Musical pairing – New Kid In Town by The Eagles
All I remember about that particular Valentine’s day is his downy-fuzz blonde hair and tiny little hands wrapped inside white flannel mittens decorated with red hearts. It had been a challenging delivery with labor starting and stopping the entire week before the baby boy finally arrived; trips to the hospital and then back home again only to be repeated every 48 hours or so. A scan finally revealed the baby boy wasn’t positioned correctly, was now in distress and a cesarian was quickly scheduled. But just as we were being prepped and wheeled into a waiting operating room, the baby boy flipped . . . and suddenly . . . he was here. Blonde-hair, blue eyes, 7 pounds, 9.5 ounces and 22-inches long, my baby boy was finally here.
Didn’t that scene just happened yesterday? Didn’t my baby boy with the basset-hound cheeks, running naked through the house and smelling like bath soap, wrapped in a towel just turn 2? Didn’t my boy with dancing blue eyes telling tales of his latest Star Wars adventure, cape tied haphazardly around his neck and riding his big wheel just turn 7? Didn’t my boy with the impish grin, having removed all the knobs off the wall heaters in his great-uncle’s house, just turn 8? What were the dreams I dreamed for you, baby boy? I don’t remember my dreams that day . . . only those mittens . . . oh, and feeling quite pleased that you arrived on Valentine’s Day.
My boy is grown now and has a ready-made family of his own. He works hard, loves big and speaks his mind . . . (wonder who he gets that from???) And he makes me proud. He’s a good citizen, he’s caring and he’s helpful. He can be grouchy at times but he fiercely loves his brother. He sends me pictures of the new puppies his dog has just given birth to; he tells me how happy he is that I’ve found The Professor after all these years. He calls to tell me about a new grill recipe he’s making or he calls to ask for a childhood recipe. And he sends me a text that simply says, ‘I love you mom.’
If we lived in the same town, I’d bake his favorite birthday cake – angel food with whipped cream and strawberry filling. But I’d also make him these pancakes – I know he’d love them even though at first he’d probably roll his eyes and say I was crazy for even thinking about putting beets in a pancake. I can just hear him now, ‘Beets are for dinner mom, they are not for breakfast and they sure as hell aren’t for pancakes!’ And his eyes would twinkle and he’d laugh and then he’d take a bite of these beautiful crimson-pink pancakes and admit that his mom still knows a thing or two . . .
Happy Birthday son . . . I love you.
Now don’t turn your nose up at these pancakes because they have beets in them; I double-dog-dare-you to make these once and then come back here and tell me you don’t love them as much as I do. Not only are these stunning to look at, the beets add a sweetness and depth of flavor that most pancakes lack – they do not taste like beets – pinky swear!! And the quinoa adds another flavor component without being gritty or tough. Light, tender, perfectly sweetened, these pancakes are something really special – serve them with a good quality real maple syrup – they deserve nothing less.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets in a glass or metal baking dish with about ½ cup water in the bottom. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, peel and puree the beets in a food processor or blender until smooth. You will need ½ cup of beet puree (any remaining puree can be frozen for another time). (SMITH BITES NOTE: I took a cheat here and purchased cooked beets from my area’s Trader Joe’s refrigerated section – NOT canned beets. But next time I purchase fresh beets to roast for dinner, I will roast extra just so I can make these again.)
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, melted butter, egg and ½ cup of beet puree until smooth. Using a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine. The batter should be the consistency of lightly whipped cream and crimson in color (SMITH BITES NOTE: mine was more pink than crimson).
- Although the batter is best if used immediately, it can sit for up to 1 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, 1 tablespoon at a time, with milk – take great care not to overmix.
- Heat a 10-inch cast-iron or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter; this is the key to crisp, buttery edges, my favorite part of any pancake. Working quickly, dollop ¼-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top-side of the pancake, flip it over and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next batch. Rub the pan with butter and continue with the rest of the batter. If the pan is too hot or not hot enough, adjust the flame accordingly to keep results consistent.
- Serve pancakes hot, straight from the skillet, with a pitcher of warm maple syrup, encouraging your guests to pour as they please.