Kitchen Tips – Freezing Pancakes

Last night my husband was out with some friends, so I had pancakes for dinner – fluffy oatmeal cookie pancakes from Joy the Baker!

Pancakes are a more recent obsession of mine. However pancake recipes often make a lot more than just one or two servings. Sometimes I halve the recipes, but not all recipes work well when you halve them. But really, why halve a delicious pancake recipe and deprive yourself from enjoying them again later?

So don’t! Make a big batch, but whatever pancakes you don’t eat, set out on a cooling rack in one layer so that they cool completely and dry out a bit. When the pancakes feel dry, place them in ziploc bags or a one gallon size ziploc bag (separated by wax paper so that it’s easy to pull them apart) and freeze. When you’re ready to enjoy them again, warm them up in a toaster (my preference) or, if you prefer, briefly in the microwave (you don’t want them to get rubbery).

Any time is a good time for pancakes!

I was looking through my pantry, counting the number of types of beans (yes, you read that right) and came to 16; which isn’t including the 15 bean container. That’s a lot of beans; and some of these beans I have not given their moment in the sun (or pot).

Black-Eyed Peas

Perusing the DinnerCakes archives I realized I hadn’t written anything using black-eyed peas and, in fact, have done very little cooking with them at all. I never had them growing up as a kid so my exposure to them has bit quite limited. One of the few things I have cooked them for is a sort of mock creole. I saw mock because I don’t think I’ve ever had authentic creole cuisine. This dish uses a less than common item from my pantry called liquid smoke. Not natural, for sure, but it adds a nice touch.

Black-Eyed Pea Creole Soup

Black-Eyed Pea Creole Soup

1 onion; chopped
1 garlic; minced
1 green bell pepper; diced
1 cup dried black eyed peas; rinsed, cooked, and drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used Ancho)
1 cup fresh peas (or thawed if frozen)
2-3 cups stock
Several dashes of liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly (but not frequently). Add the bell pepper and sweat for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Enjoy.

So this is pretty exciting – today’s Food Photography is all thanks to a lovely DinnerCakes reader, Grace Thoreau, who actually sent me cookies! All these years of wishing that people would send me baked goods, and it finally paid off!

key lime cookies

These little beauties are coconut-lime sugar cookies.

Sugar cookies are not usually among my favorites for two reasons – they always seem to be too hard and too dry. So my jaw dropped (luckily no cookie fell out) when I bit into these soft, moist and totally flavorful coconut cookies with cute flecks of lime. Grace tells me it’s the unsweetened flaked coconut run through a food processor that keeps them so soft, and the fat in them (don’t tell my bathroom scale) keeps them moist.


Itching for the recipe? Well, you’ll have to consult Grace. Grace is a fellow blogger, and though she’s not a food blogger she’s definitely a foodie! Hop over to her blog, Fumbling with Grace, for some fun and quirky quick wit and humor about getting through life as a young working woman (maybe she’ll bake you cookies, too?).


Work has been been crazy these past few weeks, forcing me to spend quite a few extra hours in the office. I always feel more slighted about this in the summer months. Why couldn’t this just happen in the winter when I’m all for hiding away in any warm room? True, I prefer hiding under my covers, but hey it beats the cold. But summer? Summer there’s hiking, climbing, picnics, swimming, the list goes on and on. Alas…

Pan-Frying Chickpeas with Broccoli

Of course, a busy schedule is no excuse for lousy eating. All those fast food trips will catch up to you, so it’s good to have some quick and easy options. At only a handful of ingredients and one pan, this sucker fits the bill pretty well. You’re looking at only 10 minutes of prep followed by another 15 of actual cooking. Rachel Ray, eat your heart out (which, by the way, is a ridiculous saying).

Pan-Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli

Pan Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli
This recipe uses very little oil, so be watchful. Stir too often and you won’t get any golden browning. Stir too little and you’ll get some burning.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can chickpeas; drained (or two cups cooked chickpeas)
1 head of broccoli; cutting the florets into halves or thirds depending on size
1 yellow onion; chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large pan under medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and stir occassionaly until the begin to brown and turn golden; 4-5 minutes. Don’t stir too often or you won’t give them a chance to brown. Add the onion and broccoli and continue to saute. Stir more frequently now, but not continuously. After the broccoli begins to brown a bit and the onions have softened (7-8 minutes), add the zest, juice and salt; stirring for one minute for everthing to come together. Remove from heat and serve with salt to taste. Enjoy.

Pineapple Mango Chicken Curry

If I seemed a little scatter-brained lately, there’s a good chance that I am. You see, there are some big changes going on in the Ghost Baker household…


For starters, we’re moving! After three years in the DC metro area (four for Morgan), we’re picking up and moving back to Charlottesville, the town of our alma mater.

This fall I’ll be starting a second-degree nursing program leading to a master’s of science in nursing, moving from the research side of healthcare over to the clinical side. I’m pretty excited about it!


Though Chef Edwin and I will no longer be just a stone’s throw away and there might be a week period where my pots and pans are living in boxes instead of having culinary adventures, Charlottesville offers a lot of really cool things. In 2004, Charlottesville was ranked the best place to live in the United States in the book Cities Ranked and Rated by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander, based on cost of living, climate, and quality of life.

I see many visits to the farmer’s market in my future. If you’re from the area, please let me know other great things to do, see and eat!


In any event, the kitchen isn’t packed up just yet. So today I’ll share with you a very tasty pineapple mango chicken curry recipe. I adapted the original recipe for a mango curry chicken from Simply Recipes. I had to figure out a way to keep the mango flavor toned down because I’m not a huge fan of that particular fruit.

This dish came out on the sweet side because of the pineapple and little bit of sugar (almost like a sweet and sour chicken, but really not quite). If you’d like to tone down the sweetness, add some vinegar. Neither the pineapple nor the mango are overpowering, though. I added most of the pineapple and almost all of the mango to the food processor instead of leaving more as fruit chunks at the end (since, as I said, I’m not a huge mango fan). You can of course vary this according to your personal tastes.


Pineapple Mango Chicken Curry
adapted from Simply Recipes

Vegetable oil for pan
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 Tablespoon yellow curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 can chopped pineapple, drained (15 oz.)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 1/4 cup water
1 – 1 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup light cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes, then add red bell pepper. Add the curry powder and cumin, cook for a few more minutes. If spices begin to stick too much to the bottom of the pan, add a little more oil. Add the ginger and garlic, cooking for an additional minute or two.

Add vinegar, water, 1/2 to 3/4 of the chopped mango and 1/2 to 3/4 the pineapple to the pan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully add to food processor. Pulse until smooth, then return to pan.

Add chicken and return to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Add remaining mango and pineapple to the pan. Carefully add cream and sugar and cook on low for an additional minute, uncovered. Do not boil!

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice. Makes about 3 servings.

Smoothie Week #6 – Orange Cream Smoothie

Right off the Virginia Tech Campus lies Main Street, the major artery through ‘downtown’ Blacksburg. Really, this downtown is about three blocks, very small, and in this downtown there’s an hard-to-notice establishment called Joe’s Diner. Joe’s was always a great place to hit after a late night of Shenanigans (capital ‘S,’ mind you) when those midnight munchies struck. One of my favorite delights was there orange cream milkshake. I’m sure most of you have had your own orange cream milkshake growing up. Good stuff.

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

Does one dare attempt to duplicate the awesomeness of a milkshake with it’s healthier, slightly less ‘cool’ cousin the smoothie? Indeed! A world where I can’t go nuts experimenting on smoothies is a world I don’t want to live in. Of course, the hurdle of compensating for a lack of ice cream is no trivial matter; but I think I gave the old classic a run for its money. I used fresh mango for this simply because it was on sale at my local grocer. Feel free to opt for the frozen variety; just don’t add the ice.

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
1/2 banana
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup fresh mangos
3-4 ice cubes
1 cup orange juice
3/4 milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and blend. Enjoy!

Day #5 of Smoothie Week – Piña Colada Time!

Happy Friday, everyone!

smoothies umbrella

Piña Coladas are one of my favorite mixed drinks, but not when they’re loaded with weird artificial syrups and sweeteners. Piña coladas typically include pineapple juice, coconut cream and rum – but this smoothie version isn’t exactly like a pina colada (no rum, for one thing… though I don’t see why you couldn’t spike it?).


This smoothie also unfortunately does not have a really cool story of origin like the piña colada. According to Wikipedia,

“The earliest known history states that in the 1800s, Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí (a.k.a. “El Pirata Cofresí”), to boost his crew’s morale he gave them a beverage or cocktail that contained coconut, pineapple and white rum. This was what would be later known as the famous piña colada. With his death in 1825, the recipe for the piña colada was lost.”

monkey closeup


In addition to sharing recipes this week, don’t forget there are a lot of ways you can dress up your glass. Blueberries or raspberries make a great garnish, as does some flaked coconut, mini umbrellas or plastic cocktail monkeys (you can see I got a little carried away…).


Hope you enjoy this sweet, tropical smoothie, and go easy on the rum if you decide to add some!


Piña Colada Smoothie
makes 2 small size servings, with a little extra

1 1/2 cups milk (you could use coconut milk if you want more coconut flavor)
1 cup frozen chopped pineapple
1 medium frozen banana
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1 tablespoon orange juice (optional)
1/2 tablespoon honey

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached – the pineapple and coconut may take a little longer than usual to blend completely.

It’s time to take a slight detour on our adventure in the wonderful world of smoothies. We’ve given you several recipes that we hope not only enjoy but use as inspiration come up with your own. Smoothies are great to experiment with because even when you “fail” you end up with something that doesn’t taste bad, it just doesn’t taste great. So in the spirit of inspiring, let’s move the focus away from the fruit and shift it to protein.

Peanut Buter and Chocolate Protein Smoothie

I don’t need to tell you the value of protein in one’s diet. I’m sure you’ve heard about the amino acids, how it gives you energy, helps you heal; oh and did I mention your body doesn’t store protein like other dietary sources (carbs come to mind)? Of course, it’s easy to add protein to something with those whey suppliments they have, but that’s not how we do things at DinnerCakes. No, we like to go au naturale (you could, if you wanted, add some supplement without much effect on taste). With its nutritional benefits, you can tell yourself you’re doing something good even when you’re having a tasty delight.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Protein Smoothie
If you want a stronger chocolate kick, trying adding a squirt or two of chocolate syrup; maybe a bit more cocoa powder. Just try the recipe as is first then adjust accordingly.

1 cup yogurt
1 cup milk
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup peanut butter (any kind)
1/4 cup oats (no need to cook)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar, splenda, etc)
3-4 ice cubes

Throw all your ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Makes one 16oz cup (with a bit to spare). Enjoy.

Day #3 of Smoothie Week – Berry Breakfast Blend

You know those people who wake up just as the sun is rising and a crisp new day begins, jog a few laps around the neighborhood and pick the newspaper up on their way back in the house, throw together an energizing breakfast smoothie and then drive to work for the day?


That’s not me! In fact, my friends and family will tell you that I’m grizzlier than a bear when awoken…

But I will accept the energizing breakfast smoothie – thanks!

Today’s smoothie is lightly sweetened, but rich in fruit, fiber and dairy. It’s a little more complex than my Blue Afternoon smoothie, but it’s still very easy to put together and enjoy. It combines my preferred frozen fruit with a bit of fresh fruit (blueberries) so that I’m still able to buy and use all those great blueberries on sale right now.

zoom bbb

Unlike Edwin I don’t use juice, so if you’re on the fence about which method you prefer try experimenting with both. My base here is yogurt and skim milk. The yogurt gives the smoothie a little extra kick, but don’t worry about it tasting too “yogurty,” to put it elegantly.

To answer a question I’ve received – I typically wrap my peeled bananas in foil to freeze them, but I’d also stored peeled bananas in a gallon ziploc freezer bag. You want to make sure that your bananas don’t freeze together, get freezer burn, or turn dark brown too quickly.

Hope you’re enjoying Smoothie Week so far! Please let us know how your experiments are going – or if you have your own concoction that we should check out!


Berry Breakfast Blend
makes about 3 servings

1 heaping cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
2 medium frozen bananas
1 cup frozen strawberry puree
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon wheat germ/bran
1 tablespoon simple syrup (it incorporates better than sugar)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached.

I’m a very simple man when it comes to smoothies. While occasionally I’ll go all out with a variety of ingredients or try to conjure up some flavor like key lime pie, usually I go for the classics; the expected. I first started making smoothies after reading (and watching) one of Mark Bittman’s posts at the New York Times. Bittman is all about simple; getting straight to the flavor without a lot of culinary magic.

Frozen Fruit for Smoothie!

I like fruity drinks, so I tend to opt for the banana over the yogurt and very rarely use any milk. I find juice to pack the best punch for what I’m going for but often go to a powdered drink like Crystal Light. I grew up on the stuff so maybe it’s just a preference, but I find it works well and is low on calories.

The cherries in this recipe bring out a sweetness with the strawberries (it’s hard to tell there’s cherry in there) and of course pairing that with banana is classic. I love a good lemonade so I top it off with that. This is the one I always come back to.

Strawberry Lemon Smoothie

Strawberry Lemon Smoothie
I tend to skimp on the initial amount of juice I use at the start and add it to get the thickness I want. You can always add more but of course can’t take any out.

2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen cherries
1/2 frozen banana

Combine the frozen fruit into a blender and add enough lemonade to cover two inches past the top of the fruit. Blend, adding lemonade accordingly. Servers 3-4 16 ounce glasses, depending on your preferred thickness. Enjoy.