Easy

Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup

Nothing really beats the smell of pancakes and bacon cooking on the stove in the mornings. It's a wonderful way to welcome the weekend and even a better excuse to stay in your pajamas just a little bit longer. And when it's a Paula Lambert recipe that involves whipping some of her house made ricotta cheese into the batter-- life doesn't really get sweeter than that.
Dallas Mozzarella Company (owned by Paula Lambert) makes some of the best cheeses hands down. Having won numerous awards from the American Cheese Society, Paula has been serving up fresh made cheese in Dallas for over 24 years -- that's almost a quarter century of cheese making folks. This woman is damn serious when it comes to cheese and the flavors of her products says it all.
I really fell hard for this recipe because of the light airy texture of the pancake, resulting from the whipped egg whites that are gently integrated into the batter.  Plus there's ricotta cheese in the batter, need I say more? I think the base would also serve for a great savory version as well -- maybe topped with some creme fraiche, smoked salmon and chives... Do I smell a weekend project coming on? Perhaps. But for now, enjoy this recipe!
Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup

Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Paula Lambert
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 4
Light fluffy pancakes dotted with rich creamy ricotta cheese topped with a warm banana and pecan syrup. Yes. This is what heaven tastes like.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter Unsalted
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans Chopped
  • 2 Bananas Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Cup Cane or Maple Syrup
  • 2 Cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 eggs Separated
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 4 Ounces Ricotta
Instructions
  1. Banana Syrup: Melt the butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and sauté for about one minute, or until fragrant. Add bananas and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to combine the ingredients. Add the syrup and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until syrup is well heated and thick. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Ricotta Pancakes: Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt together onto wax paper or a plate. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a hand beater until stiff, but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, milk, and ricotta together in a large bowl until well blended and smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix gently with a large spoon. Stir a spoonful of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites with a spatula.
  4. Warm the platter in a low oven. Heat a flat nonstick griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Grease with butter or vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter per pancake onto the pan when it is hot. Pour as many additional pancakes as the griddle will comfortably hold. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until air bubbles form on the surface, and then flip the pancakes over using a large flat spatula. Cook on the other side for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and place the pancakes on a warm platter.
All the ingredients for this recipe can be ordered through Artizone - a grocery delivery service that finds the best artisans in the city and showcases their goods in the form of an online market . I've been working with the company since the beginning when there were just 5 vendors. Two years later, they now have over 40 vendors and have expanded to Chicago and recently started to ship nationwide.  It's been a great experience meeting all of the vendors, exploring their passion in their craft  -- it has allowed me to take the time to appreciate the love that goes into all of their products and further more, being able to support and buy from local businesses. It's fun, addicting, and quite frankly freaking awesome.
Give it a whirl, make breakfast for your family or maybe even your boo. But whatever reason you have to cook, always cook from the heart and embrace the messes. Happy cooking and have a great weekend!
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On a side note, I was recently contacted by Love With Food to review one of their specialty food boxes. Based in California, this company not only sends you tasty snacks from great vendors they find, but with each box they donate a meal to help feed hungry kids across America. Pictured below is the box of goodies they sent me, I especially loved the hot fudge sundae sauce. I use it to top my coconut gelato nightly :) Lucky for my readers, Love With Food is actually offering a giveaway for a free 1-month trial. The winner must provide their credit card number in order to qualify and you may choose to cancel your membership at the end of your term or continue ordering away!  Also anyone who is curious to try it out can also get $2 off their next order using the coupon code JOYVIP.
To win your free one month trial for Love With Food simply leave a comment below and I will draw a number randomly next week and announce the winner. Good luck!

Honey Lavender Popsicles

My mother has been reiterating a message recently over our phone calls -- "Always take care of yourself. Your health is most important." I'm convinced my mother is Confucius in a disguise you see, she'll often repeat these deep life lessons in simple 1-2 sentence structure that are seemingly so simple yet deafeningly profound.

A few examples:

"Take care of your eyes. Sit too close to TV, read in dark, you go blind."

or

"Skin is most important on woman. You no take care of skin, you old very fast."

and certainly my favorite...

"You eat too much, you get fat."

 

It's easy to become caught up in the natural groove of things -- living in these modern busy lives of ours, we often set aside our health on the back burner. It takes a lot of time, discipline, and maintenance to eat healthy, exercise daily, and somewhere in between, to find free time for yourself.

But should it be that way?

The power of stress is often understated, yet it has become such a prominent part of our every day lives. We all owe ourselves the commitment to stay respectful towards our bodies -- be good to your body and it will be good to you. Sometimes things are just as simple as that.

The weather has been beautiful here in Texas. Our garden is in full bloom, including our lavender that served as inspiration for this recipe. Originally this was made as an ice cream but I decided to go with a lighter version in popsicle form and replaced the sugar and cream with honey and a bit of condensed milk. It's soothing and dreamy in every regard. Enjoy!

 

Honey Lavender Popsicles
Recipe Type: Desserts
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A delightful mixture of honey and lavender makes this popsicle soothing and dreamy. Perfect for Summer!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender
  • 3 T organic condensed milk
  • 2 oz fresh honeycomb or honey
Instructions
  1. Place water in small pot over medium high heat and bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes. If you want a stronger lavender flavor, steep for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain in a container with a lip to make pouring easier. Taste and adjust accordingly. Pour into molds and freeze. Because the mix is very light, the sticks may float. Simply hold them in place using foil and a little creativity. You can also wait 30 minutes or until semi frozen to put the sticks in place.

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Did everyone have a wonderful and fulfilling Thanksgiving this year?  Full of turkey, corn bread, casseroles, pies, and stuffing galore? With our fridges packed with leftovers, there are endless possibilities to producing that perfect creation of Thanksgiving wonder. After gorging down two Thanksgiving feasts in the past couple of weeks, I figured it'd be a good idea to slow down a bit before the Christmas holidays really tackled my butt.  I cut some fresh lettuce greens from our garden -- a mixture of green leaf lettuce, red leaf spinach, mustard purple mizunas, and fresh herbs to serve as my salad base.

 

For my toppings I used some cornbread that was leftover from my stuffing and warmed up some creamed corn for the perfect amount of savoriness.  Feel free to throw some turkey or maybe even some cherry tomatoes and fresh avocado for a Southwestern twist.  What are some of your favorite leftover recipes from Thanksgiving?  

Here are some great ideas for ways to utilize your Thanksgiving leftovers:

 

 

Best Shrimp Fried Rice

Back in Elementary school I’d remember we had International Day, where students were asked to bring a dish from the country they were from.  Being Chinese, most of my friends assumed all we ate were eggrolls and fried rice and that we all knew some form of karate.   Not wanting to veer too far from stereotypes to risk confusion and so more people would like me, I decided to make Shrimp Fried Rice.

I cooked two pots of rice and was frying my eggs when my mother loomed into the kitchen -- “WHAT YOU DOING?” You see my mother has a thunderous voice, the kind that just shocks you right in the ear making your shoulder suddenly jolt up in pain. “Uhm...I’m making shrimp fried rice for International Day at school.” I continue to sauté my vegetables, feeling her lurking heavily over my shoulder.  She looked over at the pot of my freshly cooked rice and watched her brow wrinkle in distress: I’ve really gone and done it now, I’ve offended the Fried Rice Gods!  “How can you use that rice?  Must be OLD RICE, you cannot serve this, BU HAO!” And indeed it was bu hao, it sucked actually – I ended up with a goopy, soggy, pasty mess and safe to say, it was the worst fried rice ever.

You see--good thing you have mommy here to teach you how to make!” I ended up buying the Shrimp Fried Rice from General Chopsticks that day because what I made was honestly not edible.  That very weekend my mother taught me how to make the world’s BEST Shrimp Fried Rice, her secret? -- A sprinkle of chicken bouillon and white pepper at the very end.  So here it is, I’m passing on the love: My mother’s guide to Shrimp Fried Rice.

1.       Always use day old rice – make sure it is dry and not mushy and preferably cold.

2.      Fry all of your ingredients separately – shrimp, eggs, vegetables, rice, to avoid making just one gigantic clump and this ensures that all ingredients are cooked evenly.

3.      Use very hot heat and the right amount of oil, too little oil will break the rice apart, making it very sticky – for every 2 1/2 cups of rice I recommend using 2 tablespoons of oil.

4.      Pre-marinating the shrimp makes all the difference in the world.

5.      Always taste your rice the very last minute and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Recipe for the Best Shrimp Fried Rice:

(Serves 2-3; Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes)

Shrimp

  • 1 cup shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ¼ cup Shao Xing Cooking Wine
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

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  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • ¼ cup white onion, chopped
  • ½ cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 ½ cups of cold, day old rice
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Chicken Bouillon
  • A pinch of white pepper (and salt if needed.)
  • ½ cup green scallions, finely chopped

Marinate the shrimp with shrimp, cornstarch, cooking wine, soy sauce and white pepper.  The oil will be for later use.  Refrigerate the shrimp for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, gently break apart the rice into small clumps using your hands and set aside.  Chop the onion, green onion and scramble your eggs.

Set a metal strainer and a bowl aside to catch the excess oil from cooking the shrimp.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok at high heat until the oil just begins to smoke.  Add the shrimp mixture and quickly sauté the shrimp, making sure all surfaces of the shrimp hits the hot oil.  Cook for about 1 ½ -2 minutes or until shrimp are almost cooked through (the surfaces will turn entirely pink), turn off heat and allow shrimp to cook the rest of the way for an additional minute.  Strain shrimp through strainer and set aside and save the oil for the rice.

In the same skillet or wok, heat a tablespoon of the reserved oil over medium high heat until hot.  Sautee onions for 2 minutes and then add the frozen vegetables.  Add another tablespoon of oil and add the rice.  Gently break up the rice with the vegetable mixture by shaking the skillet or wok, or moving it around with a heat-proof spoon.  Add the soy sauce and mix thoroughly and then add the shrimp.  Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and a pinch of white pepper, taste and salt accordingly.  When ready to serve, sprinkle finely chopped green scallions to add a burst of freshness.