December 31, 2009

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I happily survived the holidays this year. Yule was beautiful! The morning was cloudy and fairly well lit with predawn glow, but the roads were clear enough that I drove out to the very edge of town just before sunrise. There was a dusting of snow on the grass & the plowed cornfield in front of my car. I was cozy in my car, enjoying the stillness all around. At the appointed time (0714 here in Central IL) I noticed a definite strengthening in the light. The morning began to glow from the backlit clouds. So quiet. I was reminded of the final line from a song that I sang for a play (Oh, oh! Here Comes Christmas) several years past, "And tomorrow morning, when the longest night is done, something ancient & deep will stir in me and my face will tilt toward the sun."

Christmas Eve found us at the bedecked house of my sister-in-law, feasting on all manner of Christmas goodies. There was ham, deviled eggs, German potato salad, cheese platter, cookies, homemade jalapeƱo poppers, and - my personal favourite - bacon crackers… ho, these are wicked good! They are a Paula Deen recipe (see, the queen of decadent yummies. They are so rich that it is a good & healthy thing that we only eat them at Christmas. Even then, I limit myself to two or three… ok, four at the utmost. ~_^ So rich! The recipe is simplicity itself:

One sleeve of rectangular butter crackers
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
1 lb sliced bacon cut in half (I only use 1/2 lb and cut THAT in 1/2 for a little "lighter" version)

Preheat oven to desired temperature. You'll be baking them for 2 hours at 250 degrees F or at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes if you're in a hurry. I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper (not wax) to ease clean-up. Take a cracker, place about a tsp of cheese on top of it and wrap it with 1/2 (or 1/4) of a slice of bacon, tucking the end underneath the cracker and place it on the cookie sheet. Repeat until you have used the sleeve of crackers (24 pcs) and bake as directed above. They should be crisp & the bacon brown when done. Set to drain on paper towels. Can be served cold but they are at their best right out of the oven.

So after all the decadence of this weekend, I felt like something lighter & healthier. Thus today's bento. I am quite fond of breakfast for dinner and it sounded good for lunch as well. I made Japanese/American/Scottish fusion that turned out rather yummy, very filling but not too rich.

Lazy-Girl's Tomago-yaki (Japanese-style Omelet)

diced onion, to taste (I used about 1/4 C)
1 egg
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp mirin (Japanese cooking wine. Use a healthy pinch of sugar if you prefer)

Heat small fry pan (I use a 6" cast iron) on medium. Take a stick of butter (no, don't panic; I'm not Paula Deen. ~_^) & peel back the wrapper on one end & glide it quickly over the bottom of the hot pan to just coat it. I use this technique all the time when I want just enough to cook with & add a little flavour without adding a lot of calories or using cooking spray. Brown the onions. While they are browning, crack the egg into a small bowl & whisk until just blended but not frothy. Chopsticks or a fork work great for this. Mix in the soy sauce & mirin. When the onions are ready, turn down the heat to medium low. Pour the mixture into the pan & tilt to coat the bottom evenly. Let it cook very slowly until it is almost completely set but still a touch damp. Turn off the heat & gently roll the egg up, like a jelly-roll. Cover your pan and let it set for a few minutes. It will finish cooking and help it to stay rolled. Take it out of the pan and let it cool. Refrigerate and slice into 1/2 inch rounds before putting in bento. I like to take a little furikake to sprinkle on it or even a little Bull Dog/tonkatsu sauce, but it's tasty enough all by itself. If you are having this as your main protein, you will want to double or triple the recipe.

To go along with my eggs, I wanted some oat meal or pancakes for my carb. I love oats, crave them actually, more than any carbohydrate. Of the different types of oatmeal, steel cut (also called Scottish) are my ultimate fave; they are so nutty & delicious! I had some on hand that I wanted to use before they went rancid but I didn't feel like plain oatmeal. I had fried patties on my mind from recipes I'd read over at Just Bento & Hapa Bento blogs that I frequent (wonderful sites, BTW if you're into bento lunches!). I am not a baker by any means; too much of that pesky measuring involved for this throw-it-in-the-pan-if-it-sounds-good gal. ^_^ As long as I've learned a basic recipe & know my proportions, I feel confident that I can cook anything be it for one person or 20 but the only recipe creation that I've ever attempted as far as baking is concerned, was modifying my mother's pecan pie recipe so that it wouldn't boil over in the 7000 ft+ altitude of Flagstaff, AZ. But, I figured, I'd give these pancakes for one a try and, if they didn't turn out, I could try a different combo with little loss of ingredients. Miracle of miracles, they were a nice consistency and tasted great! There was just enough for my lunch with the above eggs, a few nibbles of cheese (Swiss emmental) and a few nuts to round it out.

Oatcakes for One

1/2 C water
1/4 C steel cut oats
a small handful of dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 TB of whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
large pinch of cinnamon
2 pieces of leftover maple bacon, crumbled (optional but a wonderful addition for taste & texture)

Place the oats and dried cherries in a heat-proof bowl. I use a small round Rubbermaid dish that's about a pint (2 C) - boiling water won't hurt it. Boil the water and stir it into the oats & cherries. Cover loosely and let soak overnight.

In the morning, drain off any non-absorbed water. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg until blended but not frothy. Add the vanilla, salt cinnamon and oats. Stir until blended. Add a little whole wheat flour at a time to the mixture until it is the consistency of a medium loose pancake batter. I used only about 2 TB but you'll have to adjust it according to how damp your oats still are and how large your egg is. Fold in the bacon, if you're using it.

Heat your pan to medium or just a little less and melt a little butter in the bottom. Spoon out a couple of tablespoons worth for each pancake to form a cake about 2-1/2 inches (7 cm) wide. Brown them on the one side and flip browning the other as well. If you are putting them into a bento, let them cool before packing. Otherwise they are wonderful hot. The above recipe makes about 6 of the little cakes. I drizzled them with the tiniest amount of real maple syrup and that was all the sweetener they needed. So filling and healthy!

Enjoy! Aloha!

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