Happy Sunday! Here’s a food-inspired minimalist lego creation by Luca: “I thought it would be interesting to create items in the least amount of pieces. A whole breakfast in 8 pieces! Enjoy!”
……. and while you’re enjoying this brunch creation, browse these brunch-y links from the archive. [Geez — I’m getting hungry, I think I’m in dire need of some shakshuka! :)]
Here’s an easy little cooking project to start the new year that will sweeten up your pantry: old-fashioned apple cider syrup. It’ got all the cozy, sweet-tangy flavor of apples wrapped up in a gorgeously glossy, caramel-colored, drizzle-y package.
We love apple cider syrup as an alternative to the usual sweeteners because it satisfies our sugary cravings while packing in a lot of rich flavor. We’ve been loving this as an accompaniment to oatmeal and on our pancakes (mixed with maple syrup or on it’s own). It’s delicious swirled into yogurt or as a sugar substitute in our favorite muffin recipes. We’ve used it to sweeten our granola and have even called it into service in a sweet- sour reduction (alongside dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar) for pork chops. As I write this I’m imagining an apple-cider-salted-caramel dipping sauce for apples or pears, and apple cider syrup dappled on one of Anya’s Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins or brushed over the top of a tarte tatin. This would be a great foil for a sharp, salty cheese on a cheese plate on tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich. I’m officially drooling now!
Apple Cider Syrup
This one is so easy, I don’t think it even qualifies as a recipe. Buy a jug of apple cider. Bring the cider to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer it slowly until you have a thick syrup. It will take anywhere from one to two hours. You don’t have to hover over it, but do give it stir every 20 minutes or so to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.
That’s all there is to it. Starting with 8 cups of cider you will end up with about one to two cups of syrup depending if you want something the consistency of honey, or more like jam. It will keep in your refrigerator in a well sealed container for at least a month.
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Emily from Fuss Free Cooking who wrote the post below for her blog and is generously sharing it with us, is one of my favorite bloggers. Almost everything she puts up on her blog I love and want to try out. That might be because her cooking philosophy is a lot like mine. She is Malaysian and lives in Australia (both amazing foodie countries in my opinion) and takes some pretty mouth-watering photos. If you have a moment, do check out her blog. She just posted a Panko Crusted Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich recipe which is genius and looks ridiculously yummy! Emily seems to be on a comfort food roll and I don’t want her to stop.
The recipe below caught my attention and I thought it would be a perfect one to share on our little blog. Take two things children (and adults) love – pancakes and mac & cheese and combine them! Why didn’t I think of this one? These could work very well for brunch, a birthday party or a school lunch. I cannot wait to try them out.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pancakes by Emily at Fuss Free Cooking
When I think of comfort food, I cannot help but to think of mac ‘n’ cheese. Oh mac ‘n’ cheese, you are so full of calories and yet I’m unable to turn you down! Under a layer of crusty burnt cheese lies the creamy and rich melted cheese and macaroni – how can one turn down such a wonderful meal?
Even though mac ‘n’ cheese is perfect as it is, every so often, I feel the need to shake things up a little. Hence the following equation:-
Mac ‘n’ Cheese + Pancake Batter = Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pancakes
The only tweak to the original recipe is that I’ve added some frozen mixed vegetables. This is mainly to add color to the pancakes and perhaps also to balance the starchiness of the pancakes. If you’re not a veggie person, finely chopped ham or bacon could compliment the pancakes too.
(tweaked slightly from “Eat Me” by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno)
Makes about 14 3-inch round pancakes
Neutral flavoured cooking oil (i.e. canola, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil) to grease the pan
3 cups plain/vanilla flavoured pancake batter
1 cup cooked elbow macaroni (or any small pasta), tossed with olive oil and warmed
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar
A handful of frozen mixed vegetables, blanched in boiling hot water & drained
1. Set the pan over moderate heat. Pour a thin layer of oil in the pan.
2. When the pan is hot (not smoking hot), adjust the heat to low. Drop the batter in 2-inch circles (it’s going to expand to about a full 3-inch circle).
3. Arrange the pasta and mixed vegetables over the batter and only add the cheese when the bubbles appear on the batter.
4. Using a spatula, turn the pancakes quickly and tap gently to make the pancake uniform in thickness.
5. Cook until the cheese is melted and golden (which takes about 1-2 minutes). Repeat step 2 to 5 for the remaining batter.
6. Serve macaroni-side up with butter and warm maple syrup or ketchup.
I am not really fond of baking. I wish I was but somehow most of my creations end up “not-so-good.” It might be because I don’t really fancy measuring when I cook. Nonetheless, since having Ria I have been baking more regularly. It is easier to involve children in baking (maybe, because the end product is more desirable to kiddie tastebuds?). Measuring is fun with kids and teaches them not only cooking, but basic math as well.
We took a stab at a clafouti with strawberries (traditionally made with cherries) recently and it was a pretty simple and turned out OK. The batter is like a pancake batter which is then poured over fresh fruit and baked till puffed and golden. Easier than pancakes – which made me think this could be made for brunch/breakfast with whipped cream and possibly even syrup since it isn’t very sweet. The addition of ice-cream or some cream fraiche would make this a divine dessert. Perhaps, peaches and plums are next.
Strawberry Clafouti – adapted from Sunset Magazine
As easy to make as a pancake (and less work), this is a classic French dessert from the Limousin region. The fruit rises to the top, leaving a soft layer whose texture falls somewhere between custard and cake. Ria made me add some chocolate chips to half of it….for some of us, dessert must have chocolate!!
Serves 4 to 6
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I might add a little more next time I make this)
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar (for dusting on top)
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 2-qt. baking or gratin dish with the butter. Toss strawberry halves with cornstarch until evenly coated, then arrange berries, cut side down, in bottom of dish and set aside.
2. In a blender, whirl eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt 15 seconds. Pour batter over strawberries. (We just used a whisk – more fun for kids and easier clean-up)
3. Bake until puffed, golden brown, and set in the center, about 50 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
On Sundays if we don’t get up and out of the house right away, we lounge around and make a real breakfast. I like making pancakes or waffles and Tim likes to practice his Jacques Pepin omelet technique. While I like the idea of exotic pancakes, I find I always come back to the more straight-up variety. I guess I’m looking for that perfect in between pancake.
I was intrigued by the “Blueberry Orange Cornmeal Pancake” recipe I found on a blog called “Satisfied” and I’m giving it a thumbs up. The cornmeal adds just enough texture and the zest gives things a nice little zip. I made a few small alterations: lemon zest instead of orange zest and omitting the blueberries because I prefer fresh fruit on top vs. cooked fruit inside my pancakes. I also didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I used the handy substitution of 1Tbl of lemon juice with enough milk added to make 1 cup (let it sit 5 minutes, don’t stir).
So if you like classic pancakes with just a little twist, give this one a try. You’ll like it. Luca did, but then again, I think he’s pretty much a fan of most pancakes he encounters. For those exotic pancake fans, check out Simran’s famous coconut-mango pancake recipe.