Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baking Cake Part 1

I'll have a post about our family vacation soon - need to get some details so I can share a recipe with you. But, when we got back from vacation, I hit the ground running with baking. First up, the church potluck. We have potluck once a month and my daughter just loves potluck Sundays. I hadn't signed up for anything the week before so I decided to make a dessert. I've been diligently buying bananas thinking the potassium will help with the leg cramps I've been having but I don't really like to eat bananas so . . . you guessed it, lots of brown bananas hanging around. Four of them went into this banana cake.

You can put chocolate chips or chunks into the cake but I left them out and did a chocolate frosting instead. I think the frosting was a little rich for this cake and maybe milk chocolate would be a better pairing with the banana flavor. Either way, it was easy to make and tasty and gone by the end of the potluck. The batter was so fluffy I had to take a photo of it.

I think this recipe is a good candidate for substituting some whole wheat flour - I'm out so I didn't. I used plain nonfat greek yogurt instead of sour cream. My cake started getting really brown before the middle was done so I turned down the temperature a bit and tented the top with foil during the last 15-20 minutes of baking.

Classic Banana Cake
Original recipe from Dorie Greenspan in "Baking From My Home to Yours"

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg, at room temperature
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cup)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
5 ounces chopped chocolate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9x13 pan. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, beating for about 1 minute after each egg.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't be disturbed if the batter curdles), all the sour cream or yogurt, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped chocolate by hand. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top (batter will be fluffy).

Bake for 40-50 minutes. Cake is done when a tester comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Put foil loosely over the top of the pan if the cake is browning too much toward the end.

Frosting: Melt 5 T butter (chopped) with 12 oz chocolate (chopped - I used bittersweet but semisweet or milk chocolate would probably taste better) in a heavy sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring until shiny and smooth. Let cool slightly and frost the cake with it.

*Note on amounts / pans: Half of the recipe will make 12 muffins or one 8x8 pan (decrease baking time to 25-30 minutes). This recipe makes one 9x13 pan or a 9-10 inch (12 cup) bundt pan. For the bundt, bake for 65-75 minutes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mango Sorbet

A few months ago, my daughter discovered her great love of mango smoothies from Jamba Juice. She was calling them "mingo" smoothies and it wasn't until one day at the zoo that I figured out she thought her smoothies were the same as those pink birds . . . flamingo / mango = same thing to her. Gross!

I cleared up the misconception and she wanted to see what one looked like at the grocery store. So, we bought a bunch of ripe mangoes and instead of making smoothies, made some ice cream. Well, technically sorbet because it was mostly fruit and sugar - no milk products or cream. The consistency was less like a traditional sorbet and more like a gelato because of the thickness of the mango puree. And, my confession is that my husband and I ate it all (half batch) while my daughter was asleep so she never even got to taste it.

Mango Sorbet (4-6 servings)

3/4 cup sugar
2 cups pureed, ripe mango
2 T fresh lime or lemon juice
pinch of salt

Make a simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Stir in the pureed mango (I used a mini chopper to puree but a food processor or blender would work fine). Add the last 2 ingredients and chill the mixture until it's nice and cold (I put it in the refrigerator for a few hours). You can make it up to this step and refrigerate for a couple of days if you want.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions - mine took about 25 minutes in the ice cream maker. After it came out of the ice cream maker, I put it in the freezer for a couple of hours before we ate it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Easy Summer BBQ

I know the dad at the grill thing is a bit of a cliche, but I really appreciate all the meals my dad and my husband have made me on the grill. A wise woman once told me, "Don't ever start mowing the lawn or grilling or it'll become your job." So, I haven't. Now and then, I'm tempted to try my hand at the BBQ but I remember what she said and it's so nice to host a party or prepare a meal where the main dish is already taken care of. My husband does a great job grilling.

So, in honor of Father's Day, I'd like to say "thanks" to dads who give a hand with the cooking (or the dishes!) and share two great recipes for your next BBQ. First up is a marinade for steaks. I usually have everything on hand except green onions and I've had amazing results with this recipe. It originally came from an Omaha Steak brochure.

I have no idea where the second recipe originated. It's scribbled on a scrap of paper with the title "Corn Sauce" and I've been making it for 7 or 8 years. I have used it on cooked frozen corn, cooked fresh corn kernels, and corn on the cob. You could also stir it into cooked carrots, green beans, or broccoli. It has a smoky, southwest flavor to it and I usually add a little more spice (extra red pepper flakes) unless I'm making it for kids.

For more marinade ideas, check out this previous post.

Steak Marinade (enough for 4 or 5 steaks)

1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/3 c. cooking oil
2 T. green onions with tops, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mustard (plain ol' yellow from a bottle)
1/8 tsp. pepper.

Combine marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag or shallow dish. Add the steaks and marinate for 3-4 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator, turning the steaks several times.

Corn Sauce
(not sure on amounts . . . probably enough for 1/2 - 1 bag of frozen corn)

1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. red pepper
2 T butter
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. chicken broth (or water)

Melt butter in saucepan. Add first 4 ingredients, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cornstarch. Add chicken broth. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir into cooked vegetables.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Veggie Burgers

I'm a fan of the veggie burger and I often will order them when I'm out to eat but I've never been too happy with the frozen kinds you buy to make at home. They aren't as good as restaurant ones . . . too flat, too dry, not much flavor. When I came across this recipe, I decided to give it a shot.

I really liked the end result - moist, flavorful, good texture, healthy ingredients - but they were time consuming to make because you have to cook barley and lentils and then let the patty mixture refrigerate for an hour or so. Because I often prep dinner earlier in the day, the last part wasn't a big deal but this isn't something you can just pull together at the last minute.

Give them a try . . . all three of us enjoyed them and I'll make them again. The two things I'll experiment with next time I make this recipe are cooking the lentils and barley together in the same pot (fewer dishes to wash) and seeing how these hold up on the grill instead of making them in a frying pan. Sneak preview: More grilling coming soon!

Lentil-Barley Burgers (makes 8 patties)
from Cooking Light March 2010

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dried lentils
Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup grated carrot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup cooked pearl barley
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Combine 1 1/2 cups water and lentils in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain. Place half of lentils in a large bowl. Place remaining lentils in a food processor; process until smooth. Add processed lentils to whole lentils in bowl.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot; sauté 6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to lentils. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, barley, and next 5 ingredients (through egg); stir well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Divide mixture into 8 portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 4 patties.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heroes and Legends

Months and months ago, I wrote about the new house that we bought. We still aren't living in it but renovations are underway and we're enjoying our pool and our new neighborhood on the weekends. On Sunday, we wanted to try somewhere new for lunch and found a parking spot right in front of a restaurant called Heroes & Legends Bar and Grill.

Now, our daughter had been having a rough weekend (chalk it up to 2 and a half and a poor night's sleep) and even on a great day, eating in a restaurant with her can be a challenge. But, she loved the bags of peanuts that they gave us and the fact that you could throw the shells on the floor. In fact, we were seated by the front door and she would say to everyone that walked through, "Excuse me, but did you know you can throw the shells on the floor?" The peanuts kept her busy until our food arrived.

The menu looked good and my husband and I shared a Southwest Chicken Sandwich. You can split a sandwich and for $2 you each get your own side so I had a salad and he had curly fries. The portions were massive and our food tasted great. Although we didn't partake, there were about 50 beers on tap, including some good Belgian Ales. Lunch for 3 under $30 with decent service and the Dodger game playing - a new local hangout!

Heroes & Legends Bar and Grill
131 Yale Avenue
Claremont, CA

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes

One of the nice things about being done with work for the summer is having more relaxed mornings and making hot breakfast a little more often. I gave my daughter her choice of breakfast and, not surprisingly, she picked pancakes. I tried a new recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday Food (5/09) and made the whole batter in the blender, scraping down the sides a few times, and just stirring the last addition of oats.

You know I love both cinnamon and oats and they were thick and cake-like and even though my husband prefers thin and crepe-like pancakes, we all liked them. The amounts are easy to halve and a half batch was perfect for the three of us. I spread mine with almond butter for a little protein and it tasted great!

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes (makes about 20)

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and half of the oats (1 cup) in a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times to coarsely grind the oats and combine the dry ingredients. Add the milk, eggs, and vegetable oil, and blend again, not for too long, and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir in the other half (1 cup) of the oats.

Heat a large skillet or griddle and lightly oil or spray. Using 2 to 3 tablespoons for each pancake, drop batter in skillet and cook until a few bubbles have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until browned on undersides, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat until the batter is gone!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cherry Cobbler

First a crisp, and now a cobbler. Hooray for summer fruit! Last year I bought a cherry pitter and have only used it a couple of times. When we were driving back from Fillmore last weekend (husband got first in his category in a bike race!) I stopped at a roadside stand and bought some fresh cherries. We've eaten so many cherries in the past few weeks and this time I wanted to bust out that cherry pitter and bake something.

I have no photo of this dessert since I served it for friends and it disappeared so quickly! Cobblers have more of a cakey topping and this particular recipe is more biscuit-like than cake-like. The additions of the rosemary and lemon zest made the topping, in my opinion, but next time I'd probably add 1 cup more cup of cherries and double the amount of topping.

I had all the ingredients on hand - don't be put off by the buttermilk. Stephanie told me to add 1 teaspoon of plain white vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk and stir it . . . it turned out perfectly!

Fresh Cherry Cobbler (serves 4)
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2004

For filling
2 cups fresh, pitted cherries
2 T sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar (divided)
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
1/3 cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. To make the filling, cook all filling ingredients with a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar begins to dissolve, about 3 minutes. Spoon filling into a 9-inch ceramic or glass pie plate (1 inch deep).

To make the topping: Whisk together flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, baking soda, baking powder, rosemary, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk with a fork until just combined (do not overmix). Drop dough in 4 mounds over filling, leaving space between mounds.

Sprinkle topping with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This week school was out, I spent a few hours watching my daughter play in the hose, we went swimming at our new house, I bought fresh peaches at the farmer's market, and devoured more cherries than I can count . . . it's definitely summer! I know that the official date for summer is June 21st (actually, I just looked it up), but in my book, summer has begun.

The other night my husband got home late from work and we ate dinner outside by ourselves while little girl was in bed. It was so relaxing and the food tasted so good (grilled salmon, green beans, coconut rice) we commented how it was as good as having a babysitter and going out for the evening.

I made a spur of the moment dessert to end the meal - individual fruit crisps with fresh peaches. The peaches tasted so awesome . . . anyone have a good recipe for peach pie? I promised my husband I'd learn to make that this summer.

This is a pretty loose recipe and I handwrote it on a scrap of paper from my own trial and error years ago and I make versions of this every summer. So, take some fresh fruit, what you already have in the cupboard, and give it a try. The proportions are are equal parts flour and oats, equal parts butter and brown sugar (half as much as the flour and oats), nuts if you like them and want a little more crunch, and some spices.

Here's the amounts I used for 2 (7oz) ramekins:

Individual Fresh Fruit Crisps (serves 2)

1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. oats
2 T butter (either melted or diced in small pieces)
2 T brown sugar
2 T toasted chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
About 1 cup of fresh fruit or berries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter or spray the bottom of two ramekins. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the fruit. Mix until it's crumbly.

Put half of the mixture on the bottom of two ramekins. Top with the fruit, and then put the rest of the mixture on top. You can sprinkle the very top with a little more sugar or with some more butter if you want. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly.

Filling ideas:
This week I used 2 peaches, peeled and diced and about 1/2 cup fresh blueberries for the fresh fruit filling. One of my husband's favorite fruit fillings is blackberries with a little cream cheese. I bet cherries would be good! You can eat it plain, eat it with vanilla ice cream, or pour a little milk or cream over the top.