Friday, February 25, 2011

Tropical Banana Bread

I have to admit I really wasn't planning to make banana bread when I got up this morning. I made the decision (or was it made for me) when I looked in the fruit bowl. My kids have this strange habit of leaving 3 bananas in there every time. It doesn't matter how many bananas I buy, I could bring home 4 or 24 and there would still be 3 left to get over ripe that they won't eat. Why, you ask? They have learned that 3 is the magic number of bananas needed to create a loaf of banana bread. Since the fruit bowl decided I needed to bake I went through the cabinets to see what else to use up today. Well, I still had the rest of the coconut from the cupcakes the other day and there is that bit of fresh ginger in the fridge and I have one more bag of crystallized ginger that I really should be using up. These items put me on the road to a Tropical Banana Bread that if I do say so myself is pretty darn yummy.

A note about crystallized ginger if you buy it in the baking aisle of your grocery store  it is pretty spendy. I have found it at Cost Plus World Market on the candy aisle for a much better price so if you have them nearby be sure to check them out. I have also been threatening to make my own but haven't gotten to it yet so that is a recipe for the future.

If you get right down to it this recipe actually has 3 types of ginger in it since the pumpkin pie spice also contains ginger. Can you tell it is a flavor I was in the mood for today?

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

Tropical Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium)
1/2 cup shaved coconut
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Grease and flour a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan and set aside.
In  a medium mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.
In a small bowl combine the remaining ingredients and combine with the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Allowing the batter to set up for 30 minutes will help the loaf to form a nice rounded top and to not crack as much.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  After the 30 minutes bake the loaf in the preheated oven for approximately an hour, be sure to test with a toothpick to determine if it is cooked through.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for a half hour, remove from pan and cool completely.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Savory Herb Shortbread

Are you looking for something perfect to serve alongside a bowl of soup or a salad. These Savory Shortbread are absolutely wonderful anytime. They have just the right blend of herbs and cheese and the nuts give a wonderful texture as well as flavor. I use different herbs, cheeses and nuts to change the flavor to go with what ever I am serving them with. You can even add a bit of a kick with some chili powder. So have fun with them and make them your own to go with your favorite flavors.

The only problem I have found with them is that they are habit forming, and they seem to find their way into my hand every time I walk through the kitchen. On the bright side they are super simple to make and bake quickly. If you don't have a food processor, they can be made by hand almost as easily but, go out and look at food processors they are  one of a few appliances that I really use all the time in my kitchen. I use mine all the time and it saves me a ton of work over having to do the same tasks by hand. 

Savory Herb Shortbread
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2  shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter (very cold) cut into chunks
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon dry sage
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
toast walnuts (in oven at 350 or in a skillet just watch them closely)
allow nuts to cool completely
Heat oven to 425
In a food processor bowl with the metal blade combine the cheeses 
and the butter.
Pulse until crumbly. Add flour, cooled nut, and remaining ingredients 
and process
until a dough forms. 
Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Pat each part into a 5" disc on a 
floured surface. Cut each disc into 6 wedges.
Place wedges on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 
for 6 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.
Serve warm or at room temp. Can be stored in an airtight container at room 
temperature for 3 or 4 days 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

I love Pineapple Upside Down Cake and I have been in this cupcake zone for a while so it was only a matter of time before the two came together. This idea actually came to me while I was watching TV the other day and I just had to try it. If you love pineapple upside down cake and cupcakes here is the perfect treat. 

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup pineapple juice (from can of pineapple for topping)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners

In mixer bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix together. Add oil, pineapple juice and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
Add eggs and beat for another 2 minutes.
Fill cupcake pan with batter about ¾ full, use an ice cream scoop or ¼  cup measuring cup to help get them even.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until baked through. Remove from oven and top with topping. Place under broiler until bubbly and starting to brown.

Allow to cool in pan 30 minutes before removing to rack to finish cooling

Pineapple topping
¼ cup room temperature butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup shaved or shredded coconut
1 cup crushed pineapple (canned) drained well
2 to 3 Tablespoons half and half

Combine in a bowl and mix to together to form topping. You want it to be slightly loose and spreadable. Use about 2 Tablespoons for each cupcake, there is enough here to top 18 cupcakes so divide it among them evenly.

Note extra topping is wonderful spread on toast and broiled to make it bubble.

16- 18 cupcakes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pumpkin soup

I first made this vegan friendly soup a couple of years ago for Christmas Dinner as a first course. I had decided to try it simply because the mix of ingredients were all ones we loved and I felt it would be a wonderful beginning to the big meal. It was so good I shared the recipe to with some friends who also loved it. Some of the people I shared it with have family members that can't do milk and this filled that craving for a creamy rich soup that tasted (and has the mouth feel) of cream but without the dairy products.

I know you will love this as soon as you try it.

Pumpkin-Bean Soup

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (15 oz) can white beans (canellini, white kidney, navy, etc), rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz) can vegetable broth
1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crushed
1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
dash of hot sauce
salt (to taste)
fresh ground pepper (to taste)
lime wedges (one per person)

combine everything except the lime wedges in a medium sauce pan, Heat through over medium heat.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze into the soup at the table.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Super Easy Baked Ziti

 Possibly the easiest casserole recipe ever!

I have been making this baked ziti recipe for so many years I'm not entirely sure where it came from anymore. The entire family loves it and it is requested on a regular basis by all of the kids. I love it because it is so no fuss that I could probably throw it together in my sleep. It only needs the 13x9 baking dish and a mixing spoon so the amount of dirty dishes is at a bare minimum and the ingredients list is only 4 items long (and one of them is water) and all are things I keep on hand most of the time. This dish has saved the day many times when we have un-expected dinner guests too. And yes, you are putting the pasta in the oven uncooked don't worry it cooks up wonderfully in the oven with the sauce and soaks up a lot of flavor from the sauce as a bonus.

Super Easy Baked Ziti
1pound ziti pasta, uncooked
1 jar of tomato based pasta sauce (24 to 26 ounce size)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

In a 13"x9" baking dish combine the pasta, the jar of sauce and enough water to fill the sauce jar. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover and stir the pasta and sauce. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese and return to oven for 10 minutes.

Allow to set for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8 people

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breakfast Bowl

I love to go out for breakfast and one of the things I look for on the menu regularly is a version of the breakfast bowl. I love them but I don’t love the fact that almost always the bottom of the bowl is filled with greasy shredded hash browns. When I make them at home I skip over the hash browns and use rice either brown or white for a version that is a lot less greasy and still filling and tasty.

This morning I woke up hungry and decided to make myself a breakfast bowl. I really wasn’t in the mood to wait for brown rice to cook so I used the white variety instead. I set the rice cooker up to do its job and read a few emails while I waited.(and yes that is my keyboard in the background I went back to reading my email when I got finished cooking it)

Breakfast Bowl
1 serving of cooked rice (keep warm or if using leftover reheat)
1 slice bacon, cut up
1 green onion, sliced
2 mushrooms, sliced
1 canned roasted chili pepper, cut up
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon soft cream cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste.

When the rice was just about done (you could also reheat rice leftover from last night’s dinner)  I browned off a slice of chopped bacon and then used the lovely rendered fat to cook a sliced green onion and a few sliced mushrooms (after removing the bacon to a paper towel to drain). I also had a single canned roasted chili pepper left over from my dinner last night so I chopped that up and added it to the pan with the onion and mushroom. At this point I seasoned my veggies with a pinch of salt and a little fresh ground pepper. Meanwhile I scrambled 2 eggs with a tablespoon of cream cheese, a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley, and a little salt and pepper. I added the bacon back into the skillet and added the egg mixture. I cooked the mixture until the eggs were cooked the way I like them. Then I placed the rice into my bowl and added the eggs on top. A very quick and filling breakfast without all the extra grease of the hash browns. 

serves 1

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beef-Barley Soup

Since our weather in the pacific northwest has decided to make a visit back to winter temperatures it seems like the perfect time for warm bowl of soup. I made this one while the kids were at their dad's house so it is a small batch (2 servings) but would be easy to increase if desired. It is nice and meaty a reminiscent of chili, perfect to curl up with on a cold winter night. In this recipe you will find that I add the seasonings to the meat and onion and cook it for about a minute before I add the liquid to the pan. I feel that this really develops the flavor much better than adding later especially the cumin really benefits.

Beef-Barley Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/4 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup barley
bay leaf
Brown the ground beef and onion in a 3 quart saucepan until cooked through, add the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper stir and cook about a minute. Add remaining ingredients and heat to a boil. Reduce heat cover and simmer for an hour  until the barley is cooked. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Serves 2

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mocha Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had promised  my youngest son that I would make some cookies today and I had planned to my make my normal chocolate chip cookies, always a favorite choice. I woke up last night in the middle of the night with an idea for a way to change them up a bit. I have to say the changes I made are fantastic and the kids both agree so  I am happy to share them here with you.

Mocha Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Using a mixer on medium speed cream the sugars with the butter until light and creamy. Add the instant coffee, vanilla and the egg and continue to mix on medium speed until well combined.  Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts and combine.

Using either 2 spoons or a cookie scoop drop the dough (about a heaping Tablespoon per cookie) onto un-greased cookie sheets.  Be sure to leave at least 2" between cookies.

Bake at 375 for 7 to 9 minutes until cooked, the centers will still be soft (these burn easily so watch them to find out the cooking time in your oven) Cool about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then move  to a wire rack to finish cooling.

makes about 4 dozen cookies

These cookies have a wonderful rich chocolate taste with a hint of coffee that perfectly accents the chocolate. Perfect with either a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Money Well Spent

I used to always cook my rice in the microwave oven (1 cup of rice, 2 cups water, and salt to taste in a large bowl cover and microwave 30 minutes at 30%) and it was fine. We didn’t eat too much rice and it was easy. The problem was white rice is kind of boring and I decided to start making brown rice, which we all like a lot better. So I went on a mission to find a good method to cook brown rice: I looked at the back of the package (always a good first resource) I looked in my extensive cookbook collection and I looked online. I found several methods and tried most of them. Unfortunately I really wasn’t too happy with any of them. They either took too long, took more attention than I wanted to give them or they were inconsistent in their results. One thing I kept seeing online was the Rice Cooker. I thought about it for a while and wondered would I ever really use it? Or if I bought one would it be yet another small appliance collecting dust in the back of the already crowded cabinet, only to be dug out from time to time to be played with and put back out of sight?

I was still contemplating the usefulness of the rice cooker when I happened to be walking through one of those big “super store” type stores and I took a stroll down the small appliance aisle. There were several to choose from and sitting off by itself was a sad little rice cooker with no extra bells and whistles and most importantly a price tag that read less than $15. I debated a while, would I ever really use it?? Well, it is cheap enough (hmmmm, would it work? After all, you do get what you pay for, right?) but I knew until I tried one out I would be wanting one. So, I decided what did I have to loose, $15 is certainly worth it to do some experimenting with and I wouldn’t be wasting too much money if I used it once and stuck it in the cabinet. I carefully placed the box in my shopping cart and made my way to the grocery department for a nice bag of brown rice. I took it home and read the little booklet that came with it quickly.

Into the kitchen the rice cooker and I traveled. All I had to do was add the rice, the water and seasonings, put on the lid, plug it in and turn the switch to cook. Easy enough. I checked it a few times and at the end of the cooking time sure enough the little switch changed from the cook position to the “keep warm” position. 

I finished cooking the rest of dinner and we sampled the first efforts of the new resident of the kitchen. It was really good, the brown rice was just the way we like it. Wow, that was really easy.

So that tiny amount of money (remember it was less than $15) is probably the best investment in kitchen equipment I have ever made. We eat brown rice at least once a week, many weeks several times.  So I can say if you want an easy way to add some whole grains to your diet and don’t want to have to spend a bunch of money look at rice cookers next time you are shopping.

As a note here, I will probably upgrade my rice cooker in the near future to one that can cook a bigger batch and maybe has some additional features, but I am really glad I spent the money to try this little one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Salad

Today I thought I would share with you my recipe for Macaroni and Cheese Salad. This is a great make-ahead dish and good for almost any occasion. It is also a nice filling, inexpensive dish so it is great for taking to potlucks and picnics too and it is even better the next day.

It seems like every time I pick up a magazine or turn on the TV lately I am seeing that we all need to add more whole grains to our diets. I started using whole grain pasta in this salad a few months ago and we really like the taste and texture even better.

I do change out the veggies in here depending on what is in my fridge at the time. This time I used chopped green onion, chopped celery, sliced black olives and shredded carrots. Use what you have and/or love, this is a great place to sneak a some extra veggies into your diet too. 

Macaroni and Cheese Salad

3 cups of whole grain shell macaroni
1/2 cup purchased Italian salad dressing
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups of fresh veggies, chopped or shredded (I used green onions, celery, olives and carrots
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend

Cook macaroni as directed on the package and drain. Add the Italian salad dressing to the hot macaroni and allow to cool about 20 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the macaroni and chill at least 4 hours before serving.
Serves 6 to 8 people

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hot German Potato Salad

Yummy, this is a recipe that I had misplaced for a long time and recently while trying to find something else I ran across it. I love this one and it is designed for 2 servings although it is super easy to adjust to however many servings you need at the moment.

Last night I made this for my daughter and I for dinner and she liked it so much she is making it for her boyfriend tomorrow night for Valentine's Day!

Hot German Potato Salad

2 medium potatoes
2 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
4 green onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon celery salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup water
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Cook your potatoes, I use my microwave to bake them (a really easy and fast way to handle them). When they have cooked peel and halve them lengthwise then slice.  Meanwhile cook your bacon until crisp. Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain and add the onions to the bacon fat in the skillet to cook until lightly browned and tender. Add the flour, sugar, celery salt and pepper and stir until bubbly. Stir in the water and vinegar and heat to a boil (stirring constantly) and boil 1 minute to thicken. Add the sliced potatoes and the bacon to the pan, stir gently to coat and heat through.
Serve warm.
Serves 2

Now all you have to do to change the number of servings is just multiply or divide your ingredients. For each serving you need one potato, one slice of bacon 2 green onions, etc.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Asparagus Time

I always love it when the produce department starts to have wonderful, tender thin asparagus! I have to admit that when I was a child I hated asparagus with a deep passion, but that was because my mom cooked it to death and then a little more. Now that I am in charge I love asparagus and in fact we have had it on the table twice just this week. This early in the season I love it cooked and served as simple as possible. Later when it is old news is time to add sauces and other flavors. Right now is time to celebrate simplicity. Since it is still a little chilly outside to fire up the grill I choose to oven roast this week and that is what I will be sharing today.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Fresh tender asparagus
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Snap off the tough ends of your asparagus and rinse under running water.
Spread asparagus on a baking  sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Roast for 8 to 10 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What I hope this site will be

 I thought I would begin by talking about what I hope to do here, there may be a better place to do this but since I am a beginner at blogging I have no idea. I have it in my mind to share my love of food and cooking and everything to do with those topics with whoever wants to listen to me. I hope to share recipes both tried and true family favorites and ones that are new to us along with my thoughts on foods, appliances, cooking and eating and whatever else happens to find it's way into my brain while I am sitting here.

I want this to be like you have come into my kitchen for a chat so grab your favorite beverage and a snack and lets talk food!