Monday, January 26, 2009


I have been wanting to write this blog post forever. But there's always been one slight problem.

Let me start at the beginning. First, I have a really great husband. An understanding husband who recognizes that I cannot, cannot, function in the morning but also knows that I loooove breakfast. I especially love "special" breakfasts, like french toast, waffles, and pancakes. Oh, pancakes. A while back, my dad e-mailed me a pancake recipe that they got from a friend of theirs, and I was intrigued by it. We had previously been Bisquick devotees, but as delicious as they could be, Bisquick pancakes were a little too much for me and I was dreaming of something better, maybe something whole grain, but not all dry and yucky. So when I saw this recipe that included oats and cottage cheese and no flour, and that came with high praise from my parents (a couple of serious foodies), I had to give it a shot.

And by give it a shot, I mean decided to have Ben make them for me. I'm serious. I don't do stoves in the morning, unless it's Ben's birthday and then I am oh so wonderful and I even make bacon (it should be noted that I don't do meat and splattering grease in the morning either). And, good man that he is, he made them without even a little protest.

And lo and behold, these funky little oatmeal and cottage cheese pancakes were delicious! They taste like normal pancakes, but don't leave me slumped over my chair saying "Uhhhh... too... many... pancakes". They're just plain yummy. And, lucky girl that I am, Ben makes them for me on a semi-regular basis.

So, back to this problem I mention earlier. I know you're thinking, "Problem? What problem could you possibly have? You laze around in bed on weekends while your husband makes you your favorite breakfast. Whatever, lady."

But really, this is kind of a problem. You see, I've been wanting to blog about this pancakes joy for ages, but every time he makes pancakes, I find myself with an empty plate, a full belly, and I smile on my face, and then I say, "Doh! I was going to take pictures and blog this!" I just could never contain my happiness on pancake day long enough to maintain rational thought and get the camera.

Until now.

When we went grocery shopping on Friday, I saw Ben put cottage cheese in the cart. And then he told me to pick out some sausage. Ooooh, it was gonna be a pancake weekend! And it was! On Saturday morning, Ben and Wesley got up and headed down to the kitchen to make something special for Mama.

Yum, yum, yum.

Wesley was very interested, and felt that he deserved a pancake for all his hard work helping his Da with breakfast, but we're mean parents. No pancakes for baby!

Ellen's Pancakes
Makes about 16 silver dollar sized pancakes, enough for 2 hungry people

4 eggs
8 oz cottage cheese
3/4 cup oats
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put everything in a blender and mix until smooth. You can do this the night before if you want, especially if you are morning non-functional like me and don't have a Ben around to make you pancakes.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons on a greased hot griddle. Flip when under side is golden brown. They need to be cooked just a tiny bit longer than normal pancakes to make sure the oats are cooked and the insides aren't goopy. And they shouldn't be big pancakes because they won't cook as well.

Top with fruit and/or nuts if you're feeling virtuous, or butter and maple syrup if you're not. Either way, they are healthier than your average pancake with fiber, protein, etc etc. So I vote that you give them some real maple syrup, you deserve it! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tastes like victory

I've been cursing a lot lately. Why? Is it because I want my baby's first word to be @&#$@!? Or because I'm trying on a new, meaner, cruder personality? No... It's just because I'm frustrated. Here's how things go: 1)I find a recipe I want to make. 2) I think "Oooh, I just need to go get ____ and then I'll make this for dinner! 3) I go to the store, where I know they should carry ____, because it's not something totally crazy and unheard of, and sure enough they don't have it. 4) I then try every possible grocery store and come up empty-handed every time. 5) I curse.

This has happened with various ingredients - Panko crumbs, tahini, spring roll wrappers, peppermint extract. And now, the most recent, spinach. Yes, spinach. Most of the time this only happens with ingredients that I don't buy regularly, but that I know I could find pretty easily if we lived in Minneapolis. Spinach, though? We live on spinach. We buy it all the time, just to have it around. Just in case we need a salad or something. So when I found a recipe for a spinach and chickpea curry, I thought my real problem would be finding the garam masala (it was a problem, by the way. Stupid stores had 8 million Indian food spices, pastes, etc etc etc, but no garam masala. This makes no sense to me. I found it eventually, though, at the same place I find my spring roll wrappers), and that I could just pick up some spinach whenever. What a joke. No spinach at the commissary for about a week straight. No spinach at various Dutch grocery stores. Something labeled as spinach at the market, but it really looked like no spinach I had ever seen before. Hmph.

Imagine my delight as I went in to a local grocery store on Friday to look for garam masala and saw huuuuge bags of spinach as I passed through the produce department! Victory! On to the "Ethnic foods" aisle to concur Indian spices! Err, or not. They had no garam masala, of course, so I stood clutching my basket full of spinach, scanning the shelves, wavering between my feelings of triumphant victory and crushing defeat. And then... delight! They had no garam masala, but they had my favorite stir fry sauce! And a new section of spices in the Thai foods section! Spices that I've been wanting badly but hadn't even bothered looking for! Thai basil! Kaffir lime leaves! Lemongrass! I gleefully put them in my basket and headed off to curse their lack of greek yogurt in the refrigerated section.

When I got back out to the car, Ben was waiting for me. While I had been in the store, he and Wes had been circling the parking lot (it was busy, and full, and costs money to park) where I had left him with an assignment. I had told him to think about what he wanted to do for dinner the following night since he would be leaving for a business trip this week and we would only have one dinner together until he got back. So after I got back in the car and we started to head to the commissary to finish our shopping, I asked if he thought of anything. "Well," he said, "I thought maybe we could cook something together".

Yay! Another episode of Cooking with Ben and Ellen! "Ooooh! Maybe we can find a recipe that uses THESE!" I said, brandishing my shiny new containers. We agreed, and when got home, Wesley and I settled on the couch for a nice bottle of formula and some internet food searching. And we came up with this: Cod with Coconut, Lime, and Lemongrass Curry Sauce. Mmmm, and it required lemongrass AND kaffir lime leaves! Also, it calls for cilantro, but I hate cilantro with a passion, so I decided could sub my new thai basil for cilantro. Three for three! This was definitely taking the sting out of my lack of garam masala.

So last night, armed with fresh and delicious cod from the market, we set to work.

This doesn't look very pretty, but can I just tell you how incredibly amazing it smelled? Shallots, garlic, ginger, lime, curry... amazingly good smells were happening in our kitchen.

We added some coconut milk and let that sauce simmer and tried not to eat it with a spoon as it cooking, and then strained it. And promptly decided that the shallots, garlic, etc that we strained out shouldn't go to waste and that we would eat those too.

And then it was time for the cod. Fish is easy usually, but not very exciting.

The recipe called for baby bok choy, but we only could find very large bok choy, so Ben had an interesting time fitting it in the pot o' boiling water.

The finished product might not look terribly exciting, but it was really really delicious. We had some sauce and bok choy left over, so we ate a couple bowls of bok choy with curry sauce too. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Cod with Coconut, Lime, and Lemongrass Curry Sauce

Epicurious | 2005

yield: Makes 4 servings

The Sauce:

* 1 tablespoon butter
* 2 shallots, thinly sliced
* 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* 1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced
* 1-inch knob ginger, thinly sliced
* 3 kaffir lime leaves
* 1 tablespoon Madras curry
* 3 cups chicken stock
* 3/4 cup fresh coconut milk, or canned
* 4 cilantro sprigs
* Fine sea salt to taste
* Freshly ground white pepper to taste
* 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

The Cod:

* 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 4 7-ounce cod fillets, 1 1/2-inches thick
* Fine sea salt to taste
* Freshly ground white pepper to taste

The Garnish:

* 1/2 pound butter
* Fine sea salt
* 9 heads baby bok choy, divided in half (quartered if large)
* 1/4 cup kosher salt

Special equipment:

* 2 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillets


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the broth, melt the butter in a small sauté pan or wok over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and curry and sweat until tender and with no color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat simmer for 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine chinois and set aside.

Divide the 2 tablespoons of canola oil between the skillets. Place over high heat until oil is just smoking. Season the cod on both sides with salt and pepper. Put 2 pieces of cod in each skillet and sauté until golden brown and crusted on the bottom, about 2 1/2 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side for 30 seconds. Put the pans in the oven and roast until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the fish and, when left in the fish for 5 seconds, feels hot when touched to your lip, about 6 to 7 minutes.

In a large pot, heat 4 quarts of water, the butter, and the kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a sheet pan in the refrigerator to cool quickly so they retain their bright green color.

To serve, reheat the sauce and finish with the lime juice. In each of 4 bowls, place a piece of cod. Place 3 to 4 pieces of bok choy around the cod. Pour the sauce over the cod and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I was going to post a Baking Gals Round 5 round up post ages ago, but somehow life/holidays got in the way and before I knew it we were traveling around the world, eating, drinking, opening presents, and then eating some more. And blogging got postponed and postponed.

And now that I'm back, I seem to have, um, er, lost my stuff. I know I have the Round 5 pictures somewhere. And info on what people made. But I can't tell you where it is. Oops.

I can tell you that I made a ton of Christmas treats, including Trios, Gingerbread, Brown Sugar Fudge and Mini White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Fudge Cups. And that we had a great team and Steven received lots of yummy things from lots of great people. But, uh, that's all I got right now.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in Round 5, and I'm sorry, and I hope you'll forgive me and accept as a peace offering a brand new blog post in the next couple days. With pictures and everything!