Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

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I’m really not trying to turn this into a pancake blog or even a weekend breakfast blog, but these were too good not to share. Now that I’ve found my perfect pancake recipe, I can’t help but play with it a bit and think of tasty variations.

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I posted on Facebook last week about minimizing food waste, and how meal planning is one of the best ways to do that. That doesn’t mean I don’t waste any food, but I do try to use most of it up, and because I have chickens I can feed it to them as well and then I don’t feel guilty about wasting it. The way I see it, if the chickens eat it, then I save money on chicken feed, plus I do end up eating it (in the form of eggs) so, win-win!

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Bananas are one of those foods that I do often end up with at the end of the week. What is it about bananas that makes them perfectly ripe one day then almost immediately brown and speckled? Whenever my bananas get to the brown zone, I throw them in the freezer for smoothies, banana bread, or muffins. This weekend I was about to throw a couple more in the freezer when I wondered if the pancake recipe would taste good with bananas and chocolate chips in it? At our house, the answer was a resounding yes.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Makes about a dozen

Ingredients:

·      2 eggs

·      5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

·      1 cup milk

·      2 ripe bananas, mashed

·      2 cups all-purpose flour

·      1 tablespoon sugar

·      4 teaspoons baking powder

·      ¾ teaspoon salt

·      ½ cup chocolate chip cookies

·      whipped cream, for serving (optional)

 Directions:

1.     In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add butter, milk, and bananas and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix gently, just until dry ingredients are moistened, taking care not to overmix.

2.     Heat oven to 250 degrees and place a cookie sheet inside. Heat a pan or a griddle to medium heat. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup or ladle, pour batter into pan. When bubbles in the center of the pancake start to burst and the edges look dry, flip over and cook until the bottom is lightly browned. Transfer to the cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Cheese Crackers

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I’ve been experimenting with making food at home that I usually buy, to see what is actually worth making from scratch and what isn’t. This snack is one of those that I think is totally worth it to make from scratch, at home. I didn’t grow up eating lots of snacks, and so I still don’t. I don’t love Lucie snacking too much, though snacks for kids are kind of a situation in our culture. Everywhere we go, most parents bring a large selection of snacks and if I don’t, then my child eats everyone else’s and I have nothing to contribute. Never having been one to go against the tide when I don’t feel that strongly about something, I dutifully pack snacks.

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Cheese crackers are one of Lucie’s favorite snacks, and when I look at the ingredients on packaged crackers (even the organic, pretend-healthy ones) there are so many preservatives! So, I decided to try one of the many recipes out there, and I’m glad to say that they were easy to make and totally worth it! Feel free to experiment with whole wheat/white flour ratios too, and let me know what you think.

Cheese Crackers

Ingredients:

·      6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

·      ¼ cup softened butter

·      ¾ cup flour

·      ½ teaspoon salt

·      1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350F.

2.     Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a dough.

3.     Roll out on a lightly floured surface as thinly as possible, around 1/8” thick. Cut into squares or triangles. Reroll scraps and cut out again. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the crackers if you like.

4.     Transfer to parchment or foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are brown.

*The yield is really dependent on how thin you roll them, so you will get 1-2 cookie sheets full.

adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Pomegranate Glazed Meatballs (Kibbeh T’lbasha)

 

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If you’ve been hanging around these parts, you know may know that my grandma was a huge influence on my life. Born in Egypt, her Jewish family originated in Iraq and Syria, and then she married my grandfather, and moved to his hometown of Beirut. As you can imagine, her cooking borrowed from all of those traditions. This was– and is– wonderful, but it does mean that sometimes when I try to find recipes for some of the dishes she made when I was growing up, I can’t! I don’t know whether my grandma made this dish up, but I have not found a recipe for this anywhere and I can’t find any leads on Google.

This is one of those dishes that is composed of a few simple ingredients, but has a flavor that you just can’t imagine until you try it. The Syrian-style meatballs are mixed with rice flour and hollowed out, then fried until crisp. Then they are sauteed with lemon juice and pomegranate molasses until the are coated with a thick, sour-sweet sauce. I like to serve them over rice but you can also serve them with pita bread.

Pomegranate-Glazed Meatballs (Kibbeh T’lbasha)

6 servings

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

·      1 lb ground beef

·      1 lb rice flour

·      1 tsp kosher salt

·      ¼ cup vegetable oil

Sauce:

·      1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

·      1 tablespoon lemon juice

·      1 tsp ground allspice

·      1 tsp ground cinnamon

·      1 clove garlic, minced

·      1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1.     To make the meatballs, put the ground beef in a food processor and process until smooth. Add rice flour and salt and process for a minute or so, until a smooth pink dough forms.

2.     Roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the ball in your left hand, and use the index finger of your right hand to press it against your left hand, forming a hollow shell. This takes practice! Try to make the shell as thin as possible while not breaking through. If it is getting too dry, add a bit of vegetable oil.

3.     Once you have formed all the meatballs, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs until brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels.

4.     Mix ingredients for the sauce along with ½ cup water. Place meatballs in a large clean sauté pan and pour the sauce over. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Turn meatballs occasionally to coat. Serve.

My grandma had usually finished cooking dinner by around 2pm, and it sat on the stove until dinner time. When I was a kid I had to walk by the kitchen on the way to my bedroom and when there were meatballs, I’d steal one and quickly walk away as I munched. At dinner time my grandma would open the pot and say ” I thought I made more meatballs!” I was a teenager before I realized that she always knew it was me.

There is definitely a learning curve to making this type of meatball, and if there’s enough interest I’ll be glad to make a video tutorial.

 

Sweet Potato, Leek, and Sausage Gratin

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She’s not a looker, but boy is she tasty. This casserole is my absolute favorite fall/winter dish. I’ve been making it for years, and it holds up so well. I love casseroles but really don’t like using canned cream-of-something soup, nor do I always want something super heavy or cheesy. This is a wonderful, healthful, and nutritious dish, and you can even make it with turkey or chicken sausage if you want to lighten it up a bit. The sweet flavor of the apricot nectar goes perfectly with the sausage. You’ll want to make this again and again!

Sweet Potato, Leek, and Sausage Gratin

8 servings

Ingredients:

·      1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

·      1 cup chicken broth

·      1 cup white wine

·      1 cup apricot nectar

·      3 tablespoons butter

·      2 large leeks, sliced (white and pale green parts only)

·      2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

·      2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried

·      ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook sausage in a large skillet until brown and cooked through, breaking up larger pieces with back of spoon, 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage from skillet. Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and add leeks. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove leeks to separate bowl.

2.     While sausage and leeks are cooking, add broth, wine, apricot nectar, and 2 tablespoons of butter to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer until liquid is thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

3.     Arrange half the sliced potatoes in a 9x13x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with half the thyme. Sprinkle with half the cheese (1/4 cup). Top with all the sausage and half the leeks. Cover with remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with remaining thyme. Cover with the rest of the leeks and the remaining cheese.

4.     Pour broth over. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until potatoes are tender and liquid thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

adapted from Bon Appetit