Try pumpkin pancakes to get into the fall spirit

If you’re going to eat pumpkin pancakes, this is your window to do it. Of course, you could eat these flapjacks spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg anytime, but there’s no better time than these few weeks before Halloween when we start to gear up our palates for a whole season of festive eating.

Malika Ameen, whose new book “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking” (Roost Books, $30) was recently released, offers dozens of dishes that will entertain your tongue year-round. Her holiday offerings, like these pancakes, are particularly good.

As always, don’t overmix the pancake batter. Leave those small lumps — they’ll cook out of the pancakes on the hot griddle. Vietnamese cinnamon has a particular warmth that Ameen likes for these pancakes, but any cinnamon will do.

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes pumpkin6

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground Vietnamese cinnamon

¾ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature, divided

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup pure canned pumpkin

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the buttermilk and the eggs, butter and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until barely combined.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the remaining ¼ cup of buttermilk. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the batter.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease the skillet and cook the pancakes in batches. Spoon about ¼ cup of the batter onto the pan per pancake. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and slightly dry looking and bubbly on the top.

Use a spatula to flip each pancake and cook on the second side until cooked through. Transfer from the skillet to a baking tray, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in the oven while you cook more. Serves 4.

Spring 2016: Food

Plan grad party menus wisely

Boo Wells

Boo Wells

Grab-and-go foods best for fast-moving revelers

Despite the apparent confusion at Mother Nature’s Weather Headquarters, spring has begun and summer is reputed to be right around the corner. If you have children in grade school you have been repeatedly updated on how many days there are left until summer vacation. Those people in the back seat of the Mom-mobile have their iPhones counting down the days until they can begin parental torture with loud proclamations of boredom.

If you have a high school senior you definitely know the number of days until the end of the semester and the start of the graduation festivities. The clock is ticking down on the school year, the memories have been made, friendships have been forged, term papers and finals completed, college acceptance letters received, plans made for the future. Yet, despite all the joy and celebration there will also be loss and heartache. Most of us can look back at our school years and remember hearing about a tragedy that struck another community. If you were not impacted directly, chances are you were not really affected.

Flash forward to today and social media has made the world a much smaller place as it has brought us all closer together. One community’s misfortune is no longer contained and, as a result, we are all touched and we all grieve.

Social media has brought us closer together during times of tragedy, but it also teaches us how we can, and do, impact one another, for better or for worse. Learning the consequences of our actions may help us to be more compassionate and open minded. From the outside looking in, the youth of today seem to be a kinder and more tolerant group than when I was a child. As I eavesdrop on the conversations in the backseat I learn about kids who are different from their peers and in my heart I feel for them. But, as the back-seater’s dialogue continues, I hear more accepting comments that would not have been spoken in my school years. I cannot resist interjecting, my curiosity is too much to contain. I play the devil’s advocate, I try to bait the back seaters in hopes of comprehending their way of thinking.

Me: “That kid is (pick your adjective)?”

“Gross, why did he do that to his hair?”

“What’s up with that fashion statement?”

”I bet they are just trying to get attention”

“Do other kids tease him or her?”

The back-seaters always respond with a vengeance. They cannot believe my ignorance. How could I be so closed minded, so judgemental and so wrong.

The back-seaters: “Mom! What is wrong with you?”

“Who cares that they are (same adjective as above)!”

“So? What is the big deal?”

“Nobody cares about that! “

“Gosh, Mom!”

So I go back to being the silent chauffeur, stung by the back-seater’s reprimand and awestruck by their willingness to accept, even embrace those who are different. Their lack of tolerance for intolerance hangs heavy in the air. I am so proud of their empathy both locally and globally.

They are so much more aware of what is going on in the world around them than I was at their age, or maybe even now. They embrace diversity, they are kind to each other, they support and nurture even the most unlikely members of their community and they include everyone.

What, you wonder, does this have to do with food? As graduation draws near and the celebratory party plans come together, remember that their eyes are wide open, their arms outstretched ready to embrace and their hearts a large. They welcome everyone to the table. Be ready; the guests will be numerous, joyful and hungry.

Graduation parties will be well attended, even if the attendees are hoping from one party to another. Plan your menu wisely. I suggest focusing on foods that kids can eat while they are chatting or heading to the next shindig. Food that they can grab and go are especially helpful to “drive-by” revelers with lots of parties to attend. Fruit on skewers or grilled vegetables on kabobs, a taco station with loads of toppings or a barbecue pulled pork sandwich station with different types of cole slaw, barbecue sauces and rolls.


Pulled pork & homemmade BBQ sauce

(Yield: 8 cups sauce; 12 to 15 8-ounce servings of pork)


1 stick unsalted butter
2 cup finely diced onion
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cup cider vinegar
2 cup Worcester sauce
4 cups ketchup
4 Tablespoons dry mustard
8 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (add more if you dare)
10 pound pork shoulder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Keep the heat low and avoid caramelizing the onion and garlic mixture. Stir in the vinegar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, Kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. The sauce will be even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to mellow. This recipe will make enough sauce for 45 pounds of meat. If you like to have more sauce for serving, double this recipe and you will have some leftover sauce for another time. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder. Place the meat in the roasting pan fat side up. Roast in a 250 degrees oven for 10 to 12 hours. The meat will be tender and falling off of the bone. Let the meat cool slightly and shred with two forks or roughly chop with a sharp chef knife. Discard the bone. Combine the meat and barbecue sauce and serve with crusty rolls and coleslaw.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm or visit

Winter 2016: Food

Meal prep made fast and easy


Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Keep a few staple ingredients on hand to impress

Life moves so quickly. When my boys were babies, random
strangers would constantly approach us while we were out for a walk or at the grocery store, “Thing One” and “Thing Two” in a stroller or shopping cart, “Thing Three” in a snuggle cryovaced to my chest, and they would ooh and ahh, complimenting me on how darling the boys were (really, I’m not biased). What I remember most was the number of times they would warn “time moves quickly, enjoy every moment,” and “Your boys will grow up in a blink of an eye,” or “Enjoy them now, because before you know it, they will be grown and gone.” It was one of those things that I heard so often it began to sound like the adult voices on a Peanut’s cartoon “Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.” [Read more…]

Winter 2015: Food

A taste of Jamaica comes home with vegetable curry

By Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Hearty family tradition continues in the north country

When I was younger, my parents and I would spend several weeks a year visiting my grandmother in the West Indies. My grandmother and step-grandfather became enamored with the English-ruled island of Jamaica after they honeymooned in the tropical paradise. [Read more…]

Time to open the lid on your grill and move the kitchen outdoors

Spice up your backyard barbecue with simple seasonings [Read more…]

Move over, June Cleaver, Ward has found his place in the kitchen

English muffin bread with Earl Grey tea jelly. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

English muffin bread with Earl Grey tea jelly. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

English muffin bread an easy-to-follow recipe for anyone [Read more…]

Roast chicken with Boo Wells (VIDEO)

A simple roast chicken. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

A simple roast chicken. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

Stuffed with fresh vegetables, roast chicken is a versatile fall meal [Read more…]

Master the art of blanching vegetables

Blanching vegetables is a technique that involves briefly boiling and then plunging vegetables into an ice bath to make them tender-crisp and flavorful. Photo by Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

Blanched green beans perfect addition to summer quinoa salad [Read more…]

A frozen following: For sweet seekers, north country soft serve a must have

Morghan A. White, 10 and sister Emmah L., 5, eat ice cream last month at Morgan’s Ice House, Canton. Ice cream stands like Morgan’s are ever-popular summer food destinations in the north country. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Living

With more than a half-dozen ice cream stands in Watertown alone, it’s clear that ice cream from small mom-and-pop stands has a special place in the stomachs of north country residents. But the question looms: does soft serve or hard ice cream take the metaphorical cherry for popularity?

At The Midway on Coffeen Street, homemade hard ice cream, of which the shop has 15 varying flavors, outsells soft serve, sold only in the traditional vanilla and chocolate or swirl.

“I didn’t expect hard flavors to take off as they are,” said owner Michael P. Amell, who has operated the stand since 2010. “It was a surprise.” [Read more…]

A taste of the river

Clayton F. “Muskie Ferg Jr.” Ferguson of Ferguson Fishing Charters, Clayton, with his 1951 mahogany-plank Chris-Craft, is a longtime river guide who puts on shore dinners. Photo by Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

Shore dinners a north country food tradition like no other [Read more…]