Culinary Frankensteining

November 25, 2008

There are two truths about me. Well, there are more but this is relating to the kitchen. Well, even there, there are more but we are going to discuss two today.

  1. I usually cook from a recipe. It helps the control freak/planner in me to relax.
  2. Once a recipe is mastered, I start to get a little bored with it and turn into a mad scientist of sorts.

Sometimes my frankensteining pays off and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. When I was 7, I thought I could trade in my beloved tarter sauce for grape jelly when eating my fish sticks. Horribly horribly wrong. At 13, I made chicken and dumplings for my father. I incorporated a plethora of ingredients into the dumpling dough including cheese and bbq sauce. Horribly horribly wrong. At 18, I started frankensteining with mixed drinks and alcohol. A bartender I am not but a toilet cleaner I became. Horribly horribly wrong.

Eventually, I hit my stride though and now, I can modify recipes with the best of them like this stuffed chicken recipe from Alton. The original recipe was for stuffed flounder and I have made it with that and tilapia and now chicken. And I promise you I have left my “culinary frankensteining” in the past and this is just Good Eats. (I crack myself up)

stuffed-chicken-022ab

Enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Flounder (Or whatever)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for the sweat and for seasoning fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning fillets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 10 ounces grated Cheddar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flounder fillets
  • 3 cups leftover cooked rice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan over low heat, melt the butter; add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Add the spinach and lemon zest and cook until just heated through. Season with the salt and pepper, add the parsley, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Place the heavy cream and wine into a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to simmer, gradually add the cheese and stir until melted. Set aside and keep warm.

If the fillets are large, cut in half. Season each filet on both sides with salt and pepper. Divide the spinach mixture evenly among the fillets and roll the fish around the mixture. Place the rice into a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish and spread evenly. Place each roll on top of the rice, seam side down. Pour over the cheese sauce and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

For chicken: Cut a pocket into the chicken breast and insert the cooked spinach mixture. Use toothpicks to secure the pocket closed. (Be sure to remove those later). Sear the chicken in a pan over medium/high heat until no longer pink on the outside. Lay on top of rice and pour the cheese mixture over the chicken. Cook for 40 minutes or until internal temperature is 165.stuffed-chicken-017

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

November 16, 2008

Throughout my day, I randomly talk, sing and laugh to myself but mostly sing. No song is out of my vocal range and all of the members of our house love it when I sing. The cats come running to me like the woodland animal scene in Snow White. Their favorite songs are You are My Sunshine and I Will Always Love You from the Bodyguard. No matter what my husband tells you, they all love my off key vocals and mis-timed cadence. And their favorite part is the fact that I belt out every song in my musical memory.

Yesterday was such an occasion. My song of choice was from and SNL skit: the Spartans.

Roll Call!!!

Hi my name is Craig

I give great hugs

You are not my friend

If you do drugs

Accompanying the music demonstration was the clapping and body gesturing of Will Ferrel’s famous cheerleader. This caused a discussion between Alex and I about the validity of my show. He claimed that he had never seen such a skit and I most certainly had to prove him wrong and off to YouTube we went.

Unfortunately, we were not able to find the skit I speak of (we found many other Spartan skits) but we did find our other favorites. Sean Connery and Celebrity Jeopardy and Justin Timberlake’s Blank in a Box. My sister, who had never seen this tribute to the male anatomy wrapped up for the holidays, dissolved in laughter and  brought it up again during a discussion about the possibility of French Toast for breakfast.

It was then that I decided that we were going to make Egg in a Toast in honor of this skit.

But, we were going to use French Toast bread for a spin. So here are the directions Justin Timberlake style:

Step 1: You cut a hole in that bread

Step 2: You put your egg in that bread

Step 3: You make her eat that bread

Enjoy!egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-059a

International House of Pancakes French Toast

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons butter

6 slices thick-sliced French bread

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Pancake Syrup

If you are making egg in a hole French Toast, cut the hole in the bread before you dip in into the French toast batter.

1. Beat the eggs in a large shallow bowl.

2. Add the milk, vanilla, flour, and salt to the eggs. Beat the mixture with a whisk. Be sure all the flour is well combined. – I put the flour in first then the eggs beat them together then add the rest of the milk.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the surface is hot, add about a teaspoon of butter.

4. Dip the bread, a slice at a time, into the batter, being sure to coat each side well. Drop the bread onto the hot pan (as many as will fit at one time) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until the surface is golden brown.

5. If doing egg in the hole, brown both sides then crack the egg in the middle of the hole. Let the egg cook for 2-3 minutes then flip and let cook for 2-3 minutes.egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-041a

6. Repeat with the remaining pieces of bread.

7. Cut each piece of toast in half diagonally. Arrange six halves of the toast on two plates by neatly overlapping the slices. Sprinkle about ½ tablespoon of powdered sugar over the tops of the toast slices on each plate. Serve with butter and syrup on the side. If making egg in a hole, there is no need to cut the slices in half.

egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-013

The recipe gets used alot

Adapted from: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes Todd Wilbur

Non-Projectile Food…Kind of

November 15, 2008

My sister has a little problem. She is a food sprayer. It is true, when the right forces align i.e. light and airy food, laughter, and an open mouth; my sister sends food flying across the room at any surface or person dumb enough to be in her way. She is not discriminatory either; whether it is corn bread, chocolate milk, birthday cake, salad or almost anything else, it has the potential to become airborne.

Many have fallen victim to Cindy’s perishable missiles. One of my best friends almost lost his eye when she took aim with chocolate chip cookie crumbs. And in high school, I lost a friend to embarrassment when she showed this trick off in public. We have tried to find a support group for this disease with no luck. The best thing we can do to help curb this behavior and support her recovery is make food that does not fly.

That was the plan tonight. The menu consisted of tacos with all the fixings complete with puffy taco shells. Heavy food enclosed in fried tortilla goodness and one of Cindy’s favorite meals, we were good to go. Then, Alex started talking about the Justin Timberlake skit- Blank in a Box (more on that soon) and that is when it happened. He was singing the song and Cindy lost it. Taco meat, tomatoes, cheese; it all went flying to different parts of the living room. Clearly, I underestimated the staying power of tacos. It is just another thing to cross of the list.tacos-092

Tonight’s recipe is more of a technique. Taco making is pretty easy but the shells have the potential to bring it home

Puffy (Fried) Taco Shells

Flour Tortilla Shells– You can also do this with corn but you need to lay it over something to get the U shape; I use burrito size but again you can use whatever you want.

Vegetable Oil (Or other Flavorless oil) enough to go up 2 inches in the frying pan

Block Cheese– Cut into 3″ by 1″ inch slices- to go in the middle. This is optional

1. Pour the oil into the frying pan so it goes about 2 inches up the side. I usually put the burner on Medium/High and let it heat for 5 minutes. A small piece of the tortilla should dance when placed in the oil when it is readytacos-077

2. Put the tortilla into the oil. Let sit for 15 seconds or until brown and flip over.

3. If you are using the cheese, lay the cheese on the browned tortilla side (not submerged in the oil).

4. Fold the tortilla over onto itself to form a half moon shape.

5. Make sure the tortilla is brown on both sides. If not flip over, until browned.

6. Remove from the oil and place on a layer of paper towels.tacos-078

7. Repeat steps 1-5 with the other tortilla. When moving to the landing pad after you are done, cover the other tortilla with a layer of paper towels and lay the new tortilla on top. You are making a tortilla high rise.

8. Fill with taco meat and all the fixings. Enjoytacos-080a

tacos-106

My FluffNutter “Victory”

November 13, 2008

One of Alex’s greatest loves is peanut butter. He could eat it for almost every meal and in almost everything. In complete opposites attract fashion; I really can’t stand the stuff. It is like green eggs and ham.

I do not like it on bread

I do not like it spoon fed.

I do not like it in dessert.

I do not like it there either pervert.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to put it in a dish. This inability always made me very sad for my husband (then fiancé) and this sadness played out at last year’s Christmas party. The house was filled with friends for our 3rd annual Christmas Family Dinner. Food was plentiful, Pit (a fantastic card game) was in full swing and the drinks they were a flowing. After a few too many Blueberry beers, my rosy cheeked self decided it was time to run to the grocery store. Enlisting the help of my evil twin, we set out.

I knew exactly what I wanted. I found the bread aisle and went to town. A loaf of the best white bread the store had to offer, the biggest jar of peanut butter I could find, and a vat of Marshmallow fluff. My husband deserved the greatest peanut butter sandwich and he was going to get it. When I got home, I proclaimed my victory and got to work. I thought I had created the best Fluffnutter sandwich in the entire world. I found out later I missed the bread with the marshmallow fluff and peanut buttered all sides of the bread. But, Alex ate that sandwich like it was the greatest peanut butter delicacy he has ever had. And that is why I broke down and today, peanut butter makes it into the menu. Because I really love that man and that man really loves peanut butter.

This is the best recipe I have found dinnerwise when incorporating peanut butter and it is a cooking light recipe. That is what we call a win-win situation.

peanut-flank-steak-019Flank Steak with Hot Peanut Sauce

By keeping the meat serving to a sensible three-ounce cooked portion and using the low-fat but flavorful flank cut, this entrée limits saturated fat while offering plenty of iron and protein. Prepare steamed rice and sautéed baby bok choy while the meat marinates.

Yield

4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces steak and about 1/4 cup sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1/3  cup  chopped green onions
  • 1/3  cup  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1  tablespoon  brown sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 2  teaspoons  sesame oil
  • 1  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed and cut diagonally into thin slices
  • 1/2  cup  water
  • 1  tablespoon  crunchy peanut butter
  • 1  teaspoon  cornstarch

Preparationpeanut-flank-steak-010

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place steak and 1/4 cup onion mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight, turning bag occasionally.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 cup marinade, 1/2 cup water, peanut butter, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; keep warm.

3. Remove steak from bag, discarding marinade. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with sauce.

There are some dishes that I make that test my virtue as a wife and good person. These dishes also fall in the same category as desserts. Usually the ritual is a some sweet, sugary, satisfying, slice of heaven type goodness is made on the weekend. The target day is Friday night, which gives us the optimum amount of equal time with the goodness. We can pick, share and attempt to consume the small amount of joy that our oven has produced.

Now sometimes, this ritual is moved back because of prior engagements and the baking does not commence until Sunday afternoon. This is where the problem comes in; no matter how much we try it is impossible to finish it in one sitting. We have tried to send some to work and attempted smaller batches (like that is the solution) but the problem still remains: leftovers. And it is a small amount of leftovers, say 4 cookies.

Not a problem you say, just have the four cookies the next day. You get two each, you say. Well, perhaps it is not a problem for you because you get home as the same time as your significant other. I get home about an hour and half before handsome comes walking through the door. And do you know what happens? They call to me; so delectable on the plate. They are longing to be eaten; sad they were tossed aside the night before. So I eat one to calm down their pleas then while writing a blog entry about their rich, buttery, salty, sweet goodness I have two. Then, while starting dinner for my big, strapping, lumberjack of a man, I absent-mindly eat another.

Then the text, phone call or carrier pigeon comes; “Love you. Can’t wait to see you. I hope there are cookies left they were so good.” But, there is not. There is just me, an empty plate, and my shame. It is the cookies fault I tell you. Why did they have to be so good?

Today’s recipe comes from the food altar that is Smitten Kitchensalted-oatmeal-cookies-067a

Be warned: These are great. So good your virtues as a human being will be tested.

Tips: There was a discussion on Smitten Kitchen comments about the amount of butter. 12 or 14 tablespoons; I spilt the difference (13) and the cookies were so good. I cooled the batter for about 20 minutes before baking and stuck it back in the fridge between batches.

Cripsy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

The original recipe didn’t have white chocolate in it, but it really works wonderfully in here. Even if you’re a dark chocolate fan. Watch out, use the good stuff and this may even convert you.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

6 ounces good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped (not “white chocolate” chips; they’re almost always artificial. I am adamant about this.)

1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel) (for sprinkling on top)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about ¾-inch thickness.

4. Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookiesalted-oatmeal-cookies-088a

5. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

My Super Power

November 8, 2008

As most young married couples do, Alex and I discuss the future and what each of us sees in it. In the beginning, we saw a different number of little people running around in our future. We have since comprised and resolved this issue, but the possibility of what could have been still haunts me to this day.

You see, Alex comes from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 5 children and he wanted to mirror the parent to child ratio in our family. I, on the other hand, come from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 2 children and was quite content with our little number. My opposition to the family of 5 was rooted in logic and mostly monetary but honestly, I was and still am scared.

If history repeated itself, I would end up with a large number of boys and in this imaginary family of 5, our children, while loving and kind possessed the not so stellar qualities of their parents.  Intelligent, sarcastic, opinionated, stubborn; you name it and these kids had it in spades. And the recurring vision I was having while envisioning this happy future was my husband coming home to find that the children have outwitted me. Tied to a chair, probably some prisoner of their imaginary game, completely helpless in enforcing any type of discipline; destruction and anarchy were running the house and I was forced to watch from the comfort of my dining room chair prison. The thought still sends shudders down my spine.

Do not worry this fate should hopefully not become mine. Alex and I have comprised to a magic number that will hopeful allow me to keep chaos from reigning. But, I also discovered that I have a super power, if my boys are anything like their father I can lull them into a state of calm with my food; just like putty in my hands. I think I will start saving recipes in the For Emergencies Only file and this pasta is definitely going in.

Tonight’s recipe comes from a blog I frequent almost every day: Good Things Catered

Baked Chicken Sausage Pasta with Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce
chicken-meatballs-041
Ingredients:
1 box pasta of choice
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links of chicken sausage with spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (I use chicken sausage meatballs see below)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, crushed with back of spoon (I add another 15oz can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
splash heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 c. fontina cheese, grated
1/2 c. garlic and her bread crumbs

Directions:
-In large Dutch oven of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to directions to just al dente (still firm).
-Transfer pasta to large colander and set aside to drain.chicken-meatballs-031a1
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In Dutch oven, now empty, add olive oil and bring up to almost smoking.
-Add chicken sausage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
-Add garlic and crushed pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add diced tomatoes and salt and stir to scrape up all browned bits
-Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
-Add cream, stir to combine, add pasta and parsley, toss for one minute.
-Sprinkle on cheese and then bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Tip: Often I do not or cannot find Chicken Sausage. So I make my own

Chicken Sausage Meatballs

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped up into chunks

1 package of frozen spinach defrosted and drained (make sure all the water is out)

½ cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
2 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic minced

To taste: Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, Basil, and Parsley

Pulse in the food processor until chicken is minced and all is combined. Sometimes I will also add a little half and half if it is not wet enough.  Then form into balls (I use a small ice cream scoop) and sauté in a pan with a extra virgin olive oil until brown and cooked through.chicken-meatballs-022chicken-meatballs-001

There are so many memories that clutter the halls of mine and Alex’s courtship. Ranging in emotions, there are humorous ones like the time he called me the wrong name; absurd ones, that would be when he attempted to put my car on blocks as a joke; sad ones like when he held me after my beloved Gus Gus died, but my favorite memories are the ones where our love shines through. The way our love appears may be retarded or corny, but it is there, like the time he first made dinner for me.

I will confess that I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen, maybe in other areas too, but definitely the kitchen. I would also assume that this over-observance when someone else is in my kitchen might make someone anxious when cooking for me. And I will concede that this was probably the case when Alex made me his Cajun Chicken Pasta. 

The recipe was simple enough. Cook pasta and drain. Cook chicken in a pan with spices such as red pepper flake and pour a jar of Ragu Alfredo sauce over the concoction and serve. There was just one problem. The sifter lid on the red pepper flake was missing. I was not given the opportunity to tell him because I had been banned from the kitchen. (Not my fault) The result about 4 tablespoons of red pepper flake went into the dish.

Completely unaware of the hiccup, I began to eat the pasta like a dutiful girlfriend and I attempted to put on the greatest show. I may have been successful too, but you see I am somewhat of a light weight when it comes to heat. I hang out in the shallow end of the Scoville scale. Through my comments of delight, my body began giving me away. I became red all over, big fat tears began falling from my cheeks, and I began gulping down my Coke. Alex jumped into action and began to wash off my chicken pieces, hoping to rid them of flake while he profusely apologized. But it was too late, the damage to the sauce was done and the pizza man was called. We spent the rest of the night recovering and laughing and I realized a few things:

 Alex was a man I could let take care of me for the rest of my life

 Our love was a real; it all of its dorky glory it actually existed

 I was a really big baby when it came to heat

 And I needed to find a Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe quickly

I found one and it has become one of our favorite meals. For the food and the story behind it. It is not health food; I warn you of this now, it is all I want to do after is sleep because it was so good and I ate too much food.

I got the recipe from Guy Fieri on the food network. Enjoy!img_0005a

Tips: I put the sun dried tomatoes in the food processor to get them a little bit smaller. I also only use about a ½ cup. You really need to blacken the chicken if you do this indoors turn on your hood. I use Emeril’s essence because the Paul stuff, you cannot find and if you do there is a warning not to use it inside.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup blackening spice (recommended: Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup roughly chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups heavy creamimg_0004b
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cooked fettuccine
1/2 cup sliced scallions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dredge the chicken breasts in the blackening spice and place in a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Blacken both sides of the chicken and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Slice in strips on the bias and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add garlic and lightly caramelize. Then add the sun-dried tomatoes and the chicken slices. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream, increase the heat to a simmer, and reduce the cream sauce by half.

When the cream sauce is to desired consistency, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and pasta.img_0021a

Nest the pasta on large rimmed plates, pour sauce over pasta, and garnish with scallions and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

How You Doin’

November 2, 2008

Often when I cook I daydream. This practice usually results in burns on my body, food resembling charcoal briquettes, and overflowing cups causing a small monsoon. I am working on reining it in but it is not going anywhere. For instance, today during my pancake adventure, my mind wandered to my favorite (albeit off the air) show Friends. Now, I did not jump right into to any episode; no my mind placed me smack dab in the middle of the pancake argument. I will explain.

In Season 7, Rachel moved in with Joey and learned about a requirement of being Joey’s roommate. When Joey had girls over for, you know How You Doin’, Chandler would let the girl down gently the next morning over freshly made pancakes. He would explain that Joey was a loner and it wasn’t them it was Joey. As I relived this comedically masterful scene in my head, I found myself thinking, Chandler could have saved a lot of time. He should have used the pancakes to tell the girls it was over. No speech necessary; just a syrupy send-off served over warm rich buttermilkly goodness.


I would like to think that when faced with such a breakup message, I would enjoy the fruits of Chandler’s labor, relished in the How You Doin’ from the night before, and continue on my merry way. But then again, I probably would have found a new place for those pancakes to live. I probably would have tucked them into Joey’s bed for Hugsy (Joey’s penguin) to enjoy. But that’s just me.

So today I offer you, the best pancake recipe I have found complete with a breakup message sent with love. You should have seen the look on my husband’s face when I served him his breakfast. Enjoy!

Today’s recipe comes from a site I hold near and dear Smitten Kitchen.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Original Classics Cookbook

Yield: Martha says this makes 9 6-inch pancakes; I got about 16 4-inch ones, which are more the size I like

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or slightly less table salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing griddle (I’ve made these pancakes with and without the butter mixed in, and can say with confidence they work either way. They’re just richer with it, of course.)

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional)

1. Preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.

2. Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter onto the griddle. Wipe off the excess with a folded paper towel.

3. Using a 4-oz. ladle, about 1/2 cup (for a 6-inch pancake), pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart. If you wish to make blueberry pancakes, arrange a handful over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

4. Repeat with the remaining batter. You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm.

Tips: I use a ratio of 2 ½ cups of buttermilk and ½ cup of 2% milk. I found it keeps the buttermilk twang in check.

To draw shapes/words: Fill a squirt bottle with some of the pancake mixture. Lube up your griddle with butter. Draw your picture or words. Wait 3-5 minutes. This allows the drawing/words to get darker then the rest of the pancake. Then pour the rest of the batter over the drawing/words. When the pancake is ready flip and your drawing/words will transfer.