Thursday, February 13, 2014

saturday oatmeal pancakes

I need to tell you that there are certain basic acts of cooking that I usually perform miserably:  cooking rice, golden pancakes, stuff like that.  It hasn't stopped me from making delicious meals.  And, after much practice on Saturday mornings, I'm getting better at the pancake thing.

When I was a kid, my dad used to make me heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine's Day.  With chocolate chips sprinkled in.  It was a sweet gesture, and I always looked forward to Valentine's pancake parties in my PJs.  Maybe I'll bring back the tradition this holiday, too, with a healthy upgrade.  Or any Saturday will do.

Wholesome pancakes are a food trend right now, and they are easy to make healthful and make your own. There must be thousands of variations floating around on Pinterest boards these days.  This version uses oatmeal and whole wheat flour to improve upon the standard carb load.  The result is surprisingly fluffy, hearty, and delicious with fresh fruit (either folded in the batter or served on top).

These take a bit longer to cook than basic Bisquick formula, about 4-5 minutes total, but there are no special tricks.  Keep your eye on the edges until they dry before flipping, then cook just another 30 seconds or so on the second side.  They'll keep warm in the oven until you're ready to serve.

So we can scratch this one off the list:  wholesome, golden pancakes for a snow day, Saturday, or Valentine's Day.  Check.  The recipe follows.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

italian pot roast with rosemary and fennel

Need some comfort food?  It's 6 more weeks of winter, and I feel like we are deep in it.  Thankfully a warm Sunday meal (and leftovers) is easier than you might think.

Not just any Sunday meal-- the best and most flavorful pot roast I've ever eaten.  Onion, carrot, fennel, and rosemary flavor the broth for low-and-slow cooking of an inexpensive chuck roast.  It's easy and budget-friendly.

Yes,  I said fennel.  I know you don't think you like fennel.  I don't really either.  So I scaled it back in this recipe, and I promise it makes a world of delicious difference.  Do the fennel.  You won't notice a licorice flavor, just something special.

It's an Italian twist on pot roast that I borrowed from Giada's recipe and simplified a bit for, you know, real people.  (I'll spare you the details of trying to use cipollini onions the way she does.  Dear God, life is too short.  Use regular onions.)  It's the perfect thing for cozying up on the couch for the Olympics. Or serving the whole family at Sunday supper. 

I think it brings out the best in homecooking. The ingredients are cheap-- except maybe the sherry and fennel depending on where you live-- so do yourself a favor and make a lot. Buy the best quality meat, stock, and organic vegetables you can find. Simple and high-quality ingredients will make this dish even better. I was lucky enough to find homemade beef stock from a local butcher (partially thawed in the picture above), which does wonders to help thicken and flavor the gravy.

Oh yeah, the gravy.  There's a secret in this, guys: the body of the gravy comes from the vegetables.  Instead of tolerating the uninspired, overcooked party-crashers hanging around when the meat is done braising for 4 hours, this recipe transforms the vegetables into a delicious, hearty gravy.  Yup, hidden vegetables, flavorful gravy.  The blender is the genius of Giada's recipe.

Mashed potatoes are the classic, rib-sticking accompaniment to pot roast.  But you'll be just as well-served with a root vegetable mash, some egg noodles, or my favorite -- slightly sweet, roasted spaghetti squash.  With extra gravy, please.  (More on spaghetti squash later, if you're interested.)

The recipe for your Sunday supper follows.