Friday, January 28, 2011

Banana Bread

I was standing in my kitchen and saw some ripe bananas in my fruit basket that I didn't want to go to waste. Since I was heading out to spend some time with family, why not bring along some banana bread for them. So I am looking around my cabinets to see what I can mix into this. Mmm, coconut and almonds sounds good. I made them banana bread before with coconut and walnuts and they loved it but since I have no walnuts on hand, almonds should do. This loaf came out great but if you don't like almonds or coconut, just skip that mix-in. Enjoy!

Banana Bread with Coconut and Slivered Almonds
Recipe by Gold Medal Flour (with slight modifications)
Makes one large loaf

1 ¼ cups sugar
½ cup butter or ½ cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (3-4 medium)
½ cup buttermilk (No buttermilk? Use a ½ cup of plain yogurt or sour cream or mix ½ cup of regular milk with ½ tbsp of lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup, if desired (I used ½ cup of slivered almonds and ½ shredded coconut plus some extra for the top of loaf)

Ready to go in the oven.
Directions: Heat oven to 350°. Grease bottom and sides of a loaf pan. In large bowl, mix sugar and butter. Add eggs, bananas, buttermilk and vanilla; beat with electric mixer (I used my Kitchen Aid) on medium speed until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and 1 cup nuts and coconut (if using) just until moistened (Careful not to over mix). Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle some coconut and slivered almonds on the top of the batter. Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf pan; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool about 1 hour before slicing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pizza Night

Today was one of those days where I just didn’t feel like cooking but I also didn’t want to spend the money to buy anything. Plus, I love to cook so I should able to make something quick and what though? Aha – pizza! It's 2PM and if I want to have dinner ready in time, I need to start making the dough ASAP. I discovered a great new blog recently that featured a pizza dough that that looked quick and easy. The pizza dough recipe I have been using lately is good but didn’t really have any impactful flavor to it. I gave this new recipe a whirl and it was great – definitely a keeper. It paired perfectly with our favorite toppings of mozzarella and pineapple. Actually this recipe made enough dough for two large pizzas. This great blog also featured another recipe for a Mexican pizza which I want to try with the other half of dough...maybe next week.

Pizza Dough
Recipe by A Couple Cooks
Makes 2 large pizzas

4 cups white flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 ¾ cups warm water
Kosher salt (I used 1 Tbsp regular iodized salt)

Directions: In a food processor (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a dough hook), combine flour, 2 teaspoons yeast, ½ tablespoon olive oil, and salt. With the food processor on, slowly (I mean slowly, like over 30 seconds) start pouring in 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of warm water. Stop adding water when the dough form a single ball. If you add too much water and the dough gets sticky, just add a bit more flour. Leave the food processor on for about 10 more seconds to knead the dough a bit. Place the dough ball in a floured bowl, cover it with a towel, and allow it to rise for about an hour. After an hour, reform the risen dough into a ball. Divide it into two equal parts and either freeze it or allow it to relax for immediate use (See info below). To stretch the dough, gently press it out on the counter into a circle shape, about half the size of the final pizza. Then drape the dough over both of your knuckles and rotate it around, allowing it to stretch itself to a larger circle, about 10 inches in diameter. If the dough starts to resist stretching, put it down and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes, at which point it will stretch more easily.

To freeze: Place each dough ball in a zip-top bag and put in the freezer. The morning that you are going to use the dough, remove it from the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw. About 30 minutes before making the pizza, take it out of the baggie and allow it to relax on the counter, covered with plastic wrap. To use immediately: Cover each dough ball with plastic wrap, and let them sit on the counter for another 30 minutes to relax.
The final product.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fast & Easy Mid-Week Appetizer: Guacamole!

I bought a couple of avocados last weekend at the farmer's market which I wanted to use for my tasty guacamole recipe. This is my own spin on the classic although; all guacamoles pretty much consist of the same ingredients. I like my guac chunky and with a kick so here it is. Enjoy!

A Heart for Cooking original recipe
Makes enough for 4 people (or 2 greedy ones like my husband and me)

My chunky guacamole ready to serve.

2 avocados
2 limes
1 lemon
½ cup chopped red onion
1 ripe, medium chopped tomato
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
Salt and fresh pepper, to taste

Directions: Peel and seed the 2 avocados into a large bowl. Take one of the limes and roll it against the counter with the palm of your hand to soften the lime and make it easier to juice. Squeeze the lime over the avocados and then gently mash the avocados, leaving some chunks. Next add the red onions, tomatoes and the remaining lime and lemon to the avocado mixture and stir together. Mix in the cilantro and add as much salt and fresh pepper to your liking. I then add 3 splashes of Tabasco and mix again. This can now be covered and refrigerated until ready to serve with tortilla chips or added to your favorite dish.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spinach & Mixed Berry Salads

So I usually make breakfast and lunches for my husband and myself and wanted to make a spinach salad for tomorrow. We went to Costco last weekend and bought huge containers of strawberries and blueberries and I wanted to use them up before they went bad. So what to make but a berry salad! I originally got this idea from a salad I had at Panera Bread this past Summer. It had berries and pineapple chunks in it and was yummy however; it is not available during the winter. So, here is my own version of it which I prepare and package up the night before.

Packaged and ready to go.

Spinach & Mixed Berry Salad
My own recipe which is inspired by Panera Bread
Makes 2 salads

4 cups of baby spinach
1 cup of strawberries, quartered
1 cup of blueberries
½ cup candied walnuts
2 slices of goat cheese
Balsamic vinaigrette

Directions: In two large Tupperware containers, divide 2 cups of baby spinach in each. Top each salad with half of the strawberries and blueberries. Place one slice of the goat cheese on each salad and then close Tupperware containers and place in refrigerator. I then divide the ½ cup candied walnuts into two plastic baggies and seal. I don't put these on the salad until I am ready to have my lunch since they tend to get a little soggy if I refrigerator them on the salad. I then divide the vinaigrette into little containers so that I don't have to take the whole bottle in my lunch bag. Viola -- lunch is ready!