Some Life Stuff & The Best Pickles

So what have you been up to? We’re just living life over here. The days run into weeks and the weeks into months. Funny how that happens. I heard a quote on parenting once and I just love it so. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared it before. And I don’t know where the quote came from so I could give credit where it’s due, but I just don’t remember.

“The days are long but the months are short”

It seems that time passes in the blink of an eye sometimes so I’ve just been enjoying my kids and hibernating because the weather is unbearable.

BUT Guess what? We’re finally moving back to Florida! I have tickets booked and suitcases packed! Well, nothing packed actually, but we have our flights scheduled! I absolutely cannot wait to never experience a Michigan winter ever again. And to be close to family again, of course. 42 days to go but who’s counting? ME! So more on that stuff later and I’ll even bore you with a recap of what we’ve been eating, too. But first.

The pickles I’ll be eating until I turn green blue in the face. I’m not sure why what’s an expression and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go in this instance but I’m sticking to it. Anyway. They’re garlicky, they’re salty, they’re refreshing. Um, did I mention they’re perfect? Yes.

I’m not a cucumber fan. I just find them kind of boring. I’ll eat them but I don’t go out of my way to buy them or cook with them. They just seem… meh. So over the summer one of Pierre’s co-workers sent him home with a ton of cucumbers from his garden. I wasn’t going to turn them away so I decided to make pickles! So happy I did that. Now I go out of my way to buy cucumbers and make pickles 3-4 times a month. My 2 (almost 3 WAAAHHHH) year old will eat the whole jar in one sitting if I let her. No utensils necessary. So here are the step by step photos of how we make them! So easy that Eva could probably make them with minimal help.

Add 20-30 black peppercorns at the bottom of a quart-sized mason jar. Don’t count mine.

untitled-14 Cut up a cucumber in the size and shape you like your pickles. This is just one medium pickle but the jar can hold up to two. I’ve crammed a ton of cucumbers in the jar and it works just fine. I toss the ends.untitled-15 Next, let your toddler SLOWLY add the cucumbers one by one to the jar while you take deep breaths and try not to cut in because you have no patience. untitled-17 untitled-18 untitled-19 Chop up a garlic clove in the meantime. Anyway you want.untitled-20 Add 1 tbsp kosher salt.untitled-22 Add 1/3 cup of white vinegar.untitled-23 Fill the rest of the jar up with plain water, give it a quick shake and place it upside down for 24 hours. I put mine in a bowl just in case the jar leaks but mason jars have a nice tight seal so it hasn’t happened yet.untitled-25 untitled-26

 

After 24 hours turn the jar right side up and place in the fridge for another 12 hours before you dig in. True be told you can probably eat these after the first 24 hours.

THAT’S IT. Please tell me you’ll make these.

The Best Pickles

1-2 medium cucumbers, sliced to your desire
20-30 whole black peppercorns
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/3 cup white vinegar

Add all the ingredients to a quart-sized mason jar, shake and leave upside down for 24 hours. After 24 hours return the jar to right side up and store in the fridge.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce

Let’s make boozy cranberry sauce! Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

I’ve mentioned that turkey isn’t really my thing. When it comes to Thanksgiving I eat it but always drown it in cranberry sauce. I didn’t grown up with it as a regular side to my family’s Thanksgiving meal and when I discovered it was in love. The first time I tried it was when I met my mother-in-law just after mine and Mr. HC’s engagement. She made this recipe that called for the stuff from the can and let me tell you, I LOVED IT. I’ve asked her to make it every year we’ve been together for Thanksgiving. I know, crazy considering it’s the canned stuff.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake SaturdayLast year we ventured away from it and I made cranberry sauce from scratch and you can imagine what happened when I tried the real stuff. I was over the moon obvi. The tartness and texture is perfect and it really goes with everything. Can we make cranberries an all year thing? Why do I have to wait for Thanksgiving to cook with them? I’m not sure what possessed me to add whiskey to my cranberries this year but I’m glad I did. It adds a really nice depth of flavor that’s unexpected but in a good way. And the pineapple! So good. If you close your eyes you can pretend you’re in the tropics. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce
Yields 3-4 cups

12 oz fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups whiskey, I used Jack Daniel’s
1/2 cup brown sugar*
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped pineapple**

Add all the ingredients to a pot over medium heat. Mix everything together and cover. When it starts to boil remove the lid (being very careful not to inhale!) and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

Stir occasionally as the cranberries and pineapple begin to break down. Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

The sauce will look like this about 45 minutes in.
Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday Throw it in a large mason jar and serve warm. Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

Just like the pilgrims did it.

*This recipe makes a tart, savory cranberry sauce. If you prefer a sauce add 3/4  – 1 cup of sugar. You could also leave the sugar at 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup of maple syrup.

**I don’t live anywhere near the tropics so I used pineapple slices from a can. About 6 rings cut into medium chunks. You could skip the cutting part and just buy pineapple chunks, drained.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes

Say hello to your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

Or your main dish. Hey, I won’t judge you for eating just this on Thanksgiving. I love potatoes. I could eat them in any shape or form. If there’s a potato involved – I’m eating it. French fries are probably my favorite because hello! They’re fried. Now that we’re almost to Thanksgiving I’ve asked Mr. HC about a thousand times what he wanted for dinner that night. We’re spending the holiday just the 5 of us and since there are only 2 adults consuming the majority of the meal I thought I’d just let him pick our menu. And while his answer is almost always “whatever you want”, the absolute worst answer you could give someone who loves to cook for others, I know he loves mashed potatoes on special occasions. I definitely won’t turn them away but I know I’m in the minority when I say I like them chunky. Yes, I said it. I like chunky mashed potatoes.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

These are a nice balance smooth and chunky. A great compromise for us. Red potatoes naturally have a lot of water in them so they tend to be pretty smooth to begin with. Add butter and some fat-free half and half, spinach (for health reasons of course – see, I’m looking out for you!) and some salty delicious feta cheese and you’ve got yourself a winning dish.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes
Serves 2-4

6-8 small red potatoes (I like them with the skin on but you can peel them if you prefer it that way)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fat-free half & half
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt & pepper to taste (remember the feta cheese is salty so you may want to go easy on the salt or skip it all together)

Add the potatoes to a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover the potatoes with cold water and cover with the lid. Bring the water to a boil. When the potatoes are done you will be able to stick the tip of a knife in them and it will slide easily off.

Drain the potatoes and place back in the same pot and put them on the same range, making sure the heat is off. The additional heat trapped in the potatoes and pot will evaporate any of the water left on the potatoes. After you notice all the water has evaporated, give each potato one or two smashes with a fork. The idea here is to break the potato open but not mashing it completely. You’ll have big and small pieces.

Add all the remaining ingredients and gently stir, being careful not break them. Serve hot.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

Kale Pesto

I are you sick of kale yet? I sure hope not.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I get it. Kale is everywhere, in everything, you don’t even want to look at it anymore. But hear me out. You know how I have a bunch of kids and a husband that travels a lot for work? I love recipes that I can use in everything, for any meal at any time of the day, and this is just that. Let’s take a minute and read over some of the things you could use this kale pesto in. And I’m positive I’m missing some.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

  • Over eggs in the morning or on a breakfast sandwich
  • Mixed into breakfast hash
  • Salad dressing
  • Grilled cheese (!!!)
  • Dipper for roasted veggies/fries
  • Sub for regular tomato pizza sauce
  • Spoon over chicken or fish
  • As a marinade for chicken, seafood or even tofu
  • Tossed with any pasta
  • Pesto lasagna – um, hello?

I could keep listing things. And the health benefits! I know you’ve heard all about them but just in case you haven’t here’s the rundown: tons of iron, vitamin A, calcium and fiber. Eat your kale.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I know some of you will say that it’s bitter or that you don’t like the way it tastes. But there’s cheese in this so that kind of makes everything better, right? Also, the lemon juice and zest helps cut the bitter undertones kale has sometimes and brightens up the whole thing. Works perfectly.

Kale Pesto
Yields approx. 1 cup

4 cups chopped kale, about 1 medium bunch, ribs removed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (I used the kind out of the green shaker – don’t judge me)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all the ingredients, except for the oil, to a food processor. Turn it on a slowly stream in the oil. DONE. This will keep in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday
Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders

Hi! I don’t know how two weeks went by this fast but they did! Sorry I’ve been MIA. My dad came to visit two weeks ago and I hadn’t seen him in over 2 years! I didn’t want anything to get in the way of us spending some quality time together so I just decided to not post. We cooked so much great food though! I’ll be sure to tell you about that at a later date. Fast forward to last week, the kids and I came down with a serious cold. We didn’t leave the house AT ALL. It was terrible but now we’re all much better and I’m back in the kitchen. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Which is good news for you because I made these amazing chicken tenders last night that you need to make tonight. Like, seriously, tonight. I wanted to follow one of Jessica’s recipes from her glorious cookbook but, in true Jamily fashion, it was a snap decision and I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I improvised a bit. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

I didn’t have chicken tenders on hand, and honestly I don’t recall a time I’ve actually bought them. But after trying this recipe I think I’m going to make the sacrifice ;). Jessica’s recipe calls for chicken tenders but I just cut up two chicken breasts in about the size of tenders. It worked perfectly!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard
Serves 2 – 4, adapted from Seriously Delish

2 chicken breasts, trimmed of fat & cut into 4 pieces of equal thickness
2 cups low-fat buttermilk*
3 cups salted pretzels, I always buy Snyder’s
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey

Add the chicken to a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for 2 – 4 hours, overnight would be best.

Preheat the oven to 425F and take the chicken out of the fridge. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top, lightly spray with non-stick pray. Add the pretzels to a food processor and grind to fine crumbs, add to large bowl. With a fork take the chicken out of the buttermilk (it will have a thick coating of buttermilk), one piece at a time, and coat it with the pretzel crumbs. Shake off any excess and place the chicken on the wire rack, spray the chicken with a light coating of non-stick spray

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Bake for 15 minutes, gently flip each piece and bake for another 10 minutes. While the chicken cooks mix the mustard and honey in  small bowl. Serve the chicken warm with honey mustard. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

I paired these with the perfect french fries, too! Please tell me you’ll make these!

*If you don’t have any buttermilk you can make your own by thinning out some plain Greek yogurt with water until it’s the viscosity of buttermilk. Works like a charm!

Seven-Spice Sweet Potato Fries with Curry Garlic Sauce

Today we’re talking about spiced sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? For one they’re delicious, they’re versatile (my favorite quality in food) and so good for you! Now you have no excuse to not eat these. 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Let’s talk spices for a minute. I never knew there was a 7-spice mix until my mom came to visit when Eva was born. We were buying groceries to stock up on food just a few days before she was due and my mom turned to me and asked if I had 7-spice at home. The look on my face probably told her everything she needed to know because she promptly picked up a jar to buy. Turns out that it’s a Lebanese spice mix I had savored many times while enjoying my grandmother’s cooking. Thankfully I live close to Dearborn, Michigan which has a large Middle Eastern demographic and makes for good eats. But don’t worry if you can’t find a Middle Eastern market near you, you can make your own, and you should because the stuff is delicious and goes with just about everything. I went a totally different way with the dipping sauce, but trust me on this one – it just goes. Greek yogurt makes is healthy, right?
7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

7-Spice Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2

1-2 large sweet potato, cut into matchsticks
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp 7-spice mix
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl add the ingredients for the sweet potatoes and toss. Arrange on a baking rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. I actually just use a cookie cooling rack and it works great but you can put them directly on the baking sheet if you don’t have one. Bake the potatoes for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are cooked through and to your desired crispness. While the potatoes are cooking make the dipping sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the potatoes warm with the sauce on the side! 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Curry Garlic Yogurt
yields 1/2 cup

1/2 Greek yogurt, I used non-fat
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 small garlic clove, grated (for a milder garlic flavor add 1/4 tsp of garlic powder)

7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing // Pancake Saturday

We’re talking about salad dressing today. But don’t worry, it’s not as boring as it sounds.

I have been wanting  to experiment with blueberries in savory dishes for a long time. When Mr. Hotcakes and I were dating forever ago we went to dinner one night and he ordered salmon with a blueberry compote. I was shocked because in that day HC wasn’t very adventurous with food. That combination has stuck with me because it was the first time I came across a dish that combined fruit with seafood.

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing // Pancake Saturday

I made Jessica‘s Blueberry Lime Salsa a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Don’t be freaked out by this, it really works! I always have frozen blueberries on hand for smoothies and since the temperature around here has plummeted, I won’t be drinking anything cold for a while. Perfect opportunity to use up those berries. This is light and refreshing with a little kick of heat.

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing // Pancake Saturday

And the salmon. Oh, man. I adore salmon – all day, every day. I happen to have salmon left over from the previous night’s dinner but you can make it the day of, too.

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing
Yields approx. 1/2 cup

1/2 cup frozen blueberries (you could do this with fresh blueberries but you may need to use more as frozen berries have more juice, which is what we’re looking for here.)
2 tsp lime juice, about 1/2 a lime
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like things
1 tsp salt

Add the blueberries to a microwave-safe bowl and warm for 1 minute in the microwave. Gently mash the berries with a fork to release all the juice. You can remove some or all or none of the blueberry pulp once you’ve mashed them, I left half for a little extra texture. Add all the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, and whisk. Then, stream in the oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing. You could also shake this up in a jar after you’ve mashed the berries.

Salmon

1lb filet of salmon, skin & pin bones removed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the salmon on a baking sheet (I line all my baking sheets with foil for easy clean-up later). Add the spices and oil and gently massage into the flesh. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet. Allow to cool slightly before adding to the salad so it doesn’t wilt the greens. Cut into desired portions.

Salad Assembly
1 large salad, 2 -4 people

*Any greens and vegetables will work. Use your favorites, this is what I had on hand. Also, feta or goat cheese would be divine in this!

4 cups greens, I used 1 1/2 hearts of romaine lettuce
1 avocado, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Put everything in a large bowl and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Blueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing // Pancake SaturdayBlueberry Lime + Cilantro Dressing // Pancake Saturday