How to Make Crepes

Crepes are one of those things I just assumed must be difficult to make, so even though I LOVE them, I always ordered them out. But thanks to America’s Test Kitchen great recipe, I finally made them at home and was shocked at just how easy they were to make. Easier (and faster) than regular pancakes in my opinion.

I devoured almost the entire batch (10 crepes!) with fresh squeezed lemon and a dusting of sugar – so delicious! You could, of course, fill these with anything – fresh fruit, jam, chocolate, nutella … the list goes on.

If you follow the instructions carefully these are really so simple. But this is not the type of recipe you can leave for any amount of time, they cook in a matter of seconds so you need to be at the stove at all times.

How to Make Crepes

Author: Slightly adapted, America’s Test Kitchen
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • Any desired toppings/fillings
Instructions
  1. Place oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over low heat for at least 10 minutes. Prep your butter by melting over stove top or in the micro (I suggest 10 sec increments so you don’t overdo it); set aside and let cool.
  2. While skillet is heating, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add half of the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in remaining milk mixture until smooth.
  3. Using a paper towel, wipe out skillet, leaving a thin film of oil on bottom and sides. Increase heat to medium and let skillet heat 1 minute. Test the heat by placing 1 tsp of batter in the center and cook for 20 seconds. If the mini crepe is golden brown on bottom, the skillet is properly heated; if it is too light or too dark, adjust heat accordingly and retest.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup batter into one side of the pan and tilt/shake gently until batter covers the bottom of pan evenly. Cook without moving until the top surface is dry and crepe is starting to brown at edges, about 20 seconds. Loosen one side with a rubber spatula and flip, using your fingertips to help if needed. Cook about another 20 seconds unitl the second side is lightly spotted. Transfer crepe to a wire rack to cool and continue cooking until batter is gone, letting the pan reheat for about 10 seconds in between crepes.
  5. To reheat, stack on a plate and invert a second plate over the crepes. Microwave until warm, about 30 seconds. Top crepes with desired fillings and fold into quarters, roll, or stack flat like pancakes. Serve warm.

 

How to Create Healthy, Satisfying Lunch Salads in Four Easy Steps

 

I just finished up a huge lunch made by my Spanish mother-in-law so this seems like a suitable post at the moment. I’m on vacation so healthy lunch is not a priority, but come next week I will be back to eating healthy, satisfying lunches and this is something I’ve wanted to share with you guys for some time.

As a teacher I don’t have the option of going out for lunch during the work week.  In my former life as an attorney I often took long lunches outside the office. Although there are times I miss having this option, I tend to eat much healthier lunches because I bring mine to work each day.

Lunch is by far the easiest way for me to infuse my diet with good, low-fat eating. I’ve tried really hard to create good breakfast habits, and although I’ve been fairly successful with smoothies or juicing in the morning, I often go through periods of wanting nothing but coffee at my normal 7am “gotta hit the road” time. Lunch, however, is something I am always ready to devour and I find healthy salads really satisfying mid-day.

I’ve found there are two really important keys to keeping up a good healthy lunch habit –

1. Make and pack your lunches Sunday before the work week. Salads are simple to create but require a great deal of washing and chopping. Doing all of this just once before the week starts ensures you will have lunch available each day with no additional effort.

and

2. Mix it up! If you have the same thing each week you will get bored and be more likely to eat out, or stick something in the microwave.

So, here are my easy steps for creating healthy lunch salads you can enjoy each week. On Sundays I set up five tupper ware containers and follow these steps, dividing the ingredients into each container and voilà I have lunch done for the entire week.

ONE: Pick a base. This is your main ingredient and these are some of my favorite options:

 

*Lettuce/Greens

There are so many varieties out there so you don’t always need to stick to one type. I love baby kale, arugula, baby spinach, and romaine. And they are great all mixed together too. One note, if you use lettuce as your base make sure you DRY the lettuce really well after washing. Otherwise it will make the salads soggy. I wash, dry, and chop at one time and never have problems with packing five lunches at a time so long as I dry the lettuce well. Or I simply divide lettuce from a convenient container like those above (and shame on me, I rarely wash boxed lettuces so I hope they actually do wash three times :)).

*Whole grains 

Barley, bulgur, farro, quinoa, couscous, Israeli couscous (my favorite!) and rice are all great, hearty options if you want a grain base. You can also do a mix of greens and grains.

TWO: Add chopped vegetables.

This is self-explanatory, but there are really so many options so don’t limit yourself to cucumber and tomato. I love the new varieties of petite bell peppers out now. Mushrooms, raw corn cut off the cob, snow peas and other raw vegetables are all great options. Again, make sure you dry all ingredients well, especially the mushrooms.

 

THREE: Add-ins.

This is my favorite way to add variety to my salads. Some wonderful options to provide texture and taste:

Olives

Marinated vegetables like baby artichokes

Fruit, dried and fresh

Beans

Crumbled cooked tempeh or tofu

Nuts

Cheese

Scoop of hummus (pack it separately)

Sliced meats

Tuna or other fish

FOUR: Decide on a dressing.

Most days I simply leave a wedge of lemon in each salad container and I have a bottle of olive oil at work – I use those to dress my salads. But I also love to make vinaigrettes with fresh herbs. I do this by simply processing fresh herbs, S/P, lemon, and olive oil in a small food processor until smooth (much like a pesto, but not as thick). Again, to prevent the salad from becoming soggy you should pack the dressing separately. Mason jars are great. Bring one to work and use your dressing throughout the week. If you buy a dressing make sure to read the labels closely so you don’t ruin your beautiful, healthy salad with unhealthy wasted calories.

See here for instructions on making frozen herb patties you can use to make dressing even when you are out of fresh herbs. Summer is approaching so that’s the time to preserve all the beautiful herbs popping up in the sun. Enjoy!

 

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Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets

skillet fish

It can be really easy to overcook fish and really difficult to get a nice brown crust, but once you learn this simple technique you will always cook beautiful fillets. This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated (the cooking geniuses), is complete in under 15 minutes, and will become a go-to technique for delicious fish.

To make this work, you need a thick fillet (thin pieces cook too fast) and a dusting of sugar that quickly produces a brown exterior while maintaining a moist and tender interior.  Don’t worry, the sugar will not sweeten the fish. You will also need an ovenproof skillet – I use my cast-iron skillet.  Thick, meaty fillets like cod, halibut, or red snapper work best.

Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets
 
Author: Cook’s Illustrated
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 skinless white fish fillets, at least 1 inch thick
  • S/P
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges for serving
Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 425 degrees. Dry fish thoroughly with paper towels and season with S/P. Sprinkle a very light dusting of sugar (1/8 tsp.) evenly over 1 side of each fillet.
  2. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat until smoking. Place fillets, sugared sides down, and press down lightly to ensure even contact with the pan. Cook until browned, about 1 minute.
  3. Using 2 spatulas carefully flip the fillets and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast fillets until centers are just opaque and register 135 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to serving plates and serve with lemon wedges.
 

 

 

How to – Perfect, Easy to Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

hard boiled eggs

We eat a lot of eggs around here. So much so that we are seriously considering buying our own little chicks and setting up a coop in our backyard.  I’ve heard they are fun to raise and believe that farm-fresh eggs are healthier and much more ethical.  Anyone out there have backyard chickens? Tips for us as we start our research? Please share!

In my opinion, eggs are the ultimate versatile food. You can literally have them for any meal and I think they are perfect for people trying to enjoy more meatless meals because they are so filling. I hard boil eggs often for salads, sandwiches, and simple snacks. I just love a sliced hard boiled egg with a sprinkling of fresh cracked salt and pepper or a drizzle of Sriracha.

hard boiled eggs1

But I love my hard boiled eggs cooked well – no ugly green rings around the yolk, perfectly creamy yolks, and whole, intact glossy whites. Here’s the method I use to produce perfect hard boiled eggs that are easy to peel. The key with hard boiled eggs is to follow this closely – fresh eggs, too much time boiling, or too little water can all cause less than perfect eggs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You will need: 

Eggs at room temp

*I always try to use eggs that I’ve had for about a week because fresh eggs are more difficult to peel. Ideally 7-10 days in the fridge before using for hard boiled eggs. If you try to cook really fresh eggs in this manner you will have difficulty peeling them regardless of what method you use.

Water

A deep sided pan/pot and a large bowl for the ice bath

Salt

hard boiled eggs2

STEP 1 – PREP EGGS

Place the eggs in a pot with cold water that completely covers the eggs with an inch of extra water minimum. Do not start the eggs in boiling water, let them cook gradually in cold water.

hard boiled eggs3

STEP 2 – SALT EGGS

Add one teaspoon salt to the water – this helps with peeling and does not impact taste.

STEP 3 – BOIL

Bring the water to a boil over high heat and let boil for one minute.

hard boiled eggs4

STEP 4 – REST OFF HEAT

Remove the pot from the heat and cover it with a lid. Let rest off the heat for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the egg. A standard large-sized egg should take about 12 minutes, adjust accordingly if your egg is smaller or bigger.

STEP 5 – ICE BATH AND PEEL

Remove the eggs from the hot water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes. Once cooled, about 5 minutes, crack in several spots and peel. Use the water from the bowl or the faucet to help you.

 hard boiled eggs5

 

How to – Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
 
Author: Q&DK
5 steps to perfect hard boiled eggs!
Ingredients
  • Eggs
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. STEP 1 – PREP EGGS
  2. Place the eggs in a pot with cold water that completely covers the eggs with an inch of extra water minimum. Do not start the eggs in boiling water, let them cook gradually in cold water.
  3. STEP 2 – SALT EGGS
  4. Add one teaspoon salt to the water – this helps with peeling and does not impact taste.
  5. STEP 3 – BOIL
  6. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and let boil for one minute.
  7. STEP 4 – REST OFF HEAT
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and cover it with a lid. Let rest off the heat for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the egg. A standard large sized egg should take about 12 minutes, adjust accordingly if your egg is smaller or bigger.
  9. STEP 5 – ICE BATH AND PEEL
  10. Remove the eggs from the hot water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes. Once cooled, about 5 minutes, crack in several spots and peel. Use the water from the bowl or the faucet to help you.
 

Current Obsessions ~ Winter 2014

colorful

 This blog focuses exclusively on scrumptious (and do-able) home cooking, but sometimes there are things I’m just dying to share with my readers. Rather than put random things into recipe posts, I decided to start a reoccurring post about my “Current Obsessions” – things that I think readers may be interested in whether they are new cooking tools, foods, beauty products, tech apps, etc. I plan on doing this every few months to keep you updated on things worth your attention. I hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think in the comments.

I’ll start by telling you I am a classic “Type-A” personality. This hilarious article sums it up pretty well. The only thing I really don’t relate to is game night and all-nighters; I’m notorious for being absolutely awful at Monopoly simply because I get bored and sell everything on clearance, and I would die without proper sleep. Like fall over and die. I’m like a toddler that gets crazy without a nap, but in my case at least 6 hours of sleep (ask my husband). But I don’t nap. Napping is for those other people (like my husband). Group projects (yuck!), clean work spaces, clear inboxes … so me. And I love the last one brought to you by my favorite women in comedy – “because bitches get shit done.” So true.

I don’t remember a point in my life when I didn’t have multiple task lists. But, I’ve really tried, and I think I’ve been successful at, learning to relax and bring balance to my life as I get older. I’m a much happier, obsessive Type-A. 🙂 Some of that has to do with being more efficient with my “doing.” And in light of that, I wanted to share two utilities that have helped me lead a more balanced, appreciate this moment, life.

The first is my absolutely favorite, don’t know what I would do if it disappeared, task manager – Wunderlist. As a compulsive list maker, I’ve tried A LOT of electronic task managers/list thingies, and honestly, I kept going back to paper or word docs because I could format those easier. I am so happy to finally have an app that I love to keep track of all my lists.

wunderlist

Reasons Wunderlist is the absolute best task manager:

  • It’s so freakin’ easy – all your lists are organized on one side and you can open each one and move things around in that list, delete, add, move to another list, and even print. It’s the only app I’ve found that integrates all those functions in a user-friendly format. I don’t know about you, but I get really irritated with the apps that require 2300 types of swiping to utilize.
  • It syncs on phones, desktop, and iPads! I’m not sure if/how it works on PCs or Android, but I love that it syncs effortlessly on my iPhone and Macbook. It’s so convenient given that I may be editing a list on either place at any given time.
  • It’s free! There are business accounts which require additional fees, but as a personal task manager you shouldn’t need those options. I’m guessing it will become popular with businesses, however, despite the fee.
  • And lastly, you can customize with different, aesthetically-pleasing backgrounds and that just makes me happy.

My other new love is the online journal ohlife. I’ve read many times about the benefits of journaling as a teacher. It helps with reflection, remembering those great and not-so-great classroom moments, and helping you think about how you need to develop as a teacher. That’s why I personally started writing with ohlife, but I’m sure there are so many reasons why you may want to journal – reflect upon your own career moments, remember special family/relationship moments, start a gratitude journal – but don’t get around to it in the midst of your already busy life.

ohlife

That’s exactly why I love ohlife – it makes journaling ridiculously easy.

Once you sign up at their website (completely free) you will begin to receive emails asking “how was your day?” You reply to the email and BOOM you’ve written your entry for the day. I love this because 1) I have a daily reminder and 2) I can do it from anywhere. Many times I simply dictate the entry into my phone – how much easier can it get? I try to do it every night, but you can set it to come weekly or just skip those days you don’t get to by deleting the email. Once you write an entry it will come in the email reminder for the next day and you can go to ohlife and see it like the picture above.

I started with the new year and have really enjoyed it, not to mention extremely impressed that I’ve managed to stick with it. I tend to write about my classes/students on the weekdays, my personal life on the weekend, and always include a line at the end expressing what I’m thankful for on that given day. I recently read about the “3 good things” practice and have incorporated that occasionally as well. You simply list 3 good things from that day. I’ve been amazed at not only how much more gratitude I feel in my daily life, but also how much “life” normally passes by with no reflection. Sometimes I’m amazed at all I have to say at the end of a “normal” day. Building gratitude and reflection into each day … it’s a beautiful thing, people. A beautiful thing.

give thanks

Ok, now on to some food obsessions. You’re hungry now, right? After all that serious business we discussed above you should be.

These. things. are. incredible.

INCREDIBLE, I say

goji berries

I’ve always liked Goji berrries – they have a really unique flavor that I’ve never been able to describe but I think remind me of an old school candy I can’t quite remember. Do you ever taste something that reminds you of something from childhood but you can’t put your finger on it? That’s the case for me here. Goji berries are sweet, but not blatantly so. They are soft and chewy and when you put DARK CHOCOLATE on them. Hello! My new favorite desk snack and dessert. They are good on their own and really good on plain Greek yogurt. Maybe add some granola for extra crunch because you’re so adventurous.

You can find them at Wholefoods and other health food stores, or on Amazon. Some local grocers may carry them as well.

Lastly, I try not to drink bottled juices because I look at them as wasted calories. And I really abhor the “nutritious” juices (some are even green and contain vegetables) that actually contain ridiculous amounts of sugar and calories. But, I love a good lemonade. Especially in the chill of winter when I want to think about the heat of summer.

honest lemonade

If I don’t make my own, I buy this Honest Kids lemonade. It’s refreshing and not overly sweet. I actually dilute it a bit with water, as I do most juices, and it’s still perky and tasty. No high fructose syrup or other yucky ingredients. And although it’s marketed for kids I think it mixes well with *adult* drinks too, if you get my drift. 🙂

Happy Thursday! You’ve almost made it to Friday – woo hoo!