Chasing Tomatoes

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

BC Veggie Day!

greenhouse veg

If you have ever picked up some BC grown cucumbers, tomatoes, or peppers for your salad, there's a good chance that you chose something grown in one of BC's 70 greenhouses.

On Saturday May 23, I was invited to tour a few of those greenhouses for BC Veggie Day, where some of the farmers opened their doors to the public and let us have a sneak peek at what they do! One of the farms I visited was the Taves Family Farm in Abbotsford.

veggie samples

First, of course, I had to have some samples. Grape tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and cukes are my family's favourite snacks!

baby eggplantdolce peppers


Peppers, tomatoes, and even mini eggplant are grown in rows in the greenhouse, in soil covered with plastic to keep weeds from sprouting. This keeps the farmers from needing to use herbicides. Pesticides are also not needed, because the farmers use natural means (like other predatory bugs!) to keep unwanted bugs down.When we asked about GMOs, our tour guide said that there are no genetically modified plants available for farmers to buy to grow in greenhouses.


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Veggies are picked and taken to the packer machine, where bags and boxes are over packed to account for shrinkage.From there, they are taken to local grocery stores and find their ways to your kitchen.

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Greenhouse grown veggies are a big business in BC. Greenhouses employ over 3500 people, and bring in more than $699 million to BC's economy.What makes greenhouses so great is that not only do they allow farmers to bring us veggies during times of the year when it's too cold for them to grow outside, but the way the veggies are grown allows farmers to be able to produce many more veggies in a tiny amount of space. In a space the size of your bathtub, a greenhouse farmer can grow 150 lbs of tomatoes!If we wanted to grow those veggies outside, we'd need to have farmland about 11 times the size of Stanley Park, or 11550 acres. When you want fresh, tasty, well produced produce, look no further than right here in the Fraser Valley. If you're picking up a BC Greenhouse grown product, likely it was grown right here at home!

Get some recipes 

Meet the growers

Follow BC Veggie Day on Twitter

Follow the Greenhouse Growers Association on Facebook

Disclosure: My family has loved and eaten greenhouse grown produce for years, so this was a natural fit! I was paid to write this post, but honestly-even if I hadn't been, I would've written it anyway. We're huge fans of BC Grown veggies.




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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chicken and Grape Salad with Orange Mint Dressing

 I love pasta. Smothered in cheese, a good meat sauce, whether it's baked or tossed, with garlic bread or not, who doesn't? Well, if you're like some people I know who have celiac disease, pasta is just a giant plate of "oh my goodness that's going to make me so sick."

Fortunately, Catelli has a great gluten free pasta out there so that all my friends who can't eat gluten can join in on the fun. Honestly, at first I wasn't sure if I even wanted to try this pasta. Most of the time, when I've tried gluten free things they've just been... not that good.

Would it be weird? Why should I even do gluten free? I can eat gluten.  The idea of having to create a recipe was intriguing though, especially when it's one that even my gluten free friends could eat. And honestly, this pasta is good. You'd never, ever know it's gluten free. It's tasty and tender and just like the regular stuff without being heavy. I love it!You can get a coupon for Catelli's gluten free pasta here.  If you have your own awesome gluten free pasta recipe, go to Catelli's Facebook page between May 4-31st and upload it. The three people who have the most likes will a year's worth of gluten free pasta! 

Here's some fast facts about the pasta: 

  • it's made from a blend of white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa
  • comes in spaghetti, fusilli, penne and macaroni
  • it's certified by the Canadian Celiac Association's Gluten Free Certification program
  • produced in a dedicated gluten free facility

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This recipe has been a hit with my family, who practically inhaled it. Creamy dressing, sweet grapes, crunchy pecans and mint make it great. Today, as I walked through the school halls, a co-worker stopped and asked what exactly I was eating because it "smells amazing!" The combination of ingredients may seem a little interesting, but I promise-it's very well worth it.

Besides that, it's gluten free too!

Herbed Chicken: 
1 whole chicken breast
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
zest from 1 orange

Salad:
1 cup halved red grapes
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups uncooked gluten free fusilli pasta
2 tbsp minced chives (or green onion)

 Dressing:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp olive oil zest from 1 orange
2 tbsp fresh chopped mint
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper

On a cutting board, lay a piece of parchment paper. Put the chicken breast halves on it, about 2 inches apart. Lay another piece of parchment paper over top. Using a rolling pin, meat mallet or other heavy object, pound the chicken until they are about 1/2 inch thick throughout.

Remove the top piece of parchment. Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper, the thyme leaves, and orange zest. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.

Get a good skillet nice and hot over medium to medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, swirl it around, and then add the chicken breasts, plain side down. Let them sizzle and pop, cooking away until the meat is golden. At this point, get your spatula underneath a breast and flip it over so that the thyme/orange zest side is down. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until that side is golden as well.

herb chicken

Remove the chicken from the pan and let the meat rest until it’s room temperature before chopping into 1/2 inch cubes. As the chicken is cooling, cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drain well and let cool. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, halved grapes, chives, pecans, and chicken. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Pour over the pasta mixture and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with more chopped fresh mint and a little orange zest.  Serve immediately!

Serves 4

Disclosure: to create this post, I was given a bunch of gluten free pasta. I was not compensated in another other monetary way. This recipe is actually an entry to a blogger contest, so we'll see how I do!
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Friday, April 3, 2015

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Spinach Pasta Toss

Of all the fruit and vegetables that we eat, I'd say that we go through tomatoes the most. John eats grape tomatoes like they are candy, popping a few in his mouth every time he passes a container. They go into salads, pasta sauces, thin slices go on pizzas, in sandwiches, you name it; we've put tomatoes on it.

The market often has grape tomatoes on sale, and this week I was fortunate to find that I could get 3 pints for only $5. I had plans for these tomatoes, you see. Roasty, sweet, delicious plans.

This tomato sauce is about as easy as you can get. Toss those sweet babies with a bit of oil and other things, them let your oven do all the work while you boil some pasta.Once your tomatoes have roasted and split open, toss them with the finished pasta and some big handfuls of greens and parmesan. What's easier than that? You'll notice that I mention spinach and arugula-awhile ago I discovered that Dole makes a spinach and arugula mix, which has become my new favorite. Don't have it available? That's okay, just use spinach.

I used Catelli Ancient Grains pasta for this dish, and it was amazing. The pasta held the sauce really well, and added a lot of flavour. I highly recommend you try it!

roasted tomato pasta

Ingredients:

Roasted Tomatoes:

2 pints grape tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, slivered into chips
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
coarse salt and cracked black pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
200 grams of Catelli Ancient Grains spaghettini

2 large handfuls of spinach or a mix of spinach/arugula, torn roughly
3/4  cup fresh Parmesan cheese
fresh cracked pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 F.

2. In a large bowl, toss the grape tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper together. Spread them into a 9x13 inch non reactive baking dish and place it in the oven.
roasted tomato sauce

3. Bake the tomatoes for about an hour, stirring occasionally while they break down and release their juices. Near the end, start cooking the pasta.


4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook about 7-9 minutes, whichever is your preference. Drain the pasta and toss in a large bowl with the cherry tomatoes, big handfuls of torn spinach and arugula, and cheese. Add cracked pepper and salt to taste. Mound on plates and add more cheese at the table.

Makes 4 servings. 


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Challah Bread


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At Christmas time, I was gifted my grandmother's old recipe book-a ledger filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, some going as far back as the 1950s. It was fascinating to leaf through the pages, seeing what was popular at the time in my grandma's kitchen. Soon I'll get some photos and show you all. I'm not sure where Grandma would've found some of the ingredients in those recipes since she was way out on the farm, but it's pretty clear she was adventurous! Everything from Chinese to Indian, Greek and even French cuisines were tucked away in her scrapbook, carefully cut out and glued onto the pages.

One thing grandma really excelled at was bread. Homemade buns were a staple in her kitchen and little better was one warm from the oven, slathered in butter. My mom learned how to make buns from her and when I was married, I asked Mom to teach me too. The joke in our house is I must've inherited the bread making gene. There is no bread maker here; I'm the kind of person who loves to get a feel for the bread with my fingers. I'd rather knead it right on my counter, working the dough by hand with the sweet smell of yeast wafting through the kitchen.

This challah recipe is something I had in my own binder full of clip outs, from a Today's Parent magazine back when Kevin was only 3 years old. For some reason I never did try it until this weekend for a French toast recipe I'm whipping up for BC eggs. Not only is this a super easy recipe, I love that the rise times aren't that long. The loaves look impressive once you bake them, and you'll have two baguette sized ones to eat, serve with dinner, or make your own French toast with.

Challah is a traditional Jewish bread often served during Passover. It is dairy free and is wonderfully tender, yet substantial so that it makes amazing French toast. We couldn't even resist it's call as soon as it came from the oven. As soon as it cooled, one of the loaves was immediately sliced into thick pieces and slathered with butter.

Ingredients:

3 1/2-4 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp instant rise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Directions: 

1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, stir together 2 cups flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and vegetable oil. Still whisking, add the water a little at a time so you don't 'cook' your eggs. With the motor running on the electric mixer, pour the water and oil mixture into the flour and yeast.

3. Continue to mix until smooth. Change from the paddle attachment to a dough hook. With the motor running, continue to add up to another 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough becomes stiff. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for a few minutes until it's smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a large ball.

challah dough

4. Lightly coat a large bowl with vegetable oil, and then set the ball of dough in the bowl, turning the dough so it's coated all over with oil. Cover with cling film and set in a cold oven with the light on.

A light in the oven will generate enough heat to make the dough rise and the oven will protect it from any drafts. Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and punch down the dough to get ride of excess air bubbles. Divide the dough into two portions. Set one aside. Then divide one of the balls of dough into three equal portions.

6. Stretch and shape your small balls of dough into three 20 inch long ropes of dough. You want them all to be similar thicknesses. Line them all up together and pinch them all together at one end.

challah braid 2

7. Braid the ropes together tightly. When you get to the end, pinch the loose pieces together and tuck them underneath, forming a long braid.


Challah braid

8. Repeat with the other ball of dough and place them both on a well greased baking sheet. Cover them with a clean tea towel and put them back in a cold oven with the light turned on.

challah braid 3

9. Let the challah rise another 30 minutes until it's almost doubled in size again, before removing the pan from the oven.

10. Turn the oven on to 375 F. While it's heating up, brush the dough with a lightly beaten egg and sprinkle them well with either poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until it's a dark golden brown and sounds hollow on the bottom when tapped.


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11. Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Slice, slather in butter, and eat!

Adapted from Today's Parent
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Win a YEAR'S worth of pasta: Cooking with Lynn Crawford and Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta

Last week I was invited to join a bunch of other bloggers and Food Network chef Lynn Crawford at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts to cook and learn about an awesome new line of pasta that Catelli® has launched in Western Canada-Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains!

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Did you know I've secretly wished for years that I had attended culinary school? To be there with Lynn Crawford made me ridiculously excited-Kevin and I had seen her last year at Eat Vancouver, and she's a very funny lady. I was so thrilled that Catelli® had invited me! It's always quite the trek to go into Vancouver, but culinary school + Lynn Crawford ( I love Pitchin' In) = me happily driving 3 hours return in the rain, no problem. I did get terribly lost for the first time EVER, but that's a whole different story.

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We started off learning about ancient grains while Lynn passed around bowls of the different kinds of grain contained in the pasta-teff, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and sorghum. Lynn even heated up a pan, threw in a little oil, and then the sorghum to show us how it pops just like mini popcorn. Of course it popped all over the place, jumping out of the pan here and there like mini missiles.

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There may have been a little discussion about fire extinguishers. Why is it every time I see Lynn in person, there is talk of fire extinguishers?

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Eat Vancouver, 2014. Note that Lynn is holding a fire extinguisher.
  Anyway. I digress.These ancient grains are really, REALLY good for you. They have all sorts of health benefits such as being high in fiber and iron, protein to helping control blood pressure, lowering the risk of diabetes, and more.  We really should be eating more of them. Well, you say, this is all well and good and I know I should be eating healthier grains, but how does it taste?  That's the true test for me, really. Anyone can tell me that something is good for me, but if it tastes like cardboard it's totally a no go.

Honestly, this stuff is really delicious. As in, I think I'd make a switch and just cook with the Ancient Grains pasta all the time. My guys here at home don't really eat pasta-I think John won't because he feels it's not all that healthy, but he'd really like this version.  Some of the culinary school staff came out with various bowls of pasta, cooked at 7 min, 8 min, and 9 min. It wasn't gummy or gluey like I find whole wheat pasta can be, but rather had a slight nutty flavour and a bit of chew to it without being too chewy.  Next, we had a little taste of the pasta with a spicy marinara sauce and again with a bit of pesto.

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Of course, we had some fun with the pesto. Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag rocked out with Lynn to Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", but we all changed "bass" to "basil". Because with pesto, it really is ALL about the basil. Am I right?   Now every time I hear that song, all I'm going to see is Amy and Lynn dancing around a food processor singing about pesto. (you can catch the video here on the Vancouver Sun)

Next up, we hit the kitchen and made a chilled noodle salad with ginger wasabi dressing that Lynn had created for Catelli®. There's so much veggies and good stuff in this salad that it really looks beautiful once you have it all in the bowl and toss it. Did I mention that cooking is just downright fun?

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Catelli® launched this pasta in Western Canada this January-you can get spaghetti, spaghettini and rotini. It is GMO free certified/Non GMO project verified, contains no preservatives, and has 75% of your daily recommended whole grain servings in each 85g serving. How awesome is that? Besides all that awesomeness, it just tastes really good. My family inhaled the pasta I brought home, and even the kids in my cooking program loved the noodles. I plan to make up a recipe for them to try once we're back from Spring Break.

Get the recipe for Lynn's Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing HERE.

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We were having some serious fun in that kitchen.

Even better, YOU can actually WIN some pasta from me and Catelli®! Isn't that awesome?!

This contest is now close. I have chosen the winner at random and am attempting to contact them via email. I'll let you know who it is when they reply! 

Win a ONE YEAR supply of Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains Pasta!  

Leave me a comment telling me how you like your pasta best (Alfredo? With a meaty sauce?Vegified?) right here on Chasing Tomatoes. Only one entry here per person.

But.. you can get another entry if you tweet "Win 1 yr supply of #Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta with @scatteredmom ! " only 1 tweet per person.

I'll be running this contest until March 31, at 11:59pm (PST). The winner will be drawn at random. Canadian residents only. The winner will be drawn at random and announced on social media. Please make sure to leave an email address so that I know how to contact you if you win.



 




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Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

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This salad is amazing. When I was at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts cooking it, I carefully followed all the instructions and at one point stopped because it looked so beautiful. All those luscious veggies just sitting in a bowl, waiting to be tossed with pasta. Total thing of beauty.

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Then Lynn came over and I suspect in an effort not to let any of the extra veg laying around go to waste, she began tossing more in my bowl.

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"How about some green onions? Hm. Maybe some cabbage? Red pepper?" In went bowl after bowl and my salad grew to ENORMOUS proportions. My eyes grew wide.

"Uh, Lynn? I don't think my family will eat this much." I have a teenager and a very picky husband at home, and this salad was enough to feed a whole pile of people.

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"Share it with the kids at school!" Lynn then began adding things to my dressing jar. "Trust me, I'm a chef."

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Well. If you can't trust Lynn in the kitchen, who can you trust? She mixed and tossed, and soon my salad was this beautiful, enormous bowl of goodness. We packed it up into containers and the next day, I *did* share it with my 10 year old little chefs at school. You know what? They weren't so sure about the vegetables, but they LOVED the noodles. Staff loved the salad and requested the recipe, my family inhaled huge portions, and I have to say-it was a total hit. I'll definitely make this again, more likely when the weather has turned warm and I don't really want to cook. I think adding a little shrimp or even shredded chicken would make it better, or a little drizzle of hot sauce on top? HEAVEN.

Before you get too far, check out this post where I have a contest going and you can win ONE YEAR'S worth of pasta from Catelli!

This recipe was developed by Lynn Crawford for Catelli®Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta. Reproduced with permission.

Makes 4 servings
Cook Time: 8 min
Prep Time: 10 min

one 340 g package Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains Spaghettini
2 cups snow peas, sliced diagonally
2 cup shelled edamamae
1 small English cucumber
2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup red pepper, cut into matchsticks
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp black sesame seeds

Ginger Wasabi Dressing:

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
wasabi to taste.

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Rinse under cold water until chilled; transfer to large bowl and set aside.

2. In pot of boiling water, cook snowpeas and edamame until tender-crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water until well chilled; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, halve the cucumber lengthwise and use the end of a spoon to scoop and discard seeds; cut cucumber into julienne strips.

4. Add the cucumber, snow peas, edamamae, Napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions, and avocado to the noodles; toss with enough dressing to coat. 

Ginger Wasabi dressing:

In a mason jar measure the rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, sesame oil, fresh ginger and wasabi. Tightly screw on a lid and shake well until it's well mixed. Season with more wasabi if you feel it needs some.

5. Garnish the salad with cilantro and black sesame seeds. you can also chill the salad for 1-4 hours if you have the time.

Per serving: 590 calories, 19g fat,  0 mg cholesterol, 710 mg sodium, 84 carbohydrates, 145g fibre, 13 g sugar, 21 g protein


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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Michael Smith's Weekend Pancakes with Strawberry Compote


pancakes

Cooking with kids, especially ones who aren't your own, is always a bit of a challenge. You never know what their previous experience with food is; do they have issues with textures? Are they used to only eating white food? Will they have a meltdown if you cut out sugar? I feel like everything is always a gamble-and that's totally okay, I'm up for the challenge.

Back in 2013 I sat in a hotel lobby with Chef Michael Smith and he lit up as he told me about his family's weekly pancake ritual; how his daughter fishes around the bowl for the egg yolks and has become the expert egg cracker. This stayed with me for so long that when I was asked to put together a cooking program from my students at work, the first thing I had to make (as an homage to my inspiration, of course) was his pancakes from Family Meals.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure how they'd go over with the kids. Would they revolt at whole wheat pancakes? Besides THAT, I had greatly reduced their beloved syrup and made a strawberry compote to top the hot pancakes with. Would that be something to cause a mutiny?  Well. if anything, I've been reminded this week that kids will surprise you, especially if you just throw stuff out there and let them decide for themselves. Never assume they won't like something-one day they wanted to eat a Meyer lemon!

pancake by Zach
Pancake cooked and plated by one of my lovely 10 yr olds
We mixed and flipped and the kids were so into it and excited (and took it so seriously!) that when it came time to eat, they sat around the table and each gobbled no less than THREE pancakes each, declaring them delicious. Not just that but they took giant spoonfuls of strawberries and begged for more. They couldn't believe that the sweet compote was just berries with a little sugar.

"That's it? Just berries? They are YUMMY."  I'm quite sure they would've eaten it by the spoonful.

Calling our introduction into cooking a giant success doesn't even come close to the happiness that was in the kitchen that morning.

Thank you so much for the inspiration, Michael. I can't think of a better way to kick off our twice weekly cooking adventures. (and for the rest of you, buy Family Meals. It's a GREAT cookbook)

Ingredients for the pancakes:

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups milk (I like buttermilk but regular milk will do)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vanilla

Ingredients for the strawberry compote:

4 cups frozen strawberries
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)


Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In a different bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, honey and vanilla.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

4. On  a hot, greased griddle, drop 1/4 cupfuls of the batter, spreading it out a little. These pancakes cook up nice and thick. Wait until you see some little bubbles forming on the pancake before checking the underside to see if it's browned. When it is, flip the pancake over and cook the other side.

5. Keep your pancakes warm on a baking sheet in a 200 F oven until you are finished cooking them all, or give them to the kids hot off the griddle. Serve with the berry compote, fresh bananas, and real maple syrup.

Strawberries

Strawberry Compote:

1. Thaw the strawberries. Pour them and the juice in a medium sized pot over medium low heat and bring them to a simmer. Mash them up with a potato masher, leaving some chunks. Add in the sugar to taste. If you want to get all fancy, you could add a little lemon juice and zest, too. Simmer the strawberries for about 5 minutes, stirring.

2. In a small dish combine the cornstarch and cold water. Stirring, pour it into the strawberries and continue to cook them until they thicken slightly . Remove from the heat and let them cool.

**make ahead** you can make the strawberry compote with just about any kind of frozen berry, let it cool, and store in an airtight container in the fridge to be used the next day. When you want to use it just heat it up on low, stirring.
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