Food & Drink | February 2021

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

National Pancake Day and Other Food Holidays

For three or four years our Wednesday evenings centered around the kitchen at Calvary Baptist Church. The church offered dinner for those attending midweek activities, so each Wednesday Abby would have a hot meal ready about 5:30 p.m., and then we would serve for an hour or so, clean up and head home.

Abby’s week consisted of planning the meal on Monday and shopping for food on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning we would get the kids off to school, then Abby would head to church to start prepping, and I would go to Baylor to teach. My Wednesday classes ended about noon, so I would then join Abby at church to assist. My first job every day was to wash the pots and pans that had been used over the course of the morning, then I would help as needed: chopping ingredients, slicing bread for sandwiches, sauteing onions — whatever Chef Abby needed done. I would leave to pick up the kids at school, then return and get back to work.

Abby made some really good meals during those years and tried to keep the menu varied. She had a rotation of go-to recipes, but it would be a couple of months or longer before she repeated them. One menu I suggested for a long time was chicken and waffles, but she refused to do that until there was a Wednesday when I could be in the kitchen with her all day, since those recipes were pretty labor intensive. I finally had a Wednesday I could be there – I think it was near the end of her tenure in cooking at church – and that was a long, hard day. The chicken had to be battered and then refrigerated, and the waffle batter had to be pre-mixed. As the dinner hour approached, we plugged in the three or four waffle makers we had (we brought ours from home and borrowed others), and we blew a fuse. A couple of electrical outlets quit working, so we had waffle irons all over the kitchen. I made a big mess moving the bowl of batter from iron to iron to iron, but the meal was a success, and I take total credit for it.
(Not really. Abby was the mastermind behind all the meals. I was the kitchen help.)

One night we made pancakes. It was a usual Wednesday, so after the school pick-up, it was time to start cooking. Abby assigned me the task of cooking the pancakes, and as I ladled the first bit of batter onto the griddle, it occurred to me that this was the first time in my life I had actually made pancakes. We had eaten them at home, usually on lazy Saturday mornings, and I might have helped in the kitchen, but I had never cooked a real pancake. The first few didn’t turn out great. I think I used too much batter, and they burned before they had a chance to cook all the way through. But I eventually figured it out, and the meal was a success.

Since February 16 is National Pancake Day, we’re featuring pancake recipes this month. And since February 3 is National Carrot Cake Day, we have a recipe for Carrot Cake Pancakes. And since February 27 is National Strawberry Day and National Kahlua Day, we have a recipe for Strawberry-Kahlua Pancakes.

But February includes other food holidays. World Nutella Day is February 5, so we have a recipe for Nut-Free Nutella, since Chef Abby is allergic to nuts. And National Cherry Pie Day and National Muffin Day both fall on February 20 – Abby’s mother’s 80th birthday, by the way – so we included a recipe for Chocolate-Cherry Muffins.

The Recipes

Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, for cooking

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, add the butter, baking powder, buttermilk and eggs. Mix well and add to the dry ingredients. Whisk the mixture to combine but leave it slightly lumpy.

Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes or for up to 30 minutes.

Place a baking sheet on a rack in the oven, and heat the oven to 250 F.

About 10 minutes before you’re ready to cook the pancakes, place a skillet over medium-low heat. Add a pat of butter to the skillet and allow it to melt. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet. Let the pancake cook until it’s bubbly and begins to dry on the edges. Flip and cook for another minute or so until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and place on the baking sheet in the oven.

Repeat with the remaining batter, adding butter to the skillet as needed to keep the pancakes from sticking. Remove baking sheet with pancakes from oven when ready to serve.

Makes about 4 servings.

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Carrot Cake Pancakes

To make Carrot Cake Pancakes, add the following to the dry ingredients in the Buttermilk Pancake recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Then follow the remaining steps in the Buttermilk Pancake recipe.

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Strawberry-Kahlua Pancakes

To make Strawberry-Kahlua Pancakes, add the following to the wet ingredients in the Buttermilk Pancake recipe:

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua

Then follow the remaining steps in the Buttermilk Pancake recipe.

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Chocolate-Cherry Muffins

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped; divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried sour cherries

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 400 F.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Heat the butter, half of the chocolate and the milk in a saucepan set over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has just melted. Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the remaining chocolate and cherries.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a tester comes out clean, for about 14-18 minutes. Cool in the pan set on a rack for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 muffins.
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Nut-Free Nutella

  • 1 cup shelled raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, as needed
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Place the sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you have a fine consistency. Add 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil and process until a smooth paste forms. Add more oil if needed.

Pour in the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Then add the powdered sugar and process until the mixture achieves a smooth, spreadable consistency, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar.

Makes about 1 cup.
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Strawberry Syrup

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6-8 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 4 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil the strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and 2 tablespoons of the water, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to boil until the strawberries have softened, for about 5-6 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons water and cornstarch until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the strawberry mixture and bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes about 6 servings.
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Lemon Sugar Cubes

  • 1 cup Lemon Sugar (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place the sugar in a bowl and add half the lemon juice. Mix until all the sugar is moistened. The sugar should have the texture of wet sand and clump together in your hand. If needed, add more lemon juice, a small amount at a time, to reach the right consistency.

Add the vanilla and mix.

Place the sugar into a mold, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon to ensure the sugar holds together and takes the shape of the mold. Once the molds are full, use a brush or pastry scraper to remove any excess sugar from the top of the molds.

The sugar needs to dry completely before being removed from the mold. The sugar can sit on the counter at room temperature for an hour to up to overnight, depending on humidity. Or if the mold is microwave-safe, microwave for 30 seconds at a time to remove the moisture.

If using the microwave, let the mold cool briefly, then gently flip out the sugar cubes. Continue the heating and cooling cycle until the sugar cubes come out cleanly from the mold.

Place the cubes on a rack on the counter to dry completely, if needed. The cubes can be stored in an airtight container. Pressed into a 4-by-7-inch glass dish, this recipe makes about 28, 1-inch sugar cubes.
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Lemon Sugar

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon

Place 1 cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Use a microplane or zester to grate the lemon directly into the sugar, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith.

Transfer to an airtight container and let sit for a few days before using to make sugar cubes.

Makes 1 cup lemon sugar.
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Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 Lemon Sugar Cube
  • 1 cup sparkling wine

Place the sugar cube in a champagne flute and fill with champagne.

Makes 1 drink.
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