Pancake Perfection

“Hello, I love you,” is something I’ve literally said to more than one plate of pancakes in my lifetime. Totally justified each time, but I guess this means I’m not a great pancake monogamist. I think because we only have them once in a while (usually on a lovely, lazy weekend morning), they feel extra luxurious and delicious. Deluxurious, if you will.

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Pancakes are also one of those recipes that once you know the basic ingredients, it’s easy to branch out and try different variations to spice it up. Blueberries! Chocolate chips! Kale! (Well, probably not kale, but it seems to be sneaking its way into everything else, so I thought I’d offer it up).

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I think everyone has their own favorite variation on pancakes, and if not, there are 479 recipes on allrecipes.com alone to pick from. Bringing your options up to at least 480 is one of my favorite versions: Weekend Pancakes.

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WEEKEND PANCAKES

Ingredients:
  • @ least one person who likes to cook
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Find an old bottle of maple syrup in your pantry and mention (out loud) that pancakes sound amazing

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2) Hear your partner/friend/roommate/live-in chef offer to make some

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3) Watch them appreciatively from afar, offering up words of encouragement (“Those smell great!”) or half-assed participation (“Can I set out some plates or something?”)

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4) Set out some plates or something

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5) Enjoy!

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Gadgets and Gizmos Aplenty

I don’t think I truly realized how many different kitchen utensils existed in the world until we registered for our wedding. I felt a little odd requesting gifts from family and friends simply because we added a couple of rings and a signed paper from the state to our relationship, but people seemed cool with it. And we were definitely appreciative for the opportunity to get a set of silverware so we weren’t constantly defaulting to chopsticks.

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When we got that registry gun in hand at the store, it got a little paralyzing. Oh mylanta, the amount of kitchen gear out there. I distinctly remember standing in front of a device that made waffle sticks and reveling in its cleverness. Then I snapped back to my real world, where you can toast a waffle and slice it into sticks yourself, saving approximately $30.

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Not to give you the impression we were completely kitchen gadget-less pre-wedded bliss. I’ve had a few of my main food prep staples with me for years, and they were used for today’s awesome recipe, Takeout Food.

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TAKEOUT FOOD

Ingredients:
  • 1 menu
  • 1 phone
  • 1 method of roundtrip transportation
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Look at takeout menu and select tastiest dish listed

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2) Pick up the phone, dial number listed on said menu & tell all of your food dreams to the person who answers (just your food dreams, though; despite what anyone says, no one wants to hear your real dreams – that’s only interesting to you)

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3) Find transportation (car, bike, bus, feet, etc) to get on over to the restaurant

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4) Pick up your food

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5) Use transport to get back to your place (keep the bag your food is in closed tightly)

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6) Enjoy!

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Grahams w/a Guest Chef

Chefs find their inspiration from so many places. What they are craving, what fresh ingredients they have access to, places they’ve traveled to that have broadened and intrigued their flavor profiles.

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I think meal ideas also come from the people around us. It’s always a kick to eat an incredible dish only to also be regaled with a heartwarming story about the relative who created the dish years ago. I know when I meet someone new, talking about food is a great way to break the ice (break the bread?) and sometimes leads to new recipe inspirations.

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Recently I was hanging out with someone I’ve known for about a year and a half. We have a lot of mutual friends, but haven’t hung out just the two of us in a while. We, of course, started talking about food, and she showed me one of her favorite snacks. It was so good, I wanted to share it with you (with her permission, of course). Izzy and I present to you: Graham Crackers in Milk.

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GRAHAM CRACKERS IN MILK

Ingredients:
  • Smattering of graham crackers
  • Some type of dairy product
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Organize your ingredients

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2) Pour out that milk, ensuring that it reaches appropriate dipping height

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3) Get really excited about all the deliciousness that’s ahead

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4) Dip away (careful not to let the graham get too soggy – timing is everything with this dish)

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5) Enjoy your perfectly soaked cracker

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Optional: Parsley waving

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To Market, To (Farmer’s) Market

What better way to start your weekend than at a farmer’s market? If I could just live in a farmer’s market 24/7, I would (well, actually a duplex comprised of half farmer’s market and half library would be ideal, but I don’t want to get picky).

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There is a fantastic market near our apartment that is open every Saturday morning (once the arctic tundra dies down). It’s educational seeing the produce change slightly every week, and I love that there is time to chat with and meet the farmers while you are shopping. Plus, there are almost always happy dogs, cute kids,and live music, which is a trifecta in my book.

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This week, I ended up with some great produce to enjoy throughout the week, and picked up some extras on the way home for an on-the-spot summer picnic.

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POST-FARMER’S MARKET PICNIC

Ingredients:
  • Food recently acquired at the farmer’s market
  • Whatever you want from Taco Bell
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Stop at Taco Bell on your way home from the Farmer’s Market

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2) Take your all your goodies home with you

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3) If it’s nice enough, set up outside (inside works for this recipe as well)

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4) Keep bag of farmer’s market produce close, promising yourself you’ll get to it tomorrow in order to karmically balance your current life choices

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Something for Everyone

It’s pretty awesome that in a world full of varied dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences, there really is something for everyone. Back in the day, when I decided to opt out of meat & dairy, I was really blown away by all the options that I still had access to (some better than others, to be honest, but still).

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Because people in my life have been gracious and thoughtful in regard to my food preferences, I try and be thoughtful about dishes I prepare. I want to make sure most people will be able to enjoy themselves, food-wise. This can get difficult when everyone’s guidelines get thrown into the mix. “Well, Malcolm is gluten-free, Shirley only eats organic, Tasha is vegan, Kendall prefers local food, Brenica is lactose intolerant, and Jerry doesn’t eat any food with more than five letters.”

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I’m happy to report that one of my absolute favorite snacks in the world is pretty flexible for most food values. You can opt for organic or local versions of the ingredients; it’s vegan, vegetarian & gluten-free; if you are cutting down on carbs (lord help you) you’re golden; if you have a peanut allergy…um…skip the steps involving peanut butter and you’ll be fine, I think.

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PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SPOON

Ingredients:
  • 1 spoonful of peanut butter
  • 1 spoonful of jelly
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Procure peanut butter & jelly that fit with your dietary preferences

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2) Dip your spoon in the peanut butter

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3) Dip your spoon in the jelly

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4) Enjoy!

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Chopped Challenge

Food Network is slowly taking over the world. Or, at least, our Hulu channel at home. What will the dueling chefs do with their secret ingredient of…SEAWEED? Will that chef finally listen to the judges and get a bandanna so he quits sweating all over his fancy risotto? Is that super tall cake shaped like Sponge Bob going to fall over and more importantly, will that lady with the downturned mouth even dain to look at it?

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My current favorite is Chopped, where competing chefs receive a mystery basket with various ingredients and need to prepare a dish for judges to…judge. The main thing I’ve gleaned from the show so far is to be wary of using the ice cream maker for your dessert, and that if the judges are watching you from behind their fingers, you’ve probably burned something.

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Even though I don’t have a basket with a top, I always imagine being on the show (although with my luck, that episode the basket would be full of artisianal hand soaps or something). Nonetheless, I wanted to create my own Chopped challenge. I went into my kitchen, picked 4 ingredients at random, and just went for it.

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CHOPPED, GASTRO-A-GO-GO-STYLE

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 rando ingredients (probably better if someone picks them out for you, but do what you can)
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Take in the ingredients in front of you – bonus points if you look at them wide-eyed, maybe chewing your lip contemplatively

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2) Start taking apart ingredients, trying out a little taste here and there to figure out flavor profiles

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3) However you decide to prepare the ingredients, you need to run around and yell “Behind you!” (even if you are by yourself – it helps up the ante)

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4) Make sure your hands are shaking as you arrange stuff on the plate – you won’t look legit if you don’t have a little shake going on

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5) One of your ingredients should be used as a flourish – which usually means scraped against the plate in a semi-purposeful fashion

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6) Enjoy! Your dish will vary depending on the ingredients, but for this example I came up with: Orange Slices with a Cauliflower Floret Accompaniment, followed by a Trail Mix Chaser and Don’t Do Anything With That Relish It’s Just Decoration

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What say you, Ted Allen?

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Brunch Bliss

I think it was somewhere in my mid-twenties that all the fanfare about meeting for late night drinks morphed into meeting for mid-morning brunch. 11am sunlight trumped 11pm moonlight/streetlight, 2-4-1 mimosas trumped 2-4-1 rail whiskeys; plus breakfast is the best meal of the day anyway (besides snacks), so the more attention paid to it, the better.

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I totally get it. Being able to sleep in without feeling like you’re missing out, because you aren’t meeting for breakfast. You are meeting for *brunch*. You get to have alcohol with your pancakes and no one bats an eye. AND if you braid your hair you can joke with your friends that you’re part of the “Braidy Brunch,” and everyone will laugh at your cleverness.

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I was so pleased when I discovered that I could serve up brunch in my very own home. Although I love heading out to dine, I also am on a tight budget, so having the option to prepare a lovely brunch in my kitchen is most welcome. I’ve included one of my favorite brunch recipes that I’ve perfected, but please feel free to share your own. The more brunch, the merrier!

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CEREAL

Ingredients:
  • 1-2 bowl’s worth of cereal (do not pay attention to the serving size on the box – that won’t work for anyone)
  • 1-2 bowl’s worth of milk
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Realize you slept in and are hungry, which are the qualifiers for brunch

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2) Pour cereal into bowl until you feel satisfied

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3) Pour milk into bowl until you feel satisfied

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4) Enjoy brunching!

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