Quick Bread, Banana meets Cranberry

Holiday Cran-Pecan Banana Bread   

  • 3 bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar (orange sugar*)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, cut in halves
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans

Method:

Grease two 7 3/8” x 3 5/8” x 2 ¼” metal pans. Preheat oven to 350F.

Peel bananas and break pieces into the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Add sugar and blend, followed by cooled melted butter and eggs.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda until combined.  Remove half a cup of dry ingredients and mix with cranberries and pecans.

Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients.  Stir by hand.  Add cran-pecan mixture to batter and fold until well mixed.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans.  Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes, then remove bread from pans.  Finish cooling loaves on a rack.

orange-sugar

 

* Whenever I eat an orange I zest it and blitz the zest with 2 cups of sugar in a food processor and keep the resulting orange sugar in my refrigerator to use in baked goods.

 

 

Chocolate Chip Favs

A good chocolate chip cookie is as American as apple pie.  Heck, I’d say chocolate chip cookies and brownies are more American than apple pie.  Seriously, which do you eat more often?  I for one am more likely to eat a chocolate chip cookie than a slice of pie or a brownie.  Nothing to brag about I know, but facts are facts.

Those three basic American baked items are all ones that I am more likely to enjoy if made by somebody else.  I never feel I have quite the right recipe.  However, I have churned out a lot of chocolate chip cookies this past month and have tinkered with the recipe from the Ghirardelli Original Third Edition Chocolate Cookbook 1986 to the point where I can say I really like the result.

I have doubled the recipe and with the fat and flour have decided to go “half ‘n half” — unsalted butter/Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, and white A.P. Flour/King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Cream softened butter & Earth Blance with both sugars.  (I do this in my Kitchenaid stand mixer.) When light and fluffy add eggs and whip.  The mixture does not need to be perfectly smooth.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together 1 cup of each of the flours, salt, cinnamon, vanilla powder, and baking powder (or baking soda). *   The baking powder gives you a fatter, less spread & crispy cookie.  The photo in the tiles about shows the flatter, crispy cookie.

In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips, chopped walnuts – if using, and remaining 4 TBs of flour.

Pour contents of medium size bowl into the creamed ingredients and hand stir until just combined.  Add chip mixture and finish hand stirring.  Refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes before scooping onto baking sheets.

Bake scooped cookies for 5 – 6 minutes in a 350F oven before rotating baking sheets and baking for an additional 4 – 5 minutes.  The exact baking time depends on your own oven, size of cookies, and your personal preference.  I find this recipe yields just over 3 dozen cookies and I can bake 3 sheets of cookies at a time in my convection oven.

glass plt choc chip

 

These cookies, on the glass plate, were made with baking powder.  They are fatter, chewier, and less flat & not as crispy as cookies with baking soda.

Family Dinner Rolls

IMG_8989

I did some baking today for a charity sale that is taking place on Saturday.    Cloverleaf rolls were a tradition at every family holiday meal.  The recipe is one I cherish.  My mom hand wrote it out for me a few years before she died when I had misplaced the copy that was late my Aunt Erma’s.  So I decided to make a double batch of dinner rolls for the baked goods table.

It is a really rich recipe, with eggs, milk, and butter.  I have made it with some whole grain flours, but it really is better taste & texture wise when you stick with all white AP flour.   My aunt and my paternal grandmother always baked with Gold Medal flour.  I mainly use King Arthur flour these days as it is a Vermont company, but I decided to pick up a bag of the lower cost store brand.  The result was as good as any batch I have ever cranked out of my kitchen.  I know because my husband and I split the little extra roll that I baked in a measuring cup.  As you may have noticed in the photo I skipped the time-consuming cloverleaf shaping and made simpler pan rolls.

IMG_8991I am not going to write out all the directions, because it is not that big a deal and now that I have a nice stand mixer I do not do the steps exactly as written.  If you are not confident with the procedure for making yeast rolls you can google any recipe for that.

RICH DINNER ROLLS   double batch

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or honey)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (or margarine)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 packages regular Active Dry yeast
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 11+ cups of flour

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Simple Fresh Fruit Kabobs

This is a simple treat that you can make and serve to friends.  Or you can prepare these fruit kabobs to take on a picnic, even just for yourself to eat in front of the telly.

fruit kabobs (2).jpgRight now is that brief magical time for fresh native Vermont strawberries, so they are the center of my fruit kabobs.  The other fruit includes green & red grapes, green & orange melon cubes, plus fresh pineapple chunks.  That is it.  I even purchased those other fruits all cut for me in a fruit mix at my local natural foods co-op.  I took long cooking skewers and cut/broke them in half, about 5.5 to 6 inches long when divided.

I have an oval glass plate that depicts the Swan Boats in the Boston Public Gardens that is sentimental to me and I used it to plate my kabobs.  I then served them to the ladies of my book group when they met at my house.

Chicken Soup

… be it for the soul or for the body, or maybe just for the warmth and aroma.soup

It may look a bit more like beef broth than chicken as I decided to use some “forbidden rice” which added an extra depth of color.  I guess I could have/should have rinsed the black rice but to me that means washing about nutrients.

However, whatever, I have a good number of hearty bowls of low sodium/low cal goodness ahead of me this week.

Besides the forbidden rice I used arborio rice, & whole wheat orzo, carrots & celery – plenty of onion powder, ground rosemary, a couple pinches of ground pepper and paprika, and oodles of torn chicken meat.

Cornbread

I have been on a cornbread kick this winter.  The bread pictured above is a Maple Cornbread variation of the Cornbread recipe found on pp. 556-557 of the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook.

But I am going to devote the rest of this post to another recipe.

I have always loved cornbread but until sometime last fall I was not happy with the recipes I had tried.  Guess what turned things around for me — the recipe on the back of the Quaker Corn Meal canister called Easy Corn Bread.  I make two or three little tweaks to recipe depending on whether I am making just for myself or to share.  For just me I substitute roughly half of the All Purpose Flour with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  I skip the sugar all together and use just a packet or two of a stevia product like SweetLeaf or truvia.  My final substitution is to use buttermilk in place of the regular milk.  I usually bake this recipe in a preheated 8-inch iron skillet.

As you see from the shapes of cornbread above I  am lucky to have a iron cornstick mold that was pasted down to me.  I don’t pull it out all that often as it needs to be really well-greased in order to release the bread.  But it gives eye appeal and a crispy exterior. If you want to do a small cornbread portion then a mini muffin pan works great.  They are very useful for a finger food buffet when split and served with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Basic Roasted Beets with Onion – FFw/KH #1

Before I launch into the recipe I created yesterday I do want to say that there are zillions of blogs that focus on food & recipes. I  discover that the Little Brick Ranch blog had used the ‘Foodie Friday‘ phrase for a series of posts in 2011.  So I have decided to use the category name of Foodie Fridays with KittyHere (FFw/KH) for my series.

Roasted Beets with Onion

4 medium large beets (2 lbs)
1 medium large yellow onion (12-13 ozs)
4 TBs olive oil
¾ tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 TB wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425 F.
Wash & trim beets.
Peel & quarter onion, leaving root so it doesn’t fall apart.

Place beets, onion quarters, and olive oil into an oven safe dish.  Turn vegetables so they are coated with oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste.

                Cover baking dish snugly with foil and place into preheated oven.  Set timer for 30-40 minutes.  Remove dish from oven after this period. Remove onions to an iron skillet or other pan.  Recover the beets with foil and return to oven.  Place the onions into the oven also, but leave uncovered.  Recheck vegetables in 20-30 minutes. 

When onions are soft and well roasted chop coarsely.

When beets reach desired tenderness remove from oven.  Allow to cool until you can handle them,reserving oil/juices for later.  The skins will slip off  by hand. (I use disposable gloves & a paper towel for this step. I also cover my cutting board with the foil to minimize staining from the beets.)  Cut each peeled beat in half and dice.  Combine diced beats with the chopped onion in a clean bowl.   Pour the oil and liquid from the roasting dish over prepared vegetable.  Add the wine vinegar and gently toss.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  These beets with onion can be served warm or chilled.

     

  I toyed with the idea of adding some seasoning besides salt & pepper.  When I ran a search for roasted beets I discovered that Molly Watson recommends fresh dill and parsley with roasted beets.

My choice of topic for this first 2012 food post was based on the fact that eating more vegetables may be on the New Year’s resolution list of many people.  Winter weather to me means root vegetables and warming up the kitchen a little more by using the oven.

I welcome you to add a link to your favorite roasted vegetable recipe in the comment section.  Stay warm and healthy!

Announcing My Blog Structure for 2012

After 361 posts of photos based on random words, and 4 more left to finish off 2011 I am ready to try something different for 2012.  But the structure of the 2011 challenge kept me posting so I know I need to establish some themes for the coming year.  Here is what I’ve decided:

MUSIC MONDAYS  — I will do occasional (not every week)  posts on something related to music.

TRAVEL TUESDAYS — I’m planning on  pulling more of my old photos from travels past, or current photos if I do some 2012 traveling.  I might even venture into ‘travel dreams’ about where I would like to go in the future.

WACKY WEDNESDAYS — There are many non official holidays or awareness days, weeks, or months.  I have assembled a list for the 52 Wednesdays of 2012.  I may not hit everything on the list, and some weeks I have given myself a couple of options.

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS — WordPress used to give 3 or 4 prompts for future blog posts each time you published a new post, before they changed to the sidebar.  I have made a list of 52 prompts for 2012.  Again I’m not holding myself to doing each and everyone but… we will see how close I come.

FOODIE FRIDAYS —  On Fridays the plan is a sample some of the great recipes from fellow bloggers, or old favorites.  I might also post about favorite eating establishments.  And just in case I fall short of ideas I also made a list of what foods are promoted during each month.  That list comes from the same place as the Wednesday themes, www.brownielocks.com.

I want to extend an invitation to anyone who wishes to join me in posting on any of these themes during 2012.  The company of fellow bloggers is incredibly motivating to me.

Word for 12/3 – Hail — and the Kreativ Blogger Award

Hail to a few of my favorite bloggers:

1- I have to mention Nancy at My Life in Photos who nominated me for this pass it along, tag you’re it award.

2-  Jen of Cabin Fever in Vermont who is a new mom, a RN, has a Firefighter husband, and takes fantastic photos of her baby Emily, landscapes, and is a generally inspiring.

3- Andree Sanborn, another Vermont resident, who has a number of blogs.  My favorite is ‘meeyauw’s recipes‘.  She is yet another fabulous photographer.

4-hugmamma’s MIND, BODY and SOUL because she posts the most delightful pics of her “four-legged family” that make me smile and giggle. She also writes amusing and thought-provoking posts along with those photos.  She has some eye-opening, and to me mind expanding opinions — what can I say (?- I’ve led a rather sheltered life-?).

5- I’m going to end my list with perhaps the ‘Queen’ of all women bloggers, Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, the ranch wife who has also become an author, a Food Network cooking show star, & who knows what else as result of her blog.  And she sponsors more  terrific give-a-ways than you can imagine, but beware she receives thousands of entries for most of them.

Now the terms of the Kreativ Blogger Award state: “To accept the award, one is to share a little about oneself that might draw the interest of others (and encourage them to check out your blog) and then pass it on. It’s a great opportunity for community building; and to find others who are just as sane (or not) as you, is an added bonus.”

So, like many things in life, I have approached this backwards, by first mentioning some favorite blogs.  Hopefully one or two of them will find the time to pass it on.  Now, what might be interesting about me?        A–I think the fact that I was able to log an average of 2 trips per year ‘across the pond’ from 1998-2010 was great.  I took a lot of photos of places I went.  Thanks to digital photography (better than sliced bread & right up there with chocolate) I could click, & click, & click.     B–I’m a life long Vermonter.  That isn’t all that interesting to me.  I have had plans at many points in life to plant myself in some other soil.  But I seem to make choices, or submit to the choices of someone near & dear,  that result in staying within my little state’s boarders.  C– While my birth certificate says Kathleen the nickname ‘Kitty’ has stuck to me like glue.  At age 52 it is way too late to change that.

Gee, I think this word a day thing is a photo challenge, so I better find one.  Then bid you adieu.

Wells Cathedral, England - August 2005

Word for 11/27 – Tender

Tender baked goods depend on not over mixing once you add your flour.  This batter for pistachio & orange cookies called for creaming the butter & sugar, beating in the eggs, then folding in the flour & other dry ingredients.  Over working the flour would activate the gluten, making the cookies tough.  This principle is especially important when making muffins & other quick breads. It also applies to creating flaky biscuits.