Gram’s Crepes

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I loved to wake up in the morning and discover that my Grandma had been making crepes.  They were, and still are my favorite breakfast.  Nothing fancy, just warm crepes spread with a choice of different jellies and jams.  For me, orange marmalade is the absolute perfect filling for such a delectable pancake.

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My Grandmother just passed away 2 days ago – 2 short weeks before her 95th birthday.  I have a bunch of recipes that she shared with my Mother and I.  All carefully typed out, with handwritten messages in the margins.

Many of the recipes have tips for making them with limited ingredients – the kinds of ingredients you would find on a military base at the “commissary”.  Today there is quite a wide variety of items, but that wasn’t always the case long ago, so sometimes you had to get creative.

She had been a Drill Sergeant in the Marines during WWII while my Grandfather was flying in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps – which later became the Airforce.  She wasn’t a cuddly Grandma, in case you’re wondering what kind of Grandma a Drill Sergeant is.

 

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She was a woman who’s body had been strengthened and made flexible by years of dance training in her youth and young adult years.  In the larger picture below, she is dancing at about the age of 12 or so while the famous composer Liberace is playing piano.  Both grew up in West Allis Wisconsin – a small working class suburb of the larger working class city of Milwaukee.  In the smaller picture, she is stretching while stationed at Camp LeJeune.

As long as I knew her, she spent every night stretching to keep her body in health.  Every night.  Usually after swimming her 50 laps in the pool.  Oftentimes naked, which is why I never joined her.  I wasn’t about to go swimming with my naked Grandma, so I swam during the day.

 

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And because she only slept for about 4-5 hours every evening, she would go to bed at midnight, and be up by 4:30 or 5 to make crepes . That way they would be ready by the time us kids woke up in the morning.

Ha!  No, not really!  She didn’t actually get up that early just to make crepes.  She just didn’t sleep very much.  But I’ll tell you, I was always so excited when I would walk out and see all the assorted jams on that table, each neatly spooned into small dishes on a lazy suzan. It meant we were having crepes!

I love you Grandma, and I’ll be sharing more of yours and Grandpa’s recipes in the future.  And I apologize – you never wanted to be called “Grandma” because you decided that was only for “old people”.  So almost everything you signed was “Grams”.

This post is in honor of you Grams.

Much love,

Christina

Gram’s Crepes (makes about 12 small crepes)

3 large eggs

1 C whole milk

1 Cup All Purpose flour (I’ve made great gluten free crepes with alternative flours)

3 T melted butter + more butter for the pan

Combine eggs, milk and flour in a mixing bowl using a handheld mixer or blender.  Or…do it the old fashioned way – with muscles and a whisk.  Add melted butter.  Refrigerate overnight ideally, or for at least an hour or more.  Enough time to let the flour absorb the liquid.  This makes it easy to cook the crepes without tearing them, and they actually cook a bit more quickly.

I no longer have a crepe pan, but actually prefer my “crepe assembly line method”.  Small nonstick pan on one burner.  Larger nonstick pan on a different burner.  Wooden board for a quick cool down, and a serving plate kept warm in the oven at 200 F.

Preheat small pan to med low, and large pan to a bit under that.  Add a small amount of butter to the small pan, and pour in approximately 1/4 C of batter, quickly swirling to make an even, thin pancake.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until set.  Gently loosen the edges – it should pop right out if the flour absorbed enough of the liquid.  Flip onto the larger pan, and cook for just a bit – usually less than a minute. Repeat process with smaller pan.

Remove crepe from larger pan and set on wooden cutting board.  This helps when you are making a pile of them to serve all at once.  It brings down the moisture content just a bit so they don’t stick together.

Flip 1/2 done crepe onto larger pan, and put the finished crepe from the board on your serving dish in the warm oven.

Repeat process, adding butter if needed to the smaller pan.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  This ends up going very quickly once you do it assembly line style!

Serve with different jellies, jams, or fresh fruit, and watch your family smile!

 

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Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta

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Pantry Raid Recipe #1.

There is a television show in America called “Chopped”.  In the show, a group of competing chefs receive a basket of mystery ingredients.  Then they have to create a meal out of the items they were given.

If my house were a basket, then my basket of mystery ingredients would be overflowing.  There are odds and ends of dried goods, things in the freezer, things in the refrigerator about to go bad, a can or two of this or that…I’m sure you get the idea.

So this recipe was made with my “basket” ingredients.  A tiny amount of almost forgotten chopped pancetta, a handful of spinach, a lonely can of butterbeans.  A strip of Kombu (which is a type of seaweed known to counteract the the less social consequences of eating beans), and some remaining shredded cheese.

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And WOW! It was good!  Really really good in fact! So let’s fearlessly explore the back of the cupboard and dive into the deepest recesses of the refrigerator to find what culinary treasures are waiting. (a lot of the amounts are approximate – using up what I have!)

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Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta

1 can butterbeans, rinsed and drained

1 oz chopped pancetta (approximate)

1 small strip kombu, about 2 x 5 inches)

handful spinach (kale would work also)

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 T minced onion (approximate)

1 roasted pepper from jar, diced

lots of dried herbs, like oregano, thyme and basil

1/2 C broth (I used chicken broth from open container)

1/2 C breadcrumbs

3/4 C shredded cheese (approximate)

olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F

Brown pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the strip of kombu when the pancetta is almost browned.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low and toss in the handful of spinach, roasted pepper, garlic, and onion.  Saute until onions are soft, and remove kombu.  Stir in butterbeans, broth, and as much herbs as you want.  Chop kombu and return to skillet.

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, herbs, some salt and pepper, and enough olive oil to make a crumb texture.  The crumbs I used are gluten free, so they didn’t get very brown.

When the broth hits a bowl, turn down the heat and simmer for just a few minutes.  Not too long or your beans might get tough.

Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in

Stir in about 1/2 C of cheese.  The mixture will seem quite liquid, but will tighten up after cooking.

Return the bean mixture to the skillet, top with rest of cheese, and then spoon the bread crumbs on top.

Cook on middle rack for 15 – 20 minutes, or until it begins to bubble up around the edges and the top is browned and crispy.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

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Antioxidants, fiber (or should I spell it “fibre” just to shake things up a bit), vitamins and minerals galore, toasty, crunchy, and pops of sweet.

Top with crumbled bacon if you would like, or better yet, serve with sausage.  It’s especially good with Italian style sausage, and if you’ve never had sausages and grapes for supper, then you’re missing out.

The only thing this picture is missing is the sprouts and the pine nuts!

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Brussels Sprouts are a variety of cabbage that grows on a stalk, and the sprout itself is actually a “bud”, like a flower bud.  They’re not “baby cabbages” like I once thought, but an actual type that originally came from the Mediterranean region and then moved north through Europe.

One cup of these sprouts has 120% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.  And you know what my favorite dessert is to have after this meal?

A couple of mandarin oranges.  More Vitamin C.  And the other part of a good dessert?  The almost forgotten and lesser known Vitamin C – Conversation.  

This entire meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each others company.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise through the core

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

1/2 C red grapes, sliced in 1/2

2 t pine nuts

Iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the sprouts and add in the seasonings.  I don’t measure.  Mix to make sure everything is coated and then put into your skillet.  Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll steam instead of roast.  Set timer for 15 minutes.

Take out pan and flip the sprouts.  Add the grapes and nuts to the pan.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Transfer to plate immediately so those little nuts don’t get too brown!  Top with bacon, or some additional salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

 

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Macaroni and Cheese with Hidden Pumpkin

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“When I saw you buying that pumpkin, I was wondering what you were going to do with it”.  Said my son as he basically inhaled almost half a pan of my newest experiment.

There has to be a thousand ways to make macaroni and cheese.  Correction.  Thousands.

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This version is baked in the oven, but you could easily take it off the stovetop, put it in some crocks, omit the crackers and top with cheese. A few minutes under the broiler, and you would have an ooey gooey mass of a little bit healthier than normal mac and cheese that everyone will love!

I really do believe that the secret to something tasting good is the love that goes into it, and the love extends to using the best ingredients you can find.  Never be afraid to get creative, and never be afraid to fail in the kitchen.  Personally, I prefer butternut squash puree, rather than pumpkin, but the nice thing about using a can of pureed pumpkin, is that you can make a quick dessert with the remaining portion.

Surely there will be more Macaroni and Cheese recipes gracing the pages of this blog in the future.  Maybe not thousands, but at least a few for you to try.

Macaroni and Cheese with Hidden Pumpkin

3 C dried macaroni noodles, cooked according to package instructions (a little less than al dente if putting in the oven), reserve some pasta water.

4 oz shredded sharp cheddar

4 oz gouda, diced

2 oz american cheese, diced

1 t ghee

12 oz can evaporated milk

1/2 C pumpkin puree

1 T dry mustard

1 t dried turmeric

2 T nutritional yeast

1/2 cube vegetable bouillon

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

salt and pepper to taste

optional couple of drops of worcestershire sauce

crushed cheese crackers for topping

Preheat oven to 350 F and dutch oven (you’ll see a lot of recipes with the dutch oven because it’s one of my favorite tools) to med low.  Add ghee to pan and then whisk in the evaporated milk, pumpkin puree, mustard and turmeric.  Once it is hot, add the nutritional yeast and vegetable bouillon.  Bring just to a boil and pour in the whipping cream.  Once that comes back up to a boil, lower the heat (or turn off depending on stovetop) and add in the cheeses, letting each one be incorporated fully. Start with the american, then the gouda, then the cheddar.  Stir in the pasta, adding just a little bit of the pasta water.

Pour the mixture into an oiled caserole dish (approx dimensions 8 by 8) and bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until it begins to get bubbly around the edges.  Top with crushed crackers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.

I think this one tasted really good with a side of spinach. I quickly cooked up a piece of bacon, and used just a small amount of the fat to quickly wilt the leaves.  Then I added a bit of water (heats up very quickly), and stirred in some miso after taking it off the heat.  Surprisingly enough, my son could taste the miso right away – he’s a big fan of it.

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African Peanut Chicken Soup

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I like fancy food – a lot, but I also like comfort food – a lot.  This recipe definitely falls into the comfort food category.  It also falls into the really good and healthy for you category.

It would take pages to write down all of the benefits that you can get from curry powder alone, and this recipe has almost a 1/4 cup of it.  Surprisingly it doesn’t taste like an overwhelming curry, but your body sure recognizes how good it is and starts to use it right away.

If there was one benefit that really stands out, it would be anti-inflammatory.  But even that is not enough.  These ingredients are strongly anti-cancer and even guard against cognitive malfunctions such as alzheimers.  Your liver will thank you too, because it’s great for clearing out congestion, which is pretty common in the cold winter months.

Convert it easily to a meatless (and vegan) version by substituting chickpeas and roasted cauliflower for the chicken.  A good quality vegetable broth made with carrots or squash will also provide a similar richness as the chicken broth.  Go even further, and get even more nutrition by adding some miso to the finished version.  You wont have to cook it as long, so just adjust your time.

I feel really good after eating this dish, and I know you will too!

 

African Peanut Chicken Soup

1-2 T coconut oil

2 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)

1 yam, diced

1/2 C onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1  jalapeño pepper, diced, no seeds (can use a different kind of pepper if you would like)

1 T grated ginger

1 smoked kipper, minced (or you can use a smoked fish that you just put in the pot while cooking and then pull out)

3 T curry powder (no salt)

pinch sugar

pinch hot pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 quart low sodium chicken broth (I add additional bone broth concentrate for flavor and nutrition)

1 C creamy peanut butter

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained

1 C coconut cream

salt and pepper

Heat up your dutch oven to medium low, and add the coconut oil.  Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and brown on each side.  Stir in the yams, garlic, onion, pepper and curry powder with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the chicken broth, peanut butter and tomatoes.  Add the bay leaf and sugar, cover, and simmer for about an hour.  Pull out the chicken thighs and once they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat and finely mince the skin. Return them to the pot and stir in the coconut cream.  Add a good amount of black pepper, and then taste to see if it needs more salt.

Let cook for another 20 minutes to half hour, but don’t let it boil.  It should be hot, but not boiling.

Serve with crushed peanuts on top and raw pumpkin seeds or cilantro.

*options: you can make this a stew by reducing the amount of broth or by adding additional chicken thighs which can be served whole over a bed of rice*

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Panzarotti (small hand held deep fried calzone)

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In a village called Monteroni d’Arbia , in the heart of Tuscany (Toscana), was a gem of a restaurant.

It was my first visit to Italy and I was looking for a place that was focused on farm to table food, and locally made items.

In this restaurant I was served something called panzarotti.  It had cheese and tomatoes in a fried crust.

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It’s a specialty of an area outside of Tuscany called Puglia (Apulia).  However, Naples also claims to be the birthplace of panzarotti.

What is interesting, is that in a small city in Wisconsin, there is a restaurant that has been serving something very similar called a “Ponza Rotta”, since 1976. It’s the same thing, only this version is HUGE.  Barely fits on a plate huge.  For a long time, it was the only place you could find it in the US.  And for a long time, no one knew the history of it.  Now, they are served at many places and even New Jersey claims to be the birthplace of these delectable treats.

If places around the world argue over who invented something, you have to believe that they are good!  Wherever they came from, or whomever came up with the idea, they were pretty genius in my humble opinion.

This crust recipe came from the blog thesweetworldsite.com where she asked that I try her calzone recipe.  This is an awesome dough, and I’ll be using it from now on.

My heart to yours,

Christina

Panzerotti

3 cups flour

pinch of salt

1/2 C warm water ( I used a PH of almost 9.  Water makes a difference)

1 1/2 t yeast

1 t sugar

extra warm water if needed

2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes diced and drained of liquid

2 C shredded mozzarella  (I actually used a mix of mozzarella and provolone.  If you are using a fresh mozz, make sure to drain it very very well)

2 t Italian seasoning

grapeseed oil

Food processor

Mix the dried yeast and sugar and warm up your water.  Pour the water into your yeast sugar mix.  Let sit for a while.  Everyone says 5 minutes.

In your food processor, mix together 3 cups of flour and a “pinch” of salt.  I used sea salt, and the pinch is probably 1/4 t as I did it. Pulse.

Slowly pour the yeast water mixture into the flour. Keep pulsing.  Add more warm water as needed to make the ball. I ended up using about 3/4 C in total. It will form a ball all by itself. Take it out and pat it.  It should feel like a bay butt.  Sprinkle with water, cover it with a cotton dishcloth, and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour or so.

Take your cans of fireroasted tomatoes and pour them out in a collandar that you set over a bowl to catch the juices.  Stir them and let them drain.  Once they are drained, chop them up into little pieces. Drain again, and put into a bowl.  Mix in the cheese and seasonings.

Take your dough out and pat it down. Loosely stretch it into a log. Cut in 1/2, and then form 2 balls.  You don’t have to knead. After forming the 2 balls, stretch each one into a log and divide each log into 8 pieces.  Form a little dough ball with each piece, sprinkle with water, and cover to let rise a second time.  They should double in size.  Take them out again, pat them down, and reform the ball.  At this time, the dough will be firm enough to really handle that high temperature. Roll it out into a circle.  These end up being somewhere between 5 and 5 1/2 inches round.

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Fill with 1 1/2 – 2 T tomato and cheese mixture.  Honestly, you could put whatever pizza filling you wanted in there.  Fold the it over and pinch the ends so that it stays together.  Once they are done, I put them in the refrigerator to wait while the oil heats up.

Heat up your oil in a dutch oven.  It’s ready when you put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and it starts to bubble up and then the bubbles race away from the handle.

Gently lay one of the pastries into the oil.  Once it floats to the surface, add your next pastry.  Then, when that one hits the surface, add the next one.  As they start to brown, flip them over and continue to cook.  These go very fast – most of them took only around 3 minutes, but some took a bit longer. Remove them from the oil, and let them drain on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with salt.

Someone is going to try this recipe with an airfryer, so we’ll see how that works!  They are not very oily to begin with, but I’m curious to see if this crust will work with that cooking method!

 

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Canederli in Brodo (Bread Dumplings in Broth)

Canederli are bread and speck (a type of ham) dumplings that come from the Alto-Adige region of Northern Italy.  There is no direct translation of “canederli”; the Italian word for dumplings is “gnocchi”.  But it sounds suspiciously like the Czech word for bread dumplings which is knedliky.  Very interesting for an area of Italy where the majority of residents speak German as their main language.  In German the name for bread dumplings is semmelknödel, and is thought to come from the Bavarian region of Germany which is….guess what.  Right next to Czechia and in a direct line north from Alto-Adige.

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I first tasted them at a roadside restaurant in the Dolomites.

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The Dolomites are majestic mountains made of calcium and magnesium – ancient coral reefs from an ancient sea that were pushed up to the surface in some miraculous way.  The real name of these mountains is “Pale Mountains” due to their color.

 

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But as the sun sets, they look like they are set ablaze, and for just a few moments they transform from gray to orange.

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It is in in this area and these conditions that speck is made.  Just like prosciutto, they use the leg of the pig.  But speck is slow-smoked for a few hours every day over a period of months.  The rooms are ventilated to allow the winds and the air of the mountains to pass through and flavor the meat even more.  It has a mellow, but rich flavor that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.

The dumplings themselves can be made with speck, or spinach, mushrooms, or even covered with sugar and filled with fruit and jam for a dessert.  Most commonly they are served in broth or a butter sauce with cheese.  This was a really great butter/cheese version.

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My favorite way is in broth, and I don’t put any cheese on it, but feel free to top them with a good Grana if you wish.  This recipe has both spinach and ham, and they are fluffy like fluffy little pillows in your mouth.  They are poached in the broth, but next time I may just steam them instead.  I think that would work just fine, and it makes sure that the broth stays clear.

 

Canederli (Italian Bread Dumplings)

8 oz old bread, crusts cut off and cubed

1 C flour

1 T baking powder

1 egg, well beaten

1/2 milk

1/2 C diced speck, ham, bacon, or pancetta (I used a mix of pancetta and ham)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T onion or shallot, minced

4 C chopped baby spinach

4 minced sage leaves

1 quart chicken broth

In a saucepan, over medium low heat, add your meat, and a little bit of oil if you need it.  Depends on what kind of ham or bacon you are using. Obviously, if using an American style bacon you will need to drain the oil because you don’t want all of that in the dumplings.  Add your shallot and garlic, and once the shallots are translucent, add your spinach and sage. That mound of spinach becomes quite small in just a few minutes!  Take it off the heat and let it cool down.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together, and then combine them with the bread cubes in a large glass bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg well, and then mix in the milk.  Pour this over the bread cubes, and stir it in well.  Stir in the meat and spinach mixture and then use your hands to start to start mixing it.  It should start to come together like a dough.  Cover and let sit for about an hour.  Sometimes I don’t wait that long.

Remix the dough with your hands and fingers, but don’t overmix.  I also don’t recommend doing it with any kind of machinery, because it could get overmixed that way as well.  Just use your hands.  Grab enough dough to form dumplings a little larger than a golf ball.  They will puff up as they cook.  The dumplings should form really easily and automatically want to go into that shape.  The dough will be moist, but should not be wet.  You may want to sacrifice one to see if it will hold up to poaching. If it falls apart, you can fix the dough before rolling the rest.

Canederli making is not an exact science!  As you start to form the balls, you may discover that not all of the bread was soaked, so you may need to add a little milk.  Or maybe they are not staying together very well, so you need a little more flour.  It all depends on the type of bread, and how much moisture is in the egg. 

Line up the dumplings on a baking tray and get your broth to a simmer.  You want to “poach” these at a low heat.  Not boil them.  Again, I think I’ll try steaming them next time, as I think that will work just fine, and then the broth will stay clear. Cooking them directly in the broth can sometimes make the broth a little cloudy from any flour that escapes.

Gently place the dumplings in the broth with a slotted spoon.  They will be heavy and want to sink down.  I do four at a time so they don’t stick together.  Cover the pot and let them sit and cook.  They are done when they puff up and begin to float on the surface.  Sometimes I turn them over just to make sure.  Honestly, they take less than 5 minutes to cook, and they are PERFECTLY done.  If yours take longer, it doesn’t matter, again, there can be many variables.

Place them in a bowl and ladle some of the broth directly over them.  You can add herbs or cheese if you wish.   Truly a comfort food!

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