Saturday, August 28, 2010

Banana Bread with Style

When the weekend comes around I often look at some speckled bananas on the counter and wonder why do I continue to buy bananas and what am I going to make with these now. I almost always make my mom's banana bread recipe but tonight I was looking for something a little different. After browsing Cooks Illustrated for banana recipes I decided on a Macadamia Coconut Banana Bread, sounds tropical. As I go to the cabinet that houses the macadamia nuts I don't see the bag where it usually sits. I pull over a chair to stand on to get a better look, still no macadamia nuts. So a minor setback no macadamia nuts, but I have been handling setbacks well all day. I was in BJ's earlier and Francis had to use the restroom, while in there someone swiped my cart, minor setback but I was irritated. So the nut thing is really no big deal, I have pecans.

I learned something new while reading this recipe. Often recipes call for just prepping the bottom of the pan, I always wondered why thinking the rest of the cake/bread will be stuck while the bottom isn't. The tip in the recipe said that if you prep the sides of the pan your cake/bread won't rise as high in the center. Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for the reason behind leaving the sides ungreased.

I don't know know how you may feel about coconut but I love it. I know it is usually a love hate thing with most people. I am the only one in my house that likes, more like loves coconut. When we go out for an ice cream treat with the boys and the ice cream shop has coconut ice cream I would be willing to bet that is what I am going to have. Tim thinks I get it just because I don't want to share a taste of my ice cream, that isn't it I really do LOVE coconut!

1/2 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 very ripe bananas , soft, darkly speckled, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs , beaten lightly
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast coconut and macadamia nuts on small cookie sheet, stirring every 2 minutes, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Readjust oven rack to lower middle position. Grease bottom only of regular loaf pan, or grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. Combine first four ingredients, coconut, and nuts together in large bowl; set aside.

2. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

It all began with a trip to the local library. I always browse the new arrivals, I am not a big reader but I do love a good cookbook. This wasn't just any cookbook but a cookbook that had a little story that went along with each cake. Cakes that she shared with her co-workers, just like me. An added bonus was when I googled the cookbook, because I had to have it, I found it on a discount book website and scored it for $5 with FREE SHIPPING! This is just the first of many cakes to come from this must have cookbook.

All too often I have bananas on the counter that are past their eating prime, so it was a no brainer to start with a banana cake. The chocolate frosting that went with the cake is what made it real special in my eyes. Homemade chocolate frosting...YUM!

I had to adjust this recipe just a bit. First the shortening I had was rancid, so I replaced with butter. The frosting called for unsalted butter, I only keep salted in the house. Lastly I found that the frosting needed more cream to make it spreadable.


2/3 cup shortening
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 1/1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 tea baking powder
1 tea baking soda
1 tea salt
1 1/4 cup ripe bananas mashed
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Two 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 tea vanilla
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cream or sweetened condensed milk

To Make the CakePreheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare tube pan. Cream shortening, then gradually add sugar, mixing well. In a separate bowl, dry whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the creamed mixture and beat until blended. Add mashed bananas and half the buttermilk and mix until moistened, then increase mixer speed to med-high and mix for two minutes. Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs, and beat another two minutes. Stir in walnuts. Bake in a tube pan for 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and unmold.

To Make the Frosting
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or heat proof bowl. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool. With mixer on medium speed, cream butter, then gradually add half og th confectioner's sugar, blend well. Beat 2 tbsp cream into mix. Beat in remaining sugar and cream. Add melted chocolate to the creamed mixture and beat until smooth. Spread on cooled cake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pork Tinga

About a week ago my mother came home after a visit with my brother. She raved about a Mexican dish he made, I immediately inquired about what he made and where the recipe came from. I am always on the lookout for authentic Mexican recipes. Pork Tinga from Cook's Illustrated.

The recipe called for a pork butt, when I went into the supermarket I saw a pork shoulder butt. Well is it a butt or a shoulder? After a brief conversation with the butcher he informed me the shoulder butt was the same thing my recipe was calling for. I had him remove the bone, and if I had used my brain I would have had him trim the fat and cut the meat into the size I needed.

Now I have to let you know a couple of months ago I was trying another recipe that called for a pork shoulder, after slow cooking it in the oven for quite some time it was time to take out. It smelled delicious and I couldn't wait to try what I had made. Much to my surprise when I went to cut the meat I saw a rather large piece of pig skin with scorched fur on the shoulder. That was enough to make me throw this whole shoulder into the trash. What a waste! After a full inspection I can already see that the pork butt I bought was well trimmed, thank goodness.

Cook's Illustrated Pork Tinga

2 pounds boneless pork butt , trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium onions , 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine
5 medium garlic cloves , 3 peeled and smashed and 2 minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ground chipotle powder (see note)
2 bay leaves

3/4 cup vegetable oil
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas (see note)
Table salt
Queso fresco or feta cheese
Fresh cilantro leaves
Sour cream
Diced avocado
Lime wedges


1. FOR THE TINGA: Bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook until pork is tender, 75 to 90 minutes. Drain pork, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Discard onion, garlic, and thyme. Return pork to saucepan and, using potato masher, mash until shredded into rough ½-inch pieces (see Step-by-Step below); set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shredded pork, chopped onion, and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in tomato sauce, chipotle powder, reserved pork cooking liquid, and bay leaves; simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves and season with salt to taste.

4. TO FRY TOSTADAS: Heat vegetable oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. Using fork, poke center of each tortilla 3 or 4 times (to prevent puffing and allow for even cooking). Fry 1 at a time, holding metal potato masher in upright position on top of tortilla to keep it submerged (see photo below), until crisp and lightly browned, 45 to 60 seconds (no flipping is necessary). Drain on paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

5. TO SERVE: Spoon small amount of shredded pork onto center of each tostada and serve, passing garnishes separately.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How cute are these?

This past Saturday I attended a fundraiser crop at the Goshen firehouse. Fun time for a great cause. Usually during the crop some of the vendors will have a "Make & Take" to show off some of their products. The Stampin' Up vendor had a great Make & Take that I had to do because it was so cute. It is a gift card holder made out of a regular envelope. I thought it was such a great project that I immediately decided to share the idea with the mom's group during a "Get Your Craft On" night.

Here are a few of the Christmas gift card holders I did. I know Christmas is a few months away but it's never too early to get started.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lobster Newburg

Another summer must have is lobster. I love lobster. I usually just go for the steamed lobster with melted butter, but this time I felt like I just needed to do something a little more creative. As usual I headed to one of the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks, I have quite a few of them. I found a recipe that sounded like exactly what I was looking for in the Family Cookbook, Lobster Newburg. Sounded all creamy and fresh!

Of course the recipe starts with the lobsters being steamed. I am always a little puzzled about how long to steam them, but of course America's Test Kitchen included a time chart to steam to perfection in their cookbook. You can't go wrong! The lobsters came from Stew Leonard's and they were obviously very fresh, they put up a fight going into the pot.

The recipe called for two pounds of lobster meat, I only bought three lobsters and probably could have used four for this recipe. So I did do a little variation by adding some shrimp as well. This turned out better than I could have ever expected. You know you have done something right when your seven year old son tells you that "Bon Appetit, your dinner looks like it came from a French restaurant."

Lobster Newburg

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp dry sherry
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp brandy
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper
4 large egg yolks
2 pounds lobster meat, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh tarragon

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add shallots and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add broth, 3 tbsp sherry and 3 tbsp brandy. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

Stir in cream, nutmeg, cayenne, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper. Return to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and measures about 1 1/2 cups, about 4 minutes.

Turn heat to low. Whisk the yolks together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid into the yolks (to temper). Then, slowly whisk the yolks back into the simmering sauce. Whisking constantly, cook the mixture until evenly colored and nicely thickened, about 30 seconds.

Gently stir in the lobster, parsley, tarragon, remaining sherry and brandy. Allow the lobster to heat through, about 1 minute.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cake Bites

This recipe came from Bakerella. It seems that these cake bites are all the rage, so much so that a book is being published solely on the topic of cake pops (aka cake bites on a stick). I didn't want to make them just for the sake of making them, I wanted there to be a special occasion. With our mom's group we have a meal support for mom's who have just had babies. My good friend Donna just had a beautiful baby girl and what better occasion than that.

The "recipe" begins with a boxed cake mix prepared as directed. You bake and cool. Then crumble. Basically you are making a cake and trashing it to rubble, kind of fun.

Next you take a can of cream cheese frosting and work it into the cake crumbs. Chill briefly to to firm up the cake mix, you want it workable. Roll them into balls and put on a baking sheet covered in waxed paper. Place into freeze for a few hours, you will want them firm.

You are going to dip them into melted chocolate, and place them in the fridge. This was the first time I ever worked at coating something in chocolate, it took a little getting used to. Not bad for a first try.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Corn Sweet Corn

I just love corn and I am always looking for new recipes to use this summer jewel. Cabot makes some of my favorite cheese and I get their E-newsletter, so when their email came this week and they had a recipe for Cheddar Corn Fritter I knew it was a must try. The recipe called for canned or frozen corn, but I can't bring myself to use anything but fresh this time of year. The corn is abundant and inexpensive.

All of the ingredients were on hand in the house so after a long day at work and no dinner these were just minutes away from eating. They were easy to prepare but unfortunately lacked something. Tim, my resident taste tester, tasted and also felt something was missing. So needless to say I am still in search of a great recipe for corn fritters.