kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

The Snow Day Project: Freezing a Batch of Pumpkin Pancakes!


Whenever we get our first big snow day, Georgia and I always use it as an opportunity to make a whole mess of pancakes for the winter. We cook ’em, label ’em, and freeze ’em, so the next time we wake up snowed in all we have to do is put on the coffee and toss a couple of these in the toaster. A hot breakfast is easy as that, perfect for lazy days in pajamas like today!


Grabbing a couple straight from the freezer and letting them thaw during the day is a good lunchbox strategy, too. G has loved pancakes since, well, it was among the only things she let me eat for 20 weeks of morning sickness, and now that she’s in preschool they are portable and filling for winter school days.


We love to use pancake mix from Trader Joe’s — specifically the Pumpkin flavor. To make 6-8 pancakes, you need 1 Cup of Pancake Mix, 2 TBSP (or 1/4 stick) of melted butter, 3/4 Cup of Milk, and 1 Egg, lightly beaten. I’ll often do roughly double this. To make the whole box, follow those specific directions on the back of the packaging. Preheat a non-stick pan over medium (or a griddle to 350F). Place the dry mix into a large bowl, then in a separate bowl combine the egg, milk and melted butter and stir into the dry ingredient bowl until lumps disappear. You can always add more milk if the mix gets too thick while you’re cooking. Add a pat of butter to the pan. I use a soup ladle to drop about a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan once the butter is sizzling; flip the pancake once the edges start to look cooked and you see bubbles on top. You’ll only need to brown it lightly on the other side. Another good tip is to gradually turn the heat down a bit between each pancake so the butter doesn’t burn when it hits the pan each time. Allow the pancakes to cool on a plate, then begin assembling them for the freezer (or eat some right away, of course!)





To freeze, wrap each pancake with a layer of parchment paper in between, packaging about four into a quart-sized zip-top freezer bag. Make sure you label them with the contents and the date so you can find them easily in the fridge! I do in batches of three or four so I don’t have to thaw more than I need at one time. These can go straight into the toaster just like store-bought frozen pancakes or waffles.




That’s it! I sure am glad I did this when we get walloped by back to back storms like now. I’m supposed to fly out to D.C. in the morning…we’ll see if I get delayed or not. Poor Mark is driving to New York at 6 a.m., so please wish us both safe travels. Today we rested up, shoveled out, and made a snow man! If you’ve ever wondered what I look like with no makeup and a sinus infection, this is it.


I so value these days with my girl and think about them when I’m traveling for work or just stuck late at my desk or a meeting. You won’t hear me say anything bad about snow when it means I get quality play time like this! Stay safe and warm, everyone.

Recipes

A drizzly, happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday (I’m 30 again? How is that possible!) and, naturally, my presents had a culinary twist. Mark never disappoints when it comes to foodie gifts — there was this winner a couple years back, and this classic the Christmas before. But this year….{wait for it}….he COOKED FOR ME! And not just any old meal, but breakfast, the one time of day I’m so focused on getting everyone else ready that I never have a chance to eat. It made a rainy, dark birthday so much brighter!

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On the menu: a Greek omelette — my absolute favorite — with spinach, garlic, oregano and feta (!!), plus an English muffin, a (virgin) mimosa since I had to go to work after, and a strawberry lemonade cupcake for dessert from Crumbs Bake Shop.

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 Georgia, of course, contributed her own present, including a good night’s sleep the evening before. (She was down from 8 pm to 7 am with no ‘separation anxiety’ symptoms whatsoever! Last night, not so much).

Mark even agreed to share his omelette recipe, which came from The Chew. This is a guy who literally can barely cook, so to say I was impressed is a serious understatement. How lucky am I!

Mark’s Easy Greek Omelette

 adapted from The Chew

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil (plus more to drizzle)
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 2 cups Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh Oregano
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Greek Feta (crumbled)
  • Salt and freshly ground Pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Once hot, add the spinach and garlic, cooking until the spinach has wilted then remove to a strainer set over a bowl and press some of the liquid out with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl with the oregano, and whisk with a fork. Set aside. 

Warm a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan, and once it foams and subsides, add the egg mixture. Move the outer edges of the eggs inward and cook until just set. Sprinkle the feta on one half along with the spinach mixture then fold the eggs over in half. Seaon with salt and freshly ground pepper. Slide the omelet off on to a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and enjoy.

Helpful Tips from The Chew
1. The spinach should only wilt a little bit while you’re sautéing it, so don’t over do it!
2. Don’t salt the eggs before putting them in the pan. Salting the eggs pulls moisture out and makes them rubbery, so add the salt once the eggs start to set.
3. Whisks add a lot of air to beaten eggs and make the final product too fluffy. For a creamier omelet, use a fork instead of a whisk.
4. Add the warm spinach directly on top of the feta to help the cheese melt.
5. If you’re having difficulty sliding the omelet out of the pan, try sliding it while holding the pan over the heated stove.
6. Don’t be afraid to make your omelet runny like you might with sunny side up or over easy eggs. Your omelet will still be safe to eat and will have added flavor.

What am I going to do with these two?? What a pair of loves.

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Recipes

Breakfast Egg Muffins

These are my new “thing.” I make them on Sundays and have a whole batch for the week. Two muffins + Dunks coffee + my desk = Amanda’s weekday morning breakfast. 

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I have a resolution to eat more breakfast and lunch (and, heck, dinner) that I’ve made at home, because we are “modeling” good food habits for G, but also because daycare is really freakin’ expensive. These fit the bill and are pretty tasty.

Breakfast Egg Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • veggies of choice, chopped/diced (I use bell peppers)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • cheese of choice (I use sharp cheddar or feta)
  • milk of choice (I use almond)
  • Pam spray or oil of choice, to coat muffin tin

DIRECTIONS

Before you start: Decide whether you will be making 6 or 12 muffins. I usually eat 2 of these per day for breakfast, plus some fruit (and coffee!), so a dozen will get you through the week and then some. But you can make half a dozen just as easily, if you think you won’t eat them all within the week. They only keep about 5-7 days in the fridge. You can also make this with a greater ratio of egg whites to yolks, and if you’re using a deeper muffin tin (such as silicone) then you may want to use a couple more eggs. 1 egg fills roughly 1 compartment and therefore makes 1 muffin.

  • Spray the pan with cooking spray or coat with a healthy oil by hand using a balled-up paper towel. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Prep your veggies: dice the bell pepper(s) and 1 small onion into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Prep your eggs: using either all or half a dozen, crack them into a bowl and whisk. Add salt and or pepper if desired.
  • Add a few veggies, onions and cheese to each compartment, filling about halfway to 3/4 full.
  • Pour the egg mixture over each compartment, stopping at most a quarter of the way before it’s full. They taste worse if they are overfull and “blossom” too high above the pan!
  • Bake about 25 minutes or until they are just browning and the eggs are set.

These reheat great in the microwave, as long as you don’t overdo them (I’d say 30 seconds to 1 minute is best). If you plan to store them for later, in the fridge OR freezer, just make sure you let them cool first. They do well in a plastic bag or a glass container. You can customize this with any ingredients you prefer, including real or fake ham or bacon, and you can use muffin tin liners as well. And of course, feel free to add any additional seasonings you might enjoy. I hope you like them!

What else do you make for breakfast when you have to eat on the go, or are looking to save money? I’ve gone through phases of making smoothies — especially in summer — and also baking this vegetarian Egg McMuffin casserole every weekend to get me through the workday mornings. I’m also considering trying bake-ahead oatmeal in the slow cooker with nuts and berries. Have you done that?? If so, share!

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Fun Brunch Ideas

Before the holidays, I had a brunch & jewelry party for a few of my friends and family. Not wanting to overwhelm people with food, I eventually scaled WAY back from my original menu, just serving some finger foods (chips & salsa, cheese & crackers) for those who get up early and would have already eaten breakfast, plus a mixture of brunch-y favorites for those in the crowd (read: people my age) who showed up HUNGRY. Even though I didn’t get to make everything I wanted to, I still had a couple hits, so I’m sharing them with you!

German Apple Pancake topped with a crust of cinnamon sugar. Mmm.

So what was on the menu?

  • Fresh fruit
  • Mimosas (both virgin and non)
  • Bagels with cream cheese & pumpkin butter
  • A vegetable quiche, courtesy of my mother-in-law
  • German apple pancake
  • Egg McMuffin casserole

What the heck is that last thing, you say? Glad you asked. It’s my new favorite for when you have to make a vegetarian-friendly breakfast dish for a morning potluck, or just want to have a grab-and-go option in your fridge for a busy work week. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Here it is:

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Egg McMuffin Casserole

adapted from Plain Chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips (or, you know, real Canadian bacon)
  • 4-5 English muffins, split (Bays work well but Thomas’s are good too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (the sliced kind is great too)
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • salt & pepper

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Directions

Spray or butter the bottom of a square baking dish.

Cube the English muffins, tearing by hand, and layer half of them in the bottom of the dish.

Layer half the bacon and half the cheese on top of the muffins. Repeat all three layers.

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Mix together the eggs, milk, salt & pepper and whisk briefly; pour over the casserole and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour or up to one day.

Bake at 325 for 45 to 50 minutes.

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We like it topped with maple syrup. And, of course, Mark prefers it with Canadian bacon just like at McDonald’s, but he admits the veggie stuff tastes almost as good!

If you are making this for the week, it will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. Reheat a square for 1 minute in the microwave and take it to go!

If I had a larger crowd than 10, or more time/ambition, here are some fun things I would have liked to serve:

Courtesy of Healthy Slow Cooking.

Slow Cooker Gingerbread Latte

Courtesy of Simply Scratch.

Crispy Garlicky Mustard Roasted Red Skin Potatoes

Courtesy of Healthy Slow Cooking.

Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Oatmeal

Let me know if you ever get a chance to try these! Happy Brunching.

Recipes

German Apple Pancake

Looking for the perfect festive, filling thing to serve your house guests on Christmas morning? Look no further than the German Apple Pancake. 

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This is a recipe my aunt gave me a few years ago, after we had it for breakfast on Christmas morning at her house in Florida. Health food it ain’t — but you can’t do better by your house guests on a holiday morning!

German Apple Pancake

Ingredients

  • 4-5 large apples, cored and sliced
  • 2 stick of butter
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Cinnamon-Sugar (make it with 1 TBSP sugar & 1 tsp cinnamon)

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Directions

Melt the stick of butter in a small saucepan on the stove top, then pour directly into the bottom of a 9×13 glass pan.

Mix the pancake batter by hand: blend the flour, milk, eggs and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl, and set aside.

Arrange your sliced apples (I find big, tart Granny Smith apples work very well) to cover the melted butter in the bottom of the pan.

Pour the batter over the top of the apples, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar, which will create a nice crust.

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Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Serve with warmed, real maple syrup. Goes great with bacon (real or fake!)

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Tips: This is best served warm, the same day you make it. It just doesn’t reheat as well. You can add more apples along the bottom layer if you like, and of course you can add more cinnamon-sugar on top. It’s also delicious without the maple syrup.

Looking for more brunch food ideas?

I also love these two recipes by Ina Garten for one-pan baked berry blintzesapricot butter. I saw them on her show last year when she did a brunch special, and tried both immediately. I hope you enjoy them!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Orange Berry Smoothie

Is anyone else out there feeling desperate for simple, healthful food after that holiday? Yeah, me too. As much as I love stuffing, casseroles and pie, they do take a toll on your energy level, complexion and waistline. Personally what I’ve been craving is fresh fruit, lots of water and NO bread! So I threw together a refreshing smoothie and a batch of low-fat breakfast muffins with broccoli and feta (which I’ll post here in a few days). Enjoy:

Orange Berry Smoothie

A refreshing blend of orange, strawberry & banana with coconut milk for creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk (light)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana, frozen or fresh

Directions

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy cold. Makes enough for two!

I used a frozen banana because I always keep them handy; a little over a cup of the OJ and coconut milk, because that’s what I had left in the jugs in my fridge; and a heaping cup full of frozen strawberries.You can use full-fat coconut milk if you don’t mind the extra calories, and of course you can substitute greek yogurt to make it extra thick.

This is SO fresh and tasty in the morning!

Recipes

Italian Egg Scramble

I almost didn’t even post about this, because it’s such a fallback meal — eggs? With a bagel? For dinner? Well, sometimes that’s just what hits the spot, and this particular scramble came out very tasty for having been created out of what I had on hand. Right now, I’m working with the randomness of my garden and whatever is left over from my last visit to the farmer’s market. The seasonings gave it a distinctly Italian Food flair, hence the name.

What I had lying around: green onions, half a cup of Parmesan cheese, six eggs, one tomato about to pucker into oblivion, two garlic cloves, some Italian pizza seasoning, and one green pepper that started to turn red but then…stopped.

Quite honestly I was too lazy for the effort of an omelette, but I don’t think this suffered taste-wise for being a scramble. And at less than 10 minutes to prepare, this dish is about as easy as it gets. We had awesome bagels on hand from Bagel Alley, which you can find at the Natick Farmer’s Market, but you could also put this scramble over a salad, or serve with breakfast potatoes, or of course do it up with sausage links, bacon or some buttered whole-wheat toast.

Breakfast for dinner? Yes, please.

Italian Egg Scramble

Ingredients

  • 4-5 organic eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed with a splash of cold water
  • 1-2 green onions or scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 a green (or red) pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Italian seasonings (oregano, rosemary, etc. to taste)
  • butter for the pan

Directions

Start by pre-chopping your veggies so everything can go in the pan rapid fire: Dice the tomato, chop the green/red pepper, mince the garlic (or use the jarred kind, I don’t care) and slice your green onions.

Put a generous pat of butter into a non-stick skillet and, while it melts, crack 4 or 5 eggs into a small bowl and quickly whisk with a dash of cold water, pepper, and a good bit of salt. You don’t really want to under-salt scrambled eggs, because that’s just the worst, most saddest, most blandest cafeteria food ever.

When the butter has melted, add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, just for a minute or so; don’t let it burn.

Next, add the peppers and tomato, stirring, until fragrant, just a couple minutes.

Pour the egg mixture over the veggies and make sure they’re spread out pretty evenly. Add in some shredded Parmesan. Season with Italian seasonings such as basil, oregano and rosemary, or just use a jar of Italian/Pizza Seasonings. Let it cook untouched for a couple minutes, basically until it starts to puff up; then, starting at the edge, take a spatula and pick up the egg, gently pushing inward and away from the sides of the pan. Let the runny parts fill in. You can either flip it over to make a traditional omelette, if you prefer; or you can do the Amanda Way and just stir it into a squishy mess.

Right before it starts to set up completely, liberally sprinkle the rest of the parmesan all over the mixture and it’ll melt down as you finish cooking. Once the eggs aren’t running anymore, shut off the heat and let them finish cooking in the pan.

Serve warm alongside a bagel or whatever you want!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Two Green Smoothies

I have a new routine: “Smoothie Saturdays,” when I bust out the blender after I get home from grocery shopping to whip up some breakfast smoothies for the week. This week, I made three varieties: a tropical smoothie, which I’ll cover in another post; a spinach-banana smoothie, which is simple and refreshing; and an adaptation of Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie, which is super energizing and can help you kick your early-morning caffeine habit while sweeping toxins from your system.

I am in the process of trying to cut back on how much caffeine I drink — both for the benefit of my stomach, since coffee in particular is such an irritant, and because I don’t want to be so dependent on a stimulant to get alert in the morning. It starts to feel lame when you NEED coffee to function, or when you get a debilitating headache from lack of having it! In the past when I’ve needed to cut back, instead of going cold turkey I just reduce the number of cups per day and then eventually the size of my morning order. I’m down to one small coffee in the morning and no soda or tea for the rest of the day. Next, I’ll replace coffee with a green smoothie every other day until I can phase out caffeine as a kick-start altogether. Green Smoothies give you so much natural energy it’s actually amazing.

Spinach Banana Smoothie

Total time 5-7 minutes.

Makes enough for two large on-the-go beverages.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 chopped bananas, ideally frozen
  • a couple ice cubes (use more if your bananas aren’t frozen)

Blend all ingredients together, taking care to add liquids first so you don’t jam your blender. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. Or, freeze for up to one month and thaw overnight in the refrigerator the morning before you plan to drink it.

Glowing Green Smoothie

This is a simplified version of Kimberly Snyder’s classic green smoothie, because I didn’t have pears on hand. If you read her book, the Beauty Detox Solution, you’ll see that almost any greens will do — so feel free to throw in kale, romaine, or spinach like I did ~ you name it!

Total time: 5-7 minutes

Makes 3-4 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch greens (I used spinach since I had it on hand)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 organic apple, chopped
  • 2-3 frozen chopped bananas
  • juice of 1 lemon

Blend all ingredients together until smooth, adding liquids first so the blender doesn’t jam. Enjoy!

All set to go for the week ~ just thaw and sip!

Recipes

Breakfast of poor new homeowners

Well, this morning my husband and I passed papers on our very first home: an adorable 4-bedroom, bungalow-style house next to public transit AND a state park reservation. For the first time in over a decade (and in some cases, ever), I will have:

  • More than 1 bedroom
  • More than 1 closet (!)
  • My own laundry
  • A yard (gardening, anyone?)
  • A porch
  • A WATER BILL (no better reason to conserve, right?)

In light of my newfound house-poor status, I thought I’d post my favorite wintertime/cheapo breakfast. No more early-morning pit stops at Dunkin’ Donuts for THIS gal!

“It’s all about the Benjamins” Oatmeal

Photo courtesy of canyoustayfordinner.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (do not use quick-cooking or instant)
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 banana, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

Directions: Combine oatmeal, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, over medium-high heat,  then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until thickened & creamy. Add the peanut butter, banana, milk and butter; mix gently to combine. Cook for one minute. Serve hot. To reheat, add a little extra milk. (It tastes even better the next day, and has just over 200 calories per serving, so go ahead and double it!)

This makes 2 to 3 servings, and has 4g fiber per serving, plus 7g protein. Carb count is 30g per serving for any diabetics out there.

(Adapted from French Women Don’t Get Fat).