Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Another Awesome Pancake Dinner With The Awesomes! AKA "Why it's OK That It Took 2.5 Hours To Make"

Mrs. Awesome is succeeding in training me well.  Granted, it may take awhile... Ask my parents how long it took for me to actually realize that for the most part they knew what they were talking about and, well, you get the point.  Prime example, dinner - I have been known to create works of art in the kitchen.  Plates of cuisine that rival some of the legends in France, England, and Hoboken, NJ.  I have also been known to leave messes in the kitchen.  Piles in the sink that consist of almost every dish or pan that we own.  I would love to say that I am exaggerating, but alas, earwax.  With a heavy sigh and a stare from Mrs. Awesome, I am confined to the sink to handle the remains of my victorious presentation.

Nowadays, I know a little better.  I have a tendency to put things away as I go, which frees up valuable counter space - I wash a mixing bowl once it is empty to leave a tiny fragment of room in the sink for Little Awesome's dirty bottles.  This is not to say that I am perfect, far from it, as old habits are indeed hard to break and Sink Jenga is far too much fun to play to leave it behind entirely.

I am a huge fan of pancakes.  Not so much that it takes the top spot in my culinary repertoire, but enough that I tend to make them more than twice a month.  Now, I can imagine you just thought, "But Mr. Awesome, only twice a month? That's not a lot!" So I ask you, when was the last time you made pancakes for your family? * Crickets Chirping * I thought so... Billowing pillows of fried batter just screaming for a smear of butter and a healthy dose of syrup.  I do love it so.

Let's meet our team, shall we?
All Purpose Flour
Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder
Yes, syrup made the team.
No, it's not from Vermont.
Yes, I wish it was.

Notice anything missing?  There is no trace of a Bisquick box anywhere.  I refuse to have Bisquick in the house, because I don't need it.

I also don't want margarine in this recipe, I owe it to Mrs. Awesome to have butter in our pancakes.  I didn't settle for her, I won't settle for margarine - and neither should you.  You should also use unsalted butter.  You are going to add salt to your batter, you don't need more.  These are Pancakes, not slug killers.

I consulted my friendly neighborhood and found a recipe that suited my needs and tweaked it ever so slightly.  Here it is as follows: Serves 16

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon baking
1 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons white sugar
2-1/2 cups milk
2 egg
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Add your dry ingredients first  (flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar), once you have added all of your dry ingredients, put the containers away where you found them.  Your spouse or landlord or guest will thank you.  Then whisk your dry ingredients together.  This completes two tasks:  It "sifts" your flour - yes I know it's not technically sifting, but it's close enough - which will help your future batter to be less clumpy.  It also mixes all the other ingredients together, which some folks say doesn't matter - I'll leave it up to you to decide.
Now it's time for the wet ingredients.  Put your butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it in 20 second bursts until melted.  Scorching hot isn't necessary.  While you are melting your butter, crack two eggs into your bowl, break the yolks and give a slight stir.   Add the milk, stir slightly, and then the butter.  Is the order important?  Possibly.  If you are like me and you take the milk out of the fridge right before adding it to your batter, then by all means stay true to the order.  Otherwise, the cold milk will shake hands with the butter and you'll end up with odd shaped butter clumps in your batter and the butter flavored party you wanted to have will be missing its Disco Ball.  You can also turn your batter into an NC-17 event and add vanilla extract.  That's right, Go for Vanilla.

Now you can stir, but here is a word to the wise:
You are not shaving ice, nor are you burning calories.  Please be kind to your batter, you'll win in the long run.  If you see a few lumps here and there, don't fret, and please don't stir faster.  Creole will be watching.
Once your batter is stirred, set it aside for a few minutes.  Get your gear together. Specifically, a flat top griddle.  If you don't own one of these, please buy one or borrow one.  This piece of equipment is by far the most used appliance in my house.  Marriage registries should automatically add this in everywhere.  

By this time, Little Awesome realized he was not the center of attention.  This just won't do...
A few minutes of coo and goo and ahhhs - 

I thought I was ready to get back to work, then this happened:   Ten minutes later we sent pictures and video to the family, then Facebook. Then, we waited to see if it would happen again... It didn't.

Back to the batter.

Your griddle should be set to 300 degrees.  By now, your batter should look like this, and you are ready to scoop.  I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and find it to be sufficient for the size pancakes I want.  Spray the surface of your griddle with no stick spray.  You could also use butter, but I would recommend limiting the butter to your landing area.  Burned butter is not the same as Brown Butter so be careful. 

My griddle holds about 5 pancakes comfortably.  If I am feeling rather daring I will try for seven, but the surface tends to get crowded, and no one really wants a pancake scuffle, it would just be scary to watch. You'll notice eventually that the sides of your pancake will get slightly dry and a few of the bubbles will pop.  This is a great indicator that it is time to flip your pancake.  You may be tempted to lift a corner, or flip prematurely.   Currently, there are no medications for the treatment of Premature Flip (PF) so I'd advise against it.  Now, flip!

Golden spiderwebs of goodness, and a slightly crusty exterior.  That's what we want on each side.  Hate dry pancakes?  Me too.  I know syrup is a great method of re-hydration, but why spoil two good things by eating a pancake that tastes like syrup-flavored sandpaper?  As the pancakes cook, you will notice a large amount of steam rising up from the cooking surface after you flip your pancake.  After about a minute to two minutes, the steam should reduce drastically, but should still be visible.  This is the perfect time to take the pancake off the heat and place onto a serving plate.  I keep my serving plate in one of two places: 1.  The microwave - it's insulated and draft free.  2.  My oven - sometimes I turn the oven on until it has reached 150 degrees and turn it off.  This method warms the plate but doesn't dry the pancakes out.  When using this method, I make sure that my pancake landing zone is oven friendly, and I use oven mitts when handling said landing zone.  The Le Creuset casserole dish featured in the Chicken Parmesan entry is a great candidate for this method if you own one.

If you want a different style pancake, add your toppings before you flip.  Ideally 30 seconds after you place your batter on the griddle.  This will allow your toppings to sink in to the batter in a warm embrace.  Wait any longer, and you might get to find out if your choice of topping will bounce.  Not to worry, Creole makes a great Swiffer.
Last night's choice was Cinnamon Toast Pancakes.
An excellent choice, Cinnamon sugar is a delicious compliment to the butter.  I never said these pancakes were healthy...

By the end of the cooking process, and the Little Awesome show, we wound up with slightly more pancakes than the recipe stated.  That was fine, because we can always put them in the toaster in the morning and spread peanut butter on them.  I hope to hear about your Pancake Progress!  Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Old Faithful has some competition, and who says going out is a bad thing?

Rule # 1 - Little Awesome can't read.

Rule # 2 - Don't believe everything you read or hear.

Rule # 3 - If you disagree with any of these rules, please refer to rule # 1 & 2.

If you're not a parent yet, keep reading.  If you are a parent, keep reading anyway and enjoy the trip down memory lane...
Old Faithful is nature's biggest description of acid re-flux.  Or, if you like, if Mother Earth was a baby - then Old Faithful is spit up.  Impressive.  Predictable.  Vast.  Tourists line up to photograph this phenomenon, ancient scholars to a degree could have set their watches to it, others just simply marveled at its wonder.

So it is with Little Awesome.  We have shown our son the labels on the formula can - "Reduces spit up" it says, "Great for upset tummies - Soothing for babies!" it promises.  Time and time again these litanies of well being and normalcy for baby, and for parents alike... Refer to Rule # 1.

My son apparently has a thing for waiting.  Waiting to lure us into a false sense of security.  He's not malicious, not yet, he's just trying it on for size.  He's been a little backed up in the plumbing department as of late.  Think of a septic tank that is too full before the enzymes can do their magic.  What happens?  A well trained cleaning crew - that's what.  The look of calm on his face while eating is one of poetry, song, and paint.  Very serene and ripe for admiring.  I enjoy feeding my son, watching his little hands in hopes that the day will come when he grasps on to the bottle, and I, will be the lucky one holding him when he does it so that I may brag to my friends like the Dad in "A Christmas Story" when he won the Leg Lamp.

But, therein lies the false sense of security.  Just when you think you've got things mastered and YOU are the Baby Whisperer, it happens.  Niagara Falls. A scene straight from The Exorcist - blech!  Spit up would not be bad if it were only a few times a day.  Alas, earwax.  L.A. has decided that he would like to be the Pioneer to make Spitting Up an Olympic Sport.  If so, I would be a proud father for sure.  I would brag equally as much.

The difficult part in all of this is not that he spits up, and not that he tries to immediately run his hands and face through it.  It is the smiling face that instantly follows the clean up process.  He knows by know (I'd like to think so anyway, let me dream) that we don't like the clean up process.  So he does what comes naturally to an Awesome, we turn the charm up to eleven.

Mrs. Awesome:     "I think it stopped, did it stop?"

Mr. Awesome:     "Hang on, let me go get the Shop Vac!"

Little Awesome:    *Beaming Bucket of Cute*


Little Awesome hasn't read in the Parenting magazine that the valve that is between the mouth and the stomach should supposedly close in the fourth month.  I hope he doesn't read rule # 2.

We took our son to the Naval Aviation Museum this weekend, as we had friends in from out of town - so free is always fine.  Our arrival was near closing time unfortunately... If you have never made it to this area to see this wonderful attraction, I would suggest you make it part of your next trip.  The best part of our visit wasn't all the planes, or the helicopter that L.A.'s Uncle painted - It was a group of ladies who were part of the custodial crew that stopped us on the way out to be subjected to my son's merciless flirting.

Ladies:    "Oh isn't he the cutest thing?"

Little Awesome:     *Beaming Bucket of Cute*

And on and on they go, singing praises and glory, laud, and honor, etc, etc, etc.

And all I can do is look at my wife and be thankful for everything she does all day every day.  She loved me enough to give me this gift of a beaming bucket of cute.  I'll take two helpings of spit up please.


Little Awesome is about to be three months old.  For us, that seems almost like a lifetime ago.  Mrs. Awesome certainly isn't nostalgic for the j-o-b she left behind, and she stays busy around the house while L.A. spends his days learning new things, like, where his hands are - and where they go - and what new locations he can stick them.

My brother and sister are both parents, and have been for a time.  My oldest nephew is well into his teens and just recently went for his Learner's Permit and passed.  We didn't venture out on the road for days.  But what I'm coming to realize is that when they were starting out on their journey, to be honest, I didn't really pay attention because at the time I didn't think this would be a reality for me.  I could continue to look back and wonder why that is, but I won't.  I will say that I appreciate the glint of understanding in their faces when I mention how things are going and they appear as if they are remembering a memory of long ago... in a galaxy far, far away.
Now I find myself wanting to call all of my family and friends at the most unlikely of times to ask the most important question... "How did you do it?"  Most of the time my imagined answers involve the lonely sound of crickets chirping.  Mostly because it 2 a.m. and everyone I know is asleep.

I do know this, L.A. is going to continue to get older, and as he does - there will be a new evolution in the type of questions that I will be asking.  Will I have the courage to Google my friends and family to find out what's happening?  I hope so.