Declare love for decadent dinners with waffles

Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

American cooking is heading in two different directions.

Fancy restaurants are experimenting with noodles made from tofu skin and Mayan dips made from pumpkin seeds.

But home cooks are just out to have fun with their food. Meringues are cooked to look like clouds. Cakes are made to look like unicorns. Toast is multicolored and spangled.

And foods that aren’t meant to be cooked in waffle irons are cooked in waffle irons.

Why not? Waffle irons are just two griddles that heat food on both sides simultaneously. The indentations add to the surface area, so the food is crispier, and they also make anything cooked on them seem more festive.

I am always a little late to come to fads, but I finally decided to see what a waffle iron can do. And that meant digging our old one out of its hiding place in the basement. When I say old, I mean it: It dates back to the 1970s or ’80s and, based on painful personal experience, it apparently has no insulation at all.

But as a cooking device, it worked fine.

I started with Waffled Falafel, partly because the name makes me smile. Falafel is the Middle Eastern street food made from spices and ground garbanzo beans that is shaped into balls and fried.

You can’t fry in a waffle iron, so you might assume that waffled falafels are better for you. But they have a fair amount of oil mixed into them to keep them moist and hold them together while they are being cooked. So while they do taste wonderful, you are not saving any fat or calories.

I served my waffle falafels the traditional way, in pita (regular pita, not something silly like waffle pita) with tomatoes, cucumbers and tahini.

Sticking with the idea of crowd-pleasing foods, I made a pizza in the waffle iron. Pizza is a fun food anyway, and waffling it only makes it seem like more of a celebration.

It’s a three-part process, but it is all easy. First, you cook your favorite pizza dough on the waffle iron. Then you spread the top of it with an easy pizza sauce (I kept mine straightforward because the recipe is all about being simple to make) and shredded cheese.

And to melt the cheese, all I did was close the waffle maker partway. The heat from the top side melted the cheese. I thought I would have to broil the pizza, but the radiated waffle-iron heat nicely did the trick.

For a breakfast treat, I made Waffled Eggs with Cheese Sauce. If you think of a waffle iron as a griddle with a bunch of bumps in it, the concept makes sense.

Because you cannot stir eggs in a waffle iron, they do not develop the fluffy curds of scrambled eggs. Rather, these eggs develop the soft, almost springy texture you get at a diner that makes omelets on a hot griddle.

But because these eggs have been baked into the shape of a waffle, you can’t fold them over like an omelet. I simply sautéed toppings – I used onions, mushrooms and red and green peppers – and placed them on top.

That by itself made a delicious, unusual meal. But I upped the ante by whipping up a light, creamy cheese sauce that mimicked the effect of a hollandaise: It enriched the egg-eating experience simply by adding a lot of calories.

Perhaps the most unusual food I cooked in a waffle iron was a mixture of seasoned rice and egg. This made an Asian-flavored rice waffle that I topped with stir-fried chicken. The result was a decidedly different way to blend Eastern flavors with a Western cooking technique.

It was delicious. And you can use any stir-fry you want. Basically, if it tastes good on rice, it will taste even better on a seasoned rice waffle.

I saved dessert for last: Waffled Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, you can even make cookies on a waffle iron.

And because you are heating them with direct heat on both sides, they actually cook faster and are crispier than regular cookies you bake in the oven.

They are easy to make and easy to clean up, and are decidedly different. They are chocolate chip cookies, but more fun.

Waffled falafel is served in a traditional way, with cucumbers, tomatoes and sauce inside a pita. Check out more waffle recipes with this story at www.yorkdispatch.com.

WAFFLED FALAFEL

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing waffle iron
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
  • 4 pita breads, halved
  • Your choice of chopped lettuce, sliced tomato, cucumbers, chopped sweet onion, pickles and hard-boiled eggs, for topping
  • 1/4 cup tahini OR1 / 4cup hummus thinned with water

Note: This recipe was made with an 8-inch square waffle maker.

1. Combine the oil, cilantro, flour, parsley, baking powder, cumin, salt, coriander, cayenne, egg whites, garlic and chickpeas in a food processor and process until smooth.

2. Lightly brush the top and bottom of the waffle iron with oil. Fill the waffle iron about three-quarters of the way full (some waffle iron should be showing). Close the lid gently and cook until the falafel is golden brown and firm in the center, about 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

3. Stuff each pita half with falafel. Add your choice of toppings and drizzle with tahini or thinned hummus.

Per serving: 555 calories; 30 g fat; 16 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 17 g protein; 62 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 11 g fiber; 1,271 mg sodium; 204 mg calcium

Recipe by the Food Network Kitchen

Waffled eggs made in a waffle maker, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

WAFFLED EGGS WITH CHEESE SAUCE

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for eggs
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • Black pepper

Note: This recipe was made with an 8-inch square waffle maker.

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, green pepper and mushrooms and sauté until onions are translucent, peppers are softened and mushrooms are giving off liquid, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, stir together half-and-half, flour and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and keep warm.

3. Preheat a well-greased waffle maker. Beat 2 of the eggs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour into the waffle maker. Close and cook until golden yellow and set, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and repeat with remaining eggs.

4. To serve, top waffled eggs with the onion-mushroom-green pepper mix and cheese sauce to taste.

Per serving: 320 calories; 23 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 413 mg cholesterol; 19 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 434 mg sodium; 248 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman. Cheese sauce recipe by Taste of Home

Waffled chocolate chip cookies, made in a waffle maker, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

WAFFLED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Yield: 12 servings

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Note: This recipe was made with an 8-inch square waffle maker.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the sugars and butter in another bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg until incorporated. Adjust the speed to medium low and add the flour in 2 batches, mixing after each one until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. If you have time, refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat a waffle iron to medium-low. Generously spray the top and bottom of the waffle iron with nonstick spray. Meanwhile, form the dough into 1½-inch balls. Working in batches, place 1 dough round onto each section of the waffle iron, close gently and cook until golden brown, 3 to 6 minutes.

3. Serve warm or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Per serving: 211 calories; 11 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 36 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 16 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 158 mg sodium; 11 mg calcium

Recipe by Food Network Kitchen

Waffled margherita pizza, made in a waffle maker, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

WAFFLED MARGHERITA PIZZA

Yield: 3 servings

  • 2/3 cup canned pureed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing dough
  • Generous 2/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 small garlic clove, sliced very thin
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 12-ounce ball of pizza dough, divided into thirds
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan, for sprinkling

Note: This recipe was made with an 8-inch square waffle maker.

1. Stir together the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, basil and garlic. Let sit at room temperature to give the flavors time to meld, about 1 hour.

2. Preheat a waffle iron to medium high. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out one-third of the pizza dough into a 6-inch round. Brush one side with olive oil and place oiled-side down on the waffle iron, then brush the other side. Close the iron (don’t press down) and cook until golden and cooked through, about 2 to 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

3. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce until hot. Spread each pizza with sauce and mozzarella (you might not use all of the sauce). Place one pizza back on the waffle iron and hold the top of the iron just over the cheese until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and garnish with basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil if desired and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat with the other pizzas.

Per serving: 506 calories; 12 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 6 mg cholesterol; 14 g protein; 77 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 1,065 mg sodium; 396 mg calcium

Adapted from a recipe by the Food Network Kitchen

Stir-fried chicken with waffled rice, made in a waffle maker, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

STIR-FRIED CHICKEN WITH WAFFLED RICE

Yield: 4 servings

For the waffled rice

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons white rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the stir fry (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1½ cups chopped bok choy
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine (shaoxing) or dry white wine, optional
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Notes: Use your favorite stir-fry recipe or try this one. This recipe was made with an 8-inch square waffle maker.

1. Make the waffled rice: If you have time, put the rice in a medium pot, cover with water by a few inches and stir until the water becomes cloudy. Strain in a strainer and repeat a few times until the water remains clear.

2. Put the rice in a medium pot with 1½ cups water. If you have time, let soak 30 minutes. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low and cook undisturbed until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Stir in 2 tablespoons sesame oil, sesame seeds, vinegar, sugar and salt. Let cool completely; the rice can be refrigerated up to 1 day ahead of serving.

3. Preheat a waffle iron to medium high. Generously brush the top and bottom with sesame oil. Stir the eggs into the cooled rice. Evenly spread about 1 / 4 of the rice mixture in the waffle iron. Close and cook until the rice is golden in spots and can be easily lifted out with a spatula, 2 to 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining rice mixture, and set aside.

4. Make the stir-fried chicken: Heat a skillet or wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil. When it shimmers, add onion, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly. After 1 minute, or if garlic starts to burn, add bell pepper and bok choy. Stir fry until bok choy is wilted and bell pepper is softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add chicken, soy sauce and optional rice wine and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is light golden brown on all sides. Add chicken stock and simmer until reduced by one-third. Stir in 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Stir together corn starch and water; add and cook until liquid thickens to desired texture.

6. Serve stir-fry over rice waffles.

Per serving: 536 calories; 19 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 157 mg cholesterol; 29 g protein; 59 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 1,009 mg sodium; 62 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman. Waffled rice recipe by Food Network Kitchen