Pizza Crust Redux

I posted not one, but TWO different pizza crust recipes on here last year. Since then, I’ve made a lot more pizza than I’d like to admit but didn’t use the same crust recipe each time. While the ones I posted were delicious, I started looking for something else. All of a sudden, I had new criteria for the pizza dough I was looking for. As a New Yorker, I’d like to think I know what good pizza (and crust) should look and taste like. I’m not a professional pizza person but I know what I like.

For me, the key to great pizza crust is to have one that’s sturdy, slightly chewy, super thin, toasty and crunchy. Sounds complicated but is actually somewhat easy.

IMG_4474A

First thing’s first, let’s talk ingredients. The main difference between this recipe and the one I posted previously is the flour. What’s the big deal here? Well for one, this recipe uses bread flour! I started using bread flour just recently and have completely blown my own mind, which is ridiculous considering I bake bread weekly and have never used it. It’s crazy but I’m like, bread flour 4 lyfe now. The thing about bread flour, that isn’t the same as all-purpose, is that there is more protein in there. More protein = more gluten. The more gluten in your dough, the chewier it becomes. Magical, right? Obviously we want a chewy crust, so bread flour was a little bit of a no brainer.

IMG_4428A

From L to R: Bread flour, instant dry yeast, whole wheat flour (with a measuring cup), salt, phone, and bowl. Phones (or binder clips) aren’t required for this recipe

The second difference between both recipes is the yeast. For this recipe, I used instant yeast. Now, there’s not much of a difference between instant and active dry yeast because they both do the exact same thing. However, one is a lot easier to use than the other. For starters, with instant yeast, there’s no need to proof it in warm water before incorporating into all the other ingredients. The yeast can be combined with the dry ingredients with zero issues. That means I don’t have to worry about killing the yeast before I even start the recipe by using water that’s too hot.

The second best thing about instant yeast? You can skip the first rise! Man, I love this part so much! Instead of having your dough proof for an hour after kneading, cover that bad boy for just 10 whole minutes before moving on to part two. Isn’t that great? This means I can get to bread, or pizza in this case, a lot faster than before. One final note about instant yeast is that if you’re subbing it for active dry, the amounts do not change. An envelope of active dry yeast contains 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast, which means that if I were to use instant, I’d use 2 1/4 teaspoons as well.

IMG_4432A

Now that we have our ingredients down, let’s talk dough for a second. I make all my doughs by hand. It’s good to get into kneading and making your own dough before letting a machine do it, so you know when your dough is ready. Considering I don’t have a mixer yet (insert tears here), I know my doughs quite well. When kneading, you need to keep on going until it’s no longer sticky, and is smooth and elasticky (is that a word?). It sounds weird but the more you get to know your dough, the easier it is to figure out when you’re done kneading. It’s also helpful to knead as quickly as possible. The faster you move your dough around, the faster it’ll come together and minimize your kneading time. If you’re doing it by hand, this is especially important.

IMG_4438A

Since we skipped the first rise, thanks to instant yeast, make sure your oven is hot before you get started. A hot oven is crucial when making the ideal pizza crust. If you have a pizza or baking stone (you lucky duck), this is the best time to use it. It helps get that crispy and toasty thing I mentioned, and it also looks cool in your oven. I don’t have one, so a baking sheet works just fine. Line that sheet with some parchment paper before putting the dough on it. I think you can skip this step for most sheets (maybe a drizzle of olive oil for security) but I like having it on there. Once that’s ready, roll out the dough. There’s two ways to go about this; you can use a rolling pin or stretch it out by hand. I won’t judge you if you use a rolling pin (I’ve done it before) but I prefer stretching it out by hand; makes me feel like a legit pizza maker. You don’t have to do any air tricks or anything, just make sure you’re stretching it out uniformly.

Once it’s stretched and shaped to your liking, sauce and top that beautiful hunk of unbaked crust. Go crazy with your toppings! We kept it pretty clean and simple but use what you like. I’m a fan of throwing greens on my pizza for two reasons: makes me feel like my pizza is ~healthier~ and because I won’t eat them otherwise. I’m terrible like that. When I do add greens, I top my pizza with them during the last five minutes of baking so they won’t burn or dry out too much.

IMG_4469A

Does this crust match my criteria? Yes it does! It was definitely sturdy; it held all that cheese and those greens beautifully. It was slightly chewy, thanks to that bread flour. Most parts were thin, crispy and crunchy just like I like, and was ultimately delicious! The crust parts got away from me and got a little too thick but no worries there. It’s subtle in taste as well, which is great if you’re using toppings that should be singing on their own. Since we kept it plain, my pizza tasted like the pizza I was looking for.

Since converting to bread flour and the magical instant yeast, this recipe a keeper!

IMG_4490A

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust – adapted from allrecipes

Makes one large pizza (feeds up to four or two very hungry people)

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Line or grease a sheet pan and set aside. Alternatively, ready your baking stone if you’ve got it. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the warm water and olive oil, and mix until combined.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, up to 10 minutes. Cover the dough either with a towel or the bowl and rest for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Gently deflate the dough and roll/stretch out into your desired shape. Transfer the dough to your prepped pan and top as desired. Bake pizza for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are cooked. Cool for five minutes before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you don’t want to use parchment or oil, lightly dust your pan or stone with cornmeal.
  • Another great thing about this recipe is that it uses less flour. Yay!
Advertisements

Martha’s Mac and Cheese

Last week’s Polar Vortex inspired me to make something that wasn’t dessert. I have to be honest, I’m not much of a cook. I prefer baking because it’s formulaic, and that gives me reassurance that it’ll work every single time. I mean, it’s science; when has science ever been wrong? Anyway, I don’t like cooking much because it’s basically a free for all in a pot, while crossing your fingers that everything will taste good. I know that there are recipes for savory dishes but I feel like I have a bigger chance to mess up, which makes me nervous.

IMG_1798

So, this Polar Vortex. It was freezing everywhere last week. In my house, there was a lot of hot and liquid dinners happening. My mom made a giant batch of soup for two reasons; this crazy cold and because my dad is sick. I’m not a fan of soup, so I was on my own. They ate that stuff for the entire week, while I had to figure out dinner myself. I’m not a stranger to making my own dinners, as I have been doing so for quite some time. They’re usually super simple, like a baked potato or a bowl of brown rice (which I still can’t make). The lack of formulas and rules in cooking scares me, which is why I am a baker. Having this blog has pushed me into the kitchen more often, which I love, but there’s more to cooking and baking than sweets (blasphemy!).

I trucked into my  kitchen, looking for something warm to make. I got sick of eating potatoes and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets (don’t judge me; they’re delicious), so it was time for a real dinner. I’m kind of a fan of mac and cheese. I say kind of because I’m usually hot and cold about it. I love pasta and I love melted cheese but eating a bowl of mac and cheese can get old really quickly. The lack of tastes and textures usually found in mac and cheese is boring to me, which is why I rarely eat it. However, in a moment of freezing weakness, I decided to make up a batch and am really glad I did.

IMG_1786

This recipe, which I found through Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite blogs), is actually Martha Stewart’s. If you don’t know, Martha is the queen. She knows her stuff, so I knew this recipe was a good one; a bonus because Deb had made it as well. I was intrigued because this recipe seemed to solve my monotonous mac and cheese issue with the homemade crouton topping. I love my carbs with more carbs; the more the merrier! I made half of the original recipe, and followed it pretty much verbatim. The only change was that I used yellow sharp Cheddar instead of white.

IMG_1793

This mac and cheese was amazing. It was so much better that that boxed stuff (anything is better than that, honestly)! Not only was it delicious but it was so easy to make. I set up a mise-en-place and breezed right through everything. It helped to have an extra set of hands, too. This was also my first foray into making a bechamel sauce, a.k.a one of the mother sauces. I was so nervous about messing it up but it was a lot easier than I thought. The result was a super cheesy and delicious pasta dish. Both of my parents, and even my lactose intolerant sister, loved it! The fact that my dad, Mr. “I hate melted cheese” liked it was enough of an indication that this recipe is a winner. The crispy cubes of bread was a welcomed texture change, in the mix of soft, and gooey elbows full of cheese. Accompanied with a salad, this is the perfect dinner for one of those super chilly nights.

IMG_1802

The success of this recipe has inspired me to continue getting in the kitchen to make things other than cakes and cookies. I hope to make and post a savory dish at least once a month. It’s important to face your fears, even if you were pushed into it by (freezing) outside factors.

Martha’s Mac and Cheese – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves six

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 3 slices of bread, with the crusts removed and cut into 1/4-1/2″ cubes
  • 2 3/4 cups of milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp coarse salt, plus more for water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyére or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2lb elbow macaroni

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 2 quart pan/casserole dish and set aside. Cut bread into cubes and place into a bowl. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and pour onto bread cubes, toss and set aside.
  2. Warm milk in a saucepan over medium heat. In another medium saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. When bubbling, add the flour and whisk to prevent lumps; cooking for one minute while stirring.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour the warmed milk, a little at a time. Continue cooking, while whisking, until bubbly and thick (8-12 minutes).
  4. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne. Add 1 1/2 cups of the grated Cheddar and 3/4 cup of the Gruyére (or 1/2 cup of the grated Pecorino). Stir until cheese is melted. Set aside.
  5. Cover a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook macaroni until the outside is cooked but the inside is undercooked (about 2-3 minutes less than the time indicated on the package). Transfer the macaroni to a colander and rinse under cold water. Stir into the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour mixture into the prepped dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of Cheddar and 1/4 cup of Gruyére (or 1/8 cup of Pecorino), and then top with the bread cubes. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used an 8×8 pan, also known as a brownie pan, and it fit perfect. Any 2 quart pan/casserole dish will do for this amount. The original recipe that serves 12 needs a 3 quart pan/dish. 
  • Quick trick: use the butter wrappers to butter the pan.
  • I used a yellow sharp Cheddar, but I think any kind will work fine. 
  • I originally wanted to use whole wheat elbows but was unable to find some at my supermarket. Any short pasta with a hole should work well. 
  • If you’re not feeling wasteful, you can leave the crusts on the bread like I did. No one will notice.
  • To add more flavor to your croutons, consider adding some chopped garlic to the butter while melting. 

Thanksgiving: The Day After

Happy Thanksgiving! Or Black Friday, if you’re into that. I hope you all had a fabulous day full of awesome food and new memories with your families. At my house, we did it up like we usually do every year. We’re Dominican, so our Thanksgiving is nothing like the “traditional” American dinner. We don’t have green bean casserole, or mashed potatoes, or stuffing. Dominican Thanksgiving is actually interchangeable with Christmas dinner. The only thing that changes is the main protein; we have turkey (just like everyone else) at Thanksgiving, and pork for Christmas. Enough with the Christmas stuff, we’ll get to that next month. Let’s talk about yesterday’s dinner.

My mom and I are always the main cooks in the kitchen. My sister comes and goes, but it’s mainly us two. We plan a menu a week in advanced, but my mom always adds things last minute. My mom, or Mami as I like to call her, always says that she doesn’t know how to make small amounts of food. She’s right because even though we’re just a family of four, she always make enough food to easily feed at least 12. Thankfully, our neighbors join us for dinner, which helps take some of the food off the table and also gives us that ‘family’ feel that’s necessary during the holidays.

On this year’s menu, Mami and I made:

  • Moro de gandules: rice cooked together with pigeon peas (not pictured, unfortunately).
  • Eggplant casserole: a layer of tempura graffiti eggplant followed by tomato sauce, canned green beans, bell pepper slices, onion slices, mozzarella cheese, another layer of tempura eggplant which is finally topped of with more sauce and a final layer of cheese.
  • Pork pastelón aka starch casserole because it’s basically two thick layers of  shredded plantains, squash, taro root that have been mixed together with other seasonings, and a middle layer of cooked chunks of pork.
  • Potato salad aka my specialty: boiled then diced potatoes and carrots, chopped hardboiled eggs, diced onions and cubanelle peppers, mixed with mayo, salt, and vinegar.
  • Tri-colored macaroni salad: tri-colored macaroni, tossed with mayo, vinegar, salt, and diced onions and cubanelle peppers
  • Tossed green salad: shredded Napa cabbage, canned corn, chopped green and red tomatoes, and cucumbers
  • My whole wheat dinner rolls. I actually made them half white, half whole wheat.
  • Coconut macaroon and pumpkin pie from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, which is just me trying to introduce more “traditional” items into our holiday menus. It almost always fails, as my family doesn’t always like it. The pie was awesome, though. I just wish it were more coconut-y.
  • We also made piña colada; an amalgamation of canned pineapple rings in juice, canned pineapple juice, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, canned coconut cream, and as much Bacardi as you can handle (also not pictured).

Everything was awesome and I can’t wait to eat leftovers! I am just thankful for all the blessings I have and haven’t received. These past six months were kind of tough on me mentally and personally but I know that maybe things were just supposed to be this way for me, and that good things do come to those who wait ( I just need more patience). I’m also thankful for my mom’s awesome cooking!

Again, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and that you creatively enjoy your leftovers!

Pizza Two Ways

Ah, pizza. One of my favorite ways to get my carb fix.  I haven’t had pizza in forever, so I was definitely due. My sister and I used to regularly indulge in a slice from our local pizzeria, where they’d heat up and fold our slices into a brown paper bag. We would pull out the slices and proceed to eat the folded piece of cheesy dough, cold tips first. After deciding to get healthy a few years back, pizza was on my imaginary ‘do not consume’ list. Pizza, along with all fast food, was immediately shunned because of its high calorie count and lack of nutrients. While I am still living a healthier life, it was time to reintroduce my favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods back into my life, but with a huge change.

IMG_0923

Over the years, I have become one of those people that believes that everything tastes better if it’s homemade. Anything can really be made at home, with a little search and effort. Not only will it taste lightyears better, but you will get some extra satisfaction upon realizing how easy it was and because you did it yourself.

As a New Yorker, I have a set of standards for the ‘perfect’ pizza. Every New Yorker compares every single slice of pizza to the one they used to eat as a kid; which undoubtedly becomes their ‘standard’. Now, New York style pizza traditionally has a super thin crust that can be crisp, a thin layer of greasy mozzarella cheese, and is mostly foldable. My friends and I used to open up our slices blot the extra, unnecessary grease before digging in. I knew I wanted something similar to what I used to get from my pizzeria but with a healthier twist.

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

This pizza dough is exactly what it’s name states. The recipe, from King Arthur Flour, is indeed “The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make.” It was a cinch to make, and came out ridiculously delicious. In an effort to make the crust relatively healthy, I switched out about half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I also added some vegetables to mine because everything is automatically healthier if it’s loaded with veggies; bonus if there’s vegetables on your vegetable. The result was a super crispy but slightly chewy crust. I rolled it out as thin as I could go, in an effort to imitate the pizza slices of my past. I was pleased at its stability when picked up, and it held on to my multitude of topping pretty well. Now, the crust didn’t fold but that didn’t even matter anymore. And the best part? NO GREASE! My family and I enjoyed this pizza, so this recipe will definitely be made again.

During my pizza crust recipe search,I also came across one of the trendiest ways to eat pizza without the guilt a regular, carby slice might bring. In an effort to have a healthier pizza, and after seeing it everywhere on the internet, it was time for me to try the famous cauliflower crust. I had to try this crust because it was already deemed healthy eats, solely on the fact that it was made with cauliflower. I admit I was a bit skeptical but I love trying new things, and anything that gets more veggies in me is an automatic win. I held out hope for this crust and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not your traditional pizza, like the one above, but it is still a nice substitution; especially if you’re doing the low-carb thing. You kind of have to eat this with a fork and knife though, as it won’t support itself when picked up.

Pizza is one of those things that is infinitely adaptable, and these recipes were no different. A pizza night with either of these recipes is sure to be a hit!

IMG_0921

The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 3 or 4 pizzas, 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast; or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups 100% whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, yeast, salt and olive oil  in the lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, to proof the yeast.
  2. Add the flour, starting with 5 1/2 cups and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces, for medium-crust pizza; or three pieces, for thicker crusts. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. To roll, work from the center to the outside like pie dough. Let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Turn it over from time to time and roll the reverse side.
  6. Place the rounds on pizza pans; on baking sheets; or, if you have a pizza stone in your oven, on parchment.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450°F. While it’s heating, get out your toppings, which you’ve prepared ahead. Some possibilities include sliced pepperoni; sautéed mushrooms, onions, or peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; and grated or shredded cheese.
  8. Spread pizza or spaghetti sauce lightly over the surface, and add your favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  9. Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven.
  10. Immediately transfer pizzas to a cooling rack, so the crust won’t get soggy. After about 10 minutes, to allow the toppings to set, slice and serve.
Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza – adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes two servings

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper.
  2. Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets—you don’t need much stem, just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower “snow”.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.
  4. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring out the excess water, squeezing out as much as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly mess.
  5. Dumped the squeezed cauliflower into a bowl. Now add the mozzarella cheese, kosher salt, dried basil (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), dried oregano (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), garlic powder (not garlic salt), and a dash of red pepper if you want.  Add the egg and mix with your hands.
  6. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your parchment paper. Pat it down throughly, you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don’t make it too thick or thin either.
  7. Slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want. Slide the parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.
  8. Allow the pizza to cool for one to two minutes. Use a pizza cutter and a spatula to serve up your delicious grain-free cauliflower crust pizza!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat flour and all-purpose for the King Arthur Flour recipe, but it can also be made with only all-purpose. 
  • For the cauliflower pizza, do not fret if you don’t have all the listed ingredients. Use what you have; I promise it will still be equally delicious. 
  • To quickly cool down the microwaved cauliflower ‘snow,’ spread out on a plate or baking sheet and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. 
  • I think both of these recipes can be made vegan. For the cauliflower pizza, you can use dairy free cheese (like my sister does) and replace the egg with a flax egg. Let me know if you try this and how it turns out!
  • Take complete creative freedom when topping your pizzas. I added sliced mushrooms, sliced breakfast sausage, thin slices of bell peppers, and fresh, chopped spinach. The possibilities are truly endless!

Roasted Butternut Squash and A Name Change

As the title of this post implies, I have renamed this blog. I thought about doing this for a while, and decided to take the plunge. “Toaster Oven Confections” is now “Lucy the Baker.” Why the change? Well, since beginning this blog, I have hardly used my toaster oven for anything. All of the baked recipes on this blog so far have been baked using a regular, stove oven. I don’t want to deceive or mislead you guys, so I changed it. Does this mean that the recipe I post can’t be done in a toaster oven? No! If you do want to experiment and bake in your toaster oven, scale your recipe and temperatures accordingly. This is a rebranding of sorts because I want to post a wider variety of recipes, and try to get myself in the kitchen and on this blog more often.

Anyway, let’s talk squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. This weirdly shaped winter squash isn’t even a vegetable! The butternut squash is actually a fruit and is known for its bright orange appearance, and its nutty and sweet taste. Its also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and fiber.

Fresh butternut squash

Fresh butternut squash

Butternut squash made its first appearance for the season two weeks ago at my local farmer’s market. I have an affinity for orange vegetables, and was patiently awaiting its arrival. I have bought two in the past two weeks and have been in bliss since. Butternut squash can be cooked any way you’d cook a sweet potato, another one of my fave orange veggies, but best way to tackle one of these beauties is to roast them.

Preheat your oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. To prep a butternut squash, peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler. Now, peeling this baby whole can be a bit of a challenge because its curves can be hard to reach with the peeler. You can actually cut the squash at the bulb, to make peeling easier; just be careful because it is pretty slippery when peeled! Not in the mood to hassle with a veggie peeler? No problem! Roast the squash with the skin on; it is totally edible and softens when roasted.

Peeled squashie!

Peeled squashie!

After peeling, grab your cutting board and knife, if you haven’t already, and cut this sucker in half. You can either cut it lengthwise and roast in two halves, or you can separate the bulb from the body and chop both into cubes. Cut off the bulb by cutting the rounded part of the squash. Cut the bulb in half to deseed. The bulb is full of pulp, and seeds that are also edible once roasted; kind of like pumpkin seeds or pepitas. We don’t want the seeds today, so take a spoon and shovel out the pulp and seeds.

I like to slice my squash into disks, and later into cubes. Place the bulb halves on your cutting board and slice into thick disks. Watch your fingers when chopping! Once done slicing into disks, cut them into cubes. Repeat with the rest of the squash.

Chopped up squash

Chopped up squash

After you have cubed all your squash, and your fingers are still intact, drizzle the cubes with some olive oil and toss to coat. Distribute your cubes evenly onto the prepped baking sheets. If you’re using the squash in a savory application, liberally season with salt. Roast the cubes for 30-40 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs, tossing halfway during cooking.

Roasted butternut squash cubes

Roasted butternut squash cubes

The end result is a soft, nutty cube of deliciousness. If you’re planning on eating them with dinner, you can eat as is or puree to put into soups, or even mash them potato style. You can also use roasted butternut squash for sweet applications; just roast, mash/puree, and use them where you would normally use pumpkin or sweet potato.

I encourage you to try a butternut squash if you haven’t, and revel in its deliciousness. For those who already feast on this amazing fruit, what are your favorite butternut squash recipes?

Whole Wheat Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

When my sister and I were younger, my mom used to make us a pancake breakfast every Saturday. We’d wake up and watch cartoons, ready to have our delicious weekly special. And special it was! My mom has never been one to follow recipes and this was no different. She’d buy a giant box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and and the accompanying bottle of syrup. Every Saturday, she’d empty a large mountain of dry mix into a bowl, add an egg, and eyeball the milk until she deemed fit. She’d preheat a giant skillet; one with little tiny squares on it, and would melt a glob of margarine. In the giant pan, she’d pour the prepped mix.  The result was a giant, fluffy pancake; complete with the tiny square imprint from the pan, that was perfect to hold a melting mound of margarine. My sister and I would split this massive pancake, and slather it with margarine and syrup while watching cartoons. I still don’t understand how my mom managed to even flip over such a huge pancake, but I guess that’s part of the motherly superpower allure.

As a kid, I used to think everything my mom made was delicious. Actually, that still rings true but as an “adult,” I realized that even though my mom had her own way of making things, it wasn’t always “right.” I am a stickler for following recipes, sometimes to the letter but my mom isn’t. The fact that she didn’t follow the directions on the box doesn’t bother me much because the pancakes came out consistently tasty anyway; it helps that it is box mix. The only issue I have now with our old pancake breakfasts was how she cooked it. Since the pan was so huge and my mom is short on patience; she’d throw all the batter in at once, creating a massive disc of dough. Because of its size, the middle would sometimes come out undercooked and the edges would get slightly burned. The texture of the pancake would go from fluffy to gritty, making us leave more than half of our pieces on the plate.

I watched her make it a few times and noticed she would lid it so it would cook completely. I didn’t understand the error of that method until I was older and actually knew what was happening under that lid. The pancake created steam, which dropped the water it created back into the pancake. A super moist pancake is not the end of the world but it did produce a different tasting pancake. It was still tasty, but it was just weird.

Now that my sister and I are older, and my mom is no longer home on Saturdays, I have taken our weekly special upon myself. I make pancakes almost every Sunday and they are very different to what my sister and I grew up with. I make mine from scratch, using this ultimately adaptable recipe. Apparently, I got snobby with age because I now frown upon anything pre-mixed; including cake and pancake mix. We may not buy the Aunt Jemima pancake mix anymore, but my family is still a fan of the syrup. We usually have a bottle laying around for this exact purpose.

Now, these pancakes are awesome. They may not be my mom’s but I think they’re equally, if not better tasting. I have made this recipe verbatim but here is the modified version I currently use. I’m even positive this recipe could be veganized (something I’m going to have to test). Eating these on the weekends, slathered with margarine and Aunt Jemima syrup, brings back that nostalgia from our Saturday specials. Even though my mom isn’t home on Sundays either, I always make these with her in mind and plan to make them for her the next time she has a free weekend.

IMG_0261

Whole Wheat Good Old Fashioned Pancakes slighltly adapted from Allrecipes.com

Makes 7-8 pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3 3/4 tsps baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups of soy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsps unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder,and salt.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, agave, and melted butter.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just incorporated.
  4. Heat up your lightly greased griddle or pan over medium-high heat. Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.
  5. The pancake is ready to flip when bubbles appear near the edges. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • All-purpose flour works well in this recipe. You could use a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat or just use all all-purpose 
  • If using all-purpose, 3 1/2 tsps baking powder is plenty. Whole wheat flour is slightly heavier than all-purpose, so the extra baking powder helps lift an otherwise flatter pancake 
  • If using all-purpose flour, sift the dry ingredients together
  • White or raw sugar also works in this recipe. If using raw sugar, I would add a little more that a tablespoon because it is slightly less sweet than regular white sugar. Add the sugar to the dry ingredients
  • I use all soy milk in my recipe but use any milk you’d like
  • If you like a flatter pancake, add 1/4 cup more of milk
  • Remember to plate it on a cartoon plate, for added nostalgia
  • If you beat me to the punch and veganize this recipe, please let me know what substitutions you made and how they came out!