Breakfast Banana Bread

 

Banana bread is one of my favorite fall treats and is a great way to use up any ripened bananas before they go south. Actually, the riper they are, the stronger the banana flavor is.

This recipe was an instant hit at the office, and definitely made for a happy Friday. I like to treat those that I care about, especially with food. This is recipe is full of spice and sure to win over even the coldest comrades.

 

Ingredients

Bread:
4 bananas
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mash bananas in mixer. Add butter and sugar, and cream together. Mix in egg.
Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once incorporated, mix in flour.
Top with brown sugar topping.
Bake 350* for 45 minutes

Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix brown sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon with a fork, until mealy. Sprinkle over bread batter.

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Fresh Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

 

I don’t often brag about my food, but this soup is a winner. It’s beautifully fresh and bright, while warming you from the inside out.

The fresh ingredients make a difference in this meal, doing away with the tinny taste of canned tomatoes.

 

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8-12 tomatoes, quartered
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes
Sprinkle cornstarch over onions and garlic to coat veggies.
Add tomatoes, salt and cayenne. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft
Puree mixture well, and strain. Stir in basil. Return to heat if ready to eat, or store in refrigerator.

Serve with grilled cheese.

Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

2 pieces of bread

1 Tablespoon butter

2 slices American cheese

Spread butter over one side of each piece of bread. Place butter side down in the pan, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

 

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Pot Luck Royalty: King Ranch Casserole

Casserole is a Southern staple, and in Texas, this recipe is the king of all things pot luck. It’s reminiscent of enchiladas, which are close to any Tex-Mex lover’s heart. It’s a layering of a spiced gravy, corn tortillas, sautéed vegetables, shredded chicken and cheese.

King Ranch Casserole

Sauce:

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon ground chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Saute mixture:

2 Tablespoons of butter

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

1 small onion, diced

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

2 hatch green chiles, deseeded and chopped

2 tomatoes

3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded

12 corn tortillas

2 cups cheese

Melt 3 Tablespoons butter; add 3 Tablespoons flour. Whisk thoroughly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Keep over low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in cumin and chili powder.

Saute garlic, onion, tomatoes, hatch chiles and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.

Mix vegetables with shredded chicken.

Layer in casserole: coat bottom of 9×13 with a little sauce. Layer 6 corn tortillas, and spread half of the chicken and vegetables over. Top with half of the cream sauce and half of cheese. Repeat.
Cook in 350* oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melty.

 

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Me oh my, Blueberry Pie: a Lesson in Patience

I don’t have the greatest pie-making track record. My first attempt, an All-American apple pie, was a flop. I was a baking novice in high school. I misread the recipe, but I didn’t realize it until I had gotten to my grandparents’ house and cut into it. It was starchy and dry; two cups of flour instead of two tablespoons. Lesson learned: read the recipes more closely.

A month ago, I made a beautiful chocolate meringue pie; but when I cut into it, the inside pudding spread. I ended up with a delicious dessert soup, but it was not the pie I’d had in mind.

Determined to perfect my pie-making, I turned to fruit. Fruit pies tend to hold together better than custard pies, but will still fall apart if not fully cooled.

Patience is the most important ingredient in pies. If you choose to make your own pie crust, you have to let the dough chill for a few hours. After your beautifully smelling pie has been pulled out of the oven, the waiting game is on. I tend to sample my cooking as soon as I go, but with pies, you must have patience in order to allow the juices to cool and solidify.

This delicious blueberry pie was successful because I let it cool for over four hours. The mint and lime added freshness to the tart blueberries. As you an use a prepackaged crust, I like Martha Stewart’s recipe, found here.

Blueberry and Mint Pie

Ingredients

2 chilled pie crusts, 9 inches

4 cups blueberries

Zest of one lime

Juice of one lime

3 Tablespoons chopped mint

1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, mixed with a splash of water, for egg wash

Roll out dough and set into 9 inch pie pan.

Carefully stir together blueberries, juice and zest of lime, corn starch and mint. Try not to pop the berries.

Pour berry mixture into crust, and sprinkle with sugar.

Top with crust. You can cover completely with top crust, create a lattice top or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes to arrange on top of the berries, as I did.

Brush top crust with egg wash mixture for a browner, flakier crust.

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes. If crust browns too quickly, tent with foil.

Here’s where patience comes into play: let pie cool for four hours or longer. This will ensure a cohesive filling.

Enjoy your hard work and patience with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and sweet tea.

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Southern-style Shrimp and Cornmeal “Grits”

Grits are a breakfast staple in the South. The pudding-like ground hominy is a hearty and versatile meal. The pairing of shrimp with the mealy custard is “low-country” cooking at its finest.

While grits are made from hominy, I used stone-ground cornmeal; and though this is considered a “soft polenta”, let’s face it–  “shrimp ‘n’ grits” just has a certain ring to it.

 

Cornmeal “Grits” (or soft polenta)

Ingredients

3  cups water

1 cup stone ground cornmeal

1 Tablespoon salt

Pepper, to taste

2 Tablespoons rosemary, chopped

3 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Bring water and cornmeal to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper.

Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until thick. You’re looking for it to stand up when “plopped” on a plate. *

Stir in butter, parmesan and rosemary.

Paprika Shrimp

Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, 17 to 20 count, peeled and deveined

1/2 Tablespoons salt

1/2 Tablespoon paprika

3-4 Tablespoons butter, depending on the size of your pan

Toss shrimp with paprika and salt.

Be mindful of overcrowding your pan. I cooked my shrimp in two batches, each using 2 Tablespoons of butter. If your pan is big enough to cook the shrimp in one batch, you may only need 3 Tablespoons of butter.

Cook shrimp for two to three minutes per side, until opaque.

Serve shrimp over “grits”.

*The whole meal takes about 30 minutes to make. Cook your shrimp in the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking your grits.

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Jalapeno Creamed Corn

It’s no secret: I love spicy foods. Jalapenos, cayenne, crushed red pepper. I add a spicy element to just about everything I cook. And this recipe is no different.

Creamed corn is a national staple, especially in the South. As I was growing up, I only knew the sweet kernel goodness from a can. What a travesty! Making this spectacular side dish from fresh corn takes little effort, and produces a dreamy, creamy pudding-like corn casserole. With the addition of jalapenos, creamed corn is elevated into a restaurant-worthy menu item. If you can’t stomach spicy foods, cut the jalapeno out. The base of this recipe can stand on its own.

 

Jalapeno Creamed Corn

Ingredients

4 ears corn, unhusked

1 Jalapeno

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese (Parmesan works fine, but I used an Italian cheese blend)

Bake corn in husks at 350* for 30 minutes. Bake jalapeno with corn for last 10 minutes of cooking. Let cool.

Husk corn; deseed and dice jalapeno.

Heat milk and butter in small sauce pan until butter melts. Add flour, sugar, salt and pepper. Once combined, add water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

In a food processor, puree contents of sauce pan and 1/2 of corn (about 2 cups) until creamy.

Stir in remaining corn and jalapeno. (If you have leftovers, this recipe freezes well; do not add cheese.)

Layer in ramekins, or 9×9 inch pan, with cheese. (Pour half of mixture in pan and cover with cheese; pour in remaining mixture and top with cheese. )

Bake at 350* for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese on top is melted.

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Baked French Toast

It was an ongoing joke when I was a kid: “Dad, what’s for breakfast?”  “Your favorite, French toast!” With a roll of the eyes, I’d reply: “C’mon, Dad. What’s really for breakfast?”

He knew how much I hated the half-soggy, half-crispy toast. On top of that, the dish was served with syrup, which I cannot seem to palate.

But, as I grew older, I began experimenting with different ways to cook and top French toast, and I found that baking it was a way to eliminate the soupiness that tends to accompany pan-toasted French toast. With some fresh whipped cream and strawberries, French toast has become one of my favorite weekend treats.

Baked French Toast

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon 

Half of a day old French loaf, cut into 1 inch slices

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Stir together cream, eggs, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Soak bread slices, about 10 seconds per side, or until bread is soaked through.

Spray 13×9 inch pan with non-stick spray. Arrange soaked bread in one layer.

Bake 350* for 10 minutes. Flip toast with spatula, and cook another 15 minutes. (Total cook time: 25 minutes)

Broil for 2 minutes to add extra crisp.

Dust with powdered sugar. Top with whipped cream and fresh strawberries or syrup.

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