Monthly Archives

May 2010

Banana Bread Ultimate

May 18, 2010
I feel a little bad for banana bread sometimes. Sure, it’s delicious beyond measure and versatile, going easily from morning to night. But very rarely does anyone set out to make banana bread. Instead, banana bread has been reduced to an afterthought. Have old bananas on hand that are too old for the lunchbox or morning cereal? Make banana bread.
This recipe might change the way you approach banana bread. You might even find yourself going to the store, in search of bananas on the verge of going to mush, for the sole purpose of making banana bread, because this recipe is pure yumm. Trust me, I did the research this weekend and the feedback was all kinds of positive. 
But this banana bread also has a dirty little secret. It’s made with 100% whole wheat flour. When is she going to shut up about whole wheat flour? You’re probably thinking, but I just can’t seem to find it in me to shut my mouth, because when a recipe finds that happy place where it is soft, moist, delicious, and 100% whole wheat, you know you’ve got something good on your hands and your hips.

Banana Bread Ultimate
Adapted from The Food Network’s Banana Bread Recipe
(Printable Recipe) 
*1 cup sugar
*1 stick unsalted butter, softened
*2 large eggs
*3 ripe bananas, mashed
*2 Tablespoons milk
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*2 cups whole wheat flour
*1 teaspoon baking powder
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1 teaspoon salt
*3/4 cup chopped pecans 

*Preheat the oven to 325*F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with a slice of parchment paper to avoid sticking.
*Beat the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
*In a small bowl, mix together the bananas, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
*Add the banana mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
*Beat in the chopped pecans by hand.
*Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

Happy Baking!


Green Bean Summer Salad

May 16, 2010

Being at home in the kitchen is always so inspiring, opening up my mind to simple dishes I might not have thought of putting together myself. Until just a couple hours ago, I had fully planned on posting an entirely different recipe, but while I was sitting at the kitchen table, putting together a post, my mom was in the kitchen, chopping and drizzling, and tossing. And I, as usual, got my fingers into what she was making for the neighborhood potluck. Lucky for me, my mom was willing to share both the recipe and an extra helping of this Green Bean Summer Salad.  

Preparing the green beans properly is the most important element of a successful green bean salad. Say it with me, “I promise not to overcook my green beans.” Overcooking is one of the biggest mistakes made when preparing vegetables. Just a short bath in boiling water is enough for most vegetables to achieve a crisp-tender quality, meaning they are cooked to a point where they still retain some of the crunchiness of raw vegetables; think of it as a middle ground between fully cooked and raw.

I’m pretty positive I would have eaten the entire bowl of this salad had my mom let me instead of whisking it away to the neighborhood potluck. Crunchy, sweet roasted pecans and savory bits of onion tossed in a light lemon-dill dressing makes for one heck of a summer salad. I often neglect lemon when cooking. Big mistake, since adding lemon to this salad is like a little burst of sunshine making every other flavor better, brighter, more prominent. Now that I have this salad all I need is a potluck!

Green Bean Summer Salad
(Printable Recipe)
*1/2 cup chopped pecans 
*1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
*1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
*1/4 cup olive oil
*Juice from 1/2 a lemon
*1/2 tsp. dried dill
*1 to 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
*1/2 tsp. black pepper

*Preheat oven to 350*F.
*Place pecans on a baking pan or oven-going baking dish and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Set aside.
*Place green beans in a large saucepan and add enough water to come about halfway up the green beans. Bring to boiling and cook 5 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender, meaning they still have some crunch to them, but are pleasantly tender. Drain beans and place in a large bowl.
*Add the toasted pecans and chopped onions to the bowl.
*In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper.
*Drizzle the olive oil mixture over the green beans and toss to coat. Serve immediately at room temperature, or refrigerate up to a day and serve chilled.

Happy Cooking!


Veggie-Lovers Pesto Pizza

May 14, 2010

Looking back at my childhood and thinking about the food my mom put on the table each night continually blows me away. Not because the food required complicated cooking methods or multiple-step preparation, but because it was real. Biscuits didn’t come from a can, but from a mixingbowl, beef stew not in a can but from the magical process of stewing beef, potatoes, and carrots. And pizza could be found in the oven in imperfect shapes and layered with homemade goodness. Maybe it’s selective memory, only proving food made from scratch is the most memorable kind.

I tend to get a little fired up about the topic of cooking, namely the importance of home cooking and teaching people to cook. Which is why I love food blogging and this little space on the internet where I can cook, share, and hopefully encourage others to get in the kitchen, too.

Since I’m taking a little trip home this weekend, eating and cleaning out my fridge was a priority. I knew immediately it was a pizza-loaded-with-ingredients kind of night. So while I let the dough rise, I got to digging through my fridge and chopping up whatever I found. Which so happened to be….

*Shitake Mushrooms
Knowing that every fridge, and person, is different, I would encourage you to take the toppings I used as a guide, rather than a rule. If you happen to hate mushrooms, substitute ground beef. Swap out the asparagus for zucchini or yellow squash, and the arugula for spinach. 
But if you do decide to follow this recipe exactly, I promise you will not be disappointed. The pesto serves as your flavor-enhancing secret weapon and loading it up with veggies makes it more filling and a bit easier to stop after a slice or two. Topping the baked pizza with fresh greens tossed in a simple vinaigrette is my favorite finishing touch; it seems only natural to eat salad on top of your pizza, since pizza with salad is already a classic. 

Veggie-Lovers Pesto Pizza
(Printable Recipe) 
*1 cup hot water
*1 (1/4-oz.) package active dry yeast
*1 tsp. sugar
*1 tsp. table salt
*2 1/4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/3 cup pesto
*1 1/2 cups shredded Manchego cheese (mozzarella can be substituted)
*1 shallot, thinly sliced or 1/2 a medium red onion, thinly sliced
*1/3 cup olives, chopped
*1/2 of a bunch of asparagus, chopped (about 1 cup)
*1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
*2 cups arugula or spinach
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
*1/2 tsp. kosher salt

*Preheat oven to 400*F.
*In large mixing bowl, combine the hot water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Stir until all ingredients are disolved, about 30 seconds. Allow mixture to rest 5 minutes.
*Stir in 1 cup of the flour and mix until well combined. Stir in the second cup of flour. Knead the final 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour in with your hands, until dough is still soft, but not sticky. Form into a ball and place in a clean bowl. Drizzle the dough with the 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Cover with a towel and place the bowl in a warm place. (I like to crack the door of the oven for this and let the dough rise on the stove top where the warm draft can reach it) Allow dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

*Once dough has risen, transfer the dough to a baking sheet and press into a rectangle, about 12×8-inches in size.
*Spread the pesto on top of the dough, followed by the cheese. Top with the shallot, olives, asparagus, and mushrooms.
*Bake for 15-20 minutes, until bottom of crust is golden brown and the toppings are lightly browned and bubbly.
*White pizza is baking, toss together the arugula or spinach, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.
*Top baked pizza with the fresh arugula mixture. Cut into slices and enjoy!

Happy Cooking!


Fingerling Potato Salad

May 12, 2010
Summer is just around the corner, or at least that’s what my calendar keeps telling me. But if you took a trip to my neck of the woods, I’m convinced you would agree with me when I say it feels much more like October than the middle of May. As far as states go, Iowa is the biggest tease of all. Hot, cold, rainy, sunny. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if it starting snowing tonight. 
In response to this cold and rainy weather, I’m staging a protest against all things cold weather related (except black tights, which I begrudgingly wore to work today). Instead, I’m filling my kitchen with warm weather foods, like this potato salad, made with all sorts of yummy ingredients like basil, honey mustard, Parmesan, and olive oil.
I love the color contribution the purple fingerling potatoes make to this dish – even if the color has no impact on taste. Though I don’t normally have fingerling potatoes in my kitchen, these little beauties fell into my lap (one of the many perks of my job) and I have been itching for a reason to use them ever since. If you don’t have fingerling potatoes on hand, can’t find them, or don’t want to drop the extra cash to buy them, any small potato would work as a substitute. And since I am not big on drowning summer salads in mayonnaise, I’ve made this potato salad olive oil-based. Perfect for summer barbecues, or rainy May days in Iowa. 

Fingerling Potato Salad

(Printable Recipe)

*1 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, or other small potato variety
*1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
*1 tsp. kosher salt
*1 cup fresh basil leaves
*1 Tbsp. lime juice
*1/3 cup olive oil
*2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
*2 Tbsp. honey mustard
*2 Tbsp. Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
Additional kosher salt and black pepper

*Place potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to fully cover the potatoes. Bring water to boiling and continue to cook potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork tender. Transfer potatoes to a strainer and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
*Transfer strained potatoes to a large zip top bag with the cider vinegar and kosher salt. Shake to evenly coat and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to one day.
*Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves, lime juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, honey mustard, and Greek yogurt or mayonnaise. Process or blend until creamy.
*Place the refrigerated potatoes in the food processor, with the dressing, and pulse until potatoes are coarsely chopped but not blended. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Happy Cooking!


Pecan-Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes

May 11, 2010

I am what you might consider one of those annoying people who likes getting up early, with the exception of some Saturday mornings when I sleep in until (gasp!) eight or nine, I’m usually up and at it around seven. And being a morning person, there is nothing I love more than a good breakfast or morning ritual. Sure, I have my own morning rituals at home, but it’s when I am up in Minneapolis/St. Paul visiting J. and my best friend, Emily, among others, that I take part in my favorite morning ritual of all – breakfast at The Good Earth.

Being a creature of habit, I order the same thing every time – ten grain hotcakes served with a side of peanut butter. And despite my best efforts, I have yet to find something similar here in Des Moines, or anywhere else for that matter. They are crunchy, dense, and fulfilling in a way regular pancakes could only dream of being, and while these pecan-cinnamon oatmeal pancakes aren’t a replacement for my ten grain hotcakes, they certainly are a step in the very-right direction.

This past weekend my mom commented on how much she loves pancakes, and thanks to the very timely Deb of The Smitten Kitchen, who posted a recipe for oatmeal pancakes just last week, I felt eager to put my own twist on the recipe for Mother’s Day breakfast. These little hotcakes are pure gold. Despite being made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal, they don’t seem overly dense, just enough to fill you up for hours to come, and the cinnamon, vanilla, and pecan flavors mask their underlying healthfulness. “Gosh these are filling,” said my mom. “You should let your readers know that they probably won’t be able to eat more than one!”

 My mom captured this candid moment, for those of you who ever wonder 
what blogging looks like behind the scenes at my apartment.

Pecan Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Deb of The Smitten Kitchen via Good to the Grain cookbook
*3/4 cup oat flour (you can make this by pulsing rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground; 1 cup of oats yielded 3/4 cup oat flour for me)
*1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat)
*2 tablespoons sugar
*2 teaspoon baking powder
*3/4 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
*3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
*1 1/4 cups whole milk
*1 cup cooked oatmeal (To make: 1/2 cup uncooked, microwaved for 2 minutes with 1 cup water)
*2 large eggs
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1 cup chopped pecans
(Fruit preserves or maple syrup, if desired) 

*Whisk the dry ingredients (oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) together in a large bowl.
*In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon together until well combined.
*Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. It is okay, even good, if the batter is slightly lumpy.
*Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Lower to medium-low. (This helps pancakes cook evenly and avoid burning) Rub the pan generously with butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
*Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Sprinkle batter with some of the chopped pecans. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before cooking the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.
*Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven. We also found these to reheat surprisingly well the next morning, again in a low oven.

Happy Cooking!