Breads · Brunch · Uncategorized

Going Bananas!

I’ve been spending the summer determined to relax and rest with the kids as much as possible. Even though we have been doing occasional outdoor activities, it is so darn hot and we don’t feel the need to keep up with the sun-scorched Jones. We are natural home bodies, and it is wonderful to do nice projects with them around the home or yard. We’ve been doing a fair amount of cooking and testing recipes for the freezer too. The reason this is so important to us is because during the school year, and when sports come back into season for our family, it feels like we have an activity nearly every night. This gets taxing on me since I have an infant and still fight on a daily basis to keep my thyroid energy levels optimal. As a result, I love doing as many things as I can in advance to lighten our burdens once it is the busy season.

I’ve been going bananas! Literally, bananas are constantly on my mind lately. Hah. It’s officially summer time in the valley, and for Las Vegas that means HOT. We like to eat as much fresh produce as possible this time of year to keep our bodies hydrated and not overheated. Sadly, one of the fruits that gets passed over is the overripe bananas. My family isn’t terribly picky. We all love bananas, but once one of them gets a bruise, my kids think it is ruined. That means I had to come up with a way to not let them go to waste. This was particularly difficult as I’ve never actually found a banana bread recipe which I absolutely loved. I mean, they’re all good, but none of them are outstanding.

I think I finally found the perfect banana bread recipe. It is adapted from Nigel Slater’s black banana cake. Instead, I decreased the amount of sugar because bananas are already sweet enough without help, and I increased the volume of the recipe to make it more practical for a large family. The best part? These beautiful loaves freeze wonderfully!! It will last up to 4 months in the freezer when packaged properly. Just take it, parchment paper and all, and wrap it up in a bread bag, and a freezer bag after that. When you’re ready to use it, pull it out of the freezer 8 hours in advance or the night before.

Golden Banana Bread

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 1 loaf

Ingredients

2 medium, ripe bananas

1 (half cup) stick room temperature butter

2 ounces brown sugar

2 ounces granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional:  10 oz. of your favorite chocolate chunks (I prefer 70% soy-free chocolate chunks)
and/or 8 oz. of chopped walnuts or pecans.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and line with parchment one 2lb bread tin.

Mash bananas with a fork in a small mixing bowl and set to the side.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  Add bananas, mix.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.  Gently stir in the flour and baking powder.  Do not over mix or it will make the bread tough.  Fold in optional chocolate chunks and nuts.  Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Tip: A plain toothpick should be able to come out clean when inserted into the center of the banana bread.

Breads · Brunch · Uncategorized

The 12 Days of Christmas, Day 11: Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding

Make your Christmas morning SIMPLE with this make-ahead show stopper. All you need to do is pop it into a preheated oven, before you unwrap gifts and it will be ready when you are.

This pumpkin pie bread pudding is a dream recipe because it is not only ridiculously simple to make, but it uses simple, inexpensive staples most everyone always has on-hand in their kitchen.

Pro tip: Always keep a loaf of stale french bread on top of your fridge or in your bread box. Its a great multi-tasker, whether for bread crumbs, bread pudding, or more.

In my fridge recently sat a lonely, partial can of pumpkin just begging to be used up. With the big holidays I try my best to prepare as many dishes in advance so that I don’t have to deal with many messes on the big day, so this was a no brainer. We don’t (yet) have a traditional breakfast which we do on Christmas mornings because our children are small and enjoy pretty much everything. This year I concluded, who doesn’t love bread pudding? It’s easy, versatile, and potentially more nutritious (or at least less unhealthy) than so many other breakfast staple options.

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Preparing to go into the oven!

You will need:

9×13 casserole dish, liberally buttered

1 loaf of stale bread, cut or torn into approximate bite size pieces

1 cup melted butter

12 eggs

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

pinch of salt

Whipped cream

Maple syrup

Toasted pecans

Directions: Cube bread and place into greased casserole dish. Drizzle melted butter over stale bread. In a large bowl, beat eggs, whip puree into eggs, then add sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Slowly incorporate milk, one cup at a time. Pour over the bread and butter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until sides are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean from the center.

Serve with whipped cream, maple syrup, and toasted chopped pecans.

Breads · Brunch

The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 6: Nuns Puffs

Want to feel like a bad*** in your kitchen?  Do you sometimes have visitors who will be coming for tea in less than an hour and you didnt have time to prepare something?  Wish you could whip up something special at the drop of a hat?

Memorize this:  “Half a cup, one cup, three-quarters cup, four.”

“1/2c, 1c, 3/4c, 4.”  (Say it again about 5 more times in your head.  It’s SO worth committing to memory.)

It’s that simple.  What is it, you may ask?  Pâte à choux!  You know, the fabulous balls of buttery pastry which are used for croquembouche (cream puff towers) and éclairs.  (Pâte= paste/pastry, Choux= cabbages/rosettes.  This is why you will always see the batter piped into small rosettes before baking for cream puffs.)  However, I am not going to make either of those with it today.  Éclairs and cream puffs usually use pâte à choux as a vehicle for fancy fillings.  Today I am going to let it shine on its own.

20171218_1143131992266626.jpgAs Nuns Puffs have gained popularity recently, even taking on different shapes, stories of origin, and even cooking methods, this is the original way I learned, and by far the simplest method to cook them.

All you need in addition to the ingredients is a heavy pan (I use a ceramic coated cast iron pot), a high quality wooden spoon, a muffin tin, and your muscles.  Now, you already know the sequence.  Lets add ingredients to it.

1/2c butter

1c milk

3/4c flour

4 large eggs

This makes one dozen puffs.  I always have to double it for my family (which is what I have done in the pictures, but not in the written recipe).  Oh, and before I forget, I want to share with you something wonderful: this recipe works wonderfully with 1:1GF flours.

Liberally grease (or butter) one 12 cup muffin tin.  Preheat your oven to 375.

Melt butter until it is lightly golden browned and starts to smell nutty.  Add milk and bring to a simmer.  I like to just barely scald it.

20171218_105220875735176.jpg(I adore the look of those foamy bubbles on the edges of the milk as it begins to scald.)

Turn down the heat to its lowest setting.  Dump in the flour and stir vigorously until it forms a semi-tight ball.

20171218_1056371934934236.jpg Just about there!  Now, let it rest for 5 minutes.

Then add your eggs, one at a time.  Mix it thoroughly until fully incorporated before adding each additional egg.  (Sorry!  I got distracted by my newborn and forgot to take a picture of what it looks like after all the eggs are incorporated.)  Now spoon equal amounts into your muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until theyre golden brown and pull away from the edges of your tin.

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I like to serve them with raw honey and a light dusting of ground cinnamon.  For less than 15 minutes of prep time, this is a pleasing presentation for your family on Christmas morning, or any time at all.  Happy baking!

Brunch · Soups · Supper

The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 5: Ginger Chicken Soup

Look, I get it. This is also a cheat because it is cooking, not baking. But you need this! It’s worth it. I justify it because it is good to have healthy foods to savor in the midst of the sugary goodness I keep promoting throughout this series. Oh, and this is a perfect use for the green tops of the scallions which I suggested you to save when you made your party cheeseballs.

Last month one of my sweeties had a relapse of strep throat. I’m constantly commuting with 5 kids in tow, errands and activities to and fro. My sweet husband took over dinner and enabled me to pick up my muffin’s Rx in peace, and he told me to buy myself a treat while I was out. (I had been dealing with a bad case of post partum depression for the first time in my life, and it was healthy for my well being to steal a moment away from the chaos. We will discuss more on the topic of PPD at a later time because it is an extremely incredibly important topic that needs to be acknowledged in our society more than it is.)

Well, next door to the pharmacy is my favorite grocery store. They are a (mostly) healthy minded grocer. One of my favorite things is that they have a hot soup station near the front of the store. I steal away to have lunch there often. This night one of the soups du jour was “Asian chicken soup.” I loved it!! When I got home I scoured the internet for a recipe. No luck.

This is when having basic cooking skills and an enjoyment for replicating or adapting recipes proves beneficial. So, on a cold night when you are feeling overwhelmed with your life and need a boost, here is a warm hug from the inside out.

Ginger Chicken Soup

3 large chicken breasts, shredded

6 cups chicken stock

8 cups water

3 bunches of scallions

16oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms (shitake are great too)

8oz sliced bamboo shoots

4 tablespoons soy sauce (or coconut aminos)

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons ginger paste (or freshly grated ginger)

Optional: 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginseng

Sesame oil for garnish

Shred chicken breasts by hand into tender bite sizes. Set to the side. Slice bamboo shoots into match sticks and sauté in olive oil. They are more enjoyable in this soup when they are slightly less dente than straight out of the can. Slice the green tops of the scallions at a diagonal. Spice the whites in paper-thin rounds. Add to the bamboo shoots and cook until nicely wilted. Add sliced mushrooms and cook mixture until mushrooms shrink to half their size. Give the mixture one light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add ginger and ginseng. Mix evenly. Pour chicken stock and water over the mixture. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with a few small drops of sesame oil. Serve while hot.

Stay warm, my friends.

Brunch · Supper

Savory Chicken Cheesecake

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savorycheesecake

Recently, my church had a dessert competition and game night. I have some delightful and frequently hilarious friends on my facebook page who like to make things interesting, and they started bantering about who would win in this competition and who would go home crying. Five friends, my husband, and I all got involved, and somewhere along in the conversation one of them mentioned chicken cheesecake as a joke. Well, for all of you who know my husband, this was a risky move, because he loves to take all the zany ideas he can and just run with them, and, true to his playful nature, he did just that.
So, being the overly tolerant, albeit brilliant, wifey that I am, I let him go for it. With my help and direction, he submitted the most delicious (savory) chicken cheesecake you could imagine. I know this was a dessert competition… It was just supposed to be a gag to get people’s reactions… Technically it should not have won anything, but it got second place! I think it must have been for all of those poor souls who do not enjoy sweet desserts nearly as much as I do, but trust me, this is still rich enough that it could be considered a dessert to many of us. (This makes two large casserole dishes worth, or possibly 3 large springform pans full. Divide the recipe in half if you need to.)

Ingredients & Directions:
Crust:
1 bag (about 24oz?) blue corn tortilla chips
1/2 c. melted butter
2 egg whites
Put chips in food processor, grind to a coarse powder (much like you would for a graham cracker crust). Add butter and egg whites, process one more time. Coat your baking dishes or springform pans with nonstick spray. Hand press into your baking pans into an even layer and chill in fridge until time to fill.

Chicken and Peppers Mixture:
(This makes enough for you to put half into the freezer for later. Use it for the next time you make this, or use it for some hash browns, an omelette, or some stellar enchiladas later.)
1 whole chicken, cooked and shredded
3 red peppers, diced
2 large onions, diced
2 cans diced green chiles (or fresh Anaheim chiles or Hatch chiles, and grilled and diced)
1/2 tsp. each of salt, pepper, ground oregano, turmeric, cumin, coriander
In a hot skillet, add olive oil and a pat of butter, onions, peppers, and chiles. Sweat until soft. Just at the end, crank up the heat and give them a nice browned exterior. (Tip: If you have a grill or non flat cooktop you can blacken them in advance and let them sweat as they cool, packaged in foil or parchment.) Once the veggies are cooked, add seasonings and chicken, mix thoroughly and set aside.

Filling:
(Preheat oven to 350 degrees)
32 oz. (4 boxes) cream cheese, softened
24 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
2 tsp. salt
8 oz. sour cream
4 large eggs
3 cups chicken and peppers mixture (above)
Whip together cream cheese, eggs, and salt. Slowly add sour cream, then add queso fresco, and mix one more time. Fold in chicken and peppers. Pour into pans over the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or until hot and slightly browned around the edges.

Topping:
2 large limes (just the juice)
1-1/2 c. crema
1 c. green salsa (we used a local brand that had lots of yummy grilled jalapenos and tomatillos)
1 c. fresh cilantro
2 large avocados
Dump it all, in order, into your blender and give it a whirl until smooth. Chill until the cheesecakes come out of the oven. After the cheesecake has rested 10 or so minutes, spread half of the mixture over the top of each pan.

Serve with a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and olives. Enjoy!

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