Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baby James' Favorite Chocolate Pancakes (And Mine Too!)


Now that he is all grown up and one years old, Baby James has decided that he no longer needs to eat any kind of food other than white food: cheerios, turkey, string cheese, french fries, noodles, doughnuts, and of course, milk. That's it! Notice anything missing from that list? Anything like, I don't know, fruits or vegetables?

I'm not even going to go into all the things I've done to try and get James to try a bite of juicy peach or a nibble of mango. From the way that kid turns his head away and squinches his mouth and eyes shut, you'd think I was asking him to eat dirt! Which, by the way, he will eat. Yes, that's right: He will eat dirt, but he won't eat a bite of peach.


So I've had to resort to being tricky. There is one non-white edible substance James will deign to eat (other than dirt, which does not count), and that is chocolate. James LOVES chocolate. He's wild about it, and whenever he suspects we have some he will wave his fat little hand for it and cry like there is no tomorrow. So when I found this recipe, it seemed perfect: What better place to hide a few blueberries and some spinach than in a chocolate pancake?


I know what you are thinking: Blueberries and SPINACH in a pancake? Yuck! And that's exactly what I thought too. The first time I made this recipe, I was just hoping they were not too horrible to eat, mainly so I could get some fruits and vegetables into my child. I never expected them to be so absolutely delicious, and I certainly never expected to like them so much I wanted to eat them all myself! And the spinach? It's pureed so fine, you can't even taste that it's there. Really, I promise. What you can taste is how incredibly soft and moist these pancakes are. There's no need to slather them with gobs of butter and syrup, because these pancakes are tender and soft all by themselves. I like to roll them up with some fruit inside, but baby James likes them just the way they are.

This is just photographic proof that my child has at some point eaten something containing spinach and blueberries. Note the cheerios on the tray and the football hold he has on the bottle of milk.

Baby James' Favorite Chocolate Pancakes
adapted from The Sneaky Chef" by Missy Chase Lapine

I was so impressed with this recipe I went out and bought Lapine's book. These pancakes have all kinds of nutritious goodies in them: whole grains, milk, eggs, and antioxidant rich chocolate, spinach, and blueberries. A lot of times recipes call for applesauce to be swapped in for the fat or oil in a recipe, and the spinach/blueberry puree has the same effect: The fat or oil can be reduced because the spinach and blueberries puree bring so much moisture to the cakes. And it tastes maaaeervelous, of course.

Although if you slather these with nutella and powdered sugar, that might negate some of the health benefit, just a little bit. But today is my birthday, so I think I am allowed to have as much nutella on my pancakes as I like!

1 cup pancake mix (I am very pleased with Pamela's gluten free pancake and baking mix, but use whatever healthy mix you like best, gluten-free or not)
1 cup milk
(rice milk, soy milk, or almond all make good alternatives)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup spinach, packed
1/4 cup blueberries
1 large or jumbo egg
1-2 tablespoons healthy fat, such as coconut oil (you can also use butter or vegetable oil, but these are not as good for you)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine 1/4 cup blueberries...

...and 1/4 cup spinach (packed).

Puree until very smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup pancake mix...

...2 tablespoons cocoa powder...

...1 jumbo egg...

...1 cup milk...

...and the blueberry spinach puree.

Whisk batter until smooth.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, pour batter into heated pan.

Heat one one side until little bubbles begin for form on the surface of the pancake.

flip over. Cook on second side until pancake springs back lightly at the touch. Remove from heat. If desired, keep in a warmed over (200 degrees) until the rest of the pancakes are done cooking.


Top with berries, powdered sugar, nutella, nuts, whiipped cream, whatever. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing


Look! More tomatoes I did NOT grow in my garden! Yes, friends, I am still feeling cranky that I have 21 tomato plants taking up real estate in the backyard, and it's August and still not a single tomato harvested, forcing me to purchase tomatoes from the store. CURSES. Although today one tomato started to blush a little yellow. Could this be the beginning of the bushels or tomatoes I had hoped for?? My heart is going pitter pat even at the thought.

On the bright side of things, look what a fabulous tomato salad you can make, even if you have to buy your tomatoes from the grocery store! And OH MY GOD. I totally wasn't even intending to blog this, it being the first time I had made the dressing and I didn't even bother to take pictures as I made it, but honestly people, THIS SALAD BLEW MY MIND. The tomatoes and the dressing and the seasonings all blend together into a perfect harmony of contrasts and compliments and I just about passed out after the first bite I was so overwhelmed with the tangy creamy sweet sour goodness. This tomato salad was so good that it was equal to, if not better than, the salad that allegedly cured my infertility nearly two years ago this month.

Please, I beg you, even if you don't like tomatoes, please try this. It just might be the best salad in the whole wide world.


Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing
adapted from the recipe by Ina Garten

The best place to find heirloom tomatoes is probably your local farmer's market, but I bought these at Trader Joe's and I thought they were delicious. Whatever you do, just make sure that the tomatoes you choose are fully ripe when you eat them; if they are white or mealy in the center, they are not worth eating.

3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, mixed colors and sizes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound Gorgonzola cheese, divided in half
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

slice and core tomatoes, cutting the large ones into thick slices, and halving cherry tomatoes. Arrange on platter, and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and parsley.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine half the Gorgonzola, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup cream, and 2 tablespoons vinegar, as well as 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Process until combined, but still chunky.

Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes. Crumble the rest of the blue cheese, and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes


See these tomatoes? These are tomatoes I did NOT grow in my garden. Even though I have 21 tomato plants growing in my back yard, I haven't harvested a single tomato all summer. NOT ONE. This has officially been the coldest, grayest, most gloomy summer ever, and I have hardly a thing ripe in my garden, other than pickles, even though it's nearly mid-August.

If you happen to hail from somewhere other than the promise land, then you may not know that in Southern California, and particularly in the beach cities, we usually experience what we call "June Gloom" during the first few weeks of the summer. It's overcast and cool, and on particularly heavy days in can even sprinkle a little bit of rain. It usually clears up by July 4th and everyone spends the rest of the summer lying around scantily clad and eating gelato, riding beach cruisers, and getting enviably tan. This summer, we have all been bundling up in parkas and wondering if the sun will ever shine again.


So I didn't grow these tomatoes. The weather? She is not so cooperative this summer. I am only a tiny little bit cranky about this.

I don't know about you, but I have of sort of devotion to fire roasted diced tomatoes. I love them with the burning love of a thousand suns. Whenever a recipe calls for canned tomatoes, my heart leaps just a little bit because I am just so! in! Love! with that smokey, caramelized yumminess. Lately, though, we have been forgoing many recipes calling for canned anything, because a new study has shown that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical in the plastics used to line the interior of food cans, leaches into food. BPA is an estrogen mimicker and an endocrine disruptor, and can be especially harmful for babies and young children. It is associated with cancers, early puberty, low sperm count, infertility, heart disease, obesity, and developmental problems such as ADD. It has been banned from baby and toddler bottles in 5 states, and legislation for a similar ban is working its way through California's political machine even as I type this. If you or your children consume canned and packed foods on a regular basis, you are likely exposing yourself and your children to BPA, and in amounts that are high enough to affect your family's health. Scary, right?


Canned food? We don't really eat it anymore. And yes, I could buy the fancy organic canned tomatoes in the enamel lined can from the health store, and I do buy then when I need some canned tomatoes in a pinch. But the health food store is on the other side of town, and making the extra trip can be a bit of a hassle, and OMG it almost gives me a heart attack to pay $5 for a can of tomatoes. Plus, how cool is it to make your own?? Super cool.

You could can these the traditional way (I give directions below), freeze them, or just make small batches, store them in the fridge, and eat them as a summer treat. They are fantabulous on top of salmon. Whatever you decide to do, there couldn't be a easier, cheaper, or healthier way to make your own fire roasted, diced tomatoes. BPA-free and all :)


Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes


lemon juice (optional)

Preheat grill or broiler. Halve tomatoes or slice into thick wedges. Scrape seeds out with a spoon or the tip of your finger (I forgot to do this for this batch, so there are lots of seeds in the photos).

Grill or broil tomatoes, until they are softened and slightly charred. Remove from heat, and let cool. Remove skins - they should just peel right off, easy.

Pack into sterilized canning jar, and add 1 TBS of lemon juice for every cup of tomatoes (this is to make sure the ph level of the jars is correct, given the offchance there are some botulism spores in your jars. If you are freezing your tomatoes or planning on consuming them right away, you can skip this step).

Add a little water so the jars are full up. Screw the lids on the jars, and process in a water bath (boil in a pot with water 1" over the tops of the jars) for 40 minutes. Remove jars from water, and let cool. If the jars have sealed properly, the jar lids will dimple down, and they can be stored in your pantry all winter long, up until next summer, when you get to make some more with next tomato crop. Enjoy!