Mom’s Crepes

Blueberry Filled Crepes

I should make crepes more often. Maybe that can be a resolution for the new year. Crepes are so versatile. They taste great, too. Crepes are one of those foods that everyone seems to love, but very few love to make them. I hear that all the time. There is some sort of irrational fear of crepe-making that I hope to dispel.

Crepes aren’t hard to make. Once you make a couple, you fall into a sort of rhythm. I do. I use a tiny sauce ladle to portion out the batter. In it goes. I tilt the pan to get an even, thin coating over the bottom of the pan. It just takes a couple of minutes for the crepe to brown lightly. A flip of the spatula, another minute or two- done. Then on to the next.

I always think about my Mother when I make crepes. I loved watching her make them. One after the other- all perfect. She said the first crepe never worked. She said there is a crepe “tradition” that the first crepe of the day always looks like an amoeba. So if this happens to you- just keep going. They get easier to make, I promise. You get into a sweet spot where the pan is the right temp, you are putting the right amount of batter in. Once this happens, you’ll have a stack of perfect crepes in no time at all.

I  made a classic recipe- the same recipe my mom used.  I have other recipes for crepes, but this one is a sentimental favorite.

These crepes can be filled with either sweet or savory ingredients. I made a blueberry filling for some of the crepes, then froze the rest to use as pancakes for moo shu duck. You can just smear the crepes with you favorite jam or jelly, fold and enjoy.

So here is the recipe for both the crepes and the blueberry filling.

Mom’s Crepes

3/4 c. flour

1/8 t. salt

3 eggs, beaten

2 T. melted butter

3/4 c. milk, approximately

Butter or oil for pan

Beat together flour, salt and eggs until smooth. Stir in melted butter and then stir in milk until batter consistency is that of cream. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.

Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.) Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining batter.

Crepes can be made day ahead. They can also be frozen. To freeze, layer crepes between sheets of waxed paper and wrap in plastic wrap of place in a freezer container or freezer bag. Freeze. Makes 12.

Crepes can be filled ahead or guests can fill their own. Fillings can be served warm or cold. These crepes can be filled with either sweet or savory fillings.

To make the blueberry crepes: Lay a crepe on work surface. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the blueberry compote onto one half of the crepe. Fold in half, then fold again to create a fan shape. You can also spread the filling all over and roll up the crepe instead. Serve dusted with powdered sugar, if you like. You can also serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Blueberry Compote

 2 pints fresh or frozen blueberries

Zest of 2 oranges

Juice of two oranges

¼ c. honey

Pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook, over medium heat, until berries soften. Continue cooking, over medium low heat, until most of the liquid has cooked off and mixture thickens. Stir from time to time, to prevent sticking. Watch more closely as mixture cooks down.  If you like a sweeter product, you can add a little sugar. Set aside until ready to use. Can be spooned into crepes warm or at room temp. Makes about 2 cups.

Mom’s Crepes

Coconut Snowballs

Chocolate Coconut Snowballs

I have wonderful memories of my Aunt Josie making these for every family gathering. Aunt Josie cut the cake into squares. They were all perfectly even. I asked her how she did that. She told me that she used her cooling racks to get the lines even. She would set the cooling racks on her cake and use the wires as guides. So clever.

I never could seem to get them even, so I bake my cake in cupcake tins and call then snowballs. Whatever the shape, these little cakes are a favorite treat in my family.

In bakeries, you’ll find them in squares or rectangles. She shared her recipe with me a long time ago, and I am sharing it with you.

You can bake the batter in mini muffin pans or standard muffin pans. It just depends on what size you want your snowballs to be. After the cupcakes  are baked, freeze them. The frozen cakes are dipped in a chocolate sauce and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

Desiccated coconut is dried and unsweetened. It looks like coarse, white bread crumbs. You can find it in stores that carry baking supplies and at Asian markets. It is the same kind of coconut used to make coconut shrimp.

Here is the recipe for making the “snowballs”. The recipe for the cupcakes is listed below, as well. I just doubled my classic white cupcake recipe, but you could use a box mix, if you prefer.

Aunt Josie’s Coconut Cake Squares aka “Snowballs”

1 white cake, prepared and frozen solid* or cupcakes

Chocolate Sauce
1 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 t. vanilla


1 c. desiccated coconut (available at cake supply stores and some health food stores)

Cut frozen cake into small squares, or cake can be baked in regular or mini cupcake tins. Keep cake frozen until ready to use. Meanwhile, make the chocolate dipping sauce. Combine remaining ingredients, except coconut, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Using toothpicks or fondue forks, dip frozen cake in sauce let drain a few seconds, then roll in the coconut. Can be enjoyed right away or frozen again for later use.

*If you make the cake in muffin tins you’ll get 24 cupcakes or about 60 mini cupcakes.

Classic White Cupcakes

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes 12.

Swedish Limpa Bread

Swedish Limpa Bread

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread. This Swedish rye bread is a favorite of mine. It has a soft texture and makes great sandwiches. It also makes the house smell wonderful as it bakes.

The flavor in enhanced by a combination of caraway seeds and a little orange zest. It even makes wonderful French toast. My brother-in-law says it is just like the bread his Swedish mother made.

It is not like rye breads you might traditionally think of. Limpa is lighter in color and texture. It makes really great French toast, too.

I shape mine in two round loaves, but you can also bake this bread in loaf pans, if you prefer. If you want to use it for sandwiches, the loaf pans are probably a good idea. You can also shape the dough into dinner rolls, if you like. You will get 2-3 dozen rolls out of this recipe, depending on how big you make your rolls.

Swedish Limpa

 6 ½ c. flour

2 c. rye flour

¼ c. brown sugar

2 t. salt

2-t. caraway seeds

2 t. grated orange peel

2 pkt. Active dry yeast

2 T. butter, softened

2 2/3 c. hot water (125-130 degrees)

Set aside 1-cup flour. Mix remaining flours and other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and water to flour mixture and stir to blend. Mix in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth about 8-10 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl turning to oil top. Cover and let rest in a draft free area until doubled, about 30 –40 minutes. Punch down. Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls. Place on greased baking sheet and cover until doubled in bulk, about 30 –40 minutes. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Makes 2 loaves.

Note: you can also divide the dough and place in 2 (9×5-inch) greased loaf pans.

Rye Crackers

Homemade Rye Crackers

Making crackers is fun, and actually pretty easy. These rye crackers are as simple to make as a batch of cookies. They are crisp and full of flavor. The thinner you roll them out, the crisper they will be.

I am a big fan of rye bread and a fan of these rye crackers, too. I love the flavor of rye flour. I think it pairs so well with any number of toppings. These are great with a little Swiss cheese melted on the top. You can also cut the crackers out in fun shapes.

So here is the recipe for rye crackers. I hope you’ll give cracker making a try.

Rye Crackers

1 c. rye flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 T. caraway seed

1½ t. salt

1 t. onion powder

1 t. garlic powder

1/3 cup oil

1 t. honey

¼ c. water, or as needed

Combine the rye flour, all-purpose flour, caraway seed, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir in the oil and honey. While stirring with a fork, slowly add the water until the dough comes together in a ball. Cover and rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide the dough into 4 sections, rolling each piece out on parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes, then place on a baking sheet. Prick each cracker a few times with a fork. Bake until the edges are brown and the crackers are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

Hazelnut Biscotti

Hazelnut Biscotti

These biscotti are the perfect treat to have with your morning cup of coffee or tea. Crisp, but not too hard, they are studded with crunchy hazelnuts and flavored with vanilla and orange peel. I like them just the way they are, but you could dress them up with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze. You can also dip one end of each biscotti in melted chocolate.

I was inspired to make these after buying hazelnuts recently.

I don’t know why more people don’t make their own biscotti. They are so easy to make, and you can flavor them to suit your own taste. Once baked, store them in an air tight container. They stay crisp for weeks. Assuming you don’t eat them first!

Biscotti get their distinctive, extra crunchy texture, from being baked not once, but twice. The batter is spread on a cookie sheet and baked until firm. Once cooled and little, the loaf is sliced and the slices are returned to the oven to get baked until crisp and toasted. I put the slices on a cooling rack, placed on the baking sheet, before the second bake. That way, the biscotti toast on both sides evenly. No need to turn them all over half-way through the second bake.

So here is the recipe. I hope if you haven’t made biscotti before, you give them a try.

Hazelnut Biscotti

3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

3 eggs

1 c sugar

1/4 c. butter, melted

1/4 c. olive oil

1 1/2 t. vanilla

1 t. grated orange peel

1 c. hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped*

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together eggs, sugar, butter, oil, vanilla and peel. Beat until smooth and stir in flour mixture and nuts. Grease a large baking sheet, oil your hands,  and place dough on sheet, forming into a 16×4-inch log. Bake at 325-degrees until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Loaf with spread a bit. Cool 15 minutes and leave oven on. Use serrated knife to cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices. Place cooling rack on a baking sheet. Place slices, cut side down, on cooling rack and return to oven for 20-22 minutes. Cool. Makes about 24.

If you like, you can dip one end of the finished biscotti in melted chocolate.

  • to toast hazelnuts, place on a baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to burn. While they are baking, place a tea towel on a rimmed baking sheet. When the nuts come out of the oven, dump them on the tea towel. They tend to roll around, so the rimmed baking sheets is to save you from cursing as nuts roll off the towel and onto the floor. Fold the nuts up in the towel and rub them to get the skins off. Most of the skins will come off, which is fine.

Orange Tea Bread

Orange Tea Bread

Winter is citrus season and I have been eating a lot of oranges lately. Besides eating them fresh, I also like to cook with oranges. If you are looking for a new recipe for a quick bread, I would recommend trying this one.

The bread is flavored with orange zest in the batter, then a warm orange syrup is drizzled over the bread, right out of the oven. This makes for a bread that is flavorful and moist. It can be breakfast, a brunch dish or even a dessert, when topped with ice cream or whipped cream. The recipe makes one loaf, but I often double the recipe and make two. It seems to disappear around here pretty quickly. The bread freezes well, too.

Orange Tea Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Syrup:
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×4″ loaf pan. Line pan with wax paper or parchment and set aside. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, butter and orange zest. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir mixture until well combined. Transfer batter to loaf pan, smoothing top, and bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat while stirring, and simmer for 1 minute. Keep syrup warm. Make holes in top of bread with a thin wooden skewer and drizzle with syrup. Let stand in pan until cool. Makes 1 loaf.

Sweet Potato Muffins- Gluten Free

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Muffins

When a family member was diagnosed with Celiac disease years ago, the selection of gluten free foods was pretty limited. Happily, today going gluten free is much easier. I buy a gluten free flour at Costco that can be used in any recipe that calls for all purpose flour. Gluten free flour is available in many grocery stores, too.

Gluten free flour seems to bake, or at least brown, a little faster, so you have to keep an eye on what you use it in. It doesn’t get much easier than that. In this recipe you could also use all purpose flour, if that is what you prefer. Just increase baking time 3-5 minutes.

The muffins are moist and not too sweet. They are great for breakfast, snacks or even as a dessert. They could also be served with lunch or dinner in places of rolls.

They freeze well so you can make a batch and freeze the extras for later.  Wonderful for busy days when you don’t have time to make them.

Sweet Potato Muffins- Gluten Free

4 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 c. oil

1 c. sugar

2 c. cooked sweet potatoes, mashed

1 3/4 c. gluten-free flour

1 T. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

3/4 t. salt

Blend together in large bowl eggs, sugar, sweet potatoes and oil and set aside. In another bowl combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into paper-lined muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until muffins spring bake when touched lightly.  Makes 30-36.

These freeze well.

Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin

Gratin is just another way of saying cheesy cauliflower. I love cauliflower. I also love cheese. Bringing the two of them together is a classic combination.

I decided to make a cauliflower gratin for lunch today. When I started, I remembered one I had made a few weeks ago. It tasted great, but was a little too watery.

The problem is, I wanted the cauliflower to be cooked, but not cooked to mush. I just steamed it for a few minutes. It was tender, but still pretty firm. When it cooked in the cheese sauce, it cooked a little more and became more tender. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, it gave off water as it cooked and thinned the sauce too much.

I wanted to try again, with a thicker base sauce, to offset the water in the cauliflower. We were so pleased with the final dish. Creamy, cheesy and not watery at all.

I have to admit, I almost chickened out when I saw how thick the base sauce was. But, I figured if it was too thick, it would still taste good.

I forgot to measure the cauliflower before and after steaming. I had to take a good guess at how much chopped up cauliflower there was. A little more or less won’t matter that much. I had a pretty good size head of cauliflower. I guessed at 8 cups raw, but it could have been 10 cups.

So here is the recipe- I hope you give it a try.

Cauliflower Gratin

1 medium head of cauliflower, stems trimmed off and cut into bite sized pieces- you should have about 8 cups

6 T. butter

6 T. flour

1 c. half and half- you could use cream or milk, if you prefer

6-8 oz. cheese- cubed, shredded or sliced- any cheese that melts will work. I used a combination of cheddar and Muenster

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste

½ c. bread crumbs

2 T. butter

Steam the cauliflower until just tender. I steamed mine in the microwave for 6 minutes. It took me two batches to steam it all. Place cauliflower in a mixing bowl and set aside. In pot, heat the butter until melted and stir in the flour until smooth. Add the half and half and cook, over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture thickens. It is going to get REALLY thick. Don’t freak out. When the mixture cooks with the cauliflower, the cauliflower will give off more liquid which will thin out the sauce. Once the mixture gets bubbly, cook over very low heat another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and add the cheese. Stir occasionally, until the cheese has melted. You can turn the heat on if you need to for a minute or so. Trust me, be patient, the cheese will melt. Spoon the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and mix it together as best you can. Add seasonings, if you like. Place cauliflower mixture in a baking dish. I used a deep dish pie pan- and it fit, but I had to push it down a little. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until it gets all bubbly and starts to brown a little. This takes about 25-30 minutes.

Let it sit a few minutes before you try to eat it. It is really hot.

Growing Fresh Sprouts

Fresh Pea Sprouts

To satisfy my urge for fresh produce I have taken to sprouting seeds. I have a nice assortment of seeds for this purpose and I can start more anytime I like. I can have sprouts, like pea, garbanzo beans and mung beans that can be eaten cooked or more delicate seeds like alfalfa and radish sprouts that are great as a salad ingredient or on sandwiches. Maybe it is also the time of year, but with snow outside the window the sight of fresh green growth is especially satisfying.

The upside is the seeds last for ages so they will be available for sprouting when I need them. The downside is that it takes a week or more to get sprouts so some planning is required.

Sprouting is pretty simple- although it is a little like having a pet. There is some care than needs to happen. First, start with a clean, wide mouth jar. I have these handy lids with holes in them that are made just for sprouting. Place the seeds in the jars and cover with water. Allow them to be covered in the water for at least several hours. Drain and rinse the seeds. After the first soaking, only keep what ever water stays on them after a rinse and drain. That’s pretty much the whole process. Twice a day, maybe three times if the weather is really warm, rinse the seeds and drain off any extra water. Depending on the seeds you can expect your first crop in 7-10 days. You can place the jars in a sunny window for greener sprouts. If you don’t have the lids with holes in them you can cover the jar with some cheesecloth. Hold in place with a rubber band. That will allow the sprouts to get air and make it easy to rinse and drain them.

Sprouts are full of nutrients and can be eaten cooked or raw. In some cases, like with mung beans, the skin of the seed will come off after a few days. They tend to float so if you just place the sprouts in a big bowl of fresh water and agitate them. The skins will come to the top and can easily be discarded.

Also, quantity can be tricky. Very few seeds can produce a heck of a lot of sprouts, so go easy. A few tablespoons of tiny seeds like radish, alfalfa or broccoli should be plenty. Perhaps a 1/4 cup of larger seeds like the beans and other legumes is also going to give you a bountiful supply.

They do take time, so if you want a steady supply start a new batch every few days.   Once sprouts are the size you want them to be give them a final rinse and drain well. Store in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Do use them soon. Often they are quite perishable. Besides, if you were sprouting for fresh food- enjoy it while it is fresh.

Mung beans sprouts, about a week old.

Alfalfa and radish sprouts

I don’t generally endorse any specific business in my posts. There are numerous sources for sprouting seeds on line. I have purchased seeds from Mountain Valley and was pleased with the results and quality. I receive no compensation from them- I just like them.

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

This is a dish you either love or hate. It is a dish a grew up with and I love it. My Polish grandmother made it and so did my mom. I can remember my father always adding a splash of vinegar to his.

The dish is pretty simple, really. Pigs’ feet, sometimes called trotters, are cooked in water with salt and aromatic veggies until very tender. The stock is strained and then the pigs feet are returned to the stock and chilled until it sets up. The stock is very gelatinous and can easily be sliced to serve. Similar to head cheese found in some delis.

The difference from one cook to the other is whether the pigs feet are returned to the stock whole, or if the meat and skin are removed from the bones before they are added. I have had it both ways. It is much easier to eat when the bones are removed.

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

4-5 lbs. Pigs’ feet, washed well

Water

Salt and pepper

1 medium onion, peeled

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 t. minced garlic

1/4 c. pickling spice, optional

Vinegar

Cover pigs’ feet with cold water in soup pot. Add 1-2 t. salt and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat process. Return feet to pot and cover with cold water. Add salt, pepper, veggies and garlic. Simmer, skimming any foam off the top until meat is getting tender, about 2 hours. Fill tea ball with pickling spice, if using, and place in pot. Cook until meat is falling off the bone, at least 2 more hours. Remove all meat and bones from pot. Set aside. Remove tea ball and set aside. Strain  broth through fine strainer or cheesecloth. Add more salt, to taste, if needed. Remove meat  from bones and place meat in a loaf pan. Discard the bones. Pour over the stock and chill. Remove fat from top of dish after chilling. Serve with vinegar, if desired.   

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