puzzles and pancakes in our pajamas

Lazy Saturday mornings are the BEST! We usually brew an extra-large pot of coffee, hang out in our pj’s and lounge. And, sometimes, we don’t get out of our pajamas until late afternoon!

We finished two large puzzles over the holidays.  A 500-piece puzzle of Santa Claus and a 750-piece puzzle of Rockefeller Center decorated for the holidays.  Rockefeller Center was full of people, skating, spectating, and snow falling.  And, the pieces were small, and irregular shaped.  This one took us almost two weeks, and often, we just had to walk away from the table until the next day.  A new day and a new perspective. Pieces were everywhere – all over the kitchen table.   For those two weeks, we ended up setting our table on top of the puzzle.  Oh well, if our table wasn’t covered in puzzle, it would be marker or art projects or homework or crumbs.  I love a good puzzle. Great family time, and everyone can help. Great conversation, relaxation, and a great challenge.  Here’s one of our finished masterpieces…


I had some canned pumpkin left in the fridge, so I whipped up a batch of Martha Stewart’s pumpkin pancakes. Love the spice and the fluffy, moist cakes. I would definitely make them again.

Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

Whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves.

In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients.

Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. (I served mine with butter, powdered sugar and whipped cream since I’m not a fan of maple syrup.) Makes 8 to 10.  Enjoy!

elegance absent and dessert (or breakfast)

I love to cook and be in the kitchen, but I have to admit… I am not an elegant cook or baker. (Ina Garten is my personal favorite.) (And yes, she probably has a supportive team behind the scenes helping to make sure everything looks just right for the camera.) You know the kind. So calm and camera ready, always with great stories of entertaining and lively connections with food. The ones who wear aprons and never get them full of flour or grease. The ones who have mise en place mastered, with everything ready and at the tip of their fingers. The ones who have a spotless kitchen, organized cupboards and countertops clear of clutter.

Nope, that’s not me! As much as I strive to be, my husband will be the first to admit that I am more chaos than elegance in the kitchen. But, I am ok with that. It’s how I roll. My iPhone gets full of flour as I’m searching for recipes, my batter sometimes flies across the room and often, I am pushing my piles of paper aside to make room for cooking. However, I do have support in the kitchen. My husband, who washes the countless dishes that I dirty in my cooking adventures. Or, who picks up the kitchen and countertops in the midst of my chaos. My kids, who love to taste and see. It’s all good!

A new year and new year’s resolutions for 2013.


A simple list – Be healthy.  Be happy.  Be thankful.  And, a new dessert recipe for the family, which uh… incorporates all three resolutions. Be healthy (well, not so much with this recipe. Although, chocolate does have some healthy qualities.) Be happy – always…with family and chocolate. Be thankful – for good dessert, and seconds.  King Arthur Flour’s Fudge Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce.  I’ve swapped the words in the recipe to call it Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge, which fits better with the end product.  A chocolatey waffle dotted with semisweet chocolate chips, topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate fudge sauce.  Amazing.  My favorite part of the recipe is the fudge sauce.  Served warm, it’s runny and easy to drizzle –  more like Hershey’s chocolate syrup, but once on top of the ice cream, the sauce thickens to a fudge consistency.  So delicious! I could seriously eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the refrigerator.

The kids loved this dessert. Thank you King Arthur Flour!  What’s not to love?  Chocolate waffles?!  Breakfast for dessert?!  Chocolate and Fudge?!  Ice cream and waffles?!  We did have some leftovers, so we served up some chocolate waffles for breakfast the next morning.

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Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge
adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe

2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted with 1 cup of milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice.)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, butter and vanilla, and beat until light, about 2 minutes. Blend in buttermilk, then flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

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Bake waffles in a preheated well-greased waffle iron until done (following directions for your own waffle iron). Serve with the ice cream of your choice and chocolate sauce (recipe follows). Waffles can be served immediately, or wrapped in plastic wrap and served the next day. Warm them in a toaster oven if you wish.

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Chocolate Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup and milk or half-and-half. Stir to blend. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add butter and vanilla, stirring until butter melts. Cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup.

Serve warm or at room temperature; this sauce reheats easily in a glass cup in your microwave.


mixed-berry dutch baby

A Dutch Baby pancake, a German pancake, a Bismarck or a Dutch puff – never mind what you call it, it’s a nice change from our regular Sunday morning pancake ritual.

Interesting how the dutch baby puffs up and browns inside the cast iron skillet. Be careful not to peek inside the oven too many times or your dutch baby may collapse prematurely. The result is a puffed pancake, browned and a bit crispy on the bottom and the edges – similar to a fresh popover or Yorkshire pudding.

The berries and a light sprinkle of powdered sugar perfects this dish with just the right amount of tart and sweet. This dish is surprisingly light, but also very filling. Also, don’t be surprised…it does collapse shortly after you remove the skillet from the oven.

Mixed-Berry Dutch Baby
Adapted from Food & Wine / Grace Parisi
Serves 6-8

3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 cups raspberries
2 cups blackberries
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425° and heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the finely grated lemon zest, sugar and salt until combined. Add the flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1 cup each of the raspberries and blackberries.

Melt the butter in the skillet and add the batter, spreading the fruit evenly. Bake in the center of the oven for about 22 minutes, until the edges are browned and puffed and the center is lightly browned in spots. Transfer the skillet to a trivet and dust the Dutch Baby with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with the remaining fresh berries.


kaiserschmarrn with peaches & blackberries

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have an intense love of any kind of fresh fruit. In fact, it’s very rare that I serve a meal without some sort of fruit. My favorites are the berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries.

Kaiserschmarrn. Traditionally prepared as an Austrian dessert, but also great for a lazy Sunday breakfast. A light pancake made from sweet batter and browned in a large skillet. Cut into bite-size pieces and finish by caramelizing with butter, sugar and confectioner’s sugar.

OK, I won’t lie on this one… it’s a little bit challenging. And, I’m not sure we mastered it. I say we because I had to borrow my husband to help with the “flipping” of the kaiserschmarrn. In the end, it was a success, and made for a fabulous Sunday brunch. I think for now, the kids still prefer their traditional pancakes and maple syrup. However, I’m sold on this one. It just takes a bit more effort.

Loved the modest tart of the lemon zest paired with the blackberries and ever-so-slight caramelized nectarines (which I subbed for the peaches). All that tossed with the sweet, tender pancake was perfect.

Kaiserschmarrn with Peaches & Blackberries

Adapted from Food & Wine / Alice Waters
Serves 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 firm, ripe medium peaches—peeled, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

1 pint blackberries

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the peaches, 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and the lemon juice and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the peaches to a plate and clean the skillet.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, milk, egg yolks, zest and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar until smooth. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar until the whites are glossy. Fold the whites into the batter until no streaks remain.

In the skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the batter, cover and cook over moderately low heat until it is golden on the bottom and the top is beginning to set, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a large plate. Carefully invert the skillet over the pancake. Using oven mitts, flip the skillet and the plate to return the pancake to the pan. Cook until the underside of the pancake is set and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Using a wooden or heatproof plastic spatula, cut the pancake in the skillet into 2-inch squares. Dot with the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, sprinkle with the 1/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar and top with the peaches. Cook, tossing, until the pancake is caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the blackberries and toss until they are heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer the kaiserschmarrn to a platter, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.


a follow-up to crêpes sucrées


Just a follow up to my last post… I had to share this picture – such better representation after a second try… and a Saturday morning special le petit-déjeuner (breakfast) request from my two boys, Brendan & Dane… love that they already dig the divine délicatesse.  Since we’re not in France, I’ll bring as much French as I can to them (until someday, when we can do the real deal…)

Forget the toast and cereal. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, we have more time to be cultured in our kitchen.  Crêpes it is.  I’m amazed at how filling these can be, as they appear to be so delicate and light.  And, what a great way to start the day.  mmm.

I don’t mind the mess I make getting these ready.  Jeff and I often joke that I create all the dishes.  Maybe. But at least he helps out.  Regardless, we constantly have dishes drying on the counter and dirty ones in the sink.  And, we run our dishwasher at least once a day.  It’s a never ending cycle.  I envy the chefs on the cooking shows.  They have all their ingredients measured and chopped for them.  They cook with the best cookware and with high end appliances.  Their food always has the best presentation.  And, they never seem to have to clean up their kitchen messes.

Back to my proud photo – here’s my crêpe with blueberries and confectioner’s sugar.  Served with a cup of illy café au lait on the side.  Heureux le petit-déjeuner pour vous!

Oh, and thanks to my sister (who loves and appreciates cooking and fine food just as I do), I will be making crêpes in my very own crêpe pan very soon!  I got a birthday gift card to Sur La Table and had so much fun browsing their site for kitchen goods.  I can’t wait to use my new pan!  And, thanks again, sis!!  (I also bought a wooden crêpe turner, a scalloped ceramic baker and a cheese plane.)  Au revoir…

p.s.  thanks to babelfish for such a great translation service.

crêpes sucrées

Sweet crepes.  Amazing.  And, not too hard to make.  I was inspired by this Williams Sonoma blog post.  The sweet batter is pretty versatile and can be filled or finished with just about anything – fruit, chocolate, whipped creme, powdered sugar… the possibilities are really endless.

I would like to make a blueberry cheesecake crepe one of these days.  But, for my first attempt, I stayed pretty simple.  It took me a couple tries to get the technique, timing and perfect browning.  Flipping them was a little bit of a challenge given the type of pan I used.  Since I didn’t have a crepe pan like this or this, I used one of our Calphalon hard anodized non-stick frying pans.  I’m known to improvise in the kitchen – work with what I have.

I also didn’t follow the directions.  At least the part that said you should refrigerate the batter for an hour before using.  Oh well.  I was in a hurry.  And, I don’t have too much patience.  They were still really good.

Sweet Crepes (adapted from Williams Sonoma)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

Melted unsalted butter for greasing pan

Prepare crepes according to the directions below. Serves 4.

Add ingredients to the blender

To make the crepe batter, in a blender, combine water, milk, flour, sugar and vanilla. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. Check for shells and then add the eggs to the blender.

Blend until smooth

Blend the mixture until very smooth and free of lumps. Pour the batter into a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Grease the pan

Using a pastry brush dipped in melted butter, lightly grease the entire surface of a 9-inch crepe pan or nonstick fry pan and place over medium heat.

Swirl the batter in the pan

Fill a 1/4-cup ladle with batter to just below the lip. Holding the pan at an angle above the burner, pour the batter into the pan close to one edge. Quickly swirl the pan so the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. This should happen very fast since the batter will start to cook upon contact with the hot pan.

Cook the crepe

Cook, shaking the pan from time to time, until the crepe begins to bubble, the bottom is lightly browned and the batter looks set, about 1 minute. 

Flip the crepe

Use a small offset spatula to lift the edge of the crepe, then carefully grasp the edge and quickly flip the crepe over in the pan. Cook until the second side is slightly browned and set, about 10 seconds more.

Stack the crepes.

Transfer the finished crepe to a plate. Repeat to cook the remaining batter, greasing the pan with more butter each time. Stack the cooked crepes on the plate between squares of wax paper.

Fill with your favorite fillings and fold crepe to enclose ingredients and/or fold crepe into triangle shape and top with your favorite toppings and/or roll fillings inside crepe.  However you like them.  Enjoy!

Next time, I will try making savory crepes – perhaps a new dinner menu item…

>dee’s buttermilk pancakes

Jeff’s mom made these when we were home for Easter.  (Thanks for sending the recipe, Dee.)  We made them for our traditional Sunday breakfast this week.  I (of course) added fresh fruit and whipped cream, as you’ll see in the photo.  I like to go all out when I’m eating my pancakes, and since I don’t at all care for maple syrup, I grab the whipped cream and strawberry syrup.  The fruit is always a must as well.

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening (I use butter)
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ cup buttermilk
2 eggs

Mix sugar, shortening, and eggs. Add flour, salt and soda mixture alternately with buttermilk. Mix all with wire whip or spoon. Do not use mixer. Make pancakes on med-high heat griddle.

Note: Mixture will be thick but if too thick may add a little more buttermilk.

>sunday morning tradition

>Our Sunday morning breakfast tradition is almond pancakes, whipped cream, fresh berries, syrup, sausage, eggs, juice, milk & a proper cup of coffee.

Here’s a picture of Brendan making the pancakes on his 9th birthday. He was determined to grow his hair out until his birthday…

The almond pancakes are the best. Jeff’s specialty… Sometimes we serve the pancakes with chocolate chips on the side. Other times we add bananas to the batter. They really are quite simple. Any pancake mix will do… Bisquick, Krusteaz, Dakota Maid, Hungry Jack. Make pancakes as package says, but also add about 2 teaspoons of almond extract for about 15-20 pancakes – we are big pancake eaters at our house, so we usually buy a bulk package. And, we all love our almond flavoring so much (wish I could find that in bulk.)

>scandinavian almond cake

>Mmmm… good… celebrating my Norwegian heritage with this one. Now, I must learn to make lefse.

You need a special pan for this one. I had Jeff get mine at a Scandinavian gift shop (even though the pan itself was made and manufactured in Germany – it’s called rehruckenform, and looks like a ridged log.)

Note to self – you must follow recipe and be sure it stays in the oven long enough. First time I made it, I thought it was golden brown on the edges, but it was not baked in the middle. Ugh. I was so frustrated.

But, I am stubborn and determined, so I baked another one about a week later. This time, left in the oven for about an additional 15 minutes and it turned out much better. All was gobbled up within a couple of days.

Scandinavian Almond Cake

Spray pan with cooking spray.

1 1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
2/3 c. milk

Beat these ingredients well.

Add the following:
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 stick margarine (I was told I must use margarine and not butter, but at some point, I may try butter. I’m not much a fan of vegetable oil spread.)

Mix everything well.

Spread in prepared pan. (Before adding batter, you can also sprinkle sliced almonds on the bottom…) Bake at 350 degrees for 50 – 60 minutes. Edges must be golden brown.

Cool in pan before removing. Cake will break if removed too soon. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or make almond frosting/glaze to drizzle on top. (Check out the almond puff pastry recipe, which has an almond frosting that would work.)

Cut and serve.

>simple caramel rolls

>My kids love waking up to caramel rolls when they visit my parents. And, on the weekends, I’ll throw a batch together for a special morning treat.

This is an easy recipe – you just need to remember to get it ready the night before, so they’re ready to pop in the oven the next morning.

Package of frozen cinnamon roll dough (I usually use Rhode’s)

Caramel topping for rolls

2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 – 2 cups heavy whipping cream
(Mix and spread in bottom of large jelly roll pan)

Place frozen dough on topping and leave lightly covered overnight. Rolls will rise by morning.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 minutes, then turn pan upside down and let rolls fall onto a cookie sheet or other surface to serve them.