Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grammy Witham's Banana Bread

The best recipes are those that are time tested. This recipe for banana bread (I just realized via spell check that it's not bannana- way to be an English teacher) is just such a recipe.

Grammy Witham was a close friend of my mom's. As a widow in our church, she offered her time to my mom and served her by doing our ironing. Not only did our clothes come back perfectly pressed, but they were usually accompanied by a loaf or two of Grammy's banana bread. It's the only banana bread I ate growing up, and it's the only banana bread recipe I use today. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Grammy Witham's Banana

3 Ripe banana's
1 cup sugar
1 or 2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
3/4 cups of nuts (optional)

1. Mash banana's; stir in sugar, eggs and butter.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix.

3. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Night Cooking

The weekend is here! To celebrate I got brave and tried several new recipes that I can't wait to share.
I am not very brave when it comes to cooking meat. I can do chicken. No problem. Ground beef- no problem. Since getting married and hosting a few holiday meals I've even gotten up the gumption to cook a turkey, although admittedly with more than a few panicked phone calls to my mom. But when it comes to moving beyond those basics, it definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. So tonight I chose to challenge myself a little and make pork chops. Why pork chops? They were on sale of course!
After checking the sales fliers and deciding on pork loin chops, I found this recipe for Saucy Pork Chops with Orange Slices from Southern Living. Since I was already stretching myself I decided to make my own BBQ Sauce for the first time too- now I don't know if we'll ever be able to go back to store bought! I've included both recipes below. And by the way, you've got to love the name of the BBQ sauce:

Big Daddy's Carolina Grilling Sauce

Time: 40 minutes

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (hickory flavoring)

1. Mix all except soy, butter and smoke. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 more minutes.

While the BBQ Sauce was simmering I put together the Pork Chops together and let them marinate.

Saucy Pork Chops with Orange Slices

4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) bone-in pork rib chops or loin chops*
½ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup sweet orange marmalade
½ cup bottled barbecue sauce
4 (1/4-inch-thick) orange slices

1. Pierce pork chops with a fork several times on each side. Combine pork chops and next 3 ingredients in a large shallow dish or large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Cover or seal, and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Remove chops from marinade, discarding marinade. Sprinkle chops evenly with salt and black pepper.

3. Stir together marmalade and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Brush one side of pork chops evenly with half of marmalade mixture.

4. Grill chops, marmalade mixture side up and covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 10 minutes. Turn pork chops, and brush evenly with remaining half of marmalade mixture. Grill 10 minutes or until done. Remove chops from grill, and let stand 5 minutes.

5. Grill orange slices, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat 1 minute on each side. Serve with pork chops.

*4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) boneless pork loin chops may be substituted. Reduce grilling time to 8 minutes on each side or until done.

I forgot all about grilling the oranges until we sat down to eat- but they would definitely be a great flavor combination with the Pork Chops.

The other recipe that I tried out and will definitely become a standard is this recipe for Roasted Spiced Potatoes from 64 Sq ft Kitchen. I love, love, love the flavors of garlic, lemon, and cilantro in this recipe!

Roasted Spiced Potatoes

Serves 4

Six big Yukon Gold (or any of your favorite yellow flesh potatoes)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt (to taste)

Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce (Optional)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

1. Preheat the oven at 400F. Peel and slice the potatoes into wedges or fries. Put them in a bowl, along with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, ground cumin, paprika and harissa, if used. Toss the potatoes to combine.

2. Arrange them in a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown and crisp on the outside, turning them over once, about 25-30 minutes.

3. Mix the herbs, garlic, lemon juice in a bowl. When the potatoes are baked, toss them quickly with the garlic infused herbs and serve.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Addicted to Fruit Dip

On Saturday I hosted a bridal shower for a friend of mine from work. I had so much fun planning this, and we all had so much fun celebrating her upcoming marriage with her!

My friends wedding colors are pink and green, which are just so fun to decorate with! I made chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting and had so much fun frosting them. Now, maybe I'm the only cupcake novice out there, but this was the first time that I used a cake decorating bag and tips to frost cupcakes. . . my life will never be the same. I will never frost cupcakes with a knife again! Not only was it super easy, but they came out looking oh, so cute!

Aside from the cupcakes, I am most excited about the new fruit dip recipe I found. I found a recipe for Double Chocolate Cinnamon Dip in one of my Pampered Chef Season's Best Recipe Collections and figured that chocolate and a group of women are always a good pairing. I had no idea that it would be the beginning of an addiction! The fruit dip was a total success, and since I had extra leftover. . . I have been compelled to eat the rest of it myself (not unwillingly, I assure you).

I've included the recipe below, but must warn you that once you make it, addictive behaviors may follow! Enjoy at you own risk!

Double Chocolate Cinnamon Dip

3 squares (1 ounce each) white chocolate for baking
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon and brown sugar mixture (an even amount of each)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chocolate ice cream topping

7 cups of assorted fresh fruit for dipping (strawberries, apple or pear wedges, etc.) or cinnamon crunch chips

*Chill serving bowl ahead of time to help cool dip to serving temperature.
1. coarsely chop chocolate. Place in a microwave safe bowl along with half of the whipped topping. Microwave, uncovered on high 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring after each 20-second interval.
2. In a small bowl, combine chocolate mixture and cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in remaining whipped topping and cinnamon sprinkle.
3. Spread half of the dip into serving bowl; drizzle with 1/4 cup of the chocolate ice cream topping. Spread to form an even layer. Top with remaining dip; spread to form a smooth surface. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons of ice cream topping (microwave if necessary to achieve a consistency that will drizzle). Drizzle in a spiral pattern over dip. Drag a wooden pick through ice cream topping to form a swirled pattern.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cobb Salad with chili & Lime dressing

This is the third time I've sat down to write this post...let's see if I can finally finish! There are certain foods that I only think of making when the weather gets warm. This Cobb Salad with Chili & Lime dressing is one of them. I'm typically not a fan of Cobb Salad because I don't like the hard boiled eggs, so this is my version of Cobb Salad minus the eggs (ironic considering I STILL have hard boiled eggs left over from Easter). The salad itself is pretty basic, because really how complicated can a salad be?

I use the following to make two large salads that I plate individually, but it could be done in a salad bowl too:

Two hearts of Romaine Lettuce rinsed and chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 avocado cubed
1/2 a red onion chopped
1 cup of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese

What makes this salad is the dressing, which is a combination/variation on a couple of different recipes I've tried. The combination of flavors goes great with the salad without being overpowering.

Recipe for Chili & Lime Dressing:

1 Cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 lime juiced (approximately 3-4 Tablespoons)
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/8 Teaspoon Onion powder
1/8 Teaspoon Garlic powder

Mix together and serve over salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Home Improvements and Refrigerator Rolls

My plans for trying out a slew of new recipes this week have been slightly hindered by our ambitious home improvement plans. Since we have a week off from work we decided to redo our yard and completely ripped it apart to put in new sprinklers and put down sod. I'll confess that I am usually the mastermind behind our home improvement projects, while it is my husband who ends up doing the majority of the work. However, I completely blame my overly ambitious enthusiasm on the dIY network and HG-TV. Their shows can make even the couch potato who doesn't know the difference between a hammer and a screw-driver feel like they too can lay hardwood floors, tile the bathroom, and while they're at it add an addition to the back of the house! Let's just say it's a good thing I have a husband who not only knows the difference between a hammer and a screw-driver (and knows how to use them), but is also willing to put in a lot of hard work.
That said, I did get a chance to try a new bread recipe. First, I must tell you that I LOVE good bread. I really think I could live on bread- no problem! I have several roll recipes that I use, but this new recipe is sure to become another standby. I found this recipe for refrigerator rolls on the Girl Talk blog (not a cooking blog, but definitely a favorite).

I'm always on the lookout for recipes that make the work week a little easier, and the best part about these rolls is that once you make the dough you can bake whatever you need and then save the rest for up to a week! This is particularly useful if, like me, you are only cooking for a few people and a whole batch of rolls would mostly be wasted.
Oh, and one last thing before I give the recipe: unless I'm mistaken and it's just me, Buttermilk isn't usually something people keep on hand. An easy substitute for buttermilk is to use one cup of milk combined with one tablespoon of either white vinegar or lemon juice for each cup of buttermilk. Combine the milk and white vinegar or lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes before using.

Buttermilk Refrigerator Rolls
Makes about 2 dozen

1 pkg dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
½ cup shortening, melted
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp soda
2 cups buttermilk

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand five minutes. Stir in melted shortening. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk to yeast mixture; mix well. Turn dough out on a well-floured surface; knead gently until dough can be handled. Shape dough into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover dough, and refrigerate until needed (dough will keep one week). Shape dough into rolls, as desired; place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Break Means Time to Try New Recipes

The saying goes, and I can't argue, that the best part of teaching is summer vacation. Well, I'm here to tell you that spring break is a close second! Today we got to sleep in, go out to breakfast with family, and even hit a matinee at the cheap theater. I can already tell that going back to work next week is going to be tough!
One of the things I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to try new recipes- something I don't always have time for during the school year.
The recipe I experimented with today I'll admit was born out of pure food snobbery. A few months ago I decided to try stuffed chicken breast from Trader Joe's. Being that I am a huge fan of Trader Joe's and find even their pre-prepared food great (it passes both the real and good test of my food snobbery) I had complete confidence that the stuffed chicken breast would surpass my expectations. I was sorely disappointed. Not only did the meat come out dry, the whole thing was bland and rather flavorless. I knew I could make it better.
And just to show you how well my husband knows me, when I announced that I was making stuffed chicken breast with cornbread stuffing for dinner, the first thing he asked was, "Are you trying to prove you can make it better than Trader Joe's?" I was caught, but in the was definitely better!
In order to stuff the chicken I cut the top of the breast length-wise and then again the other direction to form a cross. I then cut back each of the corners created by the cross cut, in order to stuff the chicken. Before stuffing I seasoned it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh Rosemary.

I'm usually not a fan of packaged stuffing, but Trader Joe's does have a good cornbread stuffing mix. I used this to stuff the chicken, adding cranberries to give it additional flavor. After stuffing each breast, I filled the rest of the pan with the leftover stuffing and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.

The other new recipe I tried tonight was Quick Zucchini Saute. I got this recipe from the the blog Smitten Kitchen, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The thing I love about this recipe is how absolutely simple it is. All you need to do is brown thinly sliced almonds in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. After cutting Zucchini into 1/8 inch matchsticks, add to the almonds and saute for one minute only. The result is an easy and delicious vegetable side dish!

One day of break down and two new recipes tried- I'll keep you posted on anything else I come up with this week!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Success and Deviled Egg Disaster

How fitting that on the first day of my blog I experience the sweet and tasty success of a new recipe and a disastrous attempt at what should have been a simple recipe. Let's start with today's failure- we'll save the good stuff for last!
Deviled Eggs. Simple, right? In my thinking they were a done deal; I had even planned ahead and hard-boiled the eggs the day before to save us time on Easter Sunday. The problem came when it was time to peel the eggs. Not my favorite task, but typically an easy one. Not today. Every egg we tried to peel either tore completely in half or took big chunks of the egg white with it.

Hardly something you would want to bring to Easter Dinner! Fortunately, we have understanding friends who were willing to forego the Deviled Eggs. Though I'm still not quite sure what happened, I think it may have had to do with the brand of eggs. Our next attempt with a different brand peeled perfectly.

Now for the success of the day- Cinnamon Rolls. My mom gave me a bread machine for Christmas and this was the first time I've used the dough cycle. The recipe is from the Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. After letting the bread machine do all the kneading and rising, I hand rolled and cut the cinnamon rolls. I let them slow-rise in the fridge overnight and we enjoyed these delicious, sweet rolls after church today.