August 4, 2019

Italian Salad, Dressing, and Pickled Banana Peppers

I am not usually satisfied when I just throw a salad together. I need a recipe, people! This salad and dressing has been my go-to for several years. Of course it tastes best in summer time with ripe ingredients, but it's not too bad in winter either. It tastes best with my homemade pickled banana peppers. I discovered that one of my kids loves these, so this year I am growing two banana pepper plants.

Also, I buy feta cheese from Costco. I divide into fairly small chunks, wrap each chunk in saran wrap, put in a freezer bag, and store in the freezer. That way I can take one chunk out at a time as needed for salad or pizza.

Italian Salad

romaine lettuce, chopped
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
cucumbers, cubed
green onions, sliced
sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, salted (but raw work too)
feta cheese, crumbled
sliced pickled banana peppers (see recipe below)
Italian dressing (see recipe below)

Toss all ingredients together and serve!

Italian Dressing

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 spoonful honey
freshly cracked black pepper

In a blender, add all ingredients. Blend for 20 seconds.

Pickled Banana Peppers

This recipe makes one pint. Scale up if you have more peppers.

8 banana peppers, sliced into rings with most seeds removed
1 small head garlic, peeled
2 c. water
1/4 c. vinegar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt

In a clean pint jar, add the banana peppers and garlic. In a small saucepan, add water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to simmer and stir to dissolve salt. Pour the hot brine over the peppers in the jar, making sure to cover the peppers. Allow jar to cool, add a lid, and let sit on counter for 2-3 days. Then store in the refrigerator up to several months.

Almond Banana Muffins

My kids are getting picky at breakfast. We used to have oatmeal almost every day, but those days are gone. I discovered these muffins recently and recommend them as a pretty healthy option as they are sweetened only by banana and made with almond flour. They are surprisingly moist and tasty.

Almond Banana Muffins

3 ripe bananas
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups almond flour

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 12 muffin tins with coconut oil. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, add bananas, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth.

Add almond flour and process just enough to combine. Pause, scrape the walls and process just a bit again to combine.

Using a scoop, divide batter in the muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and let cool a few minutes.

April 13, 2019

Dutch Baby Pancake

I successfully increased the original recipe for a Dutch baby pancake that worked! I have to document it. The usual recipes are just too small to feed my family. With some fruit on the side, this one fed everyone except my husband.

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, chopped into 3 pieces
5 large eggs
1 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
1 c. whole milk
3 tbsp. pure cane sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

topping ideas: freshly squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar, berries and whipped cream, cooked pears or apples with syrup

Preheat the oven to 425. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, add the butter. Put the skillet in the oven to heat up and melt the butter.

Meanwhile, add the eggs to a blender. Blend for about 30 seconds, so that the eggs are fluffy and bubbly.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend for another 30 seconds until mixed.

When the butter in the skillet is melted, remove from the oven. Pour the batter on top of the melted butter. Put the skillet back in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and has deep golden brown spots. Slice into wedges and serve immediately with desired toppings.

March 24, 2019

Indian Rice Pilaf

I've made this delicious rice pilaf too many times to count. The flavor is so good and definitely worth the extra effort. I usually serve it with a roasted pork tenderloin for Sunday dinner.

Indian Rice Pilaf
adapted from Turmeric N Spice

2 cups basmati (or jasmine) rice
3 tbsp ghee or olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
2 whole green cardamom pods or 1 black cardamom or 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Soak the rice for 30-45 min in room temperature water.

Add ghee or olive oil to a non stick pot heated on medium heat. Add cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the cloves, cardamom, pepper, bay leaf, cashews, and raisins. Cook, stirring for a minute or two to allow some light browning on the cashews. Add the onions and cook for a few more minutes until translucent. Drain the water from the rice and add to the pot. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add 3 c. water, lemon juice, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat. Cook for 20-25 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Add more salt, to taste.

February 5, 2019

Applesauce Spice Muffins

My children especially enjoyed these simple muffins.

Applesauce Spice Muffins

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can sub 1/2 c. with wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 ounces), coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. turbinado sugar

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin pan (standard size - 12 muffins) using some of the melted butter.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and
brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until
mixture is creamy. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in
nuts and divide batter among muffin cups.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar equally on top of muffins. Bake until muffins are puffed
and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and
cool slightly.

January 25, 2019

Spanish Rice

This Spanish Rice is the first I've liked and it uses pantry staples. This is definitely one we make a lot.

Spanish Rice

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. long grain rice
1 c. tomato sauce
3 c. water or chicken broth
1 tsp. chicken bouillon (if using water)
1 tsp. salt
1 garlic clove, minced
6 stems cilantro (optional)
dash pepper
dash cumin

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and stir. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce, water, bouillon, salt, garlic, cilantro stems, pepper and cumin. Stir. Bring to a boil and then cover, reducing heat to low. Cook covered for 25 - 35 minutes, depending on rice. See rice instructions to help know how long to cook rice. Remove cilantro stems and serve.

November 24, 2018

Caramel Chocolate Bars

These bars are divine and super rich. Love them!

Caramel Chocolate Bars
adapted from Averie Cooks

3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-rolled old fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
caramel sauce (see below)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Make caramel sauce (see below) and set aside to cool.

In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 90 seconds.

Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda, pinch salt, and stir until combined. Mixture will be quite thick.

Add half of the mixture to the prepared pan, and smooth it with spatula or the back of a spoon, to create an even, smooth, flat layer; set remainder aside.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle with the chocolate.

Slowly and evenly pour caramel sauce over the chocolate.

Evenly crumble reserved oatmeal-brown sugar mixture over the top.

Return pan to oven and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and center is bubbling slightly.

Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving, giving the molten caramel time to firm up. This can take up to 4 hours, or overnight, at room temperature. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. light-colored corn syrup
1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

In a medium to large saucepan (use a pan large enough to contain the bubbling at the end), add the sugar, water, corn syrup and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking until sugar has dissolved.

Allow the mixture to boil for 5 to 12 minutes, or as necessary, for it to turn caramel-colored, at which point it will likely be smoking slightly. The final stage where the mixture turns from pale amber to that perfect shade of caramel can go quickly, in less than 30 seconds, so keep a watchful eye and don't let it burn. Throughout the boiling time, you can swirl the pan gently every minute or two if necessary, but the less the sugary mixture gets on the sides of the pan, the better in preventing crystallization in the final sauce.

As soon as the sauce has turned caramel-colored, reduce the heat to low. If using a thick-bottomed pan that retains heat well, remove pan from heat completely for remainder of the recipe.

Very carefully and slowly, add the cream. Be careful as a lot of very hot steam will come up.

Very carefully, add the vanilla and salt, to taste. Stand back because mixture will bubble up again. Whisk until sauce is smooth and combined, and let it boil another 1 minute, which helps thicken it up.

Transfer sauce to glass jar or heat-safe container (easiest to pour into a 2-cup measuring cup and then easily pour into glass jar).

Allow sauce to cool uncovered to room temperature; sauce thickens considerably as it cools. Sauce will keep airtight at room temp for at least 1 month.