April 22, 2014

Cinnamon Banana Bread with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips

My youngest child LOVES bananas and so we always have a bunch or 12 in the kitchen. Sometimes, actually rather frequently, I end up with a few that are starting to get dark and soft before he eats them. So, I freeze them for smoothies, use them in pudding, and a couple times a month I make muffins or bread with them. Whenever I make banana bread of muffins, I try to do something different with them using my main recipe. Sometimes I add Nutella, sometimes shredded coconut and well drained and squeezed canned crushed pineapple. Sometimes chocolate chips or peanut butter. I don't usually add nuts, since my kids aren't too fond of them, but nuts are amazing in banana bread and when I make it for myself, I will add some chopped walnuts.

When I went to make this loaf yesterday, I'd planned to do a PB&J bread using this amazing jam I got from my friend Renee of Freakin' Flamingo... however, the kids had eaten it all! Not that I could blame them, it was just that good. I think this bread would have been amazing with her "Strawberry Vanilla Jam" and just the peanut butter chips. I'll have to order some more of her jam and try it one of these days soon... after having Renee's jams, the usual store bought stuff just won't do! If you would like to check out Freakin' Flamingo, you can do so here:
Website:  http://freakinflamingo.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FreakinFlamingo
Flamingo Musings (food blog): http://flamingomusings.com/

Strawberry Vanilla Jam
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
Strawberry Vanilla Jam


Cinnamon Banana Bread w/ Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
4 ounces peanut butter chips
4 ounces milk chocolate chips

Method:
1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2: Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork until fairly smooth.

3: Add in the melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla and combine well. 

4: Add in the cinnamon, baking soda and salt and mix again.

5: Add the flour, mix well. 

6: Fold in the peanut butter and milk chocolate chips.

7: Pour the mixture into a greased 4x8 inch loaf pan.

8: Bake for about 1 hour. When a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, the bread is done. 

9: Cool on a rack in the pan for about 1 hour before removing from pan.

Makes one loaf.

April 17, 2014

Trio of Deviled Eggs

Deviled Egg Recipe

Can you believe Easter is right around the corner? Time for Easter baskets, daffodils, jelly beans and lots of colored egg decorating. My kids love to dye eggs and by the time Easter comes and goes, I usually have at least 2 or 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs to use before they go south. We like egg salad, so that's normally how I put those pretty eggs to good use but we also adore deviled eggs and this time I decided to make things a bit more interesting than just the usual mayo/mustard mixture. I had just a little guacamole and a bit of hummus left over and this is how I used it up.


Guacamole Deviled Egg

My kids aren't fans of deviled eggs that have chunks in the filling, so I left these fairly plain and simple. If you like a chunkier filling you could add some finely diced tomato, red pepper or even some chopped cooked bacon to any of these and it would be delicious!

What dishes are gracing your table this Easter holiday? How does your family celebrate this holiday?

Hummus Deviled Egg

Trio of Deviled Eggs



Ingredients:
18 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in halves
1/2 cup prepared guacamole
1/2 cup prepared hummus
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon minced onion 
Salt and pepper
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Smoked paprika

Method:
Guacamole Deviled Eggs:
1: In a small bowl mash the yolks from 6 eggs until crumbly.
2: Mix prepared guacamole into mashed egg yolk and combine well.
3: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
4: Fill 12 egg halves with yolk/guac mixture with a spoon or piping bag.
5: Sprinkle lightly with chili powder for garnish.

Hummus Deviled Eggs:  
1: In a small bowl mash the yolks from 6 eggs until crumbly.
2: Mix prepared hummus into mashed egg yolk and combine well.
3: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
4: Fill 12 egg halves with yolk/hummus mixture with a spoon or piping bag.
5: Sprinkle lightly with ground cumin for garnish.

Traditional Deviled Eggs:
1: In a small bowl mash the yolks from 6 eggs until crumbly.
2: Mix Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and minced onion into mashed egg yolk and combine well.
3: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
4: Fill 12 egg halves with yolk mixture with a spoon or piping bag.
5: Sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika for garnish.

Makes 18 servings of 2 halves each.

April 3, 2014

Lemony Crab Risotto with Prosecco and Chive


Do you have a favorite room in your house? That one place where you are most comfortable, where you always seem to go when you need to relax and take shelter from the storm that life can sometimes be? What is that place for you? Why is it your sanctuary? Perhaps it's your bedroom, a place of quiet softness and rest. Or maybe, for you, it's the living room. A place that welcomes you to sit in an overstuffed recliner while you pour yourself into a favorite novel or get lost in whatever television show you have ready and waiting on the DVR.

That place, for me, is the kitchen. It's the one room in my house that can do everything I need a room to do. It's where I go when I am feeling sad and need to cheer up. I go to the kitchen when I am happy and want to be creative. When I need to relax, off to the kitchen I go. Over our kitchen table so many emotions have been spilled. Happy birthdays, tears over homework, heavy discussions about life's difficulties, joyful revelations. That table has seen it all. All 3 of my children have been raised around it. A marriage was begun and ended at that table. It's been the centerpiece of many a family celebration and where I do the majority of my work. I would go as far as to say the kitchen is the heart of our home.


The last couple weeks seem to be filled with lots of bad news for some of the people closest to me. Death and illness, financial hardships and many difficult life struggles. While many of the things that have been challenging those close to me aren't directly affecting me, I am a highly empathetic person and I tend to take on their stress and pain myself. So, I've been taking to the kitchen to relax and get my mind off all the negativity. I've been most driven to making new recipes and trying some things I've not cooked with before. Of course, the meals of the past couple weeks have included some of our tried and true comfort dishes... but I have gravitated toward recipes that require more time and effort. Not necessarily more complicated or difficult, rather, preparations that demand me to be more mindful while executing them. This risotto was one of those dishes.

Risotto isn't at all difficult to prepare. It's time consuming more than anything. But it's one of those intensely satisfying meals because at the end you are rewarded with a bowl of creamy, comforting, soul filling deliciousness. This particular meal was an ideal stress reliever for me. I'd decided to use Prosecco in place of the white wine that I would typically made this risotto with. Being the recipe only called for a cup of the bubbly stuff meant that I had most of the bottle left. I really dislike to save Prosecco, since it never seems as good the next day so this was perfect. I savored the remainder of the bottle while I prepared my mis en place and while I stood at the stove slowly stirring and adding stock to the risotto as it cooked. I savored the final glass with our meal of this delightful risotto and roasted lemon scented asparagus. It was exactly what I needed. From start to finish. The slow preparation, the sights and scents of simple, fresh food being transformed into something decadent and luxurious. I felt completely pampered by that couple hours spent in my kitchen and when the meal was finished I was completely renewed. Relaxed and full. Not just my belly. My heart was full. Complete joy. From such a simple few things that we so often take for granted. Watching my children enjoy the meal I prepared while spending time connecting with them. Having the means to grace our table with such an amazing meal. Working with beautiful ingredients. Every bit of the process soothed me and brought me into a place of bliss and thankfulness for my life and the people in it.

Food, the kitchen... the connections, the love and happiness that bloom from them.. it grounds me. It is truly what centers me and brings me to my happy place. My hope for all of you is that you find that place, that passion in your own life, whatever it may be.




Lemony Crab Risotto with Prosecco and Chive

Ingredients:

* 1 pound lump crab meat
* 8 Tablespoons butter (reserve 2 Tablespoons)
* 1 cup chopped shallots
* 2 cups Arborio rice
* 1 cup Prosecco
* 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* Juice from 1 lemon
* Zest from one lemon (for garnish)
* 1/2 cup chopped chives (reserve half for garnish)
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (reserve 1/8 cup for garnish)
* Salt and pepper

Method:

1: Prepare lump crab meat and set aside.

2: Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep the stock simmering as you use it.

3:  In a 4 quart saucepan, heat 6 Tablespoons butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until well coated.

4: Add the Prosecco. Stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2 cup increments. Make sure you keep stirring and do not walk away; you do not want the rice to stick. Continue adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm. This should take 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat.

5: Stir in the lemon juice.

6: Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter.
7: Fold in half of the chopped chives.

8: Carefully fold in the crab meat.

9: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

10: Garnish with a sprinkle of lemon zest, Parmesan and chopped chive.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6-8 large servings

April 2, 2014

Le Creuset Shellfish Pot Giveaway



I'm here with another giveaway! This time I am giving away this gorgeous Le Creuset Shellfish Pot in the color pictured here (soleil).

Description from http://www.lecreuset.com:

Ideal for steaming and serving mussels, moules frites and oysters, the enamel-on-steel Shellfish Pot is designed to limit evaporation, infusing the entire dish with flavor during cooking.

Our heavy-gauge enamel-on-steel pots are not only resistant to wear and damage, they are also designed for consistent performance on any type of stovetop. Each pot’s high-profile design and tight-fitting lid create an environment that limits evaporation while infusing heated liquids through all layers of ingredients.

Features
  • Constructed from heavy-gauge carbon steel with a durable and colorful porcelain enamel finish
  • Stainless steel rim around the edges prevents chipping and cracking
  • Easy-to-clean interior resists flavor absorption and staining
  • Convenient quick heating and superior heat distribution
  • Tight-fitting lid locks in moisture
  • Triple-welded side handles give a secure, confident hold
All the details are below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 25, 2014

Fan Appreciation Giveaway


To celebrate all my readers and fans, I'm giving away a $100 Visa gift card! All you have to do is follow the instructions below to gain up to 4 entries! The giveaway will close on 4.1.2014 at 12:00am EST. I will randomly pick one person to win and will contact them within 24 hours of the closing time!

Thanks for being a friend and fan of my blog!


 a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 18, 2014

Clementine Gin and Tonic

I don't post all that many drink recipes, mostly because the libations I tend to gravitate to are simple standards that one can find in any Google search. I am more of a beer drinker than anything... but when I do drink liquor I'm a gin and tonic kinda girl and always have been. A classic gin and tonic with a squeeze of lime is refreshing and light and delightful. Always a good choice in my book.

A couple weeks back I bought myself a bottle of my all time favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire. I made sure I got a couple bottles of tonic water and a bunch of fresh limes and planned to enjoy a few of these lovely drinks over the long weekend that was about to ensue. I say long weekend because we were on alert that particular weekend for a nasty snowstorm that was threatening to drop upwards of a foot of snow here in Pennsylvania! I was sure my kids would have at least a day or two off of school and that we'd be snowbound, as this Mama doesn't drive in the white stuff. The plan for that weekend was to be stocked up with plenty of yummy snacks, drinks, movies and hunker down for some good old fashioned family time.

 During my "snowmageddon" grocery trip where I went ahead and bought ALL THE MILK, TOILET PAPER AND BREAD, I also picked up a huge box of Cuties, also known as clementines, for the wee ones to snack on during our snow in.

The first day or so of our long weekend was grand! Children all enjoying the extra time off of school, playing happily with each other... a real bonding family time. Until the second to third day off. That's when cabin fever started to really take hold. The bickering, the "Mom! I'm bored", the "He/She touched me!" Oh yes... and the teen and preteen angst! By then I was about ready to start taking slugs directly off the bottle, forget being civilized about making a proper cocktail. However, I didn't do that. Instead I found something on the local cable system's pay per view channel and ordered a movie for them to watch... and while they were plopped in front of the TV without arguing for a couple hours I took to the kitchen to start dinner. Cooking always relaxes me, especially if I can be creative and take a little of this and that from the fridge and pantry and come up with something new.

As I was standing there chopping veg for dinner, I started thinking that perhaps a single drink while I played in the kitchen would be nice. I thought about a beer... but right then I needed something less pedestrian. Something more... sophisticated? I wanted not a beer, chugged from it's bottle but something pretty, refined. Something in a grown up glass. Made of actual glass and not some brightly colored plastic cup in a size made for the hands of a 6 year old. About then I spotted the clementines sitting so brightly orange and happy on the kitchen counter.  Mixed in with that sunny mound of cuties was my few token limes that were slated for my usual gin and tonic... but then I wondered... how would a gin and tonic made with clementine instead of lime be? That was it! That would be the perfect drink. And so it was.

There is something so wonderful about the ritual of making a drink. It feels artful. The scents, the sounds, the sights. The tink of ice hitting the glass, the smells of citrus, the aroma of the liquor, the bubbles from the tonic bursting. It's beautiful. All those senses indulged before one even takes a single sip. It's funny... making and consuming that solitary drink took all of maybe 30 minutes, start to finish. But it renewed me in a way I can't describe suitably. Maybe it was that I took that small sliver of moments for myself and did something for no one but myself. For that tiny space of time I was focused on nothing but the sights and sounds, flavors and smells revolving around that little glass and it made me so very happy. Sometimes it truly is the little things that make a big difference. Being attuned to the moment and lingering there... leaving everything else behind and just being. Good stuff. You should try it for yourself sometime ;)

Clementine Gin & Tonic (My way)

Ingredients:
1 nice glass
2-3 ice cubes
2 clemintines
2 ounces gin
Tonic water to top (4 ounces or so)

Method:
1: Add ice to glass.
2: Pour 2 ounces gin over ice.
3: Squeeze the juice from one clementine into glass with ice and gin.
4: Top with tonic water.
5: Stir lightly.
6: Cut 2 wedges from second clementine. One wedge to go in your drink and one for the rim of the glass (as shown.)
7: Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy.

Makes 1 drink.

March 13, 2014

Nachos with Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salsa





Once again, I've decided to participate in The Foodie Blogroll's monthly 1,2,3 Cook and Snap! contest. This month's ingredients are Chicken, bacon and avocado as chosen by February's winner Renee from Kudos Kitchen! You can see her winning entry by clicking here. Renee is one of the most creative bloggers around and she does some of the most amazing painted glassware! Go take a look around her site, you might even find something you'd like treat yourself with!

This month's ingredient list was tough for me. Chicken, bacon and avocado play so very nicely together, but we're not huge fans of avocado that has been heated too much. Cold or room temperature is divine... but it changes the flavor once it's been really heated and my family just aren't fans. So... what to make? A salad or sandwich was a given. And while absolutely delicious, I was sure someone else would have already entered those in the contest and I wanted to figure out something different. I came up with a few ideas but in the end I let the family vote and this was the overwhelming winner.

A few notes before I get on to the recipe. I used my "house" taco seasoning to season the chicken. One of these days I will post that, if anyone is interested. For this recipe's purpose, I'm going to suggest using whatever you normally would use to season your beef or chicken tacos. Or in a pinch, you could even use a store bought rotisserie chicken and once the meat is shredded add a small can of enchilada sauce. I do that now and then if we want chicken tacos in a hurry. The family LOVED these and have already told me we need to make them again. I can't exactly call this a low calorie dish, but I tried to make it as healthy as possible by using low fat chips, cheese and sour cream as well as lower sodium bacon. If I would have thought to ask the admins of this contest, I would have asked if turkey bacon would be acceptable. I think turkey bacon, made very crisp and crumbly would have been one of those few recipes that would have worked well together. One suggestion, if you'd like to omit the bacon because of fat and calories would be to mix some smoked paprika into the sour cream or Greek yogurt to impart that smokey flavor. I do that with recipes often, if they call for just enough bacon for flavor and I'm trying to save some calories. Also, this would be amazing wrapped in lettuce cups or made into a salad! Skip the chips, if you like, and take it to an even healthier level.  We ate this as dinner, without any sides and tried to keep our portions reasonable. It's something that could be used on a "splurge" day, if you are trying to keep tabs on your calorie intake.





Nachos with Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salsa
Ingredients:
1 bag of low fat tortilla chips
6 slices of lower sodium bacon cooked, drained and crumbled
1 pound of cooked and shredded chicken
1 packet of taco seasoning or 1 small can of enchilada sauce
2 cups low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup low fat sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
For Avocado Salsa:
2 ripe avocados, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 can sweet corn, drained
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1: Preheat oven to 375*F

2: Combine cooked chicken and taco seasoning (add water and prepare according to package directions) or combine chicken and can of enchilada sauce and set aside.

3: Prepare avocado salsa by combining diced avocado, chopped tomato, drained sweet corn, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

4: On a baking sheet, lay out tortilla chips to cover entire baking sheet. You may wish to cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil first to ease clean up.

5: Cover chips with a generous layer of the seasoned chicken mixture.

6: Cover chicken layer with shredded cheddar cheese.

7: Bake in the oven for no more than 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

8: Remove from oven and layer the avocado salsa over the cheese.

9: Dollop with sour cream or Greek yogurt.

10: Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and chopped green onion.

11: EAT and ENJOY!

Makes 6 meal sized portions
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