Posts Tagged With: maple syrup

lazy brunch – 4.7.12 – oatmeal with apples, dates, and pecans

I wasn’t a big fan of cereal for breakfast when I was a kid. Partly because my mom only bought the very plain varieties, and partly because I was such a slow eater that I refused to put milk on my cereal lest it become a soggy, sodden mess. So I would snack on dry Cheerios or Kix like they were potato chips, but I didn’t usually eat them for breakfast.

My childhood morning meal of choice? Oatmeal, of the instant-from-a-packet variety. And for some reason, Mom didn’t insist on buying plain oatmeal. Instead, she either bought the variety pack (which inevitably included a few packets of unflavored oats), or she would buy whole boxes of my very favorite flavor, maple brown sugar. Mammaw would microwave me a bowl of this stuff just about every morning before school, from kindergarten until sometime in middle school (which I think is when I discovered how much I love bagels).

I remember the first time I tried real oatmeal: slow simmered on the stove…thick with big, fat rolled oats instead of the quick-cooking variety…lightly seasoned with butter, a pinch of salt, and just a touch of sugar. That old-fangled oatmeal was substantial and creamy, and it didn’t taste like maple or brown sugar, and I had to chew because the oats actually had some texture.

It kind of grossed me out.

But as I grew up, I somehow figured out along the way that this was how oats were supposed to feel and taste. Now, I prefer my oatmeal made from real whole grains, and it’s been a while since I revisited the done-in-two-minutes-oats of my youth. While old-fashioned oatmeal takes a lot longer to cook, it might be just about the most satisfying thing to warm up with on a crisp spring morning.

So when I rose well before Micah last Saturday and decided to wake him with breakfast in bed, and it was a little cool in the house, and we had an apple and some dates and pecans in the kitchen just begging to be cooked…well, how could I resist?

Don't you feel warm and cozy already?

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 2 dates, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

Step-by-step:

  • In a small saucepan, bring the oats, milk, water, and salt to a low simmer. This will cook for about 20 minutes until it’s nice and thick and creamy.
  • In a small skillet, melt the butter on medium heat.
  • Add the pecans and cook until lightly toasted.
  • Add the apples, dates, maple syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick glaze.
  • Stir half of the cinnamon into the pot of oatmeal and half of it into the skillet of fruit.
  • Divide the oatmeal into two bowls and top with the fruit and nut mixture, or go ahead mix the fruit and nuts into the oatmeal before serving.

How did it turn out? The oatmeal was thick, creamy, and just a touch salty (exactly how I like it), while the apples and dates added just the right amount of sweetness. The best bites were the ones with some crunchy toasted pecan, and when I make this again, I’ll probably add more nuts.

What’s your favorite oatmeal add-in?

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Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

lazy brunch – 4.1.12 – buttermilk pancakes (fluffy as a down comforter)

Biscuits come from cans, and pancakes come from boxes. Like these:

images from iherb.com and caloriecount.about.com

I remember helping make pancakes (plus muffins, cakes, and Jiffy cornbread) in the kitchen when I was a kid. Measure some mix, measure some oil and crack some eggs (unless your box contained one of those fancy complete mixes where you just add water), and cook. So easy, a kid can do it (and I often did).

I remember liking all the from-a-box baked goods I ate as a child.

Even buckwheat pancakes.

My mom, ever persistent in her quest to make her kids eat healthy, often bought buckwheat pancake mix instead of the coveted Hungry Jack or Aunt Jemima’s, and in place of butter and syrup, we’d top our grainy griddle cakes with unsweetened applesauce. Those dense, wheaty pancakes were pretty good, I think, but comparing them to a tall stack of fluffy, home-style buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup is a bit of a stretch.

Now, there used to be a charming little greasy spoon in my hometown (Hartwell, GA) called the S&W Diner, and when you ordered off of their menu, you didn’t order pancakes. You ordered pancake. Because just one of these babies had the circumference of a dinner plate, not to mention a fluffiness index of about three quarters of an inch. Those were pancakes.

I think I was in college when I tried making pancakes from scratch for the first time. They were much less of a disaster than my first batch of biscuits, and pretty soon I felt confident that I could whip up a quick batch whenever the craving might strike. Which is usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings when Micah and I sleep late, brew some coffee, and assemble a lazy brunch that we might finally get around to eating around, oh, noon.

Cornmeal pancake trials aside, our favorite recipe lately has been a buttermilk pancake recipe from Allrecipes.com. All the 4- and 5-star reviews this recipe has received are well deserved, because these pancakes kick ass. It’s hard for us to convince ourselves to try new recipes, because these are so ding-dang delicious.

Well, the other night, we were watching Worst Cooks in America on Hulu…

[Other folks watch Survivor or The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars, but we’re hooked on food-centric reality shows like Top Chef, Chopped, Worst Cooks, Iron Chef, and The Next Food Network Star. When we cancelled our cable and then figured out that we couldn’t watch whole seasons of Top Chef on Hulu, it was a sad day.]

…and Anne Burrell had her recruits on the red team making pancakes, and she separated the eggs so that she could whip the whites into a gorgeous meringue-y fluff before folding them into her batter.

Ever since, Micah’s been obsessed with trying this out to see if it really does make the pancakes fluffier.

what tall pancakes you've got, my dear!

It does! This batch was probably my favorite we’ve ever made, and about twice as tall as when we’ve made the same recipe made without separating the eggs. You can see in the picture how thick they were, but these pancakes were about as dense as the puffy feather filling in a down comforter.

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup regular milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Step-by-step:

  • Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  • Beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until you have nice, stiff, fluffy peaks of meringue. I tried to do this by hand, but eventually gave in and used my stick blender with a whisk attachment. Much quicker and easier!
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg yolk and buttermilk together.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the egg/buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined, then add the melted butter.
  • Gently fold in the egg whites.
  • Heat a griddle to 350°F or a skillet on medium heat. It’s hot enough when you can toss a drop of water on the surface and watch it do a little samba before it sizzles out of sight.
  • Use a ladle or measuring cup to scoop your fluffy batter onto the griddle. If you use heaping 1/4 cup measures like I did, you’ll get 6 pancakes (perfect for a brunch for two!).
  • Cook the pancakes on the first side until the bottoms are a deep golden brown and you can see a few bubbles on the surface. Flip ’em and cook some more, until the bottoms are nice and brown, too. I think ours took about 5-7 minutes per side, but this would vary depending on your cooking surface and how big you make your pancakes.
  • Keep finished pancakes warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
  • Serve with maple syrup, honey and fresh fruit, or other pancake toppings of your choice, plus a steaming hot mug of coffee, if you’re so inclined. 🙂

We chose to top our pancakes with plain old maple syrup, and they were pretty darn amazing.

(all the sweet, gooey syrup you see here was promptly sopped up by those gorgeous pillows of pancake)

As we were enjoying this lovely, simple breakfast, Micah asked me if I thought it was worth it to do the extra step of whipping the egg whites separately. I emphatically nodded yes, because it’s kinda hard to answer with your mouth full of fluffy, delicious pancakes. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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