Tag Archives: cooking

What’s For Dinner: Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

My kids love pancakes, and they do make a cheap meal. However, when I make pancakes from a mix I feel like I’m feeding us empty calories, and I often feel sick after eating them. My husband feels sick enough that he usually won’t eat them.

Twitter friend Stephanie Stricklen recommends Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix, and I have every intention of trying it at some point. But in the meantime, and in the interest of the family budget, I decided to try from-scratch whole-wheat pancakes.

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light; I doubled it and added cinnamon and vanilla. The pancakes were delicious. They were light, fluffy and flavorful. The kids devoured them, although the eldest (13) suddenly developed an aversion to the flavor after I mentioned the whole wheat. This was after she’d taken a second helping, though.

The leftover pancakes will go into lunches tomorrow, with toppings. I got this idea from 100 Days of Real Food, where Lisa Leake often packs leftover pancakes and waffles for her kids.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
makes about 32 4-inch pancakes

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/12 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups low-fat buttermilk (or use 2 3/4 cup milk w/ 3 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar)

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla, stirring with a whisk.  Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until moist (batter will be lumpy).

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat (I use an electric griddle at 350 degrees). Grease it with butter or cooking spray. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Serve with syrup and butter. Or applesauce and jam. Peanut butter and bananas!


What’s For Dinner: Pasta With Sausage and Broccoli Raab

We got our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box this past Thursday! It’s exciting, because we’ve never belonged to a real CSA before. We’ve gotten produce from the farmers’ market, and from a couple of different food-buying clubs, but never through a CSA. Our first box included garlic chives, garlic scapes, broccoli raab, arugula, several kinds of lettuce, giant red mustard greens, spinach, french breakfast radishes, and hakurei salad turnips.

That’s a LOT of greenery! We’ve already had salads galore, but I needed to figure out how to use the cooking greens, too, and in such a way that my family would eat them. Internet research told me that broccoli raab would be good with both pasta and sausage, so I decided to make a simple pasta dish.

Pasta With Sausage and Broccoli Raab
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Kathleen McDade
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 6
Easy pasta recipe with sausage and spring greens
  • 1 lb dry pasta (whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (I like chicken sausage)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 lb. broccoli raab*
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic scapes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • Freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  1. Put water on for pasta; when it boils, add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add sausage and start browning.
  3. Chop the broccoli raab into one inch pieces and add to the frying pan. I actually just held the whole bunch over the pan and cut it up with scissors. Stir-fry the broccoli raab with the sausage for about three minutes.
  4. Add the minced garlic and garlic scapes (here again, I held the garlic scapes over the pan and cut them with the scissors. I didn’t measure.). Continue stir-frying until sausage is cooked through (or at least another 3 minutes).
  5. Add the canned tomatoes and stir. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pasta is cooked.
  6. Drain pasta as soon as it is cooked. Toss pasta and sauce together. Serve with parmesan cheese if desired.

*You could substitute spinach or other greens of your choice for the broccoli raab.

I’m also trying out a new techie thing — I added that recipe with the Easy Recipe WordPress plugin, which formats your recipes to work with Google Recipe View. Pretty spiffy, eh?

Teach a Kid to Cook, and…

You can feed your kids up with good home cooking, and they’ll thrive, but what about when they get out on their own? Will they be able to feed themselves for life? Kim Painter wrote about this recently in USA Today. She points out that teens and young adults today often have no idea how to cook real food. Why? I imagine it’s a combination of factors. Working parents may not have time to teach them; many schools no longer have home economics classes; parents may not even know how to cook themselves!

Knowing how to really cook means that your child will be able to feed himself healthfully and economically, even if he loses his job and has no money.  Or if the power goes out and she has to concoct a meal over a fire or camp stove. It’s both a life skill and a survival skill.

So how do you make this happen? Painter included several suggestions in her article. My favorite is learn together. Painter suggests taking cooking classes together, which is fun if you already know how to cook, but is an excellent idea for those who don’t. Low cost classes are often available through community centers or through the community education department at community colleges.

You could also work your way through a cookbook together. This is a big part of  how I learned to cook. I had two kids’ cookbooks, and my parents (yes, both of them!) helped me make recipes from them. The Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook is great for this (even though it’s not the same one that I used, and still have).

Some books are more parent-oriented. Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids by Beth Sheresh, the kitchenmage, has tips and information for parents plus a wealth of recipes for parent and child to cook together. This book includes great step-by-step visual directions.

Hungry Monkey, by Matthew Amster-Burton, is part memoir and part cookbook. Amster-Burton includes advice for really enjoying food together, tips for helping kids start to cook, and recipes that the whole family will enjoy. He makes a point of not sticking to kid food. Recipes includ pad thai, bibimbap, and (my personal favorite) penne with brussels sprouts and bacon.

What’s Cooking With Kids is a website full of information from Michelle Stern, author of the soon-to-be-published Whole Family Cookbook. Michelle’s company  also offers classes and workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As for my family, we cook together sometimes. I’ve usually got at least one kid helping with dinner (the other main way that I learned to cook). But we don’t always make a formal effort to cook together. Perhaps we should do this on a regular basis?

What do you cook with your kids? Or, how did you learn to cook?

Disclosure: Those book titles up there? Those are Amazon affiliate links, so if you click one of those and buy something, I get a little bit of money to help run this site. Thank you!

Accidental Meals

I think I’m a pretty good cook. But sometimes I mess up, or stuff just happens, and we have to deal with it! Here are a couple of examples in which we did NOT deal with it by getting takeout.

Pease Porridge Hot, Pease Porridge Cold

I thought I’d throw some split peas, rice, and broth/water into the crock pot in the morning, and season it up for dinner in the evening. Easy, right? But the liquid/solid ratios are different in the crock pot. Usually you need less liquid in the crock pot, because the liquid doesn’t cook off as much. But apparently that doesn’t hold true for rice and/or split peas, so what I found when I got home was a fairly dry mush.

I had to take one kid to a LEGO club meeting, so I decided to wait and fix the meal after dropping her off. I stopped at the store and picked up some more milk (not related to the soup) and some pre-cooked bacon pieces.  I added some extra water to the mush and stirred in the bacon (as well as some sauteéd carrots and onions). It was still mush, not soup (mostly because of the rice), but we ate it. And we ate the leftovers later. But not nine days later.

Pizza and/or Breadsticks

I love pizza, but I’m currently (and successfully) losing weight. I wanted to try making a lower-fat, lower-calorie pizza. My plan was to use some frozen bread dough, homemade tomato sauce, part-skim mozzarella, turkey sausage, and olives. Frozen dough requires thawing and rising, which means the timing can be tricky. I asked my husband to take care of it during his midday break, when he’s normally home. The instructions for a quick thaw say to heat the oven to 200, put a pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, put the dough in a pan in the oven, and TURN THE OVEN OFF. Unfortunately, he missed that last step, so the dough thawed and then baked slowly at 200 until we got home.

Fortunately, when I bought the rest of the pizza fixings, I had also bought a large package of English muffins. So we had English muffin pizzas instead. And the bread? It was baked through, although flat, and it actually made a good appetizer, warm and torn apart into breadstick-like pieces.

What’s for Dinner: Chicken Fried Rice

No, we did NOT get Chinese take-out! Chicken Fried Rice was actually a great way to use up leftovers and things we already had on hand. I used the remains of a roasted chicken, some long-frozen carrots, homemade chicken broth, and fresh green onions and zucchini from the garden. Here’s my recipe, adapted from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 cups dry white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced, cooked chicken (and by diced, I just mean cut or torn up into pieces. Don’t stress.)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low-sodium)
  • 1-2 green onions (scallions)
  • 1-2 cups frozen veggies (peas and carrots work well)
  • 2 eggs

Get a LARGE skillet with a tight-fitting lid. I use a chicken fryer. It’s like 14 inches wide and 3 inches deep.  A large electric skillet might work well, too. If you don’t have a LARGE skillet, I suggest halving the recipe.

Pour the sesame oil into the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. I might use a little more than 2 tablespoons. You want enough that all of the rice gets coated. So add the rice, and stir it around until it’s all coated with oil. Then keep pushing it around until it starts to turn brown. You want to get most of the rice starting to brown, but without burning any of it.

At this point, pour in the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to low and put the lid on. Let the rice cook for 20 minutes, without lifting the lid.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the diced chicken with the soy sauce. Slice and/or snip the onion into small pieces and mix with the chicken and soy sauce. Let the mixture sit until the rice is done cooking.

If you’re using frozen vegetables, pour them into a colander and thaw them a bit by running warm water over them. Let them sit, too. If you want to add fresh vegetables, you may want to sauté them a bit while the rice is cooking. I usually use frozen veggies, but this time I also used fresh zucchini. I cut it into quarter-slices (slice in half lengthwise, then halve the half lengthwise and slice) and did not sauté or otherwise pre-cook it.

After 20 minutes, check the rice. If it’s fully cooked, go ahead and add the chicken mixture and mix thoroughly. Add veggies and mix again. Keep the pan on low, and put the lid back on for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the two eggs with a fork to break the yolks (as for scrambled eggs).

After the five minutes, turn the heat up to medium. Open the pan and push all of the rice mixture to the sides of the pan, leaving an empty space in  the middle. Hit the empty space with a bit of cooking spray, then pour in the eggs. Let the eggs set for a minute or two, and then gently scramble them until moist but mostly set. Don’t worry if some of the rice or veggies gets in there. When the eggs are mostly set, mix them throughout the rice.

Serve hot, with additional soy sauce. Feeds 4-6 people.

Easy Preserving: Jarred Strawberry Jam


After making my strawberry freezer jam, our neighbor (a young, single lady) came over with two more bags of strawberries! She also gave us some strawberry plants, as hers are spreading too far.

I decided to try the Small Batch Strawberry Jam recipe that I’d seen at Cooking Up a Story, and made three jars of jam plus a little extra for the refrigerator. This recipe requires no pectin, which means the jam is a little runny (or may even turn out to be syrup). However, no pectin also means you can make it any time with any amount of berries; you don’t have to worry about measurements.

I did include a few partially green berries, on the advice of another website, because they are supposed to contain a small amount of pectin.

The canning process was totally not scary. I did buy a jar lifter and canning funnel, but I just used a stock pot I already had, with a small round rack (which I also already had) in the bottom. You do want a rack of some kind in the bottom so that boiling water can circulate under the jars. I should have bought the magnetic lid lifter as well. Trust me, you’ll want one.

The jars successfully sealed (POP!), so now I’ve got five half-pints of freezer jam and three half-pint jars!

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

I was immediately drawn in by the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and have been equally captivated by each episode.  Of course, I’m totally on board with his mission to bring real, wholesome food to the people of Huntington, West Virginia and elsewhere, but the series also features good storytelling! I encourage everyone to check it out if you haven’t been watching it — you can watch it on Hulu until June 5.

From what we’ve seen (and there’s only one episode to go), Oliver did a great job developing relationships with people in Huntington and getting them to try cooking and eating his dishes.  He’s gotten both grade school and high school students eating healthy foods at school, although budgeting has been an issue, and one school cook in particular has been resistant to his methods.

The big question remaining is “Will this have a lasting effect?” I’m sure they’ll be addressing this in the last episode — although it’s really only been six months or so, and that’s not much time for creating or measuring lasting change.  This AP article cites a survey which says that children at the Central City school we actually buying fewer lunches after a month on Oliver’s program — they were bringing lunch from home instead.  Hopefully things have gotten better since then. The AP article also reports that the school principal has enthusiastically embraced healthy eating and has lost 20 pounds.

Although I agree that school food should be healthy, I think Oliver could have devoted more time to helping people eat healthy foods at home, too.  If parents aren’t willing and able to support healthy eating, kids aren’t going to be interested either.

Sarah Gilbert, a writer, locavore, and parent of three boys, has written about how families can eat Food Revolution-style on a budget. Her recommendations so far include eating seasonally and getting a handle on snack foods.

I’m also a fan of the Six-O-Clock Scramble, which helps me to cook healthy food with fresh ingredients, even on busy weeknights.

So how can we pass these ideas along to others? I’d love it if you’d share a link to this post (you can use the buttons below to tweet, share on Facebook, etc.), but I’m thinking about non-internet methods, too. What about teaching kitchens, like Jamie’s Kitchen in Huntington? Would people come?

Don’t forget to sign Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Petition! Our collective voice matters.