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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Banana Bread

I make a lot of bread and desserts but have not posted very many because we gave up desserts for Lent. Now that Lent is over, we are on an Easter feast! This banana bread is breakfast, snack, and dessert. It makes one large loaf pan, so we did not have to freeze any.
My mom made this recipe when we were kids. I like it because it is very moist and I find most banana bread to be dry. It also has a streusel topping which adds a dessert-like quality.
This is a great comfort food!
I start by mashing my bananas in my stand mixer:

You'll notice this recipe calls for a small bit of oil. While I am not usually a gadget kind of baker, I really like this liquid measuring cup. (My Mom gave this to me for Christmas and she got a lot of slack for giving me a shot glass but she insisted it was a liquid measuring cup.) No matter what you call it, it comes in very handy!
It is imperative that you do not over-mix quick breads as they can become tough. Once you combine all ingredients in the mixer be sure to mix only until combined. It will look something like this:

Remember I said this has streusel? I love streusel! It is super easy to make and makes an ordinary dessert or bread outstanding!

Ready for the oven!

Banana Bread copied from my Mom's old Betty Crocker cookbook 
2 ½ c. flour                                                                            1 c. sugar
3 ½ t. baking powder                                                            1 t. salt
3 T. oil                                                                                   ¾ c. milk
1 egg                                                                                     1 c. finely chopped nuts
1 c. mashed bananas (2-3)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.  Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl;  beat on medium speed ½ minute, scraping bowl constantly.  Pour into pan.                  TOPPING:
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ t. cinnamon
1 T. melted butter
1 – 2 T. flour
Mix together and sprinkle on top of batter before baking.

Bake 55 – 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from pan; cool thoroughly before slicing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dutch Letters

Dutch Letters are a delicious flaky pastry stuffed with almond flavoring. I learned to love them while I was in college. I cannot justify a multi-hour drive to fulfill my sweet tooth so I was delighted when my sister found a recipe for  Dutch Letters here.

When I was a kid I always took baked goods to the 4-H fair. My Mom let me choose something complicated and I would spend most of the winter making it until I could do it perfectly for the July fair. I definitely need more practice on these Dutch Letters as the appearance is far from perfect and I did not think there was enough almond filling. I will let you know when I get it perfected to fair quality, but in the mean time, I thought I would share a fun and tasty creation!

First, I mixed up the filling. I used this almond paste (the full recipe is below)
I used puff pastry rather than making my own dough as I needed to get these made in an evening after work. I set out both squares of puff pastry to defrost for 30 minutes. Once they were not entirely frozen I rolled them out on a (heavily) floured surface.

You will want the pastry to be quite thin. Then, cut one inch strips of dough and dust off any excess flour.
Place a small amount of the almond filling down the middle of the one inch strip. Stop half way down the strip.
Wet the edges of the pastry that have the almond filling.
(I place a bowl on the counter and dip my fingers in the water to wet the edges of the pastry.)
NOTE: you only need to do half of the length of the pastry because you will fold the other half onto the first, wet, half.
Press the pastry together.
Dutch Letters are traditionally in the shape of an S. I learned that making an S shape out of a narrow, filling filled pastry takes more than patience and precision. Actually, I think you have to be a genius to get the shape as perfect as the ladies do at Jaarsma Bakery, the bakery in my college town.  I practiced making many shapes and made a lot of lower case “l” shapes. I justified my unwillingness to fight with the dough to make S shapes because the S Dutch Letter is quite large and I wanted to be able to eat a more moderately sized Dutch Letter.  
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from a pan and finish the tops with a rub of butter and a sprinkling of sugar. (Hint: I tear off one edge of butter and smear it across the top of the Dutch Letter.)
Dutch Letters
Almond Filling:
8 oz. almond paste
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg white

1 package puff pastry

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and set for 30 minutes until defrosted. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry at a time.

Cut puff pastry in one inch slices.

Place a small amount of almond filling down half of the pastry.

Wet the edges of the half of the pastry without filling. Fold the non-filled pastry on top of the filled portion and seal edges.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 mintes.

Lightly spread butter on top of letters and sprinkle with sugar.

Like I iluded above, these are not yet perfect, but they cannot be that bad as my Mother-in-Law called and during the course of the conversation we asked how she was. She said she was doing well but that she had a problem. We asked what her problem was and she said she was out of Dutch Letters.

I'm glad I have people to help me eat them as I prefect the recipe :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fruit Dip

Fruit Dip
I need to expand my appetizer database and found the perfect fruit dip to add to my appetizer list. The great thing about this recipe is that it is easy, fast, and delicious!
The recipe is adapted from Sweet Flours, a blog that I follow. I modified the recipe a bit to make it dairy free and in doing so I turned a cheese ball into a fruit dip. It tastes good, is easier than a cheese ball, and presents beautifully. In addition, it is low in fat and sugar.
I used Tofutini Better Than Cream Cheese. Here is what it looks like: 
Lemon Fruit Dip
8 ounces Tofutini Cream Cheese
Zest of 1 large lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixed throughout.
Pour into a serving bowl and serve with the fruit of your choosing.

   I choose strawberries and grapes this time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My latest quest: finding vegetable recipes

Vegetables L
I think I mentioned that I do not love vegetables. I have diagnosed myself with a genetic predisposition to a disinterest in vegetables. Thank you, Dad!
As a matter of fact, when I was a kid I asked if I could be a “meat-a-tarian” (on second thought, I also wanted to be a chip-a-tarian so I do like some vegetables ;) )
I realize that vegetables are good for me so I decided that the adult thing to do would be to embrace vegetables. Therefore, I plan to make vegetables a bigger focus in the meals I make.
So, how did we do on the vegetable front tonight? I believe a teacher would give me a “D” at best. I slaved over iceberg lettuce salads complete with cheese and dressing. The take away is that there is room for improvement!
I do have plans to improve, as I was reading an article today about rhubarb, a vegetable that is often forgotten. Lucky for me my parents have an abundance of the stuff and I love it! Rhubarb is in season now, so I encourage you to try it. It is tart, and I like it with truckloads of sugar. I know there are some great savory dishes with pork and rhubarb so you can look forward to some of those recipes in the days and weeks to come!
Stay tuned for the latest vegetable recipes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quinoa with Squash and Tomato

I have never made Quinoa before but since it is a new fad food I thought I should make it myself.
Quinoa is grain-like but is a distant cousin to beets and spinach. In addition, it has fiber, protein, and other minerals. You cook it like rice and can dress it up or down just like rice (read: it is ok plain but nothing fancy. The good news is that you can add to it and make it very good)!
It is a fad food, and therefore more expensive than rice or potatoes. I think I paid $13.00 for my package of 16 servings so it is just under $1.00 per serving.
Like rice, you boil 2 parts water (2 c.) and add 1 part quinoa (1 c.). Return the water to a boil, place the lid on the quinoa and let it simmer for approximately 13 minutes or until all of the water is dissolved. (I cooked my quinoa in 1 c. chicken broth and 1 c. water and that helped to give it some extra flavor.)

While the quinoa was cooking I cubed 2 zucchinis and 2 summer squash. I sautéed the vegetables in a pan and added ½ c. chopped onion and 2 small cloves garlic. I let this sauté for about 10 minutes and then I added 1 can chopped tomatoes, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. chili powder, ½ c. salsa, ½ tsp cumin, and ½ tsp paprika.  Once the vegetables were heated through I added the quinoa and served this with parmesan cheese and goat cheese. ( I thought the goat cheese and tomato made for a funky combination so I probably won’t mix those two together again.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Homemade Hummus

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to hummus. I cannot get enough of it and in the past 3-4 years I have perfected my recipe.
Think of hummus as a dip. You take chickpeas or garbanzo beans and add other things to them until you have a creamy mixture that is perfect as a dip or sauce. The real benefit is that hummus is quite good for you.
It is good for you, but I make and eat at least a batch of hummus a week which may be in excess. Lucky for me, Bryan does not love it and certainly does not want to eat it weekly like I do, so I get the pleasure of eating all of it on my own!
For me, vegetables are best with hummus. I can eat all of the daily recommended servings of vegetables as long as there is hummus as a dip! Without hummus I rarely get all of the vegetables needed in a day into my diet.
I must warn you that my hummus is American-ized and is not entirely authentic. I am sure that I do not use enough olive oil and occasionally add things like dry ranch mix to change the hummus up a bit. I encourage you to experiment and make it as you like!
1 can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained, reserving 2 Tbsp of the liquid
1 Tbsp Tahini (this is sesame seed paste) you might find it by the olive oil or peanut butter
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. liquid from the garbanzo beans
 Add the above ingredients and combine in a food processor. Drizzle in approx. 4 Tbsp. olive oil as the hummus is processing in the food processor. Process for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.
The Tahini will store in your cupboard for approximately a year. It separates, but just stir it all together and use it until it is gone. You can see it in the container - there is liquid on the top and solid on the bottom:

When you combine it, it looks like this:

 It comes in a larger container (probably 16 oz but when you only use 1 Tbsp at a time you may want to share it with your friends/family/neighbors).
To make this more authentic add more olive oil and more tahini – at least double of both.
I generally eat hummus with carrots and broccoli, but I also eat it combined with tuna or just on pita bread or crackers.