Category Archives: get yer whole grains here

Blueberry-Pecan Oatcakes

Today’s been a lazy sort of day–beginning with sleeping in way past my usual waking time during holidays and finishing up with breakfast for dinner.  I wanted to cook, but I just really didn’t feel like making dinner food.  Most traditional breakfast foods are out as they involve egg, and Sweet Baboo is allergic to yolks (I had no Egg Beaters in the house).  So I went in search of an eggless dinner we could eat that wouldn’t take too long to whip up and that would be relatively healthy.  Et voila:

Easy, healthy and tasty: yes, they can coexist in the same dish! These eggless pancakes are full of heart-healthy oatmeal, pecans, blueberries and YUM.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 3/4 cup oats (I used the quick-cooking type)
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (just grind up a bunch of oats in the food processor to make this)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cake spice (or you can substitute cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Splenda brown sugar blend
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and rinsed (or use fresh, whatever you have on hand)

Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet on medium high heat.  You may want to spray a bit of oil on the cooking surface if you are not using a nonstick pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, use a whisk to blend all the dry ingredients together.  Once all the dry ingredients are combined and evenly distributed, whisk in the milk and vanilla.  Last, gently stir in the berries. Your batter will be a bit thick but this is okay as these are pretty dense pancakes.

Once your griddle/skillet is hot (a drop of water dances on the surface if it’s ready to cook on), use a ladle to pour the batter onto the pan.  Cook on one side until you see the edges start to brown and bubbles rise, about 3 minutes.  Flip the cake over and cook the other side, about 2 minutes more.  Serve while hot with butter and syrup, if you are so inclined.  A nice fruit syrup or applesauce would also make a good accompaniment.  This recipe makes 7-8 4″ pancakes.

These little guys were easy to whip up, and I am sure that they would freeze well.  I’m planning on making another batch and making my own version of McGriddles out of them with light breakfast sausage.  It should be noted that they are very dense and will fill you up pretty quickly due to their high fiber content.


Bourbon-braised Short Ribs with Savory Cheddar-Thyme Polenta

If you aren’t fully aware (or living in a cave), the majority of the country is buried under some form of frozen precipitation, our part of Texas included.  Needless to say, with a couple of inches of solid ice on the ground, neither I or Sweet Baboo had to go off to school today.  I was supposed to be off work today anyhow, as I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment, but the weather closed her office down too.   I’d decided over the weekend that since I was going to be home today anyhow, that I’d make the short ribs I bought a couple of weeks ago that were sitting in the freezer.  Since we were iced in today and travel was going to be damned near impossible, it was a good opportunity to get some cooking done that I don’t normally get to do during the week when school is in session.

Enter the bourbon-braised short ribs:

These bourbon braised short ribs made for a perfect cold weather dinner. The bourbon adds a nice flavor to the pot liquor that warms you to your toes.

I’d been wanting to make short ribs for quite some time, especially since I saw this recipe over at Pioneer Woman’s blog.  However, I didn’t have any red wine in the house, nor did I have shallots (not that it matters; can’t use them anyway).  So I did a bit of research to get a general idea of how braised short ribs should be made, and came up with my own version.  And the verdict:  they were absolutely luscious, rich and oh so good!  I served my ribs atop a bed of cheddar-thyme polenta, which was an excellent accompaniment.  Mashed potatoes would also be good here.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 6 meaty beef short ribs (the meatier, the better); about 2 pounds
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup good bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots, plus 2 cups whole baby-cut carrots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (chopped), plus 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper (or use freshly ground)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Before you begin cooking, set the short ribs out on the countertop to allow them to come to room temperature.  This helps them to cook more evenly when you are browning them.

Once your ribs have come to room temperature, pat them dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.  This aids in the browning process (thanks Julia Child!).  Sprinkle them with the salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Once it is hot, carefully add the ribs to the pot, but do not crowd them.  You want to brown them on the meaty sides of the ribs, about 2 or 3 minutes or so on each side, until they have a lovely brown color.  If your ribs do not fit, then perform this step in batches so that the meat does not crowd the pan.  Remove the ribs from the pan to a bowl for the time being.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once you have browned the meat, deglaze the pot with the cup of bourbon.  If you have a gas stove, be careful at this step!  You will be met with a cloud of bourbony goodness.  Stir the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, and then add the garlic, chopped thyme, celery and carrots to the pot.  Give them a quick saute, about 3 minutes or so, enough to coat the veggies with the little sauce you’ve just made.

Add the ribs back to the pot, standing them up in the vegetables.  Pour the beef broth over the contents of the pot.  Toss the sprigs of thyme on top and carefully stir in the granulated garlic.  Cover the pot tightly with the lid, and place in the oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

The greatest thing about this is that you put it in the oven, and walk away.

As for the polenta, that was easy to make too.  You need:

  • 1 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the salt, and slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream, whisking it in.  Once all the polenta has been added and incorporated into the water, turn the heat down to low.  Allow this to cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 15-20 minutes.  When the polenta is cooked, stir in the butter until it melts, and then stir in the cheeses and thyme until evenly distributed and melted through.

The short ribs recipe makes enough for 3 people to have two short ribs apiece, plus veggies.  The polenta recipe makes about 6 cups, so there may be leftovers.

Bacon Thyme Risotto

Happy 2011 everyone!  I thought I’d get us started by sharing one of the things I cooked for our New Year’s Eve dinner in.  Since my husband and I have been together, we have always spent New Year’s Eve at home and nearly every year, I’ve fixed a special dinner.  Tonight’s dinner was no exception, as I fixed Alton Brown’s 40 Cloves and a Chicken, wilted spinach (a family favorite here) and a bacon thyme risotto.

I am of the firm belief that bacon improves the flavor of most every dish, grains included.  Risotto is no exception, as many traditional recipes for this dish begin with rendering the fat from pancetta cut into lardons, removing the lardons and then returning them to the finished dish for added flavor.  I did the same with bacon, as I was unable to get any pancetta today while I was out and about.  I figured bacon would be a good substitute.  After all, it is bacon, which is meat candy.

Risotto is a dish that until about 5 years ago, I was clueless about.  I learned how to cook it at a mini cooking class sponsored by my alma mater during an alumni leadership weekend, and have made it several times since then because it is so stinkin’ easy to fix.  I’d always been under the misconception that it was a dish that took forever, but really, it’s one that just requires some babysitting and some patience.  Also, adding the stock while it is hot is key, and testing the toothiness of the rice grains as the cooking process happens is important.

The result of all this?  So. Totally. Worth it.

Bacon makes everything better, especially risotto!

This particular risotto uses a very rich chicken stock (hence the yellowy coloring of the rice), fresh thyme, some Parmesan cheese and of course, bacon.  Here’s how I did it.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice (this is the gold standard for risotto.  Other rice types can be used, but Arborio yields a very creamy texture in the finished product due to all the starch released during the cooking process)
  • 3 cups HOT chicken stock (I kept mine in a saucepan on medium heat next to my risotto pan)
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into lardons, rendered of their fat (use the fat for another purpose.  I used it to wilt the spinach we ate)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano (for the love of all that is holy, do NOT use that junk in the green shaker can)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic (you can also add a bit of minced onion, I omit it due to food allergy issues)

In a large skillet, heat your olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the minced garlic (and onion, if you choose to add it here) and let saute for a minute or two.  Next, add the rice and stir so that all the grains get a nice coating of oil.  Allow the rice to brown slightly, about 3 minutes or so.

Add the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly to incorporate the stock fully into the rice.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue stirring the rice and stock until you see that the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid.  When you see that this has happened, add another ladle of hot stock to the pan and repeat two more times.  Remember to keep stirring.  Constant stirring of the rice-stock mixture is critical as it helps the rice to release its starches, giving it that creamy texture characteristic of risottos.  You will notice that while you stir, you will see the rice start to take on a creamy appearance.  It is a good idea toward the end of the cooking to sneak a grain of rice from the pan and test its doneness by biting into it.  The grain should not be completely mushy, but should feel a bit sticky when biting into it.  This whole process took me about 20-25 minutes.

Once the rice has absorbed the stock, you will notice it has increased in volume 3 or 4 fold.  At this point, stir in the lardons of bacon, the Parmesan and the fresh thyme.  Stir until the cheese is completely incorporated into the rice and serve hot.

This recipe served two as a side dish with no leftovers.  It can be doubled to feed more, or to have leftovers, but I am pretty sure there won’t be any.