Break Your Resolutions Pancakes

I can’t stand it. How can the party be over ALREADY? Didn’t the vacation just start? A large part of me wants to spend 2016 as Christmas Break me: a lot of cooking and baking, little working out, and no worries about getting kids to school, making school lunches, or the afternoon activity shuttle. I can get behind a year of nothing but pajamas.

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For those who are with me on this, I give you the best pancakes ever. Don’t start your resolutions yet. You need to try these fist.

Ricottapancakes

These are extra fluffy, setting up nice and high with the help of ricotta cheese and whipped egg whites. The base recipe lends itself well to additions of fruit and berries. Into the batch I made over the weekend I added thinly sliced applies, laying them over the batter after I scooped them onto the griddle. This recipe makes enough to feed 4 people who love pancakes. Double it if you like leftovers (I think these taste great cold the next day), or if you have anyone in the house like Alexa, who seems to have an extra pancake compartment in her stomach.

RICOTTA PANCAKES

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 oz. melted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Add sugar and stir together.

Whisk together the egg yolks, ricotta cheese, milk, melted butter and vanilla.

Fold the egg yolk mixture gently into the dry ingredients. ***The key to delicate pancakes is in this step. When you mix wet ingredients into flour, it works the gluten in the flour and develops its elasticity. This is desirable in bread making, which is why you knead bread dough so much. Elasticity in pancakes, however, is less appealing, so you want to work the flour as little as possible. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the egg yolk mixture into the center of the well. Using a rubber spatula, run the spatula around the edge and bottom of 1/4 of the bowl, folding the spatula over the top of the mixture, which pulls the dry ingredients through the wet. Continue this around the bowl. Only fold until the flour is barely incorporated into the wet ingredients. You want to have lumps, otherwise the flour will start to get over-mixed, resulting in tough pancakes.

With a stand mixer, hand mixer, or with a large whisk, whip the egg whites until they reach soft peak.

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Carefully scoop the whites onto the pancake batter and gently fold just until it is incorporated in. Folding more than that will not only keep working the gluten in the flour, but will deflate the air you just whipped into the whites.

Preheat a skillet or griddle, then scoop batter (I use an ice cream scoop – it keeps things pretty neat) onto the griddle, cook and enjoy!

Banana Vanilla Bean N’oatmeal

This ain’t no hippie bullshit. Though that’s what I thought it might be when my friend and expert nutritionist Michelle Nevelle at Eat To Live Wellness posted this recipe.

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I like healthy eating probably more than the next guy, but there comes a point when capital “H” healthy food crosses a line into something that is just plain gross. To me this has all of the markings of something that is headed in that direction. “Detox”, check. Paleo? Check. Oatmeal replacement? Since when is oatmeal bad for you???

But it’s a simple recipe that would have only set me back a can of coconut milk, a couple bananas, and a few other things. One of the benefits of being a pastry chef is that I do happen to have vanilla beans on hand at all times.

I made the recipe last night and you know what? It’s really good. Really. I’m so confident about it that I packed it in the kids’ lunches and I doubt that it will come back this afternoon. Though part of me hopes that it does. I didn’t make enough for myself.

Halloween Pre-race

This is some of the worst race prep I’ve ever done. When I started running more seriously a couple of years ago, I swore that it wouldn’t interfere with family time. That I would do it in my own time when the kids were at school. Today is Halloween. The Mother of kid holidays. It doesn’t get more *family time* than this.

Scary internet guy and fierce Scarlett O'Hara

Scary internet guy and fierce Scarlett O’Hara

Bainbridge is an island full of charming country roads and cool properties on acreage. When we traded our slightly-too-small urban dwelling in Seattle for the community and small-town lifestyle of Bainbridge we figured we’d find a Craftsman in the woods with a gravel driveway and deer roaming the yard. Instead, we live in a subdivision. Charming country roads, I came to realize, also meant precarious running routes with no sidewalk or shoulder. Acreage meant possible isolation in a place where I knew no one. So we live in town and in one of the few traditional “neighborhoods” around here. For most of the year this means convenience to schools and activities and a wealth of various running options. On Halloween, it means you’d better be ready.

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Our first year we were warned to have a minimum of SIX Costco-sized bags of candy on hand for the trick-or-treaters. In reality, since we live at the end of the neighborhood, it’s more like two or three. This is one of my favorite days of the year living here. I’ve never been one for dressing up on Halloween. For the 30th-ish year in a row I’m going as Janet McDevitt. But I love opening up the house to our friends and their families and enjoying a night of passing out candy and watching the kids work the neighborhood. So it’s on. Race tomorrow be damned.

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“Healthy” energy bar treats

Let’s face it: “healthy” is a relative term. The Cheez-Its I love to eat don’t seem so bad since they’re not Twinkies. Twinkies aren’t as bad if they’re not deep-fried. I mean, life has got to be about more than just kale and quinoa.

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See where I’m going here? I’m about to make you feel good about eating marshmallows.

Rice Krispie treats aren’t so bad if they look like this.

Granolabars

This is a fast, easy, “healthy” snack that’s not super sweet. They’re packed with protein and fiber (and marshmallows) and my kids love them. I make a big batch, cut them and keep them in the freezer. This recipe makes one 9″ x 13″ pan.

Ingredients

2 cups Rice Krispies
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup diced dried fruit
1 cup peanuts, roasted and unsalted
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
10 oz. marshmallows

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Directions

Stir together dry ingredients.

Baringredients

In a large stock pot (large enough to hold and mix all of the ingredients), melt together butter, peanut butter and marshmallows.

Add dry ingredients to marshmallow mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon.

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Press mixture into pan.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

Toilet paper? On a packing list?

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We decided to spend our summer vacation on a 3-day pack trip in Eastern Washington. Since I am not a camper (have I mentioned I grew up in Bellevue?), this was a compromise between the way that Mike and I like to travel – shopping, eating, and strolling a city, and what the kids like: constant entertainment and activity that does not take the form of shopping, eating, or strolling. Actually, this was not at all a compromise, but a testament to how much I love my family that I was willing to take on this hardship in the name of fun.

Willing, that is, until I read the packing list. That was when the reality of the situation hit me. Why in the world would toilet paper be found on a packing list? Why would it not be found inside a perfectly good bathroom?

We're not in Bellevue anymore

We’re not in Bellevue anymore

I spent the last few days before our departure hoping the Wolverine wildfire would somehow get me out of the trip. Unfortunately Chelan is not as close to Entiat as I wanted it to be. But a night in Wenatchee was able to take some of the sting out of the ordeal. We had a great Last Supper at our favorite Eastern Washington restaurant.

If you’re in Wenatchee, you must check out McGlinn’s. This is pub fare at its best, with well-executed food, a killer bar, and great service. Summer or winter, it never disappoints.

The next morning we met my fate our guides from Icicle Outfitters & Guides at their ranch.

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I seemed to be the only one filled with dread about what lay ahead.

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But at a certain point, you have to buck up and get on that horse.

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The guides could not have been nicer. Once they got the gear packed up, it was off to the trailhead in the Wenatchee National Forest.

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And then it was time for my wilderness training to begin.

Ridingback

Lesson 1: You don’t just plop yourself down on a horse and ride.

Horseback riding, as an athletic endeavor, is no joke. This is some serious and constant core and leg engagement the entire time you’re riding. As much as it may *look* like you’re just sitting in the saddle, you’re actually closer to standing in the stirrups, working with the horse. We rode 4 and 5 hours each day, so this really was a fantastic cross-training experience.

Lesson 2: Unlike running, riding downhill is a lot harder than riding uphill.

I know this now from experience. This was not some gentle, meandering walk through the woods. This was a serious mountain trail with thousands of feet of climb and descent. Downhill on horseback requires some cooperation on the part of the rider. Especially when there is a precipitous drop off the edge of the trail, you’re doing all you can to help the horse maintain its balance. Which in this case meant standing in a reverse plank position while absorbing the side-to-side and up-and-down movement of the horse’s gait.

Lesson 3: Just because you’re camping in Eastern Washington does not mean it will be hot.

This is also a lesson learned through experience. Crossing the pass means temperatures in the 80s and 90s, does it not? That’s certainly what went through my head as I was packing and ignoring the items on the list like gloves and warm jackets. What crazy person needs a winter coat in Eastern Washington in August? Thankfully Mike added hats to our bags before we left. Base camp happened to be at 6,000 feet of elevation. Do you know what happens at night at 6,000 feet? Stuff freezes. Including people sleeping in tents who didn’t think it would be cold in Eastern Washington.

Thankfully some of those mule packs were full of coffee, hot chocolate, and good things to eat.

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Mitch and Bailey working on breakfast

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While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this glamping (did I mention freezing in a tent?), I would definitely consider it highly sherpa-ed camping. Our guide, Bailey, and wranglers Mitch and Justin, took great care of us. We had amazing hot meals, even despite a ban on campfires due to fire risk. Dinner one night included homemade enchiladas and cheesecake “baked” in a dutch oven. Who would think pancakes could be a reality in the middle of a national forest? 

Day two brought a trip to three different lakes and a beautiful ride up and down Kelly Mountain. 

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Once we were done riding for the day, the kids had the opportunity to help with the horses. They were unsaddled, brushed, and let out to graze.

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If I haven’t mentioned it thus far, I ended up really enjoying the physicality of riding. They were long days, for sure, but the scenery was stunning and the riding was great fun. The most amazing part about the trip is that neither kid complained. At all. About anything. Which leads me to believe that their love for horses might not be a passing fancy.

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I can’t say enough good things about Icicle Outfitters. This was a truly incredible family vacation and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend. Toilet paper and all.