The World’s Fluffiest Pancakes

Since i wasn’t too happy with the ricotta pancakes i made the other day and i was looking for a nice pancake, i found this recipe for the world’s fluffiest pancakes! i followed the recipe to a tee, using skim milk and NO melted butter in the batter.  YUM! ill just post photos and hopefully they’ll speak for themselves. all i can say is: TRY THEM!!!!!!!!




Thomas’s has nothing on me!

so, i recently discovered that english muffins can be MADE!  i assumed they were like “american cheese” – they just came from the nameless factory: processed, packaged, and with no way to replicate them at home.

So, after debating between Alton Brown’s recipe and this other one i found on cookstr, i went with the cookstr one for a few reasons.  1) because i don’t have metal rings, metal cookie cutters, used pineapple cans, leftover tuna cans, beer cans… (what can i say?? i’m a prompt recycler), and 2) because the reviews likened Altons to pancakes.  i’m sure thats yummy, but i don’t think “pancake” when i think of english muffin.  maybe ill try that after i have some beer cans to use (hey – its the most likely can to be used within the next few days!)

initially, everything went well. then, i realized that after i started kneading, that i forgot to add the melted butter!!!!!!!! i immediately melted 2 Tbsp butter, and added it to the dough.  i tried to add it into a pocket and fold it in without spilling it everywhere. unsuccessfully. my hands and the counter got covered in butter! now that i think about it, i cut the recipe in half. except for that butter. (note: it didnt have a negative effect on the flavor ill tell you what!)

now came the real issue. i covered my dough, i greased the bowl (super important – don’t skip that step! i’ve done it before. disaster.), covered it in plastic, and (since i don’t have a designated warm area in apartment, i filled a skillet with hot-ish water and placed my bowl, rising dough ball, and plastic covering all in the sink in the warm skillet. it kept the bowl warm and i didn’t have to waste any gas to leave my oven on. well, this hurdle overcome, i come back to my sink after an hour and: it didn’t rise. not even a little. of course, ive realized that things never rise for me.  i’m not sure whether this is because my yeast is dead? or that recipes somehow dont work for me.  i’m guessing its because my yeast is dead. will this effect the taste? answers to follow!

all other issues aside, i continued with my recipe and: other than trying to figure out how to get that nice line down the center of my muffins…success!!

Lessons Learned:

1. i need to figure out a way to test whether my yeast is alive or not before i attempt another disasterous bread product. this is 2 in a row (no, i won’t share how horrible my challah was…) where my finished product was dense and lacked the air pockets i’m used to in my baked goods. i know (thanks Chef patterson!) that there are 3 sources of leavening: steam, chemical (i.e. baking powder), and yeast. lacking the steam expansion (like used in souffles), the chemical expansion (like in a good muffin), i relied on yeast. clearly, i relied on dead yeast. i wonder if that has anything to do with keeping them in the cabinet next to my oven/stove…?

2. any time a recipe tells me to knead dough on a floured surface, i’m going to ignore it and knead the dough with my hands and the counter covered in cooking spray! it was SO EASY TO KNEAD with butter everywhere! if you think about it, it makes sense. and its way easier to keep your hands full of grease than to keep it full of flour. after some “brief research on the internet” (insert brief and laughable reference to bob morris here) i found out that while not commonly called for in recipes, other people know about this toO!  (ok really, if king arthur even admits its preferable to flour, i can’t be wrong here!!)

3. mmmm that leftover lemon curd is FABULOUS on english muffins! why haven’t i tried that before!?

lemon ricotta pancakes for a sunny sunday!

okay okay lisa, duely noted! i know everything is narrative – but thats the beauty of it! i write like i talk! anyways, i was just too excited to have “someone” to type to that i went a bit story-crazy. its like having someone to gchat with when no one is online!  however, ill get right into it on this one.  since i tried those ricotta fritters yeterday i had 3/4 of a container of ricotta. but what to do with it!? i don’t know if anyone has ever thought “oh ill use that this week” and then 3 weeks later had 3/4 of a container of MOLD to throw out. in an effort to NOT let this happen, and also in anticipation of spring (and the convenient location of a bag of lemons on my container), i went with:

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes:

I should note here, that i also made my own lemon curd – the same recipe i’ve been making for years: from cooking light, and other than the calories from sugar, totally guilt-free (unlike my pizza from papa johns i just finished; side note to papa johns: if you continue to give me 50% off discounts every time the Washington Wizards score over 100 points, i will continue to order from you!)!  the only lessons learned from this recipe is: when the recipe involves eggs cooking over the stove, and it says stir constantly, it means DONT WALK AWAY EVEN FOR A SECOND! becauase then the whole eggs in your lemon curd will cook, leaving you with chunks of egg white in your curd. yum? right. no. thats what strainers are for. thank goodness. but still, ew!

On to the pancakes: i followed this recipe to the T! except that i used freshly grated nutmeg from a fancy nutmeg grinder (okay okay its from McCormick and they sell it in the spice isle with whole nutmeg already loaded…sue me!) and estimated the amount. all in all, i might have used a bit less than was called for.  other important notes: i used fat free milk (lactose free as is my custom), and WHOLE milk ricotta from weggies. really, i would’ve used the part skim kind if it were in my fridge but since it wasn’t (see reference below to 3/4 used containers of ricotta), i just went with what i had.

the result: EXTREMELY moist pancakes. i almost didn’t think they were done, and had a devil of atime trying to flip them over! though the sides browned, they were so hard to flip that when i tried, they got all funky looking and fell apart a bit in the pan. good thing it was just for me!  the taste….was….not worth the fat and calories. sure i still ate 2, but if they were as good as i thought they’d be, i would have eaten 6. no joke! i’m a binge-pancake-eater!  the first one with jelly…the second with syrup…the second with only butter…oh, wait, what was i doing?  so right, the texture was almost custardy on the inside – pretty unique! but i wasn’t crazy about the nutmeg. i think it would have been better with ONLY lemon and ricotta. add strawberries. and whipped cream. theeeere we go! thats what i want next time.

Lessons Learned: 

1. nutmeg isn’t that good in baked goods unless cinnamon is also involved. i guess i didn’t know that…i’ve put it in beschamels (oh come on, you know, that white sauce that is the base of yummy mac and cheeses?) before, and i’ve heard its good with dark green veggies. unfortunately, these pancakes, and other baked goods, do NOT fall into those categories! its possible ill try a lemon/mint or lemon/basil if i’m feeling REALLY crazy. but not until my herbs are planted for the season!

2. ricotta isn’t worth the fat! i couldn’t even taste the ricotta in there. its a textural additive only. and really, next time i’m going fat free. in fact, i have a fabulous recipe for stuffed shells with fat free COTTAGE cheese. i’ve tried with both cottage cheese, and with ricotta cheese. the cottage cheese is better!  and healthy! and cheeeesy….

3. lemon curd can make sub-standard pancakes FABULOUS

4. if a recipe calls for berries on top, it probably needs it. mistake on my part for not getting some strawbs or making a fruity sauce.

dinner guests

so i invited my friend larry over for dinner and since the last time he came over, he hated my french onion soup and whatever else i made. it was just too salty and adding water totally made it great. too bad hes too picky and wouldn’t touch it! talk about wasted hours…  so this time, i needed to have something that could be done ahead of time but that he could eat. after rejecting curry, grits, tomato soup, meatloaf, encheladas, and lasagna (and no comment on crabcakes, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, an burritos (for future reference!)), i went with crabcakes because i know he orders those sometimes, and because its pretty hard to mess up.

i made this recipe from the Oceanaire Seafood Room (in dc) by the letter and it was pretty good.  of course, larry didn’t say anything about it being good or bad, but he at least ate most of it.  paige ate 2 and said they were really good (yay!) but she could have been being polite.  i ate one too, and thought they were great, but i’m not really interested in leftover crabcakes. i ended up throwing out at least $8 worth of crab…i should really consider price when i make meals for other people!

anyways, i did end up adding extra old bay to the mix (at least an extra 1/2 tsp) and thought it could’ve stood to add more.  i also added panko breadcrumbs to the top of the cakes before putting into the oven, and i liked that extra crunch on top (thanks to the melted butter!), but it needed to be eaten with a fork it was so moist! i do also remember needing to cook it longer than directed…at least 5 minutes longer, but i also had brown-and-serve rolls in the oven at the same time. THESE were so necessary for eating with crabcakes! garlic bread (my initial idea) would have been a good choice too.

in my opinion though, while the crabcakes were good, the REAL treat was the corn side dish.  i made this sweet corn maque choux and BOY was that  i ended up using 1 can of corn, a half yellow onion, diced, maybe a quarter red pepper, diced, and 2 stocks of clerey, and added half heavy cream, half fat free half and half.  i think in the future doing half skim milk and the other half half and half (fun phrase no?!), will be better. this definately benefited from tasting while i was making it – i added a TON of cayenne! i think its about what the recipe called for – but it did catch in the back of my throat – VERY nice with the crabcakes and buttered rolls.  THIS is is a must-make-again!

finally, i finished out the meal with banana cake – WOW! what a KEEPER!! this cake was fabulous – not too sweet, but so moist and delicate in a way that banana bread is not.  this is light whereas banana bread is denser. i will be making this with my leftover bananas from now on! unfortunately though i poured the glaze all over the cake.  i did use a bit of heavy cream but i really just ended up adding skim milk and mixing until it got the consistency that i needed to pour.   in the future, a cream cheese glaze would be IDEAL! i was borderline going to do this but didn’t have time to soften the cream cheese. live and learn! i think almost MELTING the cream cheese and adding a cup of powdered sugar with some vanilla, would be perfect. even adding a stick of butter (to make it a frosting – wow yum and wow bad for you ahaha), would be delish.

my first post!

Day of of my blog, and i’m 99% sure i’ll forget all about this within a week and completely lose interest.  HOWEVER, i spent so much time today messing around in the kitchen and i really feel like i’ve learned a lot from it!  since i have experience with experimenting, learning, and promptly forgetting, why not try to keep track this time!  and, not in archived gmail folders with so many titles that it would be impossible to remember.  at least this way (presumably) ill be able to track my lessons-learned based on tags!  (thanks twitter – my three months of fun with you have taught me nothing other than how to use hashtags #really?)

anyways, today, since i woke up feeling pretty hungry and my english muffin didn’t exactly satisfy things…i made the chicken breast i started marinating last night.

Mexican Chicken Marinade (although really, what about this makes it mexican???):

I mixed together a handful of chopped parsley (beautiful, but did it add flavor? who knows?!), a squeeze of my already-minced garlic-in-a-bottle, a heavy (and equally sized) splash of both olive oil and cider vinegar, a few squeezes of lime juice from that wonderful bottle in my fridge, a dose of pre-made curry spicy that i bought and never opened before from target (this turned out to be SO key – i thought i disliked curry for the longest time and really, its what gives my chicken a nice fajita taste!!), a healthy punch of salt, as much black pepper as was in the end of my container, and a nice sprinkle of onion powder.  were there more ingredients involved? i have NO idea. honestly, i got the hankering after my third bud light lime. so is life!

I added the chicken to a bag and let it chill and mellow.  the piece of chicken i ate from this marinade yesterday was fabulous – i just cut it up into the strips i wanted for my “fajita” and put it straight into a hot pan (without the non-stick coating so i could get that nice sear).  they chicken was probably in the pan less than 8 minutes and man was it juicy and hot and delish! i melted a line of pre-shredded mexican cheese down the center (the 2% kind – really, remind me to NEVER buy this again. i just use more cheese anyways, since i don’t get that yummy cheese oil taste), and dolloped SUCH a ridiculous mound of sour cream on top that i’m glad my only photos have been snapped AFTER making/eating – otherwise i’d be super embarrassed. not that people will read this though! (and for the record, mixing “light” and “fat free” sour cream (the kind in the red container) is my favorite way to enjoy sour cream now.  the regular fat free has become unacceptable to me. 😦   mom…i blame this sour cream snobbery on you!).  okay…unnecessarily long story made longer: rolled that all up with my strips of chicken and WOW. i barely even noticed what was going on with jersey shore.  WOW! SUDDEN REVELATION: the chicken i ate last night was so yummy and delicious, and the second one, from this morning, just wasn’t as good. differences: i added a few drops of LIQUID SMOKE!!! to the first chicken, and made it in a pan on the stove. second chicken: FORGOT liquid smoke, and baked it in the oven! i used my fancy schmancy thermometer to let me know when it was at 155 degrees at the thickest part of the chicken and 3/4 of the chicken was mega overcooked.

Lessons learned:

1. i should use curry more often, and not be afraid of it. it gives this nice smokey flavor that i equate with yummy mexican restaurants. if i had the capability to make things at home, i’d probably save a ton of money!

2. buy cumin. i bet thats really good too!

3. dont hesitate to use liquid smoke! literally – it makes things taste grilled. its easy. and even if Chef (brian patterson) from my cooking class thinks is gross and unnatural…i took organic chemistry and i won’t forget! its just literally: smoke, condensed in a glass tube! it literally IS liquidized, smoke!

4 pound the chicken out. yeah, its super annoying, but is it more annoying than half of it being overcooked? i guess it depends on the day.  otherwise, cook on top of the stove! that way i can at least get the little end off the direct heat. thats what the stove is for! temperature control! ovens just suck.

Okay, so after this, i tried the chicken but put the rest in the fridge for later. THEN i decided that i needed to use up my ground chicken in the fridge.  after making sure i coudln’t have to actually EAT a pound of ground chicken today, i decided to make 2 kinds of meatballs and freeze them all for my eating pleasure later. i considered doing the normal italian style, and am regretting that i didn’t make any. after all, what can i eat buffalo chicken meatballs with? not pasta and tomato sauce!  so, the two flavors i decided on: buffalo chicken and thai green curry.

First, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs: i made these for the superbowl, but with some variations.  that recipe had me using a stick of butter in the sauce and baking the meatballs in the oven with all that butter and sauce.  i thought they were slightly overcooked, kindof mushy (no texture) and all in all unimpressive. this is the recipe i followed that day.

in this version, since i was splitting 1lb chicken for 2 types of meatballs, i added a skant 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, the whole package of ground chicken (1 lb), 1 egg, a nice bit of salt, and 1/4 of a yellow onion to 1 bowl.  mixed everything up, and then divided the mixture in half, putting the other half into the bowl for the thai flavor.  to the buffalo flavor, i also added a good handful of fresh chopped parsley (pretty, and because i had it!), a squeeze of garlic from my pre-chopped tube, a sprinkle of onion powder, pepper (not as much as i wanted to but i ran out – seriously, this never happens!), a half-rib of celery, minced, and probably close to 1/4 cup of hot sauce.  i mixed all that up, rolled into 1 inch balls, and put onto my baking sheet (sprayed with pam – not sure why i got paranoid!), and drizzled more hot sauce on top.

then i moved on to the thai flavor (below), and eventually put the balls into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, upping the temperature to “broil” for 5 at the end.  for the record, this did not work. next time, i will absolutely just spray a non-stick pan with pam and give the meatballs a sear first. mushy meatballs with no crust…yeck.  at least i was making these to freeze, so ill be able to heat them/give them texture at the same time.

Thai Chicken Meatballs: i’d been meaning to make thai chicken curry over rice ALL WEEK! but, the mexican chicken just turned out so good i didnt save any for this.  so, with my ground chicken/egg/breadcrumb/salt/onion mixture in a new (non-hot-saucy) bowl, i added in maybe a tsp of lemongrass in the tube (i had been meaning to pick this up at the store – in the produce isle – for the longest time.  how convenient!! i wish i had gotten 1 of every herb offered! not only is this more likely to put it last minute into a meal, but seriously – where do you get fresh lemongrass from?? not wegmans. and certainly not harris teeter! plus, its so fibrous and tough, i mean how finicky. at least, i assume food network is right when they talk about lemongrass in this way – funny how they jam things into your brain so when you remember nothing else about lemongrass, you know you have to knock it with your knife first to loosen up the fibers!  okay, tangent finished.)

i also added about a 1st of green curry paste (from that little jar), 1 green onion, chopped up into little bits, 1 tsp chopped ginger, and maybe that was it? i mixed everything together and put a bit of it in the pan to cook it so i could try it.  super flavorful! almost TOO much flavor!!!  once i rolled it into balls and put it onto the baking sheet, i drizzled some light, unsweetened coconut milk over the top.  (although i made a green curry sauce for later, when i eat my meatballs with rice! that was taken and adapted from this recipe: i used the rest of the can of coconut milk, 2 squeezes (maybe 1 1/2 tsp) lemongrass, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 ts minced ginger (oh i love the convenience of ginger pre-minced in the jar, just like garlic! its changed my palate!), 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp green curry paste from that jar again.  i whisked that all together, added in another sliced green onion for color and fun and come on – because i had it, and then moved to a glad container to save in the fridge until i was ready for it. i think i added in a splash of water from the faucet too – because the recipe i adapted this from called for it, and i guess thinking it over, once i heat it up, i’m sure some of it will evaporate and concentrate the flavors. and boy are those intense!    now in all fairness, i dont know how this turned out. hopefully once i try it with my bowl of jasmine rice and sauce and meatballs, ill remember about this and report back so i can record my lessons learned! for now, those were

Lessons Learned:

1. always brown the meatballs first even if i’m going to bake it. the broiler just didnt do the job and i don’t like mushy meatballs!

2. the onions, green onions, and celery were really inportant in their respective meatballs. the onion give moistness and would probably cover any over-cooking mistake, and they all give important texture. mushy meatballs? eh. maybe thats how they’re supposed to be but ground meat is new to me! so there!

3. the butter in the buffalo meatballs wasn’t really necessary. i’m sure it adds flavor. i would say if anything, add butter to a pan to brown first. its not necessary in the sauce and just makes it more unhealthy!

and finally, the last new thing i made today were:

Ricotta Donuts

i thought these would be fabulous becuase 1 i love vanilla, 2 i love ricotta, and 3 i had these AMAZING ricotta filled donuts at Rustico in november that i’ve been thinking about recreating, and 3, i haven’t really ever had experience in frying things.  so, the recipe told me to heat 2 inches of oil up. i DO have a fryer that i wanted to try to make some hanukkah donuts and frickles in, but never did.  so instead, obviously (what??? haha) i heated up ONE inch of oil in my normal spaghetti pot.  i turned on the heat in the back burner and attached my meat thermometer (not the fancy digital one, but the normal kind, has a clip) to the side of the pot.  obviously, i didn’t check to see whether my thermometer even went UP to 375 degrees (it didnt) and even more obviously, the plastic coating completely melted around the thermometer in the hot oil. imagine that…plastic melting…oie vey. so, i guestimated at the temperature through no discernable practice, and dropped 2 fritters into the oil, set my timer to 3 minutes, and waited, flipping the donuts over once things looked dark.  i drained over paper towels and a cookie cooling rack, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and then ate with a fork.

the results were…..disappointing. maybe it was the ricotta just not being a good enough quality? but really, the better the quality, the less you can taste ricotta! these just tasted bland, and not sweet at all. i’m sure adding a drizzle of honey would have been great, but it would’ve still needed cinnamon or something. jelly maybe? lemon curd would have been delicious for SURE. i might make that in a little bit. boy is my cooking-light lemon curd recipe amazing!  anyways, i went back and added a full tsp of lemon zest to the batter (which was REALLY really key and made a huge difference), and also a least 2 extra Tbsp of sugar.  i guess at this point in time its important to mention that i only made 1/3 of the batter.  1 egg, etc.

so at this point, rather than heating the oil back up and deep frying things aka giving myself a heart attack, i just poured a few Tbsp into the bottom of my 6 inch skillet and let that heat up. then i dumped the entirety of the batter into the pan to cook, pancake style. of course, when the bottom got browned, i flipped the pancake and promptly splashed hot oil onto my neck and face. fun! anyways, i took teh panacke off and sprinkled powdered sugar on top. ate with a fork. it was okay.

i think this would be better if it were made into a lemon ricotta pancake? however, i like that tangy pancake taste better than this fritter taste. maybe if it were butter and not oil in the pan? i think i just like butter better than a gross fried taste! unsuccessful!

Lessons Learned:

1. in the past two recipes, doing a test-cook-and-taste trial was key! the thai meatballs i cooked and tasted and found out 1 that i liked that texture of searing on the stove, but also that i DIDNT need to add more flavor! i will usually cumulatively add and add and add, and won’t necessarily haev enough at the end. this was just overboard! for the donuts, i needed a TON of flavor to add! i would have been VERY upset to fry up a full batch of fritters that were barely sweet or edible.

2. THIS is why testing recipes is key! how disappointing would it be if i just made this for company?! or for an occasion?! ew!

3. not all recipes work. i did not like this and won’t make it again!