A Recipe for Warm Weather Munching

As the farmers’ markets open and Spring begins to reveal all the luscious yum that can grow from the ground, my appetites invariably change in search of lighter fare.  Sure, soup is still good (especially if it’s cold), but all those lovely green things that are in season just need to get on my plate and get in mah belly.  I discovered on our recent road trip (much to my delight) that my children continue to prefer raw to cooked vegetables (“you know, Mommy, like we eat them at home, crunchy”) and so this weather-driven shift in the kitchen is a happy time for all of us.  Following this instinct has revealed a certain pattern in my cooking, a sort of formula, that seems to work for the whole family and that is endlessly malleable.  Because the ingredients can change, I’m going to call it…

The Varia-bowl

As is our practice here on the pantry, I’m now going to throw a series of general recommendations at you that when I follow them, result in dinner.  For a nutritious and delicious varia-bowl, prepare a grain or noodle, a marinated or cooked green, and chop several other veggies according to your preference.  I always add nuts for crunch and protein and usually either parsley or cilantro for some yum.  Add seasonings to complement the cooked veggie.  Easy, right?

In the picture you can see last night’s varia-bowl.  After a successful dinner at Big Sis’ house, my son was interested in experimenting more with rice noodles, and so this was the base for dinner.  You can see both the buckwheat and the black rice noodles peeking out from under all the green.  I then added spinach namul, chopped raw peppers, chopped snap peas, chopped cilantro, raw cashews, and soy sauce.  It was fabulous crunchy eating.  And everyone enjoyed it, not because everyone here loves each of those items, but because I served them like this. They call this “deconstructed” in high cuisine circles; I call it sanity when dining with twin 5 year olds.  Keeping all of the elements separate makes it much easier to accomodate the various preferences of my crew.  They know they will still be having plenty of veggies, but they can skip one of the them and the ones that they choose can sit on the plate without touching, as this seems to make them undesirable.

The varia-bowl is a lovely little formula, and with a little experimentation with flavor profiles, you can create an endless array of dishes that are the same only in their basic structure.  I began fooling with improvisational ethnic cooking using a chart in the back of Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  If you have a copy or can pick one up at the library, this is a nice place to start to play with different spice and flavoring combinations.  Cooking Light does a summary that has more ethnic variety, but unlike Katzen’s, this list only focuses on spices, does not include vinegars and other flavorings that can be useful.  The flavor combinations I suggested when describing namuls can easily apply here as well.  Not sure what vegetables to try?  Open that fridge.  Start with what you’ve got and what you like.  Slap it on some quinoa, or some brown rice, some farro, or even some oatmeal (yes, many people eat oatmeal with savory foods).  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s endlessly varia-bowl.  Delish.

Pancake Palooza

The picky eater – I imagine every family has one.  I suppose too, that there may be different motivations for picky eating behavior: an attempt to control the environment, an experiment in small scale defiance, genuine aversions to a higher than average number of foods, or it could be that the little angel is actually a supertaster.  A supertaster has more tastebuds than the rest of us, and as a result finds some of the strong flavors that many people enjoy completely overwhelming.  Wow.  So what I am tasting may be totally different from what she is tasting.  What does this have to do with pancakes?  Pancakes are, bar none, my little picky eater’s favorite food.  The only thing she has said she might like better is cake.  And that was a MAYBE.  So pancakes are super important in our culinary landscape.  While I do not allow my daughter’s pickiness to dictate our meal choices (especially at dinner), it seems only fair to make sure that mealtime is unhesitatingly enjoyable for all of us at least some of the time.  Thus our weekend pancake tradition.

So I’ve mentioned before that I consider myself a bit of a pancake pro. I’ve been attempting to increase the nutritional value of my former awesome recipe (which was in obvious need of improvements) and so have been experimenting, searching for the magic mix of ingredients that would achieve light delicious cakiness, earn twin 5 year old approval, and would meet at least a slightly higher nutritional standard. This morning’s version was definitely a major step in the right direction, earning high praise from all around the table. Absolutely delish.  So, in the interest of pancakey goodness everywhere, I thought I’d share.  These particular pancakes are vegan, but I will include dairy ingredients in parentheses for those who aren’t into that… although you could just try them and find out that they’re divine without the animal bits. 🙂  This recipe makes enough pancakes for four enthusiastic breakfast eaters with leftovers to freeze for an easy weekday pancake replay.

FABU VEGAN PANCAKES

  • 1.5c whole wheat flour
  • .5c rolled oats
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1t salt
  • nutmeg to taste
  • 4T oil
  • 1T maple syrup
  • 2 flax eggs (or 2 chicken eggs)
  • 2 c non-dairy milk (2c buttermilk)

Place cast iron skillet in oven at 325 and warm.  In large bowl, combine and stir dry ingredients.  In small bowl, combine eggs and oil.  Pour  egg/oil into dry ingredients.  Add milk one cup at a time, stirring gently and watching the batter for consistency.  If you like thicker pancakes, you may want to use a little less milk.  Stir gently to mix dry with wet.  Let rest for at least 10 minutes.  Drop batter into pre-warmed skillet by 1/4c measure.    If you’re feeling extra decadent drop a few chocolate chips onto the cooking pancake.  It only take a few to make a five year old think something REALLY special is happening.  Watch the edges for firming.  Watch for bubbles.  Flip and cook until just barely cooked through (for more on cast iron pancake technique, look here).  Keep warm in oven because they’re soo much more delicious when warm.  We served ours this morning with sliced strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup.  And our little supertaster was delighted.