Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Easy Peppermint Bark

Four days until Christmas, and you are well on your way to assembling the perfect cookie platter! For the final treat, I have for you easy peppermint bark.  If you thought the macaroons were easy, these are going to change your world.

To start, prepare the peppermint.  Take about 10 candy canes, unwrap them, and seal them in a large Ziploc bag.  Wrap the bag in a kitchen towel and pound it with a hammer or rolling pin until the candy canes are broken into tiny pieces.  This is a great way to release some of the stress the holidays may be causing!

Next, melt two bags of white chocolate chips in a double boiler (like we did for the macaroons). 

Once melted and smooth, pour the chocolate onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Spread it evenly so that it's about 1/4" thick.

Sprinkle with the candy cane pieces and place in the refrigerator to cool (which will take several hours).

Once the chocolate has hardened, break it into small pieces. 

With three holiday treats under your belt, you can now assemble a pretty kick-ass cookie platter.  They make great gifts for your neighbors, coworkers, doormen, anyone!  I like to use disposable loaf boxes and pretty parchment paper.  Who can resist when they look this tantalizing?

Easy Peppermint Bark

2 12-ounce bags white chocolate chips
10 candy canes 

1. Break the candy canes into tiny pieces. Place them in a large Ziploc bag and seal.  Wrap with a kitchen towel and pound with a rolling pin or hammer.  Set aside.
2. Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler.
3. Pour the chocolate onto a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Spread to 1/4" thick.
4. Sprinkle candy cane pieces over the chocolate.
5. Refrigerate for several hours or until chocolate has hardened.
6. Break into small pieces and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cranberry Coconut Macaroons

Five more days until Christmas! Hopefully you've already wowed everyone with your lemon sugar cookies.  Next up we have cranberry coconut macaroons, and they're even dipped in chocolate!  And I promise, these are incredibly easy cookies to make.  They're simple and use only a few ingredients, but are deliciously decadent and amazing.  They're sure to be a crowd pleaser. Be sure to hide them if you're saving them for them an event, because they'll be snatched up in no time!

In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.

Fold in 1 cup of cranberries (rinsed well and cut into quarters) until well combined.

Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture onto a well greased cookie sheet.  The original recipe says to bake them on parchment paper, but this was a huge failure in my kitchen, so I strongly advise using some PAM instead.  Doesn't the parchment paper look pretty, though?

Bake them at 325 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes, or until they are set.  Remove from the cookie sheet immediately and let cool.

You can stop here if you're satisfied, or you can opt to dip these babies in chocolate (and who doesn't love some extra chocolate??) Melt a bag of milk chocolate chips in a double boiler.  If you don't have one (like me), boil a couple of inches of water in a medium saucepan.  Place a metal bowl over the water and pour the chocolate chips in. Stir them frequently until melted and smooth.  

Dip the bottom half of each macaroon in the chocolate. Place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate is hardened.  Serve and enjoy!

Cranberry Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from Bon Appetit August 2000

1 14-ounce package sweetened flaked coconut 
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cranberries, rinsed and quartered
1 12-ounce package milk chocolate chips (optional) 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.
3. Fold in the cranberries to combine.  
4. Drop rounded teaspoons onto a well greased cookie sheet. 
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set.  
6. Remove from cookie sheet immediately and let cool.
7. If desired, dip them in chocolate - melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.  Dip the bottom half of each macaroon in the chocolate and place on a sheet of wax paper to cool and harden. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Christmas is almost here!  Prepare yourself for three great holiday treat recipes here on The Kitchen Holiday. Nothing makes me more happy than an afternoon in the kitchen listening to Christmas music (this album is my favorite this year) and baking up a bunch of cookies.  They're perfect for dessert during your holiday party and, wrapped up in festive packaging, they make great gifts.  In fact, once you bake these upcoming delicacies, you'll have a great cookie platter that anyone would be thrilled to receive. 

First up we have lemon sugar cookies.  Once I saw these, I knew they would be my favorite cookies of the season, and it's all because of the sanding sugar sprinkled on top.  This coarse colored sugar adds the perfect sparkle to your holiday treat.  I made these for a cookie swap and they were a big hit (or at least I'd like to think they were!)  Plus, the cookie swap was a great way to get a wide variety of cookies without spending days in the kitchen. 

To make the lemon sugar cookies, start with the dough.  It has to chill for at least an hour, so make it ahead of time.  

Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  This is easiest of the butter is room temperature, so take it out of the fridge a few hours in advance.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and mix well (for the lemon zest, grate the rind of a lemon with the smallest holes on your grater, making sure you only grate the yellow part of the rind and not the white part, which is bitter).

Mix the butter mixture on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and beat until just combined.  

Slowly add the flour mixture, adding it in small batches and mixing until fully combined each time.  Towards the end you may need to use your hands to work it in.  Once combined, divide the dough into two sections.  Roll each into a 10" log (it helps to actually measure it, as Iearned that my estimating skills are horribly inaccurate).  

Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Once sufficiently chilled, remove from the fridge and place on a cutting board.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut into 1/4" slices.  

Place on a greased cookie sheet about 1" apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until edges are set.  Don't let them get too brown - this way they will stay soft and moist. Remove from the pan immediately and let cool on a rack.

While they're cooling, mix together the icing.  In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and just enough milk to bring it to the right consistency (start small and add the milk in very small increments).  Transfer the icing into a pastry bag.  Since I don't have those, I used a Ziploc bag and cut a tiny hole in one of the corners.  

Drizzle the icing over the cookies. Sprinkle the sugar over the icing immediately, before the icing has time to set.  I worked in small batches, icing 3 rows of cookies at a time, then stopping to add sprinkles.  Let the icing set for 1-2 hours before storing in an airtight container. 

Enjoy the beauty of the cookies you just created!

Lemon Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit December 2011

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons (or more) milk
Sanding sugar (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add in the lemon zest and vanilla and combine, mixing for several minutes.   
3. Mix in the egg yolks until just combined.
4. Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined, using your hands if necessary.
5. Divide the dough into two halves.  Roll each half into a 10" log.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 
6. Remove dough for refrigerator.  Slice with a sharp, floured knife into 1/4" thick cookies. Place on greased cookie sheet.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are set.  
8. Remove from cookie sheet immediately and cool.
9. Make the icing - mix together the powdered sugar and enough milk to make the icing thick but able to be drizzled.  
10. Transfer the icing into a pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with a small whole cut in one corner). Drizzle over cookies, working in batches.  After each batch, sprinkle sugar or sprinkles over the icing immediately.  Let icing set for 1-2 hours.  Store in an airtight container. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pasta Alfredo with Kale

Sunday in DC was finally the cold, crisp winter day I've been waiting for.  The Patriots played the Redskins, causing a clash of my New England loyalty with my new life in Washington, and it the Redskins actually held their own.  They lost, thank goodness, else I would have had to reconsider the natural order of the world.  With most of my friends out tailgating, I decided it was the perfect time to make some warm, creamy comfort food (I mean, at least I wasn't out devouring pulled pork and playing flip cup, right?).  

This was the first time I've made an alfredo sauce, and I was shocked at how simple it was!  With only three ingredients, it was hard to go wrong.  Yet despite the simplicity of it all, the result was incredibly decadent, rich, and smooth, perfect for either a dinner party, Sunday meal, or quick weeknight dinner. 

It's also easily adaptable.  I made mine with tender, cooked kale, but you could substitute spinach, chicken, tomatoes and basil, or whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.  

To start, pour your wine.  Of course there isn't any in the recipe itself, but Sunday afternoon cooking calls for a cold glass of Chardonnay.

Next, prepare your ingredients.  The list is so short, you can count them on one hand.  Plus, they're things you usually have in the fridge.  This is my kind of recipe. 

First, prepare your kale.  Rinse it well and rip out the stems and any large veins.  Add it to a large pot or saucepan with 1/2 cup water.  Cook it over medium heat until it's wilted and tender, or about 5 - 10 minutes.  Drain the water and set aside.

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente (according to the directions on the box).  Fettuccine would be the most traditional pasta to use, but anything will work. I used whole wheat angel hair since that's what I had on hand, which I like since it cooks so quickly.  Once it's cooked, save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.

Now it's time for the best part, the sauce!  It will only take a couple of minutes.  In a large saucepan (you can use the same one in which you cooked the kale), melt the butter.  Add the cream, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Remove sauce from the heat and toss in the pasta, kale, pasta water, and cheese.  And that's it!  Time to enjoy.  I recommend serving it with a garden salad since the alfredo is so calorie rich.  That's if you can hold yourself back from devouring the pasta right away!

Pasta Alfredo with Kale
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2008

Makes 4 servings.

7 to 8 ounces dry pasta of your choice (1/2 box)
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 bunch kale

1. Rinse the kale, remove stems, and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Cook in a large pot over medium heat with 1/2 cup water until wilted and tender, 5-10 minutes.  Drain and set aside. 

2. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente.  Remove 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside.  Drain the pasta.
3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the heavy cream, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Toss in the pasta, kale, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve hot, with a side salad. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Cooked Turkey Soup

This weekend I decided to host a second Thanksgiving with my friends from college.  Prior to the actual holiday, this seemed like a great idea, as if no one could ever have enough turkey and stuffing.  Fast forward nine days, two Thanksgiving meals and lots of leftovers later, I discovered that, while the turkey does get a little less exciting, any reason to get your friends together and share a meal is a good one.  

I roasted my first official turkey using Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe, complete with brining bag and aromatics.  It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

The next day, I was left with a whole lot of leftovers.  Not wanting to throw the turkey carcass (a really horrible word) away, I decided to make some soup with it.  Let me tell you, the aromas in my apartment on Sunday rivaled actual Thanksgiving day, and it was super easy.  A friend stopping by even said, "How homemaker-ish of you!" That's right, I'm a soccer mom living a single girl's life, and loving every minute of it.  

This soup embodies many of the tastes of Thanksgiving, with fresh sage, turkey, and lots of vegetables, but has the added bonus of being healthy.  You won't feel guilty after eating a big bowl, even if you have it for lunch three days in a row (which I may or may not have done this week, don't tell!) On cold winter days when it's dark by 4:30, turkey soup will warm you right up.  Plus, while it's simmering you'll have time to drink a mug of mulled wine and watch Home Alone, and who doesn't want to do that?

Here's how I made the soup:

First, put your turkey in a large stockpot, add an onion (quartered), 3 stalks of celery, and a bay leaf and cover with water.  Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  This isn't the prettiest part of the process, but it definitely smells the best. Remove the turkey from the stock pot and put in a bowl to cool.

The water in the stockpot is now delicious broth.  Pour it through a strainer or some cheesecloth to remove any remaining solids.  Set it aside and let it fully cool, letting it sit in the fridge if possible.  This will allow the fat to separate and float on top. Scoop it off and discard.

Once the turkey carcass has cooled enough so that you can touch it, remove all the meat from the bones, discarding everything else.  Slice it into bite sized pieces.

Back to the stockpot.  Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil and saute one minced onion, the remaining celery (sliced), and all of the carrots (sliced).  Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add a small handful of chopped sage leaves, along with 2 cloves of garlic, minced and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the broth, remaining bay leaf, turkey, rice or barley, and your vegetables.  I used a bag of frozen green beans and a bag of frozen corn, but you can use whatever veggies you prefer.  It's a great way to use up leftovers.  Bring everything to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

Add salt, pepper and thyme to taste. So go ahead, grab a spoon and taste it!  Remember, you can always add more salt, but you can't take it out.  Simmer the soup for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours longer, depending on how much time you have.  A pot of soup on the stove makes for a pretty cozy Sunday, so I don't recommend that you rush.  

Serve piping hot in a pretty bowl and enjoy!

**Once I made this enormous pot of soup, I realized I might have solved the problem of what to do with the turkey carcass, but I had no idea what I was going to do with all this soup!  Luckily, soup is easily frozen and makes for great leftovers.  Once it cooled, I poured the extra soup into some Ziploc bags and froze flat in my freezer.  That way, I can stack them easily and they won't take up too much space. 

Home Cooked Turkey Soup
Adapted from The Food Network

1 leftover turkey carcass
1 onion, quartered, plus 1 onion, minced
1 bunch celery (3 whole and remaining sliced)
1 lb carrots, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small handful fresh sage leaves, chopped (about 10-15 leaves)
3 cups leftover or frozen vegetables of your choice
1-2 cups rice or barley
1-2 teaspoons thyme (to taste)
Salt, pepper to taste

1. Put a leftover turkey carcass (with some meat still on the bones) in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Add one onion, quartered, 3 stalks of celery and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil.
2. Simmer the turkey for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the turkey to a large bowl and let cool.  Through a strainer or cheesecloth, strain the water, which will now be broth, from the stock pot and set aside.  
3. In the stockpot, saute 1 minced onion, the remaining celery, sliced, and all of the carrots, sliced, in olive oil until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and fresh sage and cook for 1 minute longer. 
4. Pour the broth into the stockpot and add the remaining bay leaf.  
5. Once the turkey is cool enough to touch, remove the meat from the bones, discarding everything else.  Slice the turkey into bite-sized pieces and add to stockpot.
6. Add vegetables to the stockpot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes and season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.
7. Simmer for 30 minutes to several hours.
8. Serve piping hot, preferably with a slice of crusty bread or crackers.

Note: Soup can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie

I hope everyone had a yummy Thanksgiving.  If you're anything like me, you've had more than your fill of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and, of course, lots and lots of pie.  After one "Friendsgiving" here in DC, Thanksgiving in Connecticut, and one more "Friendsgiving" to go (which I get to host!), I'll have, in total, made this pie four times this year.  
CT Thanksgiving
And it's worth it every time!  This is no normal pumpkin pie.  This is the pumpkin pie that people who don't even like pumpkin pie will ask you to make over and over again.  This pie totes not just pumpkin, but candied yams.  Maple syrup, fresh ginger, and lots of cream combine for the perfect flavor combination that hint of cold weather, falling leaves, and, dare I say it, snow. 

My favorite way to make silky smooth pumpkin pie is from scratch.  As in, from a real pumpkin!  I'm just waiting for the day when I no longer live in a tiny studio apartment and have a yard in which to grow pumpkins.  Then this will really be from scratch.  Until then, Whole Foods will have to suffice.  (And when I'm crunched for time, canned pumpkin always works too.)  Make sure you get a sugar pumpkin.  Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.  Save them for roasting later! Bake on a greased cookie sheet, cut side down, in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until they give way easily to a fork stuck through the skin.  

Once baked through, let the pumpkin cool just enough so that you can touch it.  Scoop the pulp out with a spoon and mash with a potato masher (or run through a food processor).  

Next, make the crust.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour and salt.  Slice the butter into pieces and cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Make sure the butter is COLD!  It's also important to leave small bits of butter in the flour - this will help the crust be flaky.  All of this can be done in a food processor if you prefer.

Working in sections, gently mix in ice water with a fork until it forms a ball of dough.  Try not to overwork the dough.  On a well floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin to form a circle large enough for your pie pan.

Transfer to pie pan, trim any excess from the edges, and fold the edges under.  Using your thumb and forefingers, crimp the edges.

Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.  Remove from fridge, line with foil, and fill with pie weights (Who really has pie weights though?  Coins work just as well.  Multi-purpose laundry quarters!) Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown.  

Next, make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and egg yolks.  Whisk in the half & half and vanilla and set aside. 

In a large saucepan, mix together the pumpkin, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  I mash the yams with a fork before adding them.  Stirring frequently, bring to a sputtering boil over medium-high heat.  And by sputtering, I really mean bubbly!  Don't be shy about getting this concoction to really boil.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and shiny, about 15 minutes.

Once the pumpkin mixture is cooked, whisk in the cream mixture until combined.

Next, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  This seems tedious at first, but this is where the silky aspect of the pie comes in.  It's a little more work, but TOTALLY worth it!  

Once strained, re-whisk filling and pour into pre-baked crust.  Place pie on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Turn oven down to 300 degrees and bake for 20-35 minutes longer, or until the edges are set.  

Here's one of the tricks to this pie: the center doesn't have to be set when you take it out of the oven, only the edges.  The pie continues to cook from the residual heat, so it's important to let it cool at room temperature for several hours.  I'd recommend 4-5 hours, but you can get away with fewer if you have to.

Serve with whipped cream and prepare yourself for the requests to make this pie for your friends to start pouring in!

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie
Filling recipe from, where it was adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Crust recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Makes one 8" or 9" pie.

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup COLD butter
4-6 Tablespoons cold water

2 cups half and half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk)
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pumpkin puree* (or 1 15-ounce can) 
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (regular canned yams can be substituted)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

For the Pumpkin Puree

Bake a sugar (pie) pumpkin:
  • Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds
  • Bake cut side down on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until a fork can be stuck through the pumpkin easily
  • Cool slightly, then scoop out pulp 
  • Mash pulp with a potato masher or run though a food processor until smooth
For the Crust
  • Mix together flour and salt in large mixing bowl
  • With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs (leaving clumps of butter)
  • Add 3 Tablespoons cold water and mix gently
  • One Tablespoon at a time, mix in additional cold water until the dough is moistened and forms a ball
  • On a well floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin to form a circle big enough to fit into pie pan
  • Transfer to pie pan, trim the edges, fold extra dough under, and crimp the edges with thumb and forefingers or a fork
  • Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  • Remove dough from refrigerator, line with foil, and fill with pie weights (or coins)
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown
For the Filling
  • In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks.  Whisk in half and half (or cream and milk) and vanilla. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, mix together pumpkin, yams (mash with a fork prior to adding), sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  
  • Cook over medium heat until it comes to a sputtering boil, stirring frequently.
  • Continue to simmer, stirring constantly, for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and shiny.
  • Remove from heat and stir in egg mixture.
  • Pour combined mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
  • Re-mix strained mixture and pour into pre-baked pie crust.
  • Bake pie on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 20-35 minutes longer, until edges are set.
  • Cool at room temperature for several hours (pie continues to bake and sets as it cools).
  • Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin spice pancakes

I'm pretty sure pancakes were the first hot dish I learned to prepare.  Even back when I was 8 years old, I was perfectly content to spend Saturday morning in the kitchen cooking up a delicious breakfast, while my younger siblings watched cartoons.  (At least until it was time to leave for CCD, thanks, Mom and Dad.)

Just as our taste in TV shows has changed since the days of shows like this, my pancake making has come a long way.  This pumpkin spice version is warm and spicy and perfect for a cold, fall morning.  Paired with crispy bacon and a steaming cup of coffee, you're guaranteed to be starting your day off on the right foot with these.  And if you have leftovers, even better!  Pop them in the freezer and indulge in the middle of the week.  No one will ever know!

This batch was made for one of my favorite married couples during their recent visit to DC.  I hope it convinced them to come back again soon!

First thing's first: brew yourself some coffee!  There's no way I could even think about functioning until I've had at least one cup.  Or two. 

If I'm having an especially indulgent day, before starting the pancakes, I like to fry up some bacon.  "Good bacon, good day!"*

Next, assemble your ingredients.  The recipe calls for pumpkin puree (canned works fine, or you can make your own - more on that to come), but I only had pumpkin pie filling available.  To adjust for this, I cut down the sugar to 2 Tablespoons.  They still turned out great, but I would stick with the original recipe if possible.

Whisk together your dry ingredients (flour (and any substitutes you'd like - I used a mix of white and wheat flour along with 1/2 cup of wheat germ), brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, and salt) in a large mixing bowl.  Make sure you get out any lumps of sugar!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin, and melted butter.  

All at once, add the wet mixture into the dry and mix until just blended.  Be careful not to over-mix the batter - the less you handle it, the fluffier the pancakes.  It's best to have some visible bits of flour that haven't been fully mixed in.  

Next, heat a large, non-stick frying pan or griddle over medium high heat.  Here's the trick to see if the pan is hot enough: run the tips of your fingers in cold water and spray a few drops on the pan.  If the droplets "dance," or jump off the pan, then it is hot enough.  Be sure to spray the pan with a cooking spray like PAM as well.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, spoon the batter onto the pan to form as many pancakes as will fit.  Make sure you leave yourself a little bit of wiggle room to allow for flipping.  

When the pancakes are ready, flip them.  You'll know they're ready when the bubbles in the center begin to pop and the edges start to brown, like this:

Cook until each side is golden brown.

Transfer to a plate in a warm oven, about 250 degrees. 

Repeat with the remaining batter.  I usually only need to spray the pan before the first batch.  Warning: the first batch of pancakes never looks awesome.  Consecutive batches will turn out better and better though, so don't worry.  And they all taste wonderful, regardless.

Once you've used all the pancake batter, congratulations!  You're ready to eat breakfast. 

Serve pancakes hot with lots of butter and maple syrup.  Pour another cup of coffee or a glass of apple cider, and you are good to go.  Enjoy!

*This is a real motto from a real family.  A pretty awesome family.  And it's totally true!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1996
Makes about 15 pancakes

2 cups flour (any mix you would like - I used 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup wheat flour, & 1/2 cup wheat germ)
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups buttermilk (I used sour milk*)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, and salt in large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, and melted butter.
3. Pour wet mixture into dry and mix until just combined.
4. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and spray with PAM.  Once it is hot (when cold water droplets dropped on the pan "dance"), pour batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to form pancakes.  
5. Flip each pancakes when the bubbles in the center begin to pop and the edges begin to brown. Cook until each side is golden brown.
6. Transfer to a plate in a warm oven (250 degrees) and repeat with remaining batter. 
7. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.  

* If, like me, you don't keep buttermilk on hand, you can use sour milk instead.  Mix 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice with enough milk to yield the desired amount. Let stand 5-10 minutes before using. 
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