Monday, May 31, 2010

I have how many bananas in the freezer?

When we moved to this house I was a little embarrassed at how many bananas were in our deep freezer.  I think it was 13 or so.  It's been over a year since the move and I've cooked through all of those bananas but yet the freezer never seems to be without them.  That's OK though because we love banana bread.  My only problem with banana bread is that it always seems to be so greasy.  I have now found a recipe, and modified it a little bit, so that we have lovely, moist banana bread that isn't excessively greasy.  And it passes the kid test; K & P love it.

Best-Ever Banana Bread
Adapted from Favorite Family Meals by Annabel Karmel
Yields 2 loaves

1/4 c butter
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 c    brown sugar
1       egg
1 lb   bananas, mashed (about 3 bananas)
3 T    plain yogurt (I use heaping tablespoons)
1 t     pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t     baking soda
1 t     ground cinnamon
1/4 t  salt (more than half of the time I omit this)
3/4 c  raisins (we love them but they are certainly optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line two loaf pans. 
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then add the egg and continue to beat until smooth.  I use the paddle attachment on my mixer for this.
  3. Add the bananas, yogurt and vanilla.  I don't pre-mash my bananas but rather let my mixer do all of the work.
  4. Stir together, preferably using a whisk, the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and add to banana mixture in at least two additions, mixing well in between each.  Rather than sift the dry ingredients together I stir them with a whisk per Martha Stewart.  (Whom I love.  But more about that another day.)
  5. Mix in the raisins.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour rotating the pans after 30 min.  The loaves shouldn't be jiggly and a sharp knife or toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the centre of the loaves.

The original recipe says that it makes 1 loaf and yields 8 slices.  That's one crazy large loaf with very generous slices.  I make two loaves and get about 14 1.5cm slices per loaf.

Note about the loaf pans: I use silicone loaf pans that I sit inside disposable aluminum loaf pans.  I have found that I have to sit the silicone pan inside something or else one of the sides gives and I have banana bread batter all over the bottom of my oven.  Trust me when I tell you that while this smells delicious, it's a real pain to clean up.  Oh, and lest you think I'm not environmentally friendly, I keep reusing the same disposable pans.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Food Revolution Friday

On the menu today, Jamie Oliver's Chicken Korma.  I had planned to make it yesterday but with the kids sick, me sick and the chicken still frozen it just wasn't going to happen.  In an effort to make it happen today I chopped the onions, ginger and cilantro stems while the kids played.

Please ignore the messy kitchen towels in the background.  P is extra clingy due to the cold - so these were taken while holding her and trying to focus the camera.

I think it looks like a lot of ginger but I do quite like it and it's supposed to be good to eat when sick so here we go!
The onions, cilantro stems and ginger sweating in the hot oil. It smelled absolutely amazing.

Browning up nicely.  Some of it got a little more brown/black than I wanted but what can you do with a clingy toddler?
This is the final product.  So delicious.
For the life of me I can't get Blogger to recognize the picture the other way.

Again, Blogger wouldn't cooperate.  Sorry.

I made the first iteration of the salad per Jamie's book.  That means I didn't add seeds, clementines or the feta.  The only change I made was to use 5T of olive oil not 6T.  Amazing. The mint was very refreshing.  A nice compliment to the curry.

The kids had never had curry before so I wasn't sure how it would go over.  They ate it up.  Not quite with the gusto I was hoping for but they both, eventually, cleaned their plates.  P ate about half of her carrot salad and K finished his.  I will admit that it might have been the threat of no dessert that motivated him.

I also made banana bread today but I'll save that for another post.

Toffee Shortbread Anyone?

When it comes to baking, very little can not be improved with the addition of toffee bits.  Yum yum!  They are an integral part of more than one of my favourite cookie recipes.  I made these for a BBQ on Victoria Day weekend.  

The first time I made these cookies I ate almost all of them myself in two days.  Since then I've been able to use a little more restraint but just barely.  If you should try to freeze them so that you stop thinking about them sitting on the counter I won't mention that they are almost as good frozen.

Toffee Shortbread Cookies
Makes approx 4 doz

1 c     butter
1/2 c  icing sugar
2 t      vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c  cornstarch
3/4 t   baking powder
1/4 t   salt
1 c     toffee bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Scrape down the sides and beat again for another minute or two.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.  Stir half into the butter mixture and mix.  I didn't mix for too long and I scraped down the sides and let the mixer go around a couple of more times.
  4. Stir in toffee bits and remaining flour mixture.  Mix until combined but do not over mix.  This means stay close and don't let the mixer keep going once everything is together.
  5. Roll dough into small balls and place on prepared cookie sheet.  Should I ever get a small ice cream scoop for making cookies I would use it here.  But I don't have one so I did my best to make them all the same size.
  6. Bake in the oven for 14 - 18 min, rotating the cookie sheet half way through.  I only put one cookie sheet in the oven at a time with these as they have given me some trouble.  The blame really lies with my finicky oven and not so much with the cookies themselves.
  7. Let cool on the cookie sheet for approx 2 min and then remove to a cooling rack.
  8. Dust with more icing sugar if desired.  I've never done this but some of you may like to.
Raw cookie dough deliciousness.

15 cookies ready for the oven.

A minute or two to cool before moving to the cooling rack.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I love lunch

And who wouldn't, when this is what's served?

Baby spinach, cucumber, red pepper, avocado, steamed zucchini and diced chicken with Kraft Fig Balsamic dressing.  Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm. It's not my favourite salad dressing but this was a delicious salad.  And a regular lunch item for me.  Can't wait for lunch tomorrow!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Small Appliances

I love me a kitchen appliance.  I have quite a few of them: food processor, mini food processor, blender, coffee maker, toaster, stand mixer, ice cream maker and the most recent addition, the panini maker.

A decade or so ago I would have found this list to be a little over the top.  But only because of the ice cream maker and the panini maker.  "Who needs to make their own ice cream?  I'll never do that."  Ha!  Clearly I've reconsidered.  And the panini maker, well, I blame my father.  No really.  It's all his fault.  
He bought a cheap panini maker last year after having a most delicious sandwich in Montreal.  Since then there's been no turning back.  I quickly followed suit with the cheap panini maker.  What delicious lunches we were having.  I even used it for a burger or two when I was too lazy to fire up the BBQ.  

Months a later, while vacationing at my parents' condo in Florida, we bought a Cuisinart Griddler Gourmet at Costco.  Have I mentioned my love of Costco before?  No?  Well, that's a story for another time.  Back to our trip to Florida.  Shortly after falling in love with the panini both my father and I decided that our cheap panini makers were not enough.  (This may actually have more to do with our mutual love of a kitchen gadget but we'll never admit it.  At least I won't.)  As such we were pricing out the Cuisinart ones and found them to be at least $150 CDN.  Yikes!  As much as I love a panini and a kitchen appliance, I'm not completely without limits.  Back to our trip to Florida.  The Costco local to my parents' winter residence was selling the Cuisinart Griddler Gourmet for $60 USD.  Woohoo!  We picked up one and they picked up two; one for their Canadian home and one for the American.

Here's my lastest lunch: thin whole wheat sandwich bun, alfredo sauce, avocado, provolone, spinach and tomato.  Gooey and juicy.  Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yummy Crunchy Goodness

Once upon a time my mother-in-law gave me a recipe for some sort of apricot dessert bar from Gourmet magazine.  It is heavenly.  I may make it again.  But I have to psych myself up as I am prone to eat the whole pan.  I won't be making it anytime soon.  Anyway, on the same page was a recipe for granola.  I think I made that before I made the apricot dessert.  I didn't find it hard but I found it time consuming.  It was delicious.

Fast forward to a few months ago when my friends and I got together to have a cooking day.  We made soups, tomato sauce and this most gratifying granola.

Yummy Crunchy Goodness
Adapted from Alton Brown

3c large flake rolled oats
3c rice crispies
1c slivered almonds
3/4c sweetened shredded coconut
1/4c plus 2T brown sugar
1/3c maple syrup*
1/4c canola oil
1c raisins - optional

  1. Preheat the over to 250F.
  2. Mix the rolled oats, rice crispies, almonds, coconut and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Possibly the largest one you own.
  3. In a small mixing cup, combine the maple syrup and vegetable oil.  Pour over rolled oat mixture.
  4. Mix, mix, mix and then mix some more.  You want to make sure that the soon to be granola goodness is thoroughly covered with the oily maple mixture.
  5. When you are convinced that everything is well covered spread it out over one, preferably 2 large rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes until everything is beautiful and brown. If you use 2 baking sheets it will probably take 1hour and 15 min.  With just one you're looking closer to 2 hours.  Regardless of the number of baking sheets, I strongly recommend that you rotate the sheets every time you stir and change rack if using more than one.  My current oven has terrible hot spots and if I don't watch it carefully things overbake easily. 
I make two batches and use 1 large rimmed baking sheet per batch so it takes me a couple of hours BUT we then have enough granola for about a month.

The original recipe calls for real maple syrup.  I always have real maple syrup in my fridge because I'm a bit of a maple syrup snob and I only like the real stuff on my pancakes.  For this granola I use Light Table Syrup because it's a less expensive and little runnier so there's better coverage.  Use whatever floats your boat.  The granola will be delicious regardless.  

Friday, May 14, 2010


My husband and I took the kids to visit their grandmother this week.  It was a whirlwind visit; down and back, an hour and a half each way, in the same day.  We ended up with two tired and cranky kidlets, two fatiguing parents, a puking dog (our greyhound gets car sick - always fun), and just over two pounds of fresh rhubarb.

My little kitchen helper K and I got to the ice cream this morning. Chopping, stewing, pureeing, scalding and mixing.

Post-two hour chill.

Bliss in an ice cream maker.

The finished product. Creamy deliciousness.

Rhubarb cheesecake coming soon...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ragu Bolognese

I had big plans for the weekend.  They involved spending lots of time cooking and a little bit of time cleaning.  Neither happened and I'm not really sure why.  Regardless, I've rescheduled my cooking and cleaning plans for this week.  Seriously who am I kidding?  As a SAHM, one day is almost like the next so it doesn't really matter to me.  The only thing I try not to do on the weekend is shop.  I've never liked grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday; crowded stores, grumpy people, parents dragging their uncooperative children, and the little old ladies and men.  I've never understood why a certain segment of the retired community insists on shopping with the rest of the working world.  It drives me crazy.  Consequently, I have vowed to not shop on the weekend unless absolutely necessary.  Those of you that have to shop on the weekend don't need me and my kids slowing you down.  You're welcome.  ;)

Back to my bolognese sauce.  My goto meat ragu is from the magnificent How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  That sauce is extra meaty and delicious and I always make a double batch so I can freeze some or make a lasagne.  Yum yum!  Yesterday I was flipping through Molto Italiano by Mario Batali, because I like to read cookbooks (no judging please), and decided to try his ragu bolognese.  

I used my food processor to chop the onions, celery and carrots.  I even used it to chop up the bacon.  The recipe calls for pancetta or slab bacon but I used regular Kirkland smoked bacon.  Again, please don't judge.  It's what I had in the house.

Thanks to my most beloved food processor, I was able to make the sauce in just over an hour and a half.  Sounds labour intensive but it really wasn't.  An hour of the time is unattended simmering time.  Yay!

Absolutely amazing.  Heavenly.  Marvelously meaty.  I can't say I'm surprised really.  I love his recipes.  I'm not willing to say if I like it better than Mark Bittman's without a side by side taste test.  Similar yet different.  I'm having difficulty not digging into the pot and eating large spoonfuls of it.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lunch for three

Lunch for a preschooler, toddler and myself can be a challenge.  This is what we had yesterday.

The toddler's, P, lunch: cucumber, avocado, cheese, roast chicken and leftover mac & cheese.

The preschooler's, K, lunch: half a panini on whole wheat thin hamburger bun with mayo, cheese, and baby spinach with a side of cucumber.

My lunch: panini on whole wheat thin hamburger bun with alfredo sauce, the last of the roast chicken (2 tiny pieces), cheese, tomato and avocado.  YUM!  I'd love another one right now.

Pictures are worth at least 1000 words

Now I want to make all of these things again.

The Pioneer Woman's prune cake.  Yum!

Ground pork with homemade sausage spice.

Friday night pizza: the Pioneer Woman's pizza crust, toppings inspired by Annie Eats

The best stock recipe courtesy of Canadian Living's slow cooker cookbook.

Chocolate chip cookies courtesy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.