Living like Jack Johnson

November 12, 2013

A perfect weekend morning song and a great inspiration for cooking breakfast, I woke up with Banana Pancakes in mind. Due to a day off after work travel, minimally stocked fridge, and upset stomach, banana pancakes was about all I could come up with for a hearty breakfast.

I went to my favorite pancake recipe from Joy of Cooking for the basic recipe. I always use wheat flour because refined flour (and sugar) makes me fall asleep. Substituting wheat for white flour requires adding more liquid to get the right consistency for pancakes. I didn’t want to use milk because my stomach’s upset. Fortunately I had coconut milk and almond milk, just enough for a 1:1 ratio. I’ve read in vegan recipes bananas are a substitute for eggs so I left the eggs out. And that was all the thinking I did. I put everything together, cooked it like normal, and it was delicious! So I’m sharing the recipe since it worked.

Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson

making banana pancakes

Banana Pancakes

inspired by Joy of Cooking

  • 1½ c wheat flour
  • 3T sugar
  • 1¾ t baking powder
  • 1t salt
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • 1 banana
  • ¾ c coconut milk
  • ¾ c almond milk
  • 3T butter
  1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  2. Melt the butter.
  3. Chop the banana and mix it in with the butter, coconut milk, and almond milk.
  4. Pour the milk mixture into the powder mix.
  5. Mix the batter as few times as possible until it is just blended.
  6. Heat a skillet over medium heat before making the pancakes.
  7. Spoon about ¼c of batter onto the pan to make 1 pancake.
  8. When the pancake is bubbling on top, flip it and cook for about 30 seconds more.

Notes and Variations

This recipe is great because it’s nearly as easy as making pancakes from a mix and can be changed to satisfy any taste. Want chocolate? Throw some cocoa powder in or chocolate chips. I had caramel sauce to put on top of the pancakes. Mix some peanut butter in and top with fluff for an Elvis pancake.

The original plain pancake recipe in Joy of Cooking uses 1-2 eggs instead of the banana. I guess ½ a banana is nearly equivalent to 1 egg? I chopped the banana and had some nice chunks in the pancakes but any size works. If you want the banana just mixed in with the batter, combine the milk, butter, and banana in a blender or food processor.

The key to cooking pancakes properly is getting the pan just hot enough so they cook to a nice brown without sticking to the pan or burning. The simple test is to sprinkle a few drops of water on the pan. If they evaporate immediately it’s too hot, turn the heat down and wait a minute or two. If the water sizzles then it’s ready.

I’m not Italian

September 6, 2013

Marinara sauce (gravy, call it what you will) scares me. I have tried so many times to make this staple sauce and failed every time. I had containers of it in the freezer for a while because I would make a big pot, not really enjoy it, then freeze it on the off chance that I had a craving and it tasted better later. No luck.

I tried recipes from Joy of Cooking, the Food Network, made up my own, always starting with onions and garlic, maybe some peppers and carrots, adding a pile of tomatoes and herbs, and simmering for ages. It never tasted like sauce from a jar (thanks mom for setting unrealistic expectations!).

Tinned Tomatoes

surprisingly delicious canned tomatoes make the winter happy and healthy

A while ago, The Kitchn posted some recipes about how to make the perfect pizza. Always a delicious challenge, I enjoyed making pizza every other night for a few weeks. The best part? The sauce! They gave the simplest and yummiest sauce recipe I have ever encountered. Bonus? It doesn’t require any cooking or even fresh ingredients! I can make tomato sauce all Winter long!

Unfortunately I have to end this little saga on a sad note: my stomach still does not approve of tomato-based sauces, even though my tongue is a fan.

Marinara Sauce

from The Kitchn: Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce

  • 1 can of tomatoes (15oz)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • dash of salt and pepper
  1. Chop the garlic in a food processor or by hand.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend in the food processor.

I’m not kidding, it’s that simple!

Notes and Variations

The main difference between my version and the original is that I always add olive oil. I just like the richness it adds to the sauce. Also, I want to warn you to go easy on the balsamic. Just a bit more balsamic and that’s all you taste. Basically everything except the tomatoes is optional and should be adjusted to taste.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to say in the way of variations. The biggest taste factor between sauces will be – and probably has always been – the herbs and tomatoes. Speaking to an Italian friend about sauces recently, I was inundated with the list of canned tomatoes available at stores in the are and the quality of each one. A fascinating tidbit of knowledge and an informative one in the context of this recipe. I think the main difference lies in fresh versus canned. I have yet to try this recipe with fresh tomatoes because it’s so much cheaper and easier to use canned ones, especially when you’re just spreading a thin layer under a pile of toppings. But have fun experimenting with the quality and variety of ingredients!

A little taste of Canada

August 30, 2013

I recently traveled to Canada and deliberately left space in my bag to bring home some maple syrup. Liquid gold, as it’s known up North. People don’t play around with this stuff.

Searching for a delightful treat to bake one weekend, I happened across a simple cookie recipe that calls for some maple syrup in the batter. Perfect! What better way to highlight the precious syrup than a plain butter cookie made with maple syrup. I am happy to report that everyone who tasted it thought it was incredible. It comforts me to know that it’s not always the sweets dripping with frosting or the complicated recipes that require just the right timing and temperature that are the most pleasing.

Maple Cookies

maple flavored fish shaped cookies

Maple Leaves

from from The Cookie Jar

  • 1 c butter
  • ⅕ c shortening
  • 2 c sugar
  • ½ c maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 6 c flour
  • ½ t salt
  1. Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the syrup, eggs, vanilla and beat until smooth.
  3. Add the salt to the flour and mix.
  4. Stir the flour into the liquid ingredients until a soft dough forms.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼" thickness.
  6. Cut cookies and place on a greased baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 350F for 7-9 minutes until the bottoms are just browning.

Notes and Variations

There aren’t many variations to make to this recipe, just a few notes. First of all, the dough was incredibly crumbly once I combined all the ingredients. My solution to this was to knead it by hand a bit. The dough resembled a gingerbread consistency with a ton of flour and the shortening which I think helped it maintain its shape and not just melt when handled which butter-based doughs tend to do.

Maple Cookie Dough

the crumbly dough of the maple cookies. don’t worry! it got better with hand kneading.

My cookies were mostly fish shaped, which is just a personal preference. For the record, I was thinking of maple smoked salmon when I used the fish cookie cutter so it wasn’t totally random! The original recipe calls for leaf shapes and recommends using a few drops of food coloring in water to brush the cookies after baking them so they become the color of Autumn leaves. I just wanted a tasty cookie and couldn’t be bothered. Let me tell you, once that maple flavor hits the tongue, people don’t remember what the shape of the cookie was, let alone the tinted color! But I bet they’d be beautiful. Please show me if you try it!

Finally, the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of maple flavoring in addition to the maple syrup. I was appalled. First of all, I traveled all the way to Canada to get this maple syrup, I’m not going to use a "flavoring" to enhance it! Secondly, how can maple flavoring be better than just using the real thing?! Third, where am I supposed to find maple flavoring? (Probably a baking store. But that’s a pain.) Fortunately, I had a solution: I also bought some maple butter in Canada so I spread a thin layer of this on some of the cookies. Problem solved! If I were really bothered by the lack of color in my maple fish cookies, I could have tinted the maple butter. But I was primarily concerned with the taste, so I just ate them!