Banana Bread

I should have this banana bread recipe memorized considering the number of times I have made it. Yet, whenever I see brown bananas on the counter, I feel compelled to pull out my trusty recipe. At least this is one recipe no one in my family complains about. As an added bonus, the recipe is from Cooking Light, so I guess I can’t feel to bad about making it so often.

Classic Banana Bread

From: Cooking Light

2 cups all-purpose four
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter (softened)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk
  3. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute)
  4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition
  5. Add the banana, yogurt, and vanilla and beat until blended
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until just moist
  7. Spoon the batter into an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray
  8. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean

Mediterranean Night

I unquestionably suffer from a cookbook fettish. I love buying cookbooks, reading cookbooks, seeing cookbooks lying around my house, and, naturally, cooking from cookbooks. It is true, that I am quite fond of improvising and hoping my own creations come out acceptable, but flipping through recipes, well, is somehow quite satisfying.

Accordingly, when I saw the 40% off coupon for Borders in my inbox, I ventured over to downtown and came home with TWO new cookbooks: Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan and The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger.

I have to say, I am proud that we tried three new recipes from Ellie Krieger’s cookbook in one night. That is big time. I made the Tabbouleh and the tzatziki without any cries for help, but after I seasoned the shrimp, my dad led the grilling. I pestered him into letting me turn the skewers, take them off, test them…eventually he will have to pass on the responsibility.

The verdict? I had seconds, but the rest of my family was rather skeptical. My mom made my brother cous cous instead of the Tabbouleh, but found it exceptionally good. I even ate it for lunch the next day. Perhaps they just failed to appreciate the Mediterranean feast…


Lemon Pepper Grilled Shrimp
From: The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat a gill pan over medium-high heat or prepare a grill. Toss the shrimp with the oil, add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest and toss again. Grill until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side

Transfer the shrimp to a plate and drizzle with the lemon juice. Enjoy hot or at room temperature
Tabbouleh
From: The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 ½ cups boiling water
2 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
1 medium English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 2 cups)
½ cup diced red onion
2 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the bulgur in a large heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over it stir, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. Drain any excess water from the bulgur. Stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, and mint.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice and zest, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the bulgur mixture and toss well to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to a day stored in an airtight container. Serve chilled.

Lemon-Mint Tzatziki
From: The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt or ¾ cup plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
½ large English cucumber, seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If using regular yogurt, spoon it into a strainer lined with paper towels set over a bowl and let drain and thicken for 30 minutes. Coarsely grate the cucumber. Drain it well in another strainer, for a minute or two, pressing out the liquid.

In a medium bowl, stir together the drained or Greek-style yogurt, the grated cucumber, oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic and mint. Season with salt and pepper. This sauce will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator; stir well before serving.

blueberry pie

101 degrees. And I made a blueberry pie. Oh well.

I honestly cannot tell you why I wanted to make a blueberry pie, except for I thought it might look pretty when I took a picture of it.

Yesterday I had 45 minutes to kill, and the only thing I could think of to do was to make my brother come to Starbucks with me. While we waited for our iced coffees, we had an interesting conversation:

Me: I want to make a blueberry pie.
Michael (my brother, who throws his head back in laughter): HAHAHAHAHA…you are so weird. Why do you want to make a blueberry pie?
Me: I don’t know. I just feel like it.
Michael: How can you just randomly feel like making a blueberry pie?
Me: How can you just feel like playing stupid video games?

Apparently we enjoy different activities.

I’ve made a handful of pies before, most of which, if I say so myself, turned out relatively well. I always use the crust recipe in the William-Sonoma Pie & Tart book, because the dough does not use shortening and you do not have to refrigerate it. And, of course, I think it tastes good. BUT, it was so darn hot, that I accidentally creamed the butter and the flour. Good thing we had a surplus of ingredients, because I threw the entire plop of dough in the garbage and started over.

The second try was slightly more successfully, but I do not recommend trying to make a pie as fast as you possibly can in order to finish before the season finale of The Office. Still, I finished on time and the pie was in the oven before the first scene. Score!

I was convinced the pie would not taste good; I thought I rolled the crust too thin and the center was all saggy. I guess I was wrong, because I could have eaten the entire pie in one sitting. Maybe I will pour milk on it for breakfast. As an added bonus, my family liked it, too. My best friend, on the other hand, has no taste for what she deems as “baked fruit” and considers chocolate the only legitimate dessert. To her credit, she can eat more chocolate chip cookies and brownies than I can.

Blueberry Pie
From: William-Sonoma Pie & Tart

2 rolled-out Basic pie Dough rounds
4 cups blueberries
1 tbls. fresh lemon juice, strained
¼ cup sugar
3 tbls. cornstarch
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbls. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Fold 1 dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie pan or dish. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using kitchen scissors, trim the edge of the dough, leaving ¾ inch of overhang. Set the dough-lined pan aside, along with the second dough round, in a cool place until ready to use.

Place the berries in a large bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and toss to coat evenly. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and toss to distribute evenly. Immediately transfer to the dough-lined pan. Dot with butter.

Fold the reserved dough round in half and carefully position over half of the filled pie. Unfold and trim the edge neatly, leaving 1 inch of overhang, then fold the edge of the top round under the edge of the bottom round and crimp the edges to seal. Using a small, sharp knife, cut an asterisk 4-5 inches across in the center of the top to allow steam to escape during baking.

Refrigerate the pie until the dough is firm, 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filing is thick and bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely to set, 1-2 hours. Serve at room temperature or rewarm in a 350° for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: If fresh blueberries are unavailable, use frozen blueberries (without thawing them first) and increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes.

Basic Pie Dough

1 ¼ cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbls. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes
3 tbls. very cold water

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball, and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour the work surface then flatten the disk with 6-8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Light the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about ¼ inch thick. Makes enough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or one 10 inch galette.

To make a double-crust pie: Double the recipe, cut the dough in half, and pat each half into a round, flat disk. Roll out one disk into a 12-inch round as directed and line the pan or dish. Press any scraps trimmed from the first round into the bottom of the second dish. Roll out the second dough disk into a round at least 12-inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick and refrigerate until ready to use.

Going Greek

We have one pasta salad that we make. Every time we want pasta salad. It’s really tasty and I love it, but it in the spirit of trying new recipes, we wanted something a bit different. We went to Costco for water and blueberries (blueberry pie post to come…) and on the way home, brainstormed the possibilities. Rather than trying to find the perfect recipe in one our bajillions of cookbooks (I might have an addiction to buying cookbooks), we decided to create our own. And we went greek.

Regardless of the fact that we are not professionals, we like to improvise. I truly tried to keep track of the specific amounts of each ingredient we used, but no guarantees. Still, the recipe is quite easy and would taste good no matter what.

Greek Pasta Salad

Vinaigrette
1 minced garlic clove
2 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. red wine vinegar
1 tbls. lemon juice
pinch dried oregano

8 oz. cooked penne pasta, cooled
2/3 cup canned artichoke hearts, quartered
½ cup cucumbers, peeled and diced
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

salt
pepper

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small jar and shake to combine
  2. Mix the penne and the next 6 ingredients (through the feta cheese)
  3. Toss with the vinaigrette (add as much or as little as you would like)
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

fish tacos…really?

Wow. I’m officially impressed with myself (and my family). We tried ANOTHER new recipe: Fish Tacos with Tomato and Orange Salsa from William Sonoma’s Essentials of Healthy Cooking cookbook. While I was flipping through cookbooks for inspiration yesterday afternoon, I came across this recipe. We were planning on grilling fish (every time I come home from school I have to have fish, because there is absolutely no way in the world I would ever eat the mystery fish from the dining hall), but I am slightly sick of the mango salsa we always turn to.

I originally just proposed making the tomato and orange salsa and not the actual tacos, but my mom actually said we should just make the whole shebang. That was a jaw-dropper. Maybe the pictures in the cookbook inspired her; she told me to scan them and use them for my blog.

The recipe was simple, fast, and very healthy. The hardest part was picking out the tiny, mostly invisible bones when I flaked the fish. The verdict? I’d say three out of four stars. Literally. My mom, my dad, and I all really liked them, but my brother essentially refrained from commenting. Still, I would make them again.

Fish Tacos with Tomato and Orange Salsa
From: William Sonoma’s Essentials of Healthy Cooking
Servings: 4 tacos
Notes: We double the recipe but had some left over. We also grilled the fish on the BBQ, and it turned out great.

½ lb.
salmon fillet (NOT farmed, of course)
kosher and freshly ground pepper
½ cup diced, peeled English (hothouse) cucumber
2 tbls. thinly sliced green (spring) onion
½-1 tsp. minced jalapeno chile, or to taste
½ tsp. grated orange zest
3 tbls. fresh lime juice

For the Tomato Orange Salsa

1 large naval orange
1 tomato
2 tbls. finely chopped fresh cilantro
½-1 teaspoon minced jalapeno chile, or to taste
½ tsp. grated orange zest
1 tbls. fresh lime juice
kosher salt

4 soft, fresh white-or yellow-corn tortillas
1 cup loosely packed thin-chiffonade-cut romaine lettuce, outer leaves only

Preheat the BROILER (GRILL), or preheat the OVEN to 425°F. Remove the skin from the salmon. Season the fish lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

BY BROILER: Place the salmon on a broiler pan and slip it in the broiler about 3 inches from the heat source. Broil (grill), turning once, until the salmon is slightly translucent in the very center at the thickest part, about 4 minutes per side.

BY OVEN: Place the salmon in a baking pan in the oven and bake until slightly translucent in the very center at the thickest part, allowing slightly less than 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

Transfer the salmon to a plate and let cool to room temperature. (The fish will continue to cook away from the heat until opaque.) Flake into a large bowl, discarding any errant bones.

Add the cucumber, green onion, jalapeno, orange zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt to the fish. Sprinkle with the lime juice and toss lightly to combine.

To make the salsa, cut a thick slice off the top and the bottom of the orange to reveal the flesh. Stand the orange upright on a cutting board. Following the contour of the fruit and rotating it with each cut, slice downward to remove the peel, pith, and membrane. Holding the fruit over a bowl, cut along each side of the membrane between the sections, letting each freed section drop into the bowl. Cut the sections into bite-sized pieces and return them to the bowl.

Cut the tomato into ½ inch dice. Add the tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, orange zest, lime juice, and ½ teaspoon salt to the bowl holding the orange. Stir gently to combine.

To assemble the tacos, set each tortilla on a work surface. Place some lettuce on the tortilla, dividing it evenly. Add about ¼ cup of the salmon mixture to each tortilla, then top with 2 rounded tablespoons of the salsa. Fold or roll each tortilla, arrange on a platter and serve.

the first day

my lovely turkey burger with caramelized onions

Yesterday was officially my first day home. After a long drive and far too much heavy lifting (I honestly do not know how I fit so much STUFF in my dorm room), I was a mean child and convinced my mom that we needed to cook and not go out to dinner.

Randomly, I had a strong craving for a turkey burger, but after searching through all of our cookbooks as well as surfing the web, my mom and I could not find a basic recipe. Everyone seems to like turkey burgers with papaya salsa or soy sauce or some other untraditional burger flavoring. We wanted traditional.

My poor mom was about ready to just grill chicken, but we decided to create our own recipe instead. Pretty ambitious for the first night! As it turned out, they were the best turkey burgers I’ve ever had. My mom could not stop talking about them and even my brother (a ground beef type of guy) liked them. Our extra special touch? Caramelized onions.

Jessica and Nancy’s Turkey Burgers

*Note: We did not necessarily measure the ingredients exactly, but I honestly think guestimating might be the best option anyways.

1 lb. ground turkey (half white meat and half dark meat)
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
3 tbls. green onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tbls. ketchup
garlic powder
salt
pepper

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Shape the burgers into patties (we made three)
  3. Preheat the grill to medium high heat
  4. Grill about 5 minutes per side or until done and delicious


Caramelized Onions

1 purple onion, sliced
1 tbls. olive oil

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet
  2. Over medium high heat, sauté the onions until they are soft and limp (about 15 or 20 minutes, we kept them warm over low heat until we were ready to use them

let me quantify…

I realize before I embark on my little excursion, I need to quantify the extent to which I feel comfortable in the kitchen. I think this list might provide an accurate picture:

  • Currently, it would suffice to describe myself as my mom’s personal sous chef. I am perfectly qualified to construct a salad, chop vegetables and, most importantly, wash dishes. I suppose dish-washing is my core kitchen competency. A mother’s dream…
  • I can make salsa and guacamole without a recipe. Yes! Points for me.
  • I’ve mastered the Toll-House chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  • I can make pasta (not from scratch, of course), but I am deathly afraid that I will undercook or overcook it.
  • I would go out to dinner before I serve guests meat. I would either poison them with raw chicken or make them gag with the equivalent of rubber chicken. Cute.
  • I’ve technically made a few dinners, pasta and such, but not without the guiding hands and eyes of my mother. It might be true that my few attempts have resulted in my yelling in front of the stove for my mom to come downstairs and save me.
  • This Thanksgiving I made really good cranberry sauce.
  • Oh yes. And the only TV I ever watch is the Food Network. Ina Garten and Giada are my favs. Paula Deen is cute, too.

I like good food, I know what good food is. I just don’t know how to make it. It also might be important to mention that I am a complete health nut. Interesting combination…