Tag Archives: cook

Almost Bananas with Guilt

banana breadGluttony. That’s a thing of the past with foodies. Now, restraint is the new gluttony. Slow food. Locavores. Eating closer to the bottom of the food chain. Yeah, those are the subtopics of the current chapter. As someone who purposefully does not purchase many fresh foods grown outside California, I must confess to one weakness … bananas. Grown outside my entire continent, sprayed with various chemicals to control their ripening, transported half way across the world using oil that we … ok, let’s stop there. Simply put, I like ’em. And, my teenage son goes through them with like they are candy when he’s competing in one sport or another.

As for over ripe bananas, the obvious answer is banana bread! I found a recipe a few years back that did me well. Sure, it required 3 bowls and used shortening, but it was some pretty good stuff. When that big ol’ container of questionable shortening was finally finished (banana bread being its only use ’round here) I went on an expedition for a new plan. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you banana bread made with 2 bowls and no questionable ingredients! This is straight from Allrecipes.com and incorporates several reader suggestions. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Slowly add dry mixture until just incorporated. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Notes:

* Go ahead and mush those bananas between your fingers …. its fun!

* When teen age kids are so excited over your banana bread and just pull the puffy top right off the loaf, take it as a supreme compliment.

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Szechwan Carrot Soup

carrot-soupCarrots. Such a quiet, unassuming pedestrian root vegetable. For years I avoided these dependable roots that seemingly were just filler in other pedestrian dishes. Need a sturdy veg for a stir fry or curry? Add some carrots. Need some color in a quick salad? Add some carrots. But, if we wait for inspiration, and honor the carrot ITSELF, we find beauty.

When I first found this recipe, I just had to make it. A quick glance at the directions led me to my favorite puree technique; cook up a few key ingredients in 2 o 3 layers, toss in a blender, and reheat. These make quick soups because the ingredients just need to be cut into chunks, making the whole process quicker and not requiring much attention. More importantly, anything with sesame oil, peanut butter, and red pepper flakes either had to be “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.” This one is either, based on your own preferences. I’ve shared this at a few events, and no one thinks it is just “OK.”

If you’re game, give it a go and let me know if you think it is “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • a 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

1. In a large heavy saucepan cook onion, celery, and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrots, ginger root, red pepper flakes, and broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients and in a blender purée mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids).

3. Return soup to pan and heat over low heat until hot, being careful not to let boil.

4. Serve soup drizzled decoratively with sour cream mixture.carrots

Notes:

* If you are of the “double the garlic and peppers” persuasion, as I am, resist your first time through this one. That little bit of red pepper truly does add quite a bit of pop to the soup.

* To speed this up a bit, chop the first batch of veggies, and while they cook, chop the second batch. Since you don’t need to worry about any type of presentation here, those perfectly cut vegetables are just not needed. Enjoy the break!

* When blending hot soups, do work in batches, don’t fill the blender more than about 1/4 to 1/3 full. I’ve found that removing the center from the blender lid, and gently holding a wadded up paper towel over the hole lets the steam escape as needed while also keeping the soup from flying all over your kitchen cabinets. Yes, this is experience speaking here. 😉

* The squiggly decoration is easily made by using a squeeze bottle.

How Do We Know?

I know I’m not the only one with a story like this…. Yesterday, my husband told me there was a phone message from someone in Kaleidoscope. That is the cancer support organization that where I cook for families with cancer via the Krockpot Brigade. Immediately I thought, how sad that Mrs. M passed away; I think I’m scheduled to cook for them next week. The message was actually about a change in Thanksgiving plans. Hmmm, in my mind it all just didn’t match up. Something was wrong.

Later that evening I received word that indeed Mrs. M had passed away that day. I had only met her once, but quite clearly, I KNEW what had happened. What a lovely lady, and her husband proudly showed me example after example of her craft work, glowing with pride at his incredible wife.

How is it that we just know these things?

Chilled Golden Tomato Bisque

Its summer time and the living is good. We’re continuing the simple life of easily prepared foods from the local farm stands. Smith Family Farm has an abundance of heirloom tomatoes and the question is just how to prepare them today. I ran across this gem at the epicurious.com site, tried the recipe as designed, and found true love. Ok, actually it was more like a crush on the first night when I did chill the soup a bit. It became true love after several more hours of refrigeration, with the cool flavors melding together in harmony. This clearly follows the mantra of “start with the best ingredients and don’t mess them up.” Enjoy!

Beat the Heat blog event

Beat the Heat blog event

Chilled Golden Tomato Bisque

(from www.epicurious.com)

Ingredients

1 pound yellow tomatoes
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon mild honey
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
Pinch of cayenne

Garnish: chopped red tomato and basil

Directions:

Coarsely chop tomatoes and purée in a blender with broth until smooth. Force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

Whisk in cream, honey, vinegar, cayenne, and salt to taste.

Quick-chill by setting bowl in an ice bath until cold, about 10 minutes.

Life is Good

I hear people go on and on about the loveliness of living in France where they just pick up a few items from the local farmer and all then enjoy some time relaxing with family, feasting on food that others can only dream of. That is how I feel about my locale.

Today, found a bit of chicken in the fridge and put some rub on it … always a strong start. Ran out to TK’s Best for some corn and tomatoes, and voila … we have dinner! TK’s Best is usually my go to place for eggplant, a variety of peppers, long beans, and other Chinese veggies. They had a rough go of it last year with the widening of the road and having their water cut off for a few weeks during planting season (go figure), so I like to give them a little more business when I can. Today I picked up just corn and tomatoes for tonight and was out of there barely $3 lighter. They also had flats of tomatoes for canning or whatever, which I plan to do annually, but ….

So tonight, while it may not be France, we’ll dine on BBQ chicken, locally grown corn and sliced tomatoes. Oh yeah, the whole plan with tomatoes this real is just to add a bit of kosher salt and pepper and let the tomato shine. And, while preparing our al fresco meal, we’ll chat, play darts, and toss toys for the dogs outside lakeside while watching the catamerans play in the breeze.

Like I said, life is good.

Squash Fritters

Seeing that I am in the “Ready for a Little Spice” phase of the Summer Squash Love Affair (see previous post), I made some yummy fritters with the squash kindly passed along by my neighbors. These can easily be made with zucchini, crook neck, or yellow squash. And their fried, and fried is good.

The trick with making these fritters is to be careful with the amount of moisture. You want just enough to hold the fritter together, but not so much that they will fall apart in the oil or cause too much oil to splash on you. Adding to that is the lovely information that the squash are plump full of water. After grating the squash, you need to either lay out a few layers of paper towels and spread out the graded squash then cover with a few more layers of the paper towels. Some people have perfected the take a few layers of paper towels, or a clean dish towel, put the squash inside, pull up the sides tightly and squeeze out the moisture. It took me just one bad experience with that last one to go back to the lay it all out flat method.

Ingredients:

4 medium or 2 large zucchini or yellow squash, grated with moisture removed

1/2 red onion, finely diced

3 eggs, beatten

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup flour, divided

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

oil for frying

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the onion, cheese, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. It should look like yucky baby food at this point.

2. Add the squash and 1/2 of the flour, mix gently.

3. Cover and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes. Remove from refridgerator and drain any visible moisture. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

4. Pour oil into heavy skillet, about 1/2 in deep, and heat on medium – high. When the oil is hot, carefully spoon large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, and flatten a bit. (If you leave them too round / tall, the middle doesn’t cook through.) When the bottom is a deep brown, flip them over gently. After the other side browns perfectly, transfer them to a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.

We served them with some Garlic dip from Primo, and the dip was much better with these fritters than it had been simply with chips.

Enjoy!