Monday, April 7, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My middle gingersnap and I made this simple, yet moist and delicious bread to give as gifts to teachers before the Easter holiday.  I doubled the recipe below, which originally says will yield one loaf, but divided the doubled batch between four disposable loaf pans and it worked well.  We gave three loaves away, but I felt better about the gifts after I tasted the one loaf we kept at home.  Though if you're looking for a really special banana bread recipe, I'd point you to this one.    

A couple changes made from here:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease one 9x5-inch loaf pan, or use two loaf pans to get two smaller but still substantial loafs.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Stir bananas, milk and cinnamon in another bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in a third bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir bananas mixture into butter mixture.  Stir in dry mixture until blended.  Fold in chocolate chips until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes for one loaf or 50 for two.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Italian Meatball Sub Sandwiches

I'm not sure what prompted the craving, but I really wanted meatball sandwiches last week.  After a bit of searching, I decided to go with this recipe (which I made a few changes to that are reflected below).  I'm a sucker for using the crock pot.  And, whoa, were these great!  I loved the beef and sausage combo (also a winner in lasagna).  There was plenty of sauce to smother over the meatballs, and watching my husband eat the result reminded me of that Carls Jr. commercial that claimed, "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face"!  This made about three dozen meatballs and my family ate them all in a couple days.

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound Italian sausage

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
1/3 cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
Italian rolls, baguette, or other sandwich buns
Parmesan cheese or other preferred cheese for topping

In a large bowl, combine eggs and milk; add the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Add beef and sausage; mix well.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Broil 4 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes; turn and broil 2-3 minutes longer.

Transfer meatballs to a 5-qt. slow cooker.  Combine the tomato sauce and paste, onion, green pepper, wine or broth, water and seasonings; pour over meatballs.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.  Serve on rolls topped with cheese.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Creamy Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

I've made this twice since trying it out for the first time.  It's simple and a hit with everyone at my table.  You can make the meaty sauce to your liking.  Your goal is to have 6 cups of substantial sauce for flavor and texture.  It's good stuff!

24 oz jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1/2 lb. browned ground beef
1/2 lb. browned Italian sausage
(can substitute above three ingredients for approximately 6 cups of your favorite homemade meaty sauce)
1/2 bag (4.5 oz.) fresh spinach leaves, roughly torn
4 cups chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
16 oz. frozen cheese tortellini

Combine spaghetti sauce (and meat if adding it in separately), spinach, cream cheese, chicken broth, and mushrooms in a slow-cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 2-3.

20 minutes before serving, turn heat to high if it isn't already and stir in frozen tortellini.  Cover and cook for 15-20 more minutes.  Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nutella French Toast

I met up with a friend on our walk to school last Friday morning and she shared what she had made her boys for breakfast that morning.  My kids and I were drooling.  A nutella sandwich dipped in a sweet egg batter and fried on a hot griddle?  What's not to like?!  Thankfully, I usually make a special breakfast on Saturday, so we didn't have to wait long to try out this delicious idea.  It was a total winner!  We actually did a little taste test in the process.  I made one sandwich using Speculoos spread instead of Nutella, but we all agreed that the Nutella was better.  And the fresh strawberries were the perfect topping (though my son suggested that whipped cream would have made it perfect!).

The recipe my friend used can be found here.  Below is my guestimate of how I make french toast to feed my family of five and how this breakfast came together for us:

fresh strawberries, sliced
1 tsp sugar
thinly sliced bread
3 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
butter for frying

other optional toppings:
powdered sugar
whipped cream
drizzle of melted nutella
banana slices

Combine strawberries and sugar and let sit while you make the french toast.

Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a pie plate or shallow dish.  Set aside until you are ready to dip your sandwiches.

Spread a layer of nutella on one slice of bread.  Top with another piece of bread.  Repeat as many times as you want!  I made seven sandwiches in total.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 to 2 Tbsp butter.  

Dip each sandwich into egg mixture, soaking for about 10 seconds on each side.  Let some excess drip off then place in skillet.  Cook a couple minutes until lightly brown.  Flip.  Cook a couple more minutes until browned and heated through.  (Add more butter to skillet as necessary between sandwiches.)  Add desired toppings and devour!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Leek and Mushroom Bake with Polenta Crust

Though there are several assembly steps to this recipe , it can all be made ahead of time and didn't take that long to put together once I got rolling.  I'd never roasted leeks or celery before, and I added some bites of celeriac that were calling from the fridge and it worked nicely.  Everything came together easily and tasted great.  The dried mushrooms have a stronger flavor and add texture that fresh mushrooms wouldn't, though I might try fresh mushrooms next time to tame down the flavor a little. 

3 ribs celery
2 leeks, white part only
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups dried mushrooms 
1 recipe polenta crust
1 recipe Bechamel sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups coarse polenta
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

Bring water and salt to a boil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot. Over medium heat, whisk polenta into boiling water, a handful at a time, until it is all incorporated.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook polenta, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. It will become quite thick. Tip: While your polenta is cooking, prepare steps 2 and 3 of this recipe.
Remove polenta from heat and beat in butter. Pour onto a buttered baking sheet and spread out with a spatula into a rough 9×13 rectangle. Polenta will be moldable.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm or up to two days.

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly oil a baking sheet or roasting pan.
Wash and dry celery and leeks. Slice leeks into 1/4 inch ‘coins’. Chop celery ribs into 1/4 inch pieces also.
Place vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Give the pan a shake and rotate it at least once during the cooking process.
Soak mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes (Tip: you can make your Bechamel sauce during this time).
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium sauce pan. Bang garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife to bruise them and toss them into the butter.
Drain mushrooms, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and add them to the garlic butter.
Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in a medium pan or sauce pot over medium heat. Dump the flour in all at once and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for about two minutes to develop a little more flavor and avoid a ‘floury’ taste in your bechamel.
Gradually add in the milk, whisking vigorously to emulsify sauce and eliminate lumps. Once all the milk has been added, bring to a slow boil and stir until thick and smooth.
Season with salt to taste and reserve until ready to use.

Preheat over to 350°F and butter a 9×13 baking dish.
Combine roasted celery and leeks in the dish and spread out to cover the bottom in a single layer. Top with the sauteed mushrooms, uniformly scattered throughout.
Pour bechamel sauce over the vegetables and distribute evenly using a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Cut chilled polenta into rectangles and arrange on top of the bechamel. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Place dish in oven and bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, until top is browned and the bechamel is bubbling up the sides.
Serve at once.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Black Eyed Pea Salsa

I made this for dinner last night, serving it up next to cheese and chicken quesadillas.  I won't pretend the kids liked the salsa as much as the quesadillas, but they ate their portion and my youngest had seconds.  The salsa has great flavor and plenty of fresh texture.  It was even better the second day for lunch after everything had mingled in the fridge overnight.    

About 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked black-eyed peas (equivalent of 2 15.5-ounce cans, rinsed, drained; OR start with 2 cups dried, cover with salted water, bring to a boil then simmer about an hour or until the peas are fully cooked, adding water as necessary)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, mild green chilies OR 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeños (it's all to taste - I used half of a fresh jalapeño (no cooking) and 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños)
1/2 - 1 cup roasted red bell pepper, chopped
one bunch of green onions, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup total
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped, about one cup
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

This is as easy as throwing everything together and gently stirring until combined.  
Taste and adjust seasonings for your crowd.    
Serve with chips, nachos, quesadillas, or warm tortillas.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Orange Beef Stir-Fry

The Payne kitchen puts out a fair share of stir-fry.  It's one of my go-to meals when I don't really have a plan, but see a handful of random vegetables starring me down from the inside of the fridge.  So I added a few extra veggies to this, but stayed true to the recipe for the sauce.  It was good, but I was expecting more of the orange flavor to come out. 

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules (or 1 cube beef bouillon crushed)
  • 12 ounces skirt steak or flank steak
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 cups chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup water

  • In a small bowl, stir together the fresh orange zest, orange juice, cornstarch, soy sauce, sugar and beef bouillon. Set aside.

  • Thinly slice the beef across the grain. Lightly salt and pepper the beef slices. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until rippling and hot. Add the beef in a single layer. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until just cooked through, flipping and stirring occasionally. Remove the beef to a plate or bowl.

  • Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add the green onions and garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the chopped broccoli carrots and red pepper. Stir to combine. Add the water, cover the skillet, and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 2-4 minutes. Stir in the cooked beef.

  • Whisk the sauce to recombine and stir it into the skillet. Toss the meat and vegetables to coat in the sauce and cook the mixture at a simmer until hot and the sauce has thickened, 2-3 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked rice.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Orange Date Muffins

These were outstanding, best still warm.  The entire orange is used, so you get a real full orange flavor.  And I love that I could make most of the batter in my vita-mix!

taken from the Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt

1 large whole orange, washed and unpeeled
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut orange into chunks and remove seeds.  Place chunks in a food processor and process until finely ground.  Add juice, dates, egg, and butter and process until blended.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Pour orange mixture over dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Spoon batter into paper-ilned muffin tins, filling them about three-fourths full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes our clean, 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on a rack for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Apple Walnut Pancakes

After staying in my sister's home for a month and making myself comfortable in her kitchen, I came away with the decision that I was ready for an electric griddle.  I'd avoided one mainly because they seem like such an awkward device to store and my cupboard space is limited.  But she sold me.  So I asked for one for my birthday and my husband pulled through.  We've been eating pancakes, bacon, eggs, grilled sandwiches, and quesadillas like kings!  Mainly, I love my new kitchen friend because I can cook whatever we're having in at least half the time it used to take me to feed my family of five, which means the time I'm standing in the kitchen versus the time I'm sitting at the table with my family has a much better ratio now!  So here are the pancakes I made last Saturday.  We lingered at the table, myself included, and ate the entire batch!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cups milk
2 eggs, well beaten
2 Tbsp. oil
1 cup diced or grated apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flours, salt, baking powder and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Combine milk, eggs, and oil in a separate bowl.  Add liquids to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Add apples and walnuts, stirring just until combined.

Bake on hot, lightly greased griddle.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Walnut Mocha Torte

This is what I made for my Valentine last week.  His definition of a good dessert is anything that enhances his cup of coffee, so this was a winner.  The mocha topping was my favorite part.  I saved some to put on ice cream!  

6 eggs
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar (divided to 3/4 and 1/4 cup)
1 cup (120 g) finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup (55 g) fine dry bread crumbs (plain, unseasoned)

Mocha Topping:
1/2 cup (100 g) white granulated sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 cup (8 fluid ounces, 236 ml) strong coffee
1 ounce (30 g) of chocolate chips (a little less than 1/4 of a cup)
1 Tbsp butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (8 fluid ounces, 236 ml) heavy whipping cream
Separate the eggs, into yolks and whites.  Take care to make sure there are no pieces of shell or egg yolk in the whites, and that the bowl you are using to contain them is completely clean with no residue of fat. Any fat from yolks or oil will make it difficult to beat the egg whites.
Prepare two 9-inch cake pans. Line the pans with parchment paper or wax paper. Lightly butter the sides of the pans (not the paper).
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Mix together the ground walnuts and the bread crumbs in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the egg yolks into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Slowly add  3/4 cup of white sugar and continue to beat the egg yolks until thick and pale. (I use a hand mixer for this.)

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy.  Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of white sugar, and beat until soft peaks form.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, alternately with the walnut mixture.
Spoon the batter into the prepared, parchment-layered cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350°F (175°C) until a slight imprint remains when touched.
While the cake is cooking prepare the mocha frosting base. Place 1/2 cup of white sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a saucepan. Turn the heat onto medium and gradually stir in the coffee and the chocolate chips.  Stir continuously until the mixture starts to simmer and thicken quite substantially. Continue to stir while the mixture simmers for 1 minute. Then remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract until well blended.  Let cool completely. (You will incorporate this mocha base into whipped cream when you frost the cake.)

Remove the cakes from oven and cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a dull knife around the edges of the cakes to separate it from the sides of the pans. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Carefully peel back and discard the parchment or wax paper. Let cool completely.  Note that if you want to make ahead, you can cook the cakes first, let cool to room temp, wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze until you are ready to frost and serve.

Complete the frosting. Whip the cream until it is rather thick, just before that point to which if you kept on whipping it would turn to butter. This will help it hold up as a frosting. Once whipped, fold the whipped cream and mocha base together. It may be a little speckled, and if you fold it only lightly, you can have almost a marbling effect of light and dark with the frosting, if you wish.  Place one cake on a serving platter. Frost the top. Place the second cake on top of it, and frost the top and sides of the cake.  Serve immediately, or keep chilled until serving.

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