My blogging friend Alea, who writes Premeditated Leftovers, is taking some time off right now due to a death in the family, and honored me by asking if I would provide a guest post. You can read “Ethnic Markets: Fascinating Foods, Fantastic Bargains” at her blog today. Alea’s interesting and useful posts, and great recipes are always well worth reading, and she’s also featured some other great guest writers this past week – definitely worth checking out!
Monthly Archives: February 2011
In his magnificent cookbook How To Cook Everything, Mark Bittman writes that “Americans must have been sadly alienated from the kitchen for pancake mixes to ever have gained a foothold in the market, for these are ridiculously easy to make.”
Ridiculously easy is an understatement when it comes to making his Basic Pancake recipe. I first put pancakes on the menu a few weeks ago for the girls’ before-school breakfast, and woke up one morning dreading that decision, thinking I was in for a long session in the kitchen, but I had buttermilk that needed to be used up and the girls had been asking for pancakes for a few weeks, so I decided to give it a go.
The batter for these pancakes was ready before the griddle was hot! I had planned to have the dry ingredients prepared the night before and sitting out, and the wet ingredients combined and waiting in the fridge ready to mix in, but I didn’t get it done and it still took only a very few minutes to pull the batter together. The pancakes that resulted were light and fluffy, and the girls said they were the best “regular” pancakes they’d ever had. Mr. Losing It made the pancakes again this morning (because we again had buttermilk to use up), and he agreed they were easy, easy, easy and the best regular pancakes he’d had (and I agree). We served them with just butter and maple syrup, and they disappeared quickly.
Bittman adds several ideas for variations: Polenta, blueberry, banana, buttermilk, sour milk or yogurt, and buckwheat pancakes all require just a few simple changes. The standard recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but we’ve used whole wheat pastry flour each time with great success, and also substitute vegetable oil for the melted butter. I’ve also made them substituting pumpkin puree for some of the liquid (I also added some cinnamon) and they also cooked up great as well. The batter can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for several days, until ready to use.
Don’t forget to link up one of your favorite breakfast recipes below!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1 or 2 eggs (we use 2)
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk (we use 2)
2 TBSP melted and cooled butter (or vegetable oil)
Preheat griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat while you make the batter. Mix together the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs into the milk, then stir in the melted butter or oil. Gently stir this into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten the flour (don’t worry about a few lumps). If the batter seems too thick, thin with a little milk.
If your skillet or griddle is non-stick, cook pancakes without any additional oil. Otherwise use a teaspoon or so every time you add batter. Pour the pancake batter onto the hot surface; the bottom should cook in 2 -4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Turn and cook until the bottom is browned as well and serve hot. If necessary, the pancakes can be held in a 200° oven for up to 15 minutes.
That’s the dance I feel like we’re doing these days with our efforts to pay off our debt. We’re making progress, we’re moving forward, but every time I find a little extra in the budget to apply toward our debt it either feels like it’s not enough, or it needs to be applied to something else. I learned the water filter in our refrigerator needs to be changed at the end of the month, and there goes $50. We’ve also got to squeeze in an additional $140 a month into the budget for WenYu’s braces. Our house payment goes up next month just as the withholding increases again in Mr. Losing It’s navy retirement check. For the first time his retirement pay will no longer cover the house payment so we’ve got to send some additional funds to that account every month. We’ve also got to fit some shopping money into the next couple of months’ budgets, for gifts to take over to Japan for our grandson and his mom and dad. Two steps forward, one step back.
I’ve learned though that effective debt repayment isn’t always about paying off the lowest balance first, or applying extra to the account with the lowest balance. This morning, as I worked on our budget for the next six months (yes, we budget that far ahead) I discovered that if I make an extra payment each month to our adoption loan balance we can have that debt repaid by the end of June versus just making the regular monthly payment and finishing it in October. I had originally thought we should pay off a smaller credit card balance first, but discovered if we got rid of the adoption loan first we could actually pay off the credit card by September, a full month ahead of schedule!
A couple of weeks ago I posted our debt balances on front page of the blog. They’re there for me to have to look at, so I can see how far we still have to go, but also as a reminder of how much progress we’ve made and are continuing to make. When I’m feeling discouraged, it helps to see that we’ve paid off two car loans, and one overdraft account (the second will be paid off this month when our tax refund arrives). We have an ambitious goal for this year, to pay off four more accounts: the second overdraft, the adoption loan, credit card #3, and Mr. Losing It’s student loan. It’s going to take a great deal of hard work and focus, but we also have something else motivating us these days: Mr. Losing It’s retirement. Plans for that, for where we want to be and what we want to do, are falling into place and are providing real motivation to stay on task with debt repayment. That and we’re just sick to death of debt.
The two-step continues, but I’m enjoying the music more these days.
Otherwise, another week with no food waste! Yeah! I’m a little surprised as this past week’s schedule has been crazier than usual and we’ve seemed to end each day with several containers of leftovers. However, Meiling and YaYu have been perpetually hungry all week (another growth spurt?) so the leftovers disappeared fairly quickly.
How did you do with food waste this week?
Since we love pulled pork here, and also love Asian flavors, this recipe was a no brainer for our family. It comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes, a book I’ve had for years. I somehow missed this recipe, though I’m not sure why as it’s everything I like in a recipe: easy, low cost, and delicious (Note: In the book it’s called “Oriental Pork Sandwiches.” With three Asians living in our home, the only way the word oriental gets used around here is as an adjective for a rug.)
Since it’s made in a slow cooker it’s incredibly easy to put together. I buy pork from our local Asian supermarket, and paid less than $5.00 for the roast used in this recipe. It also uses hoisin sauce, a thick sweet sauce used in Chinese cooking, and five-spice powder for the seasoning. Both can be found in the Asian foods section of the supermarket. Hoisin sauce will keep for a very long time in the fridge after being opened, and there are lots of recipes out there that call for it so you can use it up. Five-spice powder can be purchased ready-made, or you can make your own (the recipe is below). The pork filling for these sandwiches turns out very juicy and delicious, and the Asian flavors are not overpowering. In fact, next time I plan to add a bit more of the five-spice powder to add just a bit more flavor, which we prefer.
I served the sandwiches with Sweet-Sour Coleslaw. Some of us ate the coleslaw on the side, but one of the girls and I put it right on the sandwich with the shredded pork. It would also be delicious made with broccoli slaw versus cabbage, and plain shredded cabbage would work as well. Two of the girls also topped their pork with sriracha sauce, but they like everything spicy.
ASIAN PULLED PORK SANDWICHES
1 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
6 – 8 kaiser rolls
1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded Chinese cabbage, coleslaw mix, or broccoli slaw
Trim the fat from the pork roast. Place pork in slow cooker. In a small bowl combine apple juice or cider, soy sauce hoisin sauce and five-spice powder. Pour over the roast. Cover and cook on low setting for 10-12 hours, or on high setting for 5 1/2 – 6 hours.
Remove meat from cooker, reserving juices. Using two forks, shred the meat, then put back in the cooker and mix with the reserved juices. Place shredded meat on the roll and top with shredded cabbage or coleslaw.
You can also skim the fat from the juices left in the slow cooker and serve it on the side for dipping the sandwiches.
Grind together into a fine powder:
3 TBSP ground cinnamon
6 star anise
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp whole Szechwan peppercorns OR black peppercorns
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Store in a tightly covered container. Makes 1/2 cup.