Monday, June 25, 2012

Cinnamon Spiced Banana Caramel Pancakes

Oh what a mouth full!  You know how when you get home from your wonderful tropical beach vacation, and you are missing all the exotic breakfast items from that humongous buffet... regular pancakes just don't seem as exciting? - or maybe you are just dreaming of that vacation!  Nonetheless, these pancakes will bring you back to the sounds of the ocean waves lapping up on the beach, sea gulls swooping through the salty air for a lost chip on the sand, the smell of sunscreen and new paperback novels laid out on carefully reserved cabana chairs at six o'clock in the morning just so you can't get one for the rest of the day.  (But that's a whole different story.)

Snap out of it!  You are at HOME!  There are kiddos to feed, laundry and dishes and floors to be tended to.  But all that will be a lot easier to stare down if you start the day off with a fabulous breakfast.  You know I'm right!  These cinnamon spiced pancakes are extra special with the banana slices getting all roasted and gooey in the middle... and topped off with a little caramel sauce and coconut.  You can at least pretend for five minutes that you are somewhere special while the kids are watching cartoons.  

The bottom line is that I often buy too many bananas, and when they get really sweet and ripe, the kids decide that they no longer want any.  Sigh.  So this is sort of like a food recycling program.  I'm afraid you will have to supply your own vacation fantasy to go with it.

Please be advised, these are not totally from scratch.  No time for that in the mornings. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buttermilk "complete" pancake mix
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 banana, cut into slices about 1/3-1/2" thick
  • caramel sauce of choice
  • a bit of shredded coconut

 Step-by-step
Mix the pancake mix, water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  I like my batter to be fairly "loose" for the pancakes that my family prefers.  Do not over mix the batter, or the pancakes will be tough.  There will probably still be some lumps in it.  That's okay.  They'll cook out.
1 cup of "complete" buttermilk pancake mix
2 Tbsp sugar. This may seem like a lot, but my kids often like to eat "mini" pancakes with no syrup because they are sweet and have that great vanilla in them.  - and that makes for a lot less clean up than with the syrup.

1 tsp clear Mexican vanilla (the best you can find)
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

A loose, sweet batter

My taste tester.  Making sure the batter is sweet.

1/2 tsp cinnamon
I like to spray a nonstick pan with butter flavored cooking spray and heat until a droplet of water shaken into the pan starts sizzling.  On a medium-high heat, add some sliced bananas to the pan.  
Add the bananas first.
Pour the batter over them.  This will allow the bananas to come in direct contact with the hot pan so they will sort of caramelize on their own.  

Pour the batter over the bananas.  Can you see the cinnamon?  Mmmmm.
When batter looks fairly dry on top and the bubbles "stay," the pancakes are ready to be flipped.  You can probably turn down the heat to medium from here on out.  Once my first pancake is about done, I always lower the heat.
Oh my! Beautiful and golden brown and light and fluffy!
Top pancakes with caramel sauce and shredded coconut. 
You can see how the bananas started caramelizing in the pan.  They are soft and sweet and delicious.
Now comes the caramel sauce and coconut.
Yum!  (Okay, so if you don't like coconut, leave it off.  More for me!)
And some sweet morning love from my favorite cooker girl!
Written Directions:
Mix the pancake mix, water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  I like my batter to be fairly "loose" for the pancakes that my family prefers.  Do not over mix the batter, or the pancakes will be tough.  There will probably still be some lumps in it.  That's okay.  They'll cook out.
I like to spray a nonstick pan with butter flavored cooking spray and heat until a droplet of water shaken into the pan starts sizzling.  On a medium-high heat, add some sliced bananas to the pan.  Pour the batter over them.  This will allow the bananas to come in direct contact with the hot pan so they will sort of caramelize on their own.  When batter looks fairly dry on top and the bubbles "stay," the pancakes are ready to be flipped.  You can probably turn down the heat to medium from here on out.  Once my first pancake is about done, I always lower the heat.
Top pancakes with caramel sauce and shredded coconut.  Yum!  (Okay, so if you don't like coconut, leave it off.  More for me!)

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Here are some bonus recipes for you!
Ritzy Cheddar Baked Chicken

Tzatziki

Left Over Pot Roast Pot Pies

Ham Cups

One Pot Skillet Lasagna

Secret Ingredient Mac-n-Cheese

 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dip-Up Pizza (aka Pizza Dip)

So have you ever noticed how appetizers are really the best part of the meal?  Sometimes you just want to have something to snack on (and really have no intention of getting to the "meal" part).  Well this dish will do the trick.  Just set it out on the coffee table with some dippers (bread sticks, crackers, pita chips, etc), turn on a movie, pour a couple of nice glasses of your favorite libation, and enjoy. 

As for the name, you will have to take that up with my three year old daughter.  I told her earlier that we were going to make a pizza dip.  For the rest of the afternoon, she kept asking when was I going to make that "dip-up pizza," and so the name sort of got stuck there.  God bless us, every one.

Ingredients:
Bottom layer -
  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Middle layer -
  • about 2 cups of pizza or pasta sauce of choice
  • about 1 cup of cooked, Italian sausage mixed with pasta sauce
Top layer - (customize this to your liking)
  • 1 cup or so fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes
  • a handful of pepperoni (you could use turkey pepperoni), sauteed for 4 - 5 minutes until they start to slightly crisp up
  • 1/2 cup of diced red and yellow bell peppers, sauteed until they soften
  • fresh basil leaves
  • black olives 
Dipper of choice -
  • I picked up some three cheese garlic bread sticks from the bakery 


Step-by-step
Mix the "bottom layer" ingredients and spread into a casserole dish (about a 2 quart size).  
bottom layer ingredients
spread in a casserole dish
cook until slightly crisp
saute until soft
 Add the middle layer.  
spread pasta/pizza sauce over bottom layer
 

sprinkle with cooked Italian sausage
 Add the first three ingredients of the top layer.  LOL..... sorry, I know that sounds idiotic.  But it really is just a bunch of pizza ingredients layered together.  
Add small cubes of fresh mozzarella
add pepperoni
add cooked peppers
Bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 F oven, uncovered.  Garnish with fresh basil and olives if you'd like.  
add basil leaves
Dip to your heart's content. 

  
 

Written Directions: 
Mix the "bottom layer" ingredients and spread into a casserole dish (about a 2 quart size).  Add the middle layer.  Add the first three ingredients of the top layer.  LOL..... sorry, I know that sounds idiotic.  But it really is just a bunch of pizza ingredients layered together.  

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 F oven, uncovered.  Garnish with fresh basil and olives if you'd like.  Dip to your heart's content.

Looking for more great recipes from my blog?
Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas you can cook with/for your family.  Here are just a few random recipes from my blog to get your curiosity going:
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fiesta Chicken Bites

These crunchy little grab-and-go Fiesta Chicken Bites are just the ticket for active kids who are so busy enjoying summer that they hate to sit still and eat.  Re-purposing left over food ingredients has long been the butt of jokes on movies, sitcoms and cartoons.  But you know what?  They can be darned tasty, too!  - and that is what this recipe is sort of about.

I happened to have some left over chicken breasts in the fridge, along with some extra grilled corn from a family grilling night, and several of the "fixins" to round out something pretty cool.  I also had the eager assistance of two very special "short chefs," whom you will see in the preparation of this dish.

I fully realize that some of my posts are "made from scratch," while others rely heavily on convenience items.  But you know what?  Life is like that at our house.... and I dare say it's like that for most busy parents. We had several errands, check-ups, etc yesterday to take care of, so throwing the chicken breasts in the crock pot in the morning before we headed out definitely helped move things along later in the day.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pack of wonton wrappers
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • fajita seasoning to taste (1 Tbsp?) 
  • 1 cup mild or medium salsa
  • half an onion, sliced into strips
  • Mexican rice blend with orzo
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed well
  • corn niblets (grilled and cut from the cob)
    • ~ 1/2 cup of frozen or canned, drained.
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese blend
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • butter flavored cooking spray
* All of the above ingredients can be "to taste."  This is a touchy-feely recipe where you just add and sprinkle until you like it. 

 Step-by-step
Trim and season chicken breasts heavily with fajita seasoning.  Add onions, about a cup of salsa, cover, and cook for several hours on high in a crock pot until fork tender.  Remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred with forks, and add the juice from the crock pot back over the chicken to keep it  moist.  I removed all the "chunky" stuff from the sauce because I didn't need them in the final product.
Trim chicken breasts of any extra fat
Secret ingredient #1
Season liberally with the fajita seasoning blend
Optional - add a sliced onion (just for extra flavor)
Secret ingredient #2 - Salsa of choice
I used about a cup for the two chicken breasts
Cook on high for several hours until fork tender. 
Remove to a chopping board to shred
Shred with a fork
Remove onions, etc if you don't want them
Add the "juice" back over the shredded chicken to keep it moist and tasty
Cut the corners off of the wonton wrappers, making them into little octagons.  Fit them into "mini" muffin tins allowing the edges to stick up.  Spray them with butter flavored cooking spray to help them crisp up and brown.  Cook in a 350 F oven for about 5-7 minutes to get them "mostly" crisped.
Wonton wraps can be found probably in the cold section of your produce area
Cut off the corners - a pizza cutter makes short work of this job
Canon did this job for me.  Did this make the job take longer?  Yes.  Did this make the job any more enjoyable?  Without a doubt.  Did we "mess up" any wonton wrappers?  Sure.. a few... but that's okay.  We talked about shapes and different kinds of triangles, and patterns, and all manner of lovely things.  Who cares that they weren't all exactly the same?!
A+ on quality time together!  That was the main thing.
Sleepy eyed Lily, just up from a nap, was the wonton separator.
Spray with cooking spray
Bake until brown and crispy.  I should have let these go a little longer.

Layer the wonton "shells" with prepared Mexican rice of your choice (I like the one with the orzo), shredded and chopped chicken, rinsed black beans and corn niblets.  Top with shredded cheese and sprinkle with cumin.  Don't worry a bit if you don't have "grilled corn on the cob." Just use the ones from the can or freezer bag.  We just happened to have left overs that are were so yummy that I didn't want them to go to waste.
Whichever type you prefer.  This one cooks really fast, though, making it a nice candidate.
Layer... first, rice
Then chicken
Left over grilled corn - super duper sweet and delicious!
Cut them from the cob.
Add rinsed black beans and corn
Top with Mexican blend cheese and sprinkle with cumin
Bake at 350 F until cheese is melted and wonton shells are golden and crispy (up to probably 10 min) and serve with condiments of choice - guacamole, sour cream with a little squeeze of fresh lime juice added, cilantro, pico de gallo, etc.

Most importantly - set them out on a plate, call the kids and watch them disappear!


Written Directions:
Trim and season chicken breasts heavily with fajita seasoning and add them to the crock pot.  Add onions, about a cup of salsa, cover, and cook for several hours on high in a crock pot until fork tender.  Remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred with forks, and add the juice from the crock pot back over the chicken to keep it  moist.  I removed all the "chunky" stuff from the sauce because I didn't need them in the final product.
Cut the corners off of the wonton wrappers, making them into little octagons.  Fit them into "mini" muffin tins allowing the edges to stick up.  Spray them with butter flavored cooking spray to help them crisp up and brown.  Cook in a 350 F oven for about 5-7 minutes to get them "mostly" crisped... or go ahead and get them totally crisp and brown if you want.
Layer the wonton "shells" with prepared Mexican rice of your choice (I like the one with the orzo), shredded and chopped chicken, rinsed black beans and corn niblets.  Top with shredded cheese and sprinkle with cumin.  Bake at 350 F until cheese is melted and wonton shells are golden and crispy (up to probably 10 min) and serve with condiments of choice - guacamole, sour cream with a little squeeze of fresh lime juice added, cilantro, pico de gallo, etc.

Looking for more fun Mexican recipes?  Please visit my Recipe Index for lots of ideas that you can make with/for your family.  Here are a few to get you started:




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