Banana Bread – the search for a great recipe

It’s getting better, my quest for the perfect slice of banana bread made at home. I have a food memory from childhood of a toasty, banana-y, buttery banana bread slice served at my grandma’s house. I’m sure it was store-bought. But I’m on a mission to try to recreate that memory taste.

Today’s recipe is almost there. I still need to tweak the addition of the nuts since those that float to the top of the loaf tend to get too much oven time. However, it’s good enough to archive the recipe to date. In fact, I’m going to go try another slice now that it’s had time to marry together and get to room temp (I might have scalded my tongue in my haste to try out the first slice.)

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Banana Bread
* 3 ripe bananas
* 1/3 c melted butter
* Splash of vanilla
* 1 egg
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp nutmeg
* Pinch of cloves
* 3/4 c brown sugar
* 1 tsp baking soda
* Pinch salt
* 1/4 cup chopped pecans
* 1 TBSP flax seeds
* 1 1/2 c flour

Mash the bananas in a medium bowl. Then add the next 7 ingredients. Mix. Then add the baking soda and salt. Add the flour and then the nuts and seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 mins in a buttered loaf pan. Make sure to check the loaf with a toothpick. It should come out clean when inserted in the middle of the loaf.

Serve with butter. Mmmmmm

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Scrumptious Breakfast Bars

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Like she says, it’s a recipe that is really flexible. Whatever your little breakfast heart desires, you can add to these bars (well, maybe not sausage or chicken fried steak breakfast desires but any dried fruit, nuts, seeds, flours…ya’ know, California type breakfast stuffs 🙂

These are perfect for the kiddos heading off to school for a quick and hearty breakfast to go. Truthfully, I liked them at all times of the day.

Yummy Breakfast Bars

Thick and Chewy Breakfast Bars (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 2/3 cup quick rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat flour (just blitz the oats in a blender to get flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups dried fruits and nuts chopped (I used cherries, raisins, apricots, pecans, flax seeds, chia seeds, and macadamia nuts)
  • 1/3 cup peanut or other nut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 TBSP melted butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP water

Directions pulled directly from SmittenKitchen: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)

Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

Making Room In the Fridge For Thanksgiving

We often have remnants of veggie odds and ends in our crisper. I’ll usually make a quick soup with the veggies, broth and some thyme and oregano. It’s a family staple. But I thought I’d try something new since I also had a bunch of eggs from the girls (our chickens).

This is also a quick meal you can prepare in the “week before Thanksgiving” calm.

Cleaning the kitchen frittata

Egg and Veggie Frittata (kinda)

  • 4-5 eggs, beaten
  • Any veggies cut into bite sized pieces (I used broccolini, cabbage, leeks, peas and zucchini) Leeks are really good in this.
  • 3 TBSP goat cheese (chevre)
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large non-stick pan. Add all your veggies and cook until just tender. Reduce the temperature to medium/low. Add the eggs and goat cheese. Move the bottom of the eggs around so they begin to cook through (but don’t stir). Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Flip the egg mixture and cook until fluffy.

Enjoy with a nice salad or toasted bread!

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

Ok, ok. I know. It’s not the season but I’ve been really delinquent in posting and really need to archive this recipe. It’s so damn good! Seriously. Mark this one for next Summer’s jam making extravaganza.

Summer Jam

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries (chopped)
  • 1 cup rhubarb (roughly 1 stalk) (chopped)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place a small dish into the freezer to use for testing the jam.

In a large deep skillet, add strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice. Heat and stir until it reaches a rolling boil. Boil and stir until it thickens, 10 minutes. When it seems like it is gelling, take your plate out of the freezer. Put a small spoonful of the jam onto the plate and let sit for 30 seconds. Tilt it. If it slides too fast, keep cooking. If it moves slow, it is done. Test every minute or two and do not overcook it. Spoon into heat-proof container and cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. I froze some and am still loving the fruits of a quick Summer’s bounty boil.

To can jam:
  1. Wash one 8-ounce (or 6-ounce + 2-ounce) glass mason jar with a two-piece lid with soap and hot water. Dry completely.
  2. Add the jar(s) and lid pieces to a large pot of boiling water deep enough for the jar(s) to be completely submerged in water. Once the water is boiling, leave the jar(s) in there until ready to use.
  3. Remove the jar(s) and lids from water and drain out all of the water from the jar. Keep the water boiling. Spoon the jam into the jar(s). Wipe excess jam off the rim of the jar(s) so it will seal properly. Add the lid. You may want to use an oven mitt so you can hold the jar(s) still.
  4. Place sealed jar(s) back into the boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Make sure it is submerged in the water. Remove from the water and let dry on a heat-resistant surface for 18-24 hours. Once cool, press down on the lid. If it stays down, it is sealed. If it pops back up, put in the refrigerator and use within two weeks.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Do you ever have a craving that the grocery store just can’t satiate? Add to that an overwhelming desire to just sit on the couch and do nothing, and you might not be able to curb that craving. However, this recipe is so easy and delicious it’s super easy to get motivated.

Make this for your day after Thanksgiving breakfast treat and you’ll be happy to put a pot of coffee on and continue being thankful for life’s little joys (like not cooking after days of slaving over the stove).

This can be made 3 days in advance…it only gets better with time.

blueberry crumb cake

Blueberry Crumb Cake (by SmittenKitchen)

Serves 8 in big wedges or 16 in the 2×2-ish-inch grid I cut mine roughly into

Topping:
5 tablespoons (40 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

Cake:
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (i.e. 1 3/4 cups + 3 tablespoons or 240 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint (2 to 2 2/3 cups, 12 to 16 ounces, or 340 to 455 grams; see Note) fresh blueberries, clean and dry
1/2 cup milk, whole is ideal, any kind should work
1/2 cup (55 grams) walnuts, chopped medium fine (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan (with at least 2″ sides) and dust it lightly with flour; line it with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture until just combined, followed by 1/2 the milk; repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk, finishing with the dry mixture. The batter will be very stiff, but don’t fret. Fold blueberries into cake batter until evenly distributed.

Scoop cake batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is flat. If using walnuts, scatter them on top. Sprinkle with prepared streusel. Bake in heated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out batter-free. You can let the cake cool complete in the pan on a rack, or just cool it in the pan for 20 minutes before flipping it out onto a cooling rack, removing the parchment paper lining, and flipping it back onto a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using.

Do ahead: Cake keeps covered with plastic or foil at room temperature for three days. If longer, it might be best to keep it in the fridge. It gets more moist each day.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Warm and Comforting Oatmeal

I really don’t understand how oatmeal got a bad wrap. It’s similar to mashed potatoes from a comforting perspective. It can be sweet or savory. It gives us tons of energy and it can be as healthy or as unhealthy as you’d like. And it’s super easy to make. What’s not to like about this versatile dish?

Soak some tonight and give it another try tomorrow morning. It’ll be worth it on these cold mornings.

Note: it’s important to soak oats overnight to breakdown the phytic acid in the outer coating of the oats to make sure you don’t impair your ability to absorb important minerals through digestion.

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Oatmeal
Serves 2
• 1/2 cup rolled oats
• 1 cup water for soaking and another 1 cup or so for cooking
• pinch of salt
• any toppings you’d like (savory: bacon, chives and cheese. Or my fav sweet: berries, roasted pecans and flax seeds)

The night before: Put the oats and water in a large bowl. Cover with a clean towel. The oats will expand in size.

The next morning: remove the water from the soaked oats. Put the oats, salt and a new 2/3 cup of water in a pot. Simmer until cooked (~20 mins). Add more water as necessary.

Top as you’d like and enjoy.

Cooking by the Camp Fire

I went all out at this year’s annual 4th o’ July camping trip. No, I didn’t stay up late, hooting and hollering over charades. In fact, I was in bed before the kids most nights. And no, I didn’t start my day with Mary’s and continue with beers/wine until sundown. Rather, I prepped and cooked my toosh off.

I made Jan’s cobbler, fried donut holes, made Schmitty’s chicken and taziki wraps and topped it all off with firepit pizza – which was by far, the biggest success. I’m still craving it.

Next time you go camping or have a craving for delicious cobbler, donuts or pizza, try out these recipes. They were a big hit!

Jan’s cobbler
* 3 cups blackberries (or combo of berries)
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 3/4 cup rolled oats
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/8 cup grated asiago cheese
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 oz butter (chilled and cut into 1/4″ bits)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly butter a deep pie dish (or you can double the recipe and use a 9×12 baking dish). Put the berries in the dish. In a separate bowl, mix the next five ingredients. With fingers, squash in the butter with the mixture until its course and crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

Let it cool before diving in. This travelled really well in the cooler and tasted great chilled.

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Schmitty’s Chicken Wraps
* 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1 TBSP dried oregano
* zest of half a lemon
* pinch of salt and pepper
* 3 garlic cloves minced
* pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
* 1/2 red onion, sliced in strips

Wisk everything together in a medium bowl. Reserve half the marinade. Out chicken in a ziplock bag with half the marinade and freeze if you’re going camping.

The night before heading out, put the tomatoes an onions and the other half the marinade in another ziplock bag and leave in the fridge.

Grill off the chicken over the camp fire and serve with wraps, taziki and the marinated tomato mixture.

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Camping Donuts
* 1/2 cup veggie oil
* 1 package of instant biscuits (you know, the kind that pops out of the canister)
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/8 cup cinnamon
* 1 brown bag and some paper towels

Put your sugar and cinnamon into the brown paper bag and set aside. Heat up the oil in a frying pan over med/low heat.

Break each biscuit into four pieces and roll into a ball.

Gently drop one hole into the oil. It should create bubbles instantly around the edges. Put the rest of your holes in the oil but don’t crowd the pan. You’ll need room to turn the holes over as they cook.

As soon as they’re golden brown, drain on paper towels and then drop into the paper bag. Give ’em a little shake and then watch them get gobbled up.

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Camp Fire Pizza
* 1 package ready-made pizza dough (you can handmake the dough if you’re motivated, just freeze it for better travel)
* 1 container of marinara (I got the stuff from the refrigerated section)
* 1/2 cup mozerella, 1/4 cup parmesean, 1/4 cup asiago – all grated
* olive oil
* dried oregano
* toppings (we did two pepperonis and one zucchini and summer squash) we obviously tripled the recipe
* disposable grate for grill

Get the coals ready.

Cut up any toppings really thin (they don’t really cook).

Roll out the dough – I just pulled on the sides until it was pretty even and rather thin.

Rub olive oil on one side and place the oiled side down on the disposable grill. Set this on the campfire grate and stand watch. It’ll bubble and get chat marks. It should be done in about 2-5 mins.

Remove from the fire and oil the top side. Flip the pizza and top the recently cooked side with sauce, cheese, toppings and a sprinkle of oregano. Top with a foil tent and place back on the fire. Cook for another 2-5 mins checking the bottom and rotating when necessary.

Pull it from the fire. Cut it up. And wait for the OMGs.

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