Monday Munchies: Holiday Goodies

I apologize for being off the radar for a while. Prepping for Christmas put me out of blogging commission for a while. Between homemade gifts, getting grades turned in, holiday get-togethers, and lots of baking, the schedule was jam-packed!

And now we’ve headed back to our hometown and things have quieted down. School’s out and presents are under the tree, and now I’m just really excited to see everyone open things up! I’ll share more on that post unwrapping time.

But I CAN share with you the treats I baked for my friends this season! I grew up watching (and helping) my mom bake tins of goodies for neighbors and friends. I love the tradition and wanted to become a part of it this year. Sadly because of the whirlwind of the past few weeks, I don’t have pictures, but I have links for you!

1. Magical Marvelous Memorable Cookies: I was recently introduced to Food 52, a food site filled with fun unique products and delicious recipes. This was a last minute addition to my baking list, and I’m so glad it was! The name does these cookies justice – they are magical, marvelous, and oh so memorable. It’s a chocolate chip cookie with pretzels, pecans, and cereal (it called for granola but I used Honey Bunches of Oats). Sweet and salty – yum!

2. Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies: The Pioneer Woman made a delightfully soft little chocolate cookie. It’s dipped in almond bark and then sprinkled with crushed peppermints. I used spearmint mints because they are my favorite – I love that crisp taste.

3. Sugar Sparkled Gingersnaps: I wanted to go back to a classic cookie with a nice kick of spice. This recipe is from Annie’s Eats and I love it! The dough is rolled in turbinado sugar, giving the cookies a nice sparkle. The cookies get hard and crunchy after they’ve cooled down, but Annie suggests you heat them in the microwave and they soften nicely.

4. Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles: I love buckeyes… you know, those tasty peanut butter and chocolate truffles that are oh so addicting!?! Well add crushed pretzels into the equation and you get a delightful sweet and salty combination.

5. Honey Lavender Caramels: I love caramel in anything, but have only ever made caramel sauce rather than the candies. I had gotten some culinary lavender buds from Williams-Sonoma a while back and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. When I found this recipe, I knew it was just what I wanted. I wrapped little rectangular caramels in wax paper. They are super yummy!

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

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Monday Munchies: Comfort Foods

The weather here has been wet and cold for the past week, and it’s made me want nothing more than to snuggle up on the couch under a big quilt. It’s also been the perfect week for warm dishes cooked in bowls. I’ve got some delicious things to share with you!

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1. Lazy Sunday Casserole: This is simple and incredible. Roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, and sausage – this stuff is savory and heavenly and it’s so simple!

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2. Slow-Cooker Creamy Chicken with Biscuits: So this is the slow-cooker version of chicken pot pie. A little bit of flour, dry white wine, and chicken broth makes for an incredible flavor mixture. My husband suggested that diced potatoes would add a good textural balance to this meal in the future, and I think he has a great point.

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3. Slow-Cooker Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt: I love chicken curry so this recipe is quite wonderful in my opinion. Greek yogurt is added at the end of the recipe to give the chicken this delightful creaminess. Serve it over Jasmine rice – so good!

If you’re looking for other curl up in a blanket recipes, check my old Monday Munchies post out on slow-cooker chicken gumbo and vegetarian chili!

Monday Munchies: Thanksgiving in Review

Hopefully by now you have all had enough time between reading this and eating your turkey, because I want to share with you some of the delights that were had at my parents’ home on Thursday afternoon.

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This year, I was given the task of pseudo heading up dinner. In other words, I planned out the meal and cooked lots of sides and pies, but my mom still made some of the basic staples. Which is a very good thing, because up until now I’ve known nothing about cooking a turkey. The exciting thing about playing such a big part in the cooking process was that I got to bring favorites I have found on various blogs throughout the years. Additionally, we got to try new delights that our mouths have been watering over! Check this goodness out.

The main course was the turkey and gravy. My mom stuffed herbs, both dried and fresh, underneath the skin. She also covered the outside of the skin with olive oil and added herbs there as well. She used an oven bag to cook her turkey. I learned that apparently putting flour into the bag with the turkey and cutting slits into the bag prevents it from exploding. Fascinating!

And now for the sides….

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1. Roasted Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola and Crispy Fried Sage from Closet Cooking. I found this gem of a recipe a few years back and it delivers. The gorgonzola adds a strong taste that blends wonderfully with the sweet and savory squash and onions. And crispy fried sage adds a terrific complementary flavor as well!

2. Spinach Casserole, a staple in my family.

3. Great Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing. I love a good stuffing or dressing but this one is hands down my favorite. I could eat this for the whole meal!

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4. Roasted Green Vegetable Medley from Taste of Home. My mom found this recipe, and it is wonderful! Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green bean, carrots, all covered in lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and Italian herbs. So good!

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5. This beautiful Lightened Up Sweet Potato Casserole by How Sweet It Is. Another gem I’ve held onto for a couple years, and it is so terrifically tasty that it’s hard to believe it’s lightened up! The key is using lite coconut milk in the sweet potato mixture. And the topping… oh my gosh drool. Coconut flakes, pecans, brown sugar, butter, with mini marshmallows in the middle.

6. My Grammy brought a few of her signature sides: cranberry fluff, pumpkin bread, and cranberry bread. I’m pretty sure this recipe is a pretty accurate representation of Grammy’s cranberry fluff: cranberries, pineapple, marshmallows, and cool whip – yum-o! And fun story about the cranberry bread, my Grammy makes this from the recipe in Cranberry Thanksgiving, a children’s book she introduced to me when I was in first grade. The combination of cranberries and golden raisins in this bread is a delightful merge of sun-sweet and tart.

And onto one of my most favorite of things: lots and lots of pie!!!

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1. My Go-To Apple Pie recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker.

2. This amazing salted caramel chocolate pecan pie from Southern Living. It is the most beautiful mix between a fudge and pecan pie. Not to mention it’s a visual showstopper!

3. And in the loveliest of traditions, my Grammy brought her fudge pie and sugar cream pie. There are just some things you can’t go wrong with!

I’m almost full again just thinking of how wonderful this meal was. I loved getting an excuse to spend time with my family and share the kitchen with my mom. Blessings abound!

Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche

I love a good quiche, and it’s a great thing to add to your pre-turkey breakfast. A lot of times my family has a heavy brunch that holds us over until our late afternoon Thanksgiving dinner. Quiches are pretty filling and are a great option for this meal!

You may remember a few months ago I posted this spinach ham and cheese quiche as I christened my new quiche/tart pan. This is a very tasty option!

Recently, I was craving quiche again and wanted to incorporate an autumn-esque touch. I decided to use apples, and have always loved eating apples alongside cheddar cheese. Bacon seemed like a delightfully salty contrast to the sweetness of the apple, creating a very savory flavor. And the combo delivered!

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When I made my first quiche, I mentioned that it was optional to cover your quiche. In this recipe, I found that covering the quiche was more important because it browned more than I would have liked it to. Let me know what you think, and happy eating!

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Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche

Ingredients:
8-10 slices bacon
1 medium onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 refrigerated pie crust
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a deep skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat. Let the bacon cool and then chop. Remove the bacon fat from the skillet and cook the onions in the same pan for about 6-8 minutes. Add in the diced apples and cook for about 2 more minutes, until the onions are translucent. Remove from heat.

Roll out refrigerated pie crust and press gently into a quiche/tart pan. Place pan on a baking sheet for stability.

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Stir in heavy cream, mixing thoroughly. Add cheddar cheese, Herbes de Provence, and pepper, stirring until throughly mixed. Add cooked onion, apples, and bacon, stirring well. Pour mixture into quiche pan. Cover loosely with foil to prevent the quiche from getting too dark. Place pan in oven and let cook for 1 hour until set.

Monday Munchies: Appetizers

This week, Brandon and I had some friends over for a little get together. I served some of my favorite heavy appetizers, and with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I thought it might help you out to add some appetizer recipes to your arsenal to make sure no guest goes hungry! Sadly I don’t have any pretty pictures to show for this post, as the things I made this week were eaten up quickly and I’m also going though old favorites too. Enjoy!

1. Olive Cheese Balls: Cheddar cheese, flour, melted butter, and green olives. This Betty Crocker recipe has been used in my family for years and is a crowd favorite. My husband, who typically does not at all like olives, has gotten to the point where he whips up batches of these on his own. It’s a surprisingly wonderful savory and salty little treat.

2. Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps: This was a favorite discovered by one of my old roommates, and it quickly became a staple to all of our gatherings. Paula Deen’s simple recipe gives you cubed chicken wrapped in bacon and coated in a mix of brown sugar and chili powder. Needless to say its a little bit of heaven, and they are usually the first thing to be cleared from the table!

3. Spinache Artichoke Dip: I’m the girl that could eat this dip up with a spoon. Spinach artichoke dip can be served with tortilla or pita chips. It’s creamy and cheesy and so so good.

4. Baked Brie topped with Caramelized Mushrooms: I found this recipe a few years ago and made it for my family on Christmas Eve. It’s a bit time consuming with the caramelizing of the mushrooms and onions, but it is so worth the wait! And then you top your brie with all of this goodness and pop it in the oven for a bit until you cut into it and it turns into this gooey delight for your baguettes or crackers. BLISS.

5. Pumpkin Dip: Another appetizer from a few years ago that I loved. Cream cheese and pumpkin make a beautiful combination. This stuff is wonderful on vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, or fruit. My only warning is, this recipe gives you a pretty good sized amount, so make sure you have lots of friends and family to help you demolish it together!

Happy Turkey Week! I’ll be posting a few more recipes up before the big day on Thursday!

Monday Munchies: Double Crunch Chicken

For those of you that have read my last post, you know that the butternut squash lasagna was pretty much the highlight of my week. However, I did find a recipe that is pretty darn tasty and worth a read (and taste!)

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This, my friends, is Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken. This reminds me of an orange chicken-esque meal. I was very impressed by the flour mix – it’s got a crazy pack of flavor: ginger, paprika, cayenne, thyme, nutmeg, sage – it’s a combo I never would have thought of! The “double” in the recipe title references the double coating of the flour mix before putting the chicken into canola oil. I, being wary of using more than a splash of oil in cooking, think that I could have kept my chicken in the oil longer, giving it a truly crispy “crunch.” And this sauce – yum! Honey, soy sauce, and garlic. Sounds bizarre but its delicious!

For our broccoli, I cooked it like normal and tossed in a splash of soy sauce. It was quite tasty indeed.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

I’m so excited to share this with you that there’s a high chance of me being a bit spastic. So I apologize….sort of.

Because it’s worth it!

Last month, I made a point to make it to the last Dahlonega’s Farmers Market of the year. I came home with some of the biggest zucchinis I have ever seen, hot pepper jelly (if you are dipping your crackers into cream cheese topped with this stuff, you’re missing out and need to check this combo out ASAP!), and a beautiful butternut squash.

Not long afterwards, the zucchini and hot pepper jelly were both devoured. My butternut squash waiting patiently in the pantry for me to determine what to do with it. In years past, I have whipped up smooth and creamy soups or this awesomely savory mix of the squash with caramelized onions, crispy sage leaves, and gorgonzola (check that out on Closet Cooking here!). But neither seemed appropriate for this squash.

And then I got to thinking, and I became hooked by the idea of ravioli. And I couldn’t get it off of my mind. So the butternut squash continued to wait patiently as I looked up various recipes and tried to find a good chunk of time to devote to this endeavor.

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Some things you should know upfront:
1. This is a delicious meal. Let that be your hook – it’s like eating dessert for dinner! Not to mention you aren’t paying anywhere close to $18 a plate at a gourmet Italian restaurant.
2. That being said, this is a time-consuming recipe. I split it up into 2 parts. On Monday night after preparing dinner, I prepared the dough and filling and assembled my raviolis. I popped them in the freezer and cooked them last night, complete with their buttery sage sauce. It’s definitely a process, but never have I ever felt so rewarded by a recipe like this!
3. You do NOT need a pasta machine or attachment for this recipe. If you had one it would save you time, but it is very doable without one so don’t be alarmed!

The recipe I ended up doing was a combination of two blog posts I found. I used Good Food Stories‘ pasta recipe and butternut squash roasting method. For the filling, finishing sauce, and freezing/cooking instructions, I used the recipe from 100 Days of Real Food.

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Butternut Squash Ravioli
Makes 16-35 pieces, depending on how thinly you roll the dough

Ingredients:
for the pasta:
2 heaping cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
for the filling:
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 oz cream cheese, softened (I used neufchรขtel)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
for the sauce:
5 tablespoons butter
a handful of sage leaves (or 1-2 tablespoons rubbed sage)
black pepper to taste

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel butternut squash, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes. Place cubes in a medium mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the squash until well coated and then spread the cubes over the parchment paper. Bake until soft and tender, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, pour in flour, creating a well in the middle. Place eggs, oil, and salt into the well and, slowly and gently, begin stirring around the eggs with your fingertips until a roughly shaped dough ball forms. Dump onto a dusted countertop and knead for 5 minutes or so until you can make a smooth dough ball. Cover with bowl and let dough rest for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine butternut squash with the remaining filling ingredients. Stir and mash the mixture until ingredients are well incorporated.

On a countertop dusted with flower, cut the ball of dough in half, re-covering one half of the dough. Roll out the other half until pasta is at least down to a thickness of 1/8″ (If you can get it down to 1/16″ and it isn’t starting to tear, you’ll have more raviolis to go around!). Pull dough gently with your hands and shape it into a long rectangular piece. Uncover the remaining dough and repeat the process, making a rectangle the same size as the original pasta sheet.

Using a tablespoon, measure out dollops of the filling and place on the first pasta sheet, leaving about an inch between each scoop. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush water around the scoops of filling on the pasta. Then cover the pasta and filling with the remaining pasta sheet. Gently press the pasta down, making sure to seal all edges and the area surrounding each scoop of filling. Slice the pasta into squares with a pastry cutter. Crimp the edges of each square of ravioli with a fork and place on a sheet of wax paper, making sure the individual pieces do not touch.

If you are freezing your pasta for another day, stop here. Place raviolis either in a large Tupperware container or in a large freezer bag. Make sure that the raviolis do not touch each other, and have layers of wax paper in between the pasta. When you decide to cook the pasta, add 1 minute to the cook time. The ravioli can be thrown in the water without defrosting.

Fill a stockpot 3/4 full with water and add some salt. Place pot on the stovetop and heat until boiling. Add a splash of olive oil (to prevent pasta from sticking to each other) and pour the ravioli into the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the ravioli rises to the surface, they are cooked. Remove from heat and gently pour pasta into a colander.

In a small saucepan, cook the butter over medium-hight heat. After all of the butter has melted, add in the sage and black pepper. Just as the butter starts to brown, pull it off of the heat. Serve over cooked ravioli.

Adapted from Good Food Stories and 100 Days of Real Food.

Monday Munchies: Pumpkin Roll

I swear this post STARTED on Monday…

So with my one pumpkin recipe a week regimen, I haven’t gotten tired of this delicious gourd. I feel like it’s set a nice pace to my fall munching.

On Saturday night, we had Brandon’s family over for dinner. We had one of our favorite meals: Chicken Parmesan topped with oven-baked Parmesan tomatoes and with a side of green beans. Yum! And for dessert…..

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This beautiful pumpkin roll! So I got my pumpkin fix and I can now say that I’ve successfully made a variation of a jelly roll! I was a bit nervous trying this recipe because I don’t own any jelly roll pans. I have a rimmed cookie sheet, and after looking on a bunch of cooking message boards, went ahead and used it, secretly crossing my fingers that the cake batter wouldn’t spill over the sides. But it didn’t! And I probably could have spread out the batter further towards the edges of the pan, which would have made the roll more even and easier to roll. But I guess I’ve learned for next time.

One thing to note is this is definitely a pumpkin spice cake, emphasis on the spice. It has 1 whopping tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, which really packs the flavor! Yum! My favorite part is the vanilla cream cheese frosting – I dumped the extra and my husband and I have been mourning over it. So many options of other yummy things I could top it with! Hindsight’s 20/20 I guess….

Finally, as with most pumpkin things, the cake is quite moist. So if you’re trying to be clever like I thought I was and give it a cute dusting of powdered sugar, be wary… the pumpkin absorbs all. So much for finishing touches! But man the taste makes you forget about any other concerns, so enjoy!

Monday Munchies: Pumpkin Gnocchi

The leaves really started to show off this past week. I loved driving through roads of fiery yellows and oranges, deep fuschia reds, and watching trees begin to show their twisted limbs as the leaves begin to fall. Oh my goodness it is food for my eyes! We stopped over in Dahlonega yesterday, and there is this part of the road where you curve around the mountain and then all of a sudden you are greeted with this fantastic view of the North Georgia Mountains. It is always a breath-taking sight, but in the autumn months the hills look like they are on fire. Absolutely wonderful.

This week was also filled with some wonderful fall munchings. And these are worth sharing!

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1. This is not a recipe, but a fruit I fell in love with five years ago. I remember picking up an instructional packet with my pomegranate and clumsily figuring out how to cut it and open it up. And even though I felt like the sink looked like I might have murdered my fruit rather than simply sliced it open, I was in heaven. The tangy sweetness with a little crunch hits all of my cravings at once!
And, I finally found a cutting process for this beauty that I really like and recommend. Go here to see this video. It’ll prevent massive amounts of juice staining everything and it allows all of the arils to stay in tact! More for me – yay!

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2. For the past couple of years I have been making this pumpkin gnocchi, and I love it! Potato gnocchi has always seemed a bit too dense for me, and pumpkin seems to hit the spot just right. This year, I wanted to incorporate whole wheat flour, so I browsed around for some new recipes to find. And I think I found one I might settle on for a while. I served this recipe in an alfredo sauce with black pepper and sage as seasoning. So good! Not to mention, making gnocchi is so much fun! After cutting up the little pillows of dough, you simply toss them in boiling water. When they are cooked, they’ll rise to the surface.

3. You may remember me raving about Yahoola Creek Grill in Dahlonega. Well, the mister and I went there for Sunday brunch and WOW! I love them even more! I got a Black Forest ham, Brie, and Apple French Toast Panini. What a combination! I found a recipe equivalent online here from the Panini Express cookbook. Expect to see my experimentation and variation soon!

Monday Munchies: Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkins

Happy Monday! I’ll admit, I have dual motives in sounding so peppy. The first of course is that I’m excited to be sharing tasty things with you. The second, I am wiped and need some energy on this cloudy and cool Monday. We had a whirlwind of a weekend, and I did NOT want to heed my alarm this morning. But we press on right? So with some extra caffeine in hand, here’s some yummy things to share.

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1. I found this awesome barbecue chicken stuffed sweet potato recipe this summer, and it is awesome! I was surprised by how much I love the combination of a baked sweet potato with barbecue chicken: savory + sweet is an equation that can only equal yummmmm….
True confessions – I didn’t make my barbecue sauce from scratch like the lovely Foodie Bride. I needed a quick fix. So let me pass on my shortcut. I cooked and shredded my chicken and then poured some Sweet Baby Ray’s in a skillet with the chicken to coat it. I also sautรฉed some diced peppers and onions (I’m not a fan of the raw red onion taste) and then mixed these in with the barbecue chicken. I also topped mine with cilantro and cheddar cheese because you simply can’t go wrong there. Delicious!

I’ve realized that this fall I have developed a sort of pumpkin regimen. I have made one pumpkin recipe a week. It’s a pattern I don’t mind developing! I’ve been buying my pumpkin in the mega cans, which gives me incentive to use it often because the pumpkin I have leftover makes eyes with me from its Tupperware home every time I open our fridge. To jog your memory, so far I’ve told you about my adventures with pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pie pop tarts, and pumpkin chip cookies. And it’s time to add another delight to the list!

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2. Pumpkin Pancakes! I had some at IHOP recently and was super excited to make some on my own! I browsed the web for the recipe that looked just right for me, and found that I did a bit of adapting/combining in the process. My base recipe, which was followed almost exactly to the T, was from two peas & their pod. This recipe also has streusel on the pancakes, which I did not want. And then I found that Skinnytaste had pecans incorporated into pumpkin pancakes, and man oh man do I love pecans! Not to mention she incorporated maple syrup into the pancakes themselves, which I thought was an ingenious idea!

AND, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, I added a game changer: vanilla bean paste. I bought it from Williams Sonoma and now we are the dearest of friends. The end.

So, in case you wanted a visual of how I merged these two delights, I’ve broken it down for you:

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes

Ingredients:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you could be super fun and substitute with 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste!)
3 tablespoons chopped pecans

Instructions:
In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, syrup, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Fold in pecans, stirring until just incorporated.

Heat a large skillet on medium low heat. Add cooking spray or a small dab of butter to coat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, spreading gently with a rubber spatula (the dough is not super watery and doesn’t spread well on its own). Cook until pancake begins to bubble and edges begin to set, about 2-3 minutes. Flip over and cook for 2 more minutes.