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So we’ve been busy. Really busy. Busy as in I can’t remember the last three months of my life busy. Busy as in I can’t really remember when I last cooked or what I might have made.

Actually, I’m not sure that I remember how to cook, to be honest. We didn’t eat too poorly during the last few months. Carlo cooked some good stuff, but we relied heavily on our stuffed-to-capacity freezer. I also used the blender a lot. If it wasn’t in the freezer or I couldn’t whiz it together in the blender, we didn’t have it. Wooden spoons, spatulas, pots and pans languished in their drawers while I whirred fruits and nut butters together with milk. I’ve had a LOT of smoothies.

No, this isn’t high-style eating. My mouth is bored, I admit it. But a nice smoothie makes up for a lot of ills. The following is very, very nice.

Blueberry-Vanilla Almond Butter Smoothie

I like this smoothie because I don’t have to add any sugar to sweeten it. The blueberries taste bright and light, and the almond butter is discernable but not overpowering. I suppose you could use milk instead of vanilla soymilk, but then you’d probably need to add some extra sugar.

1 cup frozen blueberries
1-2 tablespoons almond butter
1 cup vanilla soymilk

Blend. Drink. Go to work. Repeat.

Today I cooked with my favourite girls. They’re 6, 3, and 2. I don’t see them nearly often enough, which also means that we don’t cook together too often, but here are some things I’ve learned:

-They really, really like cracking eggs themselves.
-They also like measuring liquids into measuring cups. Six-year-olds can do this, but 3-year-olds… not so much.
-Aprons are a must (and they’re really adorable).
-Don’t worry about spilling and messes. Kids are going to get themselves and a kitchen dirty, but clean-up is easy.
-Baking is great because there’s a lot of measuring (I do a lot of the measuring, but I let them pour the ingredients into the bowl), a lot of stirring, and no knives. Plus baking seems a bit like magic, so they get really into it.

We cooked from Molly Katzen’s Salad People and More Real Recipes. This is a great book that alternates between print instructions for adults and illustrated comics-style recipes for kids. The 6-year-old loves going through the pictures, narrating the process something like this: “first you put the egg, then you put the milk, then you mix it up, then you add some stuff, then you put the green stuff, then you cook it, then you EEEAT IT!!”

Most of the recipes start with whole foods, so kids really are cooking, not just assembling pre-packaged foods in new combinations. The book isn’t perfect– one recipe calls for protein powder, which I find odd, and a recipe for focaccia starts with premade store-bought pizza dough. Time-saving, sure, but…. clearly I’m a purist.  These oddities are offset by a recipes like parmesan crisps, pesto, cool cucumber soup with fresh mint, and mango-honey lassi with buttermilk. I think it’s great, and we’re definitely getting Katzen’s other book for preschoolers, Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes, as a Christmas gift for the girls.

Today we made “corny corn cakes,” which were essentially cornmeal pancakes with some whole kernels of corn added in. I actually enjoyed the pancakes and found that the corn/cornmeal combination gave a nice rich flavour and a great texture.The girls’ favourite thing about the corny corn cakes was the whole kernels of corn in the batter. When we sat down to eat the pancakes, they loved discovering those big chunks of corn. They were especially delighted when a kernel fell out of the pancake on their fork. The two older girls had maple syrup on their pancakes, but the two-year-old requested grape jelly. I don’t know why. Kids are weird.

CORNY CORN CAKES
from Molly Katzen

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. sugar

Wet Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup corn (I used canned kernels)

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Beat the eggs in another bowl, then add buttermilk, butter, and corn. Beat to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir (gently, just make sure everything’s combined–like with any pancake, you don’t need smoothness)

Melt a little butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot enough, pour the batter in about 1/2 cup at a time.

Cook pancakes until they’re golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes (start checking when you see holes forming on the top of the batter in the skillet). Flip, then cook the other side, which should take less time.

And then you EEEAT IT!!

For the past two years, good mornings in the SiS household have hinged on two drinks. One is coffee. The other is Hanne’s genius invention: The Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie. Yeah, you’ve seen it around, but Hanne came up with it first. It might be SiS’s most unoriginal original recipe, but the other PBBS recipes you’ve seen online are all gross.

SiS’s PBBS is more milkshake than globby smoothie. Don’t worry, it’s all illusion. Frozen bananas only seem to turn into ice cream when blended with milk. It’s a healthy drink. Protein from the peanuts and milk. Calcium… Bananas… they’re good, right? One morning I put leftover whipped cream on top, which was awesome. But I digress…

So first, you’ve got your frozen bananas. Buy lots. Peel them, split them in half and freeze. Second, you’d better use real peanut butter. Don’t make this with the sugary pretend stuff. You need to use the creamy, chunky, pain-in-the-ass natural peanut butter that takes some stirring before use. Sucks, but it’s worth it.

TIP: get as big of a jar of real peanut butter as you can so that you don’t have to do this too often. Spatula the PB out into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the dough mixing attachment (the curly spike). Once the machine’s done the work for you, spatula the PB back into its jug. Refrigerate it or it’ll separate and you’ll have to mix it again.

So how to? Combine two banana halves, a cup or so of milk, a generous spoonful of peanut butter, a dash of vanilla and blend. Don’t overcomplicate your morning by measuring. If you must, the recipe’s below. Experiment with proportions until you get the taste and consistency you like. The only way to mess this up is to use bad milk (guilty) or accidentally blend a loose blender seal into the drink (again, guilty). Otherwise, this drink is idiot proof.

SiS’s Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Serves 1.
Ingredients:
1 frozen ripe banana, halved
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons REAL peanut butter
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Method:
1. Put stuff in blender and blend.

AND, if you have a blender that blends in the same cup you drink out of, then there’s hardly any mess. Unfortunately, the only product I know that does this is the Magic Bullet. It’s cheap and also built cheap. We’re on our second machine in two years. I had to plug my ears while running the last one, which is why it didn’t make the cut when we moved from Montreal. I hope another company that makes good blenders copies Magic Bullet’s single cup style and I hope that happens before the Tasmanian devil busts out of our appliance. Man dies from Magic Bullet shrapnel?

Here’s what we had for breakfast this morning. The recipe isn’t quick–the rice pudding takes about an hour and a half– but it’s worth the time you put into it. It’s especially good for a lazy Saturday. Get up and put on some slippers, then pop the rice and milk onto the stovetop. Have a coffee and thumb through a cookbook or a magazine while your rice pudding cooks down. You need to check on it occasionally, but not too often. It requires just enough attention that you don’t have to feel bad about sitting around doing almost-nothing. As for the stewed prunes, well, I know they’ve got a bad rep, but it’s undeserved. For a great defense of prunes, see Orangette, from whom I borrowed the prune recipe.

The prunes and clementines are a nice mix, with the sweet tang of the citrus and the smoothness of the prunes. And they go perfectly on top of slow-cooked rice pudding (we use jasmine rice, which adds a lovely perfume, but any rice is acceptable), infused with a stick of cinnamon and a few pods of cardamom. Next time you want an excuse to relax Saturday morning, try this out. If you don’t have time to relax, this pudding is forgiving. Just give it a stir now and again and when you need to take a break from work, a fabulous comforting treat will be ready and waiting.

CINNAMON-CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING
makes about 4 cups

3/8 cup rice
5 cups milk
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 pods of green cardamom
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar

Combine the rice and milk in a medium saucepan. Crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a knife, and extract the little dark brown seeds. Add these, along with the cinnamon, to the rice and milk. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer over low heat. Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot fairly often. You need to pay attention to this mixture or it will burn and coat the bottom of your pan. If it does start sticking and/or burning, try not to scrape the bottom of the pot too hard or you will dislodge the burnt bits and ruin your pudding.

When the pudding has thickened sufficiently, to a thick and creamy consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. I prefer a less sweet pudding, but if you like yours sweeter (or if you’re serving it for dessert), you can go up to 1/2 cup sugar. It can be served warm or cool.

STEWED PRUNES recipe adapted from Orangette

2 large handfuls of pitted prunes
2 clementines, halved and sliced thinly
1 small cinnamon stick (I cut one regular-sized stick in half and used 1/2 for the rice and 1/2 for the prunes)

Place the prunes and clementines in a small pot and pour in enough water just to cover them. Bring them to a boil over medium heat and stew them for 30-45 minutes, until the water has reduced and the prunes and clementines are soft.

I put the rice pudding on the stovetop and then after my third or fourth time checking on it, put the prunes over the heat. Both the pudding and the prunes were finished at around the same time and we ate them warm.

Saturday morning SupperInStereo original! It was good, real good. To serve two, this is all you need:

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (chile powder also works)
  • 3 Tbsp chopped, toasted pecans (optional, but awesome)
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt, Pepper to taste

For the (quick) Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of smoked paprika (cayenne also works and is more standard, but we’re on a smoked paprika kick)
  • 1/3 cup butter

Instructions:

  • Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
  • Grate sweet potato. Roughly chop onion. Mince garlic.
  • Give garlic and onion a head start in the pan, cooking them until golden before adding the sweet potato.
  • Cook until browned. Don’t stir too much or it won’t get crispy. About 20 minutes.

When sweet potato mix is almost done:

  • Poach eggs (not sure about that link’s last recommendation, saran wrapping the eggs)
  • Add toasted pecans to the sweet potato hash.

While eggs are cooking:

  • Melt butter in small frying pan.
  • Whisk egg yolk, salt, smoked paprika and lemon juice together until creamy.
  • While whisking, slowly pour the melted butter into the mixture. It will thicken into a rich sauce.

Serve poached eggs on a bed of sweet potato hash. Generously (more than pictured above) drench plate in Hollandaise sauce. Eat.

So it’s Saturday again, and like always, I made some breakfasty baked goods. Pumpkins are on sale post-Halloween, so I picked up a nice big one and roasted it last night. When I think of what to do with pumpkin, I always think of pumpkin muffins. When I was growing up, my mom would often make pumpkin muffins with her freezer store of roasted and pureed pumpkin. When I decided to do the same, I realized I don’t have her recipe! I resorted to another one I’d copied out of my friend’s copy of the November 2006 issue of Gourmet. We’re getting a little Gourmet-heavy, but what can I say? I love that magazine.

I love these muffins too. The pumpkin makes them light and tender. The only changes we made to the recipe were that we used pumpkin we roasted ourselves (instructions on doing that later– I’ve got to spread these things out a bit if we want to have a post a day for the whole month!), and that I added a bit of whole wheat flour instead of using 100% white flour. I think these muffins are good candidates for some whole wheat flour, especially if you’re using home-cooked pumpkin instead of canned, which is a bit thicker. The pumpkin makes the muffins light enough to take a bit of whole-wheat heaviness. The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but I’ve never understood the point of pumpkin pie spice. I want to have control over my proportions! So for the spices, feel free to adjust the ratios to your own liking. I’ll have to get my mom’s recipe so I can do a taste test.

Without further ado:

Pumpkin Muffins adapted from Gourmet Magazine

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all -purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, spices, sugar and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir them just until you don’t see any more flour powderiness. The mixture should be lumpy, so make sure you don’t overstir these.

Plop generous lumps of dough into a well-greased 12 cup muffin tin. If you have muffin liners, use those instead. You’ll save yourself time and oil. Sprinkle sugar onto the tops of each muffin.

Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes. They’re done when the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into their centres comes out clean.

Oatmeal and Apple Pancakes from www.supperinstereo.com

Saturday mornings, I like to play housewife. Instead of telling Carlo “make your own breakfast. You’re a grown man,” I get out of bed and cheerfully mix flour and baking powder together to make a weekend feast. Sometimes it’s muffins, but usually it’s pancakes because they come together so fast and cook quickly enough that my hunger doesn’t overwhelm my good intentions. When the food is ready, we douse our pancakes in maple syrup, sprinkle a little sugar on our lattes, and curl up in armchairs with our plates on our laps. It’s a good way to start a Saturday.

Last time I made these pancakes, I used whole wheat flour. This time I used all-purpose. It’s good both ways, but the whole wheat does make them a bit heavier. They’re very filling because of the oatmeal, which adds a rich creaminess that goes really well with tart grated Granny Smith apples.

1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal (I use instant oatmeal, but this would be great with rolled oats)
3/4 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
unsalted butter

Preheat a skillet on medium heat.

Mix together flour, salt and baking soda. Add wet ingredients and mix gently.

Melt a generous pat of butter onto the skillet and pour batter in 1/4-1/2 cup servings onto skillet. Allow to cook until bubbles show on one side, then flip and cook on the other side until both sides are golden. Flip pancakes onto a plate, cover with maple syrup, and relax.

*By the way, can you tell we just bought a new camera? You could if you looked at any of our earlier posts. It’s a Canon Powershot G7, and we loooove it. But now that we have no excuses about image quality, any ugly photos are entirely our own faults. I’d love to hear some food photo tips!*

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