Red Lentil Dal with Caramelized Onions

Red Lentil Dal with Toasted Garlic Millet

"This is really good!" exclaimed my husband. It isn't often that I seriously wow him with a new recipe. (He loves my cooking and he loves what we make together, but this became an instant favorite of his.)

This is a vegetarian dish to serve to omnivores who don't know how good cooking vegetarian can be: it's rich, intensely flavored and quite filling. The fact that it's also incredibly cheap (once you invest in the spices, hopefully at a store that offers bulk spices which are much, much cheaper and fresher) and nutritious are added bonuses.

I would recommend that you serve this over a whole grain or rice: brown rice, steamed millet, quinoa, barley or couscous. Not only will you get even more nutritious yumminess out of it, but the fluffy texture of these sides really goes well with the dal.

Plus, honestly, this recipe does not look like much when it's done. It's a sauce, which is why my picture above shows it mixed into toasted garlic millet (which I will post about soon). [Edited to add: I finally wrote about Millet here.]

Don't forget your veggies. Cooking Light recommended steamed broccoli. I recommend a cabbage-carrot-corn salad with a splash of a simple vinaigrette.

And finally? I seriously advise you to try this. It's that good.

Red Lentil Dal with Caramelized Onions [printable recipe]

Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 4

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 dried hot red chile pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (chicken will work in a pinch if not vegetarian)
  • 1 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick skillet over moderate to low heat. Add the onion slices and cook slowly until caramelized, soft and brown. (This will take about 30 minutes. Cook the onions alongside the lentils.)

Toast mustard seeds, coriander seeds, caraway seeds and the clove in a small skillet over medium heat for about 90 seconds. Shake the pan frequently so the seeds don't burn. Combine the seed mixture with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and the dried, destemmed chile pepper in a coffee or spice grinder. Pulse until ground1.

In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about a minute. Add the lentils and the spice mixture, stirring well to combine and toast, about a minute. Add the tomatoes and broth, stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat and keep it at a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring periodically. Uncover and add the caramelized onions. Cook for another 10 minutes uncovered.


  1. I had to shake my grinder to get it to grind all the way. When you're done, you should have a nice powder. Make sure you clean out the grinder well afterwards or use a dedicated grinder for spices -- I don't know what your coffee will taste like if you don't!

Chef Salad

Chef Salad

Last weekend was a busy project weekend for my husband and me. Grace, our most mischievous cat, had decided to play in our homebuilt lightbox. By play in, I mean she jumped inside, clawed two of the three tissue paper diffusers to shreds and jumped out through the third.

Granted, our old lightbox was basically a cardboard box with tissue paper sides. Not much and it was definitely cheap. We'd known for a while that we really should redo it; we'd both been getting frustrated with its limitations. We just didn't have a reason to do it.


Thanks Grace. (You can see how innocent she is.)

While we were looking for a small dry erase board for me, my husband saw foamboard and had an idea for a lightbox. He designed it, modeled it and came up with the parts we'd need. The next day, we went to our local hardware store and picked up all of the parts we'd need.

It worked out fantastically well. I'll post a tutorial on how to make it later this week, but it blows the doors off of our old cardboard box. I wanted to share two of our test shots with you, just for the hell of it, which is why today's recipe is pretty basic.

Plus, after fighting with writing and rendering illustrations so we could explain it to others resulted in pushing dinner to just before bed, we needed to eat quickly. We still wanted to have a healthy dinner though. Enter the chef salad.

A chef's salad, at least to me, is a jumble of a salad. I usually make it with whatever leftovers are hanging out in the fridge that need to be used up. (I also do this with fried rice.) I have my favorite salad toppings that I usually put on too. They're a main course, so make sure you throw on plenty of veggies and enough protein to satisfy. The best thing is that these salads are terribly easy to throw together, only requiring some basic chopping of ingredients.

Chef Salad - Test Shot

Chef Salad [printable recipe]

  • Spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 hard-boiled egg per person
  • 1/3 cup diced cooked turkey
  • 1/4 cup cooked great northern beans
  • 1/2 oz cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1 huge crimini mushroom, chopped
  • 12 black olives, sliced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 tbsp roasted sunflower kernels
  • 1 tbsp roasted, salted soy nuts

Combine everything in a large salad bowl or individual bowls. Toss with your favorite dressing.

Sprats and Avocado Sandwich

Sprats and Avocado Sandwiches

It seems lately that everyone is talking about Alton Brown's Good Eats episode, "Live and Let Diet" where he espouses one of his favorite light meals, packed with heart-healthy goodies, nutrients and fats: marinated brislings over avocado mash on toasted bread.

Those of you who already eat tinned fishies like sardines, kippers, herring, anchovy and, our favorite, sprats, are probably already wondering whether or not there's a ripe avocado in the cupboard. Just skip down to the end for my adaptation.

I want to talk to those of you who, like my mother, scrunch up your nose and look at a tin of fish as if it were the most horrible food product on earth.

I have only two questions for you: Do you like tuna fish sandwiches or tuna salad? Ever enjoyed fried salmon cakes?

Guess what: You just ate a tin of fish. It's fishy, flaky and oh-so-good, isn't it?

Now, take the tin of humble sprats. You know what's inside? A different, smaller fish that's been smoked and packed in oil. Since he's a tiny little guy, he still has his bones (so does that salmon you buy in a can!) and probably his skin and some fins. They're all completely edible. The canning process cooks everything enough so that it's nice and soft - you'll never even know unless you look.

And if you're still a bit squicked out? Just smoosh 'em all up into a mash! Now it looks just like a bit darker version of tuna salad. No problem there, right?

I'll let you in on a little secret: Smoked tinned fish is much, much better than tinned tuna. There's no comparison, at least not for me. I'd rather have sprats than tuna; the smoky, rich flavor just can't be beat. And this open-faced sandwich is a marvelous way to try them out.

Personally, I absolutely love this sandwich. I can't believe I never thought to match sprats to avocado! I originally tried the recipe the way Alton does it: with sardines. I found them too mild, too bland and absolutely requiring the apple cider vinegar and marinating Alton calls for. Sprats don't need vinegar or marinating at all because they're so intensely flavorful on their own.

And of course, being me, I strongly recommend you look for ones from Latvia. (This is easy, more than 75% of the sprats out there come from Latvia.) If at all possible, if you have the option, get "Rīgas zelts" -- my personal favorite and one of the best brands. Don't get the tins of fish in sauce. While they're still good eats, I think the sauce would probably clash, especially if it's sweet.

Sprats and Avocado Sandwich

Sprats and Avocado Sandwich [printable recipe]

Adapted from Alton Brown [original recipe here]
Serves 2

  • 160 g smoked sprats in oil (one 5.6 oz can)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • splash of lemon juice or a lemon, split into wedges
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 (about 1/2" thick) slices of crusty, tasty bread - french, sourdough, country, etc.
  • 1 - 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Pour off about 2/3rds of the oil in the tin into a small dish then empty the fish and remaining oil onto another, larger dish carefully1. Brush the reserved oil over the bread and toast.

If you don't have a toaster oven, you probably shouldn't put this into a regular 2- or 4-slice toaster. Instead, place a rack in the oven about 4" from the element and turn it to Broil. Place the slices on a rack set on a baking sheet and broil for 2 - 3 minutes until golden brown2.

Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Mash the avocado - either in a small bowl or just inside the skin - and spread over the freshly toasted slices.

If you're smooshing the sprats, mash those in the bowl with a few grinds of pepper, a pinch of salt and a generous splash of lemon juice. Scoop the mash onto each slice and spread evenly (and generously!) over the avocado.

Otherwise, lay the sprats neatly over the avocado, sprinkle a bit of salt and grind a bit of pepper over each sandwich. Squeeze the lemon over each then garnish with parsley.


  1. Unless you intend to smoosh them, in which case just dump 'em in and don't worry about it.
  2. THIS WILL BURN. Be careful! Check it every 30 - 45 seconds after the first minute is up and remove as soon as it's as golden as you want it.

Sprats and Avocado Sandwiches

Sviestmaizes ar šprotēm un avokado [printable recipe]

Adaptēts no Āltuns Brauns
2 porcijas

  • 1 bundžiņa šprotu (eļļā, 160 g)
  • 1 avokado
  • puse citrona
  • šķipsniņa maltu piparu
  • šķipsniņa sāls
  • 4 šķēles baltmaizes
  • svaigi, kapāti pētersīļi (pēc vēlēšanās)

Izņem šprotes no bundžiņas un ieliec bļodiņā. Pārzied maizes šķēles ar šprotu eļļu.

Uzkarsē cepeškrāsni līdz 220°, ja iespējams tikai ar augšējo karstumu. Novieto maizi apmēram 10 cm no cepeškrāsns augšas un cep 2 līdz 3 minūtes, līdz maize kļūst zeltaini brūna. Pēc pirmās minūtes pārbaudi maizi ik pēc 30 sekundēm, lai neapdeg.

Samīci nomizoto avokado un uzzied uz maizes. Virsū liec šprotes un pārkaisi ar sāli un pipariem. Sagriez citronu četrās daiviņās un katru izspied uz vienas no sviestmaizēm. Ja vēlies, pārkaisi ar svaigiem pētersīļiem.

Sprats and Avocado Sandwich

Edamame Pesto

I came across an interesting recipe the other day that involved making an edamame-based pesto sauce. It sounded intriguing, so I put it on the menu along with another intriguingly random soup.

I'm really happy with how the pesto came out. It's nutty and very nicely balanced. It was excellent on soba noodles, but I think it would really shine on a grilled chicken panini. Or maybe I'm just partial to chicken-and-pesto sandwiches!

Plus, talk about super-easy! Most of the work is in chopping up some ingredients, nuking one or two and then tossing them all into a food processor.

Edamame Pesto [printable recipe]

Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce

  • 1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 largish garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the beans in a small microwaveable dish and cover. Microwave for 60 seconds. Combine all ingredients except hot water in a food processor. Pulse several times to chop everything finely. Add hot water and process until smooth. Add additional hot water if sauce is too thick.

I came across an interesting recipe the other day that involved making an edamame-based pesto sauce. It sounded intriguing, so I put it on the menu along with another intriguingly random soup.

I'm really happy with how the pesto came out. It's nutty and very nicely balanced. It was excellent on soba noodles, but I think it would really shine on a grilled chicken panini. Or maybe I'm just partial to chicken-and-pesto sandwiches!

Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce

  • 1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 largish garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the beans in a small microwaveable dish and cover. Microwave for 60 seconds. Combine all ingredients except hot water in a food processor. Pulse several times to chop everything finely. Add hot water and process until smooth.

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Wrap

One of the best uses for leftover chicken or turkey is the humble chicken salad. Now, I wasn't always a fan; in fact, since my experience for much of my youth was the chicken salad glop served in cafeterias or bad cafes, I really didn't care for it.

But, one year, I had an abundance of turkey after Thanksgiving. I had turkey coming out my ears! (Or so it felt.) I'd already made everything I could think of for leftovers and was scrounging around for another way to use up the leftovers. I found a recipe that sounded good, made it and promptly had it every day for lunch until my leftovers were good.

Unfortunately, I didn't write it down.

Fast-forward to last week. We had some leftover rotisserie chicken which we had bought to make some fast dinners and lunches. Our favorite local grocery uses our preferred brand of chickens for their rotisserie offerings and since the whole raw chickens were more expensive and we wanted dinner somewhat soonish, we picked one up.

After using about a quarter of the chicken, I had plenty of leftovers to use up. I started thinking about that recipe again and went through a bunch of the cookbooks I would have had at the time I made it the first time. I didn't find much that I remembered but I did find one that sounded just as good.

After I made it, I took a bite of my sandwich and closed my eyes in happiness. It might not be the same recipe but I think it's actually better. Crunchy, not too sweet and packed with flavor.. all I have to do now is arrange for more leftovers so I can have this again!

Chicken Salad [printable recipe]

Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light
Makes 2 large sandwiches

  • 90 g | 3 oz diced, peeled apple
  • 45 g | 1.5 oz chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 120 g | 4 oz chopped, cooked chicken or turkey1
  • 30 g | 1 oz chopped green onion
  • 110 g | 4 oz light/low-fat sour cream
  • 40 g | 1.5 oz light/low-cal mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika2
  • 1/4 tsp cumin3

Combine everything in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine.

Serve on toasted bread, buns or wraps. A bit of rocket/arugula, spinach, mesclun or other spicy salad mix is a good addition.


  1. This is roughly equivalent to 1 breast of a 3 lb roasted chicken. White or dark meat is good here. You can also reduce the amount of chicken without drastically affecting taste, just add more apple.
  2. Or regular paprika. I like the flavor of smoked best.
  3. Try a spice blend like a tandoori mix which uses cumin, ginger, coriander, salt and paprika. If you do, don't add the smoked paprika and use 1/2 tsp of the mix.

Nam Manglak – Thai Basil Seed Drink

Nam Manglak

My mom found a packet of basil seeds and decided to challenge me to figure out what to do with them. After some research, I found that the primary use was in a drink called "nam manglak" and that the little seeds would poof up into what seemed rather like tapioca pearls or frog eggs.

Nam Manglak was the most common recipe with ingredients I could actually obtain. Apparently, the little seeds make drinks in several Southeast Asian countries and their neighbors, but the Indian one I read involved ingredients I'd never heard of!

Soaked Basil Seeds

In fact, as you can see from the picture, the little black dots from the seed's hull make them look eerily like frog eggs. They're awfully fun to nibble on and will poof into small chewy spheres. It seems to take them about 30 minutes to completely soak up all of the water and poof completely, but they start poofing after just a few seconds. Personally, I call them "frogalicious"!

This is one recipe where I'm honestly not trying for authenticity. I have no real idea of how this drink is really supposed to taste. What I can tell you is that what I've written below tastes quite good and the drink is very fun to make. A straw is essential to maximize the fun. And generally, I find that I'm happiest mixing up an italian soda and adding a couple of tablespoons of seeds.

Nam Manglak Italian Sodas

Here's one set of drinks my husband and I had today with lunch. Mine is a mix of chocolate and caramel sugar-free syrups, club soda and half & half with basil seeds. His is a mix of raspberry syrup, tonic and still water, plus a splash of evaporated milk and basil seeds.

I've come up with a lot of variations on the theme, some of which I've listed below. Keep in mind that 2 tablespoons of seeds will make at least 500 ml of basil seed spheres. It's a cheap drink: we found that 69c would buy a large enough packet to make more than a dozen drinks' worth.

I definitely recommend these fun little seeds as a fun summer drink or even a Halloween creepy drink (or prop).

Nam Manglak

Nam Manglak - Thai Basil Seed Drink [printable recipe]

Adapted from various sites


  • 2 tbsp basil seeds
  • 2 tbsp sugar or vanilla sugar
  • 500 ml hot water

Add a Mix-in or Two:

  • grenadine or other flavored syrups, such as chocolate, strawberry, almond, hazelnut, caramel, etc.
  • cream or sweetened condensed, evaporated or coconut milk
  • rosewater

Top off with:

  • tonic or club soda (aka seltzer water or soda water or sparkling water)
  • milk
  • iced tea

Make the basil base: Combine sugar and honey with hot water, stirring to dissolve. Add seeds, stirring in well so all of the seeds are soaked. Chill for a few hours until cold.

Mixing a drink: Fill five glasses halfway with crushed ice. Add about 125 ml of the seed base to each, along with a tablespoon of your favorite mix-in. Top off the glasses with sparkling water, club soda, milk or other liquid. Add straws and enjoy.


  1. So far, I prefer mixing mine with club soda, half & half, plus a bit of flavored syrup (an italian soda). I really want to try one with rum and coconut milk which seems like it would be very good. Thai iced tea is another drink I'd like to try adding these to as well.
  2. Basil seeds are available at asian groceries in little 2oz - 4oz packets.
  3. If you try making this, please do not use seed packets intended for planting unless you can verify there are no added chemicals or fertilizers.

Creamy Cabbage and Carrot Soup

Cabbage is one of those much-maligned veggies that are incredibly cheap and very filling. If you're living frugally, like we are, having a few great cabbage recipes in your repertoire is a very good thing. We made the entire recipe for about a dollar, possibly less. It's also incredibly easy to make vegan or vegetarian - simply omit the cream for vegans and make sure you use vegetable broth.

This particular soup is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It's comfort in a bowl, homey and perfect to have while it's still wintery enough to warrant a bit of a pick-me-up while you watch the snow fall. I love the interplay of flavors between the cabbage, carrot and tomato, myself.

Creamy Cabbage and Carrot Soup [printable recipe]

Adapted from a recipe on RecipeZaar
Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 largish garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • about 1/2 small head of green cabbage or about 6 cups
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cream or sour cream, to taste if desired

Grate the carrot and shred the cabbage. I recommend using a food processor's slicing and grating discs, but a mandolin works extremely well too. Set them aside in separate bowls.

In a medium saucepot set over moderate heat, add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the onion and a small pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another two minutes.

Add the grated carrot and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, thyme, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste then the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender if desired and add a splash of cream to the bowls.

Ratio: Variations on the Theme of Pancakes IV

Ratio IV - Farinata/Cecina Pancakes

I'm participating in the Ratio Challenges this year, hosted by Seattlejo of Fat and Crafty, and experimenting with ratios from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

We're reaching the end of the first Ratio period and I've learned a lot from working with it. I'd always thought of pancakes as being an involved process, requiring recipes and plenty of time. Now I can whip up a batch of pancakes sized for the meal and number of people in nothing flat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert -- plus every single batch is completely and utterly different. The creative freedom that it allows me is tremendous!

For instance, the recipe below came about while I was thinking up potential flours and ways to play around with the pancake ratio and my old experiments with chickpea flour and savory flatbreads came to mind. I've made chickpea flour flatcakes since I discovered the flour at Seattle's Central Market. Back then, I would usually mix a one-to-one ratio of chickpea flour to water, add a pinch of salt and rosemary, then fry them up in olive oil.

I've learned (thanks to Wikipedia) that creating a batter out of this particular blend of chickpea flour, water, olive oil and rosemary is known by several names in the Mediterranean, including farinata, socca and cecina. I'm not really clear on the distinctions, if any, between them. Wikipedia seems to say that most of the difference is cultural between different areas, such as Tuscany, where it is known as cecina, from ceci for chickpea. Of course, all three of these are traditionally oven-baked, so I'm not sure if or how skillet-cooking them fits in.

The problem I found was when I tried to work the recipe into our menu. I couldn't figure out what to make it with! So, I turned to an Italian friend of mine who hails from Tuscany and asked him how he enjoys it. He informed me that it's eaten plain as a snack, much like pizza. (I do believe that he and I think of pizza a tad bit differently, but that's a topic for another post!) I decided at that point to stop trying to force it into our dinner menu and instead make it as a super-fast side for lunch.

I'd made my Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili for dinner the other night and my husband and I decided to have the leftovers for lunch. As it turns out, these little pancakes made a fantastic accompaniment! The strong flavors of the chickpea flour and herbs complemented the pumpkin, chile and tomato flavor in the chili. I don't think I would eat these all by themselves unless I was really in the mood for a savory flatbread, but they were truly excellent with the chili.

Ratio IV - Farinata/Cecina Pancakes

Farinata Pancakes [printable recipe]

Makes about 4 or 5 pancakes

  • 4 ounces chickpea flour (also known as besan flour)
  • 4 ounces water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • pinch each: basil, thyme, rosemary

Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl, combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet to dry and stir well. Add more water to thin it to a typical pancake batter if needed (this one did not for me). Heat a lightly oiled pan over moderate heat and fry until golden, flipping once.

Ratio: Variations on the Theme of Pancakes III

Third in the Ratio: Pancakes series. I'm participating in the Ratio Challenges this year, hosted by Seattlejo of Fat and Crafty, and experimenting with ratios from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

No picture of this one and why is that? Because I managed to have so many problems putting this together, it's not even funny. It came out tasty in the end but quite frankly, I need to test my recipe revision to find out if it's really fixed.

Yesterday was my vārdadiena or name-day. (A vārdadiena is somewhat similar to a birthday, except that smaller in scale and you celebrate based on your name's position on the Latvian calendar. Let's just say, it's an excuse for a party or at least getting your favorite meal out of it.) I decided for dessert, I'd go ahead and make these up, not realizing that I hadn't finished writing the recipe out by its ratio.

Let's review the pancake batter ratio: It calls for 2 parts flour : 2 parts liquid : 1/2 part fat : 1 part egg + leavening + sweetener. Simple, right?

I left out the fat and forgot to increase my liquid because I played around with the sugar. So, my initial recipe looked something like this: 2 parts flour / cocoa / nuts : 2 parts sweetened, condensed milk : 0 parts fat : 1 part egg + leavening.

I had decided I would chop the nuts finely into a pseudo-flour and use that as part of the flour. Last night, I discovered that my Cuisinart mini-chopper would not effectively chop nuts. Instead, I got some walnut/pecan butter, some walnut dust and a bunch of chunks and whole nuts. Great. So, I dumped it in the bowl with the cocoa powder and pastry flour. Didn't really think about the ratio and the fact that I had just lost 1 1/2 parts of flour to a bad chopper without replacing it.

But wait, it gets worse. Not only had I forgotten to add in the fat, but the correct ratio calls for baking powder. I used baking soda. They're both leavening agents, but baking powder is double-acting. Baking soda is single-acting, which means you only get one "rise" out of it and it begins as soon as it activated. Baking powder can sit around a while. Luckily, I had mixed it and immediately began cooking it, but I'm not quite sure how much of a problem this is.

With everything else going wrong, I would up adding a lot of milk just to get the batter to thin out properly. When my husband started cooking them, they spread very far and very fast -- and weren't easy to flip. This is because of the missing part of flour and fat. We wound up quickly stirring in flour to get them to a cookable state.

In the end, they came out pretty well. Even the first one that spread like crazy and was a bitch to flip tasted great. I hit the cocoa measurement dead-on. They were extremely delicious and I only wished I'd had some fresh strawberries and whipped cream to top them.

Here's the revised recipe, the way I should have cooked them. I'll be making these again soon and will edit this post if there are any changes that need to be made, but if you try them, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Just mind the ratio, okay?

Chocolate Pancakes [printable recipe]

Definitely not a breakfast unless you're spoiling someone. Based around the lovely ganache, I combined sweet with the liquid in the form of sweetened condensed milk.
  • 2 ounces whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour
  • 1/2 ounce dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 ounce all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 ounce butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • milk, to thin as needed
  • pinch of salt
  • chocolate chips and/or walnut pieces, for sprinkling (optional)

Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a small bowl. Combine wet with dry, beat together into a pancake batter, using the milk as needed to thin it out to your desired consistency.

Over moderate heat in a lightly greased skillet, pour batter in 1/2 cup portions, sprinkle with chocolate chips and/or walnut pieces, and cook until the edges set. Since the batter is so dark, it can be really difficult to tell when they're ready to be flipped, but each pancake shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

Open-faced Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions

Open-Faced Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions

When we were at Winco earlier this month, I found a great deal on some marbled pork shoulder that would be great to grind up for sausages or meatballs. Since I was grinding meat that evening anyway, I decided to make open-faced burgers.

These came out juicy and packed with flavor. I loved the mushrooms and onions cooked in red wine!

Now the original recipe actually called for ground chicken and Marsala wine. That would also be good but I didn't have any Marsala left in my pantry. I believe that just about any combination of ground meats would be delicious, whether it's ground chicken or veal/pork or buffalo.

Open-faced Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions [printable recipe]

Loosely based on a recipe by Rachael Ray Makes 2 burgers


  • 8 - 10 oz ground pork
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chile flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash liquid smoke
Onion & Mushroom Topping:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 medium crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 ciabatta roll or other bun
Combine burger ingredients together in a small bowl. Divide in half and shape into patties. Grill until cooked through, about 4 - 5 minutes per side or 5 minutes in a double-sided contact grill1.

While the burgers cook, heat butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic and onion and saute until browned. Add a pinch of salt, wine and water. Continue to cook until wine is reduced and nicely coats the mushrooms and onions.

Split the ciabatta roll and rest a patty on top, followed by plenty of mushrooms and onions.


  1. In other words, a Foreman indoor grill or something similar.