Friday, February 26, 2010

Banana Bread

Now, I'm not a huge banana fan. As in, if I never ate a banana again, I probably wouldn't miss it. But, I occasionally slice one over my cereal or eat one when there's nothing else in the fruit bowl and will eat them happily in baked goods. I've made Steph's banana oatmeal cookies so many times that I had to come up with a new use for the brown ones on the counter.

I won't tell you how many banana bread recipes I read before I settled on this one but it was a lot. I only had 2 bananas, wanted to make one loaf pan, and didn't want to use a whole stick of butter. This recipe turned out just as I had hoped. I thought the method was a little strange for quick bread (mixer, beating the eggs and sugar together, etc.) but it was easy and even my little sous chef liked the "cake." Next time I'd add the nuts for sure but I was serving little kids and didn't want to risk it.

In case you can't tell, this is her holding up the clean toothpick and declaring the cake "ready."

Banana Bread (1 loaf pan)
from Allrecipes

2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup nonfat milk
1 T vegetable oil
1 T vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or can do all white flour - same proportions)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 and spray a bread pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer), beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the bananas, applesauce, milk, oil, and vanilla.

In a a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture (I used my lowest speed) until just blended - don't overmix. Fold in the nuts (if using). Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

* I let mine cool in the pan and the bottom was soggy - next time I'll cool it out of the pan on a wire rack.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More fun with the Crockpot

I just finished off a big bowl of leftovers for lunch. Yum. Making Jambalaya last week reminded me of how easy the crockpot is and lately, I've been wanting spicy Mexican food. The problem is it tastes so good but isn't so great for the waistline. I"m certainly not claiming that this recipe is "real" Mexican food (or as good as Burrito Express.) but it's got a great flavor and is probably healthier than that JVC burrito that I wanted.

This recipe is half of the original and serves 4 but you can double it up and serve a whole lot of hungry people! The meat is optional and can easily be vegetarian if you leave it out. Every night I hope against hope every night that my daughter will eat what the grown ups are eating, so I toned down the spice in the recipe and added tabasco and red pepper flakes at the table.

No picture - imagine chili and that's about what it looks like.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup (4 servings)
from A Year of Crockpotting

1/2 lb ground turkey (or beef)
1/2 onion, diced
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with chiles (Ro-Tel)
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 packet ranch seasoning (I used Hidden Valley)
2 T diced green chiles from a can (or jalapenos)

For serving: shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Brown the meat with the onion and drain the fat. Put it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pot. Add the corn and tomatoes without draining, the seasonings, and the chiles. Stir and add 1/2 - 1 cup of water so it looks a little soupy.

Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. We broke up some tortilla chips and put them in our soup bowls, ladled the taco soup over the chips, and topped with the cheese and sour cream.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Birthday Treats

a.k.a check out my new camera!

Macarons from the French Corner Cafe and Bakery in Palm Desert

Cupcakes from Crumbs . . . my friend Katie brought me one and it was so good, my friend Steph bought a dozen for a party a week later. Don't I have the best friends??

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winner! chose #5 as the winner of my contest - congratulations, Amber! Thanks to everyone for your support this past year . . . keep stopping by, I'm not done yet!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jambalaya in the Crockpot

Today is the last day to enter my contest! Go to this post and check it out.

What's the difference between jambalaya and gumbo? Jambalaya has the rice incorporated into the recipe and gumbo is served over a bed of rice. I very loosely based this off of a gumbo recipe but made many changes, one of which was to add the rice to the pot while it was cooking.

I haven't been using my crockpot as much lately and it was great to put this on in the afternoon and not have to scramble to make dinner at 6:00 (or, make scrambled eggs for dinner which I've done recently). It's not the most earth-shattering recipe ever and I liberally doused mine with tabasco, but it was easy, healthy, and filling. Next time I'd add some more veggies (bell pepper or okra?). I loved how the chicken was shredding and falling apart by the end of the cooking time.

If you cook this longer on low, you'll have to play around with it depending on how your crockpot cooks. Maybe 6-7 hours on low. Mine was done in about 4 hours (3 1/2 on high, last half hour on low and I could have turned it off earlier because the rice was almost over done).

Chicken Jambalaya - serves 4

1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, chopped (I used chicken andouille from TJs - I'd choose something spicier next time)
1 c. chopped carrot
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped onion (TJs sells a Mirepoix which is already chopped carrot, celery & onion in this proportion)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 c. water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 tsp cajun seasoning
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
more hot stuff - tabasco, red pepper flakes - if you like
3/4 c. uncooked rice (I used jasmine)

Saute the carrot, celery and onion for about 5 minutes or until soft. Dump into the crock pot. Brown the chicken thigh pieces in the same pan and put in the crockpot. Add all of the ingredients except the rice and cook for 3 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low. Add the uncooked rice to the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes - 1 hour more or until the rice is done (mine took about 45 minutes).

If the notes on timing are confusing, use your judgment and the meat/veggie part is done when the chicken is cooked through and everything is hot and bubbly. Then, make sure the rice goes in about 45 minutes or so before you want to eat it. Check the rice a few times to see if it's tender and add more water if you need to / want to. It's hard to mess up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cinnamon Squares

Have you ever made something that was exactly what you wanted to eat? These cinnamon squares were that for me. It was the start of a weekend where I OD'd on cake (homemade coffee cake, my birthday, valentine's day, church potluck) but it was amazing. I was looking for something to bake without going to the store and I had all of this stuff in the cupboard.

The filling in the middle is awesome. I put too much batter on the bottom and had trouble covering the filling with the batter I had left so next time I'd pay more attention to that. I didn't make the chocolate frosting (but I'll include it in the recipe) and it was perfect with a cup of tea (oh, I miss coffee).

Cinnamon Squares
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the espresso together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using the whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, shiny batter.

Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter and smooth the top again.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean.

To Make the Frosting: Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Prize

Don't you want to win this? You can! Leave a comment on my last post by Friday, February 19!

A set of prep bowls from Sur La Table (BPA free)
Matching measuring spoons
A box of Godiva truffles
Ibarra Mexican chocolate (best hot chocolate ever!)
2 mini tabasco bottles (story coming soon . . . )

Not shown: Some homemade goody - probably granola bars

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy to Me!

Hello my friends! This is one exciting week . . . Saturday is my birthday but more importantly, today is one year since I started my blog. I hope you've enjoyed it and if you want to read about how it all came to be, here's my story and how my blog got it's name. I've really been having a great time blogging: it's made me try new recipes, "meet" new people through their blogs, started conversations about cooking and food with old friends, and helped me be more conscious about what I'm putting in my body (and feeding my family).

One unanticipated benefit has been the convenience of having many favorite recipes in one place - a few times of week, I'm looking up my own recipes on here and it's easier than the bulging, unorganized folders full of recipes I've been using in the past. Here are a few highlights:

Recipe I don't know how I ever lived without:
Chocolate Cake
What I make every single week: Granola
Best "Meat" recipe (despite my blog's title, I've had more baking recipes than anything): BBQ Beef or Chicken Enchiladas
Proudest baking moment: Cherry Upside Down Cake
Best "no sugar & no white flour" recipe: Brownies
Favorite Ice Cream: Umm . . . I can't choose. So, check out
the list

To celebrate, I'm having my first ever blog contest giveaway. If you know me well, you know that I *heart* games and I was tempted to make this a game with a winner who had to do / know something BUT, what I'm really curious about these days is who is reading my blog. I hear from family and friends that all these other family and friends read my blog and I don't even know about it.

So, to win the big prize, you only have to leave a comment. You can only enter once and you need to do it by next Friday (2/19). I'll pick a number at random to choose the winner and announce the winner next Saturday (2/20). If you want to say something other than "hi," you can tell me a recipe you've made and liked or a recipe you want to try or how you heard about the blog.

The Big Prize: A package with something homemade, something chocolate, and something that will make cooking a little easier. I'll mail it to wherever you are and if I get around to it, I'll photograph it so you can see what you might win.

Thanks for reading! I'm excited about Year #2!

Note: A couple people have had trouble logging in to comment - just pick "Anonymous" which is the last choice in the "Comment As" drop down menu and put your name at the end of your comment. If that still doesn't work, email me instead of commenting at

One final picture - just because she's so cute and I know she's the only reason some of you check this blog! This is her first mug of hot chocolate:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yellow Ones

I made these cookies and uploaded this photo about a week ago. Then I didn't write anything else because I felt like I couldn't do justice to the memory of these cookies and my Grandma Vi. My grandma loved to cook, bake, and eat. I have fond memories of her explaining why it's okay to eat dessert first; a freshly baked peach pie one night when we arrived at her home from our cross country road trip; sandwiches with cheese, salt and pepper, mustard, and garden fresh tomatoes; and these yellow cookies.

These cookies were my favorite. When I got married, my mom and sisters collected recipe cards from different relatives for my recipe box and I have this recipe in my grandma's handwriting. She listed the ingredients but doesn't put anything about the method for combining the ingredients, only giving the steps for chilling and baking: "Bake until delicately browned, just until, when touched lightly with your finger, almost no imprint remains."

On the back there was a note: "Bec - the Betty Crocker book says to bake in a 400 degree oven. Maybe I bake mine too slow. You will know how your oven runs. I know these are some of your favorites. You and Chad!"

Some of the other recipes she wrote have little stories on them ("Once your dad and I ate a whole batch of these pancakes") and I can just hear her telling the stories.

I've never made these cookies until last week. Maybe because it makes me miss my grandma or maybe because the original recipe called for 1/2 cup of shortening (Crisco) and I couldn't bear to bake with it. But, I substituted butter and they were wonderful. Nostalgia in a yellow cookie.

Sour Cream Cookies (about 4 dozen)

1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
2 3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl and stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Stir in the sour cream.

Chill the dough at least 1 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Drop rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake until delicately browned (see note above), about 10-12 minutes depending on your oven (see note above).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hot Breakfast Month

Do you regularly eat breakfast? I wasn't always a great breakfast eater and I went through a phase (okay, my twenties) where a strong coffee and pastry was a typical breakfast. But now, it's very rare for me to skip breakfast and I usually try to incorporate protein (hard boiled or scrambled egg, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese). We've all heard it before: skipping breakfast makes you gain weight, eat more the rest of the day, slows your metabolism, diminishes your ability to concentrate, and decreases your overall energy level throughout the day.

Even if you struggle to eat breakfast, if you have children, make sure they get a good breakfast. My daughter eats better and is less picky in the morning when she's hungry and I try to get more nutrients in her system early in the day. For school-aged children, poor school performance and a hungry stomach are often correlated. If your kids are resistant to breakfast, a glass of milk, a smoothie, a granola bar or some small amount protein is better than nothing.

In honor of National Hot Breakfast Month (February), I wanted to share an easy recipe for an egg casserole. The only hard thing about this recipe is remembering to put it together and in the refrigerator the night before. A few months ago, I was making breakfast for a group of friends who were staying in a cabin together, and my Aunt Sue suggested this recipe. Aunt Sue always has just the thing that you need - the right recipe, a tip for organizing or saving money or cleaning your house, a magazine - and this egg casserole was perfect.

It's a versatile base recipe and you can add whatever else you want to it. For instance, I added about a half cup of diced red bell peppers and a few tablespoons of diced green chiles. I bet green onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers would also be great. I halved the ingredients and made it in a smaller casserole dish - for an 8x8, half the recipe and it will serve 4-6.

Sue's Egg Casserole (9x13 pan)

10-12 slices of bread (I use French bread from the grocery store bakery)
1-2 cups shredded cheese
1 cup of cooked meat (optional) - bacon, ham, turkey, sausage
12 slightly beaten eggs
2 3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. mustard
1/2 t. salt (if desired)
any other veggies or spices that you want

Grease the pan. Break up the bread in the pan. Spread the meat, cheese, and veggies (if using) on top of the bread. Beat eggs in a bowl, add milk, mustard, other seasonings. Mix it all together and pour over the bread. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

If you want some other ideas for hot breakfast dishes, try these:
Baked Oatmeal
Waffles or waffles
Puffed Baked Eggs
Oatmeal Pancakes

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chicken Orzo Salad

Photo from Cooking Light, April 2008

I was thinking the other day that if I was going to write a cookbook, it might be called "101 Things to Make with a Rotisserie Chicken." When I'm uninspired, short on time, or trying to eat more protein, I often pick up a rotisserie chicken. However, we rarely just eat the chicken - I like to use the cooked meat as a shortcut for another dish.

For awhile, I was roasting my own chickens and I need to start doing it again, but it's usually about the same cost (if the whole chicken isn't on sale) and so much faster.

Last week I had the stomach flu - hardly appetizing information on a food blog, I know - but once I felt better, I had all this produce and food to use up before it went bad and I made this salad. It's high in protein, versatile, and easy. If you had leftover grilled chicken, it would be good in this recipe in place of the rotisserie chicken. I sometimes can find whole wheat orzo (rice shaped pasta) but I used the regular white variety this time. I thought a chopped avocado would be a good addition to this salad as well. If you prefer, you can use feta instead of goat cheese.

Chicken Orzo Salad (serves 4-6)
from Cooking Light April '08

1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups chopped spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 5 ingredients (through basil) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, oregano, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Other rotisserie chicken ideas:
Chicken enchiladas
Roasted Chicken and White Bean Salad
Chicken Pot Pie