Saturday, August 30, 2014

Honey Nut Gran-ola

The other day, my sister said that she wanted some gran-ola, specifically some honey nut gran-ola. She loves confusing people by coming up with her own pronunciations of words. Anyway, I've been thinking of making granola recently anyway since it's so simple, quick, and it's the perfect accompaniment to my morning yogurt. It's also great on its own with milk as a breakfast cereal.

For this recipe, I kept it super simple with just almonds, oats, honey, olive oil, and some flaxseed meal. The honey flavor really comes through, which I like, but you could also substitute the honey for your sweetener of choice and use less of it if it's too sweet for your liking. The mix of things in this granola is also up to you though I do recommend adding any dried fruit at the end so it doesn't burn. Chia seeds, other nuts, spices, etc. would be great in this.

Honey Nut Granola
Makes about 5 cups of granola

3 cups rolled oats
2 cups almonds, whole, chopped, or sliced
4 tbsp. flaxseed meal
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 340 deg F. Mix the oats, almonds, flaxseed meal, and salt together in a large bowl.

In a small pot over medium low heat, heat up the honey and olive oil just until the mixture is well combined and easily pourable. Pour the honey mixture into the oat mixture and stir well to coat everything evenly. Spread the mixture over a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, giving the granola a stir halfway through.

Once the granola is golden, take it out and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It will harden and crisp up as it cools. Granola will last at room temp for a few weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blueberry Banana Bread

Do you see the face!? Totally surprised myself.
Here's the other banana bread I made from my neighbor's overripe bananas. The recipe is a slightly spiced basic banana bread with blueberries added to it. The recipe comes from one of my favorites, Giada de Laurentiis. If you didn't have blueberries or wanted to add other berries or fruit, the recipe would still work. It's a great basic recipe that would be good with or without the spices depending on your mood.

The texture of this banana bread was perfect for me. I tend to prefer the texture of quick breads made with oil rather than butter. It also wasn't too sweet and bakes up really nicely, perfect for gifting to friends and family. The banana flavor isn't super strong since there's only two bananas in it, but if you need a banana bread recipe that uses two bananas, this is a great choice. This is definitely another one to add to any banana bread collection.

Blueberry Banana Bread
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Makes One 9x5 inch loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup mashed)
1 cup (4 oz) fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Butter and flour or line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, and eggs for 2-3 minutes until really well blended. With a spatula, stir in the bananas and blueberries.

Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 1 hr until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the banana bread cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and letting it cool completely on a wire rack.

Banana bread will keep for several days at room temp wrapped in foil or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a Ziploc bag, for longer.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Bread


I found myself with quite a few overripe bananas from a neighbor, so I did what any logical person would do, I made banana bread. This week, I'm sharing a chocolate version that I've been wanting to try. I've made a version of banana bread with chocolate chips in the past, but wasn't super pleased with it. Something about chocolate chips in banana bread just didn't do it for me. This one however, from Smitten Kitchen, is a chocolate banana bread with chocolate in it. I loved this and I can't imagine anyone not liking it.

It's super chocolaty, not too sweet, and the banana flavor is present, but takes a backseat to the chocolate, so even people who don't love bananas will like it. Use bananas that are very ripe but not black. My crazy younger sister thought it was too dark in terms of the chocolate flavor, so for less mature palates, you can use natural cocoa powder and a sweeter chocolate if you like. This banana bread is incredibly moist and simple to make. It's a bit crumbly and fudgy like a brownie. I can foresee many many more loaves of this banana bread in the future and you will too once you give this a try. It also freezes and defrosts really well, so you can make several loaves at once, freeze them in wrapped individual slices and just take one out whenever you want a slice.

I had plenty of bananas, so another delicious banana bread will be coming next week.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf

3 medium - large very ripe bananas, mashed (a little more than 1 cup mashed)
1/2 cup(115 g) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup, lightly packed(145 g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine table salt
1 cup(125 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, or natural cocoa powder
4 oz finely chopped chocolate, semisweet or bittersweet

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Butter and flour or line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment.

Whisk the mashed bananas with the melted butter in a large bowl. Then, add in the brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix for another 1-2 min.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 55-65 min, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the banana bread from the pan. Banana bread will keep, wrapped in foil, for a few days. Freeze in individual slices, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed in a Ziploc bag for longer storage.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summertime Heirloom Tomato Sauce Spaghetti

Last summer, I must have made this pasta at least 10 times. I haven't made it as often this summer because I haven't been able to find as many beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' markets this year. The recipe is basically just a simple fresh tomato sauce made with heirloom tomatoes and plenty of roasted garlic and fresh basil, but something about the combination just makes it better than your typical tomato sauce. The recipe is one I came up with accidentally as I had all the ingredients on hand and was aiming to make a cooked version of Pasta Alla Checca. While I like the flavors in Alla Checca, most people find the garlic too strong when it's not cooked.

Although I'm providing a recipe for this, you really don't need one. This is just what I like to do. This pasta is a family favorite and tastes good hot or cold. It's surprisingly delicious for something so simple as long as you get the best ingredients you can find. I like to use a mix of heirloom tomatoes if I can get them, some orange-red striped ones, purplish red ones, green ones, yellow ones, etc. They all taste a bit different, so I think it's best when they're mixed. I like to let my tomatoes ripen until they're quite soft and the skins peel off really easily.
Bring this to your next summer gathering, potluck, or serve it as a side for your next meal.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce Spaghetti

1 pound spaghetti or other long pasta
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cups peeled, diced heirloom tomatoes and juices
3 tsp chopped confit garlic
Large handful of fresh basil, torn or roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, to taste

Mix the diced heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Let sit for an hour or longer to soften. If you don't have time to do this, just cook the tomatoes a little longer later.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook until it's very al dente as it will continue to cook in the sauce later.

To make the sauce, heat up a few tbsp. of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds, depending on the doneness of the garlic you're using. Add the marinated tomatoes and sauté for a minute or two. Add the pasta and cook for another three minutes so the pasta absorbs the tomato juices. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Turn off the heat and add in the basil and grated cheese. Serve warm or at room temp.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

James Beard's Sour Cream Bread


This was another one of those times where I needed to use up something in my fridge. In this case, a pint of sour cream. I was thinking about using it in banana bread or maybe coffee cake, but since bread goes over a lot better in my household than sweets, I decided to see if there were any recipes using sour cream in bread. James Beard's Sour Cream Bread recipe was just what I needed and the several stellar reviews I saw made the choice easy. As this bread bakes, it permeates your home with the most fantastic sweet toasted milk smell. It's got a texture reminiscent of biscuits as others have said and makes wonderful toast.
The bread is pretty easy to make and can be refrigerated or probably even frozen and reheated when you need it. I baked the bread in a long Pullman loaf pan and sliced it up to store in the fridge. I also subbed about a cup of white whole wheat flour in this bread and some thick Greek yogurt since I didn't have a full pint of sour cream and both substitutions worked out fine.
Sour Cream Bread
Recipe adapted from James Beard via Honey and Butter
Makes 2 medium loaves
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
3 tbsp. sugar, granulated or brown sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 deg F)
1 pint full fat sour cream, room temp
1 tbsp. kosher salt, half the amount of fine salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the water and sugar together with a whisk, sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add in the sour cream and the salt, mixing thoroughly.
Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the flour gradually on medium low speed letting the flour become incorporated before adding more. Knead the dough in the mixer for about 5 minutes, the dough should still be sticky, but come together in a rough ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and shape into 2 loaves placing them into 2 loaf pans. Let rise for another 1-2 hours until it has almost doubled.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 deg F. Slash your loaves with a sharp blade and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let the loaves cool for 20 minutes before cutting into them. Bread will last for a few days wrapped at room temp or for a week in the fridge. Freeze for longer storage up to several weeks.