Belgian Relief

These past few months have been pretty waffle.

(I hear the confusion now: Surely you mean awful. We’ve been on lockdown for almost a year, Anne. Your child has no friends and has never met most of his extended family. We are nearing half a million Covid deaths in the U.S., people are at their breaking points mental-health wise and your siblings BOTH got puppies this month you might not meet until after they’re full-blown dogs.)

Cuteness: Who wore it best?

Ok, fine, it can feel pretty awful these days for all those reasons and more. But I didn’t misspeak: to get through [gestures around at world] all this, I’ve honestly been relying pretty heavily on a bulky, electric kitchen gadget. We all have our vices that are getting us through this pandemic, from French wine to Disney+, and mine happens to be a four-quadrant Belgian waffle maker with a steam release system. (Ok, French wine and Disney+, too.)

A Christmas gift from my husband, a waffle maker is something I didn’t know I needed. I’ve always been pretty against single-purpose gadgets (melon ballers, avocado slicers, a gag contraption a second cousin gifted me once to turn a hard boiled egg into a cube shape, which, on second thought, might play a leading role in future April Fools’ Day antics.) And I’m not alone: From Alton Brown to Marie Kondo, experts everywhere agree kitchen gadgets with just one use tend to clutter cabinets and lead to dangerous, unruly junk drawers. (We have two.)

At first glance, it would seem a waffle maker falls squarely into that category: it can only, well, make waffles. But I quickly came to understand that “waffles” are a very adaptable canvas, and — oh — the adventures we’ve had!

First there were traditional waffles, of course. Made from a mix or simple recipe, these will always get the job done. Beat served with bacon and a hungry Christmas toddler.

Next, I tried a waffle version of latkes, first with sweet potatoes and then with potatoes and celeriac. (Shred the vegetables, wring out the extra water, add some eggs, onions, seasoning and flour to bind it, and maybe some cheese. Griddle on the waffle maker and maybe top with an egg.)

After those successes, I experimented with leftover risotto. (Again, added some egg and cheese for a delicious binder.) It was better than even the original risotto, with the waffle maker creating pockets of crispy rice and softer bites. We served with a dollop of yogurt and a Caesar salad.

Perhaps most creative was this morning’s attempt to use up cooked spaghetti squash. Topped with sour cream and chili crisp, it was the breakfast combination I didn’t know I needed.

All in all, my favorite version is a riff on the classic: whole wheat waffles with blueberries. They feel both healthy and indulgent. I make them at least twice a month, and that’s one habit I hope sticks with me well after this pandemic is over. That and, you know, seeing my son grow up.

The recipe for these was adapted from a few on the internet, and the key is the cup of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar that sits for five minutes, maybe a buttermilk of sorts.

Whole Wheat Waffles

-1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar (sit 5 mins before using). I use whole milk but any would work, including almond milk.
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-2 teaspoons sugar
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-2 tablespoons melted butter
-1/2 cup blueberries

1. Mix milk and vinegar, let it sit.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
3. Whisk melted butter, milk/vinegar and egg in a small bowl.
4. Add wet to dry, stir until just mixed.
5. Lightly fold in blueberries (some people add a tablespoon flour to the berries to prevent the blue color running but I do not care.)
6. Waffle-ize.

No waffle maker? No problem! These also make excellent pancakes. They make exactly enough breakfast for two adults and one toddler, no leftovers. Double the batch if you plan on giving in to this begging face.

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