Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The sweet smell of dirty little kids

A roommate of my sister's was an Elementary Ed. major. After working with kids for a while she came to the conclusion that all little kids smell like pancakes. Oh, come on, you know the smell: that sticky smell of Aunt Jemima syrup, left over from breakfast mixed with the "outside" smell that kids get. After having kids, I fought hard to make sure my offspring didn't get that smell--even if it meant avoiding eating pancakes.

When my first child was 1, we were visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Boston. We had pancakes for breakfast. Uh, oh. My daughter would now have her first taste of pancakes. But, to my surprise, we didn't have that normal, fake-tasting syrup. We had homemade buttermilk syrup. I discovered the secret to letting my kids eat pancakes without smelling like syrup (B. still didn't get syrup on her pancakes until she was 3 years old, but her brother has already been destroyed by 1).

The buttermilk syrup was delicious. I have passed on the recipe to my sister and she came up with the great idea of putting orange zest in it. It is so good, not just on pancakes and waffles, but crepes and ice cream, too. I tried it with lemon zest and it makes a great combination with blueberries and raspberries.

So, here's to helping your kids smell like roses...

Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (can subsitute regular milk w/ 1 tsp lemon juice--let sit 5 minutes)
1 T light corn syrup

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine. Add 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest, if desired.

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes

1 cup wheat flour (I love King Arthur's)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 T sugar
1 egg
1 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1 T oil
1/8-1/4 cup milk

Heat a skillet to 350 degrees (or on stove heat over medium-low heat).

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar in a bowl. Combine egg, yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla, oil and milk in another bowl and mix. Add dry ingredients until combined.

Pour the pancake batter on the hot skillet using a 1/2 measuring cup (add more milk if it thickens too much). Cook until pancake bubbles. Using a spatula, flip pancake over and cook for another 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Keep warm in a preheated 200 degree oven or tortilla warmer. Serve with buttermilk syrup and fresh berries.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tidal Wave

Surprise burger, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

Remember that gum that had the liquid in the middle and when you first bit in it would come oozing into your mouth? I always wanted to get it until there was a rumor that it caused cancer. But then again, I have a theory that they are going to soon say that everything causes cancer. Another reason I always questioned those chips with olean in them. But, I digress...

With Memorial Day coming up I figured everyone would be deciding on their menus for BBQs. If you are in the D.C. area you definitely need to go downtown to see Rolling Thunder. It makes you appreciate those who have served our country--past and present. Rolling Thunder is the name for when some Vietnam Vets come rolling into town on their Harleys (all during Memorial Day weekend). My dad doesn't join them, though. He gave up his motorcycle when he married my mom. I think it is so touching to see these rough-looking guys standing at the Vietnam Memorial with tears streaming down their face.

Here is a DELICIOUS burger that has a middle that will surprise you just as that gum did and just how those rough-looking Harley guys do.

Surprise Burger

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Season the meat with salt and pepper and divide it into 4 large, fairly thick patties (leaving some extra meat to cover the indentation). Make an indentation in the center of each patty about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; fill with 2 tablespoons of one of the fillings (you can have your guests choose and do it themselves, if you want). Cover the filling with meat. Grill over moderate heat for 8 minutes on each side or till desired doneness. Serve on good buns.

Mexican Filling

Serves 4

1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced, seeds removed for less heat if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 oz Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add onion, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until tender about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Add the cilantro and cheese. Blend. Fill patty and grill as directed. We top with guacamole and blue chips, freshly sliced tomatoes and salsa. I have also left out the cheese in the inside and just added some to the top of the burger.

Italian Filling

Serves 4

3 T basil, finely chopped
3 T parmesean cheese, shredded
2 T sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1-2 T butter, softened

Combine all ingredients into a paste. Fill patty and grill as directed. Top with fresh tomatoes and lettuce.


2 Avocados, diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped (I have used just about every type of onion--so use your favorite)
1/2 serrano pepper, minced (seeds removed for less heat, if desired)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime

Combine all the ingredients and blend gently.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This week has been stuffed. My 98 (99 in July) year-old grandfather fell last week, and after spending a night in the hospital and discovering that he has two fractured ribs, he is back at home with my 98 year-old grandmother (who has been taking care of him at home since a stroke in the summer of 95--she's amazing). This week I have been going to their home as soon as my schedule allows (after B's swimming, ballet/tap, Joy school--I even taught this week...) to give my grandma a break. My kids have been angels: they take a nap when we get there and then entertain themselves until we leave around 9:00pm (after arriving there around 12:30 or 2:30 depending on what day of the week it is). We then pick S. up from work and head home. Lets just say that my usually tidy home is looking a little sloppy. I have to admit, it has been nice to have an excuse to read. I was able to finish The Namesake in two days because I didn't have other things to distract me during naps (like cleaning the house, blogging) and I was able to just read as I sat next to my grandpa.

Here's a recipe for stuffed chicken to fit with my stuffed week. I love experimenting with stuffing chicken, pork, and beef. It steps the meal up a notch and it's not difficult at all.

Stuffed Spinach and Feta Chicken in Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 4

1/4 roasted red pepper
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 T walnuts (optional)

Place ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and slightly thickened.


4 chicken breasts
1 cup spinach
1 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
4 T Feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally (or you can pound it under parchment paper till it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut in half and continue as directed). Place 3 leaves of spinach, 2 slices of red pepper, and 1 T feta on top of chicken and roll. Place a toothpick in chicken to secure. Repeat with each chicken breast.

Place in a foil-lined 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until internal juices run clear.

Top with 1/2 the sauce and bake 3-5 minutes more. Remove toothpicks and serve with the rest of the sauce.

I have also used cream cheese instead of whipping cream and add a little milk to make it more of a liquid. I have served with rice, couscous, or fresh spinach.

My kids love this, and what a great way to have them eat those nutritious red peppers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The new french fry

Sweet potato fries, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

The only time I remember eating sweet potatoes growing up was at Thanksgiving. They were always covered with brown sugar and colored marshmallows. I always shoved them to the side on my plate. They were just way too sweet. A few years ago I discovered real sweet potatoes--in a pure form: Roasted, with a little kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil. Since then, I have explored these beta carotene-packed veggies and have used them to replace the average white potato in many of my meals. My kids still dip them in ketchup.

Sweet Potato Fries w/ Cumin
Serves 4

3 large sweet potatoes
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp cumin
3 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub potatoes. Slice potatoes into french-fry sized strips, leaving skin on. Place on a roasting pan (or cookie sheet), sprinkle salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil. Using hands, toss until potatoes are coated. Roast for 45 minutes.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Seis de Mayo

Lime Cilantro Flank Steak, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

Do you even know what Cinco de Mayo is about? We were in Mexico City on May 5th 2002 and it was just like May 6th and 7th... Why is it such a huge deal in the U.S.? Another reason to party. Here is a short history lesson: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican Militia in a battle in Puebla, 1862. It was only one small triumph. The date of Mexico's independence from Spain is September 16th. We were also in Mexico on September 16th. That was a real celebration--fireworks, food, and even a special grito de independencia (all taking place the evening of the 15th). So, teach your friends something new, and now you have another day to have a fiesta, September 15th.

Lime Cilantro Flank Steak

1 1/2 lb Flank Steak or London Broil
3 limes, juiced and sliced (about 1 cup of juice)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp cumin
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeded for less spice if desired

Mix all ingredients except for steak in a large ziplock bag (including lime peels). Place steak in bag and coat with marinade. Let marinate 3 hours to overnight, turning bag over one time.

Heat grill. Over high heat, sear both sides of steak. Turn heat to medium high, with lid down cook 10-15 minutes per side, or till desired redness. Remove meat and place in aluminum foil, wrap tightly and let meat rest for 10 minutes. Slice meat diagonally and serve.

Our menu:

Lime Cilantro Flank Steak
Beans and Rice with Cilantro and Tomatoes
Corn Pudding (Barefoot Contessa's recipe--yummy!)
Guacamole and Chips
Fresh Fruit

Pavlovas for dessert with kiwis and strawberries for Mexican colors!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Miniature size me

Banana Cream pie, originally uploaded by One of the many Mudricks.

Everything is cuter smaller. We just went to a farm to see some baby animals. Animals that normally would gross me out are actually cute when they are teeny. The piglets were adorable as all 9 of them slept on top of each other, the lambs ran around chasing each other like they were playing a game of tag, and the kid had a little "MAAAA" that made you want to hug him and squeeze him and stick him in your pocket.

Between the ages of 8 and 16 I remember spending my hard-earned money on candy. Why couldn't my parents stop me? There is a strange addiction to candy when you are young. Every time I got money I thought, "How am I going to get to the candy store?" One time I remember purchasing a package of "miniature candy." It had minature gummi bears, jaw breakers (I know, it kind of defeats the purpose), licorice, and even chocolate. I loved it. I thought, "This is SOOOO cute!" (As any 11-year-old would). Yes, it was a waste of money not just because it was candy, but the fact that it probably cost more than it would have to buy the candy in it's original size. But, it was little, and cute and I just HAD to have it.

Here is my Miniature Banana Cream pie. This will be the first of my "miniature" recipes. It tastes just a little better because it's your own pie that you can eat without feeling guilty about eating the whole thing and it's "cute." I also chose to not use a special tart pan so you wouldn't have to buy more kitchen things that you never use.

Miniature Banana Cream Pie


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Beat in the flour, egg, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and vanilla. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Divide the dough evenly and pat into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 20 minutes (you can make ahead of time and put in fridge for 24 hours).

Roll 1 disk of dough out 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface (you will need to work quickly so the dough doesn't get too sticky to work with. If it does, just place it in the freezer for a little longer). Cut out five 4-inch pastry circles and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pastry for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry and lightly colored. Do not overbake, or the pastry will become too brittle. Let cool on a rack (Can be made 2 days ahead of time. Store at room temp in an airtight container).


1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 1/2 cups skim milk (or whatever milk you have on hand)
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in whipping cream and milk, then egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk over medium-high heat until custard thickens and boils, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in unsalted butter. Transfer custard to large bowl; cool completely, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour.

Caramel: (Easy)

For a harder, but tastier version go here

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water

Place sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the syrup to a boil over high heat. Boil until the syrup turns a deep golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream, until smooth. Return to low heat and cook until thickened slightly, 3-4 minutes. Let the sauce cool to lukewarm before serving.

To Assemble:

1-2 Bananas
Whipping cream (whipped, with sugar added to taste)

Place 2-3 Tablespoons of the custard on the pastry. Slice banana diagonally and place on top of custard (about 4 slices). Put caramel in a piping bag, or a ziplock bag with a small hole cut on a corner. Drizzle caramel over the bananas and custard. Place a dollop of whipping cream on top of bananas and caramel. Serve immediately.