Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Pancakes

For breakfast I can’t think of a better dish than blueberry pancakes with fresh made blueberry syrup. I treated my self this morning and made both.  The pancakes were light and very fluffy.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about some of our favorite breakfast foods. Blueberry pancakes were at the top of both our lists.

This is why I freeze blueberries. So I can have these wonderful pancakes whenever the mood strikes.

The secret is to fluffy pancakes is not to over mix the batter. The ingredients are stirred until just combined. I used a homemade biscuit mix as the base. The recipe follows.

The baking mix is normally made with shortening, but I use coconut oil.  You can use the mix in any recipe that calls for baking mixes, like Bisquick or Jiffy mix. When using coconut oil, you might want to store the mix in the fridge in hot weather. Normally I store it at room temperature, but pop it in the fridge during the summer. You could also make the baking mix with butter- store in the fridge.

The syrup is pretty simple. Just three ingredients; blueberries, sugar and a little water. Sometimes I add some vanilla or a little lemon zest.  I served it warm over the pancakes.

 

Blueberry Pancakes

2 c. biscuit mix*
1 c. milk – I used half and half
2 eggs
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine mix, milk and eggs until just blended. Fold in berries. Pour batter by scant 1/4 cups in lightly greased griddle or skillet over moderate heat. Turn when pancakes are dry around the edges. Cook until golden brown. Makes about 13.

* Like Bisquick or Jiffy Mix or home made- recipe follows

Biscuit Mix

8 c. flour
1 c. powdered milk
1 c. powdered buttermilk (or 1 more cup powdered milk)
1/4 c. baking powder
1 T. salt
1 1/2 c. shortening* I use coconut oil

Combine dry ingredients and cut in shortening until well mixed. Store in tightly covered container. Makes 10 cups.

* You can substitute coconut oil or butter for the shortening- but mix will have to be kept cool. Refrigerate if using butter and use withing 3 months.

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

 

Blueberry Syrup

4 c. blueberries
1 c. water
1½ c. sugar

In saucepan heat berries and water to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Crush berries with a potato masher as they cook. Add sugar and cook for 10- 15 minutes on medium heat until mixture thickens.  Process syrup with an immersion blender or in a blender until smooth.  Cool, then refrigerate. Keeps a couple of weeks. Makes about 3½ cups.

Mom’s Chicken and Herb Dumplings

Mom’s Chicken with Herb Dumplings

There are foods I will always associate with my childhood. Chicken and dumplings is one of those dishes. I can remember watching my Mom spooning the dumpling batter over the simmering pot of chicken and vegetables. She’d cover the pot and wait.

When she uncovered it, the dumplings had puffed up, and pretty much covered the whole dish. It was magical to me. The dumplings were so tender and light.

I can’t make this dish, all these years, later without thinking of her. A friend stopped in for dinner last night and since it was chilly and I had some chicken…. I decided to make us chicken and dumplings for dinner. It really was the perfect dinner for a chilly evening.

My mom made her dumpling batter with a buttermilk baking mix- like Bisquick. Eventually, she started making her own baking mix, like I do today.

 

Dumplings will puff up when cooked

Mom’s Chicken and Herb Dumplings

1 T. oil
1 (3 lb.) broiler, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
flour for dredging
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3-4 potatoes, cut into chunks
2-3 c. chicken stock
1 t. each marjoram and thyme
1 c. buttermilk baking mix* I make my own, recipe follows
1/3 c. milk
2 t. fresh parsley
2 t. snipped chives or green onions

1/2 t. red pepper flakes
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and dredge pieces in flour. Heat oil in large skillet and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Remove chicken pieces and sauté onion until tender. Add carrots, potatoes, broth and chicken to skillet and cook, covered, 20 minutes. Sprinkle herbs over the chicken. Combine baking mix with milk, parsley, chives and red pepper flakes and spoon batter in skillet in 8 mounds. Cover and cook over low heat 20 more minutes. Serves 4.

*Here are two versions of the biscuit mix.

Chef Pastry Mix/ Biscuit Mix

8 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

1 c. powdered milk

1 c. powdered buttermilk

¼ c. baking powder

1 T. salt

2 c. shortening, coconut oil or butter- if using butter store in the fridge- coconut oil version should be stored in fridge in warm weather

Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Cut in fat to resemble cornmeal. Keep in an airtight container.  Store in a cool dry place and use within six months.

Whole Wheat Baking Mix

5 c. flour

3 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/3 c. baking powder

1 c. powdered milk, not non-fat

2 t. salt

3 1/2 sticks butter

 

Mix dry ingredients together well, then cut in butter. Store in fridge for up to 3 months and can be frozen for up to a year. Makes about 12 cups.

 

Classic Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

I can’t remember the first time I had carrot cake. I do know that I loved it. Carrot cake is a timeless dessert that never goes out of style.

It is a simple cake, but full of flavor from cinnamon, vanilla and three cups of shredded carrots.  The carrots add both flavor and moisture to the cake. Plus, with all those carrots, it’s like dessert and a veggie all in one. Practically health food.

It seems like a long time since I baked a carrot cake. Too long.  I am getting together with friends this weekend, and I offered to make dessert. Carrot cake popped into my head.

I baked the cakes this morning. I only made one recipe, but instead of baking the cake in one 9×13-inch pan, I used two (8×8 -inch) pans. Baking time was about 5 minutes less. Once the cakes cooled down, I frosted them with cream cheese frosting – recipe follows. Now I have two carrot cakes for two different dinners.

So here is the recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do.

 

My Favorite Carrot Cake

4 eggs

2 c. sugar

1½ c. oil

3 c. shredded carrots

2 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

2 t. each baking soda and cinnamon

1 t. salt

1 c. nuts

1 c. raisins, optional

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13-inch pan. Beat together eggs sugar and oil until smooth. Stir in carrots. Combine flour with dry ingredients and beat in. Stir in nuts and raisins and pour into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar or frost with cream cheese frosting.

 

Frosting recipe:

8 oz. Cream cheese, softened

3/4 c. powdered sugar

1 stick butter, room temperature

Beat all together until fluffy. Frost cake and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Root Vegetable Soup

Root Vegetable Soup

When the air is chilly, I am always in the mood for a nice hot bowl of homemade soup. This soup came about as I rummaged through the veggie bin. I had a number of root vegetables, so I decided to make them the focal point. I happened to have homemade chicken stock, but you could easily swap it out for beef, turkey or vegetable stock.

Root vegetables are often associated with fall and winter cooking. Before produce came from around the world, people lived off what they grew locally. In cold climates, that meant in the winter you ate the veggies that you preserved, or that stored well. Root vegetables store well, so they would be a staple.

Most root vegetables take a fair amount of cooking to get tender and add flavor and richness to soups, stews, chowders and more. That is kind of a bonus on a chilly day, when a long cooking dish warms the house, as well.

So here it it- the recipe that was created based on what I happened to have on hand. The end result was really good.

 

Root Vegetable Soup

3 T. oil

1 onion, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 small parsnips, peeled and sliced

6 c. stock, I used chicken

2 c. peeled and diced turnips, about 2 medium

2 c. diced potatoes, about 2 medium

1 pint home canned tomatoes, or a (14 oz.) can of diced tomatoes, un-drained

1 medium sweet potato, diced

1/4 c. chopped parsley

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 T. hot sauce, or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

In soup pot heat the oil and cook the onion until light golden. Add the  carrots and parsnips and cook until they are light golden, too. Add the stock, turnips, potatoes and tomatoes and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer, covered, until veggies are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients and cook until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve. Serves 6-8.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

I made this cake for a cooking class yesterday. Everyone loved it. No surprises there, it is a wonderful cake. A nice dessert for fall, too.

If the only way you enjoy sweet potatoes is as a side at the holidays, or in pie, it is time to expand your thinking about them. In this recipe, the mashed sweet potatoes add both sweetness and moistness to the finished cake. Great plain, or with a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries.

This cake makes a lovely dessert or a nice addition to a brunch menu. Also a nice way to use up leftover mashed sweet potatoes, if you find yourself with leftovers.

I mentioned this recipe to a friend and she was very interested. I will be seeing her over the weekend and think I will make this for our dinner together.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

1 1/2 c. cake flour*

1/2 t. each baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature

1 1/3 c. sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

1/2 c. mashed sweet potato

1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly oil an 8×4-inch loaf pan. Mix flour with next 4 ingredients and set aside. In large mixing bowl beat together butter and sour cream. Beat in sugar and then beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in mashed sweet potato and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes before loosening cake sides from pan and removing. After cake has cooled wrap in foil and store at room temperature. Serves 8.

* If you don’t have cake flour you can make your own. Simply measure out a cup of all purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons of the flour. That is now the same as a cup of cake flour OR remove the 2 tablespoons of flour and replace them with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift together to combine. I do the flour/cornstarch mix and keep a batch on hand for when I need it in baking.

Cleaning Leeks

Fresh Leeks

I love to cook with leeks. They have an onion flavor, but with lovely sweetness. Leeks are a wonderful addition to soups, chowders and stews. They also can be fried for a crunchy garnish.

I get asked all the time about how to prep them. Leeks are full of sand and have to be prepped properly, so you don’t get any grit in your food. The edible part is the white and light green parts. The dark green leaves are tasty, but tough. They can be used for making stock.

To get started, peel off the first layer of leaves. There is often a lot of sand there. Cut off the bottom about 1/2 -inch from the root. You should be able to see the rings, or layers, of the leek when you do this. Trim off any dark green parts at the top. You’ll have a trimmed leek at this point.

Now you have to clean it. Cut the leek lengthwise in half. Hold one half at a time under running water while fanning the leaves to dislodge any dirt. Take the rinsed halves and cut them into 1/2-inch slices. You could also cut them into thin strips, if you like.

Place the slices in a large pan or bowl, filled with cold water, and agitate them to loosen any remaining sand. Use your fingers to separate the layers. Make sure the bowl is deep enough for the leeks to float, several inches from the bottom. The leeks will float and the sand and dirt will sink. Let them stand a  few minutes and then lift them out of the water to drain. Any grit will be at the bottom of the bowl.

If there is a lot of grit in the bottom of the bowl, you might want to repeat the rinsing process one more time. It might sound like a lot of work, but it really doesn’t take that much time and the leeks will be completely clean. I often buy a lot of leeks when they are on sale, and clean them all at once.Then I saute the cleaned leeks in oil, and freeze for later use.

Remove one or 2 outer layer of leaves

Remove one or 2 outer layer of leaves

Trim off bottom 1/2-inch above the root

Trim off bottom 1/2-inch above the root

Layers should be visible

Layers should be visible

Properly trimmed leeks

Properly trimmed leeks

Split leek lengthwise

Split leek lengthwise

Rinse under running water while fanning layers

Rinse under running water while fanning layers

Cut into 1/2-inch slices

Cut into 1/2-inch slices

Place in large container of cold water and separate the layers

Place in large container of cold water and separate the layers

Leeks float- dirt sinks

Leeks float- dirt sinks

Lift clean leeks out of the water

Lift clean leeks out of the water

Clean and ready for cooking

Clean and ready for cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

This pear-studded cake is perfect to have with that morning cup of coffee- or for dessert. The tender cake is topped with chopped pears, cubes of cream cheese, cinnamon sugar and a vanilla glaze. The taste is amazing.

I used Bartlett pears, but any ripe pear would work.

Why should apples get all the attention- right?  Don’t get me wrong, I love apples. It’s just that I love pears, too. I think they don’t get used in baking as much as they should.

I will say up front, that this is not the prettiest cake out there. It comes out of the oven kind of lumpy, from all those pears and the tiny cubes of cream cheese. Once you top it with the cinnamon sugar, and later the glaze, it looks a lot better. It is one of the tastiest cakes, though, and isn’t that what’s important?

So if you want to enjoy one of my favorite Autumn fruits in a new way- try making this simple, tasty pear coffee cake. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

1 stick (½ cup) butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 c. half and half

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

2 t. baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

2 lbs. pears, about 4 large, cored, peeled and sliced *

8 oz. cream cheese, cut in small pieces

Topping

3 T. cinnamon sugar

Glaze:

½ c. powdered sugar

1-2 T. milk

½ t. vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, half and half, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour directly over the butter in the baking dish, but do not stir. Drain pears well. Add the pears, arranging in a single layer as much as possible. Sprinkle cream cheese pieces over fruit. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and edges are bubbling. When you remove the cake from the oven, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Set cake aside to cool.  Make glaze by combining glaze ingredients. Add just enough milk for a nice consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over cooled cake. Store leftovers in fridge. Serves 12.

 

* To keep pears from discoloring place in a bowl with 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice

“Pumpkin” Ravioli Soup

“Pumpkin” Ravioli Soup

Fall is the time for cooking with pumpkin and other winter squash. I make plenty of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin soup, and so on.  I often am actually using butternut or Hubbard squash in place of the pumpkin.

This was the case with this soup. I have made it with pumpkin before, but this time I had a butternut squash, so that is what I used. Many winter squash can be used in place of pumpkin in cooking.

After cooking up one of my butternut squash, I was looking for a way to use some of it in a soup. I decided to use the squash as a filling for ravioli, then just put the ravioli in the soup.

I played with the spices and added some butter to the filling, too. It needed that extra bit of fat for flavor. It worked well. I just cooked the ravioli right in the soup, but you could cook and eat the ravioli without soup at all.

You would cook the ravioli in water. Once they are tender, drain and top with the sauce of your choice. I like brown butter with a little sage, but even a red sauce would be nice with these ravioli. Here is the recipe- for both the ravioli and the soup.

“Pumpkin” Ravioli Soup

Ravioli:
24 round won ton/dumpling wrappers
Filling:
1 cup cooked pumpkin or winter squash
2 T. softened butter
1 T. chopped parsley
1 t. paprika
1 t. nutmeg
½ t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne

Soup:
2 T. oil or butter
2 onions, peeled and sliced
6 c. stock- chicken or veggie
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 c. thinly sliced collard greens
Salt and pepper
Dash of hot sauce
Fresh chopped parsley

Combine ravioli filling. Adjust seasonings. Place a rounded tablespoonful of filling on one of the wrappers. Dampen edges with water and place another wrapper on top. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Continue with remaining filling and wrappers- you should have 12 raviolis in all. Set aside while making the soup.
Heat oil or butter in a pot and add the onions. Cook until onions are tender. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add carrots and collards and cook until veggies are tender. Add seasonings and bring soup to a boil. Add the raviolis and let the soup simmer gently until they are cooked- about 4 minutes. Stir a little to keep them from sticking, but gently. They get a lot bigger and are sort of delicate. Transfer gently with a large spoon to soup bowls and ladle over the soup. Serves 4- 6.

Coconut Cracker Snacks

Coconut Cracker Snacks

If you are craving something sweet and pressed for time these are really a fun snack to make. Super easy, they are also a great recipe for kids to make.

The base is saltine crackers topped with butter, brown sugar, coconut and cinnamon. They are ready in just a few minutes.  Sweet and just a little salty, too. You could use chopped nuts in place of the coconut if you prefer.

They are super crunchy, too.

They are great served alone, or with ice cream.

Store in a cool, dry place to keep them crunchy.

 

  Coconut Cracker Snacks

36 saltine crackers
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. coconut
1 t. cinnamon
Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place the crackers, touching, side by side in a single layer. Melt butter in microwave, then add sugar and heat together 1 minute on high. Stir butter and sugar mixture together until smooth and drizzle this over the crackers. Combine coconut and cinnamon and then sprinkle the coconut over the crackers. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until coconut is toasted. Cool on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Crackers will easily break apart from each other. Makes 36.

Arrange crackers on a baking sheet

Arrange crackers on a baking sheet

Drizzle crackers with the butter/brown sugar mixture

Drizzle crackers with the butter/brown sugar mixture

Sprinkle on the coconut and bake until coconut is toasted

Sprinkle on the coconut and bake until coconut is toasted

My Favorite Apple Cake

My Favorite Apple Cake

I have posted this cake recipe in the past. It truly is my favorite apple cake ever.  I had a request for this recipe yesterday, so here it is. Seemed like a nice recipe to publish on the first day of Autumn.

I’ve had this recipe since I was a kid. My Aunt Josie gave it to my mom. Not sure where she got, it but it has been a family favorite since we first made it. She called it Jewish Apple Cake. Not sure why. It’s just what we all called it.

It’s a simple recipe that comes out moist and flavorful. I normally bake it in a 13×9- inch pan but it can be baked in a Bundt pan. While the recipe calls for cinnamon sugar- I sometimes add a little fresh ground nutmeg, too. I also like to use olive oil or even avocado oil in this cake. It gives it a really nice flavor.

Almost any apple works in this recipe- except maybe Red Delicious. Perfect for dessert or even served with brunch.  Who am I kidding? I would eat this cake for breakfast.

Note: The batter is really thick. Don’t think you’ve done something wrong.

 

Jewish Apple Cake

1 c. oil, I use olive oil or avocado oil
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. orange or lemon juice
Combine above ingredients and set aside.
Mix together the following dry ingredients. Make a well and stir in egg mixture to make a stiff batter.

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt

Mix ½ c. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon and set aside

Peel, core and slice 4 medium apples.
Grease a 9×13 inch pan or a Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Place ½ of batter in prepared pan. Arrange apple slices on batter and sprinkle on ½ of the cinnamon mixture. Pour on remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

Bake 1-1 ½ hours. One hour for 13×9-inch pan and 1 1/2 hours for Bundt. I find that sometimes it takes less than an hour- check at 50 minutes.