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  1. Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Swedish Pancakes (Pannkakor)

    Swedish pancakes (pannkakor) are something I’ve been eating since I can remember. Grandma Wallin (my dad’s mom, 100% Swedish) would make them, complete with lots of butter and granulated sugar. I think I remember her even stacking them with whipped cream and sugar and making a cake out of them some of the time. My dad will have to clarify that point! Even though Parkinson’s makes every dish in the kitchen a labor of love, Grandma Blomquist (my mom’s mom, 50% Swedish) still makes Swedish pancakes for us every time we visit.

    We always loved it when my mom would make them growing up. But they weren’t a frequent occurrence…and now that I’m a mom I know why. They take forever to make! They aren’t difficult, just time-consuming. When Grandma Blomquist makes them, she actually has two pans going, which is super smart if you can juggle it! I just make sure to get an episode of This American Life playing while I cook and I’m good. Just like me, my girls absolutely love it when I make these, and since it happens pretty rarely, it is a real treat.

    I’ve wanted to write about Swedish pancakes for ages and share Grandma Blomquist’s recipe with you. And last night I finally grabbed my camera while I was throwing them together and the post is finally here! Swedish pancakes are a lot like crepes, in case you’ve never had them. I think the texture and flavor is a bit different even though they are very similar. If you look up pancakes on Wikipedia, you’ll discover that many countries lay claim to super flat pancakes!

    The first time I tried to make Swedish pancakes things got a little hairy. So I thought I would take a minute to share a few tips I’ve discovered. The printable recipe will be at the end of the post.

    The batter is very runny. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. No panicking.

    Use a non-stick pan to keep things easy, but butter the pan before you cook each pancake. It helps the pancakes to brown and it just plain tastes better. I keep a hunk of butter in its original paper and spread a bit around between each pancake.

    Knowing that it takes a while to cook all the pancakes, I always keep an oven-safe plate in a 200-degree oven and put the pancakes in there until all they are all done. They taste just the same whether hot out of the pan or warmed in the oven, and then everyone can eat at once.

    And now for the flip. This is where I had trouble the first time I made them. If you try to flip them too early, they are nearly impossible to flip over. You wait until the top looks dry, there will be some bubbling, and the edges look like they might be browning. First flip over one little edge to see if the pancakes is browning on the underside. If it is, you’re ready to go. Tuck your spatula under that edge, then flip the edge back flat, then FLIP! I didn’t have one mishap last night when I followed my own rules and everything flipped over perfectly!

    One more quick note regarding the heat of the pan. You’ll mostly likely need to adjust the temperature while you’re cooking, but generally the pan will be medium heat, give or take depending on your stove. You want it hot enough that they brown and don’t take years to cook, but not so hot that you’re going to burn them. You’ll figure it out, I promise.

    I think that’s it! On to the recipe…

    Swedish Pancakes (Pannkakor)
    This recipe is from my Grandma Blomquist. She and my Grandpa make them almost every weekend.
    Recipe type: Breakfast
    Cuisine: Swedish
    • 3 cups milk
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    1. Put the milk and eggs in a large bowl and hand whisk until well-blended. Add the flour, sugar and salt and whisk again until well-blended. Batter will be smooth and runny.
    2. Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, coat the pan with butter (I keep my butter in it's original paper so it's easy to hold and spread around). Pour ¼ cup of batter into the pan and tip pan to coat evenly with the batter. (If you use a different sized skillet, you'll need to adjust the amount of batter accordingly - you want the batter to coat the entire pan and not be super thin or too thick.)
    3. Cook pancake on first side until the top is dried out, the pancake is starting to bubble and the underside is starting to brown. Flip one little edge over onto itself, stick your spatula under that edge, unfold the edge back flat, then flip! Cook until the second side has browned. Repeat process, remembering to add a bit of butter to the pan each time.
    4. Keep completed pancakes on a warmed plate in a 200-degree oven until all the pancakes have been cooked. Serve with butter (yes, more butter), granulated sugar, powdered sugar, berries, jam, or whatever floats your boat!
    5. With a 10-inch skillet, this recipe yields about 20 pancakes. We usually eat 3-5 pancakes each. Leftovers can be refrigerated and heated up in the microwave...and they are yummy!

    swedish pancakes from @janemaynard

  2. Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Nasturtiums Galore!

    A while ago I wrote a post for Make and Takes about nasturtiums. We planted nasturtium seeds again this year, this time in deeper planters, and they have practically exploded on our back patio!

    That random plant there in the middle? It just popped out of nowhere. I don’t have the heart to pull it, it’s doing so well…so random plant it is.

    My original post pretty much already says it all, but nasturtiums are FUN to plant with your kids and very easy to take care of. Definitely a great summer activity. Both times we’ve grown them from seeds with no problem and they are super hearty and flexible when it comes to sun exposure. Plus, you can eat the flowers and the leaves. I personally don’t love the taste, but the novelty can’t be beat!

    That’s all for today. Just wanted to share something that’s been fun for my girls that’s also super easy.

  3. Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Week 231 Menu

    So far, this summer feels like summer. The weather’s been warm, we’ve gone to the pool almost every day since the last day of school, and it’s just been plain fun. Oh, and we’ve eaten a lot of these.

    I can’t believe it’s menu time again! This morning I was laying in bed thinking, “Ugh. I don’t want to plan a menu.” But then I realized no matter how much I don’t want to, we still have to eat, so I might as well. And that’s when I stopped hitting snooze. Good thing, I think it was my 7th snooze.

    There are quite a few carry-over’s from last week. When you have guests in town, schedules tend to change pretty rapidly!

    – Orange chicken (the frozen kind from Costco) and rice
    – Baby Broccoli

    Stuffed Shells (didn’t make these last week)

    – BBQ night – Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers and Hot Dogs
    – Watermelon, baked beans and more!

    Moosewood Pasta Primavera

    – My sister’s last day in town…I think we have to eat out for the occasion!

    – Leftovers

    – Breakfast for dinner! I think Swedish Pancakes, if the weather isn’t too hot…Cate LOVES them and I actually haven’t written about them yet, so maybe it’s time!

    Your turn! Please share your menu for the week! And eat an ice cream sandwich whenever you can!

  4. Friday, June 24, 2011

    Cupcakes! And Take Two with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

    For Nate’s birthday this week Anna wanted to make him cupcakes. Pink cupcakes, specifically. Her latest obsession is Pinkalicious, which I am pretty certain played a major role in her decision for how we should celebrate Nate’s birthday.

    The girls had lots of fun decorating. Cate, the 6-year-old, was very organized in her approach. She also wanted white cupcakes because Dad is a boy. So funny. Anna, the 3-year-old, initially came at the decorating with a lot of energy and then petered out halfway through. It was really cute seeing how different their approaches were.

    This was my second time making Swiss Meringue Buttercream. And it came out just as good as it did the first time I made it. My sister Anne is visiting and when I was making it she said, “Wow, that’s an involved recipe.” But, in all honesty, while there is a bit of technique involved, it really is easy and anyone can do it. Trust me. And the frosting is heavenly. It is buttery, creamy and easy to work with. And since I liked it as much the second time around, I had to let you know!

  5. Thursday, June 23, 2011

    My First Freshly-Shelled Peas

    This week I did something in the kitchen I’ve never done before: I shelled fresh peas. I remember clearly a picture book from my childhood where a little girl who lives in the mountains shells peas with her grandmother on the back porch. That scene is so clear in my mind, soaked in nostalgia, what I perceived as the perfect childhood pastime. For whatever reason, however, fresh peas in the pod have never crossed my path, whether on a back porch in Appalachia or in my own kitchen!

    Last week we received a bag of English peas in our CSA bag. I was super excited to eat super fresh peas, to see if it made a difference in flavor. So, on Sunday, I set to work!

    First off, shelling them was actually kind of fun and satisfying…just what I thought it would be years ago reading that story as a child. BUT…you have to shell a LOT of pods to get not-so-very-many peas. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Secondly, they did taste better. I mean, they’re still peas. If you don’t like peas, then fresh or frozen, you’re probably not going to fall in love. They tasted how I expected, maybe just a bit fresher. But the real advantage is the texture was better, crisper, fresh.

    It’s official: freshly shelled peas are great!

    If you like peas…

    And if you don’t mind manual labor…

    But really, they’re great! 😉

    As always, feel free to share any pea recipes you love!

  6. Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    A Healthy Twist on Classic Potato Salad

    When I discovered my next Newman’s Own “Own It” recipe challenge with Martha’s Circle involved utilizing one of their salad dressings, I immediately knew what I was going to make. Back when I was first married and still learning how to cook, Nate’s Gram Maynard was the one to teach me how to make potato salad. I loved her potato salad. Simple and classic, it always hit the spot. Not too sweet and not filled with too many surprises. (I’m not a big fan of surprises in potato salad.)

    Gram had a trick, one that I have never forgotten and have always used since. Once the potatoes are cooked and cut, instead of using vinegar, she would toss the potatoes in Italian dressing. You get your vinegar in there, along with a bunch of built-in seasonings. It’s a genius idea that I absolutely love.

    Since I needed to also add a “twist” to my potato salad recipe, I decided to go for a healthy twist. In fact, I went for three healthy twists on this classic!

    1. Replace the bulk of the mayonnaise with fat-free yogurt…less fat and the health benefits of yogurt to boot!
    2. Leave the skins on the potatoes…that’s where are all the vitamins are!
    3. Throw in some cauliflower…easily hidden, most people won’t even know it’s there (Nate didn’t notice after eating a whole serving) and this nutrient-packed veggie adds an additional healthy kick to the salad.

    And guess what? This healthier version of the classic potato salad tastes just like…potato salad! Go figure. Seriously, it tasted just like the much less-healthy version I used to make. These twists are here to stay!

    Classic Potato Salad with a Healthy Twist
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    • 3 pounds potatoes of your choice (I used russet this time around)
    • 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped small
    • 1½ cups cauliflower, chopped then steamed
    • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
    • ¼ – ½ cup Newman’s Own Lighten Up Italian Dressing
    • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
    • ⅔ cup fat-free strained Greek yogurt or other thick yogurt
    • ½ Tbsp. yellow mustard
    • ⅛ tsp. dry mustard
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • ¼ tsp. pepper
    • ¼ tsp. paprika
    1. Chop unpeeled potatoes into 1”³ cubes. Add to a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and lightly boil 5-10 more minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork but not falling apart. Drain potatoes and put in refrigerator until cool. Feel free to fish out potato peels that have fallen off any potato pieces”¦some of them may do that after cooking.
    2. Mix together the potatoes, eggs, cauliflower and onion. Pour Italian dressing over the mixture and toss to cover.
    3. Mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, dry mustard, salt, pepper and paprika. Add to potato mixture and stir to combine.
    4. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Eat!

    P.S. Part of my participation in this project with Martha’s Circle was my recipe featured in a Newman’s Own advertorial in Everyday Food (kind of like the last recipe I did with them, which appeared in Martha Stewart Living).

    CHECK. IT. OUT. My name, blog, recipe and photo are on the inside front cover of the July issue of Everyday Food! Somebody pinch me! Get out there and get a copy for your scrapbook! 😉

  7. Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Week 230 Menu

    Happy Father’s Day! We’ve had fun serving Dad chocolate croissants and smoothies this morning!

    My vegetarian sister is coming to visit for the next two weeks, so I’m going to break out a lot of my veggie meals.

    Homemade Pizza (didn’t get to last week)

    Stuffed Shells
    – Veggie and bread

    – Leftovers

    – Nate gets to choose…he’s the birthday boy!

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    Moosewood Pasta Primavera (I think I’m going to try throwing in some white beans this time around)

    – Breakfast for dinner

    Let’s see what you’ve got planned for the week – please share! And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

  8. Friday, June 17, 2011

    Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars

    How about a little treat for the weekend? I saw a Food & Wine recipe for Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars on lovely Maria’s food blog and knew I had to give them a try. I’m a sucker for anything with a salty-sweet flavor combination.

    I was a little curious about what the texture of the pretzels would be like in something baked. When they were hot out of the oven, the pretzels were a little soft, but once the bars sat for a bit they got crunchier. My favorite way to eat them: after they’ve cooled, zap your bar in the microwave for 7-10 seconds. The bars are a little warm and the pretzels still crunchy. YUM!

    I had a meeting with some of my Federated Media peeps this week and sent them back to the office with a few cookie bars. Within the hour I had an email from one of the VPs saying “mmmmmm” and a tweet from my DailyBuzz Moms team about how much they loved the bars. I really can’t take any credit. It’s a straight up Food & Wine recipe, which I didn’t even discover myself (thanks Maria!)…but everyone agrees, they are DELISH! Enjoy!

    Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars
    From Food & Wine via Two Peas and Their Pod, with my personal notes
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1½ (6 ounces) sticks unsalted butter, softened (Jane note: my butter was salted, everything came out fine)
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • One 12-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1½ cups mini pretzels, coarsely chopped (Jane note: it’s WAY easier to just break the pretzels into small pieces with your hands rather than chopping with a knife. Also, I probably put in about 1¼ cups instead of 1½ cups.)
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.
    2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. (Jane note: I skipped this step because I’m lazy. Once the eggs and vanilla were in, I beat in the baking soda and salt, then the flour. And I’m sure I broke some baking rules doing it, but everything came out great and I had one less bowl and whisk to wash!) Using a mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute (Jane note: actually, let it go a few minutes). Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. On low, beat in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.
    3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Press the batter down with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. The middle might be a little gooey but that is ok, the bars will set up. (Jane note: Mine were DEFINITELY done at 30 minutes – in fact, if I had been paying attention, I might have taken them out a few minutes earlier than that.) Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely. (Jane note: Yup, I didn’t listen and ate one hot out of the oven. And, in this case, they are better after they’ve cooled a bit. Although, I can’t say it was exactly torture eating one before they cooled”¦still delicious!)
    4. Cut and eat!

  9. Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Freezer Jam Fruit Buying Guide

    This post was updated on 4/26/20 to include a visual freezer jam fruit buying guide, including information for Pomona’s Universal Pectin as well as Sure-Jell pectin. Original post was written 6/16/11.

    My jam is all made and stored in the freezer, ready and waiting to make our year a happy jam year indeed! We ended up with 28 cups (14 containers) of raspberry freezer jam and 48 cups (24 containers) of strawberry freezer jam. I bought WAY more berries than I realized, but I must admit that I’m happy to have such a large supply!

    Every year when I go to buy my berries and pectin, I end up standing in the store feeling frustrated. I can never figure out how many boxes of pectin I should buy for the amount of berries I have. Generally the containers the berries come in are measured in ounces, but the pectin recipe tells you how many pints of berries to buy. And it’s surprisingly annoying to figure out how those match up. AND…I’ve found that the amount of pints that the pectin box recipe suggests doesn’t necessarily yield the amount of crushed berries that they tell you it will.

    SOOOOOOOO…this year I kept track! And I crushed so many berries that I feel like this is pretty fool proof. This post will be helpful if you plan to make strawberry or raspberry freezer jam. And it will be very helpful for me next year when I go to make more jam. I’ll actually have all the amounts written down. No more frustrating google searches on my iPhone and hasty calculations on the back of a receipt while my girls tear the store apart, only to end up being wrong! This post will forever keep me on track. Yippee!

    Freezer Jam Fruit Buying Guide: Chart showing how much pectin, raspberries or strawberries and sugar to buy for making freezer jam with either Sure-Jell or Pomona's Universal pectins

    Here is the above chart broken down into text form:

    Sure-Jell Pectin Freezer Jam Buying Guide

    • 3 boxes Sure-Jell pectin for 64 ounces strawberries and 12 cups of sugar. Yield: 15 cups jam (64 ounces also labeld as 4 pounds crushes to 6 cups with a few berries left over)
    • 1 box Sure-Jell pectin for 24 ounces raspberries and 5 1/4 cups sugar. Yield: 7 cups jam

    Pomona’s Universal Pectin Freezer Jam Buying Guide

    There are approximately 9 teaspoons of pectin in one box, so you should be able to do two batches of jam with one box of Pomona’s pectin, based on the measurements below:

    • 4 teaspoons Pomona’s pectin for 44 ounces strawberries and 3/4 – 2 cups of sugar. Yield: 4-6 cups jam
    • 4 teaspoons Pomona’s pectin pectin for 32 ounces raspberries and 3/4 – 2 cups sugar. Yield: 7 cups jam

    This year I used sixteen 6-ounce containers of raspberries (4 boxes of pectin and 21 cups of sugar) and three 64-ounce containers of strawberries (9 boxes of pectin and 36 cups of sugar) to end up with the amounts of jam I outlined in the first paragraph of this post.

    PLEASE NOTE: If you are using SURE-JELL pectin, a couple years ago some of the boxes got bad directions. Click here to make sure that your directions in the box are the correct ones!

    Someone asked in the last freezer jam post about the Ziploc containers I use. Growing up my grandma and mom used all kinds of containers – jars, random tupperware, even Ziploc bags! For freezer jam, as long as it’s clean and can close, you’re good to go! I personally use the small (2-cup) round Ziploc containers that have a screw-top lid. We always eat our jam within a year and we’ve never had ice crystals or freezer burn. Then I save the containers for next year – they stack nicely so they don’t take up too much space while waiting for the next batch of jam. (One quick tip – often there is a $1 coupon inside the Ziploc containers for the pectin I use. I never discover the coupons until the jam is already made and am kicking myself for not saving $13! Just keep that in mind if you buy these containers for jam.)

    I hope all of this is helpful for at least some of you. Even if it isn’t, I have to admit it will be for me. I know, so selfish.

  10. Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Miracle of Miracles…An Organized Spice Cupboard!

    I have never attempted to organize my spice cupboard. I don’t know why because I have always hated my spice cupboard. If I want to know if I have a particular spice, I literally have to pull out every bottle in the cupboard to see if it’s there. And I often end up with multiple bottles of the same spice floating around. I could go on and on with the troubles my spice cupboard has caused me…and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one!

    So, this past week, I couldn’t take it anymore! I took a trip to the store and bought a lazy susan-type double shelf thingy and went to town on my spices. Here’s what I did:

    • The spices I use most frequently are on the bottom shelf, organized on the lazy susan. I can easily see them all and spin the shelf around to reach the ones in the back with no problem!
    • I put all the spices I use less often on the second shelf.
    • I wrote down every spice I have in the cupboard and taped it inside the cabinet door. Now I can look at the list and see if a spice even exists in the cupboard before I begin the big search!

    I know it’s not much. For example, I could type my list and alphabetize it. I could also better organize those spices on the second shelf. But what I have going on right now is sooooooo much better than what I had going on before that I don’t even care! Maybe one day I’ll have that perfectly organized spice cupboard that I’m sure Martha Stewart has, but, until then, I’m downright ecstatic over my “new” spice cupboard!

    And, one day, when I have a giant kitchen, my dream is to have a spice drawer, with the names of all the spices on the lids. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

    Please do share any spice organizing tips that you may have. I’m certain you people are full of great ideas!