Braising by Molly Stevens.

I have read about this book for years and am really glad I have it.  Her recipe for braised cabbage is delicious, along with the two pot roast recipes I have tried. If you love the slow-and-low method of cooking, like I do. Check it out!

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So, I meant to post these last week, write about homemade polenta, and then discuss some Thanksgiving Day goodness… But, me and my computer are in a fight. In fact, its incessant wining is giving me a headache right now. Lately, within minutes of starting in the morning, it reaches 200 degrees and then begins running its super fan all day long. I should start frying my eggs on this thing. By the end of the work day I am so sick of my hot fingers and the annoying pitch of the fan, I shut it off in disgust. But, I have so much to share with you guys that I am willing to put up with it.

That is how much I love you.

A few weeks ago, my friend, Amy, brought me to a cheese-making class at Champoeg Creamery. You may remember that my old cheese club, Curds and Whey, went out there last summer and made some delicious homemade butter.

The class itself covered making a lot of great products: yogurt, butter, mascarpone, and queso fresco. We ate mascarpone fudge, feta cheese, slices of queso fresco, cheesy dips… And then we got to see the cows.

It was a fantastic day.


Champoeg Creamery’s owner, Charlotte


And my beautiful friend, Amy, with a mighty cute cow.

 

If anyone ever wants to make cheese, let me know. It is easy despite being a bit like chemistry class. And who didn’t love chemistry class?

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I stepped outside this weekend and realized something… It is cold!  Is it going to be like this until June? Really? I think I forgot what 46 degrees feels like.  I also have a sinking suspicion this happens to me every year.  I am surprised when it is hot, surprised when it is cold.  You’d think our human brains would have a better memory for weather, but maybe it is like pain.  You really don’t want to remember.

This cold, relatively dry fall has brought us one thing in the Pacific NW: a bumper crop of chanterelle mushrooms.  I am sure there is some fancy mushroomy reason behind it, but all I care about it eating as many as I can.

So, last week I baked some and added them with their juices over a bowl of polenta.  It was a great accompaniment to a pork chop and a salad.  And then, per usual, I reheated it the next day and put a poached egg on top.  What did you expect?

Below you will find a recipe for the mushrooms and later this week I will talk about making polenta from scratch. It tastes so much better than the store-bought tube stuff and it takes very little cooking skills, so don’t be scared.

Oven-roasted chanterelles
8 oz of chanterelles
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of butter, cut into small pieces (or melted)
2 tbsp of diced shallots
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Clean and cut mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices, removing the woody stem. Toss onto a baking sheet with olive oil, butter, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring a couple of times. When tender, remove from oven, save your cooking liquid and drizzle over mushrooms.

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What is your go-to recipe when you are cooking for a group?  My favorites are roast chicken and short ribs, but sometimes those dishes involve way too much time I don’t have.  Plus, living in Portland means you are likely to run across a vegan, a vegetarian, and a gluten-intolerant all at the same party. Short ribs with a crusty bread just isn’t going to cut it.

I have tackled this problem in the past by making three main courses and just hoping that everyone could find something to eat. This takes a lot of time and, not to mention, money.  So when Erik told me about this delicious chili recipe he stole from his friend, Brett, I was thrilled.  It is easy, delicious and vegan – with some yummy toppings that will please all sorts of eaters.

This past weekend, Erik raced cyclocross – you know this sport, right? Cyclists ride mud-covered, off-camber courses that have barriers demanding you get off your bicycle and jump over, lugging your bicycle with you.  It is not for wimps (like me who is really afraid of hurting myself, being yelled at by aggressive riders, and generally looking like the world’s biggest idiot.)

The best part about the races, if you are thinking about attending or joining, is the atmosphere.  Tents line up along the course, cheering riders on with cowbells and obnoxious screams.  There are vendors selling waffles, french fries, and sometimes, beer. This year, with the team’s new tent, we were able to bring a camp stove, chairs, and a fireplace.  It is like camping, but you get to shower and sleep in your bed at night. Awesome.

In order to keep myself busy (and discourage others from encouraging me to stop being a weenie), I made this chili for a crowd of hungry racers and spectators.  My only regret is that I didn’t make more.

Vegetarian Chili
Feeds 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups of chopped onion (one really large or two medium)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp of cumin
2 Tbsp of chili powder
1 Tbsp of ground coriander
2 tsp of cayenne pepper (more or less for desired spice)
6 cans of beans, drained (I use a mix of kidney, black, and pinto) or 4 cups dried beans, soaked and cooked*
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes including juices
1/2 cup cilantro (plus more for toppings)
Salt to taste

Toppings
Sour cream
Cilantro
Shredded cheddar cheese
Diced jalapeno or hot sauce

Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add onions and cook for 8-10 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cayenne and cook for about two minute. Dump in beans and tomatoes. Bring pot to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of cilantro and cook for another 5. Salt and serve with whatever toppings you choose!

*If you start with dried beans (I did this last time and kind of like them better!), first soak the beans overnight in cool water. You want to cover them with at least three times as much liquid. Next, drain the beans and place in a pot on low (or crockpot) with at least 2 inches of water covering the beans. Bring the beans to a simmer and cook for 2-4 hours, checking after the first hour for doneness. The beans should not be al dente, but also not completely broken down. I cooked mine 3/4 of the way and then finished the cooking in the chili and it worked fine. I just had to add water to my chili.

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After a reluctance to accept fall’s arrival, I have finally embraced it.  I forgot how comforting fall food can be: long-roasted vegetables and meat; hearty salads with fruit, cheese, and nuts; and soul-warming soups. Because, in the Northwest once the rain starts we all know it isn’t going to stop until next summer and we need comfort from anywhere we can get it.

In an effort to dive into the season, I created a full-fall dinner Saturday night including sauteed pork chops; a salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and pears; and my new favorite side dish, caramelized cauliflower.

You have prepared cauliflower this way, right?  Sliced thinly and then baked in the oven on a high heat until the florets have started to brown and sweeten?  No?  I love cauliflower and this way really brings out it’s best qualities.

The recipe I make would horrify my mom, considering it uses not just one, but two types of dried fruit.  A lot of people are in the no-surprise-raisins camp and get pretty angry when someone slips them into a dish without warning. So, when adding them to this caramelized cauliflower I like to keep them out in the open, so anyone who wants to can eat around them pretty easily.  You are welcome, Mom.

Caramelized Cauliflower with Golden Raisins and Currents
Serves 4
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into fourths and then 1/4 inch slices
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp of kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp of golden raisins
1 1/2 tbsp of dried currants

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the sliced cauliflower with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin. Lay the cauliflower on a baking sheet, spreading them out so they lay flat. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Flip the cauliflower and return to the oven for 10 minutes. At this point, check to see if the cauliflower is starting to brown. Add the raisins and currants for the last five minutes. Remove from the oven when the raisins have plumped and the florets are a golden brown and serve. (If you had to pull your cauliflower out before you add the raisins, add them to the cauliflower and let them sit for a minute.)

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Before a few weeks ago, I used to be able to sit through fast forwarding commercials on my DVR with the upmost patience. I used to be able to wait for someone to call me right back without logging on to the computer.  I could read books and peruse magazines on the weekends. But, things have changed.  I found Pinterest and every spare twelve seconds I have is spent searching through photos of far-off places, delicious foods, cool clothes, and, of course, food.  This site, if you haven’t heard, is basically collections of photos that link back to their original source.  It can be used as a style board for redecorating your house, a place to store ideas for big events, an inspiration for outfits, and a cloud storage for online recipes.  Oh, and did I mention the photos of kittens?

For this kitty, and so much more, check out my pins.  Also, sign up so I can follow you!

In one of my many pinterest wormholes, I found that someone had posted a recipe for healthy cookie dough and I had to click on the link to see just how it was possible to make HEALTHY cookie dough – and how fast I could do it.  The original source came from Chocolate Covered Katie, who makes healthy vegan desserts that are low in sugar and still taste good. (Believe me, I know, I too was a skeptic).

Today, after staring at the recipe for a few days, I decided to make it around lunch time.  The recipe promised to be high in fiber and protein, so I figured it sort of counted as lunch.  I modified Katie’s original recipe a bit, including decreasing the amount of sugar, and after eating a small bowl (seen above) I was completely full. In fact, it is almost six and I am still not hungry!

The “cookie dough” was good enough that I would definitely serve it at a party the way she explains on her blog, with graham crackers, or keep in the fridge to munch on when I get the urge to eat ice cream (or actual cookies).

Let me know if you make it!

Adapted from Katie’s Healthy Cookie Dough (just for eating – not for baking)

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained)
  • start with 1/8 tsp of salt, add more to taste (I ended up with about 1/4 tsp)
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, more to taste (I added 3 tsp total)
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (peanut butter will work, but maybe use less so it doesn’t taste too peanut-y)
  • up to 1/4 cup milk (start with 1 tbsp and add more as needed – she uses nondairy milk, but I used the cow’s stuff)
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar (Katie makes this without sugar or up to 2/3 cup to your taste)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oats (If you omit, don’t include the milk)

Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

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Just when I was getting used to being back home and feeling pretty good about it, I see these videos. 11 countries in 44 days. Wow.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

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I looked up at the calendar today and realized it is the first day of fall.  I am so not ready to say goodbye to the warm, long days of summer.  Nor am I ready for the onset of winter squashes about to hit the market. I still want tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and basil!  Is it really over?

I was about to share with you my last hold on to summer – a gazpacho I made this week – only to realize I already shared a gazpacho recipe last year, here.  I only make it once a year, probably because we end up eating it for every meal for the next four days, but it always screams summer.  If you still have ripe tomatoes, make it before they are all gone.

In hope to find something else to share, I looked in my photo archives for another dish that has defined our meals this summer and realized I hadn’t told you about my new favorite vegetable: Padron peppers.  They are these tiny Spanish peppers with just a hint of spiciness and are DEVINE when grilled or sauteed.

The first time I made them, to pair with this flank steak, I was trying to save some for Erik when he came home from work. Instead, I ate all of them and then called him to tell him just how good they were.  He, strangely, didn’t appreciate hearing about food he might have liked if I hadn’t eaten it all. Weird.

Making them is simple.  First, I tossed them in a bit of olive oil before putting them on the grill.

They stay on the grill for about 2-3 minutes a side, just until they start to blister a bit and the skins darken.

Then, I just sprinkled them with coarse kosher salt and gave them a quick toss.  (If you want to cook them in a saute pan, no prob, I had the same delicious result.  Heat up some olive oil on medium-high, throw in the peppers for a couple minutes until they start to blister, salt, and serve.)

Next, I ate them out of this bowl. I have made them again with shavings of parmesan cheese, which was delicious but not necessary.  I just saw them this week at the farmers’ market and may have to have them one more time as a last farewell to summer.

What are you doing to say goodbye to my favorite season?

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Last year when I started canning, I had a only one goal: to put up as many tomatoes as I could. (For those not caught up on your canning lingo, “put up” is ole-timey way of saying “can”.) I tracked what I used from my pantry the year before and realized I went through way more cans of tomatoes than anything else.  Black beans and tuna were a close second, but I am definitely not at a point where I feel comfortable canning my own tuna!  So, all summer I bided my time. I canned jams, pickles, beets, peaches, and just about anything I could get my hands on until it was time for the tomatoes.

Then… came September. I saw the price of tomatoes at the farmers’ market hover around $3 to $4 a pound.  I’d pick up a dull, light-red tomato and take a whiff, smelling nothing – not the sweet, ripe, tomato-y flavor I’d hoped for.  Farmers claimed it just never got and stayed warm enough to get bushels of ripe tomatoes. I was devastated. So, instead of canned tomatoes I made green tomato salsa and sweet green tomato pickles, I found the best red tomatoes and canned salsa in limited quantities, and I waited…

This year the weather has not been so mean.  We had a slow start to summer, but the last month has been warm and sunny.  I started looking around at farms and realized my CSA farmer from last year, Sun Gold Farm, was selling 20 pound boxes of San Marzanos – the king of canned tomatoes.   So, with my friend, Rebecca, we bought 40 pounds and got to work.

After 6 hours of cleaning, scoring, blanching, peeling, and canning tomatoes we were left with 6 quart jars each, plus 4 pints of tomato juice each. I don’t know about you, but 6 quarts is sadly not enough to get me through until next September.  I probably use about a quart and a half a month in soups, braises, and sauces.

So, in a week we are going to be at it again. Luckily, we learned some things that we will continue the next go-around.

  • Two water bath canners are necessary for this many tomatoes.  The quart jars take 45 minutes to process and if you had to wait to sterilize new jars in between you are looking at an additional 30-45 minutes just waiting for water to boil.
  • When using two water bath canners, setting one up outside is the nicest thing in the world. I am so happy Erik let us use his camping stove for this.
  • An assembly line is key and rotating jobs frequently will decrease back and shoulder pain as well as increase tolerance for tomatoes.
  • I may purchase a food mill between now and next weekend.  We made tomato juice by straining the leftover skins and seeds and then cooking down, but I bet we can get more out of it if we processed through a food mill. I am thinking of buying this one. What do you think? Does anyone own a food mill and love it?  Should I stay away from the OXO version?
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