June, 2007

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Let There Be Crepes
Jun 27th, 2007



I made crepes! This is an event that requires exclamation points!! For I've never attempted crepes before and always had a sneaking suspicion that it was something I couldn't do without special equipment or a period of indenturement to a master crepe maker hidden deep in the Swiss Alps. (Don't ask why my imaginary master crepe makers live in the Swiss Alps, they just do. They like the crisp air or something.)

There was a feature on crepes in one of my cooking magazines sometime in the past year, and I marked all sorts of scrumptious looking items and declared that I would certainly make crepes this time. But somehow the moment passed and the crepes remained illusory.

So it was very odd that when a group of us got together recently to plan a baby shower brunch for a co-worker, I found myself volunteering to make crepes. For twenty people. Nothing like a little pressure to get the cooking juices flowing. I hedged my bets and promised to bring pancakes if the crepes didn't work out, but the evening before the shower found me hunched over a blender of batter, my trusty Molly Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, and a hot omelet pan. I got the pan hot, added some oil and butter, swirled in the batter, flipped it, and out came a crepe. Well what the hell do you know, it works.

For brunch we wrapped the warmed crepes around blueberries, strawberries, and banana with the occasional dusting of powdered sugar and smear of Nutella. But the crepes worked just as well in a savory preparation for dinner the next night - filled with a quick saute of green garlic, mushrooms, and spinach and topped with tomato sauce, parmesan, and a drizzle of pesto.



I have no real crepe secrets to share with you - I certainly couldn't call myself a seasoned veteran (although an 8-inch omelet pan which I oiled after every 5th crepe worked well for me). I would just urge anyone out there with a hidden desire to whip up a batch of crepes to go ahead and give it a try. It's really not that scary, and you don't have to go on a pilgrimage to Switzerland to make it happen.


Folded French Crepes
makes about 10 crepes

1 large egg
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Nonstick spray
Butter for the pan


Process the egg, milk, salt, and flour in a blender until smooth. Let the batter rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place an 8-inch nonstick crepe or omelet pan over medium heat. After a minute or two, spray it lightly with nonstick spray, and melt in a little butter. Pour a scan 1/4 cup batter into the hot pan, wait a few seconds. then slowly tilt the pan in all directions until the batter climbs a little way up the sides.

Cook over medium heat until the top surface is dry, then loosen the edges with the tip of a knife and turn, using a small spatula. Cook on the second side for about 30 seconds, then turn the cooked crepe out onto a plate.

Immediately return the pan to the heat and repeat the procedure until you've run out of batter. (I needed to re-oil my pan about every fifth crepe or so.) Stack the cooked crepes on the plate.

They will keep in the fridge for up to a week, stacked on a plate and tightly covered with plastic wrap. Warm in a microwave or hot, lightly buttered pan.

-Molly Katzen, Sunlight Cafe
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Odds and Ends
Jun 18th, 2007



Here are a couple photos that don't really need their own posts, but I wanted to share with you. I just loved the colors in this one - purple and sweet potatoes straight from the farm via our veggie delivery. The colors weren't quite so spectacular when cooked, but the kids were duly impressed with the purple mashed potatoes.



I steamed the sweet potato chunks briefly in the microwave and then sauteed them with some broccoli, roasted red bell pepper, tahini, cumin, and lemon juice.



And here is a fritatta that came out particularly well - I've been making a lot of them now that I have a working broiler. I love watching them puff up and turn golden under the broiler's heat. It's even worth the fact that I inevitably go to flip the fritatta out and grab the handle of the pan still hot from the oven. The creamy eggs, crunchy vegetables, and salty feta go a long way to soothe my burned fingers.


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Kids in the Kitchen
Jun 18th, 2007



Here we've got my boys making muffins - one of their favorite kitchen activities, aside from running around the kitchen like crazy chickens without heads while I'm trying to cook. If you look closely at the ingredients, you'll see that the muffins being made in the picture are not the ones in the recipe below. But we've made a lot of muffins recently, and they're from the same cookbook so it sort of counts.



The boys made banana muffins, and I made both lemon and pumpkin chocolate chip from Elizabeth Alston's Muffins: 60 Sweet & Savory Recipes. They were all delicious, and it's a nice little book to have around for days when you want to bake but don't feel up to anything too complicated. Not surprisingly the boys were particularly partial to the pumpkin chocolate chip, which are even good directly out of the freezer (not that I would know of course).


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
12 regular or 48 mini-muffins

1/2 cup sliced unblanched almonds
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips


Lightly toast the almonds - either in a 350° oven or on the stovetop. Either way watch carefully so they don't burn. Let the almonds cool and spray your muffin pan(s) with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Combine eggs, pumpkin, and butter in another bowl and stir in chocolate chips and almonds. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, folding just until moistened.

Scoop into muffin cups and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Flavor develops over the next day or two.

-Elizabeth Alston, Muffins: Sixty Sweet & Savory Recipes
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Review: Eat, Drink, & Weigh Less
Jun 12th, 2007



Eat, Drink, & Weigh Less is a collaboration between Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health, author of the book that got me started on my cooking & eating well journey, and Molly Katzan, one of my favorite cookbook authors. So needless to say I was excited to hear they had come out with a new book that developed the science behind Willett's earlier book (Eat, Drink, & Be Healthy) into a full-fledged Eating Plan complete with recipes developed by Molly Katzen. There were recipes in Eat, Drink, & Be Healthy but they seemed mainly an afterthought.

Dr. Willett's recommendations for a healthy life stem from data gathered over the years on the Harvard Nurses Study and incorporate daily exercise and a diet heavy on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats. There is some really good nutritional data available in both books, and I'd definitely recommend you read one of them, I just don't know that you need to read both. Eat, Drink, & Be Healthy gives you the nutritional info in a popular science sort of style, with recommendations but no real eating plan. Eat, Drink, & Weigh Less summarizes the science and lays out an eating plan based on it.

My concern with the recipes is that they are fairly simple, so don't offer much to someone who is experienced in the kitchen, but the 21 day plan as laid out requires a lot of cooking and might be overwhelming to a kitchen novice. Heck, it looked overwhelming to me! But that said, it's really good advice and solid tasty recipes. I needed to knock off a pesky five pounds that had been floating around lately, and Eat, Drink, & Weigh Less helped me do that pretty painlessly. I was already eating pretty well, so I just focused on adding one fruit serving and two vegetable servings a day to my normal menu. I like the focus on adding delicious and healthy foods rather than a bunch of restrictions on what you can't eat.

Those are in there though - if you're looking for an actual 'diet', they've got a 21 day plan with menus worked out to come in around 1600 or so calories a day. Another fun addition is a list of packaged convenience foods that get the Willett stamp of approval. There aren't a lot, but it's nice to know he agrees with me that a Luna bar every now and then won't kill you!

I did end up marking a few recipes to try, and made these beans from the book, which were delicious on their own after a few days in the fridge, and even yummier tossed with blanched asparagus and green beans. I also made a balsamic glaze and roasted garlic and am going to pickle some onions this weekend after reading through the book - none of these things really requiring recipes per se, but it was nice to be reminded to do them as they are great things to have on hand in the fridge to perk up a meal.


Quick Marinated White Beans

One 15-ounce can white navy beans or pea beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 3/4 cups cooked white beans)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or more)
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp minced or crushed garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

Optional additions:
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp finely minced carrot
2 tbsp finely minced celery


Combine everything in a bowl and adjust salt & vinegar to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate. The taste improves after a day or two of refrigeration.

-Molly Katzen, Eat Drink & Weigh Less
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