Monday, December 28, 2009

Black-eyed Peas for Prosperity in the New Year!


Growing up my family ALWAYS ate black-eyed peas on New Year's day. For those of you not from the South, folk wisdom holds that eating black-eyed peas brings the eater luck (especially financially) in the coming year. My mom strictly enforced this tradition, and because I love beans and weird traditions, I've continued the practice in my home.

Despite my many years of black-eyed pea eating, I never knew the reason behind this tradition, so I turned to google. It seems this tradition, referenced in the Talmud, was brought to the Southern US by Sephardic Jews in the 1700s. The tradition expanded beyond the Jewish community shortly after the Civil War.

The peas are said to represent coins ($$$). They are often cooked with greens, which are said to represent dollars ($$$) and served with cornbread, which represents gold ($$$)! Given the current financial situation I think black-eyed peas are in tall order - they are also nutrient rich and quite affordable, so have some peas and have a Happy New Year!!!

Simple Tasty Black-eyed Peas:
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
1 Large yellow onion, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil (or some pork fat, this is more "traditional" in the South, though I'm guessing that part of the traditions didn't come from the Jewish emigres)
Water or broth

In a medium stockpot, saute the onions, pepper, and garlic in some olive oil (couple tablespoons) over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent. Drain the soaked peas, add them and the bay leaves to the pot, stir to combine with the onion mixture - cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add enough water or broth to cover the beans, cover pot and let beans simmer on low heat until the peas are very tender, about an hour and a half. Season with salt and pepper once beans are nearly done (adding the salt too soon is said to toughen the peas skins).

**If desired add some chopped collard greens after an hour.

Serve warm with cornbread. Hope this brings you luck, if nothing else it will make your tummy happy :).

P.S. At home the grocery stores always ran out of black-eyed peas around New Year's, probably not such a big deal everywhere, but you might want to get some soon if you want them for New Year's Day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Homemade Hummus


I love chickpeas - in salads, cooked in spiced Indian sauces, toasted like nuts, mashed and fried in falafel, and best of all pureed into a creamy hummus! I've made hummus at home many different ways. I've cooked my own chickpeas, even laboriously peeling the "skin" off each bean for an extra creamy texture. The recipe I'm sharing today uses canned beans, and I like it just as much as(maybe even more than!) the ones I've made from home cooked beans. If you have a food processor, this will come together in less than 5 minutes!

Hummus:
1 15oz. Can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
3 Garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or pressed
2 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Place drained chickpeas in food processor, pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients. Process until thoroughly combined. With the processor running, slowly pour in some of the reserved chickpea liquid until the desired consistency is reached.

*Sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of chipotles (smoked jalapenos) in adobo sauce -these are canned, look for them near the Hispanic food in your grocery store. They add a nice smokey spicy flavor.

Serve with veggies and/or toasted pita! Yummy for your tummy :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spinach Pies


On our trips to Chicago we always visit a Lebanese bakery. We buy a ton of thin whole wheat pita bread (it's only $1 a bag and it keeps great in the freezer). They also have a number of speciality baked goods, including spinach pies - a slightly sour mixture of onions and spinach enclosed in a thin pizza-like dough. Alfred loves their spinach pies, and I've been wanting to make him some. Now that the semester is finally over (yes!), I had the time to do it! As you may know I am avoiding wheat right now, so these are out for me (and they smell so good, ah the torture), but they are a special treat for my sweet husband this holiday season!

The dough takes a little time - mostly just waiting for it to rise, but all around these are quite easy to make.

Spinach Pies (Makes 24 pies, I halved the recipe):
Crust:
11/2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
3/4 C. warm water
31/2 C. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 C. oil
1/2 C. milk (non-dairy for a vegan version)

Filling:
2lbs. spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 T. Olive Oil
2 T. Lemon juice
3 T. Sumac (this is a middle eastern spice that is both salty and sour, you can substitute with 1 T. salt and little extra lemon juice if you can't get any)
A little black pepper

Directions:
Mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water let sit a few minutes. To the yeast mixture add the milk, oil, flour, and salt. Knead dough a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour.

Meanwhile combine all of the filling ingredients and let sit while the dough rises.

After an hour, divide the dough into 24 pieces. Use your hand to roll each piece into a ball, and then use a rolling pin to roll out each ball until it is quite thing, and about 8 inches in diameter. Place a heaping spoonful of the filling in the middle of each piece of rolled out dough, gather the edges of the dough on top of the filling and pinch to close (they are supposed to look like a triangle, but you could also just fold the dough over like a hand-pie).

Brush each pie with a little egg glaze (just a beaten egg), and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown! These taste great warm and cold, and they keep well for a few days in the fridge.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Almond Spice Cookies - Wheat and Sugar Free (if you want)!!!



As I posted a little while ago, I'm currently avoiding wheat and sugar/starch to clear up some tummy problems I've been having for the last few months. I've missed having fruit, but I've been enjoying lots of green veggies - collard greens, spinach, etc. I treat myself to carrot juice (Alfred convinced me to try it - it is really good), which seems like fruit juice because it is really sweet.

I've also experimented with baking a few different things to replace the baked goods we all know I love! Elana's pantry (http://www.elanaspantry.com) has been my go to source for wheat free recipes. I've altered a few of them by using stevia (the only sweetener allowed in the anti-candida diet), but I've used a little agave nectar too. Last week I won Elana's cookbook: The Gluten Free, Almond Flour Cookbook (http://www.elanaspantry.com/cookbook/), in a contest on the Sister's Project blog. I can't wait for it to get here!!! I highly recommend her sesame crackers (http://www.elanaspantry.com/sesame-crackers), and her flax seed focaccia(http://www.elanaspantry.com/flax-focaccia-becomes-parsely-bruschetta) it is full of fiber and only requires a few ingredients.
Until January 11th Elana is also having a giveaway - you can get a signed copy of her book and a 5 pound bag of almond flour!!! I'm going to enter and you should too, for more info visit http://www.elanaspantry.com/kumquat-garlic-chicken/#giveaway

One of my favorite recipes from her website is a sweet treat, the original recipe is for "ginger cookies" (http://www.elanaspantry.com/ginger-cookies). Her recipe produces a nice chewy cookie, but I can't use very much agave syrup and don't have yacon syrup, so I added an egg to make up for the liquid lost in omitting the syrups, and added some stevia for sweetness. I also added some spices other than ginger. The result is more like little cakes or muffin tops, very tasty little morsels! Because the base "flour" is almond flour/almond meal I call these Almond Spice Cookies. I purchase my almond meal at Trader Joe's, but there are many online vendors, and you can also make your own by grinding almonds to a fine powder in a food processor.

If you or a loved one needs (or wants) to avoid wheat (and sugar), these are a perfect holiday treat! By the way, my gluten-loving hubby enjoys these too!

Almond Spice Cookies:



11/4 C. Almond Meal/Flour
1/4 t. Sea Salt
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1 T. Ground Ginger
1/2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1 Egg, beaten
1 t. Vanilla Extract
2 T. Agave nectar (could sub honey)
4 Packets "Stevia in the Raw" (if you want to use sugar, substitute 1/4 cup granulated or brown sugar)

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the almond meal, salt, soda, and spices. In a separate bowl (or large liquid measuring cup) combine the oil, egg, vanilla, agave, and stevia. Combine the dry and liquid ingredients. Drop tablespoon sized mounds onto the lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!



We've got our menorah and our tree lit up - so we are in full holiday spirit around here!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake


We had a great Thanksgiving break: lots of good food, great friends (even a short visit with my best friend Karla - all the way from Oklahoma), a weekend of beautiful weather, and we just put our Christmas tree up. Needless to say we have lots to be thankful for!

Back to all that good food. One of the desserts I made for our turkey day feast was pumpkin cheesecake. The recipe is very simple, I got it from http://deestroyer.blogspot.com/2008/11/pumpkin-cheesecake.html (I made a few changes). Even though pumpkin desserts are typically served only during thanksgiving/fall, this was pretty tasty, so you might consider making it for Christmas or other holidays (or regular days)!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Filling:
2 8oz blocks of cream cheese (I used lower fat neufchatel), softened
3/4 C. Sugar
3 Eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 Cup of Pumpkin Puree
1/4 t. Nutmeg
1/4 t. Allspice
3/4 t. Cinnamon

Crust:
6 Sheet of Graham Crackers or about 3/4 C. of Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 Tablespoons of Melted Butter
1 Tablespoon of Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: Put graham crackers in a food processor, pulse to make fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and water, pulse until the crumbs are all wet (alternatively use a fork to combine the crumbs, butter, and water). Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

For the filling: Using a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture. To the remaining cream cheese mixture add the pumpkin, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla, and spices.

Cover the outside of the cooled spring form pan in two layers of foil. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the cooled crust. Place dollops of the reserved cream cheese on top of the pumpkin. Use a toothpick or skewer to make a decorative swirly pattern with the pumpkin and cream cheese fillings. Place the pan (on the baking sheet) in the oven. Pour water into the baking sheet until it is at least 1 inch deep (this "water bath" will prevent the top of the cheesecake from cracking as it bakes). Bake cheesecake for about 1 hour, until the middle it quite firm.

Remove the spring form pan from the baking sheet, remove the foil from the pan. Let cool at room temperature for 3 hours. Cover well with plastic wrap, cool in the refrigerator overnight. When you are ready to remove the cheesecake from the pan, run a butter knife or flat spatula around the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides of the pan, then remove the sides of the spring form pan. Slice and enjoy!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Have a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quinoa Pilaf


Quinoa (pronounced keen wa) is one of my favorite "grains." Many people refer to it as the super grain because it is so packed full of nutrients. Truth be told it isn't a grain, it is a seed and a member of the spinach family. It is similar in size to couscous (sorry my picture really sucks, I had to use my camera phone b/c my camera isn't working properly), but it is a little chewier and much more nutritious because couscous is really just pasta. In the Lafayette/West Lafayette Area you can purchase quinoa at Meijer's, Sunspot Natural Market, and Nature's Pharm.

Quinoa is really easy to prepare, and cooks in only 15 minutes. I take my lunch with me to school nearly every day, quinoa pilaf is one of my favorite lunch options (usually along with some leftover chicken or a salad). Like the granola recipe I recently posted, it is really easy to personalize this dish. You can use whatever spices you like, and substitute other veggies and/or fruits. I use a fair amount of spices in this recipe, I always buy mine from ethnic stores, and so should you. You'll get a much better quality and price!

Quinoa Pilaf
1 Cup of uncooked Quinoa, rinsed*
2 Bay Leaves (optional)
1 Star Anise (optional - or try some allspice berries or cinnamon sticks!)
2 Cardamom pods (optional)
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 Cup Apple Juice or Cider (or another cup of water)
1 Cup of Water
2 Medium carrots, diced
1/2 Cup diced dried apricots (dried cranberries or raisins would be great too!)

In a medium saucepan with a lid combine all of the ingredients except the apricots. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the bay leaves, anise, and cardamom. Stir in the apricots. I usually let mine chill overnight and take it for lunch the next day - it seems to let the flavors really intensify, but you could also enjoy it warm right after it's finished!

*Quinoa supposedly has a bitter coating, so you are supposed to rinse the seeds well before cooking them. Some packages say the quinoa has already been rinsed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gobble up Some Granola


I posted a recipe for granola bars a while back, but I've also been making homemade granola for a long time. Yogurt topped with this is my favorite snack - Alfred and I both eat it nearly everyday! Once every two weeks I make a big batch and store it in a plastic bin in my cupboard. I also keep a small container of it in my office at school :). The recipe below is very easy to personalize - use whatever (and however much) dried fruits and nuts you like, substitute honey for the agave, use other rolled grains in place of the oats, and substitute other spices like nutmeg or ginger for the cinnamon and cloves.

Granola:
6 Heaping Cups of Old Fashioned Oats (don't use quick cooking oats)
1 Cup Shredded Coconut
1 Cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Coarsely Chopped Almonds
1 Cup Agave Nectar
1/2 Cup Molasses
1 Heaping teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Cloves
1/4 Cup of Flaxseed Meal (Optional - and you could substitute Wheat Germ)
2 Cups Dried Fruit - I often use a mixture of cranberries, raisins, apricots and/or dates

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, coconut, and nuts. In a large measuring cup (or bowl) combine (I use a whisk) the agave, molasses, spices, and flaxseed meal. Pour the agave mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine - this might take a few minutes, the dry ingredients should all be lightly coated with the agave. Dump the mixture onto a large, rimmed baking sheet - spread it out evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Return to the oven and bake another 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and nicely toasted.
Stir in the dried fruit, and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an air tight container.

Great on yogurt, but we also gobble it up by the handful!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rosemary Honey Cornbread



It is sometimes difficult to convince Alfred to eat a vegetarian meal. In his defense, he has (after considerable persistence on my part) become less adversarial. One vegetarian meal that always goes over well is pinto beans and cornbread. How could anyone not like this southern favorite! It's also easy on the pocket book, and although the beans take a while to cook, they are very easy to prepare. On the other hand, it has taken me a while, and some experimenting, to come up with a cornbread recipe that I really love.

I (and plenty of others) have decided a couple of things make for great cornbread:
1) Buttermilk - it imparts a flavor and texture that regular milk just can't. I have had good results with powdered buttermilk - for those who don't use buttermilk very often this is a good option.
2)Stone-ground cornmeal - this whole grain cornmeal is much coarser in texture than the finely milled degerminated kind (this is the typical cornmeal) and it has a much cornier taste. Like other whole grains it is more nutritious, but it can easily go rancid, so you should store it in the fridge. Bob's Red Mill is a good brand.
3) A touch of sweetness, preferably from honey - this is a matter of much debate and it really comes down to personal preference. I don't like my cornbread to taste like cake (think Jiffy), but I find that a little sweetness really compliments the corn flavor. My granny would strongly disagree!
4) A preheated baking pan/skillet - Unfortunately I do not have a cast iron skillet. The traditional method for making cornbread requires that you heat up a cast iron skillet with some oil (typically on the stove top), then pour the batter into the very hot pan and bake. This ensures you have a nice crust. Instead I coat a round cake pan with a little oil and put it in the oven to preheat while I make the batter. Then I pour the batter into the hot pan. I will be the first to admit that my crust would be better if I had a cast iron skillet, but I have found this method to be the next best thing.

Here's my latest favorite recipe - while I rarely have cornbread without beans, this would also be a nice addition to your Thanksgiving bread basket!

Rosemary Honey Cornbread
1 Cup Flour (give White Whole Wheat a try!)
1 Cup Cornmeal (preferably stone ground)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
11/2 teaspoons Rosemary (optional - but really nice!)
11/4 Cup Buttermilk
1 Egg
3 Tablespoon Honey (again optional)
1/4 Cup Canola Oil

1) Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a round cake pan and put it in the preheating oven.

2) Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, salt, and rosemary

3) In a separate bowl (or large liquid measuring cup) combine the buttermilk, egg, honey, and oil.

4) Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients (preferably using a rubber spatula).

5) Pour batter into the pan you've been heating up in the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Enjoy one of the simple pleasure of life!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Creamy Dreamy Coconut Cream Pie


Lately my baking has been full of spices, apples, and other fall treasures. Today I decided to take a little break from these autumn inspired treats and make something tropical. I figured, if only for a few moments/bites, I could transport myself from Indiana to a beachy paradise!

In truth, tonight I'm having dinner with some friends - they are making a South Asian main course, I thought a coconut flavored dessert would be a nice compliment to that meal.

I got my recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook - I altered it only slightly. It is also available online here: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/coconut-cream-pie

The recipe is quite simple (and based on my sampling of the filling, pretty darn good). It certainly isn't healthy, but it is a great treat for special occasions!

Coconut Cream Pie:

1 Store-bought pie crust or your favorite recipe. I used Martha's Recipe for Pate Brisee - here's a link to it http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/pate-brisee-for-coconut-cream-pie

Filling:
1 Egg plus 4 egg yolks
3 Cups Coconut Milk (just under 2 cans - don't use low fat it won't taste right or thicken properly)
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoons Salt
5 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Cup Shredded Coconut (sweetened)
Whipped Cream (Soy or Rice based will keep it dairy free)

For the Crust:
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Lined a pie pan with your crust. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Line the inside of the crust with parchment paper or foil, and fill it with some dry beans, rice, or pie weights (this will prevent the crust from puffing up when you bake it). Bake 15-20 minutes, until edges are golden. Remove from oven -let cool completely.

**Leave the oven on, put 1/2 cup of the coconut on a cookie sheet and let it bake about 10 minutes (stir it a couple of times) until golden brown (you can toast more than 1/2 cup if you want - I just eyeballed it). Set aside, you'll use this later for sprinkling on top of the pie.

For the filling:
1) In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and yolks.
2) In a medium saucepan combine the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until mixture barely simmers. Turn heat to low, continue to whisk and cook 3-4 minutes.
3) Very slowly pour the coconut milk mixture into the eggs whisking constantly as you go.
4) Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir in 1/2 Cup of the coconut. Whisk constantly over medium-high heat until mixture gets quite thick and begins to bubble.
5) Pour custard into a container with a tight fitting lid, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, then put the lid on the container.
6) Refrigerate until completely cold - I made this the day before and let it cool overnight.

To Assemble:
Pour cooled custard into cooled crust. Top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Slice. Eat. Smile!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Apple-Cranberry Butter


I've made apple butter (and pumpkin butter) before - but I didn't technically can it. I made a small amount and stored it in jars in the fridge - kind of like "refrigerator jam." This week I found jonathan apples on sale (49 cents a pound!) and decided to make a big batch of apple butter to give away for holiday gifts (Alfred, of course, doesn't want to share it). Because I'm not going to use it right away I needed to really can it so that it would be shelf stable. Who knew canning was so easy! I can't wait to make jam with next years berries and peaches!

I decided to make this apple butter with a little cranberry twist - for more traditional version you can use apple juice or cider in place of the cranberry juice.

To make the apple-cranberry butter:
In a large pot combine 2 quarts of peeled, chopped apples and 1 quart of cranberry juice. Simmer until the apples are tender. Puree the apple/juice mixture. Return the puree to the pot. Add 3 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of cloves. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is nice and thick and 30-45 minutes.

While the mixture is simmering away prepare the jars for canning:
Place glass canning jars in a large pot - make sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water. Boil the jars for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and drop in the lids. Let sit at least 10 minutes or until the apple butter is done cooking.

When the apple butter is done use tongs to remove the jars from the hot water (do not dry, just drain well), fill each with apple butter (leave a little air space, around half an inch). Make sure the tops of the jars are very clean (wipe away any apple butter). Place the lid on top and screw the rim on firmly. Let cool at room temperature - you should hear a pop as the jars seal.



After mine sealed I removed the rims and put a little piece of fabric between the lid and the rim - just for pretty! This is a great way to preserve the fresh fall produce and enjoy it all winter long. In my opinion it's best on biscuit, but it's pretty tasty on toast, pancakes, or even stirred into oatmeal!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pink Risotto in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness


As you may know October is breast cancer awareness month. Ladies please remember to check yourselves MONTHLY, and get your doctor to do a yearly breast exam. It only takes a few minutes, and early detection is so IMPORTANT! If you aren't quite sure how to give yourself a breast exam here's a useful link:
http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/InteractiveTools.htm

Now on to the food! Over the past month many bloggers have posted pink recipes to raise awareness about breast cancer. I really wanted to post something too, but other than a dessert with berries(which are out of season) or something with pink food coloring in it (yuck), I couldn't think of anything to make. I contemplated making something with cranberries, but then I had a eureka moment.

This summer I came across several recipes for an amazing magenta colored risotto made with beet's greens. We love beets, buy them on a weekly basis from the farmer's market, and we usually just throw away the greens. Well today we bought a bunch, and I used part of the greens to make this tasty pink side-dish! I was excited both to make something pink and to reduce my waste. FYI it doesn't really taste like beets - it just tastes like risotto, next time I will probably add a little garlic. Also, the recipe I worked from said this served 4, but we had no problem polishing it all off ourselves!



Beet Greens Risotto:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Small Onion diced
1/2 C. Diced beet stems (not the leafy parts - we'll get to those in a minute)
1/2 C. Risotto
1/2 C. White Wine
21/2 C. Broth or Water
1/4 C. Parmesan (I've seen other substitute cheddar on this one)
1/2 C. Beet Greens thinly sliced

1) Bring the Broth or water to a boil, turn the heat down really low and cover.

2) Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and beet stems. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the risotto, saute another 2 minutes.

3) Add the white wine and cook until it is all absorbed. Then add 1/2 cup of the broth or water and cook until it is all absorbed. Repeat until the risotto is cooked - this may take 2 cups of water or 21/2, just give it a taste after 2 cups and see what you think.

4) Add in the Parmesan and beet greens and cook about 2 more minutes. Taste and add a little salt if you need to (the Parmesan is very salty so you won't need much, if any).

You can eat this as a main dish with a salad - we ate it as a side dish with some roasted chicken.

Once again remember the reason for this post - breast cancer awareness!!! Here's a link to a ton of other pink recipes http://www.recipezaar.com/recipes.php?q=pink. Here's a great site with a ton of other food and non-food ideas for going "pink"
http://pinkforoctober.org/

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Peanut, Peanut Butter and Jelly

I have found another super easy treat. I adapted this one from the Celiac Chicks (http://celiacchicks.typepad.com/celiacchicks/2007/01/peanut_butter_l.html) via Elana's Pantry (www.elanaspantry.com). As a bonus it is gluten-free - but so cakey and yummo!



Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars:
2 C. (1 16oz. Jar) Natural Peanut Butter (the kind that has oil on the top, the only ingredient on the jar is peanuts! - I used crunchy, but it's totally up to you)
1 C. Honey or Agave (I used agave - it is much gentler on your system, no sudden spike in blood sugar followed by a crash! - you can even find it a Walmart these days!)
2 Eggs
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
1/4 to 1/2 C. of your favorite jam or jelly (I used some blackberry that my granny gave me)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.

2) Thoroughly combine the peanut butter, honey/agave, eggs, soda and salt.

3) Spread the batter evenly in the lined baking pan. Put small dollops of jelly randomly on top of the batter. Use a tooth pick to swirl the jelly and the batter to make a pretty pattern!

4) Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Elana of Elana's pantry used almond butter instead of peanut butter (http://www.elanaspantry.com/almond-butter-blondies/)
I would love to try that, but I had 2 jars of peanut butter in the cupboard so I thought I better use those up first!

You can also omit the jelly and have these plain, or stir in some chocolate chips to make a peanut butter blondie. I bet other nuts and/or dried fruit would be good too.

One last point, you can make a smaller batch if you want. I only made half the recipe - I just divided all the ingredients in half and baked the batter in an 8 x 8 pan. Turned out fab (though Alfred thought they could've used a little more sweetner).



Come on, you know you want a bite!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gormeh Sabzi - Persian Green Stew



This stew is one of my favorite persian dishes. I first tasted it two years ago when we visited Alfred's sister Fereshteh in Los Angeles. Here in Indiana I have my very own Persian chef to make it for me.



In Farsi the name of the dish is Gormeh (which means stew) Sabzi (which means green). As the name suggests the stew is green; it is made from a mixture of leeks, parley, and an herb named fenugreek. It also contains dark red kidney beans, and like most dishes it is served with steamed basmati rice. Traditionally the dish contains beef stew or shank meat. We no longer eat beef, so we made a vegetarian version of this dish; it still tasted great (and now it's greener in a different sense). We also added in some extra greens - spinach and turnip greens.

Some of the ingredients - especially fenugreek and dried lemons - may be difficult to find. You can find these at speciality international stores. In the Dallas area I would recommend Andre's on Springvalley in Richardson. In West Lafayette I would suggest the Indian Food Mart near Chauncey. There are also a number of websites you can order these items from, including www.sadaf.com. You could also leave out these two ingredients and still have a delicious meal.

Gormeh Sabzi**
1 Cup of Dried Kidney Beans soaked over night, or 1 can of Kidney Beans
2 Bunches of Parsley
3-4 Leeks
3 Cups of Spinach
3 Cups of Turnip Greens
1/2 bunch of Celery - use all of the top leafy parts
1 Large Onion
2 Tablespoons Dried Fenugreek
6 Dried Limes
Juice of 2 Lemons
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Water or Vegetable Broth (around 3-4 cups)
Salt to Taste
** All of these amounts are estimates, you don't need to follow the recipe exactly

1) Roughly chop the parsley (leafy parts only), leeks, spinach, turnip greens, celery, and onion.
2) Drain and rinse soaked or canned beans.
3) In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add all of the chopped vegetables. Saute until wilted about 10 minutes.
4) Add the fenugreek, dried limes, and beans to the greens. Pour enough water or broth over the greens to cover them.
5) Cover and let cook on med-low heat for at least 2 hours.
6) Add lemon juice, taste and add salt as needed.
7) Serve with steamed basmatic rice.



Noosh-e-jan. (Bon apetite in Farsi)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Puree Attempt #2

I wrote a few weeks ago that I had been unsuccessful in making my own pumpkin puree - I had attempted with so-called "pie-pumpkins" - which seemed appropriate. I ended up using butternut squash puree instead, but I wasn't quite ready to give up on trying to make pumpkin puree. This time I used an heirloom "Cinderella" pumpkin - and let me tell you she was just about too pretty to eat! I kept her for a week, hesitant to cut up such a beauty, but this weekend I couldn't wait any longer! For a mere $3 I got over 8 cups of perfect orange and creamy pumpkin puree.



To make pumpkin puree:
1) Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds - save for toasting!!!
2) Cut pumpkin into smaller chunks and remove peel - alternatively you could leave it in half (and even not remove the peel), but mine was really big and wouldn't fit in my baking pans.
3) Place pumpkin halves/chunks in a baking dish (cut side down if in half) - preferable put a baking rack in the bottom of the dish so there is a little space between the bottom of the baking dish and the pumpkin.
4) Pour just a little a bit of water in the bottom of the baking dish - about 1/4-1/2 inch
5) Cover with foil and baking until very tender (mine took about 45 minutes at 350 degrees)
6) Puree the cooked pumpkin in a food processor or blender (if you left the peel on, just scoop out the flesh and puree it).

*** Instead of baking the pumpkin, you could steam it on the stove top or in the microwave.

With half of my puree I made pumpkin butter, which is a yummy twist on the apple butter from my last post - I've seen lots of versions on this on the web lately, I kind of improvised a little with what I had on hand.



Pumpkin Butter:
4 Cups Pumpkin Puree
11/2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
11/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients and let simmer on low heat - stirring occasionally until it reduces and thickens a little. Pour into canning jars and seal (or any other container, you'll just need to eat it sooner - which shouldn't be a problem).

*** Lots of the recipes I've seen on the web have called for adding some additional liquid - namely apple juice or cider. My pumpkin was more watery than canned pumpkin so I didn't think that was necessary. If you use canned puree, you should add about 1/4 cup of liquid for every cup of pumpkin.

Like pumpkin butter this is great on bread, but I can't wait to have it on some warm biscuits!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pear Muffins and Apple Butter


The leaves are changing to lovely shades of gold and crimson. The air is crisp and cool. Fall is definitely here! I have already taken advantage of the tastes of fall: pumpkin, apples, lots of spices, this blog adds a few more fall-icous recipes.

On Saturdays our routine includes going to the farmers market and the public library. I always check out a few cookbooks, and I look over them in the evenings - it helps me relax :). This week one of the books I checked out was Williams Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook. The very first recipe was for Vanilla-Pear muffins and I just happened to have a basket full of pears - it was destiny! I altered their recipe slightly.

Pear Muffins
Topping:
3 T. Sugar
1/2 t. Cinnamon
Dry Ingredients:
2 C. Flour (I used a mixture of all purpose, whole wheat flour, and flax seed meal)
1/2 C. Sugar
2 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Nutmeg
2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Kosher Salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/4 C. oil
1/4 C. applesauce
3/4 C. buttermilk or sour milk
2 t. vanilla
3 Ripe but firm Pears (I used a combination of red and Bartlet) peeled and diced
1/2 C. Walnuts, chopped

Preheat the over to 375 degrees. Combine the topping ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients expect the pears and nuts. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together, just until combined (a rubber spatula is best for this). Fold in the pears and nuts. Line or spray a muffin pan. Fill each cup and sprinkle with the topping mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes.

**I got 12 muffins plus to 2 mini-loafs out of this recipe.





I also made some apple butter, which brought back many sweet memories of my granny. I love homemade jelly and homemade apple butter, and granny is my source. In case you don't know apple butter has no butter in it, it is a thick sweet spicy apple sauce that you eat like a jam. I mainly drew from the recipe on the closet cooking blog (http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/2008/03/apple-butter.html).


Super Duper Simple Apple Butter:
10 Apples, peeled and sliced (I used Gala)
3/4-1C. Sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 C. apple juice/cider or water

In a large saucepan over low heat combine all the ingredients. Let simmer until the apples are very tender (beginning to fall apart), and most of the liquid has evaporated leaving behind a thick dark brown syrup. Puree everything in a food processor until you have a nice smooth mixture. Mine filled up a 42 ounce jar.

This apple butter is great spread on the pear muffins, or biscuits, or toast, or straight out of the jar!

Happy Fall Everyone!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All things Pumpkin

First off big sigh - I passed my last written Ph.D. exam, oral exams are scheduled for October 27th!

In celebration of that, and of autumn, and because I love all things pumpkin I've been cooking pumpkin inspired treats over the past week and I've found dozens of great ideas I still want to try out.

By the way I've mentioned it before, but if you have never been to http://www.tastingspotting.com/ - you must go. This site has tons of fabulous recipes from bloggers that are way better and more devoted than I could ever dream to be - http://www.foodgawker.com/ is also awesome! I get much of my inspiration from these two sites.

As part of my ongoing crusade to make things from scratch as much as possible, I bought two small pumpkins (pie pumpkins) at the farmers market so that I could make my own pumpkin puree. The lady at the farmer's market assured me that these were pumpkins for cooking/baking, but after taking the time to cut and seed (and de-slime), and roast the pumpkins I was left with a stringy, tasteless yellow mush. So disappointing, but we did get some really tasty toasted pumpkin seeds in the end (just rinse the seeds well, toss with a little salt, let dry, and then toast in a 400 degree oven)!

Luckily, I had also purchased two butternut squash which taste a lot like pumpkin. I already had experience baking with them and it is quite simple to make butternut squash puree you just peel the squash, remove the seeds (much like a pumpkin), cut it into chunks, steam it until it is very tender (fork test!), and then puree it in a food processor or mash it really well.

So far I have made two recipes. The first is a harvest cake, which is basically pumpkin/squash bread, with some chopped apples and raisins in the batter. I also topped it with a cinnamon walnut streusel. This cake was good, but I found it to be a little too dense, maybe the addition of apple along with the squash puree made it too moist. But, I've had great results with this recipe when I've omitted the apples and raisins and baked it in a loaf pan. So, I would suggest that if you add the apples, you might cut back a little on the squash puree and make sure not to over stir it.
Here's the recipe:

Dry Goods:
11/2 c. Flour ( I use half whole wheat, half all purpose)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves

Wet Works:
2 eggs
1/4 c. oil (can sub applesauce)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. pumpkin/squash puree
1t. vanilla
Optional Add-ins:
1 small apple peeled and chopped
1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries

Optional Streusel:
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1 T. oil
1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the streusel ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. In another separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. Stir the wet and dry ingredient together just until combined. Stir in optional add-ins. Pour into a prepared round spring form pan or a loaf pan. Sprinkle with the streusel, bake for 45-55 minutes - use the toothpick test.

Second, I made pumpkin/squash pancakes. I've come across several recipes for these and just had to make them! Here is a link to the recipe I worked from http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/2008/11/pumpkin-pie-pancakes.html
I followed it pretty closely, but I left out the butter (they didn't need it believe me) and I substituted the all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour for healthier whole-grain pancakes. These are great with maple syrup (of course!), but are also good with apple butter or even peanut butter. He also has a lot of other great pancake recipes on this site (along with other great non-pancake recipes), so take a look around!

Tip for keeping leftover pancakes: Alfred doesn't like pancakes (he doesn't like chocolate either, what's wrong with him?), and it's pretty much impossible to make enough batter for just 1 person. So, I always make a big batch. I let the leftover pancakes cool then I wrap them in foil (two at a time), and freeze them. Whenever I want pancakes I just pull them out of the freezer and pop them in the toaster!

Other neat pumpkin ideas:
1) I've seen many a blog post on this one, but I haven't tried it. You can mix a regular (15oz.) can of pumpkin with a box of cake or brownie mix - nothing else just the pumpkin and the mix - spread in a square pan (or muffin tins), bake at 350 for 20ish minutes and you'll have great tasting and very healthy brownies/bar cookies.
2) As a tasty topping for bagels, muffins, or anything really: mix together pumpkin puree, cream cheese, honey or maple syrup to taste, and whatever spices you like - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc.

Noosh-e-jan (Bon appetite in Farsi!) - Ashlie

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grad-school & Granola Bars

So the grad school part first. It has been a busy semester - but really is there a semester that's not busy??? I don't think so! Right now I'm working on a paper (and a poster I'm presenting this Friday - which includes prize money if I win!) with my advisor, beginning work on my prospectus (the plan for what I'm going to do for my dissertation), and awaiting word on my final Ph.D. written exam.

I'm fairly anxious to find out my exam results; I should find out by the end of this week, or beginning of next week - my advisor disclosed to me that the committee of professors is meeting to vote on whether I pass or fail this Thursday, but he's not supposed to tell me the results until Sept. 30th (some stupid grad-school bureacratic rule). Hopefully he'll get to tell me early - if not I'll be reduced to trying to discern something from his body language and other non-verbal cues. Oh, and if I pass the written exam, I'll have oral exams in 2-3 weeks, yikes!

Anyhow, with all that thinking and hoping and working and praying a girl gets pretty hungry! Since a lot of my time is at school I have to bring plenty of food (brain fuel) with me. Granola bars are one on my favorite snacks. While there are plenty of ready made choices it seems like most of the ones that taste good aren't that great for you (especially with all the sweetners they use), and the one's that are good for you don't taste very good. So, I have experimented a bit, drawn from lots of other ideas on blogs and websites, and came up with a pretty tasty, healthy, and easy homemade granola bar. You can also easily adapt it to your own taste preferences:

Granola Bars:

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats (could sub other rolled grains too)
2/3 Cup Creamy Natural Peanut Butter (could sub other nut butters)
1/2 Cup Honey (could sub Agave)
2 T. Ground Flaxseed (could sub wheat germ - or omit all together)
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 Cups any combination of "Add-Ins" such as chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or even choco chips if your not so concerned about the "healthy" part (I used raisins and almonds b/c that's what I had on hand.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the oats (and chopped nuts if you are using them) on a cookie sheet and let toast for about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat mix together the peanut butter, honey, flaxseed, and cinnamon. After the oats have toasted, stir the oats and your Add-Ins into the peanut butter mixture.

Line a square (8x8 or 9x9) baking dish with foil or parchment paper - leave a little bit of overhang so you can pull the bars out of the dish later. Press the mixture firmy into the pan (I put a piece of waxed paper on top so I can press it firmly and it won't stick to my hands). For soft granola bars, just let the mixture cool in the pan (don't bake at all), and cut into bars after it is cool. For crunchier bars bake the mixture for 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.

Let bars cool in the pan 10 minutes. Using foil/parchment overhang remove the entire block - put on a rack to cool completely. When they are almost cool cut into bars or squares! Don't worry if you may have some pieces break off during the cutting, while it keeps them from looking like perfect bars - it means you get to eat those parts right then!

PS. I bought a pumpkin (the kind you cook - not the big Jack-o-latern type) and I'm planning on making some thing(s) with it soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cheap, Tasty, and Nutritious - Rice and Beans

You probably won't be surprised to hear that I receive a recipe of the day email from Martha Stewart - rarely do I make those recipes, but I made this one! The original recipe was called "Cuban black bean stew" - I jazzed it up with a few additions and modifications.

It really couldn't be easier (or much cheaper) - you start with a can of beans, toss in a few vegetables and spices and voila. Since we are all busy little bees, the simple preparation and short cooking time are also a huge plus.
Along with a salad (or a big bowl of watermelon in my case) this makes a really great vegetarian meal. Beans are really good for you (despite their infamous side-effects), and together rice and beans make up a complete protein, so you really don't need any meat. But, for the relentless carnivores, it also makes a tasty side dish for grilled chicken, fish, or beef.

Here's the Recipe:
1 Can Black Beans
1 Small Onion, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced (or leave in seeds for something spicier)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 C. Water or broth
1 1/2 t. Cumin
1 t. Oregano
Pinch of Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Crushed Red Pepper to taste (optional for extra heat)
Cooked White or Brown Rice
Garnishes: Chopped Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, grated cheese (all optional - I go with the first 2)
Drain beans and rinse well. In a saucepan coated with a little olive oil, saute the onion, peppers, and garlic over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until onions become transluscent. Reduce heat to low add in drained beans, 1/4 C. water (or broth) and spices. Using the back of a wooden spoon mash the beans a little to thicken the mixture. Let simmer uncovered 15 minutes - if it gets too dry add in a little more water or broth. Serve over rice, top with garnishes.
Enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Operation Baklava

The last few weeks have been busy busy. I've been getting back into the swing of things at school. No classes this semester (or ever again - thank goodness), but a lot of pre-dissertation hurdles to finish, and a lot of research and teaching assistant stuff.

Sadly, I haven't been doing much cooking or baking. But, last night Alfred and I (okay mostly Alfred) made a Persian themed dinner for a group of our wonderful friends (he made Shirazi salad and Tas Kabob - which I wrote about on here a few months ago). Dessert, as usual, was my domain, and it provided me with a much needed excuse to get back in the kitchen.

I wanted to make something that fit in with the Persian theme - the problem is I am not a huge fan of most Persian desserts, which include a lot of rice puddings and fried dough soaked in syrup. I love Persian raisin cookies, but that didn't seem like a nice enough dinner party dessert. So, I settled on baklava, which I have never made before - mostly because I was really intimidated by the recipe.

Persian baklava is a little different (and in my opinion better) than that from other countries. It is not just sweet, it is very flavorful - the nut mixture includes lots of spices, and the syrup includes rosewater. For those of you who have never had baklava it is essentially thin layers of dough (phyllo dough) filled with a mixture of finely chopped nuts. Once baked the dough is doused in a rich honey flavored syrup.

Because I was a little nervous about this one (and b/c I was kind of busy with other school stuff) I prepared as much as I could in advance. We were having dinner on Thursday. On Tuesday I prepared the syrup and I chopped the nuts and combined them with the spices. Then, the plan was to assemble the baklava and bake it on Wednesday so the syrup could soak in well overnight.
Everything was going great until I got to that last part - the part involving the dough. I bought frozen phyllo dough, and thawed it for two days in the fridge. I opened the box, cut open the dough - expecting to find thin sheets of perfect dough - instead I found a mass of shattered "stuff." My heart sank! The recipe says to lay a sheet of dough in the pan, brush it with melted butter, then repeat this over and over again - it was simply impossible with the mess of "what was once dough" on the counter in front of me. I decided to try to make the best of it, and it turned out ok - but I was too upset to try and take step by step photos. Here is the recipe - below it are links to two sites that go through the steps with pictures very well.

Persian Baklava:
Syrup:
11/2 C. Water
11/4 C. Sugar
1/4 C. Honey
Zest from 1 Lemon
2 T. Rose Water

Pastry and Filling:
1 Box thawed Phyllo Dough (find this in the frozen food section near the pie crust)
5 T. Melted Butter
11/2 C. Finely Chopped Nuts (Walnuts, Almonds and/or Pistachios)
2 t. Cinnamon
1t. Cardamom
1/2 t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Cloves

Prepare syrup first - it must be cold when you pour it over the baked pastry.

To prepare the syrup combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, let simmer for 10-15 minutes until slightly thickened and golden. Strain syrup into a heat proof container to remove lemon zest (you can keep the zest and let it cool on some wax paper - you will have candied zest). Cool on counter until room temperature, then refrigerate.

To prepare the filling combine the nuts and spices.

When you are ready to assemble and bake the baklava, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. The pastry (supposedly) fits best in a 10x13 inch pan (folded in half the dough should fit perfectly - see the blog links I posted below for a visual of this).
First, use a pastry brush (or a soft paint brush) to lightly coat the bottom of the pan with melted better.
Second, fold a sheet of phyllo dough in half and put it in the bottom of the pan (again, it should fit just right). Light brush the dough with butter. Repeat with 3 more phyllo sheets.
Third, Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture over the dough. Cover nuts with another folded sheet of dough, brush with butter. Repeat this twice more until all the nuts are used.
Finish the baklava with 3 more folded, buttered sheets on the top.

Prior to baking the pastry, use a sharp knife to cut it into small squares, triangles or diamonds.

Bake the pastry for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake an additional 30 minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven and immediately pour the cold syrup evenly over the hot pastry.
Cool completely (preferably overnight) then enjoy. Best served with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

The following sites have great step by step instructions and photos:
P.S. The same night I made the baklava a baked a really yummy chicken pot pie for dinner - I didn't get any pics of it, but I plan on making and blogging about again soon, so stay tuned for that!


I am also very pleased to be including this recipe as part of this month's A Worldly Epicurean’s Delight (A.W.E.D.), which is focusing on Persian cuisine. This month's event is being hosted by Vanessa of Sweet Artichoke, so be sure to head over to her blog!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Weekend of Summer = Gingerbread

The new school year begins Monday (groan), so this weekend was my last chance to have fun, relax, and of course – bake!

We woke up to a very chilly morning – temperature in the 50s – went for a nice long stroll and then headed to the farmers market. Among other things, we left the market with some big beautiful very ripe (but slightly bruised) peaches for only 50 cents a pound! My first thought was peach cobbler, but then we decided they were just too sweet and juicy to cook – so we ate them fresh.

Later in the day, inspired by the early autumn weather I suppose, I decided to make some gingerbread (In case you've never had any, it is one of those breads that is really a cake). Well let me tell you it was delish! We (just the two of us) ate nearly half the batch this evening. It needed no embellishments, just a nice cup of hot tea.




To give credit where credit is due, I worked off the following recipe http://lowfatcooking.about.com/od/christmas/r/gingerbreadcake.htm?r=et

I made several slight changes, here’s my exact recipe:

½ C. Whole Wheat Flour
¾ C. All Purpose Flour
1T. Cocoa Powder
1 t. Ground Cinnamon
1 t. Ground Ginger
¼ t. Ground Nutmeg
½ t. Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
½ C. Granulated Sugar
½ C. Milk
2 t. Lemon Juice
¼ C. Canola Oil
½ C. Molasses
1 Egg
1 t. Vanilla Extract

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; make sure a rack is situated in the middle of the oven. Spray or lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan, set aside.

2) Combine the milk and lemon juice, set aside.
**The original recipe called for buttermilk – I hate buying it, because I never use it all, so I substitute “sour milk” by combining milk and lemon juice. You should let the milk and lemon juice mixture set for a couple of minutes before combining it with the remaining wet ingredients.

3) Combine the flours, spices, baking soda and salt.

4) In a separate bowl, combine the “sour milk,” oil, molasses, egg, vanilla, and sugar.

5) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stir until well combined.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I let mine cool in the pan, and then dusted the top with a little powdered sugar, just for pretty.


This is one of the easiest and tastiest things I’ve ever baked; I hope you like it too.

While my postings are sure to become sparse as I get back into the groove of grad school, I will be making baklava sometime in the next couple of weeks, so tune in for that.

Happy back to school everyone!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Banana Bread: Healthy, Wholesome, and Oh So Good


I like just about every fruit; bananas are one of my year round stand-bys. I buy them every single week. On their own, in a bowl of cereal, with some peanut butter, any way you slice it I’ll eat a banana. As much as I like them, it never fails that one or two get too ripe before I can eat them. Of course, I can’t let them go to waste, so banana bread it is (I think Alfred plans it this way – because he loves banana bread). In the last couple of years I’ve tried several different recipes – some are too dry, others too moist – after some tweaking I think I’ve finally developed my favorite banana bread recipe. Oh, and it just so happens that it has very little fat, and a healthy dose of whole grains.
Tip: If you don’t have time to use your ripe bananas right away, freeze them, then thaw when you are ready to make the banana bread.

Makes 1 Loaf
2 Cups of Flour (I highly recommend you try 1 Cup All Purpose, 1 Cup Whole Wheat – it tastes great and it’s good for you! Alfred actually says this mixture makes the best banana bread – it imparts a little chewiness.)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
Pinch Salt
2 large, very ripe Bananas
2 Eggs
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
2 Tablespoons Milk (or Soy Milk)
½-1 Cup Nuts (use however much and whatever kind you like - pecans, walnuts, or black walnuts are all good)

To ensure that the bread rises well and browns properly, make sure your oven is preheated to 400 degrees, and make sure a rack is situated in the middle of your oven. Next, prepare your loaf pan so the bread will not stick. I use a neat trick I read about a few months ago – lightly oil your pan, then dust the inside with granulated sugar (rather than flour) – it creates a lovely sweet crunchy crust.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. (As an aside, the way you measure the flour can have a big impact on the outcome of all baked goods. Depending upon how you measure it, you can get widely different amounts (in weight) of flour. If you put your measuring cup in the bag and scoop it full you will pack a lot of flour into your cup. Most professional bakers either weigh their flour (rather than measuring by volume) or they begin by stirring/whisking the flour in the bag to aerate it a little, then lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup, once the cup is full, level the top with the back of a butter knife. I always measure my flour this way.)
In a separate bowl mash the bananas; mix in the sugars, eggs, vanilla, oil and milk until thoroughly combined.
Sift (or simply pour if you don’t have a sifter) the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients; fold together until just combined – don’t stir too much or the texture of the cooked bread will be unpleasantly tough. Fold in the nuts.
Pour into the prepared loaf pan, bake in the center of your oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a rack or a plate.
After cooled, store at room temperature wrapped in foil – unlike plastic wrap or air-tight containers this will ensure that the bread stays fresh, but it lets in a little air so the top doesn’t get gooey (which Alfred hates!).



I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
P.S. You can easily turn this into banana nut muffins, just bake in a muffin pan at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes.