Posted in family life, Uncategorized

more pancakes!

So, I know I’ve posted about pancakes before. What can I say, they’re still a hit around here 🙂

I am on the search for a good pancake mix, though, too simplify the process even more; I’ve tried the recipe from Like Mother, Like Daughter but it wasn’t our favorite, and I’m planning on trying the whole-grain mix from King Arthur Flour next.

In the meantime, however, I used up all my wheat berries and haven’t made it out to east Mesa to buy more… so the other night when I planned on pancakes and hadn’t yet realized my critical shortage, I had to find another recipe ASAP (it was either that or come up with an entirely new dinner plan thirty minutes before everyone was going to need to eat – yeah, not happening).

I ended up using Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times, which is a very basic white flour pancake recipe, but I made it special by adding some small diced pears (which we needed to use up anyway) along with some cinnamon and cardamom. I don’t think anyone else in the family gets bored of eating the same pancakes every time we make them, but I always want to try something new or different, and the King Arthur Flour mix recipe had provided some add-in suggestions that got me thinking. And ever since I discovered Smitten Kitchen’s pear bread recipe I’ve been unable to separate pears and cardamom in my mind, so I added some cinnamon and cardamom to these pancakes as well! (Incidentally, the pear bread recipe doesn’t actually call for cardamom, and I don’t remember why I originally added it – but it makes the bread really stand out from otherwise similar applesauce/spice cakes. What can I say, I modify all the recipes I touch.)

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Lightly drizzled with maple syrup (for Limerick and I) or just butter (for Rondel, who thinks he doesn’t like syrup), and accompanied by hash browns and sausages, they made for an incredibly luxurious dinner 🙂 Even my picky eater didn’t seem to notice or mind the small pear chunks scattered throughout, which was my main concern, and the sweet tooth of course thought they were a step above normal pancakes.

So – if you’re looking for a special occasion pancake, that may be more of a treat than a seriously healthy food, I would recommend this one! Once I get more wheat berries we’ll go back to our whole-grain pancakes, but these are quite good and, at least with the add-ins, don’t leave me missing the rich depth of the others. I’m already starting to plan different fruit and spice combinations to play around with – maybe something with cranberries and apples? Any suggestions?

Posted in family life, musings, recipes

meal-planning for the creative and spontaneous mom

I think cooking and grocery shopping are two of my favorite housekeeping activities 🙂 It’s fun imagining different ways to use the fruits and vegetables that are seasonal and on sale, or figuring out how to use up the remnants of a leftover or the last bits of produce in the fridge before they go bad without making an emergency trip to the store, or balancing all the different food groups throughout the day to make sure the boys are eating a well-rounded diet. In a way, it’s like a puzzle that never gets old because so many of the variables are always changing! (And I must confess that I would get bored pretty quickly if the variables didn’t change – I could never work off a strict rotation of menus because I get tired of cooking the same things and like to mix it up and experiment with new ideas fairly regularly).

Most of my inspiration comes from the produce sale list… I see, for instance, that red bell peppers are only 50 cents each this week and I wonder what I could make with them that my bell-pepper-disdaining family would eat (I love peppers so I’m always attempting to convert the rest of them). Maybe on top of a bruschetta with some sort of cheese – something with feta and ricotta, perhaps… I call those “little toasties” to the kids because they sometimes will outright refuse a food just because it has a strange name and I’d rather not have to deal with that if I can avoid it! And there’s one meal down: I would throw together a quick pasta or veggie to accompany it, depending on what leftovers we have and what’s in the pantry, and let the bruschetta be the main star of the meal.

I think one of the factors that makes this sort of meal-planning easier for me is that I don’t think every dinner has to include a meat. I was a vegetarian for eleven years, so as long as there is some sort of cheese or bean in the main meal I feel like it is complete, and especially if we had a high-protein breakfast or lunch I don’t think it necessary to emphasize the protein at dinner. Instead, dinner ends up being the most vegetable-heavy meal of the day most of the time. We’ll see if this needs to change as the boys get older, of course 🙂 Meats are just harder for me to be creative with because I lost those eleven years of experimentation, so I get more easily bored by the options I can reliably cook.

Right now we’re entering into one of my favorite meal-planning seasons because there is so much seasonal fresh fruit! Fruit is an easy side dish to round out a meal, a healthy dessert if I’m feeling nibbly after dinner, a no-guilt snack to pull out if the boys are hungry an hour before dinner, and a quick breakfast if I’m running late to work. It significantly reduces the amount of prep and forethought I have to put into meals… and the hot weather in general lends itself to quick, light foods instead of the heavier meals that require thawing time, prep time, and cooking time (as delicious as those meals are in the colder weather!).

What are some of your tips and tricks for feeding your family every day?