Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Easy Ricotta Pancakes

Tonight when I was putting the boys to sleep, they wouldn't stop making each other laugh hysterically. 

Here's an excerpt:
Gunnar "poo poo Mama" <laughs hysterically, in the way only an adorable 16 month old baby boy can>
Gage <laughs, tee hee hee>
Gunnar "poo poo" <hehehehe>
Gage "goo goo gah gah Mama"
<everyone dissolves in hysterical giggles>
Me "It's sleepy time guys, close your eyes, shhhhhh shhhh shhhh"
<a full minute of silence>
Gunnar "poo poo" <laughs, eyes closed the whole time>

Bathroom humor aside, this exchange was adorable and kinda the best way to wrap up a great day with these two little guys. (Gage earlier in the bath told me "Mom, Gunnar is my best friend", with a clear emphasis on "best.") I am not saying I don't have bad days with these two cuties. There are days when I want to tear my hair out, stomp, yell and throw things. There are days when I shout in anger at them, which no child deserves. I am not a perfect mama and it is not a perfect life. But today was pretty great. And I think that part of the reason that happened is because I woke up, made coffee, then right away made these pancakes with both boys as my special big helpers. 

These are some of the best pancakes AND also some of the easiest. I'm actually astonished I haven't blogged about them before, because I make them at least once every other week. They are delectable enough to serve to guests for a fancy brunch, but so easy you'll want to make them all the time. Five ingredients people! That's almost the same number of ingredients you need for box-mix pancakes! And don't be intimidated by breaking out the hand mixer for the egg whites.... It really only takes one extra minute and it ensures the light-as-air texture which makes them so very, very good. Plus, there's nothing like enticing little ones to help then letting them press buttons on a fancy electronic toy.

Easy Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta (preferably Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs, separated 

In a large bowl, mix the first four ingredients, plus the egg yolks until smooth. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form (whites stay in shape when you lift the beaters up.) Mix 1/3 of whipped egg whites gently into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg whites, very gently until just combined. Scoop up the batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and pour onto a well-buttered hot griddle or skillet (NOT non-stick) and cook over low heat until bubbles form, then flip over gently and cook till cooked through. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked, making sure to add more butter to the pan before each batch addition.

For company, serve with berries and powdered sugar (really no syrup needed!) 

You can also substitute the vanilla for 1 teaspoon lemon zest, or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

I've also made these with half full-fat Greek yogurt and half ricotta, and they were also very tasty, although less fluffy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Whole grain chocolate fudge cake

One of my favorite little kid book authors is Sandra Boynton. One of her books, a book of moods, goes through different ways a child could be feeling. "Angry as a duck" "contented as a frog" and so on, pairing moods with animals you weren't sure could ever have one. But my favorite page is near the end "You might feel that, somehow, you've lost all your fizz. Or you're frazzled like a... frazzled thing. I'm not sure what is is." Well, Mrs Boynton, I'll tell you, that frazzled thing - as I'm sure you know since you've been one yourself - is a mommy of young children. In particular, this mommy, whose 1 year old is cutting four molars at once (why!?) and suffering from a bad head cold and thus up at least five times a night, and whose 4 year old (although sleeping in his own bed on his own in his own room - yay!) wakes up like clockwork at 4:30 or 5. Oh, and whose husband has been working 80-90 hr weeks for months now. I am really just spent. And so, when my kid wants chocolate cake, instead of being like oh, let's cut up some apples in star shapes! I'm like, YES. CHOCOLATE CAKE. NOW. GREAT IDEA.

However, my inner supermama is like, woah, hold on. Yes we can make chocolate cake, but let's try to make it just a little bit healthy. Because, you know, then you can eat half of it and not feel guilty, errr I mean, you can feel just a little better about giving it to your precious progeny.

My previous attempt at whole grain chocolate cake was an utter failure. Way too crumbly. Although I must say that my kids clearly have no culinary standards when it comes to chocolate because they both devoured it. But this time..... this time.... ahhhhhh. It is SOOO good. It is ahhh okay I don't care I was woken up at 4am after only a few hours of broken sleep because if I had slept a full 8 hours I would be eating apples cut into cute shapes instead of this divinity - good.

So, go on, get into the kitchen already. This is so easy to whip up and you will feel so much better after having a piece. Happy as a hippo. I promise.

Whole grain Chocolate Fudge Cake
adapted from King Arthur Flour

I'm a bit anti-egg recently for no real reason, so I used chia seeds as an egg substitute. Do whatever is easiest for you, but trust me that the chia seeds are awesome and make the cake just a tad more crumbly than it would otherwise be. (Just don't try to unmold the egg-less cake onto a plate, this is pure snack cake, not party cake.) Also, I used a cocoa brand which is half dutch-processed, half not. The original recipe called for dutch-processed only, which is why I added a bit of baking powder. If you use pure dutch-processed you can probably omit the baking powder, and if you only have Hershey's (which is not dutch-processed) then I would probably cut the baking soda in half and double the baking powder. As for flour, I used this awesome sprouted spelt flour I got at whole foods. I would go cautiously if using a super heavy whole-grain flour. When you measure it out, if you can see a lot of bran in the flour then I would use half white flour. Lastly, you can swap out the oils mentioned for almost any oil you prefer. Using half coconut or half peanut would work nicely too. 

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons coffee
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups whole grain spelt, ancient wheat, or other sprouted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk or European style yogurt
2 large eggs, or 2 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 6 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 10 x 8, or 9 x 13 pan.

Put cocoa in a small mixing bowl and pour boiling hot water over it, whisking until smooth. Add in coffee and oil, whisk together.

In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Pour the cocoa mixture over and stir until combined. Add the eggs (or chia mixture), the buttermilk and the vanilla and stir until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan and bake just until a toothpick comes out with with moist crumbs. This took about a half hour for me, but as always, bake time will depend on the baking vessel, the weather, the altitude and your oven. Do not overbake!!

Eat with your kids and don't feel guilty.